January 2011

I got after someone yesterday for not keeping her mouth shut.  I don’t make a habit of telling people what to do, and I know, I was opening my pie hole to tell her to shut hers, the irony is not lost on me.

But it was kind of a hot button topic.  She’s a brand new grandmother and I asked how things were going with Grandbaby.  She said she went for a visit the other day.  The new parents are also dog parents of what is usually described as a Shitty Little Dog.  I’ve never met the pooch but I guess she’s yappy and wild and untrained and generally runs up and down the walls and that’s when she’s being good. 

Grandma said that the dog was far too close to the baby and they didn’t stop her and this just wasn’t ok.  So she called them the next day and told them so.

And I said, um, no you can’t do that.  They’re the parents, you just can’t go there.  She said, “I know!  I know!” but she couldn’t resist.

And like I say, it’s an issue close to my heart because I have the world’s best relationship with both my Mom and my Mom-in-Law and it’s mostly owing to the fact that they’re fun and positive and easy to have around.  They love my kids and manage to overlook every lousy parenting thing I do.  Or at least don’t tell me when they’ve noticed.

I remember one visit, my Mom and Dad came for a couple of weeks when my oldest son, Big, was 2 years old or so. 

I still felt completely out of my league with the parenting thing.  I don’t feel that way as much anymore.  Mostly because he’s six and I figure if I’ve kept him alive this long I can’t suck too badly at parenting.  I’ve got  track record. 

My friend tells me I’m in the “ok” zone of parents because I bake decent cookies.  She loves my Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip ones the best.  She figures what else could a parent need to achieve if you’ve got your cookie bakist badge?  I can think of a few things but that’s nice of her to say.

I realize now that part of my discomfort was about feeling uncomfortable.  I’m used to being better at things.  And there are the times parenting when it’s just chaotic and nuts and noisey as hell and out of control and I don’t do so well with that. 

I’ve learned now that you have to trust it’ll change as fast as you can say, “my kid is bananas B- A-N-A-N-A-S!  Before you know it your kid’s asleep and you’re on your butt enjoying a glass of wine saying, ‘wow glad that’s over’.  It changes so fast and so radically it makes you enjoy the sweet times and the boring times and sometimes even the drudgerous times so much more.

Anyways, back to the visit.  My Mom was a great help.  She’d play with Big and help with stuff around the house.  Her and Dad babysat so we could get out for dinner.  They were fun to have around and we laughed a lot.  And there was one time where she said, “you guys are *such* great little parents”. 

It came as such a shock, and a welcome one.  Because I thought there’s no way that’s true, but if there’s even a grain of truth in it,  a speck, a molecule – then that is the best possible thing I could hear. 

So I guess that’s what wanted to pass along to New Grandma.  Ignore the Shitty Little Dog.  Don’t let yourself be seen as a Hater by tired hormonal new parents – at least if you want to be invited back.  Allow yourself to be out of the control of the situation.  You probably learned that being a parent.   I guess that’s why parenting is good training for grandparenting.

I was driving to a friend’s house an hour away and dug through the console to find a CD to listen to.  I picked up a Kripalu CD that they’d sent me a couple years ago when I belonged to the yoga teachers association.  I’d never listened to it.  So I put it in and it was Danna Foulds talking about her spiritual practice. 

The point of her talk was that she didn’t do a traditional every-morning yoga practice.  She had tried a few things and added and deleted over time. 

It was a good talk because I’m that person too.  I like to try different things that catch my attention.  I see what works based on my own experience. 

At the end of the talk she summed it up by saying, “you need to find the practice that you’ll get out of bed for”.  As someone who crawls out of a nice warm bed to get personal time because if I don’t do it first thing, it never happens, I thought that about says it all.

My baby boy drove me bananas yesterday morning.  Leo’s only one and a half but seems to be going on two or three or whatever age starts with “Terrible”.  He didn’t want to put his pants on, or his bib or his boots or get his dirty bum changed.  He was just in Screw You Mom!  mode all morning. 

And for some of the time I was cool.  I put his bowl of cheerios and milk on the table out of his reach and told him “no bib no eat”.  Yes, we talk like Cavemen in this house. After 4 or 5 times of coming and checking back, hunger finally got the best of him and he aquiesced.  He put on bib, dug into cheerios.

When it came time to get him ready to go to the babysitters I’d run out of patience.  There was the point where I was walking him to the car, yelling over my shoulder to HoneyBunny standing in the door, “I can’t get a job soon enough so someone else can fight with my kid every weekday!”

