Sunday, April 27, 2014

Claiming Ownership of that Freed Self

“Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.” -Toni Morrison
 
I am working so hard to claim ownership of my freed self in so many areas of my life. I still don't feel completely free, but last week I took one step I really needed to take.
Image borrowed from Wikimedia Commons
One of my biggest pet peeves are unsolicited visits. I do not like to be caught off guard. I do not subscribe to the belief that your house should always be clean and ready for any spontaneous visitor. I think that belief is rude, antiquated and it enslaves us to live our lives for other people. Something I am working very hard on not doing any more.
I've been receiving periodic visits, phone messages and sometimes text messages from a certain group of people, but last week they went overboard.
The kids were at their dad's and I was struggling with getting sick so I was sleeping in. Suddenly I was startled awake by some loud knocking on my wall. It literally scared me awake and in turn made me angry. The person who had knocked on my wall left me a note slipped in my back door so I knew exactly who it was. It wasn't one of the usual visitors. I don't think one of them would have over-stepped my boundaries in this way.
It's one thing for someone to knock on my door like a normal person, but for someone to walk into my back yard and knock on my bedroom wall was way more intrusive than I could take. I felt like I had to take drastic measures and most importantly, I had to put my foot down and let them know how I felt.
I sent a text asking one of the representatives of this group to please ask everyone to please refrain from visiting me without an invitation. Just a nice, short note to make my point. She didn't reply to acknowledge that she had received my message but I really hope she did. I didn't call because I didn't want for her to try to engage me in any conversation and that would have definitely led to more drama.
Up to this point I was like Billy Crystal's character Harry in "When Harry Met Sally." I was being NICE! I wasn't being rude and I was trying to avoid any drama. This group means well. They want to know that I'm doing okay and the genuinely believe that they need to "save me." The thing is, I have learned in these two years away from them that I don't want that. I want to be free of their visits and their concern.
Sending that text message told them that and however small it may seem, it was huge. It was setting my foot down and telling them, "Please don't visit me any more. Please don't knock on my door."
The same day that this all happened I was listening to The Moth radio hour on NPR and I heard a piece by Jen Lee, "a publisher, producer and a performer in New York City's storytelling scene." She spoke about her experience going home to visit her religious family and her daughter's experience with Sunday School. You have to listen to this piece to truly appreciate the story, but I could completely relate to it and it was funny that it was playing on this particular day.
I knew what she meant when she said that her daughter had felt singled out by the kids because she didn't go to church back home. And I could understand the struggle that Jen Lee was referring to when she said that when she was comforting and reassuring her daughter, she was also comforting her child self. I could relate because it's also part of the reason why I am still being vague while I write this and I question myself as to why I can't be completely open.
I'm still working on freeing myself and claiming ownership of that freed self. I realize I have a long way to go, but I'm trying.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Cat Dress that Led Me to the Shoes

A few weeks ago I was minding my own business and one of those little ads on my Facebook page caught my attention. It was for this very cool site called ModCloth. The dresses are inspired by vintage designs and they're very cute. I got really excited when I saw a dress with a newspaper print design all over it, since newspapers are kind of my thing. I bought it on the spot!


When I first saw it I thought it said "Spreading the News."  THEN when I received my confirmation email I realized that it actually said "Start spreading the MEWS." I zoomed in closer to the picture and that's when I found out it was full of CATS. Yes, as in a cat lady dress.

I had such a good laugh at myself and when the dress arrived I posted a picture of it on Facebook and tagged all my Houston Chronicle friends. What was funny was how many people actually loved it and asked me to keep it!

I went back to look at the dresses for an exchange but I couldn't find one that I really liked. I did find one but then I saw the warning that it ran small in "some areas" and when I saw the pics of real women wearing it I saw that one woman who was busty like me had it open and was wearing a tank top underneath. Story of my life. So then I knew exactly where the dress runs small and I wasn't so sure that I wanted to wear it unbuttoned.

I always think that I want really unique and artsy looking clothes and then when it comes down to it I don't. That's something very weird about me and I wonder what it says about my personality and my struggle to be my own true self. (Okay, that's a topic for another blog!)

This is how I came across the shoe area. Oh my goodness! No one told me that ModCloth carried such beautiful shoes, and for such affordable prices! There are too many amazing shoes that I couldn't possibly post them all so I will just post a couple of pairs and you will have to trust me and go see for yourself.

