Seriously - WTH?

Calling out the stupid...and boy is there a lot to call out.

Monday, November 17, 2014

What I Have Learned about Turning 40

This year I have been doing something I have never done before. I have caught myself interjecting my age into sentences and various conversations. Age has never been something that has bothered me. In fact, in the past when someone has asked me my age I have even had to stop and think about it for a minute because I often say the age I am going to be instead of the age I am. So what's the new obsession with my age? Well in one week I am about to turn forty.

Yep, that's right. The BIG 4-0.

Now I have heard about people my age, male and female, that have done things ranging from spending the day crying under the covers in bed & refusing to talk to anyone, to having a major midlife crisis, to shrugging it off and not really acknowledging it at all. I will say this, most people at least say at some point, "Wow, I can't believe I am going to be forty."

I think the reason for the big forty awakening is because you are hit with a number of things when you turn or are about to turn forty. For example, Like most people, my friends are constantly posting pictures of their kids on Facebook. The disturbing thing about that is that instead of the cute baby's first steps videos or look who lost her first tooth pictures, the photos are of children graduating from high school or heading off to college, or (gulp*) of their babies having babies which makes my friends officially grandparents. Aren't grandparents supposed to be little, old, cute gray haired people that are always handing out candy or giving you a quarter? And the fact that my friends' children are heading off to school makes me realize one thing - their kids are now as old (or in many cases older) than the age I was when I first met their mother or father. Eeeeek!

Besides my friends having offspring that are old enough to drink and have kids, the other forty realization that slaps me in the face is that forty seems to be the age when you are really viewed as an adult. Yes, it's cute that we call 18 year olds adults, and allow people to officially drink and buy their own alcohol at 21 because they are adults, and you even get a break in your car insurance when you hit the big 2-5. But forty is the age when you are expected to really have your shit together.

According to societies' standards, by forty you should be married, have your career in full swing, and your family well underway, have stability, and saved at least half of your retirement. And well, all of this makes me more nervous than a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Hmmmm, let's see how I stack up:

Married - check!
Divorced - check! (Ok, that wasn't on the list, but hey! look at me Bonus Accomplishment! Plus they kind of go hand in hand)
Career - Which one? Still trying to find that perfect fit.
Family - Do dogs and cats count? I had my tubes tied so I guess I can check that off, right?
Stability - I pay my bills , if you call that stable. However, one bad illness and I could end up on the street living in a cardboard box with my dogs and cats...but it would be a stable box.
Retirement - Ha! Can't even fathom that. My last long term investment was in my 1997 Toyota Corolla because I knew it would save me money on gas. Between my divorce and the Recession (you know, the one they say we never had), coupled with a few unexpected surgeries, my bank account pretty much consists of dust. Seriously, when I get my statement for my savings account from my bank it says, "Balance: HAHAHAHA! P.S. When are you going to get started on this?"

Like most people, it seems every time I start to get ahead, something happens like my car needs brakes, or I get a rock to the windshield, or my uterus tries to implode. You know, normal every day things that seem to keep me from getting on my feet and ahead of the game. It's frustrating when there seem to be obstacles at every turn. So instead of beating myself up for where I should be, I'm going to try to think about the things I've done, learned, and most of all, overcome.

At 40 I have:

