Sandra Bullock, Jesse James & Weightwatchers

THE BLIND SIDE I just read an article that Momlogic posted titled, “Sandra Didn’t Believe the Background Check”. I love Sandra Bullock.  I’ve seen just about every movie she is in since way back in the Speed and Hope Floats days.  I am sorry to hear about her recent disappointments as I am when I hear about anyone in The Land of Fame Excess, as Miley Cyrus puts it, experiencing heartbreak or humiliation.  I do feel for our celebrities when it comes to the fact that they live in a fishbowl and not necessarily a kind one.

The article at Momlogic, however, made a generalized statement that I take issue with.  I thought about posting a comment to the thread on Facebook, but decided this would make a great post.  So, here I am.

The statement, "It’s an old adage, but if you want to predict someone’s future behavior, look no further than their past behavior" is a  broad generalization that doesn’t take into account the vast potential each human being has at any point to turn their life around and make radical changes.  Clearly, I don’t agree with it.  If it were true, AA wouldn’t work, Weightwatchers would have no success stories and a boatload of therapists would be unemployed in this country instead of making good money. We certainly know that AA and Weightwatchers possess numerous success stories that speak of changed lives. As for the therapists, I live in a very small city of 60,000 people and we have no less that two city blocks filled almost exclusively with counselors offices.  The locals call it Therapy Row. 

I also don’t agree with this statement because the experience of my own personal history which, were I to be judged by it, would condemn me to a lonely and loveless future because my future consists, according to this flawed logic, of me repeating the same very serious and sad mistakes I once made and, one would infer, who is going to want to be part of that?  Now, while I am single, I am anything but lonely.  My life is certainly not loveless, and I will in no way repeat the same sad mistakes of my past.  In fact, if anything, I am the person standing in the middle of the road before it drops over the edge of the cliff telling drivers to turn around and go back.  The logic of this particular adage simply doesn’t jive with the fact that human beings do have the ability to learn from their mistakes and to decide to behave differently.

Whether Jesse James had any desire or inclination to change or even said so, is anyone’s guess.  My take is there were probably other more current clues indicating that things really hadn’t changed which Sandra Bullock might have ignored.  Who knows?  Sandra made whatever decisions she made, based on whatever information she had, did not have, or chose to ignore.  People can and will speculate all they want about celebrities and Sandra and Jesse seem to be top of the list these days.  That’s probably something that will never change. Only Sandra and Jesse know the complete story.  Why should the rest of us care?

While I agree that the past is significant and should be taken into account, I disagree that  one’s past automatically predicts their future. I know too many people personally who prove this theory wrong by their present existence and their stories of conquering their past mistakes, poor choices, addictions, or horrors, and changing their lives for the better.  I am one of them. 

Children and Divorce: And Now For Some Really Depressing News

I awoke early Tuesday morning with my throat so swollen and sore I couldn’t swallow, mucous streaming from nearly every orifice above my shoulders. I could not utter a sound that was even recognizable as speech.  My daughter felt much the same.  I knew I needed to call in a sub.  Two days later, most of it spent sleeping and reading (I certainly had no energy for anything else and the reading was pushing my limits), I think I might be well enough to return to work tomorrow.  The book I managed to devour between naps was, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, by Wallerstein, Lewis, & Blakeslee.  I’m warning you.  It isn’t a cheery read.  In fact, I had tears streaming down my cheeks at points.

wallersteinbookimage I stumbled across this little find at my local book exchange.  I’m always up for reading some research (yeah, I’m kind of nerdy like that), especially about families of divorce, stepfamilies and how all of this impacts children. (Maybe because it is just a little close to home for me?)  This one billed itself as a landmark study because it was the only one that tracked children of divorce from the time their parents split up until they reached full adulthood. It was a 25-year-study. Since I work with kids and their parents many of them divorced and re-married, and since I myself am the child of divorce as are my own children, I thought this might be an interesting read.  It was indeed interesting, but it was not cheery. Wallerstein’s findings are sobering, relevant, deeply saddening, and yet more hopeful than one would expect.

