Sunday, February 22, 2015

Oh how I love it when

Life's simple pleasures…

things that are funny-movies, people, stories, I never get tired of laughing

a snow day-kids are out of school, we are off work, it's just a big lazy day-guilt free

fresh cut grass

the smell of chlorine and suntan oil

honeysuckle-one of my favorite smells in the world

chasing fireflies

catching a fish, and releasing it, even if it's big enough to keep

listening to music with my kids

when a car lets you in, especially in tons of traffic

waking up without the alarm, and feeling rested

watching the deer eating in my backyard in the middle of the night

being missed

the kind of hugs with both arms-giving or getting them

kind people-never underestimate how powerful this can be

when you see a picture of yourself you actually like-as opposed to the millions you can't stand

fast elevators

when the place to put the shopping cart is right next to your parking spot

getting packages in the mail-particularly when you aren't expecting it

walking the dog when there are no people out so I can let him run off the leash

No words necessary…….

Out of the Mouths of Babes

I hear stuff like this all time, but I am trying to keep track of it better than the sticky notes I have floating around the house

"pinch black"…Jackson

"Mom, is Michael Jackson a boy or a girl?"...Jackson


Aveeee-…Jackson saying I love you at about 18 months

Two's of them...Jackson

"I don't want to go to sleep, that is what morning is for."...Jackson

"Of course I know black people, mom, you!"…Jackson in kindergarten after talking about MLK day.  I am middle eastern-but not black-which made me realize how little diversity my kids have in their lives

"Tyler, McDonalds is not healthy food.";   "Yes it is mom, the bread is healthy, the ham and cheese is really healthy" compelling-especially the part about the ham

"mom, does your weenie ever get stuck to your leg?"….Tyler at about 6

"but it tastes good".....Tyler after being told three cups of Dr. Pepper is enough

"mom, why are you peeing from your butt"…Tyler at 2 in a public restroom

"Could you close the closet door, it creeps me out at night"...Tyler

"Princess Leia and Chewbacca have a child together.." Tyler

glubs (gloves), charapters (characters), comvined (combined),…Tyler

The way I see it

These are things I wonder about...

Are brand names at the grocery store really better than the cheap imitation or store brands?
There are some things that I know are worth it:
toilet paper-you really have to go with one of the top 3 or 4, or you end up using twice as much, and you will probably need some prep H before too long.
canned vegatables-the store brands are usually lower quality, I think they are what's leftover after the fancier brands are done.  You find little stems or hard pieces in them.
dog food-just don't even buy it at the grocery store-it's probably made in China (what isn't?)
soda-buy it on sale-there is always a sale, it's worth the couple bucks to have the real thing.  I hated when my friends would come over and we had to drink BigK instead of Coca-cola, spare your kids that memory
ice cream-find one you like and stick with it, buy a bunch when it's on sale
olive oil-splurge on this stuff, it is life changing if you use it in salads, makes a huge difference, and you don't go through it fast so it's not a common expense

Is organic really better?
Same concept as brand names-but seriously, a ton more expensive.  I am thinking organic was pretty much anything 1980's and earlier.  So, we are now paying a ton more to have the food we grew up eating.  What in the hell is going on?  When did poisoning ourselves become the norm?  And why is it you have to be affluent to be able to eat food that is not going to give you heart disease, diabetes, hemorrhoids, or whatever?

Is it better if it is made from scratch?
Well, yes, I believe it usually is.  Most things are better when they are not instant or pre-made.  Most things that come in a can or a box or a bag are better if they are the real thing-potatoes, pasta, soup, etc. even if those versions are decent.
Also, meat that is pre-packaged is kind of gross, and really just lazy.  Like bacon-what's with the precooked bacon?  The smell of bacon cooking is half the enjoyment.  Sure it's messy and greasy and always sets off my alarm and about starts a grease fire, but it is never crunchy enough unless I stand over and it and squeeze every last millimeter of it flatly so that no part of it is that gross, curly fat that bacon really consists of.  Overly processed meats like hot dogs, lunch meat, tuna fish, and sausages just need to be eaten with that "I could live my entire life and never know what is really in this" attitude.

