a funny thing happened on the way to my life….

Repetition Wins (Mama’s Secret Weapon)

Everybody knows how to raise children, except the people who have them.  P.J. O’Rourke

Repetition WinsI often wonder who’s going to write the next BIG parenting book?   It seems like every generation has its guru.  And with today’s parenting styles running the gamut–authoritative to permissive, supportive to absent, indulgent to neglectful–it’s hard to know who really has it figured out.  Throw in your favorite media platform and practically everyone’s an expert nowadays!  So, allow me to throw my hat in to the ring.  While you won’t find any fancy letters following my name, I do have a theory.  And for simplicity’s sake, I’ve narrowed it down to two words:  REPETITION WINS!  Genius, right…I know.

Basically I’ve been applying this strategy throughout my whole parenting career, I just didn’t know it until last election season.  (Stay with me here.) I just happened to be listening to a political strategist ramble on about the power of the message…more specifically the repetitive factor to a particular campaign slogan.  He pontificated that through a basic media blitz, they had managed to turn the tide in their favor…especially since today’s voters never bother to research the issues.  I equate this concept to the “beloved” brain worm–you know, the little song or ditty that invades your every waking thought!  Once it reaches your ears it then proceeds to swim around in your head for hours and if you’re (un)lucky even days.  Oh yeah, there’s power in the message!

So here’s where it comes full circle….  I have been known to be somewhat of a “rules” Mom, harping on my kids with suggestions about practically everything.  (I honestly prefer the word suggestions over rules, just saying.)  My handy little tidbits like, “Wash first,” “Make good choices,” and “No food in the bedrooms–EVER!” are expressions that I have uttered for years.  These phrases have become practically automatic after more than a decade of parenting, only now I hear my kids mumble them (and several other goodies) before I can even get the words out.  I’ll admit that sometimes they’re mumbled sarcastically, still I don’t mind claiming it as a tiny victory!

message 3I’m employing a similar approach with quirky sayings, inspirational quotes and Bible scripture spread across posters, white boards and post-it notes throughout the house.  I’ve got my fingers crossed that these, too, will make their way inside their heads (and hearts,) and if nothing else that they might gain some wisdom from my efforts.    I know I’m doing something right when I see their friends stop and check out the kitchen whiteboard and ask questions about the “Family Rules” poster on the fridge…and I’m just getting started!  Window markers allow me to write messages to my children on mirrors in their bedrooms and thanks to iPhone technology, I have several great memes saved and ready to send to my kiddos’ devices at a moment’s notice.   In my book, it all counts.  Still the master plan is worth nothing without the one message I utilize several times a day, “I love you.”  Out the door, when they come home, before they go to bed and at random times in between, “I love you.”  It’s the message I hope they remember most.

I tease my husband that we’ll find out soon enough whether the strategies we’ve employed will be labeled a success or a failure.  With a tween girl and a teenage boy, I feel like we’ve jumped out of one fox hole only to find ourselves in a whole new set of trenches.  It’s all good, though…because Mama’s got her secret weapon and she ain’t afraid to use it.  Pay heed, parents–REPETITION WINS (no book required.)

I Can Still Taste the Caramel Apples (aka Why I LOVE Halloween!)

Traditions are the guideposts driven deep in our subconscious minds. —Ellen Goodman

10690117_715990488490123_92735026534026743_nWhen it comes to holidays, I like to go full-out! I love traditions…the habits and rituals that create memories (both good and bad, but especially MEANINGFUL) and serve to connect families and friends to the past, present and the future.  Equally as important, I enjoy sharing where, why and how the traditions came about.  So for the last month, my family has endured all of my favorite stories about Halloweens past.  I share these little gems, not just for myself (okay, maybe just for myself) but also as a way to join together my childhood experiences, a little history, some faith/religion and finally…to secretly instill some expectations and wisdom upon my kiddos.  And you thought I just hung out in my kitchen baking cookies all day :)

