Monday, December 30, 2013

The New- New Year's Eve (with kids)

I remember the New Year's Eve celebrations of years past. Let me rephrase that, I have hazy, blurred recollections of alcohol fueled evenings meant to mark the passing of another twelve months. We welcomed Y2K by wondering the skyways of Minneapolis on a frozen night. My girlfriends and I wore far too little clothing and shivered in glittery dresses and bejeweled stilettos while sipping cheap "champagne" and getting our groove on to Eminem's "The Real Slim Shady" and a variety of Bare Naked Lady's songs.  New Year's Eve was a big freaking deal. It was an (unnecessary) excuse to be fancy and drink in excess. 
New Years Eve...a long time ago.

New Year's day was greeted with a pounding headache, a couple of Aspirin and reruns of VH1's Behind The Music.
Oh how times have changed. 2014 will be welcomed the way our past seven New Years have been ringed in. Avoiding the downtown crowds and meeting pre-dinner hour at a friend's home,and  instead of cleavage and smoky eyes, the ladies will be wearing any variety of yoga pants, Gap jeans and cozy sweaters. While there may be a few stuffed mushrooms and olives on the buffet, the evening fare will mostly be comprised of some variety of Goldfish Crackers, string cheese and raisins. Music? We may have some but it will be drowned out with the sounds of shrieking children and Despicable Me being blared on the flat
screen. We will be home before ten PM, tucking sleepy children into bed and folding the loads of laundry that didn't take a Christmas holiday.  There is a high likelihood that we will be asleep well before the clock strikes midnight. 

New Year's Day will start just as early as any other day, with all the same demands. No lazy morning. No time for a hangover. 

At first glance this all seems rather depressing. We have traded in an evening of strapless dresses, party shoes, and bottomless champagne for crying babies, snotty noses and spilled apple juice. Yet unlike years past we have so much more to be hopeful for. The New Year is not just about our own resolutions and wishes, but also about the futures of the little beings that rely on us.  The wishes made on stars are no longer for ourselves, but also for our children. Although our countdowns start hours early, there is so much more to anticipate. First steps, potty training, lost teeth, little league games, dance recitals, new friendships and puppy love. 

I am thankful that we will have the opportunity to celebrate 2014, a little early with our friends and their young children., And guess what? Will go out January fourth, when the drinks and babysitters are cheaper.

Cheers & Happy New Year! 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

On the road to happiness: Blog Girl

New blog image. Because this picture makes me HAPPY
I have been quiet on this little blog the past few months, but I'll tell you a secret. I have big plans for getrealmama.

In my last post I mentioned that my goal for 2014 was simple. Happiness. Just happiness. However I failed to mention exactly how I would go about achieving that. It isn't as simple as changing my diet and putting in extra miles on my running shoes. It isn't as simple as taking a class or striving towards the organization I desperately lack in my life.  There is no twelve step program or book that I can read. Damn it I have to use my intuition to figure out my path to bliss, or at the very least feeling good.

I have been sitting around scratching my head (which have you noticed is covered in much, much longer hair these days???) wondering what I can do to find more happiness. Then the angels sang and the a-ha light went off and it came to me... write more. Write better. Invest more.  It's no secret that I have some *minor* self esteem issues. In my day to day life I don't feel a whole lot of pride in myself. I don't think there is much that I do that sets me apart. But I have always had a knack for writing. I have always written well. My papers in high school and college always earned me praise. And I enjoy the process of writing. It brings me joy. It makes me happy.

So damn it 2014 is the year I do something with my writing, and I'll start right here on this blog. I'm not sure what this looks like mind you. Does it mean I write more? Does it mean I spend more time crafting  interesting and well written posts? Does it mean I try to get more traffic and viability?  I haven't figured that all out just yet. But stay tuned folks. Changes are coming.

Happiness is on it's way.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas Wish

