We’ve only been here a few days but already we’ve had fun in the sun. And occasionally I do start humming, It never rains in California. Hardly a cloud in the sky. Mini golf and tennis. Walks.
We’ve taken long walks in South Pasadena, caring for a very nice dog, Zazzy. I see how dogs bring joy. Zazzy seems to love unconditionally and she just wants to play. I’m not a dog person, so this is a new experience for me.
Getting out of NYC and to LA has given us time to be together. Think. Chill.
We’ve stopped for cinnamon rolls.
Met up with old friends like Carol in Malibu.
We went to Paradise Cove in Malibu for lunch and beach time.
The girls. The boys.
And then more time to hang out.
I love summer blockbusters. I also love French films and independent films and basically any kind of films (though, true fact: I have never seen an X-rated movie, unless flipping around and catching Robin Byrd on cable counts!)
I just love losing myself to the dark of any movie theater.
But something kept rattling in my brain after seeing Iron Man 3. I was disturbed by the way Iron Man treated the kid who had rescued him. He totally ignored the kid.
Iron Man seemed to think a dark roomful of toys/tech equipment could replace the presence of a loving adult.
See, the kid in the movie had been abandoned by his dad, and no surprise, when Iron Man showed up, the kid assumed he was a dad figure. And when the superhero needed help, the kid was helpful. (This is not a spoiler. I think it’s fairly obvious that the kid will be useful to Iron Man.)
But then the kid was not rewarded for being there for this father figure. In the end, the only thing the boy received was all kinds of digital devices for him to tinker with. This is his reward?!? The kid needed a frozen yogurt with the dad figure, or a picnic in the park, or, yes, the proverbial, game of catch.
In this room of tech equipment, the product placement of FiOS plastered all over the huge flatscreen TV was jarring and obscene. I was totally taken out of the movie and felt I’d landed in a stupid commercial.
So the message on this Father’s Day weekend seems to be: you want to be a good father? Buy your kid off, get them tons of tech stuff so they can play alone in a dark room. And then you can retire, alone yourself, in your own dank and dark digital kingdom. That’s Hollywood.
This is relevant to my life right now because my son is being punished (I won’t go into the details). And his tech equipment is taken away. He is clueless as to how to survive. I’ve suggested fro yo, a picnic, or a game of catch. But like Iron Man, our superhero, he’d rather be alone with his devices than outdoors with his friends or dad or sports or, even, ice cream.
I find this choice sad — not nearly as thrilling or active as an action film or life could be.
Writing about anything but yesterday’s tragedy in Newton, Conn, feels insensitive. But to cope with horrors, ordinary or extraordinary, I need to write. Through any endeavor, creative and artistic, we find out who we are, what we think, and how we feel. And we figure out how to go on.
I’m a teacher, a mother, and a writer. I’ve been thinking about conflicts.
I know in families and schools and all our relationships, conflict is inevitable. But how we deal with our internal and external conflicts is optional. I believe our society preys upon our conflicts. Our media exploits our differences — red state vs. blue state; stay at home mom vs. working mom.
Honestly, we have more that unites us than divides us.
As citizens of the United States of America, we have to find a way to seek common ground and lift one another up, not put each other down. We cannot whip out automatic rifles when we cannot get along — with ourselves or with our mothers.
We have to find and share our public spaces like our schools and our museums. Our public places and institutions are sacred.
I teach my writing students that conflict is the essence of drama. We mustn’t avoid conflict. But we cannot rest in a place of constant conflict. We must learn to use conflict to further the plot of our lives, to reach out, to state our needs, and to work on how to find a common humanity. Even when we want to find a common enemy.
Every child and every adult should lean how to resolve conflicts in a healthy way. Those of us who live in cities and ride the subways or share public spaces know we must coexist. And when we cannot live peaceably with ourselves, our families or our neighbors, we must get help.
And as every one is saying on social media, getting help should be a whole lot easier than getting a gun. There is no shame in experiencing conflict or in getting help with whatever arise in our lives. The tragedy arises when we cannot resolve our conflicts without hurting someone else.
To manage our inner and outer conflicts, we can:
write in a journal
talk to a friend
seek professional help
listen to music
walk in nature
attend a worship service
read a book
I don’t know. There are probably a million ways to handle conflict healthily. But we must be taught them; they don’ t just come naturally.
Today’s daily prompt, What’s your ideal Saturday morning? Are you doing those things this morning? Why not?
Ideally, I may do any of the above conflict resolution items.
I write in my journal. I read the paper. I drink coffee. I go for a run. I make a nice brunch for my family with bagels and lox. My kids clean up the brunch without being asked. Then I go to a nearby spa for a massage. The kids get themselves to wherever they may need to go — basketball, Bat Mitzvah. I feel at peace. I make art.
While the first few things I listed do happen, reading, writing, drinking coffee — the last few things don’t. I cannot control other people. (I am concocting a plan to make the kids more self-reliant and supportive of one another and of me and my husband.) I also do not get lox or a massage on a Saturday morning because I worry about the expense. I feel guilty spending money on myself during the holiday season. My budget is already pretty tight with kids’ presents and holiday travel. I guess that would be an ideal too, not feeling guilty.
Just for today, I teach my kids to resolve conflicts in a healthy way. I love them well and hold my dear ones close. Just for today, that is my ideal.
Today’s daily prompt is Write a letter to your mom. Tell her something you’ve always wanted to say, but haven’t been able to.