There are some exceptions:

  • spaghetti sauce (Raos is the best brand though, and it costs a TON),
  •  cakes out of a box, 
  • pumpkin pie-the canned stuff is the best, 
  • bread-because in Denver, it gets hard as a rock unless you suffocate it instantly, 
  • biscuits are WAY better out of a can than in any recipe I've tried, 
  • gravy is better with a mix unless you have a prosthetic arm with a motor, and 
  • pancake mixes work out just fine for me-since I pretty much suck at making pancakes anyway.
  • anything you really suck at making, or if takes way too much time and/or ingredients-it's one meal for God's sake

Do attractive and wealthy people have more opportunities?
Yes, I believe they do.  I know there are exceptions but the world is a much kinder and easier place to navigate if you have good looks and/or money on your side.  I saw a most amazing quote (probably on the internet) recently.  Barry Switzer said, "Some people start on third base and spend their entire lives thinking they hit a triple".  While it is annoying, it is very true.  Many people who have those advantages still manage to screw up their lives.  I don't know the secret formula.  I do not understand the human race well enough to know what that is all about-advantages do not guarantee success.  But I honestly believe appearances and money in the culture we live in give people a giant leg up on the rest of the playing field.  Good things happen to bad people, just like bad things happen to good people.  It's a mystery that may never be known.

Do high end products actually improve you?
This is an area women get especially exploited-can you say infomercials?
hair and skin care:
seriously-you can spend a fortune on this crap-and yet, if you have good hair and skin, it just makes it look better-but you already did because genes gave you a head start. Sure, having the resources to take great care of them is helpful, but more in a "don't F it up" way.  I have friends with far more money and vanity than I have, and they have had procedures, estaticians, they use products I can't pronounce-and yet, they don't look a whole lot better than I do.  I look like a 45 year old mom-with good skin, because my parent's genes gave it to me.

It's a theory I have applied to many other things.  Having copper core All-Clad cookware will not make you a better cook, if you are a good cook already, it will help considerable-and make you feel really cool, but if you are not-it won't make a stitch of difference.  Skiing is another one.  I could buy the most expensive skiis, boots, bindings, etc.  I am still an average-good skier, even with my second hand gear.  It makes a difference when you have better quality stuff, but it doesn't make you something you are not.  

With all that said, I am all about being a brand snob-there are some brands I just love for plenty nonsensical reasons.  For instance, clothing brands that I can wear smaller sizes in, shoes I can buy in kids sizes so I can afford them, brands I always longed for when I was a kid and couldn't have, brands I associate with people I look up to or envy,  skin and haircare products are almost soley based on smell for me, and I also exclusively prefer foreign cars to domestic.  I have owned one American made car, and it was a disaster.  

Monday, July 8, 2013

Things never go as planned

My trip to Wyoming.....
Somehow, I got it in my head that Steamboat Springs and Jackson Hole, Wy. are not that far apart.  By not that far, I figured it would take about 5 hours by car.  When I found out we had a baseball tournament in Steamboat Springs, I decided to drive on over to see my college-roomie and lifelong friend, Laura, for a few days.

9 hours later, it was still a very worthwhile visit.  However, the lack of an adapter for my Ipod in my sister's car, and the brutal mis-use of Google Maps led me to believe this road trip was an indicator of my sanity-or maybe lack of it.

One of the things that filled my mind was the startlingly stupid road signs you come across while driving across states.  Here are some of my favorites:

Falling Rock:  Well thanks a lot!  Now they will know what did it when I take my car to get repairs-assuming I survive the whole "rogue boulder rolling down a hill on its way to my car" experience.

Truck Weighing Stations-why do trucks have to get weighed anyway?  I am sure it made sense at some point in time, but seriously, is there some giant scale like at the bathroom in the gym?  Is that still something people do?

State Prison next exit:  SO, you are saying if someone approaches my car in an orange suit and chains, I should direct him there?  Think of the trouble that sign has saved people.

Scenic View:  I have never known one person who actually drove along a highway looking for places to stop and look at the scenery.  It's a lovely thought, but as I drove needlessly too far, I started to really resent those scenic views.

I noticed in Wyoming the signs just stated things-

picture of a deer and Crossing, or Emergency Parking Only-because people might otherwise park on the shoulder of a road where 75 is not only legal, but encouraged by trucks with bumper stickers on them.

But in Colorado, the signs took extra care to tell us STATE LAW before the all-important rhetoric that followed, such as
use right lane except to pass, in the event of an emergency, move away from traffic.  As if the absence of the words, STATE LAW imply that it is more of a suggestion, which is how I like to think of speed limits most of the time.

Speaking of bumper stickers, I don't understand cars that have a ton of bumper stickers.  Especially those with tons of political opinions.  I am not going to be driving along thinking, hmm, I wonder if I should support gun laws?  And then see some clever slogan and make my decision.  What exactly is the point of these messages?  I actually saw a license plate frame the other day that read:  Conservative Republican.  WOW-good for you.  If anything, I feel less likely to align myself with people who might otherwise think I would have no opinions of my own other than to survey the fellow motorists stuck in some traffic nightmare along with me.