Seriously, I think one of the most effective tools in parenting (and a number of other categories) is the personal testimony.  That’s why I like telling Sean and Casey all about my Halloween adventures–successes and epic fails (age appropriate, of course.)  Everything from what costumes we donned (not ashamed to admit that I was Bat Girl more than once) to trick or treating in the neighborhood to visiting my great grandmother’s house (for peanuts and apples) to haunted houses and everything in between.  We compare and contrast classroom parties, popular candy (then and now), real (and not so real) ghost stories all while asking questions and googling Halloween history.  Together we’ve learned a lot!  And the payoff comes when the kiddos are just as invested in the traditions as I am :)

10616209_716894205066418_4160538980628630829_nI would say that I get my love of Halloween from my Dad.  He was the first adult (outside of teachers) that I can remember dressing up for Halloween on a regular basis.  Dad likes his costumes to be scary, and while that’s not my cup of tea, I have many memories of his gory masks and spooky get-ups.  He would help us carve pumpkins and Mom would work on roasting the pumpkin seeds.  At the time, pumpkin patches weren’t a part of our Halloween experience…but we looked forward to the carving nonetheless.  We didn’t use fancy stencils or patterns and our primitive carving tools could have easily sent one of us to the ER (fortunately it never came to that!)  Today, my family looks forward to our annual trip to “the patch” (which my son tells me doesn’t sound quite right) and choosing our own pumpkins from a giant field of orange and green.  Over the years, I have amassed a great deal of pumpkin carving supplies and we make an event out of the whole thing…complete with spooky music courtesy of Pandora.  This year we added hot dogs and s’mores to the occasion.  It’s one of my favorite days of the year (and someday I will master those pumpkin seeds, too!)

The traditions go way beyond the pumpkin patch and the carving.  We decorate the house, reminisce over old Halloween photos and spend countless hours discussing, shopping and creating Halloween costumes.  The costumes have become one of our best-loved parts of the season.  Fortunately, my kids aren’t into scary and with a little imagination and planning, they’ve managed to come up with some pretty creative costumes over the years.  And while I’ve quietly lobbied for the “family” costume, I am afraid that ship has sailed.  For some years, however, I was able to finagle the kiddos into coordinated costumes, but my luck eventually ran out there, too :(.  Oh well.  There’s plenty of fun in sharing stories about past costumes, who we went trick or treating with (family or friends,) where we were living at the time and surprisingly no one ever seems to mention the candy.

Typically we watch “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” once (sometimes twice) each October and I marvel at the questions the kids come up with.  When they were younger, they needed help with the character’s names and who was related to whom.  Now they ask why Lucy is so mean, how come Charlie Brown can’t get a break, and what Snoopy’s role as the Red Baron is really all about.  This year I had to explain that bobbing for apples was a real thing and we discussed some of the reasons why that tradition didn’t carry on (gross.)  We marvel at Schroeder’s piano playing skills, discuss party invite etiquette and basically feel bad for Linus.

As the children have grown older, Halloween has included a faith dialogue as well.  We talk about the early history of the holiday…a time when pagan superstitions and overall fear fueled the observance.  Picture a people who warily watched the seasons change and anxiously retreated into a time of the year when no crops grew, the weather was particularly harsh and their survival depended upon the work that had been done in the warmer months.  Harvest really was a reason to celebrate as they prepared for months of cold and uncertainty.  Can you imagine how they were compelled to turn to a number of gods for protection and provision?  Warding off evil lent itself to carving scary faces on gourds and trees and displaying these items on their doorsteps.  And what about trick or treating?  A custom that spans ancient beliefs, religious practices and morphed into a “pseudo-war” between the haves and have-nots before becoming the family friendly outing that we now know.


