Author Archives: Lorraine

Politics and the death of integrity and character.

I don’t identify with our political two-party system.  I am fiscally conservative but believe in social responsibility. I have been blessed and don’t mind paying my fair share of taxes.  I think if you are healthy and able, you should be working in order to put food on the table.  I believe in a woman’s right to choose and yet I can’t stomach abortion.  I believe in the second amendment.  I believe in universal healthcare.

You can’t fit me into a box of political making and I firmly believe if you agree to put yourself into one of those boxes you are selling yourself short.  Policy is important and so is integrity, character, leadership, and honesty.  For this reason I am struggling to support many of our politicians on both sides of the aisle.

We are a nation divided.  We are torn between policy, politicians and our values.  I see so much hypocrisy, especially on Facebook.  I see church-going people post pictures of their kid in church and then use the word libtard and whiners in their next status update.  I see celebrities take pictures of a headless Trump and people defending it because “they did it to Obama too.”  NO.  Right is right and wrong is wrong.  More people need to stand up for what is right.

INTEGRITY:  firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values.

CHARACTER:  the complex of mental and ethical traits marking and often individualizing a person, group, or nation.  moral excellence and firmness.  (Merriam-Webster)

The death of integrity and character is upon us.  We expect Congress to work together on healthcare but we can’t stop ourselves from spewing hatred on social media and at each other.  Change needs to happen.  We need to hold our politicians accountable and we need to hold ourselves accountable.   Be the change you want to see in the world and all that.  It starts with us.

So be brave.  If someone victimizes another because of their race or religion then speak up regardless of your affiliation or political party.  If you don’t support the President but someone disrespects him to such a disgusting length, then please speak up!  Don’t spread the toxic nature that is growing like a weed between the citizens of this great country.

Stop making excuses and don’t justify horrible behavior.  Don’t use someone’s past transgressions as a justification for present transgressions because quite frankly, it doesn’t make it right, it only makes it petty.

Be brave.  Be human.  Be true.

And for goodness sake….vote more and hold all candidates to a higher standard.  Our values as Americans are on the line and it’s not pretty.

The lesson your kids may be missing.

This week was a tough parenting week.  Worst week ever!    My motherhood crown came flying off of my head.  I handed in the trophies and went into a corner and wallowed in cluelessness and self-pity.  My weakest personality trait reared its ugly head and served me a nice big cup of wake the hell up coffee.  I also had a bit of an epiphany so it’s all good.

So that’s what I’m going to cryptically write about today.  This week I have realized that I was the weakest link in my sons’ perspective on life and the people around him.  I taught him how to be kind to others but I didn’t fully teach him how to be compassionate to himself.

You see, I always see the good in people.  ALWAYS.  I’m a typical victim.  I’m the girl who dated guys that were bad for her because, well, there were good moments too.  I’m the friend who put up with so much negative bullshit because sometimes that friend was actually kind and supportive.  I’m the person who will put herself last and put others first even when they absolutely don’t deserve it.  I’m an annoying optimist and pride myself on my own strength.  That strength is also a weakness because I will hold up the world alone, to my own detriment and sing “Don’t Worry Be Happy.”

When I was younger, my mom told me that sometimes people are just not good for you.  In fact, I’ve given her that advice also.  Why would I listen to my own advice?  I have now taught my children to see the goodness in everyone and it’s blowing up in my face.   When you don’t teach your children to hold others accountable for their actions or inaction, you are invalidating their worth.

Invalidating their worth.

The truth is that some people are jerks.  Some people are selfish and not everyone shares your values.  Going into a situation and automatically believing that someone who has already let you down over and over will change or switch gears is just a fantasy.  If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it’s a duck.  No it’s not a prince or a friend, it’s a damn duck.

Actions speak louder than words.

So I have reversed course a bit with the kids.  Be kind but be kind to yourself and others.  Forgive those who want to be forgiven, not the person who will take a dump on you again.  Don’t sacrifice yourself to save someone else.  YOU ARE WORTHY of all the love and support and friendship life has to offer and YOU CAN BE PICKY about who you give your own love and time and support to.  STOP wasting time with people who take take take and then take again.  You know who your true friends are so stop wasting time with the ones that just don’t matter.

Mic drop.