I would recommend that anyone considering divorce, in the process of divorce, or now in the post-divorce family read this book.  I wish I’d read it 4 years ago.  It would have helped me support my children more effectively through the divorce process. Of course, to be honest, I was so stressed and fragmented (as many who undergo divorce are) that I’m not sure I’d have read it.  Which just underscores a significant aspect of this research.  The book also details children’s perspectives of parenting plans, remarriage, step-parents and life after divorce.

The most salient point of Wallerstein’s study, for me, is that no matter when the divorce occurs, no matter what the reason for the divorce, and regardless how amicable or not the divorce is, risk factors for children significantly increase while protective factors that were in place when the marriage was intact are diminished. I don’t think this is new news for any of us, but Wallerstein was able to get behind the eyes of the children in this study and reveal how that reality impacts and shapes children of divorce. She (Wallerstein) does not draw from this conclusion that divorce should never happen.  The author does conclude that we’ve just not been aware of the impact divorce has on children from the child’s perspective until now.  Maybe now, we can begin thinking more about divorce from the perspective of not just what works for the parents, but what works for the children throughout all their developmental levels. Wallerstein goes on to mention that the debilitating impact of divorce is often not evident until children reach adulthood and begin to enter into relationships and marriages of their own.  In other words, divorce has lasting effects on children, no matter how good things appear on the outside. (Personally, I suspect most of us parents know this. We just feel uncertain as to how to deal with this reality.)  These are just a few of the highlights I’ve gleaned and tried to summarize, and which were significant to me as I devoured her over 330 page book.  Oh, and the book does include specifics about the research design and the statistical results of study for those who are interested.

As for me, it was impossible for me to read this book casually without some serious personal introspection.  I am, after all, the mother of four children, all of whom experienced divorce, two of them when they were in elementary school and two of them when they were in preschool.  This book forced me to look at myself and my parenting since the divorce.  I’m asking myself questions because, if I’m to be the best support for my children that I can (and diminished parenting is cited by Wallerstein as one of the biggest perils of divorce), then I must take inventory. 

j0410095 Some of the questions I’m grappling with are:

  • Given that children often tend to either act out or stuff their feelings behind an ultra compliant approach, how are my children really doing?
  • Am I giving my children opportunities to express their fears and their anger (and yes they have both) about the divorce?
  • Am I taking the necessary time to parent them or am I so preoccupied with survival and keeping the family afloat that I am unintentionally neglecting their very real emotional needs.
  • Are any of my children taking on the parenting role?  What am I doing to reinforce this if it is happening?
  • How do I balance the stresses and demands of my adult world, the needs I have for adult love and companionship, with my children’s needs for protection, comfort, care and emotional connection with me…and…when do I get any rest?  (I say that last a little bit tongue in cheek, but fatigue is a big stressor and leads to illness as I’ve learned of late.)

And there are more questions lurking within. 

I’m really not depressed and I’m not beating myself up as a parent after reading this study, but, like the veil being lifted, I certainly see some areas I need to work on for my children’s sake.  I also see some areas that I’ve done well, which is reassuring. It has certainly given me a great deal to consider regarding my parenting, dating as a single parent and, if it ever arises, the idea of remarriage. We grow a little at a time all throughout our lives.  This book just revealed some areas that I think I need to check up on.

As I re-read this post, I realize I’ve only shared the down side aspects of the research.  There is much cause for hope and encouragement as the result of Wallerstein’s work.  I don’t want to be a spoiler, so you’ll just have to read it for yourself. 

How’s That Hope And Change Workin’ For Ya?

Yeah, I know.  It’s a political sentiment posted on Facebook status updates and bumper stickers, but that isn’t how I intend it.  I’ve spent my last two posts talking about my grand designs for a “Healthy New Year”.  I feel in the interests of honesty and authenticity, I ought to share exactly how that’s gone for me so far, only one day into this “healthy” (hahaha!) new year. 