Worth It Wedge

I was only looking at the wedges and I saw shoe after shoe that I would totally buy. I ended up buying a really cute pair of black wedge sandals because I don't have any so of course I need a pair.

Step Out in the City Sandal
Also from ModCloth.com
 
So the lesson learned here is that even a cat lady dress can lead you to great shoes. If it hadn't been for me buying that dress from ModCloth I would have never discovered these fabulous shoes. You will definitely be hearing more about them on here as I launch this into a full blown shoe blog about great affordable shoes for real women.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Why Would a 40+ Woman Watch GIRLS and Like It?

I'm just going to say it. I like the show GIRLS. Yes, I am a 40+ year old woman who likes this show about 20 something spoiled rich girls in Brooklyn, NY. And no, it's not because it reminds me of Sex and the City, because it does not. It's not even close to Sex and the City with the exception that it deals with four girlfriends and that Miranda had to move to Brooklyn in the last season. And no, it's not because I am living vicariously through these 20 year old girls and wishing I was 20 again. Well, maybe a little... but not for the reasons that you may think.

Photo from HBO.com

I enjoy GIRLS for the story line, the humor and for some of the very real moments that it deals with. I recently read an article by a woman who so clearly didn't get GIRLS or just didn't like it. That's fine. If she didn't like it it's clearly a matter of taste. It's just like some people LOVE Family Guy and love the off-the-wall inappropriate sense of humor in it, and others do not. That's exactly what's happening here.

There are ridiculous scenes like two girls in the bath tub together with one shaving her legs and the other one eating a cupcake. That is the beauty of this humor. Then there's the very real show about Hannah dealing with her grandmother's death and you see and hear the crazy interaction between her mom and her two aunts. Yes, fights like that DO happen! If you don't think they do then you've lived in a very comfortable, protected, lily white world and I envy you.

One of the main reasons I love watching GIRLS is because of Hannah's character. She is weird, awkward, spoiled, narcissistic, confused and in her early twenties. We were all there once and we didn't even have to be all those things.

GIRLS is such a great reminder that you don't have to love your characters to enjoy a show. Hannah has done some things that really make me dislike her, as have some of the other characters, but I forgive them because I want to see what's going to happen next and because I know that it's just a show. For example, I hated Adam at the beginning and then I really started liking him when he saved Hannah from her OCD. At the end of Season 3 I had mixed emotions about him because I could understand how Hannah's idiosyncrasies could be a distraction but I thought he came across as selfish too.

Some of my favorite story lines around Hannah involve her writing and how she struggles with it for various reasons and interruptions, like her OCD returning, the death of her publisher, and then the publisher keeping the rights to her book for two years. It seems like it is always something. I like this part because I can really relate to it.

A very defining moment in the series happens when Hannah starts to work at GQ. She is introduced to all the free snacks and to her co-workers, the other advertorial writers. Here she is, she finally has a great paying job, but she stops and realizes that all these other writers are "real writers" like her who don't write creatively any more. She tries to console herself, after trying to quit, by telling herself
that she'll write on her free time, which we know is easier said than done.
One of my very favorite scenes is the one when Hannah finally really quits her job. It's done in such a brilliant and awkward way and she shows both her ungratefulness to people who just tried to be her friends to her despair in wishing she could save them all. However wrong or right she was, I think she meant well in her usual way that comes across as selfish. She wanted to make them all run away from the temptation of the money and back to their writing. She's still too young and na├»ve to realize that what they do isn't any of her business.

The last episode brings the whole GQ story and quitting her job all together very nicely when she receives the letter of acceptance from the Iowa Writer's Workshop. I thought, "Ah! That's where you were going with this Lena Dunham and writers!"

It's in these last two shows of the season that I truly lived vicariously through Hannah. As a 40+ year old woman who has been there and done that I could truly relate to what she was going through, that struggle between wanting to write and having to make a living. I too quit my job when I was 24. and I wish I had thought of applying to a creative writing program at that time, like my cousin did. Instead I didn't really write, I went back to work full time after a year, and the rest is history. So watching Hannah in that pivotal moment gave me hope for her character and in a way it reminded me of being 20 something.

