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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

When Right Brain Parenting Goes Wrong

Image credit: http://www.andrewkeir.com/creative-collection/right-left-brain-mercedes-all-nothing/

There is no doubt that I was born right brained. Each of my parents are right brained, my brother is right brained, my sister...well, she is the left brained logical-pants of the family.  It has taken me almost 34 years to accept this about myself. It seems that being artistic was considered second to being able to solve a mathematical equation.  My parents sent me to a private school that boasted their emphasis on fine arts.  This may have been true in comparison to other schools, but in all actuality it was highly competitive in the academic area too. I believe that is where I grew to believe I was stupid. I received praise for my paintings, acting and writing, but that was not enough to hide my mediocre (at best) grades in math and science.  My Dad's father was a lawyer, his father was a judge and the list of intellectuals goes higher and higher on the family tree. My dad is a brilliant artist, my earliest memories of his ability were his excitement to design my birthday invitations.  Needless to say, he did not become a lawyer to his father's chagrin. Instead, he majored in industrial design and used his talent to create a very successful business that provided for our family and still does.
My parents had the best intentions. They finished college, (my mom majored in dance), so it was not an option for me not to. Even though I had to take Algebra II three times,  I'm glad I stuck it out. Being right brained can make you less appealing to traditional career paths.  Accounting was not an option so I majored in theater.  I made it through my general classes and tried to make them as creative as possible. My brain processes information in colors, sounds and mostly in story telling. I create back stories for everything as a way to make sense of things.  I am more interested in where the coffee bean grew, how the logo was created, rather than how Jerry Baldwin grew a .75 cup of coffee into a billion dollar business called Starbucks.
I am grateful to my parents for not showing a bit of concern when my intellectual pursuits of science never surfaced.  It was what I did in art class that interested them more.  In high school my dad actually called a conference with the art teacher to discuss my progression and her rigid approach to impressionistic painting that  he believed stifled my personal expression. I'm sure he will go down as the first and only person to call a conference with an art teacher in high school.  Even their opposition couldn't shake the underlining fact I had already convinced myself was true..I was dumb.
I have been trying to prove otherwise ever since. In a society that thinks that artsy people are a bit flighty it has been tough. If you watch American Idol, you will see the majority of people desperate for fame, not following their true selves. A bad example of artistic types. Where I struggle most is the places that I have worked. Like a magnet I seem to gravitate towards bosses that make it a sport to berate my ideas and scoff at my knowledge.  I am surrounded by people who have excelled, even identify themselves by how many degrees they have. I swallow those hurtful notions daily and give thanks that I have a career that provides for my family and I have found  extra curricular creative outlets to keep my sanity, but again its considered a hobby if I tell people I paint or write to center me when my mind catches a conventional virus.
Recently, history repeated itself. My son's pre-school teacher took me aside and expressed her concern that Jack's drawings were of the violent nature. Even accusing him of drawing a friend nailed to a cross. I won't go into the details that he isn't exposed to crucifixes or that his artistic skills would justify a crayon drawing with such meticulous detail.
What surprised me most was the way I handled it, I immediately sided with her. 
I took him to the car and scolded him for drawing inappropriate things. I had taken something he was proud of and made it into a subject of shame.  Within minutes of seeing tears streaming down his face I realized what I had done and tried to fight back the tears I felt.  I went back into the school and asked the teacher for the drawings, she didn't have them. She had thrown them away!  I apologized to Jack for my reaction and assured him that his art was beautiful. This is where right brained parenting waters get a bit murky.  I was protecting him from the struggles I went through. Who am I, or anyone for that matter, to censor a 4 year olds attempt to express himself through art? This is where I could learn a lesson from my parents.  How were they so confident and so proud of a child that excelled in everything that was considered an elective or my favorite, "blow off" classes?  I still haven't found the answer to that. When Jack's teacher was talking to me it was as if I stepped back in time. I was the soprano in an opera where the chorus surrounded me, singing " Your stupid! You can't parent and Your Stupid, Stupid Stupid!" (In every opera the chorus repeats itself over and over again in case you were wondering.) And my bad parenting was center stage for everyone's entertainment.
How selfish to have made it about me.  It was as if my chorus woke me up. I look at Jack and I am in awe of his painting, his acting and his story telling, sounds familiar doesn't it?  He is perfect. The first thing the next day, I called the director of school and expressed my anger and I didn't back down until I received confirmation that this would not happen again, especially to one of my boys.
Sometimes these incidents shake you awake and you take a birds eye look at your life.  I realize that my oldest son is also a right brainer and is at a magnet school for math and science. He would do so much better at a Montessori school, as I would have, maybe math and science would have made sense to me and maybe it could make sense to him.  My second son is so left brained it makes mine cramp. I am in awe of his precise and rational intelligence.  The baby hasn't declared his side preference yet. But if you asked me who was smarter,  Fin or Parker I would say they are equal, but their test scores and traditional ways to measure it may not be a reflection of that. Even more so, their future career pursuits.  What I can hope for them is that future creative gentleman will be looked at as an asset when its time for them to enter the work force. Looking to their grandpa for inspiration.  Although being artsy has limited me in some areas, it has allowed me to see that being a mom is the most colorful experience one could have and parenting is anything but black and white.

