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Monday, April 30, 2012

Karma isn’t always a bitch - Thoughts and ponderings on the meaning behind the popular expression

It all started out, innocently enough, as a joke.

Recently, I posted something flippant and, I thought, humorous on my facebook page about karma. I hadn’t meant it to be any kind of deep or profound statement; I just thought it was funny. A few people took it more seriously than it was meant, and I felt uncomfortable and a little defensive.
                                                       This is the postcard I posted

They say “Karma is a bitch
Everyone loves to say it when something bad happens. “Well, that just goes to show, ‘Karma is a bitch’. “
What does it mean, and is it accurate?
Some of the questions posed:
  Friend #1: What about babies with cancer? Or abused babies? Were they bitches first?
  Friend #2: And karma never seems to catch up with some sociopaths that glide through life as if Teflon-coated. I gave up with any sense of fairness about life and what happens to whom a very long time ago.
Friend #3: Karma is not a Judeo-Christian belief you may not witness the justice because in Hinduism it may not occur in this life. It happens throughout a soul's reincarnated lives.
Wow! It seems karma packs a punch; and there are some differences in opinion on what it is, and the context in which many people use the phrase. Sometimes what is said, is not exactly what is meant. It’s all about personal interpretation and understanding.
Let me explain how I understand it. I don’t think a sentence as crudely worded and simple as “Karma is a Bitch”, is meant to be a discussion of the spiritual/religious concept of karma.
My interpretation, and I believe what most others people think, is more in line with another oft used phrase, “You Reap What You Sow”.

You Reap What You Sow – from The Urban Dictonary
The basic nature of God's Justice:
7: Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
8: For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
9: And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.


1. Everything that you do has repercussions. It comes back to you one way or another.
2. You cannot escape the consequences of your actions. What you do comes back to you.
3. You will see the long-term effects of your actions.
4. KARMA - The total effect of a person's actions and conduct during the successive phases of the person's existence, regarded as determining the person's destiny, especially, in his next incarnation.
5. What goes around comes around.
6. Your actions all have consequences. Don't ever be fooled into thinking that your actions don't have consequences. Don't think you can get away with bad choices even if you don't seem to get caught. Remember verse seven tells us that God cannot be mocked. He sees it all. You reap what you sow.
Watch the way you live your life because you reap what you sow.
We sow in one season, we reap in another.

Sow a thought you reap an act. Sow an act, you reap a habit. Sow a habit, you reap a character. Sow a character, you reap a consequence.
- Quote by Dr. Wayne Dyer

The Cause of Karma

The main cause of karma is ignorance (not knowing things as they truly are). It is believed that those who are ignorant are dependent on actions, therefore their actions will always come back to them.
Ignorance is also associated with craving, which is another cause of karma. Karma believes that all inherently evil actions and deeds come from the craving that each person has inside of them. Not everyone’s craving is the same, but we all greatly desire things. This is believed to be the root of why men do evil things, but karma teaches that these actions will have a reaction.

Cause and Effect

Karma is the law of cause and effect, or what comes around goes around. This does not mean that it only focuses on past actions. In fact, karma focuses on both past and present deeds. While it is true that the present has been influenced by the past, it is also influencing the future. The doctrine of karma states; “we are a result of what we were, we will be the result of what we are”. If you choose to do good deeds than that good will come back to you in some way, shape, or form. If you choose to be selfish, greedy, or just plain evil, then that type of behavior will come back to haunt you.
Karma can serve as an incentive to do good, or at the very lease an incentive not to do bad. However, we do not full control our karma. While our own volition causes karma, other outside factors have a hand in shaping its response. Things like personality, surroundings, and individual circumstance are known as supportive factors and they have a say in how karma comes to fruition.
-     From the Love Horoscope Site
Karma is the belief that your actions affect your future lives. Good deeds will have a positive effect while bad deeds bring negative consequences. The concept of Karma is popular in the Hindu and Buddhist religions. John Lennon's idea of "Instant Karma" refers to a more immediate concept of accountability for your actions. Basically, what comes around, goes around.