Graduated high school and completed some college;
Survived a major accident;
Overcome (for the most part), several health issues that would have sidelined most people;
Written 2 books that were both published;
Owned a record label, pizzeria, Italian restaurant, horse farm, and recycling business;
Found hobbies I thoroughly enjoy (painting and writing);
Lived in 3 different states;
Experienced marriage...and even better, experienced divorce :)
Learned what I do and don't want in a partner and that I am perfectly comfortable being single too;
Made lifelong friends that I wouldn't trade for anything;
Understand the difference between friends you can count on & friends that are just fun friends;
Learned blood doesn't make you family. Loyalty does - that's why some friends are family.
Acknowledged that if I have to fight to keep someone in my life, they probably don't deserve to be there;
Learned to never take advice or care about the opinion of someone that I don't respect;
Saved or given a home to some incredible animals;
Traveled (not as much as I'd like, but I am still fortunate enough to have done some travelling);
Learned my clothing size has nothing to do with my self worth;
Realized it's OK to tell people, "No" when I don't want to do something;
Volunteered for various charities;
Learned the only person responsible for my happiness is me;
Acknowledged that people will treat you how you allow them to treat you;
Realized it's OK to like sex and own that fact;
Understood I will always come second to someone's addiction. That's not my problem, it's their's;
Realized some people want to be miserable; I also realized I should distance myself from those people so they don't make me miserable;
Learned to trust my gut;
Continued to feed my inner child to keep me young- sometimes with a cupcake; sometimes with cartoons (How The Grinch Stole Christmas!);
Realized feeding that child doesn't keep me looking young, but sunscreen, moisturizer, exercise, and water will;
Age is a mindset;
Carmines has the best Italian food in the country with Christini's in Orlando being a very close 2nd;
A wagging tail = an immediate smile;
Most of all, I realized I like me and it's OK if no one else does.

And while I had thought that I would be in a very different place by the time I reached forty, I'm not in a bad place. No one's life is perfect or turns out just the way they planned. I mean, how boring would that be? In the word's of Aerosmith, " Life's a journey not a destination" and I'm looking forward to what the next forty will bring.

What have you learned by the time you turned 20? 30? 40? 50? 60? 70+?



Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Why You Shouldn't Tell Your Kid, "No."

OK, before everyone goes off on me about how we are raising a society of undisciplined, disrespectful brats, hear me out.

I think that we can all agree that parents today are...shall we say...CRAZY overprotective. Kids have to wear a helmet to ride a bike or they risk falling, hitting their head and having to eat through a tube for the rest of their lives. If a class is tough, clearly it is the teacher's fault. The class should be made easier or the parent will demand the child be transferred to a different class, where the teacher isn't "picking on him." Oh, and let's not forget that EVERYONE has to get a trophy so that no one gets their feelings hurt. You were born? Here's a trophy. You're 7 and wiped your own ass? Here's a trophy. Your team came in last place? Trophies all around! I mean GOD FORBID your child is made to believe they aren't good at something. Why risk the blow to their self esteem and years of therapy when a simple "Participation" ribbon lets everyone know, "Hey you! You are average! Just like everyone else"? You know, because that's the way life works. You get a job, don't work as hard as the person next to you, your mommy calls your superior to say if you don't get the promotion you'll be sad and your feelings will be hurt, so naturally, your boss gives you the promotion. No wonder our country is in the toilet.

So with that said you're probably wondering in a world where parents are afraid to (but should) tell their children, "No" why the hell am I saying not to do it? Because there is one area that I continuously hear moms and dads "protecting" their children right out of success. Recently, I have been present when various parents have made the following remarks (and some other equally detrimental ones) to their children and it absolutely infuriates me:

"I don't know why you want to try out for the [insert sport here] team. There are kids that have been playing since they were 5. You're not going to make it."

"You need to know your place in this world."

I have three words: SHAME ON YOU!

How dare you tell your child what they can and cannot accomplish! Whether you are doing it because you think you are protecting them from failure or simply because if you were in their position, you wouldn't have the guts to go for it, you need to stop and realize the negative impact you are making on your child's life.

Life is all about failure, overcoming obstacles, and striving to be our best self. A parent should never discourage their child from having goals and trying to be the best person they can.

Let me give you some examples:

When I wanted to try out for cheerleading in high school, my mom all but forbade me. She was so afraid I would be disappointed when I didn't make it, that it never even dawned on her that I might actually make it. ( I did).