It also really made me think of my situation now. Unlike Hannah I'm 44 and I have two children. I can't act as irresponsibly now. I took this year off but I had a financial plan or I wouldn't have been able to do it. I've had my fun and it's time for me to go back to work full time now, writing or no writing.

Did I get any writing done? Yes and no. All I did was work on editing my first novel that I wrote nine years ago but I still haven't taken the steps to self-publish. I didn't write that great second novel that I had planned since before I even quit my job. Ironically, I find myself doing the exact same thing at 44 that I did at 24, not realizing how quickly the years were passing me by.

I was lying in bed with my 9 year old son recently and he innocently asked me, "How many more years do you think you'll live?"

I thought about it, "Around 26," I answered truthfully.

"NO! That's not enough!" he cried.

I thought about it, "No, it's not." And as we lay there I suddenly felt very sad.

So in other words, if any novels are going to get finished, published and written by this 40+ year old woman I better get started now. GIRLS is a great reminder of how quickly the last 20 years have passed me by and how quickly the next 26 years will go by too.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Why Are So Many Comedians Named Seth?

Ten years ago my husband and I decided to name our future baby boy Seth. At that time the only Seth I had ever heard about was Seth Green from the Austin Powers movies. Soon after Seth was born and named I became introduced to Seth Rogen, Seth Meyers and Seth MacFarlane.

At first it was just a funny coincidence and then as our son started to grow and develop we realized that he had a hilarious sense of humor and a gift for comedic timing. It got me to thinking that it can't be purely coincidence. There must be something in the name Seth, which is a Hebrew name meaning "Anointed; compensation." Seth was the third son of Adam and Eve in the Bible and Eve considered him to be a replacement for her dead son, Abel.

Recently while at the Houston Museum of Natural Science my daughter picked up something with the names of all the Egyptian gods and Seth was the God of Chaos. "Yeah, sounds about right!" we all laughed, including Seth.

The Faces!

(Ages 3-9)

April is Autism Awareness Month and I feel like I still have so much to learn about the Autism spectrum and specifically about Asperger's.

When Seth was first diagnosed with ADHD and Asperger's two years ago I was in denial about the Asperger's. That was before I understood it and realized all the things that Seth had been doing. It wasn't only that he couldn't behave in school. He walked on his tip toes, he flapped his arms like a bird and he would speak in a high pitched voice. All of these are characteristics of a child with Asperger's.

Seth is what some doctors would call a "high functioning" Aspie. He functions well in school and does not need special education per se. He just needs to gt to a place to re-group when things are getting to be too much to handle.

He has a huge personality, a colorful vocabulary and he's a talented artist. He's very smart and doesn't miss a beat.  By the time I tell him something he's already thinking about things I haven't even thought about. At the same time he can be very defiant and there is no reasoning with him when something only makes sense to him in his head.

However, he has so much empathy, which is sometimes missing in children with Asperger's. He's patient and loving with my 90 year old father, while my teenage girl is somewhat indifferent and in her own world.

For example, one day when my father got off the car at the bank I complained that he was always grouchy and impatient. Seth said, "Wouldn't you be if were old, your wife died and you couldn't live in your own house any more?" That told me so much about how he thinks.

One thing that really impresses me is how he picks up on words so quickly and then uses them in context. Like the time he told my sister as he was climbing up the side of the bed that he was "grappling" to get on. When we asked him what that word meant he defined it exactly.

I can't find anything online stating that any of the Seth comedians have Asperger's, but I'm sure at least one of them does. I can almost be sure that either all of them, or some of them, have ADHD, like a lot of comedians do. Think Jim Carey and imagine him as a little boy. That's Seth.  I think that when celebrities are open about their challenges it helps children understand that they too can succeed in a career despite their own obstacles.

I have a friend whose husband has Asperger's and he's a music composer and a professor. I make sure to tell Seth about people like him all the time and I hope that one day he can meet my friend's husband as well as other successful people like him.

Do I ever wish that and Seth didn't have Asperger's?  I wish that some days weren't so challenging and I worry about him sometimes. I hope that as he grows into an adult he can learn to work with it and still do well in school, like my friend's husband and so many famous composers and inventors.  But no, I can't say I wish my son didn't have Asperger's. I believe that it's part of what makes him such a unique, funny and interesting person. It is a part of him and his personality and I love him through and through.