So by these definitions and context, I would agree that “Karma is a bitch and ...”
From Wikipedia- "It is a cause and effect- what goes around comes around. Cause and effect (also written as cause-effect or cause/effect) refers to the philosophical concept of causality, in which an action or event will produce a certain response to the action in the form of another event. "
From my own personal observations, I have seen how very unfair the world can be; and how every day bad things do indeed happen to good and innocent people, and how good things happen to some terrible ones. But, I also do believe that many people reap what they sow, that is, they bring about their own misfortune and misery by the choices they make and the paths they choose. I believe that personal responsibility and owning the part one’s choices have is a productive and positive step towards repairing damage in life.
How many times do you see a person who bemoans their lot in life, and all they can do is find reasons why they are the victim of other people and circumstances, and that is why their life is a mess? I don’t think much of that attitude.
Situations involving extreme poverty, physical illness, systematic mental, physical or parental abuse, or violent physical force aside; I believe most people have a part or hand in the lot life has dealt them. This is not a dispassionate statement. It is an EMPOWERING one.
We are all responsible for the choices and decisions we make- for better or worse. If we consistently make poor or destructive choices, who is to “blame”? By passing the responsibility to other people or things, what good does that do in our life? Being a perpetual victim of people or circumstances is no way to walk through life.
A great example is Elie Wiesel, who is a famous concentration camp survivor. Do I believe Elie’s karma was for him to be in a concentration camp? Of course not! That would be madness. Elie didn’t bring that terrible situation upon himself. He was an innocent victim, if ever there was one. He was caught up in a political disaster and happened to be born at the wrong time, in the wrong place.
How many people can say the same thing about the misfortune that befalls them? In the grand scheme, not many.
Cause and effect can seem unjust. If a person doesn’t work hard or educate themselves, they will be stuck in a dead-end job. That stinks, but it is how it is in the workplace. Nothing personal, it’s business.
Marry someone after only knowing them for 2 weeks? If you end up getting divorced, whose fault is it? No one forced you to marry that person. (AND If they actually DID force you, that’s another story).
Pathologically lie all the time and get a reputation as a liar, and come to find no one wants to hire you?  You have reaped what you’ve sown. 
Refuse treatment for an addiction and lose all your friends and family? While this may seem terribly unfair because addictions are a form of illness, ultimately a person DOES have choices and options for seeking help and treatment.
You see where I am going with this train of thought. I don’t believe most people are referring to the spiritual or religious tenet of karma when they talk about it in conversation. Most westerners don’t follow the idea of reincarnation, and the context in which we throw the word around is less about “fate” and more about actions as a result of choices.

I have learned MANY important lessons from the “karma” I have received in my life. Situations that I brought upon myself because I was either:  a) misguided; b) ignorant; c) stubborn; or d) emotionally immature; or e) a combination of all aforementioned. There was no malice in most of the situations, but my actions had consequences; some of those consequences were “a bitch” to deal with and took many years to fix. I own my part in them.
I LEARNED the lesson and I grew as a person. I won’t even get into the “did I deserve it?” or not. That doesn’t really matter, because as we all know, we don’t always get exactly what we deserve, for better or for worse.
In summation, I am not the knower of all things or the final say on what is just and what is unjust in many situations. Most things and situations in life aren’t as complicated as we try to make them. They simply are what they are. But to ignore the circumstances where actions are the cause of consequences, and situations are the result of choices doesn't make any sense or do any good if you don't learn from it.

