Monthly Archives: July 2011

Why I’m Moving to Only Two Posts a Week:

Hi all!  I’m so excited about the conversations and commenting that has been going on here at The Ripple Effect 2009!  It is great to have so many folks, new readers, friends and family, fellow poets and mothers, and new blog friends participating in dialogue regarding the reflections that I post here online.  I thank you for your support; you cannot know how much it means to me!

As many of my ongoing followers know, I generally post three blogs a week.  Usually this trio includes one toddler friendly activity or one poem, one post on motherhood, and a third wild card post.  I love writing all three posts and eagerly await hearing from readers after each publish!  However, with autumn on the horizon, I have other demands on my time that require I reduce my weekly load from three to two posts.  I am so excited that my family will be coming to visit us from out of state, and I want to focus my time on their visit without feeling pressure to maintain an already full writing schedule.  Also, I am hoping to refine and submit some poetry in the attempts to further my publication goals.  Fall is a busy time for submitting poetry for consideration, so I am going to reduce my blog workload so that I can direct some energy to my currently neglected poems, waiting for their mama to attend to them!  Finally, I just love the autumn.  It is my favorite time of year, and I want to savor every moment I can with my little one, exploring the out of doors, visiting our local parks and regional national parks.

I hope you will continue to stop in for a read or a comment and that we can keep the momentum going!  Thanks for reading!


Disney Love Dilemma

I grew up on Disney.  The Disney Channel was one of the few cable stations my mom allowed us to watch; she was very careful about what messages we were receiving as kids.  But after my little girl picked out “The Little Mermaid,” from the library the other day, and I went home and watched it with her, I remembered my mom leaving the movie theater upset at the content.  I remember her talking about how the movie encouraged adolescents (16 year olds) to defy their parents to follow a dream (and enter into a marriage relationship as a teenager).

While at 16, in the throes of my first love relationship, I thought this was a wonderful idea, as a mother of a 20 month old, I now see that this message which undermined parental support and wisdom is really not the greatest one for small kids to internalize.  This has led to a mental review of other Disney favorites, and I am dismayed to share that the messages about love and family conveyed in some of the classics are far from pretty.  Here’s my take on the most dangerous themes:

The Little Mermaid:  Risk losing your gifts, your family, your home to pursue a man you fell in love with at first sight and use your feminine charms (Ursula:  Don’t underestimate the importance of the body language.  The men, they don’t like a lot of blather…”) to entice a man into physical intimacy after 3 days.  Sacrifice your voice for a man; if all goes well, you’ll get it back someday.

Lady and the Tramp:  Have a one night fling with the bad boy, then go home to Park Avenue.  Unless, of course, you’ve reformed and domesticated him.

Sleeping Beauty:  Your life will not begin until a man “awakens” you.  Then you belong to him.

Cinderella:  Home life intolerable?  Run as fast as you can into the arms of the first available man to GET OUT!

Snow White:  Act helpless, be a perfect housewife, and even though you die a little death, some man, somewhere will waken you from your glass coffin and your life will begin.  You have no power of your own to make this happen.

Mary Poppins:  The woman only pursues feminist ideals if her man is self-centered and neglectful of the family.  Once he starts to connect with the family, you can literally send those feminist ideals flying…as part of a kite.  ALTHOUGH, the picture of two self-absorbed parents who leave their kids’ care and raising entirely to nannies, still resonates in some circles…

As a Disney lover, one who enjoys the animation, the songs, the childhood memories, I remain torn.  I want to share the fantasy and fun of Disney without corrupting my child with unreasonable and unhealthy perspectives about love and relationships.  I’m still struggling with how to do this, short of barring Disney from our home.  Which makes me a bit sad.  So I have to think about whether the messages I give to my daughter will be enough to challenge the media onslaught and limit the viewings accordingly.  Any thoughts on Disney?  Would love to hear your comments and observations below!

