Resolve to be a Better You

Before I get into my post, I would like to take a moment to comment about the attack that took place in France at the Charlie Hebdo headquarters. I loathe the idea that anyone that disagrees with your ideals, religion or politics should be shot and killed as a result. I loathe the idea that people blame a religion for their radicals and lump them all up as the same. I also loathe the idea that as a writer, I should have to censor myself out of fear that myself or my family could be killed because I write anything and someone finds it offensive. I live in a place where I have the freedom to practice my art as I want, and I will be damned if anyone tries to tell me otherwise. I will not compromise who I am or the arts that I share with the world because some crazies with guns think they have more power than they do. They are just scared and blind followers of people that take the vulnerable and manipulate them into a cause that is not Islamic at all. They are the ones with the problem, not these victims of their senseless killing. One of the artists that was killed, Stephane Charbonnier, once said “I’d prefer to die standing than live on my knees” when he was first targeted, and this is something I absolutely agree with. To all the victims and others that have suffered as a result of this act, I share my sincerest condolences.

Day 2 of my commentary on resolutions. Don’t worry, this is my last day I will dedicate to this. As I had stated previously, I don’t believe in resolutions. If I want to change something about myself, I’m going to just go and do it. How many people actually follow through with their resolutions? The answer seems to be less than 50% of people who make these promises will upkeep them. The chances of you getting a divorce are higher than you keeping your resolution. Happy New Years!

This is where companies like gyms and Weight Watchers will make their money. Eventually, people forget they are paying money for a resolution that they are not keeping and they get to sit back and just collect on your broken promise to yourself. (Doesn’t that idea really make you feel guilty now?) The reason it doesn’t work is because it requires a lifestyle change, not a couple of weeks at a half-assed attempt to do something. If it really meant that much to you, you wouldn’t need to wait for New Years to do it just so that you can fit in. I hate following trends blindly just for the sake of following them.

For instance, the social media is aflutter with this pay it forward challenge. I won’t bite, even though I know it might make me look terrible. Why? Because you should pay it forward on a daily basis and not just do it because Facebook tells you to. In fact, it seems to have a lack of sincerity to me as does anyone who needs to broadcast their good deeds for the world to see. I’ve done volunteer work, I have donated to charities, does not mean I need to act self-righteous about it and blast my Facebook to rub how awesome I am in other people’s faces. I hate the idea of people using those in need for the sake of making them look like saints. (I am not talking about those who post about causes on their Facebook for awareness, I really mean those who say “I donated blood today, what have you done?”) I don’t need that sort of validation to know that I have made a difference, and I have taught my oldest child to be modest about his feats. It is my job as a mother to brag about his activities, not him. I teach my children that it’s not who is watching the deed that matters, but the people who are benefiting from it. They should be the focus. That’s why I like those anonymous donations that appear and pay off lay-away accounts for people who need the help. They don’t care if they get credit for doing something. They are doing it because it is the right thing to do, not because it makes people think highly of them.

You should resolve to be a better you, no matter the time of year and who’s watching. It’s not about resolutions; it’s about being a decent human being all year round.

Back to Business

I decided to go off the grid for a week or two, just to take a break. November was a difficult month, that seemed never-ending due to the piles of work I had amassed when I took on too much, on top of novel-writing. I decided that for sanity purposes, a break from writing was in order. What did I do during that time? I got everything ready for the holidays. My husband was on vacation during the holiday week, and we did what any normal couple would during this time: we finished up Christmas shopping and then went into watching movies and started a “Breaking Bad” binge, which is nearly complete. It was very calming and I am glad to get back into this as a newly refreshed me. Which is great because I feel like we’re getting into the season of “illnesses the keep passing through the house”. Welcome to parenthood, folks. So let’s play catch up!

Neil deGrasse Tyson stirred up the masses apparently with an honest (and equally entertaining) tweet. People were demanding his head for the comments he made. As someone who agreed entirely (and has stated more than once that people who insist on putting the “Christ” back into Christmas are blissfully ignorant to where the traditions for their cherished holiday comes from), I don’t think he should apologize. Here’s to freedom of speech? How come a Christian can compare abortion to concentration camps and Nazi Germany, but a person who does not share Christian views gets attacked for saying that Christmas isn’t a Christian holiday and to acknowledge an incredible scientist? I’m willing to bet that those people who were calling for an apology are the same ones saying that are freedom of speech is being attacked. If you’re going to be a blatant hypocrite, at least try and hide it better. We especially should not be faulted if what we say is based by actual fact. It’s the people that make up facts that are the enemies, not the ones who state the real ones.

