Saturday, August 30, 2014

Respect, Fear, Chivalry

I am an old fashioned girl and I am not ashamed to admit it.  I still believe in manners and respect and I am a die hard fan of chivalry.

That does not mean I feel women should walk in the shadow of their men but I do feel that a please, a thank you or a holding of a door shows respect and ladies, we deserve respect. (Of course, this goes both ways.  If we want respect we must show it.) It confuses me and makes me a little sad that our society has evolved in such a way that this even has to be said.

When my oldest son was in preschool, we went to the mall.  Even at that young age, he stopped and held a door open for a woman walking in with us.

I kid you not- she turned to me and said "I can hold my own door open!"

Shocked but not into silence (I am a native New Yorker who was not raised to take verbal abuse from anyone), I responded "I am sure you can but I am trying to teach my son to be a gentleman."

She spouted something about the twenty first century and walked away.

Twenty first century or not, when did manners and being polite go out of style?

Today, a half dozen years later, we were at the mall again and my youngest son was walking with me.  Three teen girls attempted to leave a store at the same time so I stopped my son and said "Let the girls go first, honey. Remember, ladies before gentlemen." 

He stopped in his tracks and waited for them to pass without question. As they walked by, one of the girls looked at me over her shoulder and said something to her friends about how I had called them ladies.  They then proceeded to giggle like teenage girls do as they walked away. They were surprised that I had stopped my boy and let them go and I guess that surprised me.

There are plenty of memes and jokes on the internet about how kids were raised in different generations. Backtalk was punished, kids had curfews and rules and- gasp- they followed them. I know times are different but are they so different that we no longer have to offer each other common courtesy? Part of me wonders if that is not a bit of what is wrong with this world.  People throw around the world respect like its a football but I don't think many really know the true meaning of the word.  Respect is not fear and I think many of our younger generations equate the two in an unhealthy way.  You do not earn respect by bullying or hurting others feelings or even physically hurting someone.  Respect is better earned by stopping the bully, saying kind words and, believe it or not even saying things like please and thank you.

It is NOT calling each other "Ho's", "Bitches" or "Sluts".  It is NOT having a man expect certain "favors" because of a nice dinner out. Most importantly, it is NOT fear.

I will continue to teach my sons to hold a door, let a lady pass and pick up things when someone drops them.  They need to know that when they one day fall in love and maybe marry that the object of their affections deserves to be treated in a way that shows true respect. The good Lord had better help them if I ever once hear them call a woman any of the above mentioned names- nothing short of divine intervention will protect them from the wrath of their mother!


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Weighing In On The "Sexy Selfie"

I know that I am in the massive minority when I admit this but I am going to go ahead and bare my soul anyway.

I do not have a smart phone.

No iPhone, no Samsung, no anything...and I am actually very happy with my texting and calling only capabilities.  No data plan for me.  At least not right now.  My friend keeps telling me that as a published writer I am going to need a smartphone with a huge data plan to rule my book empire - and she is probably right.  Eventually. If there is an empire.  For now though, I am perfectly happy with my ancient, next best thing to Morse code slide phone.

With all the mess about aps and personal security going around, I am happy to be data plan free right now.

One of the things that bothers me most is how willing people are to report every move they make on social networking sites. When I see someone post on my favorite site that they are eating dinner at such and such restaurant or shopping at a certain store, I cringe- they have just announced to the entire world that their house may be sitting empty and available. 

Posting pictures while on vacation also frightens me- they say "empty house, gone for a week, help yourself!" 

Let's not forget all the "selfies" out there.  It's great to post pics of yourself having fun with friends and family but be mindful of what shows up in the background.  House numbers, license plates on vehicles and even bumper stickers will clue in the wrong person a whole lot about you and your home. 

A common fad especially among young people has been the "sexy selfie".  Teenagers trying to hard to be attractive often end up posting pictures that will one day live to regret all in the name of appearing "sexy". What if the person on the other end of those "selfies" is a sexual predator pretending to be a teenager?  In this world, sexual predators abound.