10700574_718765481545957_3257901382160519510_oIt’s November 1st and  costumes lie crumpled up on the floor, candy wrappers dot the tabletops, and tired looking eyes stare up at me.  And while the whole Halloween adventure culminates in one day, I realize that it’s not the holiday itself that means so much to me–it’s actually the whole season.  We’ve been gearing up, preparing for, talking about and making plans for a whole month.  Through it all we’ve carved out special (additional!) time together…outside of mealtimes and the occasional quiet evening.  We’ve cooked and baked together.  We’ve shopped together.  We’ve attended school parties together.  We’ve enjoyed nature together.  And it feels good.  I know these seasons are fleeting.  Before long, their Halloween plans won’t include me.  The kids are growing up so fast and that probably scares me more than any creepy costume on Halloween.  For now I hold onto the imagination and creativity of the season.  I look forward to the cooler temperatures and the rustling of leaves and my mind wanders (unafraid) to the approaching season that seems to draw us closer (even if it only is for warmth :) )  The traditions abound and yes, I can still taste the caramel apples that sweeten this already favored season.

There is a child in every one of us who is still a trick-or-treater looking for a brightly-lit front porch. ~Robert Brault







Dear Daughter…Marry a Chef (You’ll Thank Me Later)

Eating is a necessity but cooking is an art. —Unknown

When I was a kid, I would tell my mother that I wanted to live in a house without a kitchen.  Actually, if I remember correctly, we had several conversations about it.  I’m fairly certain that I’ve even brought up the subject with a couple of past boyfriends (just to let them know what they were in for—yes, I’m a courteous girl :).)  And my poor husband, he knows all too well how much I LOATHE the kitchen.  Turns out that it’s not really the kitchen that I have a problem with…I mean I always planned to have a microwave and a refrigerator (I’m not stupid.)  What I really hate is the COOKING that takes place in the kitchen!

Kiss the Cook :)

Kiss the Cook :)

Maybe my dislike for cooking comes from possessing a very plain and boring palate.  For example…I’m pretty much a beans and rice girl.  When we go out for dinner I typically choose one of three entrees:  cheeseburger, pizza or chicken, and I’m not really into sweets.  There isn’t an adventurous bone in my body when it comes to trying new foods (asparagus anyone?)  And I’m actually very okay with this.  I view eating in the same manner that I see the need for sleep–a mere necessity and nothing more.  I have a hard time relating to a lot of my foodie friends who rave about their latest food find and go on and on about “pairing” this delectable tidbit with that scrumptious delicacy (am I even using those words right?)  I really just don’t get it.

In my own defense, I WANTED to get it.  I wanted to be a so called “expert” in the kitchen.  While I make a mean sandwich, there actually was a time when I secretly aspired to be whiz in the kitchen.  I own a lot of cookbooks, including the elusive Joy of Cooking CD-ROM (lol) and at one point I was absolutely addicted to the Food Network.  Like many stay-at-home moms, Paula Deen, Bobby Flay, Tyler Florence, and Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) were not only my idols, but also my best friends.  As soon as it was acceptable for me to turn off Nickelodeon (11am or so) I would quickly click the channel to see what my “friends” were whipping up for lunch and dinner.  Never has anyone been more into “homemade” and “from scratch” as yours truly.  I was rolling out dough, making my own stock, and a regular in the fresh herb section at our local supermarket.  I’m not sure if I crossed the line into “cooking obsessed,” but I’m pretty sure I was right on the edge.  When my three year old daughter started to request tuning into Rachael Ray instead of Dora the Explorer I finally woke up.

To be honest, I was spending a lot of time, energy and money on a hobby that I hated.  Not only did I not enjoy cooking, but truth be told, I was NOT very good at it.  In hindsight, I realize that I was fighting a losing battle.  Don’t get me wrong…I have the utmost respect for foodies and chefs alike.  It just turns out that it’s not my thing.  Slowly, I stopped turning in to the Food Network and filling my time with other things.  I began adhering more to the Sandra Lee method of food prep—“Seventy percent store-bought, ready-made plus 30 percent fresh allows you to take 100 percent of the credit.” Her kitchen motto was all that was left of my so called “love of cooking.”