Yesterday I had such great plans.  I’ll save you the angst.  Suffice it to say I accomplished absolutely none of it.  I stayed in my p.j.’s all day.  I did not exercise.  In the name of not wasting food, I made lunch for myself of leftover (wait for it) fried chicken.  Yes, the yummy greasy stuff and store bought to boot, not even home made, which I’m certain would have shaved, oh, half a calorie off it.  I ate three whole pieces.  Not true.  I ate two whole pieces and the skin (ewwww!) off the third.  Sigh. 

If that wasn’t bad enough I had the healthy food compared to what my kids got.  I am such a derelict mother! My kids chose Bagel Bites for lunch! And, of course, I let them choose.  Yeah, all that, while perfectly healthy and yummy tasting turkey is in our fridge ready to be made into sandwiches.  (What?  The bread is moldy? Crap!)

On top of all that, my son digs the chocolate chip cookie dough out of the fridge and decides to start digging in.  Well, out of sight out of mind, but put the junk right in front of me while I’m blowing off my entire day relationally and otherwise by importing all my CDs to iTunes and then synching my new iPhone (yeah, don’t get all excited…it is only the 8 gig one and a refurbished one at that) I ended up just having to have a taste.  And then another taste and, now, well, I’m not feeling so great.  Add to that two glasses of yummy Reisling (hey, it was just there begging to be sipped) and  I’m laughing uncontrollably at my own weakness. So much for my great resolve, eh?

Yep.  The best laid plans of mice and men…or something like that?

Sigh. I’ve developed a lot of really crummy self indulgent (as opposed to not so crummy self indulgent?) habits over the last decade. 

This is going to be a bit more difficult than I thought.  

Well, I guess, I can take the Scarlett O’Hara approach and deal with it tomorrow. 

But that’s the last “gimme” I’m giving myself!  I swear! 

Toward A New Year of Healthy Living

New Year’s Day, 2010

photo by nkzs Yesterday’s post spoke about thinking more thematically about New Year’s Resolutions.  To follow up on that, I feel I must give some more concrete examples of really what I mean. To that end, I have only one New Year’s Resolution. More aptly put, I believe this is a New Year’s theme that I hope characterize my year and the years to come. That theme is Healthy Living or Health. 

You see, I could do what I did last year and talk about all the things I want to do, as though life were some sort of checklist to be completed before the end of it. As a product of the American baby boomer culture, I’ve seen life this way more often than not.  I’d make my list, work frantically to accomplish it, come very close (or maybe not at all) and feel miserably unsuccessful or ineffective if I didn’t complete the list. I was what I could accomplish. 

List Fail

The problem with this thinking, at least for me, is that the list can never be completed because something is always being added to it.  You check off one item only to put another objective in its place.  What’s the sense of accomplishment in that?  How does this manner of operating lead to peace and contentment?  Even if you do accomplish something, the effect or result is only temporary, unless the item stays on the list and then, if you think according to the list, even if you’ve made progress, the danger of perceiving that you haven’t completed anything or not as much as you would have hoped exists. Lists are about completion not progress.  I want to focus on progress, process and becoming.

Really, what I am talking about here with this whole New Year’s Theme thing is not giving myself more stuff to do (and more reasons to be disappointed if I fail) but instead I’m dealing with effecting lasting change in my life.  There are areas I am not content with and I need to change.

Time for Change

Perhaps an example from my own life might serve to provide greater understanding of what I’m really driving at here.  Several years ago, nearly a year, maybe almost two before my divorce even started beginning, things (as things in a failing marriage will tend to be) became very chaotic and conflicted.  I was unhappy, he was unhappy, the kids were caught in the middle of that and dealing with the magnitude of kids that we had (11 in our blended situation), tensions were running at an all time high.  We’d been separated and back together more times than I care to consider, and I was at the point where I knew that something had to change.  I was afraid of what that might mean, but I knew I could not continue in the present situation any longer.  My health was failing rapidly and it was only a matter of time before  I experienced a serious and major collapse.

j0386273 I really had to take some time and think about what it was I wanted.  Now, I didn’t take the attitude of it’s all about me.  I took the perspective that I needed to take care of me so that I could take care of those who depend and rely on me.  In that case, my children, my support network, my community in a larger context, but admittedly I wasn’t thinking on that grand a scale back then.  I was simply in survival mode thinking about what was going to be best for my children and I in the short run, but also in the long run.  If you’ve ever been in this place you know what a difficult task that can be.  How do you think about making monumental decisions that will be right for the immediate future and still be the right ones, down the road a piece?  There are ways of doing this, I’ve since learned, but at that time I was floundering around in a state of hopelessness, fear and anxiety. 