I have many a conversation with my students about being mindful of what they post- colleges and employers have become more technology savvy, looking online for potential students and employees.  My friend's son recently applied to and was accepted to pharmacy school.  For four years of undergraduate school he was vigilant about not putting anything incriminating on the internet and a good thing too- they did extensive background checks.

My eleven year old recently asked me when he could have his own cell phone.  I am not ashamed to admit that I laughed at him. What does an eleven year old need with a cell phone?  He has access to the internet by other means and if he really needs to call a friend, we have a house phone.  And it doesn't even have the hundred foot coiled phone cord I had to drag around the house when I was his age! A cell phone is not necessary for an eleven year old.  When he is sixteen and drives I will probably make sure he has one but you can be darn sure it won't be nicer than mine and I will be very vigilant in checking up on exactly what he does on that phone.

Parents, it is our duty to be nosey and get into our kids' business. They need us to do this!  They don't have the skills or emotional tools necessary to make wise choices all the time- or even most of the time- so we have to teach them.  We need to check up on those "selfies" and text messages and make sure they don't do anything they might regret for a lifetime.  It is our job to protect them, teach them and discipline them.  They have plenty of friends, they need parents.

I realize that mine is not the popular opinion when it comes to how much technology we need in our home and I can live with that.  Many times I have been accused of being overly protective and I own that rightfully.  I am overprotective but I can live with that. Thoughts?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Chemical Free Food- Myth or Reality?

In preparation for the dreaded return to work and school in a couple of weeks, I was going through coupons and fliers looking for good lunch box foods.

If you know me well, you know that my recent obsession has been with the quality of foods available to us to feed our families. In the last year we have switched our children over to a slightly better way of eating by eliminating the majority of processed foods from their diet.  Not all, but enough that I feel a little better about the things that they ingest.

No more packaged cookies.  Chips only on a special occasion.  Never packaged dinners or frozen meals.  They resisted for a while- my youngest is obsessed with the useless, fruitless fruit snacks- but when they discovered just how good other snacks could be they have slowly given in to mom's new way of doing things.

We now have our milk and other dairy products delivered from a dairy that doesn't use antibiotics or hormones and they do not heat process their milk.  A child who previously avoided milk due an uncomfortable allergic reaction now drinks milk by the tall cupful.  I had to start having an extra half gallon delivered each week just for him. They don't even like supermarket milk anymore-they swear there is a taste difference.

I have sort of established a standard for myself for purchasing food.  I am a trained chemist with a huge chemical vocabulary.  I know what all those ethyls and methyls mean and I can sort of decipher what is in the food based on this knowledge.  Basically if I used it in a lab, I don't want to eat it.  I tell my sister, who is not a chemist to look at the ingredients list.  If it is a mile long, it's too long.  Less is best.  Regular sugar over high fructose corn syrup.  NEVER, EVER eat aspartame or feed it to your kids.

Aspartame.  That's my newest soapbox.  I am a die hard, diet soda drinker.  It has been my drink of choice for twenty years.  At least it was until about six months ago when I read up on all the affects it might have on one's nervous system.  One day my husband, also a former die hard diet soda drinker, decided he was going off soda.  I decided to join him.  Some of you already know his story but for those of you who don't I am going to share it again. 

My husband has struggled with an usual case of severe rosacea for several years.  He has seen several dermatologists and taken a myriad of medicines all to no avail.  Exactly six weeks after going aspartame free his rosacea completely cleared up. 
Every so often I fall off the wagon and have a glass of soda.  I miss the cold bubbly drink once in a while so I indulge myself.  He, however, doesn't touch the stuff at all anymore.
The drink of choice in our home, aside from that delicious milk, is water.  Ice cold water.  Occasionally I will buy a bottle of cranberry or grape or apple juice- 100% juice only.  The boys play baseball so once in while I will give them a sports drink but never red.  Certain red dyes have been suggested to affect some children in negative ways.