Needless to say, my family didn’t starve to death.  Not once has any one ever said, “Oh, Anna, how I wish you could go back to making (fill in the blank.)”  While there are few remaining recipes that I rely on all these years later, I don’t really sweat it…especially since my children inherited my same plain and boring palate.  We primarily live on the basics:  a variety of chicken dinners, tacos, spaghetti, LOTS of sandwiches and whatever my husband can grill.  It’s not exciting, but it fills a hole.  What used to make me feel like a failure as a wife and mother, now has crossed over into the realm of acceptance.  I no longer want to be a good cook.  If I could, I honestly would quit cooking altogether and live on cereal. Unfortunately, that is not an option.  Sigh.

So here it is…I am over the mom pressure from the foodie crowd (I couldn’t grow or can anything to save my life.) I will be the first one to shout from the rooftops that being a successful wife, mother, & homemaker doesn’t mean that you are required to be a culinary genius, too.  Just because you stay home with your kids does not mean your worth and value is tied up in what’s for dinner.  Serving chicken nuggets does not make you less of a woman.  I wish someone had told me all of this years ago.  Today, the only chef I pay attention to on the Food Network is Guy Fieri…and that’s because I like to drool over the food (mostly cheeseburgers and barbeque) he samples on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”  Mmmmm….

I completely understand that no “knight-in-shining-apron” is going to come to my kitchen rescue anytime soon.  Research shows that even in today’s modern society, woman are responsible for nearly 80% of household food prep.  And while a growing number of men are becoming more and more comfortable in the family kitchen, I realize that meals will continue to fall into the woman/wife/mom category for the foreseeable future.  And that’s okay because I’ve already been coaching my daughter to marry a chef.  Problem solved.  (You’re welcome.)

Today’s menu has two choices:  TAKE IT or LEAVE IT!

Shooting Stars and Passing Cars (A Panting Dog and the Occasional Meow)

I’ve loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.  Galileo

A “cool” Mom would have packed the kiddos in the van (snacks and blankets in tow) and strategically driven into the darkest part of the night to view this summer’s Perseid Meteor Showers.  But I never said I was a “cool” Mom.  So instead, I mandated the offspring turn off their devices, shuffle out into the backyard, and plant themselves on carefully arranged patio furniture (all under threat of a grounding if they took ONE look at their tablets or phones.)  “Your eyes,” I said, “need several minutes to adjust.”  It was shortly after midnight…and just two days before the first day of school.

Perseid Shower Star Guide from Sky & Telescope

Perseid Shower Star Guide from Sky & Telescope

We should have already been a week into school night “practice,” but we weren’t.  So putting respectable bedtimes on hold (yet again,)  we looked to the sky.  We were on a mission to see a shooting star…or at least I was.  Prior to that summer evening, we had spent several nights staring at the heavens.  I had studied a constellation app and was armed with lots of information–some I learned as a kid, some I had just recently found on the internet.  It was still super warm outside and oh so humid!  Aside from the crickets, the only sounds at that late (early?) hour included two passing cars, our dog’s crazy panting (not sure what her deal was) and the occasional meow of the neighborhood cats. So on this particular night, starwatching was an exercise in patience.   I’m not sure what you know about the Perseid Meteor Shower, but I heard upwards of 30 shooting stars per hour!  WOW!  That, however, did not happen.

Within the first five minutes the complaining began.  I decided to impress the kiddos with my knowledge of constellations.  We picked out the standards…Big Dipper, Little Dipper.  I taught them how to find the North Star.  We saw several planes fly through the night sky.  And finally we moved on to Cassiopeia and the story of Perseus himself.  I should be happy that the children politely listened to my little lesson, but it wasn’t very long before they shifted back to their “we’re bored” posture.  Convinced they were outside for no reason at all–we finally saw a shooting star!  And what a shooting star it was….