Friday, February 10, 2012

What to do with this empty womb?

Part of my job is to set up and take down concerts and recitals. I'm usually the first one in and the last one out. What I notice at the end of a really successful recital after everyone has left, that there is an eerie feeling that their energy is still there in the auditorium.  I can usually hear the performers greeting people in the hall and their voices trail off, but the excitement on the stage is still there, its warm and palpable.  I can't explain it, but when I turn off the lights it almost feels like I'm leaving someone in the dark and I always double check but nobody is there.
I recently went for my annual gyno check up. Something I think every women dreads. I used to love to see my doctor when I was pregnant, but by the last appointment I was ready to take a long vacation from him and that office.  Waiting, waiting some more, small talk, exam. This appointment I noticed he spent a little more time then usual on the exam. I have known this man for over 10 years and he has delivered 2 of my sons. I have been able to detect a problem by the expression on his face. What doctors don't realize is that we watch their every nuance.  He said he believed that I had fibroids and that he needed me to get an ultra sound. Ugh. Another appointment. He gave me the best and worst case scenario. Worst being a hysterectomy. Wait. What? Isn't that something that women get when they are really really old? He explained that I was late in my child bearing years. Again, what? I'm 34!  So we said our goodbyes and I set the appointment. I can't explain it exactly but I have a deep love for this man.  How can I not? He was like the UPS man delivering my most prized possessions and he didn't damage the goods.  I will always have respect for him.
The next day I went in to the ultra sound. The tech was the same, the room had changed, but it had all the same things in it, a march of dimes calendar on the wall. Photos of the tech's daughters. I feel like I have watched them grow, just by their photos.  I was nervous.  I saw the daddy chair there, where Don used to sit and pretend to know what we were looking at.  He once mistakenly said he saw the babies cute face when it was, in all actuality, his butt.  The doctor and tech got quite a chuckle from that and Don never commented publicly about an ultra sound ever again.
When the images of my insides were on the screen I couldn't help but feel a bit sad.  It was so dark, so vast and so empty.  A womb with out a tenant.  She scanned over the right ovary and explained that the dark spots were eggs.  I thought about how they were eggs that would never get the chance to be little babies.  I know I sound very doom and gloom and perhaps a bit lofty and dramatic but I am just being honest.   She did indeed find fibroids, but by this time, I had gone to a painful place in my mind that I was trying to get out of.
I was 14 weeks pregnant. I had been in 2 weeks prior for an appointment and heard the baby's heartbeat.   Don never came with me to the early appointments, especially being that this was going to be our fourth baby.  As the doctor tried to get a heart beat he couldn't hear it. He explained that it was early and that he was going to do an ultra sound just to check things out. I wanted to remind him that we had already heard the heartbeat, but I always loved getting sonograms so I didn't speak up.  I went into the familiar room, with the same tech and watched the monitor as she found the sac, the uterus and the baby.  Having 3 boys prior to this I couldn't seem to see the little flicker of light which was the heart beat. I immediately looked at her. Was something wrong with the machine?  I could tell she was avoiding eye contact with me. She left the room. I sat there looking at this little peanut image without a heartbeat.  The doctor came in and told me that the fetus had died and that I had a spontaneous abortion.  It wasn't my normal doctor and I felt like he was being cold.  First of all, my definition of abortion and his were completely different. And secondly what did he mean? The baby (not fetus) is right there. I wanted to grab the ultra sound machine, press it on my belly and try and save it, or anything but just sitting there!  I asked if there was anything we could do. He said, he was sorry and told me what to expect in the next couple of days, bleeding, cramping... I had already tuned him out.
I went home and collapsed. The only people that even knew I was pregnant were Don and my mom.  I called Don and told him the news, but he couldn't come home so I had to wait. I sat there and thought, there is a baby in here, maybe they are wrong?  A few days went by, I still hadn't bled, at least not on the outside. On the inside I was devastated.  We told the boys that I was sick and that I had to stay in bed. The only truth to that was that I couldn't bring myself to get out of bed. Miscarriages are the loss of the future you had for a child.  I wanted to be alone with the baby inside of me.  Finally I had to have a D&C, I couldn't stand waiting for it to happen naturally and I was afraid of what I might see.  I woke up from the surgery feeling vacated.   Thankfully,  at this point I thought it was a fluke and I didn't know I would go through this again six month later. After that I didn't have the hope that eventually a baby would be able to grow healthy in there again.
All of this consumed my mind as I sat looking at this place that all four of my boys, plus 2 others had occupied. As I looked at my insides I felt nostalgic, like a place that you visit and it just makes you happy for the memories.
I'm sure the tech didn't realize that she was the same one who did that awful ultra sound or that I had gone to that dark place just then.  Memories are weird.  I used to love them in acting class when I could access all the pain and use it for a scene. Although the "pain" I would revisit back then didn't hold a candle to pain like this.
As I left I tried to pull myself together. I thought about the auditorium that I work in,  that every time I leave the empty place, it still has an alive energy. I would like to think that maybe that is the case in my womb too. Although it may be empty, it has the energy of 6 little souls, energy that I have the privilege to carry around with me every day knowing it will not be going anywhere. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Yes, I would like a non-fat mommy, extra hot.

