Saturday, June 27, 2015

At the End of the Rainbow

Everyone is chomping at the bit to write about the recent SCOTUS decision to legalize same sex marriage nationwide.  And, why not?  It’s national news, right? 

Before I go any further, I want to let my readers know that I am 100% supportive of this new law.  But as great as this moment is for same-sex couples, the fact that it is considered news is sad to me.  Humanity has taken such a negative turn over the years, that we accept this as a huge win.  The reality is that it should have never been a fight in the first place. 

I’m going to take you inside my “everything is perfect” bubble.  Here are three things I see at the end of the rainbow.

I see the day where there is no LGBT “community”.  Before you get up in arms, hear me out.  The word “community” describes a sense of togetherness.  However, in recent years, community has been used to segregate different types of people.  In addition to the “LGBT” community, we have the “black” community, the “hispanic” community, the “polyamorous” community, and the list goes on.  While I understand the natural inclination to gather amongst people with similar backgrounds, I think creating sub-divisional groups, however unintentionally,  is a path that could make coming together extremely difficult in the future.  If we all want the same rights, we need to cross these communal boundaries and start making real attempts to understand each other so that we know how to fight for each other.  I think this SCOTUS decision was a small example of that.  But in my opinion, we need to work harder at becoming one human community.

I see the day where there is no more struggle, no more bullying, no more teen suicides from the pressures of being gay.  One thing I learned on my first real job was to “think outside of the box”.  However, in high school, teens put anyone who is unfamiliar to them inside a box-cool, nerd, jock, slut.  Adding gay, bi-sexual, transgender to an already mounting list of “flaws” that a student can potentially have does no good for the bully or the one being bullied. Kids bully based on fear, so it’s up to us as parents to address their fears in order for them to see inside each person they meet without judgement.

I see the day where a human being doesn’t have to “come out of the closet” to anyone-publicly or privately.  In today’s world, straight people don’t have to make announcements that they are straight.  When a celebrity is straight, it’s not national news.  No attention is paid to a straight person’s mannerisms, how he is dressed, who he is hanging out with.  It simply doesn’t matter.  So, what I wish for everyone is that your life matters to you and those who love you, and that everyone else walking by you on the street doesn’t think to care.

Of course, the vision in my bubble is easier said than done.  Do we have to march on Capitol Hill to get what we want?  Do we have to write letters to our congressman?  Do we have to start petitions?  Sure, these things can help.  But first, I think we all can take little parts of our dreams about how we see the world and guide ourselves and our children towards understanding them, accepting them and finding the gold at the end of our rainbow.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Stop Making Bucket Lists!

So, I went skydiving yesterday for the first time. It was definitely one of the coolest things I have ever done in my life. However, rather than regale you with all of the details of my adventure, I am going to ask you all a simple question. What is the coolest thing you have done in your life so far?

A few days before the skydiving experience, my husband asked me about my bucket list. I was honest with him when I said that I don’t have one. Travel is something I want to do more of in my lifetime, but it doesn’t really fall into the “things I need to do before I die” category. As for skydiving, that was something I wanted to try, but not because I wanted to cross it off some death list.

To me, bucket lists contain things you do once, then cross it off and move onto the next item. I have an issue with that. What I have accomplished, so far, are things that I do not necessarily want to stop doing.  I don’t want to cross anything off in life. Putting a line through something seems so final. What if I want to skydive ten more times? 

So instead of being depressed because I haven’t completed #59 off my bucket list, I created a “life list” consisting of notable things that I have already accomplished (and may do again). Having a life list is a similar concept, but it instead focuses on achievements. I named mine the “My-Life-is-Awesome-Look-At-All-the-Cool-Shit-I’ve-Done-So-Far” list. I encourage each of you to make one of these, rather than succumb to the pressure of fulfilling a bucket list. 

Trust me when I tell you that it’s much more satisfying seeing the things you have done and how you have lived your life so far, rather than the things you have yet to achieve.  So, my friends, live on and enjoy the cool shit along the way!