Respect and Survival

As I sat there in a school presentation where the speaker was talking about dealing with children respectfully and building a climate of respect in schools and in homes, everything crystallized for me. It all came together for me, not as a list of things I needed to do in a sequential order, but rather as a frame of mind I needed to adopt; as a way of being I needed to pursue.  It became clear to me, in seconds, that what was lacking on so many levels and in so many areas in my life was, quit simply, respect.  I wasn’t being treated respectfully, nor was I extending it to others in most areas of my life. Not only that, material possession, symbolic of someone’s effort, time, life and money were being treated disrespectfully, the world around us was not being treated with any measure of respect either by any of us. This is not how I wanted to live, nor was it the environment I wanted my children to grow up in learning that this manner of living was an accepted option. 

With the theme being respect, I was then able to clearly see that in the current situation I was going to be crippled if not completely detained in my pursuit of a respectful home atmosphere and lifestyle.  I was then able to make the hard and frightening decisions with confidence and assurance that I needed to make at that time to ensure for me and my children a life that involved treating each other with greater respect and infusing our home with respect.  Three years after that day, I can look back and say it was the right way to look at things and, though we haven’t perfectly arrived, because we continue to learn more each day about areas where we can demonstrate greater respect to each other and because, quite frankly old ways of being die hard sometimes, we are in a much better place than we’ve ever been. We would not be here now if I hadn’t taken the necessary steps to start the process.  I couldn’t have taken the necessary steps if I had focused on what I should or shouldn’t do.  Focusing on what I wanted my children and I to be and experience made it possible for me to figure out the rest.

Healthy Living

 j0442586 It seems I’ve come to another place where a theme is stepping up to the forefront and demanding attention.  In the last three years, several themes have developed. First, was the theme of Respect.  The next theme that characterized the first year after the divorce till now was Survival.  The next theme which I believe to be developing in my life is that of Healthy Living or maybe just Health.  It is a theme that encompasses not just the idea of physical fitness and healthy eating, but also the areas of spiritual health, intellectual health (sustenance and growth) and relational health.

These “themes” I am talking of, if that is even an appropriate terminology, are not something I adopt, carry around with me for a while and then discard because they no longer suit the situation.  If you could think of building an onion from the inside out a layer at a time, you might come closer to how this all works for me.  As each theme develops in my life, it becomes part of me with following themes overlaying themselves on pre-existing themes.

So, since the title of this post is about a healthy new year and since I did mention it earlier on in this now rather lengthy post, I suppose I should discuss it just a bit.  Healthier Living, as a theme in my life, for this year, or for whatever amount of time it decides to be the forerunning focus, will help me make decisions daily regarding my time, my activities, my decisions, my focus.  Instead of creating a list that I may or may not accomplish, depending upon my motivation level or my feelings, I will instead operate from the place of asking myself, “Is this the healthiest thing for me right now?”  Or I might consider, “Is this particular choice going to move me closer to the healthy, whole life I see for my children and myself?”  The particular questions help me sort the myriad choices I face each day in order to more closely align my life with the healthful vision I see of myself and for myself and my family (because I don’t just simply think of myself, ever, in isolation; what I choose impacts and affects many others whether I recognize it or not).  So, in brief then, the theme works to direct my efforts, focus my energy and determine my choices.  I am no longer burdened by a list that can never be accomplished. I am simply, moment by moment becoming healthier and these moments will, undoubtedly stack up and create a year that is much healthier than years previous.

j0433106 Enthusiasm, Hope, Confidence, Optimism

Approaching life this way has, over the last three years, been very effective for me in implementing significant and incredibly positive change in my life over a relatively short period of time.  This approach might not work for everyone, but I’ve found it to be incredibly effective for me in determining where to focus my energy, how to prioritize all the conflicting demands that bombard me daily as a single mom, and in helping me keep at it even when things become discouraging and disappointing as they likely will. It is an approach which instead of frustrating and defeating me, fills me with optimism, confidence, enthusiasm and hope. Since I’ve heard those are some of the key ingredients for someone in good mental health, I guess that’s not a bad place to start.