"I feel very strongly that I am under the influence of things or questions which were left incomplete and unanswered by my parents and grandparents and more distant ancestors. It often seems as if there was an impersonal karma within a family which is passed on from parents to children. It has always seemed to me that I had to answer questions which fate had posed to my forefathers, and which had not yet been answered, or as if I had to complete, or perhaps continue, things which previous ages had left unfinished." - Carl Jung (1875 - 1961)

As always, if you have comments or thoughts, please feel free and welcome to post them.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

It is the little things that mean the most: Finding joy and gratitude in the simplest acts

Clichés are often eschewed for their overuse or stereotypes. I think we can actually gain a great deal of insight and wisdom from certain clichés. One of the most profound is, “Little things mean a lot.” Rather than view the platitudes that some clichés invoke, I look for the universal truth and commonality that lies within.

This leads me to the point of this posting, which is to celebrate and honor the little, simple, things that can bring so much joy and pleasure to our lives. That is, if we are conscious enough to notice and appreciate them.

 Here is a list of simple acts which bring me great happiness and joy:
  1. Every morning my husband makes me a cup of tea. While this may seem a mundane little ritual, to me it is always romantic, thoughtful and incredibly kind.

2. Getting a text message or a phone call from one of my children. They are grown up and have lives of their own now, and I don’t expect them to call every day. It is really a lovely, simple, treat to hear from them and know they are thinking about me.

  3. Talking to my granddaughter. Anyone who has a grandchild will understand this one. Being a grandparent isn’t the same as being a parent. You really DO get all the wonderful parts of being a parent with none of the bad things. Spending time with my granddaughter reminds me of how wonderful it is to be loved by a small child, and it brings back the sweetness of mothering my own children. Just hearing her say, “Oma”, is one of the simplest delights of my life.

4. Having someone do something for me, unsolicited, that makes my day lighter or easier. Whether it is my husband making a special dinner, or my daughter cleaning the house, or the time my oldest son stopped by the house and delivered a meal; simple acts of kindness are amazing and wondrous.  

5. Receiving a card or a letter from someone. I know this is a dying concept, but I still absolutely adore receiving a card or a note from a friend or family member. I would rather receive a heartfelt card, with personal sentiments written on it, than a gift.

6. Giving or receiving a sincere and warm hug. Some people enjoy hugs more than others, but if you like hugs, you know how rich and wonderful it is to receive one from someone you care about. Physical closeness, whether to a beloved pet or family member, is bonding and calming. Holding my sweet poodle in my lap is one of the simplest joys in my life.
7. Enjoying a meal with a friend or loved one. It doesn’t have to be a posh or fancy place. Just sitting with someone you really care about and being able to spend that time with them is a simple, but joyful experience. I don’t get to see my sister as much as I would like, but when we are able to break away from the hectic lives we lead, and enjoy a meal together and talk, it is absolute heaven.

8. Having someone remember a special day or memory. A small, simple, act that brings me great joy is hearing one of my children or loved one share a specific memory with me. Recently, my younger son asked friends on his facebook to write a favorite memory on his wall, and he would share one of his. That was such a great idea. Remembering and sharing memories is a simple, effortless act of sharing.

9. Spending time with my parents. Now that they are getting older, and especially because my mother is struggling with the onset of Alzheimer’s, time with them has become very precious. A simple pleasure, because it doesn’t matter where we are or what we are doing. Just being with them, whether it is for an hour or a day, is meaningful and a joy.

10. Receiving praise or respect from co-workers and boss. This simple act certainly doesn’t need explaining. I am very fortunate to be in a place in my career where I regularly receive praise and am shown respect for my knowledge and abilities. It has taken a long time to get to this place, and it brings me great happiness and contentment.

 11. Being able to look in the mirror and like what you see. A truly simple act, with enormous impact and potential. Yes, I look older and yes, there are many imperfections, but I like the person I am and am happy with my life as it is right now. A simple, but profound, state of gratitude, acceptance, and serenity.
If we can’t find joy in the simplest things, there will be no rest or peace or happiness in the grandest ones. For all the wealth and trappings of glamour, fame, or worldly adoration, if a person is unable to find joy in everyday acts of kindness and simple pleasures- happiness and contentment will elude them.