Since our transition to a less chemical way of life, I have developed certain food habits that are easy, adaptable to a busy lifestyle and much healthier than a package of cookies. Here are just a few of the easiest:

1. This one I stole from my neighbor- watermelon and cantaloupe make great sweet snacks.  I buy one, cut it up or use my ice cream scoop to make melon balls and put in a bowl in the fridge.  The boys have free reign to help themselves whenever they are hungry
2. Another favorite- anything that can be dipped in Nutella.  Carrots, celery, cucumbers (best from my mother's garden!) and even pretzels or crackers.
3. On suggestion from my mother- instead of buying previously shredded cheeses that use preservatives like cellulose to keep it from sticking I buy bricks of cheese that are minus the cellulose and cost less per pound and shred them myself.

As I poured over coupons and fliers this morning I was discouraged to see that the majority of the coupons available were for processed, packaged items intended to go into the lunch box.  I started thinking about other ways to satisfy my boys' appetites on a busy school day and came up with at least one idea.  Next week I plan to make several batches of cookies- chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin- and store them in the deep freezer.  Each week I will pull out a bag and use it for their lunches.  One small thing, with about an hour of time invested, will keep the preservatives out of their lunch box and some money in my pocketbook.  Even with coupons, it is far more cost effective to back cookies than to buy them. 

I know I have a long way to go before fully accomplishing my goal.  I am not even sure it will ever be possible to completely go chemical free but I will keep trying.

Do you have healthy snack ideas or recipes to share?  Please post any suggestions in the comments below.  I know we can all use new ideas.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Month of Sundays

I saw one of those cute little e-cards the other night that said "The month of August is like one long Sunday night for teachers."  As I laughed, I was forced to recognize the glaring truth in that statement.  Whereas the month of July was spent traveling, going to ballgames and just having a good time, August has so far brought with it school supply lists, back to school shopping and an overwhelming feeling of dread that my freedom is about to be gone for another ten months.

I am not the stay at home mom type. This I have known about myself for most of my life.  I like having a job, being part of something good in this world and as far as teaching goes, it makes me feel needed.  I like to feel needed. I also like sleeping in, not getting dressed up everyday and letting my long hair go wild in the sun and breeze.  So, I am at a crossroads.  Hide in my house and pretend like summer will never end or seize the life out of summer and have a blast right until they drag me kicking and screaming back into the building for in-service week.

Knowing myself, I suspect I will go for a healthy mix of those two options.  With the start of school comes the fall baseball season- a time of year I truly love but it is also a very busy season with practices and games for two boys on two different teams.  I feel like I should hoard hours of peace and quiet and HGTV watching knowing that it will all be gone again for a long, long time.

Of course, I have also added deadlines and edits to my schedule (and no, I wouldn't trade that for anything!) so I have to get even better at balancing my time.  Thankfully, my mother buys me a new agenda each summer as a back to school gift. This year I am supersizing!

We have also decided that it is time to begin the process of giving our boys their own bedrooms.  In their younger years I have kept them together for ease and safety.  If there were ever an emergency when I was home alone with them I wanted them easy to get to and easy to get out of the house.  Now that they are older, that need is not as prevalent.  The move will take a good deal of rearranging and organizing but in the process I hope to purge a whole lot of items we no longer need.

I hate to see summer come to an end but in another week swimming lessons wrap up, I will be forced to buy a few back to school clothing items for the boys and myself and we will have less time to do nothing and more things to fill those hours with. 

Fall isn't all bad though.  This fall will mark the official release of my first professionally published book. I have worked many years for that accomplishment and might even have a party to celebrate!  Fall also brings with it middle school for my oldest.  A whole new world of pre-pubescence is about to descend upon us!  Then of course, little league ball games, football Sundays with the family at our local sports pub and a myriad of family birthdays culminating with our traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas family dinners.  As much as I hate to let summer go, I love the food of fall and the cool temperatures and long skirts with cozy sweaters.