 

 

The Romanian Travel Prayer

When we travel overseas I become “that American person,” in a sea of different languages and cultures.  I’m the one who asks strangers if they want me to take a picture of their family when I see them struggling with a selfie.  I smile and strike up random conversations.  I once helped a silent monk find a way to his airline gate with the help of other friendly American passengers who were going in the same direction.  Americans, by their very nature are weird friendly.  On one particular visit to the grocery store, my Swedish mother-in-law asked me if I knew the woman who was shopping at the deli counter because we struck up a mutual friendly conversation about some jacket she was wearing.   When I told her I had no clue who this person was, she expressed surprise and simply shook her head.  This behavior, to complement a stranger, to offer help or assistance is very American and is a behavior I am very proud to display.  Of course this is different than the American who wears bright white tennis shoes and who loudly asks if there is a Jack-in-the-Box fast food restaurant in the middle of Cannes because they haven’t had a decent thing to eat in France (true story).  Oh the stereotypes we create in the places we must go!

On one particular business trip to Paris with my husband, this weird friendliness came out in full force.  It was December and Paris was getting hit with a ton of snow .  Our plane was sitting on the runway, still in view but the airport was a mess. Technically we missed our flight because the doors were closed and therefore had “departed.”   My husband and I got into a long customer service line to rebook our trip.  He went into full business survival mode intent on rebooking our way home surrounded by travel chaos.

Then I saw her.

A grandmotherly Romanian woman was walking back and forth at the gate completely distraught.  It was clear she didn’t speak any English.  She looked scared and confused.  Much to my husband’s surprise I invited her to wait in line with us.  Somehow she had not been given any help, was supposed to be traveling from Austria to DC and was instead rerouted to Paris and didn’t understand why she wasn’t able to board the plane. She didn’t speak a word of French or English.  We let her use our cell phone to call her daughter in the U.S. who translated and helped us understand her predicament.

One look at my face and my husband knew I was going to temporarily adopt a grandmother.

We walked up to the counter and explained the situation to the frazzled agent.  It was clear that they were not rebooking many people right away and that we were all stranded for at least a day.   The relief on that agent’s face when I told her we would take care of this woman was priceless!  I can remember her repeating the words back to me “So you will take care of this woman and make sure she gets on the plane tomorrow?”  A resounding yes got us a free hotel room with my temporary grandmother down the hall, free dinner tickets and a seat in business class!

Upon arrival at the hotel we promised her daughter we would get her up on time for the flight.  Breakfast followed and a seamless flight home to Dulles airport ensued.  Home sweet home!    Rikard and I breezed through customs.  As I looked back I saw one of the border control agents giving our travel companion a difficult time.  Once again I looked at my husband who smiled as I ran back to the agent and told him the story.  They let her in the country once I vouched that she had a person in-country meeting her. The love and gratitude from this woman and her daughter warmed my heart.

But why am I telling you all of this?  Why now when this happened years ago?

Because today, years after this incident I found the gift she gave me.   Using Google translate I was able to finally understand the words on the card.  She gave me a Romanian travel prayer card that she had on her person!  This is the translation:

Save us and Keep us Safe, Travel Prayer.

Lord Jesus Christ, our God, all the way, the way, the truth and the life, and he traveled with your servant Joseph and with you my servant blessing my journey. Send me the guardian angel, to be my foreman And protector, to keep me safe from all evil happenings, that in peace and in health I will return to mine and all my life to glorify Your name, the Father of the Son and of the Holy Father
Amen

She kept this travel card as a talisman on her person because she was so nervous about flying.  I bet she prayed and prayed during this trip and just about everything that could go wrong did go wrong.  Giving this to me was a thank you that I didn’t even understand, a thank you for a prayer answered.  It is moments like this one that makes me understand even more that love and kindness are truly what make life worth living.

I’m a strong believer in making a difference in this world one person at a time.  Never underestimate the joy you can bring to another human being.  I often think of her when I see this card and now it means even more to me now that I have translated the words.  You’ve got to love Google translate!  It’s summer now and many of us are traveling.  Let’s spread love and kindness wherever we all go!

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Fill your life with experiences not things (or Facebook)!

Last week I allowed the boys to spend their entire first week staring at their video games.   Epic mom fail alert!  The whites of their eyes started to get bloodshot!   Summer is here!

We have friends visiting from Sweden and on the first day, their young children woke up, had breakfast and ran outside.  Mine slept in and later grabbed their game controllers.  I had to ask myself some difficult questions.  Why did I think it was OK to leave them to their own devices just because my boys are older?  Older doesn’t necessarily mean they engage in productive activities, it simply means they are easier to ignore.   Truth!