It is all too easy to become lost in the acquisition of material goods and objects. Who wouldn’t enjoy having a new car, or taking an expensive vacation? Obviously those things are the “easy” way to experience a sense of pleasure or contentment. But without having a basic foundation of gratitude and an understanding of the value of simple joys, things that can be bought will only become a substitution and a distraction for the beauty of the little things. Nature does indeed abhor a vacuum.
ENJOY the simple acts of kindness and find ways to express them to those you love. Life is too short to lose sight of the richness that simple pleasures can bring.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Top six destructive emotions: Recognizing the signs and symptoms of dysfunctional behavior

I am not an “expert” in psychology, but I have been around the block a few times and have learned a few things about people. I am a keen observer and from my observations, I have noticed that people with the most serious issues often have problems dealing with some or all of the emotions I have listed below.  

On any given day, any one of us can be affected by one or many of these emotions. The point of this post is to explore and recognize some negative emotions and acknowledge that they have the potential to destroy relationships and bring very destructive situations. Having a bad day is one thing, having a bad life is quite another.

It is often human nature to blame others for the ills that befall us. Habitually blaming others or events for character flaws will only serve to prolong the suffering and cause the individual to be in a repetitive cycle of these destructive emotions.  

Owning unhealthy emotions and the problems they can cause is the first step towards correcting the behaviors that accompany them. 

We are all works in progress, but it is important to recognize and address behavioral patterns in order to grow into the best person we can become.

Here are the top six destructive emotions and what they can yield in a person’s life:
1.      Frustration:  I believe that frustration is one of the most destructive of all emotions. I have seen frustration eat away at a person to the point of deep depression and physical illness. Frustration causes a person to question and complain about every aspect of their lives, and it feeds on itself. Frustration can also drive one to many of the other negative and destructive emotions on this list.

Chronic frustration is often caused by personal dissatisfaction with some aspect of the person’s life. Each individual has a responsibility to attend to the issues which are causing them frustration. It is all too easy to try to find blame outside of oneself; but at the end of the day, the frustrated individual needs to take personal responsibility to fixing their own situation and happiness. It isn’t anyone else’s job to fix someone else's life or problems.

Constant negativity is a vicious cycle and is at the heart of most people’s bad attitudes.

2.      Rage: While healthy anger is a good emotion, rage is a dangerous emotion for the person experiencing it and everyone around them. Inability to harness rage is at the heart of many crimes of passion. Dealing with anger in a normal, acceptable manner is entirely different than raging and exploding at people. Road Rage is not a joke, and in many states it is actually illegal.
Rage is an emotion that stems from chronic frustration. It has been scientifically shown that extreme rage can actually cause heart attack or stroke. Irrational and extreme anger is not productive and only leads to serious relationship issues.

Learning to cope and manage anger is a critical part of interpersonal relationships. Anyone who has been on the receiving end of extreme rage will know how terrifying and unsettling it can be.

3.      Jealousy: Most people will experience jealousy at one time or another. It is not unusual or dysfunctional until it becomes obsessive and controlling. There is a difference between feeling jealous when your significant other or spouse seems interested in another person and the point where a person is suspicious, obsessively controlling or imagining unreal or unfounded scenarios.

Another very unhealthy aspect of jealousy is when a person is jealous of the good fortune of others. Often this sort of envy will lead a person to frustration and bitterness. Realizing that others may have more of something doesn’t need to lead to jealousy or envy. If a person is fully actualized and mature, they will be able to accept that there are always going to be people who have more, but there are also people who have less.

Being satisfied with what is doesn’t mean a person has to be happy about it. It simply means that they don’t allow jealousy to gnaw away at them and drive them to a dysfunctional and destructive level of envy. 

Focusing on the things one does have and the good parts of their own life can help to ward off jealousy and unhealthy envy. It is pointless to be concerned with what others have, unless you find a way to have those things that you want in your own life. Strengthening one’s own self-worth and being mindful of the goodness in life can drive away the negativity that jealousy creates.