Feel free to peruse my list below or share your own lists with me! And remember that the little things count just as much as the big things! Happy list making!

My-Life-is-Awesome-Look-At-All-the-Cool-Shit-I’ve-Done-So-Far List
  • 1.       Had two awesome daughters
  • 2.       Have seen my daughters succeed (even the small stuff counts!)
  • 3.       Married the love of my life
  • 4.       Said yes to my then-boyfriend’s marriage proposal at Pont de Artes (the lock and key bridge) in Paris
  • 5.       Have seen family and friends get married and have children
  • 6.       Skydiving from 18,000 feet
  • 7.       Slingshot bungee jumping
  • 8.       Rode in a helicopter
  • 9.       Started a blog (and have been published!)
  • 10.   Joined a book club
  • 11.   Witnessed a space shuttle launch from a beach (where I met a family who I am still friends with to this day)
  • 12.   Walked the San Francisco Bridge
  • 13.   Drove down Lombard Street, San Francisco
  • 14.   Did a color run
  • 15.   Ran a half marathon
  • 16.   Cycled a half century
  • 17.   Adopted a dog from the Humane Society
  • 18.   Lived in Texas…and Pennsylvania…and New Jersey…and Florida
  • 19.   Vacationed in Hilton Head, SC
  • 20.   Been to Washington DC (The Monument, Abe Lincoln Memorial, Museum of Natural History, the Vietnam Wall)
  • 21.   Went to a wolf preserve
  • 22.   Been on a road trip-Florida to New York
  • 23.   Visited the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Central Park, FAO Schwartz, Freedom Tower, MOMA, Flat Iron
  • 24.   Have ridden in a subway
  • 25.   Have hailed a cab, NYC style
  • 26.   Have eaten the best pizza ever (Sal and Carmines, New York, New York)
  • 27.   Have eaten at Carlos’ Bakery in Hoboken before it was famous
  • 28.   Been to the World Trade Center when it still stood
  • 29.   Learned to make French macaroons from a French chef in Paris
  • 30.   Sat in the grand stands at the Tour de France 2012 (Bradley Wiggins won)
  • 31.   Tried French Onion soup in Paris
  • 32.   Visited the Lourve
  • 33.   Rode on the Metro
  • 34.   Vacationed in Spain (Ibiza & Madrid)
  • 35.   Hiked through the El Yunque rain forest & stood underneath La Mina Falls
  • 36.   Walked through the Rio Camuy caves
  • 37.   Went on a Biolumenscence boat tour in Fajardo, Puerto Rico and got to touch the plankton
  • 38.   Snorkeled in Xcaret-Cancun, Mexico
  • 39.   Saw a live bull fight-Cancun, Mexico
  • 40.   Got my hair braided in the Bahamas
  • 41.   Did a short hike at the Grand Canyon
  • 42.   Ate ribs at BB Kings in Memphis, TN while attending the International Blues Challenge
  • 43.   Visited Graceland
  • 44.   Been to the International Food and Wine Festival at Epcot with my friends from grammar school
  • 45.   Got a tattoo (4 times and counting…)
  • 46.   Got piercings (ears, tongue, hand, belly button)
  • 47.   Graduated from college
  • 48.   Have attended a foam party
  • 49.   Smoked strawberry tobacco from a hookah
  • 50.   Been to a professional baseball game
  • 51.   Played laser tag
  • 52.   Have been to an indoor trampoline park
  • 53.   Started happy jars for myself, my girls and my husband
  • 54.   Went to Woodstock 1999
  • 55.   Have been to a few concerts (Hall & Oates, Madonna, Live, Barenaked Ladies, Aerosmith, Alanis Morissette/Tori Amos,  Katy Perry, Train/Maroon 5)
  • 56.   Have seen multiple shows on Broadway-Les Miserables (three times), Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Rent (three times), Miss Saigon, Cyrano: The Musical, Jekyll and Hyde, Wicked
  • 57.   Sang to an audience
  • 58.   Have been to a real recording studio in SOHO and watched a producer work his magic
  • 59.   Touched a stingray
  • 60.   Touched a snake
  • 61.   Fed a dolphin
  • 62.   Visited Winter the dolphin in Clearwater, FL
  • 63.   Gone horseback riding on a beach
  • 64.   Volunteered for Habitat for Humanity (helped build a house in Fellsmere, FL)
  • 65.   Have donated food to the local food pantry on a regular basis
  • 66.   Watched the sunset
  • 67.   Went on an airboat ride in the Everglades
  • 68.   Have ridden on the back of a motorcycle
  • 69.   Dyed my hair blond, red, lighter brown, and pink (not at the same time)
  • 70.   Donated my hair (twice) to Pantene Beautiful Lengths
  • 71.   Took ballroom dancing classes as an adult
  • 72.   Crocheted a scarf
  • 73.   Have grown my own strawberries and basil
  • 74.   Have been to a corn maze
  • 75.   Been to Medieval Times (and actually loved it)
  • 76.   Been to Disney World close to 60 times in the past 4 years
  • 77.   Seen fireflies light up a bottle
  • 78.   Bought food for a homeless man