Yup, that’d be one of my finer moments in parenting.  But hey, in my defense I believe that half the battle of parenting is knowing when you need a break and I was so there.  If you go beyond break time, it goes seriously down hill.

Driving to the babysitters I tried to let go of my anger and frustration and find some equalibrium again.  I did some deep breathing.  I worked on getting some distance from it and letting the emotion go.   After drop-off I felt much better. 

I find that’s Challenge #1.  As much as I try not to get rattled in the moment, Life Happens.  Especially kids.  And before you know it your buttons are pushed.  So Challenge #2 is to let go of it as soon as possible so you can get on with your day without letting a little dark storm cloud over your head define your day.

I’ve also discovered there’s a Challenge #3 to this.  Can I go back later to whatever rattled me and find a way to feel positively about the person?  Can I reframe the experience so it’s not just left in my memory as THE HORRIBLE SUCKY THING THAT HAPPENED TO ME.  Because no one needs that lodged in their head.

And I believe that snarky is ok here.  I tried out a few things like – wow, Leo is such an independent little spirit, he’s going to rule the world ( if he doesn’t ruin me first).  Or, wow that kid sure knows what he wants, no one’s going to push him around (except hopefully me at bathtime).  And so on.

Extra points for making yourself laugh.  Or even smile.

This is probably easier with a child who is the fruit of your loins then say, the boss who drives you bananas but I think it’s still worth trying.  For example, wow my boss sure knows how to make a decision, he really sticks by his guns (even when it’s clearly the wrong move). 

See? Don’t you feel better already?  You’re creating some distance and feeling more in control of how you think about the situation.

Because as nasty as Challenge #3 is to do, finding the positive in this thing that completely rattled you is important.  The fact is that person will rattle you again.  Unless they’re disappearing to Vegas and changing their name to Poker Shark Pete – they will likely push your buttons again some day.  They’re your own personal set of buttons.  They live to be pushed. 

But maybe next time the positive you came up with will help you put off being rattled a little longer.  You can say, why there’s my boss being a strong decision maker again!  He’s awesome! Is my evil plan becoming more clear? 

So to recap:

  1. Try to keep your cool in the moment.  Breath and count to 10 before telling idiots what you really think.  It’s not really effective with bosses and toddlers anyways.
  2. When that completely fails, try to let go of your bad feelings about the whole thing as soon as you can.  Don’t replay it in your head a million times so you can feel Right and Justified all over again.  Let it goooooooo.
  3. When you’re calm again, try to go back and reframe the situation in some way that will allow you to see something positive, and feel even more objective about it. At the very least, use something like, wow that person can sure rattle me! 

I hope this has helped someone other than me.  You can feel jealous, I have the advantage of another 18 years or so of practicing these steps.  Either that or hoping my son disappears to Vegas before high school.  I should tell him about a royal flush just to keep my options open.

I was at the gym this a.m..  It’s packed with the usual suspects plus all the folks that are there driven by post holiday guilt or a new year’s resolution, which is pretty much the same thing in my books. 

I feel bad for the folks just starting up because it looks so darn uncomfortable.  I’ve been there.  Once you’ve sat on your bum for a while not doing anything, it’s so hard to get going.  And if you were just starting for the first time at 30 or 40-something, well i can’t imagine.

I saw a woman on the stepper and she was barely moving, like it was all in my head.  Another woman had the resistance so high on the bike that she looked like she was in pain, hunched over the handlebars like someone was beating her with a stick.  I wanted to say, girlfriend, you’ll get there!  It doesn’t have to be today, lighten up on the resistance and have some fun with it!  But I was too busy hunching over my own bike ;-)

The exercise pundits say that anything more active than being a total couch potato is good.  Sure, the magic 3 times a week at some sort of intensity is awesome, but really any activity beats sitting on the couch listening to your arteries harden.

There was a bit in a recent Shape magazine where one of the women who lost a bunch of weight said that she found that being unhealthy and overweight is hard.  Losing weight and getting healthy is Hard and maintaining all that too is Hard.  So just pick your Hard.

I’ve been thinking about that.  Life is often hard in ways that we don’t choose.  Health issues come up, our loved ones, our pets and ourselves deal with difficult things.  There’s plenty of Hard that we don’t get to pick.   But I’ve also noticed that if I pick the Hard that allows me to take care of myself, there are plenty of long term benefits that make it less Hard, easy and enjoyable even. 

