Monday, January 26, 2015

The Five Hidden Joys of Parenting

There are lots of things to treasure as a parent.  Number one being your child, of course!  But amid all the grumbing about lost sleep and discipline problems with tweens (and I'm conviced tweenhood starts at six), parents sometimes forget to mention a few other perks.  I'm here to correct that situation.  Here are some things parenting allows you to rediscover that you might have forgotten.

1. Blanket forts.  Need I say more?  
Do you guys remember the meme about "I've decided not to be an adult.  If anyone needs me I'll be in my blanket fort...coloring"?  I "liked" the heck out of that post.  Because I adore blanket forts.  And I think we all secretly do.  Now when I make them for Juliette I treasure getting in there with her and ejoying the filtered light.  It's a little cocoon from the outside world. Check out some of the amazing forts in this link. This one has to be my favorite.

2. Watching "kid movies" as much as you want
I've always watched so-called kid movies.  Harry Potter and Finding Nemo were some of my faves even before I had a child.  I consider myself lucky though to continue discovering new films because of my daughter.  I don't know that I would have rushed out to see Paddington but I'm glad we saw it because it's actually a beautifully filmed work of art.  Yes, I did say that a movie about a bear is a work of art!  The colors and whimsical objects and images are really gorgeous and whisk you off to a warm and cozy world.  I would love to live in their house filled with jewel tones of red and blue and yellow.  
link to original website

And thanks to my mom, we are now the proud owners of Despicable Me and the sequel.  Steve Carell's voicework as Gru kills me, and there are some priceless moments in these films.  Juliette and I love remembering the dialogues!

3. Coloring
Who said coloring was just for kids? When Juliette started scribble-scrabbling at about age 2, I would color with her. I soon remembered how calming it could be to just doodle and use markers to fill in a space.  I find myself  encouraging her to do coloring because it's a nice sit-down activity when I'm tired, and I can feel it soothing me.  It's no wonder that adults are getting into coloring too now with their very own books.  Instead of Disney princesses you can find more complex floral or architectural images.  So grab your markers and go!

4. Eating plain meals
Several parents have mentioned that once they had kids, they felt less guilty about eating pasta and ham on a regular basis.  And it's true.  Way to exploit your child's finnicky tendancy into stress-free easy-to-prepare meals for you!  They call them comfort foods for a reason, and if your kid actually finishes her meal for once, that's bonus points!

5. Enjoying quiet moments
Though "quiet" and "children" don't always seem to be words that go together, having kids is sometimes an opportunity to stop and smell the roses (because your toddler is walking so slowly and dilly-dallying anyway).  I've visited the duck ponds in my city much more often since Juliette was born.  And in the process I've treasured some quiet moments of nature watching or caught some lovely sunsets.  And though bedtime can be a rushed and hectic part of the day, winding down in my little girl's bed with a story read in hushed tones can lull me into a reverie.   Not to mention take me back to my own childhood.

Winter sunset at the duck pond.

Can you think of any other benefits to reliving childhood through your child's eyes?  What are your guilty pleasures that some might say are reserved for kids?  Go ahead, do it.  I sure won't tell anyone.

Monday, January 19, 2015

All I need to know about the future I learned from pop songs

Here we are in late January.  My colleague told me this date is considered the saddest of the year cause the holidays are over, the decorations definitively down, the bank accounts dry and the weather in our part of the world is often cold and ugly (yes indeed!).  So it's high time for a kick in the behind to jump-start this year.  And since I'm a pop princess, I looked to my musical repertoire to inspire me.  Can you tell which artists wrote these lines?  (Answers at the end...)

Tonight I'm gonna party like it's, 2015!
It's 2015, y'all!  I couldn't even have imagined what my life was going to be like in 2015 way back in 1999.  We were all "sweating out" the Millenium Bug and anticipating writing "2000" on our checks.  (And we still actually used checks on a regular basis!)  Don't you find it super scary that 15 years can go by just like that?  When you're ten years old time seems to c-r-a-w-l by.  The day when you could buy loads of candy and make your own decisions seemed like it would never come.  Then somehow after high school life is on fast-forward mode.  And you can't pause or rewind or even switch to slow.  And, boom, then you're 40.  So we need to enjoy the moment, people.  Be it by partying or chilling.  Cause time ain't slowing down.

Whatcha waitin', whatcha waitin' foooorrrr?!
What are we waiting for?  We know time goes fast.  We know we have dreams.   We know we should be doing something about those dreams!  But do we?  We figure we've got time.  We'll do it next year.  Or in ten years.  But what if next year never comes?  What if, God forbid, you can't walk in ten years or have some debilitating disease?  The time is now.

If you could change your life, and never be the same...
What's keeping us from changing our lives today?  Fear of what the others would say? Fear of being hurt or rejected or alone?   Oh, yes, all that and more!  I'm just as guilty as you guys.  I'm all talk and no action and I wonder why.  Maybe I'm too comfy in my comfort zone.  Even if in reality those PJ's we've been lounging in are dirty and those slippers are starting to fray, we're too lazy to get off that proverbial couch and change things up.

Don't waste your time or time will waste you
Time doesn't care if we fulfill our dreams or not.  Neither do our neighbors or those passersby in the street.  The naysayers would rather see us fail so they can justify their own unfulfilled desires.  Why hang around with downers like that?  The only thing that's certain in life is that it won't go on forever.  One day we'll all just be a blip in some history book citing the population of X country in the 2000's.  And no one will care what some random person in the past did.

Only you care enough to do it.  So why don't you do it?  And me too. I dare ya!