Monday, June 15, 2015

Does there have to be a spark?

Let’s talk about sex.  

Now, I’m not an expert, but let’s just say that I probably enjoy sex more than the average woman.  Having said that, I tend to do the things I enjoy doing quite frequently.  And this is where I hear vast differences among women.  I recently read an article written with the intention of “how to get the sexual spark back” after having children.  There were tons of comments from women saying how much they could relate to the article and that they were looking for that spark that was there in the very beginning of the relationship.  Ladies, let me be the first to break it to you-to him, there is no spark.  I truly believe that this spark that women refer to is something we conjured up in our own minds.  Now, I can only speak from my own experiences, but from what I can tell, men are ALWAYS ready, willing and able to have sex.  They are never too tired, too busy, too moody, or whatever other excuses women can think of.  Men aren’t wondering where the spark is in their relationships.  And do you know why?  It’s because they ENJOY having sex!  I know.  It’s a very simple concept.  There is no psychology behind it.  They don’t pine over the good ole days wondering where the woman they married has gone.  You know why?  Because to the man in your relationship, the woman they met 5 or 10 years ago is the very same woman he is staring at day in and day out.  And you know what else?  To him, she is just as sexy now as she was then. 

Think about all of the things you really enjoy doing.  For me, spending time with my children, reading a great book, cycling, going out with friends and going shopping are some of the things I look forward to doing on a day to day basis.  For me, sex also falls into this category.  Even though sex is with a partner (most of the time), I treat sex as “me time” – a time to feel good about myself, to feel sexy, to feel experimental, to feel united with the one I love, to feel loved, to feel comforted, to feel relaxed, to feel happy.  Sex gives me all of that and more.  So, why would I ever stop making time for it? In addition to that, why would I try to find excuses not to have it?  I completely understand that life gets busy and you may not be able to have sex every single day, but for me in particular, I never really understood the “spark” excuse. 

If you believe in a magical spark that needs to be ignited in order for you to bring your sexy back, I implore you to stop waiting on your man.  If there is something in particular that you need from him, ASK him!  Trust me, most men will be all too happy to oblige if you have a request that doesn’t involve your need for them to take the garbage out or paint the house.  You have to stop blaming your man and making excuses for why YOU don’t want to have sex. If your relationship has gotten to the point where your man has stopped coming on to you, it just may be because he gets rejected all of the time and is waiting on you to show interest.   Or even worse, some men are getting sex regularly from their women but it feels obligatory because the woman thinks it’s her “wifely duty” to make sure her man climaxes.  News flash ladies-most men would prefer that you are interested WHILE having sex.  It’s kind of a turn off if both parties aren’t into it (or each other).  And just a tip- if you are both waiting on each other for some sort of sexual sign to initiate intercourse, you may wind up with a guy who is more like a roommate than a lover. 