Maybe the end of summer won't be as bad as I think.  I have a lot to look forward to and a lot to be thankful for.  I am excited to add a new class to my teaching schedule and getting back to a routine will make me far more productive.  For now, I will hold onto summer tightly but when the time comes I will let her pass peacefully.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Dog Days of Summer

I have been unintentionally neglectful of this blog this week.  I was completely and totally consumed with my first editing deadline on my soon to be published romantic intrigue.  My editor says the ebook is set to be released at the end of November.  I have had to nearly pinch myself on several occasions to make sure that all of this is actually real.  I have worked so many years to achieve what is just a mere four months away.

In the interim it has, of course, been summer vacation around here.  Swimming lessons, trips to see friends and family, dinners out, barbeque at the neighbors and of course tax free shopping weekend have kept this family hopping.  In a great way.

One of the things I like best about summer is the freedom I have to be a mom and a wife without worrying about all the other roles I play.  We eat better, the house gets cleaned up more frequently and I have time to think about all the little details that constantly escape me during the school year.  I would love nothing more than to be able to stay home and write my books for a living so that I can make the great homemade meals and keep the laundry at a manageable level.  I wait for the day when I no longer have to set an alarm clock for some un-Godly hour.

Do you realize that I have only "done" my hair a handful of times this summer?  Buns and the summer beach look, accomplished in part by my constantly open windows and sunroof in my car.  I wore a long braid to the pool this week and one of the little girls we know told me I looked like Elsa... I can live with looking like the world's most loved princess!

With the advent of tax-free weekend (the three glorious days when the state lifts all taxes on clothes and school supplies) comes the final countdown to the end of summer.  I feel the race to get in as much fun as possible.  We live thirty minutes from a beautiful ocean beach and we have yet to see it this summer.  Not that we haven't been to any beaches, we have....there is just not enough days in the summer months to see and do everything I want.

We have managed many great things in the month of July.  Like visit my sister in law and her family at their beautiful vacation home in North Carolina.  Then there was the trip to NY to see my baby brother finally marry.  Add in a couple of local minor league ball games with great hot dogs, fries and cotton candy and getting to know new neighbors moving to our block from a far away country and things have been pretty exciting.  Let's not forget the night we decided to drive forty five minutes over the river and through the woods to enjoy all you can eat chicken wings at a favorite restaurant- after a pit stop at a delightful donut shop when that "Hot Donuts Now" sign came on as we drove be.  Why not?  It's called making memories, folks.

Four years ago, my father passed away in the month of July.  It was a tough, emotional roller coaster of a summer that lead into an exhausting school year.  Just when I started to recover some, my mother in law passed away the next summer, coincidentally on the same day at exactly the same time that little sister was getting married.  I remember standing on the beach as she and her husband said their vows thinking I needed to call my husband who was at his mother's bedside.  As soon as the ceremony was over I called him and found out that she had indeed passed at the very time my sister was marrying.  That was another tough summer followed by an exhausting school year.  It has taken us since then to finally regain our carefree, suck the juice out of summer watermelon approach to life.

It is because of that reason, I am reluctant to see this summer come to an end.  Where I was once counting the holiday in terms of weeks, I am down to counting it by days.  I am happy, relaxed and sporting a killer tan that perfectly accentuates my princess braid.

Of course, with the end of summer comes fall baseball and I absolutely love watching my boys play ball.  My oldest son once had a coach who opened the season who told us he sincerely believed world peace could be achieved on a baseball field.   I couldn't agree more.  Teamwork, dedication, self control and maintaining a positive attitude are all a part of the recipe for success.  Success on the ball field may translate to success in school and later on in college and their future.  So, as much as I love the carefree summer months, I think we all crave a little stability and routine by the time September rolls around.

I'm not throwing in the towel just yet though.  We have more swimming lessons, plenty of days at the pool with the cousins and a lot of restaurants to try out.  I have books full of recipes I still want to try and the warm southern sunshine beckons me to the beach.  In between edits and loads of laundry and making memories I will work hard to check back in and see how you all are doing. 

Go forth and make summer memories!