And my all time FAVORITE sign on the highway.....(drumroll)...

NO Services next 100 Miles

WTF!  Are you kidding me?  Is the time to share this information really now?  Wouldn't the better sign be-
Hey Idiots who are obviously not from around here, this is the LAST stop for longer than your gas tank and bladder can probably handle-so get off now!

Honestly, not only are there no gas stations or convenience stores in case you need corn nuts-but the almighty internet is not available either so you can tell people (who thought you were an moron for thinking Steamboat and Jackson were that close together) that you are on a gravel road with grates for the keeping the cattle in, and most likely lost.  I swear, I drove for HOURS without seeing another person or car.  Occastionally, I did see a cow-in the middle of the road-looking at me like I was the one out of place-sure, like it was me!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Days Gone By

Where did junior high go?  Now its middle school-not junior high.  People look at me like I am from some backwoods hillbilly commune if I say junior high instead of middle school.  In any case, my oldest son is moving from elementary school to middle school at the end of this month.  It's in the same building, but I can't help but feeling like more than room numbers are changing unlike in years past.  I remember the pre-school graduation ceremony being kind of sweet, although as a working mother, both times my boys went from pre-school to kindergarten, I wasn't terribly moved.  In fact, it didn't think much of it all because the amount of time I spent with my little darlings didn't change.  They were not with me for most of the day, so the fact that 3 of those hours were spent at pre-school did not have a huge impact on me-in that mommy milestone sort of way .  However, I remember the first day of Kindergarten for Jackson being a little emotional-mostly on Jackson's part.  He had a much harder time in the initial years straying from the nest.  I figure that was a first-born thing.  Tyler did too.  So much so, he did Kindergarten twice.  I did not know he was going to do that at the time.  Our family went through huge changes during that year.  That year, Tyler repeated Kindergarten and Jackson went to 3rd grade; and I became a stay at home mom.  I did not realize it then but watching my kids go to school and come home every day started to have a much different effect on me than when I was working-more than I ever knew.  I started to understand why time going by made mommies sad.  I could relate to tears falling on the first day of some milestone year like the first day of kindergarten or the last day of elementary school.  Ceremonies marking the passing of time took on a little more meaning in my day to day existence.

One thing I had not counted on-I was delusional about assuming my kids were going to turn into honor roll material overnight because I was now on the clock as post-school adult in charge.  Neither one of my boys was then, or is now, the least bit impressed with getting straight A's, or even crooked ones for that matter.  I still have to beg and plead to get homework done-and I have just had to accept that unrealistic, magna cum laude kids are not a result of moms staying home.  Apparently, transcripts from 1st and 5th grade do not follow you around this world anyway.  I also had a dose of-your intentions do not magically create your offsprings' aspirations.  I don't know if there will ever be a day that I don't have to nag them to brush their teeth.  I wonder if they will ever pick up things like TRASH or the towels they use after the shower.  I have had some eye-opening.  Even as a professional mom, my kids still need work.  I just figured my kids would be a perfect once I was home.  Like a Norman Rockwell painting.  Happy, well-adjusted children come from stable homes full of love and support.  Ugh!  How annoying.

Now, we are nearing the end of the third school year as a full-time mom.  Tyler is headed to 2nd (BIG sigh of relief); and Jackson to 6th or eh em...middle school.  Their school is rather small, only about 60 kids in each grade (about 20 in each class), but it seems like a good 50% of those kids stay at this school throughout the elementary and middle school years.  I was looking at pictures of the standard events-birthday parties, dodgeball day, Thanksgiving and Christmas events, etc.  I started to see changes in those kids over the years.  It made me stop and think about the days that have gone by already in my young kids lives.

During my elementary and middle school years, I went to a MILLION different schools.  I started my fine, public school education in the fabulous Middle-East Jewel, Tehran, Iran.  It was very traumatic-in a 3rd world kind of way.  I remember missing my mom and sister terribly, feeling like an alien (which was an all-around American in Iran sort of feeling), and being physically ill at times I hated it so much.  Then somehow, like an angel had heard my prayers, my mom and dad put me in a little private school there called Community School.  There I got to be with my sister, and many other kids who were not Iranians either.  I felt less like an outsider, and more like a little kid just trying to learn to read and write.  I thrived.  I remember being in the top reading group, the Apples,-and always knowing the answer.  I loved school from then on.  I am not sure why that school was private other than Americans weren't so unwelcome there.  I guess that was enough in the early 70's when the nations of Iran and the US were about to have a big break up....and tensions were building every day.  We Haddads figured that out, and got the heck out there in 1977-just a few years before the American-hostage crisis.  The upside of that crisis was that we were not among the Americans taken hostage in Iran because we escaped.  The downside of that, is most Americans thought we were Iranian (even though we were only half), and assumed we would be taking them hostage...I guess.