Answers: Prince, Gwen Stefani, Crowded House (Never be the same), Muse (Knights of Cydonia)

Monday, January 12, 2015

Food for thought

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words (and cartoons) will never hurt me

This past week has been harrowing for France.  Journalists were killed because they dared to make fun of other religions.  And not just Islam, to be clear. They regularly ridiculed the Vatican, the Pope, anything and everything.  They were irreverant and had no taboos.  It doesn't matter if you liked their cartoons or not.  I personally never bought Charlie Hebdo and found their cartoons a bit cheesy and at times vulgar. But I respect their right to print what they want.  And their motto appeared to be "no limits".  As in no one was off limits.  As in ridicule everyone equally. 

I think Stephen Fry really put it best on his blog this week.  He said if the terrorists really had found the truth in their extreme (and let's face it, distorted) form of Islam, they wouldn't be bothered by some silly newspaper.  They would laugh it off, because what could it do to change their supposed enlightenment.  And as a Facebooker commented while reacting to Fry's blog, Honor those who seek the truth, beware of those who claim to have found it.  Which raises the question, how many enlightened Buddhists do you see plotting terrorist attacks?  The truly enlightened need not shove it down everyone else's face or get offended by a little cartoon.

If God had an Internet connection, I think he'd tweet #notinmyname.

I am lucky enough through my job and schooling in France, and by nature of where I live (a small urban area) to have met Muslims.  Real Muslims who are committed to their faith and who have told me, this is not Islam.  Real Muslims don't kill in God's name, they told me.  And that they themselves don't know where this radical movement has come from.  These are kind, hard-working people.  Some of the women wear a head scarf, some don't.  Some even celebrate Christmas because they think it would be a shame to deprive their kids of this tradition. 

I'm not a highly religious or political person.  But I think that the Christian God, Allah and Yahweh are really just different shades of the same color.  And that what really counts is how we treat each other.  I'm not a saint myself.  I could and should speak more kindly sometimes (especially around the house to my own husband).  I should give more to charities and volunteer more.  But it starts with kindness to those around us.  Treating them as we hope to be treated.  Wouldn't things be better if we truly lived the golden rule everyday?

There's no such thing as a "holy war"

The third terrorist attacked a police woman and then Jews in a Kosher grocery store.  I felt sickened again by this last attack.  What does it solve to kill people of another faith?  And it's happening in Irak and Syria, too, as we speak.  Christians and even different Muslim factions are killed in these places.  I know Christians are not blameless in history- just look at the Crusades.  But at least now, it seems, Christians have evolved somewhat and don't use arms against other religions.  

There was a funny and thoughtful scifi series my mom and sister and I used to watch called Red Dwarf.  In one episode, there was a holy war based on whether the truly faithful should wear red or blue hats to honor their God.  And this war had resulted in death and destruction.  It seemed funny, but it was all too true.  What if it all comes down to some silly detail that truly makes no difference?  Won't these "holy" warriors feel a bit ashamed when they realize they were fighting the wrong fight?

The pen is still mightier than the sword

Sometimes I wonder if my blog has a purpose.  Maybe it doesn't. Maybe it doesn't have a lot of readers.  But I want to write my feelings and process them.  I feel a need to write my thoughts.  And I hesitated to write this post, but given the context, and the clear attack on freedom of speech last week, I felt that I needed to.  So I will dedicate this post to all those innocent lives taken this week.  And I will write it boldly and proudly: Je suis Charlie, Je suis juive, Je suis policière.  I am Charlie, I am Jewish, I am a police officer.  Because when you attack one of them, you attack me and all of humanity.  And we're not going to take it lying down.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Resolving to dream

Here we go again!  Cold, grey skies, and that blah feeling pervading.  Could it be...January? Despite a few sunny days, January has been rather cold and dreary, moreso because I'm dealing with the departure of my family.  I know I'm not the only one dealing with post-holiday blues.  It takes me a good two weeks, it seems, to get over the new year hump and feel cheery again.

I think I've pretty much given up really making resolutions because either I never keep them or they are too ambitious and just make me feel bad about my life!  I don't even think I made any last year.  But this year I came across a list of doable actions that really could be good for me (and YOU!). 

I'll give you the short version, and besides there are only three of them:
1. Breathe deeply (it helps you think AND reduces stress)
2. Smile more (it makes you happy and helps you make contact with others)
3. Express gratitude (count your blessings and don't forget to thank those around you!)

See, so simple.  As I write this I'm reminding myself to breathe deeply, but as there's no one here but the cat, I'm not smiling. Nor thanking him. 

And instead of resolutions I'll make a "me" wish list.  Like a "things to do" list but with no expiration date.

Things to do (medium-/long-term):
  • get published! My friend Crystal went from blogging to free-lancing and I'd love to follow in her footsteps (while keeping my day job).
  • visit Barcelona. Everyone raves about this city and I'd love to do a quick trip some time.
  • find physical activities that make happy and calm.  Even if it's yoga on youtube or dancing in my living room, I do need to get a bit more active.
  • try new recipes.  Last year I tried eclairs (kind of small) and cinnamon rolls.  I want to get a bit more ambitious now though.   I've got the pastry bags and tips and charlotte mold to help me on baking adventures!
I'll keep the list short for now so it won't intimidate me.  Aren't dreams a bit nicer to think of than old workaday resolutions?

Langston Hughes said it best:
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

Coincidentally, that last stanza sounds a bit like January without hope!  So here's hoping that you and I can hold fast to our dreams.  For that is what keeps hope alive.