Lately I have been asked how I stay in shape.  I assume that the question arises because as one can imagine, I don't have a lot of time. It could also be because I have had four babies in 8 years, work full time, and some how manage a house ( kind of).
I should let you know that I do NOT have a degree in nutrition or exercise science. I don't have a story about how I lost 100 lbs. or that I was an overweight kid. I did however, work in a gym for 7 years and have had a gym membership at various gyms since I could drive.  In addition to that,  I like to think I have some knowledge of how the female body works (at least mine). I gained 40 lbs with each pregnancy and lost it between each baby.
Its not easy. 
If anyone tells you it is, they are lying.  Also, its not about the number on the scale.  That is a good way to gauge it if you need to, but if your goal is a number, pick a new goal.  I am 5 ft.5, and I had the number 125 stuck in my head. The last time I weighed this was in 5th grade.  Its not possible for me, at least in a healthy way.  I am a size 4 and at Ann Taylor a size 2 (size-conspiracy).  My pants don't care how much I weigh.
I have heard every excuse ever made, and some are extremely tempting. The hardest thing to do is get started. After I had 3 c-sections, I was not allowed to exercise for at least 8 weeks.  I whined about how I "wanted" to, but little did I know, that when the 8 weeks came around my mind came up with some really creative excuses as to why I shouldn't start. "I'm tired." "My boobs hurt". "I feel ugly." Knowing I had done this before I set realistic goals. I went 3 times a week and eventually worked my way up to 6 times (granted this is 20 months later).  I had a friend tell me that she hated me for being so "skinny".  I wanted to tell her that she would hate me even more if I called her at 4:55 a.m. when I got up to work out.
Here is my advice, take it or leave it.

A cleanse with a famous person's name in front of it does not work.  Have you ever noticed that people that do cleanses do them 3 or 4 times when if it worked in the first place they wouldn't need to. And I can't think of anything more disgusting than cayenne pepper and lemon juice.

Do not eat birthday cake at every birthday party. I have 1 husband, 4 sons, 2 siblings, 1 dog, 2 parents, 2 in-laws and 12 nieces and nephews. Not to mention the minimum 2 parties per month per son. If I ate cake at every party I would be as big as the bounce house. And resist guilt or the hostess pressuring you to eat it, she only wants you to eat it so she doesn't have to take it home with her and be tempted by it.

Don't rely on a product because some day it won't be there.  Does anyone remember Dr. Phil bars? I do, and guess what?  They are off the market.

Replacing real food with a liquid lunch may work at first but will have horrible ramifications later. Remember Oprah and the wagon of fat? Enough said.

Pack your lunch and don't bring your wallet to work with you.  If you stay at home, pack a lunch too, and just eat whatever is in it until dinner time.