It’s not like my husband and I had not seen a shooting star before.  We had.  But despite all the time we had spent stargazing this summer, the kids hadn’t been so lucky.  But right then and there we had finally witnessed one…and it was a good one!  Very dramatic, very bright and especially long-lasting—given the fleeting nature of shooting stars.  It streaked across the night sky right above our heads!  It was a spectacle to behold and an experience we will never forget…for several reasons:  1) because all four of us saw it together, 2) because everyone made a wish, and 3) no one told what they wished for (not even a hint.)  The last part was sort of a surprise.  We had never talked about wishing on a star and yet, it was the first thing we all instinctively did.

As we looked to the sky I couldn’t help but wonder what everyone had wished, especially the kiddos.  As a child, I can remember wishing for lots of things…everything from new shoes to a “good” hair day to getting to go someplace special.  As I got older, my star wishes moved on to passing a tough test, getting a certain boy to notice me and making it through college.  Nowadays, my wishes are typically for others…and especially for my kids.  But I wouldn’t necessarily call them wishes…because they’re more like prayers.  That night as that star streaked across the sky…the wish on my heart was really a silent petition to God.

Later, after everyone else had gone back inside, my daughter asked if I thought wishes came true.  We had seen two more meteors that night.  She said she was pretty sure that she had wished hard for a flat screen TV one Christmas, but she didn’t get one.  It was the start to a long conversation about magical versus miracle, God versus “genie,” and the incredible power of prayer.  Thank you, Perseid Meteor Shower…for one last summer hurrah!  Under that night sky, when we should have been fast asleep, the heavens opened the door to something truly amazing…a blessed conversation.  An answered prayer.  I honestly could have stayed out all night.

I’m already looking forward to more sky watching.  I hope that someday the kids will share their wishes (and prayers!) with me–because if (when) mine comes true…you know I’ll be the first one to tell.

The only difference between a wish and a prayer is that you’re at the mercy of the universe for the first, and you’ve got some help with the second.  –Jodi Picoult, author





Lest We Forget

11988726_429047497291597_5725020903439229141_nI was not anywhere near the tragedies of 9-11…at least not physically. We watched the events unfold on television while sitting on a couch in our tiny apartment on a seminary campus just north of San Francisco.  Like most of the country, we sat dumbfounded.  No one spoke.  Everyone cried, including my newborn son.  It was a lot to take in.  Clearly the world had changed.  I’m certain I will never forget that day…and yet I do.  We all do.  It slips in and out of our thoughts as we Americans seek routine and demand normalcy.  And then, we remember again.

My mother-in-law, Karen, woke us up with the news that day.  Given the three-hour difference between New York and California, my husband and I were still sleeping.  Karen was helping to care for our newborn son (she had been up feeding the baby) and held him in her arms when she came into the bedroom.    I remember her voice, mostly a whisper, saying, “You have to see this,” as she ushered us into the next room.  It didn’t take but a moment for us to realize that this was not good news.  Over the next few hours we watched news coverage of our country being attacked.  Like a bad movie, it all seemed so surreal as report after report showed one plane crash and then another and another.  Time stood still.

Eventually, there were phone calls.  Lots of phone calls.  While the East Coast was under attack, it didn’t take long for family and friends to try to reach out to one another…making sure everyone was accounted for.  Living in the Bay Area, it occurred to us that San Francisco could easily be on a target list.  I tried to put it out of my mind, but looking at my baby Sean I remember thinking THIS WASN’T THE PLAN!  If you know me, you know I have these random (and possibly irrational) thought outbursts.  Sean and I had already been through a bumpy pregnancy, a scary delivery, followed by two hospital stays and he wasn’t even two weeks old yet.  I cried.  What kind of a world was this?