So, once again, school days were made up of wishing I could crawl out of my skin EVERYDAY.  When we first came back to the US, we lived in the deep south, Blytheville, Arkansas.  It was culture shock to land in the deep south from the urban desert we called home for the last 4 years.   It was March 1977.  I turned 7 in April, my sister turned 9 that June, and my little brother had just turned 3.  To my mother's family, we were just darling.  And I can see why.  We were really cute, and very love-starved.  Looking back, we thought Blytheville was paradise.  We got to experience McDonalds and peanut butter and Snickers and Milky Way bars.  The family we had left to journey to this magical place was far more affluent and educated.  They had castles for homes, servants, jewels, and tea serving pieces worth more than most of our family members in Arkansas spent in monthly mortgage payments. And yet, we thought this was the greatest place on earth.  As an adult, I think a lot of that was driven by my mom.  Her undying and unconditional love for her 3 precious babies was probably why we felt loved in her hometown.  I suspect some of her kin-folk were less than thrilled with the half-breed offspring she dragged across the world but we never really noticed.  And maybe those over-cultured Haddads weren't as disapproving of us as we believed for that matter.  Perhaps it was driven by my father's deep shame for marrying an American and bringing these mutts into those upscale, purebred homes.  Who really knows.  All I know for sure is my brother and sister and I sure loved Arkansas-despite the rampant racism.  We were mostly targeted at the schools-and mostly by black kids.  We were the only ones lower than them on the "I wouldn't want to be you" totem pole.  My sister was so very beautiful from the day she was born.  And while I was always jealous-I think she got bullied and tortured more because of it.  We did move from Blytheville that summer to the metropolis of Little Rock, where we lived for about a year.  I remember liking it there.  We could drive to Blytheville and see my nannie (mom's mom) in a short amount of time so we still felt like we had family.  Also, for some reason, my dad was not in town very much that year.  That was the highlight of that year.  His not being around to yell at my mom and us was such a Godsend.  I never remember being happier than when it was just my mom and my sister and brother and me.  Unfortunately, all those wonderful travel days culminated in our next move....

The south is one of the worst places you can live if you are not white.  The only place worse is Texas.  Texas is just the south with a giant chip on its shoulder.  I wish it would just secede already!  Houston was the all-time low in our school-aged years.  That whole Haddad thing was quite difficult to sweep under the rug.  People were extremely quick to notice how foreign we were.  It was also at that time, that my dad's sisters had come to live with us, one after another, as they took refuge from their homeland being ripped apart from the Iranian Revolution.  I was busy in my own hell of having braces and awkward curly hair (man I was a sight), fighting with my sister and bully of a cousin who was living with us then.  I did not realize then how hard it must have been for my aunts and uncles who had only recently boarded a plane to bid goodbye to the only home they had ever known.  Not long after that, my grandfather on my dad's side, Agah Joon was killed in a break in attempt at his home.  By my accounting (at the ripe age of 10), Agah Joon was the kindest man I had ever known in Iran.  In fact, he might have been the only kind man in Iran in my memory.  Either he was faking it well, or he didn't seem to mind that we had an American mother.  He was even quite nice to her as I recall.  My grandmother, on the other hand, was not so good at faking it all.  Maman Jan was very transparent in her disappointment in my father's choice; and its ensuing results in us.

We lived, or as I like to think of it, endured Texas, from 1979 to 1981.  I dreamed of being a blonde with blue eyes, or at least having a last name that could pass for Italian.  For some reason, having dark-skin and eyes was just fine if you were Italian-or as Texans would pronounce it "eye"talian.  They also said "eye"radian.  Neither is right for the record-but Texans have their own everything, including language.  Thankfully, I have managed to block out most of these years, but I do remember one thing-not one of us enjoyed it.  That's really all I can say about those days.