4.      Bitterness: One of the saddest things in life is seeing or being around a bitter person.  Bitter people are not good company. Their bitterness will drive most people away because just as we respond better to sweet foods, most people prefer to be around sweet people.
No one is sweet all the time. That would be annoying and unrealistic. But if bitterness and its accompanying behaviors are the norm, it is probably best to steer clear of this kind of person. People who have become bitter are usually those who are frustrated, jealous, and unable to accept things that have happened to them in life. That is a choice they have made.

Sadly, bitterness begets more unhappiness because it drives people away and is a self-perpetuating condition. The more bitter a person has become in life, the less love, happiness, or respect they will be able to experience.

5.      Insecurity: There are many reasons why a person becomes insecure. The problem with insecurity is that it eats away at a person’s self-confidence to the point of leading them to many of the other negative emotions on this list.

Insecure people can become bitter, jealous, and frustrated. If a person doesn’t believe in themselves or have a sense of personal security, they can never reach the point of feeling at peace or happy. If you don’t love yourself, how can you love anyone else? Insecurity can create a false persona or fake personality. Pathological insecurity can lead to terrible consequences and impedes self-awareness or improvement.

6.      Entitlement:  We all have come in contact with people who have an air of entitlement, and it is an awful thing to experience. Somehow these people believe that their needs, wants, and desires are more important than everyone else's. Whether it is in the workplace, or family, or acquaintance; dealing with someone who feels that they are the most important person in the room is exhausting and demoralizing.

Toxic bosses are a prime example of the person who feels entitled. Their entitlement causes stress and upset to anyone in their path. You can usually spot the entitled person because their motto in life is basically summed up by this sentence- “It’s all about me!
There are many reasons a person can get this dysfunctional attitude. It is a combination of selfishness, fear, insecurity, and jealousy. Once a person espouses this attitude, it is not easy for them to reform. Usually the best course of action is to minimize contact with such an individual and cut your losses.

Until a person loses their sense of entitlement, it is virtually impossible to form any kind of meaningful or lasting relationship with them, unless you are prepared to cater to their needs at the expense of your own. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Opening the next chapter: Becoming a freelance writer

HOT OFF THE PRESSES! I recently made a big life decision that has taken me years to have the courage to face. I am going to finally start aggressively pursuing my freelance writing career.  

I currently work in communications, doing writing and editing for a living; so the skills and the work aspect is nothing new. The new part would be taking on independent projects and work for individual clients and sources.

It is a big decision and it has taken me some time to feel ready. But I have reached a point in my life where I want to pursue more diverse and varied work and projects, and expand my writing.

 These are a few examples of professional freelance writing services:

  • Press Releases
  • Articles
  • Blogs
  • Brochures
  • Web copy/web content
  • Professional Biographies
  • Newsletters
  • E-mail copy

Check, check, check… Yes, I can do all those, and more!

 And what exactly does all of this “Freelance” stuff involve?


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A freelancer, freelance worker, or freelance is somebody who is self-employed and is not committed to a particular employer long term. These workers are often represented by a company or an agency that resells their labor and that of others to its clients with or without project management and labor contributed by its regular employees. Others are completely independent. 'Independent contractor" would be the term used in a higher register of English.
Fields where freelancing is common include; music, journalism, publishing, screenwriting, filmmaking, acting, photojournalism, cosmetics, fragrances, editing, event planning, event management, copy editing, proofreading, indexing, copywriting, computer programming, web design, graphic design, website development, consulting, tour guiding, video editing, video production and translating.

Freelance practice varies greatly. Some require clients to sign written contracts, while others may perform work based on verbal agreements, perhaps enforceable through the very nature of the work. Some freelancers may provide written estimates of work and request deposits from clients.