Weigh and measure your food at least once. When I discovered what the actual serving size of grilled chicken was vs. what I was eating they were two very different things. Portion size is very important. And for the record, a 1/2 cup serving of ice cream is pretty much the size of a pudding cup...lame.

Some supplements are good. I don't think they are absolutely necessary, but if a few energy supplements give you the motivation to work out, than go for it, just make sure to do your research and be confident that they are safe. Remember the one Anna Nicole Smith endorsed before she died? Point taken.

Eat.   A huge pet peeve of mine is sitting in a salon listening to a woman brag that all she has eaten is a carrot all day. Guess what ? When you starve yourself your body goes into starvation mode and will store all the fat it can find..forever.

Eat good food and don't give up anything you love. I tried this once. Sure, I used lent as an excuse to give up complex carbs. You can use God as an excuse for just about anything. It lasted about 2 weeks and ended very very badly with an entire loaf of french bread and chased with a dozen chocolate muffins.

Don't drink...a lot. Time and time again I have told myself that I just need a glass of wine to relax, but it dulls my inhibitions and I end up needing a cookie to go with that wine and then I forget about the cookie and eat dove chocolates and forgot about them until I find all the wrappers in the couch the next morning.  Leave the drinking for celebrating or for when your boss treats you like an idiot.

Try not to eat and watch tv. And for the love of God, if sweets are your weakness, do not watch Cupcake Wars, Cake Boss or Ace of Cakes.

If you say you don't have time to exercise, you are full of it.  Here are a few scenarios for you.  You are like me, work 40+ hours a week and have a million after school activities, not to mention laundry, dinners, lunches etc.  Get up early. In every town across America there is a gym that opens at 5, if not there is a YMCA. If you are a single mom, find a gym that has child care. If you are broke, find a 6x6 foot space and do push ups and burpees.  Your tired, well first of all, aren't we all, but I promise you will have more energy if you work out in the morning than if you don't.

If you have to choose between lifting weight or cardio, pick weights.  Remember, cardio burns calories only while you are doing it and helps your heart and lifting weights burns calories all day long and helps your muffin top. No spot training required. And,  no you wont look like Kim Chizevsky. (if you don't know who that is, google her)

Be anti-social at the gym. If you saw me at the gym you would think I was a hermit. I don't make eye contact, I don't engage in any conversation whatsoever with anyone. Why? I have learned that if you form friendships at the gym you use that as an excuse not to go. You can't avoid people you have never met.   Plus, you tend to work out as hard as your workout partner, if your partner is a puss and suggests you go out for margaritas instead, that is just one more excuse. Find an online support group. There are several, and they have great weigh training suggestions you can print off.

Drink coffee.  I mean black. Not Mochachinofrappelattes. I mean coffee. It has caffiene which is your best friend with 0 calories.

Don't finish your kids food. Yes, it does seem like a waste to put all that macaroni and cheese down the garbage disposal, but it is more of a waste to put it onto the back of your ass.

Once you find that you like working out, don't post it on facebook everytime you go. People don't need to know about something you should be doing everyday anyway, like brushing your teeth. 

Find one thing you really like that is exercise but not at a gym. I like soccer, so I found a team. If you like to dance, do Zumba.

Don't think you can do something you know you can't. I love the idea of yoga. I love the feeling I get after it to, but I suck at it. I could continue to try or I could find something I am good at, like soccer. 

Don't fall back on the "men find _______ women sexy" routine. Who cares what men find attractive? Seriously.  My husband finds Japanese women attractive and I look the opposite of that, but you won't find me dying my hair jet black and straitening it for him. Its not me.  Plus size women claim that men love curves, Skinny women swear that men like twigs..my point is, we don't let men decide what car we drive, why should their opinion determine what our body should look like?

Do it for yourself.  Not to live for your children, or live for your family but just for you to live happily.

Don't become a trainer. As soon as you make it work, it will feel like it and not something you enjoy. Have you ever noticed that most trainers are younger than 25? There are a select few that dedicate their lives to it. But people choose trainers based on their looks and chances are, a 22 year old will beat out a 60 year old even if the latter is 100 times more fit.

Your body will take care of you if you take care of it.  Just like a retirement account, keep depositing your money into it so at some point you can sit back and live comfortably. Keep taking care of your body day after day and when you are old you can be a little chubby huggable Great Grandparent.  That is the way it should be. Can you imagine Betty White with a six pack? She put in her time and she is perfect just the way she is.