When they were younger it was absolutely imperative that I plan outings.  Trips to the park, trips to the pool or outdoor activities drawing with chalk and riding their bikes were a daily occurrence.  As they got older they started to bicker, push back and drag themselves slowly out of bed.   At the same time I simply got tired of planning things and literally FIGHTING them to put on their bathing suits or get out of bed.  I GAVE UP!

I had to sit down and explain that to truly “live,” you had to fill your time up with experiences, not things.  We surprised Ryan with a birthday trip to NYC and we shut down Max’s iPad for the first time yesterday.  Ryan can’t stop talking about N.Y. and Max beat his mom, yours truly, at Monopoly and couldn’t stop smiling.  I casually left some other board games out and caught Ryan playing SORRY! with his friend later that evening.  The trampoline was cleaned off and the boys went outside and wound up gazing up at the sky and talking for a couple of minutes before it started to rain.

There’s a greater lesson here.  How many times are you on Facebook in one day?  How many times do you look at your phone?   Experiences in life are what makes you grow as a person.  Technology is really great but can also encourage you to be a passive observer in your own life.

It’ summer!  Let’s fill our time up with experiences so that we have stories to tell, not videos to post or stuff to show.   This message is for all of us, those with children and those without children.  Have an adult college student?  He or she needs to get a job.  That’s the activity you plan with that child!

Today the kids have plans to go to the pool with a friend and I’m heading off to the dementia care home.

Go out and LIVE.

 

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Should you watch “13 Reasons Why?”

A scene from “13 Reasons Why” on NETFLIX

I just finished watching the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why,” a story about a young girl who commits suicide and leaves behind cassette tapes that detail how several “friends” and circumstances contributed to her decision to take her own life.  The series is based on a book with the same title.  There have been many comments about this series, some say that it glamorizes suicide and that it may be tricky or dangerous for your teen to watch.  Others say it opens up important dialogue and serves as an eye opener for parents and young adults.    Both assessments are true.  The series is graphic and depicts one horrible occurrence after another.  We’ve all been through our school years but the events in her life just go on and on.  It’s painful to watch in more ways than one.  If you are a parent or grandparent, this post is definitely one you should be interested in.

Should you watch this series?  I would say YES if you have a young tween or teenager in your life that may have even already watched this series or has access to Netflix.  What about your teen?  Should you let your teen watch this series?  I can’t answer that for you but I can tell you how I reacted and encourage you to view the season in its entirety beforehand.

After finishing the series I felt sick to my stomach.  I couldn’t stop talking about the plot to my husband and I felt dark, depressed and beyond sad.  I wanted to cry.  I’m an extremely sensitive soul so the end result of this series was despondency.  I can’t  even imagine how a sensitive and self-conscious teen would feel watching the same series.  If your son or daughter is facing a difficult situation in school, I fear that those feelings would only intensify after watching this story unfold.  For others, getting the message that it MATTERS how you treat others is a good one.  However, if your son or daughter is struggling or sensitive, I can see why reviewers show concern.  Our kids already know that school can suck.  This isn’t news to them.  Getting ugly confirmation after ugly confirmation, episode after episode can be soul crushing for many struggling teens.  They may see themselves in Hannah.  I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

This series brought a flood of school memories back.  I remember the bullies, the drug dealers, the boy who committed suicide and two kids who lost their lives to cancer.  I remember the girl in my dorm who was raped by Joe Cool and who disappeared quietly without any of us paying any attention.  There were girls cutting themselves, perverts exposing themselves and awkward and lonely children that no one helped.  Bullies were plentiful and usually came from broken and abusive homes.   I remember thinking that I could not wait to get the HELL out of school.

And after watching that series today I was in tears.  The fact of the matter is that there is pain all around us.  My parents probably knew some of these stories but they definitely did not know all of them.  Neither will we.  It’s worse for our children.  Our children are exposed 24/7 through technology.  We could go home but our children can not get away from it all.  Our children are under assault by social media.

Technology has brought a new dynamic to our children’s’ world and that dynamic cannot be underestimated.  As we allow our kids to go on Snapchat, Instagram and play with their smart phones continuously, we also open them up to a magnification of bullying and difficulties that can sometimes occur during those difficult teen years. They don’t have any reprieve.   Please do not dismiss the need for some peace and downtime.  Kids leave school and they are still exposed through their phones until they go to sleep.   Loudoun County has already had four suicides this year and the counselors, teachers and parents are at a loss for how to handle the ongoing tragedy in our neighborhoods.