Years later, I was in accident. After several surgeries, while trying to find meaning in tragedy, I decided to write a book to help people living with chronic pain. There was one catch...my head injury left me with the inability to look at a computer screen. That could have stopped me in my tracks, but I refused to let it. Not only did I write my novel, I got it published. 

Too small scale? How about these examples:

On  January 29th, 1954, a little black girl was born in rural Kosciusko, Mississippi. She survived a troubled adolescence in which she was sexually abused by relatives and male friends of her mother. As a teen, she moved to Tennessee to live with her father. She attended school, went to college and grew up to have her own talk show, and eventually her own network. Today she is one of he most powerful, well respected woman in the world. I am of course talking abut Oprah Winfrey. 

Sophomore year, Laney High School, N.C. Mike Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player to ever play, failed to make the Varsity team. Did that stop him? No. He busted his butt to become the best all around player and became the superstar we know today as the great #23, Michael Jordan.

And perhaps one of the most inspiring stories, March 24th, 1986, a mother gave birth to a child born with congenial amputation. Kyle Maynard had no arms below the elbow and no legs below the knee. Instead of his parents sheltering him and allowing him to use that as an excuse to do nothing with his life, they encouraged him to be as independent as possible. Kyle grew up wanting to wrestle. He joined the school wrestling team. At first he lost every match... then one day something happened. He won. And then it happened again. In fact, it happened 34 more times. He eventually went on to be inducted into The National Wrestling Hall of Fame. But Kyle didn't stop there. He trained hard and went on to compete as an amateur mixed martial arts fighter, and as if those feats weren't impressive enough, he decided he wanted to climb Africa's Mt. Kilimanjaro...and did.

In any of these instances, it would have been very easy for the parents of these children to say, "It's too hard" or "You can't do it." 

"Oprah, you want to be a millionaire. You're crazy. Remember where you are from. Little black girls from Mississippi do not become millionaires."

"Michael, you couldn't even make the Varsity team.You think you are going to play professional ball some day? There are a million kids that have that dream and were good enough to make Varsity their first time out. You need to think more practically."

"Kyle, how is a kid with no arms and legs going to climb a mountain? You have to be realistic son. There are some things you are  going to have to accept that you just can't do."

So the next time you're speaking with your child and they tell you they want to find the cure for cancer or invent a flying car, or be a ballerina, I'm begging you, please be mindful of your words. Don't be that voice of doubt in your child's head that says, "You can't do it;" The one that causes a bundle of nerves and makes them too afraid to try out for the team, ask for that raise they deserve, or dare to change the world. Instead, be the one that teaches them how to accomplish their dreams. If your 5'7 son tells you he wants to make the basketball team, encourage him to try out and if he doesn't make it, instead of letting him give up, help him put together a game plan to improve his skills so he can make the team next time. Encourage him to practice and train with him whenever possible. Teach him the only failure in life is not trying and if you want something bad enough, you work for it, whether that be studying, hours of practice, interning, or daring to think outside the box. After all, it worked for Spud Webb. He went on to not only play in the NBA, but to win the Slam Dunk contest.

Remember, kids tend to share their dreams with the ones they are closest to in the hopes of receiving support and encouragement.  Imagine the look on Neil Armstrong's mother's face when he said," Hey Mom, you see that moon up there? I'm going to be the first person to walk on it someday." She had to think, "Sure you are son! And how do you plan on getting there? Walking?" But you know what, he did it. So if your child has a dream, no matter how ludicrous it may sound, don't crush it. Don't point out all the reasons why it can't happen. Don't say,"No." Instead, let them dream. Sit down with your kid and together, come up with a list of steps they can take to achieve their goals, whatever they may be. Let them know you believe  in them so that one day, when other people are trying to hold them back and telling them it's too hard! That's impossible! You can't do it! You can be the voice inside their head that says, "I believe in you.Yes you can."

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**Don't forget to check out my books Pain, Pain, Go Away and Why Am I Still Single? A Tough Love Guide for Single Women available on Amazon.com and at Barnes&Noble.com  **

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