The president seemed to discuss recently about how America is less racially divided now than it was before he entered into the office. He points out it only seems this way because of social media and people recording incidences on their cell phones. I agree with half of that. We’re only more aware of this because of social media. Social media, as great as it can be when used properly like sharing memes and playing Farm Heroes Saga, is in actuality the devil. I play with the devil because that’s how people in my “business” can receive publicity and a place to share their work with the world. It actually seems to perpetuate things that would be best to let die out. If the Michael Brown thing had occurred in an earlier time, people would do one protest over how outraged they are by racism and everything would be done. Instead, people make it to be a cause that they need to stand behind until no one seems to care anymore. Just like my prediction about the ALS bucket challenge, no one will even remember his name in another month. Because we are all about “outrages/causes” for the moment, and not actually concerned with things that aren’t flashing on our Twitter or Facebook at the present time. The race situation is not better than it was and by politicians and news media making it a “black vs. white” issue, it will not get any better. This also goes for those who argue “if it were a white person, no one would care”. Those statements do not make you any better than the others who feign outrage. That just puts you on the other side of the race war. We should just acknowledge that we do not know what another person has to go through on a daily basis, and not judge them for it. I don’t know what it’s like to be an impoverished minority, what would make me an authority on that topic? I have no right to go on news shows to say “the problem is…” The problem isn’t that they don’t have both parents: I was a single mother and my son is an A student that participates in band and baseball and does well at both. I have friends that are single parents, and their kids are fine. It’s an excuse, and the media lets them have that excuse by blaming their circumstances for the way they end up. Plenty of children from poverty rise to do great things. We should be asking why some succeed and others don’t instead of blanketing everybody.

Last piece of business is my new novel. I anticipate being able to have it completely edited by the end of next month. I look forward to beginning the promotion process to get the ball rolling. Thank you for taking the time to read this and I will see you on Wednesday.

The War On…

It seems that in America, we are always in a war. There’s a war on terrorism. The war on traditional marriage. Everything is a war. “War” has become the equivalent of “-gate”. In fact, I’m actually shocked that we haven’t heard of a “War on Sodagate”. We can have a “sodagate”, but we haven’t had a “War on Sodagate”. This is depressing. Get on it, America.

Every Christmas, I am told that we have a “War on Christmas” going on. (“War on Christmasgate?” Just a thought…) I hear that as I look out my window, and I see all the Christmas lights. The apartments next to me, 60% of them have a Christmas tree lit since before Thanksgiving. A War on Christmas, as Christmas stuff takes over the aisles before I can even buy my Halloween decorations. Screw the War on Christmas, what about the War on Halloween? I want to enjoy my favorite holiday before a commercialized holiday celebrating a fat man takes over 2 months early. Screw you, Christmas. I do not want to hear “Jingle Bells” when I should be hearing “Monster Mash”. Where’s the outrage?

I could argue that the outrage doesn’t exist over Halloween, since Halloween is associated with Pagans who are obviously mistaken for Satanists, who are also mistaken for actual devil worshippers that want to cause harm on people. News flash: 90% of your traditions that you follow for Christmas, comes from the Pagans. So, I ask: can Pagans openly celebrate their Yule? Wait, we already do that by pretty much every tradition we follow as “Christians”.

The only people who are attacking Christmas are really just people who either want attention (/cough National Association of Atheists) or… want attention. Some might actually have the desire to have their City Hall recognize their religion’s celebrations that occur at the same time. I can’t say that I disagree with those people. There’s no reason that their shouldn’t be a menorah near the city’s Christmas tree, or any other symbol of some other religion as needed to make everyone in the community feel a part of the holiday spirit. We were, as America, founded on the basis of freedom of religion, not just a “Freedom to Christian”. As I remember from my youthful days wasting away in CCD, Christmas is supposed to be a celebration of the birth of Christ. What follows are things like, the Golden rule. You know the, “treat others as you want to be treated” clause of Christianity?

So this holiday season, just be nice to people. Don’t mock someone’s Christmas tree because it’s sparse and yours isn’t. Mine is purposely sparse. Our tree lacks too many ornaments on account of my trouble making toddler, and has no garland because we are pretty sure that our “lively lab” would tear it off the tree or take down the tree trying. Some people might not even be able to afford a tree or ornaments and shouldn’t be judged for that. It isn’t competition of who has the nicest house or the tree crammed with the most ornaments, or even which religion should have the right to celebrate. It’s a holiday season for everyone to enjoy, so be nice to your neighbor and let them celebrate how they want to this season.

Labor Day!