We moved to Colorado in 1981.  It was a strange land, one were people did not care if you wore brand-named jeans, nor did anyone seem that upset with us for being foreign.  My mom and dad didn't get invited to the neighborhood block parties or anything, but at least the KKK did not target us.  So, we felt largely more accepted than we had in the Republic of Texas.  In retrospect, I think most of our neighbors were so embedded in being Mormon and trying to get everyone else in the world to be Mormon, that the Iranian thing was a low priority.  And that was just fine with me.  We would move one more time in Colorado-just across town from Littleton to Lakewood.  All tolled, between 1975 and 1984 when made our last move, we changed schools about 11 times.  I was in 8th grade at that time.  And finally, I would finish out 8-12 in the same place.

So, as I watch my Jackson move from 5th to 6th; and Tyler go from 1st to 2nd, I know why it has been so important to me that they never gone to a different school.  I look at my sons with pride and prejudice and I think to myself:
He has never had to be the new kid-he does not sit in the cafeteria alone.  He does not have to pronounce his name over and over again in front of classmates who might otherwise even not notice it is so different.  He has had sleepovers and play dates.  He has friends.  He knows his teachers.  He knows which room he is supposed to go to.  He belongs.

No, they don't seem to care about honor roll or highest reading group or brand names of the clothes they are wearing.  But they are smiling and happy to see me everyday after school. Tyler tells me what he learned in school as if it had never been discovered-"mom, we did you know that caterpillars turn into butterflies" or "did you know water and ice are the same thing?"  Jackson tells me which girls are pretty and how many touchdowns he caught at recess.  When I see them walk out the door on the way to my car, they still have that hop in their step as another day of childhood school days go by.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Too sick for too long

I have had one of those years where about every two months, I get sick...really sick.  It makes no sense-I eat fairly well, I exercise, I drink tons of water.  I don't do drugs or smoke.  I hardly drink.  I sleep plenty.  Overall, I am pretty darned happy.  And then my friend Betsy asked me a few questions that gave me great insight.  First, she asked me if I had a favorite room in my house.  hmm...that got me thinking-
Bathrooms-Unappealing work
Family room-guilty
Laundry room-frustration
Living/Dining room-waste of space
Upstairs-kids rooms-undone
Spare room-Company is coming
Which brings me to my room-my favorite room:  specifically, my bed

And that is where I was laying at the time she asked me that.

Then she made a reference to a spiritual lapse such as guilt or unforgiveness of some kind.  hmmm...that really got me thinking.  Now, the obvious guilt issues I have battled for 3 years have started to subside.  And in its places, I have found all new levels of guilt.  Like my sister who is currently battling poverty, depression, poor health, failed relationships, loss of identity, the list goes on and on.  My sweet friend Michelle Watwood.  She is a single mom, barely hanging on to a job she hates, in an unfulfilling relationship with a man she loves dearly who does not love her even close to as much.  My brother, whom I consider one of my best friends, is alone, and has gone through hell in the last few years in his career.  My kids miss him terribly.  Tyler cries at least every other day.  I don't value or treat my mom and dad as much as I should  They are loving, good people, and I don't make enough time for them.  IU can be so negative sometimes, it's shameful.  I can't turn on the TV or read an article without feeling like so many people have it so much worse than I have it.  And these are just the things that jumped to mind within five minutes.  

Why do so many people have it so much worse than I do?  Shouldn't I be the struggling like these many people I love dearly are?  Instead, I am paid to do a job I LOVE!  I have the luxury of sitting in my bed for days when I am ill.  I live in a beautiful house, and have a beautiful and loving family.  I keep getting sick, and my friends and family rally to support and care for me.  And many, many people are getting through much worse than I am with far less or nothing.  Carrie has no one-no family, no support-barely even has a husband right now.  Tammi is raising four kids alone while her idiot husband is acting like a 17 year old.  Holly is nursing a broken heart, and raising four kids alone.  

And Paul was the recipient of my nastiness for the last 3 days as a result of one of my losing battles with being sick.  I have been nothing but ungrateful and snappy and bitchy with him.  And all he has done, is all he can do.  For that, I have shown no appreciation.  He is working a job he hates to support us.  He loves food, sex and football right now more than anything-pretty easy orders to fill.  So why can't I just shut up and be a good wife.  He isn't asking that much I suppose.  And that's kind of another blog item....I am getting off the subject.

So, as I am working my way back to the wellness side of my life, I am considering digging deeper for a cure to what ails me.  Guilt is a powerless, helpless feeling.  And I dwell in it all the time.  I still don't think other people suffering will ever sit okay with me.  That pain is not something I know how to alleviate.  However, I need to focus on accepting, embracing and appreciating my own blessed life.  Squandering away my own health and well-being is not going to fix broken lives of people whom I love.  Maybe my ability to do that will make a bigger impact.  I can help everyone, I can't change things that make me sad.  I have to do a better job of understanding that.