That’s different from consuming a container of ice cream on the couch in front of Mad Men.  That would be long-term Hard because I’d regret it in the morning.  On the other hand, the Hard part of having salad for lunch is rinsing and cutting all those lousy veggies.  After that it gets easy, the salad tastes good and I get to feel real Virtuous which beats regret hands down anyday. 

And I guess that’s why I’m all for trying to take care of myself even though it’s Hard.  If I can be fit enough then when I exercise it’ll be fun and give me a good endorphin rush.  Maybe by picking the Eat Hard path it will become more and more of a habit and therefore less Hard to answer the “what am i going to eat??” question.  

My hope is also that if I take care of myself then maybe I won’t have to deal as often with the Hard that I don’t choose, like health issues.  There’s no guarantee of course that I’ll never get sick.  But they seem to say that being active and eating your veggies are the two biggest things you can do to help your health.  So any Healthy Hard choices I make is all gonna help.

And I have to say, as I look at the folks I know who are older than me, it seems to be pretty consistent.  Those who have taken care of themselves have aged more gracefully than those that haven’t.  It seems like you can do what you want and get away with it in your 20’s and 30’s but once you get to your 40’s and beyond, the results of your bad habits really come into play.   And they’re much harder to turn around when you’ve picked Unhealthy Hard for that long.

And hey, i’m not a proponent of all-or-nothing on this health thing.  I just believe in doing my best to minimize the lousy stuff and maximize on the healthy things where and when I can.  All I can do is pick my Hard every day.

I have some fervent composters in my family.  My mom-in-law was using an old ice cream bucket for her compost and so a couple years back we bought her a shiny stainless steel compost bucket from Lee Valley Tools.  It was so nice she didn’t want to use it. 

We made fun of her for *saving* her compost bucket and she finally broke down.  She loves it.  It doesn’t hold the smell, and the stuff comes out really easy.  She dumps it directly into her flower beds and digs it in.  She has gorgeous flowers, so it obviously works.

When we visited my family last I noticed that my brother and my parents, all committed composters were using the same ol’ scratched up yucky ol’ ice cream buckets.  So I made a point of remembering to buy them shiny compost buckets for Christmas.  I figured they’d get a big kick out of it too.

I started Xmas shopping early this year.  I bought the stainless steel compost bucket for my brother, but the sales guy also brought out the cadillac of compost buckets.  It’s like a little sleek mini garbage can for your counter.  And it’s got carbon pads inside that pretty much guarantee no smell.  I thought, only the best for my parents and took one of each home with me.

I took the compost buckets to the spot where we were stashing our Xmas stuff in the basement and promptly forgot about them.  

Another day I found some fun rubber gloves with a wide satin strip at the top with a funky colorful design.  I got them because my mom would think they were hilarious.  They went under my bed with another Xmas stash and i also completely forgot about them.

My memory is just lousy these days.  Sometimes I’m convinced i have early onset alzeihmers.

So I didn’t even think about my brother’s compost bucket when it came time to wrap up his kid’s gifts and send them to BC. 

And then when i gathered up my parents gifts, i went downstairs, saw the stainless steel compost bucket and thought, geez i could have swore i got them the really nice one.  Oh well, my memory does suck!  So i put a note with “only the best for your compost” in the bottom of the bucket wrapped it up with their presents and sent it off.

The next day HoneyBunny brings up the cadillac of compost buckets and says, so who’s this for?

i just about lost it.  I used a bad word and everything.  I was so cheesed off.  Because of course I’d thrown away the receipt.  Since I was sending the buckets across the country I couldn’t see why I’d need to return them.   So then i thought i would take it to the store and beg.  The Lee Valley folks are pretty good.

And then it ocurred to me – maybe i should keep it.

Because while I’m buying nice compost buckets for everyone else, i let my vegetable peelings pile up on the counter while I cook, slowly reducing my work space.  I don’t take the advice of Rachel Ray and have a bowl for that stuff to make clean-up easier.   Although I noticed in Cooking Light they point out that Ray didn’t come up with that, *all* the great chefs do it. 

I don’t take any of their advice.  The most I’ll do is put my compost in empty food or kleenex boxes because we have a city compost pick-up and they take all that stuff.  It’s not very elegant.

I would simply never buy myself a $40 compost bucket.

But now I have one.  I peel potatoes and carrots right into the bucket.  It sits on the counter looking sleek and stylish.  My forgetfulness, it turns out is a gift.  It brings me useful things.  Now, do you know anyone who needs satin-trimmed rubber gloves?