Panic is an interesting emotion.  It builds upon itself and opens the door to sadness, fear and anger.  Nothing seemed right.  Immediately, I prayed for those at the scene.  I prayed that there would be survivors.  I prayed that help would arrive on time.  I prayed for justice.  I worried about kids who were at schools and people on the freeway trying to get home.  I especially prayed for those in the air.  Eventually, we learned that Steve’s uncle’s flight was diverted to Canada.  My mother informed me that large passenger planes had been forced to land at the small airport in the tiny, Kansas town where I grew up.  Everyone was on heightened alert.  And this is where we stayed emotionally, not just for the day…but for days and days which eventually stretched into weeks.

There is another memory that I will forever carry with me about this particular time in our nation’s history.  On the way to church the next week, there were armed soldiers on the Golden Gate Bridge.  Dozens of them.  The beauty of this national landmark and the breathtaking scenery surrounding it took a backseat to the reality of life in the United States at that moment.  My heart sank.  Would it always be like this?  Could we find our way back?  Would anything ever be the same?  I know I was not alone in asking these questions.  Yet, it’s at times like these where we find our faith and ultimately our strength.  That Sunday we praised, prayed and sang to an all-powerful, loving God.  This, I will always want to remember.

America is a great nation, founded on wonderful principles that continue to fill its people with a sense of pride and purpose.  Our country rallied.  We made plans, sought out ways to ensure the safety of our people, and moved forward.  Some would say that THIS IS the American way.  The days since have not always been easy.  The threat of terrorism has become the new normal.  And we’ve had to adjust.  The world is different and we are different.  A swell of nationalism permeated every part of our country during those times.  Many laid aside their differences as we came together in prayer and resolve.  In the following months and years much was sacrificed to apprehend those responsible for this unbelievable tragedy.  The events of that one day dramatically affecting every part of American life.

Unfortunately, in the fourteen years since the attack we have seen that sense of unity erode.  Nowadays, America is known for its political infighting.  Activists of all kinds have sought to divide the people in countless ways.  Those spewing hate have managed to turn neighbors against one another.  Agendas have created word wars and many have been hurt…even killed.  All of this within our own borders while the threat of terrorism still looms large.  I hate what happened to our country on 9-11, but in remembering the tragedy itself we can find hope.  Today (on the anniversary,) in every way and shape imaginable WE REMEMBER.   Today, at every turn we recall the significance of this day and remember the lives lost.  Today, we seek to honor and recognize the true heroes among us.  Today, social media is filled with symbolism and pride as we cannot and will not forget what has happened.  Surprisingly, I find comfort in this type of remembering.

I’m certain I will never forget that day…and yet I do.  We all do.  It slips in and out of our thoughts as we Americans seek routine and demand normalcy.  And then, we remember again…lest we forget.

9-11 Timeline

When pain is to be borne, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.  –C.S. Lewis

You Really Are What You Eat (Feeding the Soul)

For He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.  Psalm 107:9

photo 1

This morning’s bowl of Cheerios. Yummy!

I like Cheerios.  A lot.  And not just at breakfast time.  I think Cheerios are appropriate for lunch AND dinner, too.  I should also note that I like them with AND without milk.  So, if you are what you eat…then I’m heart healthy and packed with fiber and whole grain goodness!  If only it were that easy.  Truth is, in addition to my love for Cheerios, I really enjoy pizza, chocolate ice cream, nachos and several different brands of potato chips.  I also think these tasty treats qualify as breakfast, lunch and/or dinner.  Gross, huh?  Because now it’s pretty obvious that if you are what you eat (Cheerios aside,) I am junk food—loaded with calories, packed with sodium and in every way possible just a cheesy, greasy mess :(