Starting this new chapter is a bit daunting, but I am confident, ready, able and willing for it. Taking on new assignments will enable me to stretch myself as a writer and communications professional. I feel confident and believe that this is a bold step towards an enriching new chapter in my professional life.

So I am excited and happy about my decision and am hoping that I  will soon have some challenging and enriching projects to work on. If you know of anyone interested in a freelance writer, please be sure to pass my information on to them!

I am ready and prepared for a change, in my life and career; where my experience and knowledge has enabled me to be open to new challenges and areas of expression. It's taken a long time to reach this point and it feels very good to know that THIS is the right time!

WISH ME LUCK in my new endeavors!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Is the term “Working Mother” redundant or an oxymoron? A balanced woman makes the best mother

All over the news and in the media last week was the age old battle about working mothers vs     stay-at-home mothers. I refuse to get into the backstory of how the topic was brought up, AGAIN, but if you have a television, a computer and/or a newspaper, you already heard the whole dramatic situation over and over and over again, ad nauseum. And if you missed it, use Google.
Needless to say, this is a HOT argument. Always has been, always will be. It cuts very close to the quick for many people, and it brings out some nasty rhetoric and comments all around. A mom is a mom no matter where or how she works, but we’re kidding ourselves if we think it is that simple.

This is one of those debates and topics that is hard to pin down. It isn’t really a conservative vs liberal discussion, and it isn’t feminist vs non-feminist debate either. There are women, and men, from all walks of life and all persuasions who have pro and con feelings and opinions about it.

This is one conversation I feel very entitled to speak with great authority on because I have been both a stay-at-home mom and a single, working mom. I have “been there and done that” and I have some strong feelings on the topic, and firsthand experience.

Let me say upfront that there are no winners in this debate, and as my husband loves to point out to me, life isn’t fair. Once you get over that concept, everything in life will become less aggravating. It took me most of my life to digest that truth, and it is still not always easy.
I was a stay-at-home mom for over 10 years in the 1980s. I won’t go into all the particulars at this time, that whole story is too long for my purposes here. What I will say is that I have mixed feelings about it to this day. Let’s face it, being the primary caretaker of one or more children is an extremely challenging job.

If you don’t have children you will never understand the weight of that sentence. Seriously, being with kids 24 hours a day, 7 days a week could break just about anyone. Even if you have the best-behaved children in the world, IF DONE CORRECTLY (and that is a debate all its own), it is honestly the hardest job you will ever love.

BUT, and this is the one that is going to draw jeers from the crowds, being a stay-at-home mother is NOTHING compared to being a working, single mother who is consumed with putting food on the table and making enough money to pay the rent/mortgage, and STILL make time for the kids.

Okay, there, I said it. Hate away if you want to, but that’s my story and I am sticking with it. I have lived both ends of the spectrum, and there is no way in this world that a woman who has the LUXURY, yes, I said LUXURY, of staying home with her children while her husband earns a wage capable of sustaining a family; can even begin to imagine the difficulty of trying to balance home life, work life, and usually not the kind of fantasy career one imagines a working mom might have.

I am not talking about women who choose to work because they love their careers and don’t feel called to the vocation of being a stay-at-home mom. In all honesty, I believe the vast majority of women who work outside their home do so because they have to in order to make ends meet. Whether they are married or single, most women today work because it is not economically feasible to do otherwise.
So, the debate is VERY complicated.  In one corner you have a) the woman who works because she has to in order for the family to survive; in the other corner you have; b) the woman who works because she doesn’t want to stay home and she prefers a career; in another corner you have; c) the woman who stays home because her husband makes enough money to support the family and she has chosen to give up her career; and in the last corner, you have; d) the mother who stays home because daycare costs would be more expensive than her having a job outside the home.

So what does it all mean? It means that women do not have easy choices. Some women’s choices are easier than others. Some women have their choices made for them because they DON’T HAVE A CHOICE. At the end of the day, there are pros and cons for all 4 scenarios. No one gets it all. Trust me, you don’t.