Procrastinatory Paring and Sharing

So, today, in my usual procrastinatory (is that even a word) I decided to go through each of  the links on my blog roll in an attempt to clarify two things.  First, I wanted to see if the bloggers were even still active.  I mean, no good sending you to someone really cool who hasn’t written anything really cool since last year…or the year before.  I hate that when that happens!  I find a blogger I love reading then realize I’m reading something that happened years ago and this person, for all digital intents and purposes, no longer exists. I usually figure this out after I’ve posted a comment only to realize that the last person that commented commented over a year earlier.  Yeah, doltish, really.  I’d like to spare the handful of readers who do troll silently through my musings here the angst of that experience. 

The other thing I’m trying to do is pare down the blog roll.  When I first started this blog (has it been a year and a half already?), I put people on that were interesting to me then.  I had goals, kinda sorta, in mind for what I wanted this place to be and those people made my blogroll because they seemed to fit the criteria for the kind of resource I wanted to provide my readers.  Yeah, well…things change over time.  Bloggers change, their blogs change, goals change, life changes, we change and I have definitely changed over the last year and a half…I think. Yeah, I have.  I’m still sorting a lot of stuff out and trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up and where I want to be doing it, with whom I want to be doing it, why I want to be doing it are still all up for grabs (well, mostly) but some things have been sorted.  The upshot of the sorting is that I’ve decided that I only want certain folks on my blog roll.  I have reasons for this.

No! No!  It isn’t because I have these elitest, exclusivist or exclusionary tendencies (like some of those really big name blog-for-a-living types that I’m really jealous of because I haven’t made their blogroll yet let alone produced a blog like theirs, but okay!).  It is because I think  it simply reveals WAY TOO MUCH of my ADD tendencies when I have stuff from all over the universe listed that has nothing to do with anything I’m doing here.  Not that I’m doing anything here that is even remotely relevant to the real meaning of life, but it’s sorta fun for me…most of the time.   Even so, I think it is time for this little bloggy to grow up a bit and look a little more…um….what’s the word I’m looking for…respectable?  Ordered?  Thought out?  Put together?  I don’t know…something like that. 

I have a really easy way of determining if I want someone to stay on my blog roll.  If I know them in real life and they are a family member or close friend, they’re automatically in.  Well, unless they request not to be.  That’d tell me something now wouldn’t it?  If  they are just someone out there in the blogosphere then they have to meet two criteria:

  • they have to be posting regularly and recently.
  • I have to get the “I want to be like that when I grow up!” reaction when I read them.

Oh, wait, there’s a third…

  • they have to be on a topic that I perceive my readers (whoever they are because they don’t often identify themselves but I know they are there because my stats say so unless the stats lie!)  would be interested in.  I’m still trying to sort all that out.

Anyway, there you have it.  The reason why some of you might find your names missing on the blog roll and why others will find they’ve been added.  Mostly those who have been deleted so far are folks who aren’t writing anyway and probably don’t care.  If I deleted you and you do care, post a comment.  Everything’s fixable, well, mostly everything.  If you wander in and like what you read, let me know.  If you have a blog and you’d like to be added let me know that too.  I’d be glad to visit your place and take a look around.

Off I go to peruse postings and look at links while avoiding adult responsibilities like laundry, dishes and dealing with other diverse forms of dirt.  I’ve come across a few great bloggers who still rate and need a shout out.  Well, they don’t need it, they are mostly doing fine without my recognition.  I need it, because what they said, how they said it, what they experienced, resonated with me in a way that I feel is worth voicing.  Look for me to share these folks with you in the days to come.  I hope you’ll visit them and find them interesting too!