I don’t want to be a cheesy, greasy mess.  Who does?  Which is why I’ve carefully chosen the middle of the road where these food cravings are concerned.  It’s called MODERATION.  We’ve all heard the word.  It’s the term that foodies and nutritionists throw around which serves as code for “eat what you want, just not too much.”  Have a small bowl of ice cream, instead of the whole gallon.  Sounds like a good system.  I mean MODERATION allows us to munch on the yummy (yet less than healthy) goodies we desire without any guilt and few consequences, right?  Come on…you didn’t just land on the planet!  You know that while moderation is all well and good, it can (and usually does) come back and bite us in our ever-expanding back ends.  We are human after all…given to temptation and with little (if any) willpower.  Watching what we feed our bodies is tough stuff.  Health and nutrition can be hard to manage.  Time, energy, and money all factor into the equation as well.  Which is why I wish Willie Wonka would perfect that “3 Course Dinner Chewing Gum”  Violet sampled in the movie.  It would really come in handy at my house (sans the exploding blueberry part, of course.)

Clearly, there’s no easy button here.  The same goes for what we feed our soul.  It seems to be a recurring theme lately.  Of course, I’m only speaking for myself, but it feels like everywhere I go that it’s not too hard to decipher one’s soul food diet.  For example, the kid who is cussing up a storm at the baseball diamond is palling around with a tribe of kids cussing up the same storm.  Never mind that there are three-year old ears in close proximity.  Never mind there are grandparents in attendance.  Never mind the fact that we all know your parents and you should know better!  Somehow, somewhere this child has ingested ugly, nasty words and probably without any forethought, has decided to share them with the world.  Look, I’m not the word police.  Sure, I personally find it distasteful, but I understand that it is pretty common in today’s culture.  That being said, I still would appreciate it if there was some consideration for the “audience.”  Comedians, politicians, businessmen/women…most of us know that rule #1 in many parts of the real world is knowing your audience.  Bottom line, if you’re going to swear, don’t share.  Your friend is sitting right next to you and can easily hear you…so shouting your obscenities really isn’t necessary.

Still, the cussing is pretty benign.  When you start adding up all the other foul soul food shares out there…like berating your kids in the store parking lot, trash talking your wife, glamorizing past and current drug use (in front of kiddos no less,) your disdain for the church and religion, your lack of confidence in political leaders, and your basic hate for anyone who doesn’t see life your way…the notion that you are what you eat becomes pretty clear.   Listen, I’m not perfect.  I know life can be hard.  Maybe things haven’t been easy.  Rough family life, a bad marriage, children who try your patience and the list goes on.  There’s plenty of blame to go around. Often we try to excuse our own behavior by insisting that we don’t know any better or fault the way we were raised.  But whether it’s nature or nurture (or a self-labeled  “bad habit”) none of this lets any of us off the hook.  We’re not all privy to the good life.  Understood.  But I think there’s an argument to made for the fact that we all WANT the GOOD LIFE.  We want to be successful and happy, so let’s start making some personal decisions that breed success and happiness.  Decisions that translate into being the absolute best that we can be!  When it comes to good soul food, MODERATION doesn’t seem to amount to much.  In fact, myself included, we need to be visiting that good soul food trough several times a day.  I mean, would it really be terrible to try to attain a little positivity by feeding our soul a few good things?

Nosh on the POSITIVE.  Live better, be better.  Find kind neighbors.  Be a kind neighbor.  Show a genuine interest in your family and friends.    Practice generosity.  Pay it forward.  Feast on GOOD news.  Share your time and talents with others.  Help a stranger.  Say hello.  Hug your children (often, or as often as they’ll let you.)  Sing!  Gorge on HOPE.  Seek out good, honest friends.  Be a good, honest friend.  Affirm others.  Believe in yourself.  Be playful!  Smile (a lot.)   Be an example.  Offer grace.  REPEAT.  With this menu you can go back for seconds and thirds–guilt free.  I truly believe we are all capable of making good choices for ourselves and others.

This is the table that I want to sit at!  And I want others to feel free to pull up a chair.  Let’s invite our spouse, children, family members we get along with (and especially those we don’t) and our neighbors.  Maybe we could all talk it over while enjoying Cheerios (with OR without milk.)  Sounds good, doesn’t it?  So…who’s hungry?