“13 Reasons Why” is worthy of binge watching but I suggest you watch the series in its entirety before your child watches it, although many tweens have already done so.  I also would consider very carefully the type of child you have before exposing them to this story.  I believe it could make a teen who is already struggling feel even more sadness and hopelessness while at the same time, lead other teens to understand why empathy and giving a shit is more important than popularity.  The series does not suggest ways of getting help and exposes our teenagers to many graphic scenes, ones that should be a bit restricted in nature.

The creators of this series have signed up for a season 2.  As parents we must keep open a dialogue with our kids and pay attention to the world around them.  Ask them the hard questions.  Who are the bullies?  Are there drugs in the schools?  Do they see anyone suffering alone?  You may be surprised by their answers, especially if these questions are indirect and encourage dialogue.  Share with them ways to get help or how to give a lifeline to a friend in need.  The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Suicide Crisis Line at 1-800-784-2433. Both are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Should you watch “13 Reasons Why?”  Perhaps, if only to keep up with the culture that surrounds our children and to start a conversation that more of us need to have with the ones we love.

My struggle with myself and anxiety.

In the last couple of years I have had quite a few changes in my life.  My husband is in the middle of a job transition, I am turning fifty, and I’ve started to suffer debilitating anxiety attacks while driving.   I’ve viewed these as three separate situations in my life until recently.  I now believe that my truth is a bit more complex than I had originally thought.

While discussing my anxiety with my mother, it came to light that she too started to suffer from panic attacks at my age.  There seems to be a link between hormonal chaos and anxiety.  My lucky husband!  First PMS and now this!  I have found numerous articles on the subject but of course my gyn/doctor says there’s no relation and suggested an antidepressant.  I declined her offer, not because I believe antidepressants do not help people, but because my symptoms were quickly dismissed. I’m also the kind of person who not only sees the glass as half full, but I also see sparkles in the water.   I don’t want to jump on medication as my answer without further investigation.

What do I mean by anxiety?  What were my symptoms? Continue reading

I AM….Two of the most powerful words in midlife.

 

In my childhood I was naive.  In my teen years I was insecure and a bit of a brat towards my parents.  My college years consisted of chaos and some education mixed in.  In my twenties I defined my adult identity but rushed it and would up married with a baby and unsure of my place in life.  In my thirties I was a divorced single mom.  In my forties I was mother to three, a wife and career minded.   This year I turn fifty and I am actively considering the new me.  I am trying to finish the phrase “I am.”

50! Continue reading

Dear bathing suit designer:

Bathing suits of yesteryear. Comfort for all!

Bring back bathing suits for strong and confident women.  The ones that encourage us to run on the beach and embrace every phase of womanhood instead of making us focus on picking dental floss out of our ass cheeks.   I once read a blog post entitled “how to wear a bikini.”  The post said “step one: buy a bikini.  step two: put it on.”  This is easier said than done with the options you provide us.

I have bathing suit envy.  The other day I went shopping with my husband for a bathing suit.  He bought a nice pair of Hurley board shorts.  They look extremely comfortable, tie at the waist and then go down to the knee.  In fact, he also purchased a matching sun shirt.  I would look AMAZING in that!  You know what I don’t look amazing in?  Your stupid bathing suit designs. Continue reading

The legacies you leave behind.

Two days ago I had a vivid dream.  I was walking through my grandparents home in Pennsylvania.  My  grandfather was cooking bacon and eggs at the stove.  He had a percolator of fresh coffee heated and ready to drink.  I could feel the love in the house, see the sunlight streaming through the kitchen window, feel the floor beneath my feet, and could smell the scent of my grandparents in the air.  Suddenly, they vanished.  I started to mourn and exclaim out loud that “I just wanted to say goodbye!”  I woke up feeling my loss once again. Continue reading

Safety nets, letting go and the lessons we learn.

The sun had set and he and his friends were eight miles past Little Rock Arkansas on I-40.  They were eager to return home after a couple of days in Texas at SXSW.   Driving at what I can only assume was highway speed, the car’s tire popped.  One could say that the tire popped in the middle of nowhere since Little Rock was behind them, hundreds of miles of farmland were ahead of them and they were 800 miles away from home. Continue reading