A few days ago, the prompt was:
A writer once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
If this is true, which five people would you like to spend your time with?
My five people include dear ole mum, so this blog post fulfills two daily prompts.
My mom – though I don’t talk to her every day (or even, every week) I think of her all the time. I thank her for passing down her good looks, sense of humor, personal style, and intelligence to me. Of course, she did this in combo with my dad, I know. But Mom still does yoga, teaches college, and stands on her head every day. What’s not to love?
My secret garden – I would like to say more but, ya know, shhhhhh, it’s a secret. And it’s a garden. So ya… (it’s one of 7 Rules for Surviving, so revisit this post.)
My three kids – they are my front and center; my alpha and omega. Everything I do and everything I want to do, I do for the darlings.
Jolain and my girlfriends – When I became a mother, I found my center, but I also worried I’d lost my mojo. With a strong community of women friends, I’ve kept myself intact, even when I regularly lose it.
Hal and my former colleagues. I know this is crazy, but I love my ex-coworkers so much. I love their intelligence and their passion for making the world better. I’m glad I’ve moved on from my full-time work, but this year, my heart and my social life is still full of the awesome staff from United Methodist Women and the General Board of Global Ministries.
I know many wives would put their husbands on their top five people. And Chris and I do have a great thing going, but, let’s be honest, the Parkinson’s Disease has really put a cramp in our romantic lives. We still are great co-parents and movie-going comrades.
Speaking of movies, next week our Screen Actors Guild special screening, Chris and I will see Les Mis and the Hobbit. How does anyone ever work full-time when there are so many amazing movies to see every damn week?
I have three persistent worries. And these are:
Will we manage as we embark on two and a half months without health insurance?
How long does my husband have in fairly good health? (I know, I know, no one knows how long any of us have, but with a spouse with a chronic disease, you worry.)
I know it’s Election Day. I woke up feeling confident that I would win. Er, I mean, my man Obama would win. So while I’d like to blog about the 2012 election, I thought I’d post about finding happiness a little closer to home.
Yesterday, I was super excited to declutter. Crazy, right? I sorted more than 50 pairs of socks and it took me hours! These socks had hung around the bottom of the laundry basket for several years, years when my kids’ sock sizes grew from child to adult-sized.
At the bottom of the basket, I found toddler socks. Yes, it’s been a while since I dug down that deep.
My kids are teenagers. So after a momentary fling with nostalgia over those cute little toddler-sized socks, I tossed them away.
I’ve never enjoyed sorting socks. People say, “Do it while sitting in front of the TV at night.” But I don’t watch TV.
I found inspiration for this boring activity from this blog post, 29 Ways to Declutter. It seems Deb Smouse is saying that there’s a spiritual side to decluttering. I like that. Her post begins with this quote:
Clutter is a physical manifestation of fear that cripples our ability to grow. – H.G. Chissell.
When I left my job six weeks ago, I thought, “Great, now I’ll have time to do all those things I’ve always wanted to do, like sort those damn socks in the bottom of the basket.”
Yup, I’m finding satisfaction in getting to the bottom of the barrel and finding my kids’ childhood.
Incidentally, I’m renaming this blog, To Pursue Happiness and I’ve rolled all my blogs home here.
With starting up Boot Camp For Writers and kick starting my freelance blogging career, I just don’t have the time or energy to post on all four of my blogs, so find me here! For the month of November, I’m posting every day.
I have complained about how my kids bicker too much. It is so annoying. They can be so mean to one another and to me. And I know deep down we all love one another.
The other day H. and I were bickering at the bookstore. He needs his summer reading books, 1984 and the God of Small Things. I said the version didn’t matter, he said he must have the exact, specified version. I had a get-it-done attitude; he had a wait-and-see attitude.
I was embarrassed when another mom friend, L., interrupted our disagreement just to say hello.
“Oh, sorry, we were just fighting,” I explained. “We fight a lot.”
“Fighting’s good,” she said. L’s a teacher and I believe her. Respectful disagreement is healthy.
One of my favorite phrases in an argument, and one that I always hope is a closer, is, “Let’s agree to disagree.”
I realized that my desire for my kids to never fight, bicker, or disagree puts undue pressure on them. Maybe even my attempts to squash their sibling rivalry somehow escalates their fighting. As if they unconsciously realize, “Great, now Mom’s in the fight, too. Let’s fully commit to this argument.” And then the yelling escalates.
At times, I do flip out. “Don’t you realize your arguing creates an impact! We are kind, loving parents. You are not being kind and loving!” The kids are too competitive. Or maybe they simply can’t help being mean, like when they point out one another’s pimples. I can’t figure it out.
I show exasperation.
And sometimes having a human and impatient response pays off. Recently after my kids were in a yelling match, my son went to play ball. On his way home, he phoned me. “Mom, I’m passing the grocery store. Do we need anything?”
I was shocked. “Yes, we need juice and milk.” I was totally pleased. And yesterday, the kids did pitch in and tidy up the apartment, even as they fought about how little the other person was doing, and how much they were doing. (See what I mean? Competitive!)
I had set the timer for 10 minutes. I said, “That’s all you have to do! Ten minutes.” But an hour later, H. was still working, hammering loose cords into the molding.
Small victories. But I’ll take them. And I’ll take the fighting because I have no choice. I do have a choice in my response to their sibling rivalry. I will not let it get to me.