Analyzing the Role of the Mommy Confessional

Mommy Confessionals…

Thanks to Shell from Things I Can’t Say for letting me link up with this sensitive post. I have to admit, I’m fearful that this post is the most likely of all the ones I’ve written to be quickly digested and misunderstood, resulting in negative blogger feedback, so please, read carefully.  Also, if you have engaged in “mommy confessing” with me in the past week or two, this post is NOT about you; it is about a trend and a conversation between myself and a friend.  So please don’t take it personally.

Recently, my girlfriend and I were discussing the latest trend in mommy blogs and real life sharing between mothers, what I like to call the “Mommy Confessional.” For the purposes of this post, a mommy confessional is revealing personal parenting failures or difficult, negative feelings about parenting either through an interpersonal discussion or on an online forum.  What my girlfriend was decrying was the indifferent nature of some mothers who post their parenting imperfections online in a nonchalant and seemingly unregretful or even prideful manner.  She expressed frustration with the kind of attitude that promotes or even lauds neglectful or self-centered parenting, and I understood her point.  After all, I too, have read or heard mothers cite parenting failures or negative parenting attitudes with an air of pride or cockiness, and have felt off-put by these admissions.

However, I also know the feeling of relief that comes when one is able to admit imperfection of any sort to a trusted friend, or to seek advice or understanding from other mothers in a public forum.  Hearing some variation of the words, “That’s normal” or “I’ve been there, done that”  or “I feel that way too” makes you feel a little less like a screw-up in the parenting department and can enable one to move beyond soul crushing guilt complexes to parent with renewed confidence and energy.  We all need someone to confide in, someone to empathize with our feelings and struggles, and give us even a little sense of forgiveness that we will not grant ourselves.

As a listener though, I have to reflect upon my role as a mommy confessor, in addition to my role as a confessee.  Walking the fine line between enabling forward emotional momentum of another mother, and just enabling poor parenting through constant and inappropriate reassurance is a challenge.  Because how many of us are really going to be honest with another mother if we think they’ve gone too far with a discipline issue, if they appear distant and neglectful in their parenting, or if they are consistently self-focused and selfish with their actions, expectations or rants?  Will we speak our honest opinion, regardless of the friendship (or readership) fallout?  Or will we cave with some sort of diplomatic brush under the rug?  Odds are, most of us will mind our own beeswax while silently worrying or judging.

As a confessee, I admit that sometimes I just need to get the negative feelings or experiences off my chest, that my “mommy confessions” are not always representative of who I am as a parent.  Sometimes they are just transient feelings that I need to process out loud or on paper so I can get a clear view of what is really going on inside myself.  Often, I find that once I speak the issue, I gain clarity and can identify what issues I have to work on as a mother, and what situations are just universally difficult to manage.  I have felt a great sense of relief when other mothers share their frustrations or struggles to balance knowing that I am not alone in my struggling.  But, I don’t stop struggling.  I am probably guilty of over analyzing my role as a mother, of creating extra anxiety over my performance when I am doing a hopefully more than adequate job.  Because I truly do care, and seek to get a clear view of my parenting through the reflections and reactions of those around me to my parenting choices balanced with my own internal gauge of right and wrong.  Guilt can be a very helpful motivator for change when change is perhaps needed.  Having someone eradicate or smooth away the guilt by validating feelings or actions when perhaps a more honest response is warranted might do both mother and kids a disservice and stunt growth.

I know those friendships I can turn to when I want honesty:  my husband, my sister, my mother, and my very closest real life friends.  While I will hear differing and perhaps valuable opinions to consider on my blog, it is not the place I turn to for interpersonal insight or to stimulate growth as a parent.  It is a place to share and find common ground with other moms.  I don’t seek for my blog friends to challenge my thoughts about myself as a parent, because though I appreciate my readers, our relationship does not have the level of intimacy where they see the whole picture of me.  Intentionally or unintentionally, I present only a part of myself online for my readers to know, and only those closest to me in the real (not virtual) world can supplement their impressions of my parenting with observations, interpersonal experience, and intimacy built over years of friendship development.   I appreciate dialogue and discussion and sharing of multiple opinions on my blog, but when it comes to applying them to my parenting, I do not internalize them unless I really trust the person.  So, I wonder when we validate each other’s parenting woes and foibles online, do we really know that person as a parent?  And are we enabling poor parenting when we LOL at a flippant parental confession? Conversely, would speaking our minds even have any virtual effect?