Happy Labor Day! Or as most parents in America call it, “c’mon, one more day…” We’ll get our homes back from those children of age that sit around saying “I’m bored” all day. And what better way to celebrate it than buying those last-minute school items for you children while you get the day off, rubbing it in the faces of those who don’t get the day that celebrates how hard you work all year off. Sorry guys, but hey at least you’ve got a job!

For the rest of us, this is our unofficial last day of summer. If you’re luck in my area, it’s rainy and you can’t even BBQ or pool party it away. I’ll keep this short, as I also have to get on with my day and buy last-minute school items for my little 5th grader. So happy day off everyone that gets it off, and enjoy it. Those sneaky “Monday” Tuesdays are the worst, but at least it’s only a 4 day work week!

The Easter Bunny Never Forgets

In all my parenting emails and reading parenting magazines, I saw several articles about making the holiday fun and exciting for your kids. I saw a few stress-free party ideas. I never once saw an article about “Survival Guide to In-Laws and Other Awkward Situations”. Luckily, all my In-Laws are nice people. It’s really not their fault I’m an anti-social shut in that doesn’t know how to associate with other people. It’s actually a miracle my husband puts up with me, because sometimes I lack any sense of what’s appropriate and not. So far, I don’t think I’ve offended them so let’s hope I keep up the streak.

For instance, I was more excited that I dared to try on a “pre-pregnancy” shirt to see if it fit so I didn’t have to wear my husband’s shirts like I do around the house. A miracle, it fit! I tried on another, with similar luck. I tried on the jeans, and that wasn’t even close. I say it all the time, but “little victories”. Sad to say, I was actually more excited about this than the holiday. I should be ashamed that I said that, but I’m honestly not. I feel very awesome at this time.

The truth is, your mother and mother in law will never let you forget that you gained weight. They don’t do it purposely, and I doubt it’s really malicious. I think it’s just nature to note things of that nature, and they decide that you deserve to know whether you want the reminder or not. So when one mentions that you’ve lost a lot of weight, you get giddy like a schoolgirl and get excited. In my head, I squealed with delight. I’m not entirely sure whether it was just in my head. I really don’t care though, I just want to fit in my clothes again and feel like a human. Or I’ll settle for “just like a me”.

No matter how long you’ve known your in-laws or have been married into the family, I still feel like there’s a need to make sure they don’t hate you. They don’t need to like you just because you’re part of the family. They can sense insincerity and will definitely prey an any weakness that might make them consider you as unworthy of their child’s affections. So the big tip is to be yourself, but a more tamed and better version of yourself. Bite your tongue more often than you normally would and smile and nod when you need to. If you keep those in mind, you’ll be fine and you’ll have a happy life with your spouse. Mostly because every holiday won’t be a fight because you’ll actually enjoy spending time with them.

Holidays As The Children Age

When my oldest son was born, I thought it would be a sad day when I didn’t have to do the whole Santa/Easter Bunny/Tooth Fairy thing. It gave some sort of purpose on the holidays, something that made them extra excited for the holiday. That all went away two years ago when my son, at his 8th birthday party mind you, asked “is there such thing as Santa?” He gave me those eyes that said “Mom, you promised never to lie to me” but worried because he knew the answer and it made him sad. “No, Dylan. We bought you those Santa presents.” He didn’t seem upset. “Does that mean  you left me the Easter Baskets and money for my teeth?” “Yes, that was us too.” Finally he looked deeply concerned. “What’s wrong  sweet pea?” I asked him. “What did you do with all my teeth then?” He was horrified when he asked. It seemed he thought I had some sort of creepy tooth collection. “They went in the trash Dylan.” And that was that, to him Santa and all the other childhood heroes died. And he was completely okay when he was assured he would still receive presents.

Since then, I didn’t have to stay up until midnight praying that soon I can get sleep since at 6a.m I’ll have him jumping on my bed saying “presents and bacon!”. Now I can go to sleep at a reasonable hour, don’t have to run around last-minute because I forgot Easter was coming and no place has a basket. I just buy him a bunch of candy and call it a day, and he’s 100% happy. I don’t have to run around hiding Easter eggs and praying I remembered where I put them all, because you always forget one when you map them out and regret it later. I don’t even have to worry if I have money to toss under a pillow of a child I hope is actually asleep when I do it. It’s a lot less sneaking around and a lot more of enjoying the time with family.