There are wonderful things about having a career. It took me until NOW (almost 50) to FINALLY do the kind of work I truly love and get a fair compensation for doing it. Those 10 years at home with my children were priceless in terms of emotional rewards, but they cost me a lot professionally. Did I catch up? Maybe, maybe not? Was it worth it? In some ways it was, but in others way, I am not so sure. There are no easy answers because even the questions are difficult.
We have all heard the extreme stories- the heiress who “stays home with the kids”, but actually the staff raise them. Or the working mom whose career goals are to the detriment of her entire family. (Many men have been doing that for centuries, but that’s another story for another day).  Then there are the regular people, most of us, who do the best they can with the situation and the circumstances they are faced with.

Being a parent is a complex and complicated business. Those of us who have taken it on and done our best, which sometimes wasn’t enough, know how hard decisions about work, family, and children can be- even in the most ideal circumstances.

Yes, every mom is sort of a working mom. When I stayed home with my children full time I worked VERY HARD! I cleaned, cooked, chauffeured, entertained, cleaned some more, played, rinse and repeat; day in and day out. It’s nice to spend time with the children and have time to manage a household, but after 10 years, it can become mind-numbingly tedious.

Maybe I just didn’t do it as well as I could have, who knows? All I know is that I felt that I was more focused on other people for most of those years than I was focusing on myself. Many people will say that is the cornerstone of “good” parenting. Well, my answer to that is balance. One must attempt to maintain balance in all things, and parenting requires one of the greatest balancing acts imaginable. I made a grave mistake and became lost to myself because I believed that to do otherwise would mean I wasn’t a good mother. I wouldn’t wish that on any woman.

There are no absolute truths on this matter. The only thing that is truly evident is the more choices, options, and financial means a person has, the easier it is to spend time with their kids. Now, what they do with that precious time is key to how “good” they are as parents.

I will say that the happiest and best mothers I’ve known are women who have support, respect,   self-confidence and solid self-awareness. They don’t view their children as extensions of themselves or live vicariously through them. AND they don’t do the bare minimum as far as attention and interest. The best and happiest mothers, regardless of their career choices, have achieved balance and serenity in their lives.

I think being loving, accepting, interested, responsive, and attentive to a child is far more important than what focusing on how many hours a day the child sees mommy. I have seen wonderful mothers and, what I consider, terrible mothers. They aren’t all stay-at-home mothers or work outside the home mothers. There are plenty of both to go around.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What will become of us when they’ve gone? A family love story

                                                     Gisela and Pablo Rodriguez

No one likes to think about death, whether it is their own or someone close to them. No one likes to think about the death of their parents, or their grandparents. In our family, that is especially true. We have been blessed with an amazing set of parents/grandparents, and the idea of them not being with us is almost too much to bear.

I am very fortunate that I still have both of my parents and they are in relatively good health. They are both in their mid seventies and we are a very, very, close family.

I am the older of two daughters, born to two immigrants. I was born in Washington, D.C. in the early 1960s, and my sister was born in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1969. We were NEVER a “regular” family in that I don’t ever remember knowing a family like ours.

My parents are two of the most hilarious, (though often, not on purpose) interesting, cultured, diverse, and warm people you would ever hope to meet. Seriously, they truly are. And to be lucky enough to be one of their children or grandchildren is beyond imaging. They are, for all their many faults and maddening idiosyncrasies, fun, generous, thoughtful and all-around wonderful. That doesn’t mean they didn’t have a part in the neurotic messes that we all are, but as we used to say, “We may be dysfunctional, but at least we know it!”