This is why it concerns me when I sense an attitude of indifference or pride used when speaking or writing about parenting flounders.  As with any job, there are those that take their role more seriously than others, who value self-reflection, seek improvement, struggle, grow, and then there are the (perhaps rare, but these moms are out there) folks that coast, surf the internet, find any other way to avoid or distract themselves from their work, consistently whine and complain about how hard their jobs are, and get by with a sense of getting away with something.  At the risk of sounding self-important or superior, I think that is bogus, and so I’ve made the decision to speak up, at least just the once, to say so.  Parenting is the hardest and most rewarding and beloved job I have ever had, one that tasks my inner resources, requires me to move out of my comfort zone of self-centeredness into one that focuses on the needs of another, and one that challenges me to confront my inner demons and inner struggles on a frequent basis.  There are often things to laugh about as mothers, but never to flaunt a failing, though we might use humor to deal with them.  Admitting, confessing, discussing, seeking support and humor to move forward or cope are all human and important tasks in growing and should be supported in our personal and online friendships.  But callous braggadocio about being a crap parent, that’s just tacky.  Motherhood is too sacred for that.

Have you struggled with giving an honest reply to a brazen and disturbing “mommy confession?”  Please share your experiences in my comment section.

Enchanted for the Last Time: My Reaction to Harry Potter 7 pt. 2 (SPOILER ALERT)

Enchanted for the Last Time…

Spoiler Alert:  If you haven’t seen the last Harry Potter movie, do not read on.  There are many spoilers in this post.

My husband and I just left the theater, the familiar sounds of the Harry Potter theme song playing in the background for the final time.  I can’t believe it is over.

I am a fan of all things Harry Potter; I devoured the books and participated in midnight signings both as staff at the former Borders stores, and when taking my niece to celebrate her 15th birthday, where I could be seen sporting my old college graduation robes which comprised my Hogwarts costume for the occasion.  We even created proper wands from some long twigs we found in my in-laws’ back yard.  That night, my niece stayed over at our apartment, and I outlasted even her, by staying up to read the entire 5th book, no easy feat in one six hour period.

I know the movies left out a lot of the details that are more thoroughly explained in the books, but I have been equally enchanted by both media formats, enjoying the merits of each without feeling that one spoiled the quality of the other.  I just love the Harry Potter world.

So it was with great sadness, and yes, I’ll admit, which might seem overly sentimental for a 32 year old woman, with a few tears, that I experienced the final “novel” viewing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on the big screen this Sunday.  I was not disappointed.

Entranced into the lives of the characters, my heart strained along with them as I saw Hogwarts diminished, beloved characters succumb to a deathly fate, and the dazzling, magical world that we have experienced as we follow these children from childhood through young adulthood, turned utterly dark.

The courage of all of the characters was tremendously acted, and I was particularly moved when Harry reenters Hogwarts and is greeted by his former classmates, when Professor McGonagall steps forward to “defend” him against Professor Snape, when Neville Longbottom risks it all to demolish a bridge and defy Voldemort at the end.

Most of all, I felt the intensity of the scene when Harry Potter finally sees Professor Snape’s enduring love for Harry’s  mother and Snape’s ultimate sacrifice on his behalf as he uses Snape’s last tears to enter his memories through the Pensieve.

And who could not be moved as they watch the scene where Harry moves through the quiet intermission in the battle, to find Remus and Tonks dead and the Weasley family grieving for the loss of Fred.

As a mother, the scene where Mrs. Weasley finally deals the killing blow to Bellatrix Lestrange, is both gripping and immensely satisfying as a measure of justice for the death of her son.  Already, I want to watch again, to read all of the seven novels, to watch every last movie, and to connect every moment of the story in my mind in one satisfying and magical strand.

I loved the Harry Potter world and I am glad to be alive in the period of history where I could experience it all, fresh, for the first time, for a moment vacating my life to believe in a world where self-sacrifice, noble actions, knowledge, loyalty and friendships, and ultimately, the strength and power of love can defeat even the most pervasive and insidious evil.  It is a magic I hope we can draw from in our own lives, even when we depart from the fictional world J.K. Rowling has given to us.