And so this is Christmas
And what have you done?
Another year over
and a new one just begun....
-John Lennon
While John Lennon's Happy Christmas is not my favorite holiday song, these lyrics seem particularly meaningful to me this year. 2013 was a damn strange year and by no means an easy one. I haven't much felt in the holiday spirit this December, and as a result my shopping is still not done, no cookies have been baked and although I promised to host a Christmas party, I failed to do so. Yes we got the tree. Julian visited Santa. We spent a late evening driving past the glittery homes in Cherry Creek, admiring the impressive display of wealth and lights. We even watched the Golden Christmas parade and enjoyed a horse drawn carriage ride around the little town.
But something was different this year and I can't put my finger on it. The shopping which I usually enjoy so much seemed like a chore. My boys lists for Santa were pathetic, they don't even know what they want because they have everything. I never did send
the holiday cards I planned for. Our professional family photos went unprinted- I reasoned that everyone already viewed our pictures on social media, so why waste the paper?
Perhaps I am just simply ready to be done with 2013, to hurry up and skip forward to what 2014 will bring.  I don't feel the desire to reflect on what I have done in the past year but to focus my energy on what lies ahead.
The new year ahead. The twelve months of possibility. 365 days of the unknown. It's always a little exciting contemplating a clean slate and a fresh start. And I'm not thinking about those silly new year's resolutions, the one that drives hordes of newly christened fitness fanatics to the gym. No, I'm talking about real goals, the ones that aren't easily accomplished and expected. Losing weight, saving money, reading more. No, that's not what I have in mind this year. I have something bigger planned for 2014. Happiness. True fucking happiness. I don't expect it to be easy. It's going to be a lot of work. And I'm not positive I can achieve it in only one year. Perhaps it's a five year plan, or a twenty year achievement or a lifetime goal but it's the one I'm working for.
My only goal in 2014 is to find and create more joy in my life and for those that I love. My goal is to be able to look at myself in the mirror and like what I see and to be able to say in all honesty that I am happy. With me. With my life. With my actions.  My goal is big and bold and perhaps unachievable, but my hope is that next Christmas I will at least be 365 days closer to reaching it. 
Merry Christmas
Happy New Year
May all of my friends and family find joy and happiness in the year to come.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Driven: The Prize

I have always been self motivated. In school nobody had to remind me to do my homework. In college I could be found at 10PM on a Friday night in the quiet corner of the Memorial Library nursing a cup of black coffee while my friends were out doing shots and drinking Sex On The Beach until the wee hours of the morning. Most days I woke up not sharing the hangovers of my counterparts but ready to hit the gym for one of two daily workouts. I was motivated. Driven. I graduated as the highest ranking senior in the school of Child & Family Studies, a fact that is often met with smirks when shared today. "What difference did that make?" people will ask, pointing at their mediocre grade point average and their impressive job. It did make a difference. It made a difference in that I know what I am capable of.

Things never came easily to me. I have never been a "natural" at anything. I worked damn hard for every "A" I earned, while my boyfriend was able to skim his class notes one night before an exam and receive the same grade. Fitness didn't come easily either. I didn't have the speed, flexibility or coordination to be an athlete. Every lap around that indoor track at the "SURF" was a force of will. I wanted to push myself. I believe that in and of itself is the quality I am most proud of. The fact that I am willing to do the work, to get it done, to always try my best.

My drive is what has made me who I am today. And while it has gotten me places, it has also held me back, it has been my very worst enemy. The little voice inside my head that has pushed me to be the best student,who has never been satisfied with "good enough" has also made the sting of implied failures particularly harsh. The "AB" I got in "African Storyteller" sent me into a depression, my 4.0 ruined. The extra weight I put on my junior year of college was so crushing, I went in the extreme opposite direction, dieting to destruction. I have always strived for the unachievable... perfection.

It is safe to say that this quality has followed me into more recent years, in some ways more than others. I no longer need to excel in academics, and I traded motherhood for a "big" career. I am not the best in my field. I am not promotable. But I continue to bare the weight of willed perfection, the desire to be the very best in other areas of my life. I wanted to push myself physically. I wanted to once again set a goal in my life and achieve it. I set my sites on running, on finally being the "athlete" I never was.  Last spring I pushed myself harder physically than I had ever done before. Each mile I added, first 8 then 9, then 10, then 11 until finally the prized 13.1, I felt better and better about myself. When I finished that half marathon in one hour and fifty-seven minutes I was elated, and started looking forward to the next one, which of course... would be faster. 

There wasn't another half marathon. My lack of inherent ability caught up with me as I experienced one injury after another. My friends and family encouraged me, telling me, I did it, I achieved my goal, and now I could move on, do something more moderate, take yoga. While I know everyone meant well, it made my blood boil. Nothing felt as good as crossing that finish line, and I wanted to do it again, and again and again, getting better and better and better. I have refused to give up. Thanksgiving Day I ran a 10K with my husband who happens to be much faster than I am. It felt good, being able to keep up with him, clipping at a speed somewhere just above 8 minute miles, until the last mile caught me off guard with shooting knee pain and had me limping across the finish line then benched for two weeks. I pushed myself and I failed, and it sucks.