My parents came to the United States, from Germany (mother) and Cuba (father) in the late 1950s. They are self-made people who worked incredibly hard, but never lost their sense of humor (now remember my mother is German) or their optimism.  Their sacrifices and dedication enabled us to have the rich and full lives we are blessed to live.
                                                              Me, my father, my sister

Of all the wonderful gifts they gave us, the gift of optimism is probably the most valuable. Giving up or quitting was not an option. When faced with challenges or situations which seemed overwhelming, I often would ask my mother how to cope. She would look at me and say, “You don’t have a choice; you just have to keep on going.” Seems simplistic, but I understood what she meant and I have taken that advice on many dark and difficult days.
My father is the original “one man Mardi Gras” and we have been blessed to have inherited his gift of humor and absurdity. We may be loud, and can argue fiercely at times, but we laugh harder and louder than most families I have met. We laugh at life, ourselves, and one another; but not in a mean or spiteful way.

My parents are so incredibly different that there is NEVER, EVER, a dull moment. The most mundane experience is riddled with humor, and we are blessed to be able to laugh through tears- even when things are very tough. Every family goes through difficult, often heartbreaking, times and moments. We have had more than our share. But, we have always managed to cling together and work though the pain and grief. We laugh, we cry, we talk, we hug… and start all over again.
That is why the thought of losing them is so hard. Who will fill those shoes? How will we laugh without them? They both have their “role” in the family show!
                                                      Me, my granddaughter, my mother

Oh, the family “show”, as we call it. Everyone has their role and it has the funniest dialogue you can imagine. My mother is the often stern, but incredibly kind and protective, one. She truly is the lioness to my father’s lion. She will fight for her family and do anything to help one of us. She is the one who has been the rock of the family and held us all together, even when we didn’t want to be. She was the patient and sensible one when we weren’t so patient or sensible. She believed in all of us, even when we didn’t earn that belief. And though she may have been madder than hell, she has loved us and never lets us forget how much. Her “lines” aren’t meant to be funny, but somehow we all laugh in spite of how serious she tries to be.
My father is like no one else in the whole world. He is funny, handsome, talented, jovial, and ALWAYS positive. Yeah, yeah… everyone says that about their own father. But if you ask people who know him, they will verify this claim. He is just an incredibly unique, charming, and all-around marvelous person. My poor mother has often “lived in his shadow”, but only because he is so much larger than life, and she is the epitome of class, correctness, dignity, and style. She has let my father shine and be more than she has been, because she didn’t feel the need to compete or prove her worth. She knows who she is, and she is fine just as she is. A lesser woman could not have managed it with such grace. I admire and respect her for that.

                                                    My mother, Gisela Ullmann Rodriguez

My mother is a woman of immense self-respect and has done more good for other people in her life than most ever do. She has been very happy to be a dutiful wife and mother, AND a hard-working and successful professional as well. She was the SUPER MOM before being the Super Mom was cool. Even with a full-time job, she had dinner on the table EVERY NIGHT of the week. I could never live up to her achievements in her dedication to her family, but in reality, I don’t think she wanted me to. Her own example and they way she has lived her own life encouraged my sister and me to become interesting and knowledgeable people. We were “strongly” encouraged to study and work hard, and become whole and complete women.

The diversity in my household has provided us with enough funny stories, hilarious vignettes, and riotous memories to fill many books. Anyone who has experienced a meal with our family can testify to the colorful and often confusing banter. Even after being together for more than 50 years, my parents still have a great deal of miscommunication, which provides the audience with more than enough laughs to split your gut. Some of it is gender-driven, some of it is language-related, and most of it is just that they are as different as night and day. As I said, there is never a dull moment!
                                                             My father, Pablo Rodriguez

My family has been very fortunate to have been able to enjoy our close ties and the great fun we have with one another. We are a very odd and funny bunch. We fight hard, but we love even harder. We have all the other problems and issues that other families have, but we are very lucky to have a crazy, interesting, and never boring cast of characters that keep life very interesting.
I treasure all the memories and I hope we are blessed with many years to come with my parents. They aren’t just parents and grandparents to us. They are beloved friends whose company we will dearly miss someday when they aren’t with us any longer.