A Semi, Serious, Situation

We have 5 windows in our bedroom.  From these five windows you can glimpse a lovely view of  the sun rising over the golf course water way, but in our house no one wants to be up that early.  We are co-sleeping parents of a 20 month old, who is currently transitioning from our bed.  We value every SINGLE minute of sleep that we can snatch from the wee hours.  Additionally, my husband is the kind of insomniac that requires no light, white noise, a certain density of pillow, etc., so the light streaming through the shades in the early am has got to be shut out.

It was on this mission that I set out to our local K-Mart to buy some draperies that wouldn’t break the budget (after all we are in a rental, and haven’t committed to a permanent décor scheme to justify more expensive expenditures).  M, my husband, had seen some crimson panels on sale for $7 and I thought I would check them out and take our daughter, V, out of the house to the local mall play place, as the temp for the day was predicted to be in the mid nineties.  Unfortunately, the draperies were a no-go, as the panels when pulled out for inspection, were discovered to be a thin crushed silk, not the type of fabric to obscure sunlight.  So, minus draperies, plus one giant Dora the Explorer coloring book that V spotted near the home décor section, we strapped ourselves back into the sweltering car to head on over to our air conditioned mall oasis.

I turned left out of the parking lot, and got into the left hand turn lane at the light.  A minute later, I was face to face with a BIG blue semi.  Entirely IN MY LANE.  AND STILL MOVING FORWARD.  I thought, surely, I was facing my own demise.  I blasted repeatedly on my horn to alert the driver, wondering, WTF?  Was I mistaken in thinking I was in the turn lane? (No, I was in the correct lane.) Was the guy going to stop?  Was the last sound I heard going to be the tires crunching my little 2002 Saturn SL-1 as they rolled over myself and my little daughter?

Thankfully, the driver snapped out of it just in time to stop his turn.  I stared at him as if looking into a mirror; he was that close to my car. He still couldn’t back up or correct his turn to arrive in the proper lane, so I had to back up my car and pull into the straight lane, rather than the turn lane, to allow him to pass.  As he did, I looked up, and there is the big, mother trucker, ON THE PHONE!  I, enraged at the threat to my life and the life of my child, gave him a universally recognized sign of displeasure, along with a few choice words.  He barely blinked.  And he kept on talking.

Now I understand that truck drivers often get little sleep, they have to make sharp turns with a difficult turn radius, and sometimes space is limited.  I have approached many an intersection with a turning truck only to leave a little extra space to accomplish a challenging turn.  In this case, the truck driver needed more than a wide berth.  I might suggest a lobotomy.  Because it was crazy to make the turn onto a narrow West Virginia road, with a giant multi ton vehicle while on a cell phone.  Clearly, for him, it was impossible to accomplish with any modicum of safety.

The last time I looked death in the face in a moving vehicle was when my husband and I were traveling in Boston for a family event and a shed that was being transported on the freeway, blew off the truck and came flying towards us.  Thankfully, traffic was light and everyone was able to maneuver out of the way in time, but I remember looking as my husband’s face grew sheet white and thinking, ok, this is it.  I had that feeling again today.  It is never fun to face mortality or to think of how an ordinary morning can be transformed in a moment.

It is truly amazing to me the lack of concern that so many drivers use on the road when they are talking or texting.  I cannot comprehend the callousness or the adolescent sense of invincibility that people have with regard to cell phones.  Seriously, how many deaths and accidents are going to occur before people wake the heck up and get off the dang phone? Get a little patience, stop with the constant connection addiction and get off the phone.  In nearby Maryland, talking on a handheld device and texting are banned while driving, and though it may be inconvenient for this generation living every moment immersed in the information age, I feel a heck of a lot safer when I cross the border.  We take our lives and the lives of others in our hands every day when we get behind the wheel and it doesn’t take much for an accident to happen.  A fraction of a millisecond and someone’s life is forever changed.  No phone call is worth that.  Behind every wheel is someone’s child.

Our Precious Little Gal

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