I'm also a stereotypical woman approaching forty who still wants to look twenty-five. I beat myself up for every line that appears on my face, every little way my body changes. I want perfection. I accept nothing less than 100% and it hurts me every day.

I'm not a VP. I'm not a marathoner. I'm not twenty-five, and my body isn't perfect. Even my motivation and hard work can't will it to be. At some point perhaps I will find that I need to take that hard work and direct it towards self acceptance rather than to perfection.

My goal now may need to be just that. Self acceptance. If this becomes the prize and I am able to achieve it, I believe I may find more happiness then any "A+", big race or size 2 jeans will ever bring me. It isn't easy.  This drive is as much a part of me as my weak hips and laugh lines. It's in my blood. It's who I am. I like it. But it needs to be redirected and harnessed towards new ends and perhaps the very most important one being loving me.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Question of Santa.

I married into Christmas. I was raised Jewish, and it wasn't until years later, long after my friends had given up their misguided notions of Santa and flying reindeer that I helped decorate my first Christmas tree.

Sometime during my college years I celebrated Christmas in the frozen city of Minneapolis with my boyfriend's family. They had years of traditions behind them. Swedish smorgasbord for Christmas Eve, red & green  packages unwrapped that evening. Christmas morning David's younger cousins received presents from "Santa", lots and lots of presents. And although the eldest was old enough to know better they all held fast to the magic of Saint Nicholas.

Now that I have children of my own, I play the game, although I seem to be wholly unaware of the rules. I found out from my friends that Santa gifts have to be in separate gift wrap... so that the secret is not reveled by an older sibling putting the pieces together. There are cookies and milk that must be left out  for Mr. Clause and carrots for the reindeer on Christmas Eve, don't forget the reindeer, the flying freaking reindeer. There are letters to be dropped in the mail box with a stamp and a wink.  Forged signatures, "Love Santa" and visits to the man in red at the shopping mall.

I admit  that I think it's fun.... it just doesn't make any damn sense. It's "magic" I tell my sons snuggling them close and reading "Twas' The Night Before Christmas" when only days before I had calmed a frightened child telling him "no, no, Harry Potter is just pretend, don't be frightened." Harry Potter is make-believe but a fat man and a million tiny elves who make gifts for the entire world (except the Jews, and Muslims and all those other non-believer kids who go completely ignored on December 25th) Is real?  Santa who is taken by flying reindeer through the night sky to deliver said gifts across multiple cotenants is real?
Um.... Okay.

I get it, it's fun. It's cute. I even like the pictures of the crying babies tortured on the lap of a strange man with a fake beard in a crowded shopping mall.

But here is the problem. What are you suppose to do when they start questioning the wild tale they believed blindly last year. What are you suppose to do when your 8 year old begins asking those difficult questions in ear shot of his younger brothers:

"Mom. How come my chemistry set from Santa Clause had the Toys R Us logo on it last year?"
"Why can't I have my own Ipad for Christmas? Santa can bring it."
"How come I have never seen a flying deer before?"
"I know you can't buy a SpongeBob-Woody Woodpecker skateboard at the store, but can't the elves make one for me.... or are the elves not even real?"

Are we suppose to continue to weave bigger and bigger tales?

"Santa subcontracts with Toys R Us."
"Elves are allergic to electronics"
"Reindeers are magic and invisible to children."
"Elves are real, but they don't have time to customize skateboards"

Seriously. It's getting ridiculous.

I'm starting to think that we Jews got it right. Sure, our holidays aren't nearly as exciting for kids (think 2 hour Passover Seder, feasting on matzo and horseradish versus a bunny delivering baskets of chocolate and marshmallow chicks), but at least we make it easy on ourselves. One present each night. From mom and dad. No sneaky wrapping paper tricks and forged Santa handwriting.

No crushing heart to heart conversation with a teary eyed 9 year old confessing it was all a lie. I have heard tales of devastated pre-adolescents needing therapy to overcome the cruel reality that mom and dad were simply telling fibs.

Yeah we Jews got that part right. Our holidays may not be as flashy ( remember the Hanukkah of 1983 when your friends got boom boxes and ten-speed bikes and all you got was Star of David stationary from the temple gift shop? I do) but they are simple and relatively inexpensive.

But yes. I married into Christmas, and embrace the lot of it. I'm a Christmas Jew just
trying to figure out how to get through the holiday with out "effing" it up.

Happy Holidays!