If I were a more sentimental person, I’d be a little sad by how grown up my oldest child is now and mourn a childhood I took away when I crushed his little fairy tale bubble. I’m not going to lie, I cringe thinking of starting this routine all over again with my baby when he’s old enough. It has to be done, and I’m sure I’ll forget all the stress of it when I see the same glow in his eyes that I’ve seen in Dylan’s before. You just have to remember that the holidays are no longer yours when you have kids. It’s all about making it more enjoyable for them and balancing it because you always want to do better, and if you go too extreme once, you have to double the efforts next time.

And to All A Happy New Year

I hope everyone enjoyed whatever holiday they did or did not celebrate last week. It’s not my place to judge, nor is yours. My family enjoyed a fun-filled and very Merry Christmas. While I sat and complained about wrapping up presents for a 3-month-old baby, and spent several hours of my life wrapping presents and baking cookies, I couldn’t help but to think “why do we go through all of this”. Does it really matter how well I wrapped that present? In about 3 seconds it’s all torn off, and you see the 10 minutes you sat wrapping it go down the pooper. It seems like a waste of a valuable resource: time. Oh… and trees.

I think it’s a standard that we sit around, consciously or otherwise, and reminisce on the year we’ve had. So, I’ve decided to compiled my own personal year in review in my life. And I’ve decided to share it with my lovely readers.

1) Georgie Porgie, Puddin’ and Pie: Kissed the girls and made them cry. Well he hasn’t kissed any girls but he’s definitely made me tear up a little. Last year at Christmastime, I was able to announce to everyone in my family (I do include my awesome In-Laws when I say “family”) that there was going to be a little LaRochelle joining the world. At 2 weeks late, on the notorious day of September 11th, my baby son was born into this world. This is by far the biggest moment of happiness this year for me.

2) The Sparkling Jewel: Also this year 2 weeks prior to my little Porgie’s birth, a niece was welcomed into my family. She decided she wanted Porgie’s due date. Porgie, in the fashion of his father decided to sleep in. If a birth of a baby is always a blessing, what are two in the same family?

3) My Other Baby: My oldest son is having a fine year himself. He’s found himself put on student council by his teachers, adored by his advisors. My son also aced the English portion of his MCAS, and was found to be reading at a high school level. Not bad for a 4th grader. He also had his dream come true when Mommy finally told him he was going to be a big brother. He also got his first cell phone, and is growing into a fine young man. Did I mention he tested as reading at a high school level? /Pride

4) My Other, Other Baby: I took the plunge, and decided to publish my first short story. Even selling what I did was a proud accomplishment for me (to order your e-book for $0.99, click the link that says “Buy My Works”. You don’t need a Kindle, just the app on your phone or computer.) The worst is behind me now, because if I can publish one and not be too terrified anymore, I can do more. And I will.

5) And the winner is….: I’ve never voted before. Ever. I even watched other people as they did it, so I didn’t look like the “newb”. I survived the long lines, I survived the process without mocking it too much accidentally out loud. I voted, and while I’ll never tell who I marked off for president, I will gladly admit I went with Brown for Senator. I hope to vote again for him in the special election. The downside of voting? I’m competitive and I want my person to win. I think of it like a sports game. It’d probably be a lot more interesting if it were like the “Game of Thrones”. Finish the quote: “In the game of thrones, you __ __ or __ __”. Maybe the who process would be different then….?

It was a great year. Incredible, even. It was refreshing to have such a great year. In fact, I call onto fate or whatever controls destiny or whatever, and ask for a repeat. Not a repeat of having a kid, I’m not quite ready for that pain again anytime soon. (In fact, I’m still at the point where I cringe looking at him and remembering.) I hope that everyone has a great new year. The best part about starting a new year is the “fresh” start. You can change anything, and have incentive to do it by pretending last year didn’t happen, if that is what you wish. Don’t make a resolution you can’t keep though, it’s never good to start the new year with a broken promise.

Congrats, It’s a Turkey!

Last week I mentioned my oldest son was doing his student council duties and attending to his shift at the canned food drive the student council was putting on for the local soup kitchen. He was happy to report that his 4th graders did beat all the other grades by bringing in 125 cans, happily noting that 10 of them were ours. He tallied them up and they had received 450 cans, well shy of the 625 cans they had hoped to reach. With a heavy heart, my son announced to his school that they hadn’t reached their goals but that they did a great job. 450 cans were a lot better than none. Still, he was disappointed that they didn’t at least achieve the goal they set. I told him that they did a great job, and that soup kitchen was 450 cans richer.

I tried to teach him the most important lesson of all, something I try to tell him every chance I get: holidays aren’t the only time of year you need to do good things, you should do them every day. Change in the world and helping others isn’t something you can accomplish one or two days a year. To accomplish these goals you need to work every day of your life and urge your children to do the same. Eventually, it’ll stick whether it be a year from now or generations. It shouldn’t matter whether or not we can see the change, but knowing somewhere you were a part of the change should be amazing enough.