Food for the body is not enough.  There must be food for the soul.  Dorothy Day




That’s NOT My MTV….

Everything popular is wrong.  Oscar Wilde

mtv-logo-7I’ll admit that I don’t watch a lot of MTV these days, but I so clearly remember when the network first debuted in the 80s.  Practically THE perfect channel (in my adolescent assessment,) as it was brilliantly simple–music videos with young, hip, fun personalities known as video jockeys (VJs.)  The ability to tune in to my favorite songs, 24/7, served as the backdrop to my tween and teen years and I’m sure that was the story for countless others from my generation.  And while reminiscing about Paula Abdul videos, Yo! MTV Raps, Pauly Shore and MTV News typically bring a smile to my face, it’s at this time EVERY year that my thoughts about MTV merely result in a long, sad sigh as the network offers up the its annual MTV Music Awards show.

Right now the web is blowing up with critiques and reaction to Sunday night’s show.  The annual offering was pretty hard to miss given that it runs live on several Viacom channels aside from MTV.  And while you couldn’t avoid it, there were plenty of reasons one might try to.  Obviously, the show is edgy.  It was edgy back in the day, but somehow the definition of edgy has been changed from simply “pushing the limits of good taste” to “practically naked” and “high on drugs.”  Hence the long, sad, sigh.

I am a big music fan (I have kids so I think it’s important to know WHO and WHAT they’re listening to) and believe it or not, I was actually very familiar with most of the performers and nominees.  I am genuinely impressed by the talent and creativity that goes into making a hit song, I just wish it could be different.  The pop psychologist in me wonders if these music celebrities would be any less successful or culturally relevant if they decided to keep their clothes on and skip the pre-awards show doobie?  I have a feeling those with true musical talent would still find fame, but those whose celebrity relies upon sensationalism might not.  I guess that’s what they call “famous, for being famous.”  My biggest disappointment in all this is that I’ve seen research that suggests provocative clothing (or lack there of,) foul language and drug references actually make today’s teens that much more inclined to like a song or artist.  Apparently, marketing and public relations gurus are also hip to this trend as many advise their celebrity clients to continue to push the boundaries.  Listen, I was young once…we all want to push a little, test the waters, and see what else it out there as part of declaring our independence from our parents, peers, etc.  That’s pretty typical, but somewhere along the way we’ve also opened the door AND placed a welcome mat out to some pretty disappointing, potentially dangerous and scary behavior.  Long, sad sigh.

The optimist in me keeps looking for a little glimmer of hope…a sampling of the fun, nostalgic MTV of days gone by, but that’s a pretty tall order for a network that has used sensationalism as its stepping stone toward continued relevance.  Several writers have outlined their top ten moments from this year’s show and while I could recall each of these episodes…none of them stood out as great or outstanding.  Most of them weren’t even about the music.  Again…long, sad sigh.  Just another f-bomb laden, almost nude, drug-promoting, angry ranting awards show.  For me, the best part of the show was not what was taking place on the television, but rather my family’s reaction to the whole thing.  I wish I had kept a tally for every time my husband asked “why we were watching this show, when we could change the channel, and if the show was over yet?”  My tween daughter opted to watch YouTube tutorials in her room, and my teenage son didn’t even know the show was on (boy, I dodged a bullet there!)

No doubt the coverage of this event will continue.  Miley Cyrus will be critiqued, the feud between her and Nicki Minaj will further develop, a reporter will be assigned to find out why Justin Beiber was in tears, and a campaign team is likely assembling now for Kanye’s presidential run.  It’s all just a little too much.   As I type this, plans are probably in the works for next year’s award show, but as much as I ascribe to the “devil you know” mantra…MTV just might have to count me out.   I think I’m done.

When you get something like MTV, it’s like regular television. You get it, and at first it’s novel and brand new and then you watch every channel, every show. And then you become a little more selective and more selective, until ultimately… you wind up with a radio.  David Lee Roth






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