I hope my children learn this lesson. Thanksgiving may be a time of year for helping and eating a ton of turkey and pie, but it’s a reminder that there’s still a lot of work to be done around us. We need to forget that these holidays exist for any other reason than an excuse to see family, drink a lot, and forget that you’re on a diet. We should remember that homeless and poor people don’t just exist once or twice a year, that they have to live their life that way and we should help them in some way when we can. You don’t need money to help, you just need to have the time.

Why Halloween,It’s Good To See You.

Last year a freak October “Snowpocalypse” postponed our Halloween. This year, a freak hurricane headed our way. My son’s first reaction was “oh no, I’m going to miss school and my first student council meeting”, causing a pouty nearly 10-year-old walking around the house. It wasn’t until afterward when he heard a local town had already cancelled Halloween that his pout went into an angry face. “Not again!” I pouted on the inside too, the one holiday I look forward to every year was not going to be taken away from me again. It was bad enough all the stores saw fit to put out the Halloween decorations the same time as the Christmas ones. Christmas, you will not take this one away from me. The madness needs to stop.

Back to the point, without those cute little costumes and bonfire and all the candy I never eat this month means nothing. This year would almost mean nothing if it weren’t for the additions to my family without Halloween, that’s how serious I am about this holiday. It brings me more joy than it probably should, but I would find God and stab him if his stupid natural disasters had interrupted my favorite holiday again. He would regret it assuming I make it to Heaven, even assuming I believe in it. Don’t cross me, natural disasters.

All joking aside, (mostly joking) I hope people made it out of the storm alive. Stuff can be replaced, but loved ones are irreplaceable. The damage in other areas are terrible and we’re very fortunate here to walk away with nothing much but some downed branches. It’s times like this you really can sit back and think about how lucky you are, seeing other people lose everything. I’d say it’s times like these where we need to help each other out, but we shouldn’t be helping people only in times of extreme crisis. This is the same principle I hold on Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day. You don’t need a day to tell someone you love them or that you’re appreciative of what you have. You should do it every day. My thoughts go out to people who are in need at this time.

Today I can smile while my boys are dressed up in their cute and overpriced costumes. As much as my husband and I love this day, it’s mostly for our kids. The tradition of getting dressed up to eat a ton of candy and get sick is as timeless as leaving cookies for the jolly fat man. Plus, they’re only young enough to do it for so long that you need to live in that short moment. Yes, that short moment where they only wear that overpriced costume once for an hour. It makes them happy though, and that’s the most important thing. Except for our baby, his costume and everything is more for us than him. But they’re both still very adorable. Happy Halloween readers, and donate to the Red Cross to help out. Every bit counts.

It’s What Day?

Today is Columbus Day, and everyone keeps restating what a “useless holiday” it is. I agree, but I agree most holidays are useless holidays. I call for Halloween to be a day off like Christmas. So what, a guy gets lost on the way to India and thinks he made it but was really sooooo far off. Then people figured out he made a mistake, someone else landed in America naming it after himself and uprooted the Native Americans giving them reservation land and casinos. Though they really made off with those casinos…

I don’t think of today as Columbus Day. I think of it as a day I don’t have to rush around at 7 a.m. to make sure my older child is fed, dressed, and ready to get to school while waiting at a bus stop for a total of upwards to an hour between the morning and afternoon stops. I consider this as a day that if the baby can sleep in past 8, I can too. I’m ok with useless holidays my son gets off from school, that’s one day I can try to get naps when I can without worrying I’ll over sleep something so important like picking him up from the bus or CCD. I don’t even mind that he’s not in school because he’s at the age that unless he needs something he can’t get himself, I don’t even hear from him.

It’s sad that he doesn’t need me that much anymore, but at least it means I did something right. Or that I spend way too much money on videogames for him. Probably a little of both. I like having him home though, I know in a few years I’ll barely see him so these days off and vacation times are perfect. You don’t realize how big they’ve gotten until you blink and 10 years flew by. It’s almost like you don’t realize how old you are until you realize it’s been 10 years since high school and everyone you knew in high school seems to be marrying off. Time does go by quickly.

So enjoy this made up holiday and live it to its fullest. We only have a few of these pointless holidays with no backing every year, and we need to welcome them. It’s a good free holiday where you don’t need to spend it with the entire family, where some people get a day off, and you don’t need to do any special cooking or baking. I think we lack useless holidays and should come up with some more. Videogame Day anyone?