So…the question isn’t about a spark.  The spark is just another excuse for why you don’t feel a sexual connection to your man.  This “spark” is all about YOU and how YOU feel, and most likely how your needs aren’t being met.  It has nothing to do with his feelings.  So, the real question should be, “why the hell am I not enjoying sex anymore?”  Or maybe the question is,”why have I never enjoyed sex?”  And ladies-the only person who can really answer that is you.  Yes, your man can help you figure it all out, but in the end, your needs have to be realized and then vocalized for anything to change.  Imagine loving sex as much as you love shopping or exercising or going to the spa.  Because that’s what it’s like for me.  All I can say is that you should try to remember the good things about sex and let yourself go.  Don’t look at the clock or think about all of the things you have to do while you’re having sex.  Be in the moment and FEEL how awesome it is!  And when it’s over and you have climaxed, be in that moment too.  Because the kind of calm and peace that comes after an orgasm can’t be bought-not even at the spa. 

*This piece was published on BLUNTmoms on June 15, 2015.
*This piece was also published on The Good Men Project on September 2, 2016.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Losing the Dad of the Year Award

With Father’s Day approaching, I want to point out that this day for dads does not just have to be for the awesome men who are there for their kids every second of the day. While I applaud these dads, I just want to recognize the dads who get blamed for never being around (but who want to be); the dads who don’t think they deserve their children’s time; the dads who think they aren’t worthy of the title “Dad”. While I believe that these dads should work harder to be around more for their children, I give these guys a lot of credit. It’s not easy being that kind of Dad. I’ve watched it firsthand, and although it’s simple for everyone to call these men “dead beat parents”, that really isn’t the case at all-at least not in my home.

On Father’s Day, a few years ago, my fiancé was getting ready to meet his girls for lunch. As he was leaving, he looked at me with sad eyes and said, “I feel bad to make them give up their day for me. They probably feel obligated to be with me today.” In that moment, my heart broke for him. He wasn’t making an excuse; he really did want to see them. But he truly felt that because he wasn’t around in their lives growing up, he didn’t deserve a place in their lives at all…especially on Father’s Day. 

I want to be able to tell you about all of the times he spent with his girls growing up, and the unique bond he has with them. But unfortunately, my fiancé is not that Dad. The Dad of the Year award will never be given to him. Due to divorce and hefty alimony and child support payments, my fiancé had to work constantly in order to keep up with those payments, leaving little time for his precious girls. Even though his thoughts were always with them, he didn’t have time to be there for them when it counted. After years like this, his lifestyle became habitual, and though the alimony payments ended and he was able to create a decent relationship with them as they grew older, the time he spent with his daughters was still minimal. 

Recently, when a slew of poor decisions on his daughters’ parts tore a large gaping hole in his heart, he was unwavering in his love for them. And that is what makes him a great father. Loving his daughters even though he is incredibly hurt and disappointed in the choices they have made, is inspiring. Being able to love them, even though they cannot be in his life the way he wishes they could be, is truly remarkable. Wishing them well, even though they have wronged him, is one of the best qualities a human being can have. But even with a heart full of unconditional love, he still gets a bad rap for not being around enough.  I agree with the girls to a certain extent, as I believe that when they were children, he should have made a bigger and better effort, regardless of his circumstances.  But I also believe that once children become adults, everyone is then on an equal playing field.  As adults, we are all responsible for every relationship we have, especially those with our parents.

I don’t believe that a father’s greatness should be based on the number of hours he shares with you, or the number of times he calls you each year. I think a father’s greatness comes from his love, his ability to guide you, and from his ability to be honest, loyal, sincere and accepting. These are qualities I have been witness to during my fiancé‘s interactions with his daughters over the years. In addition, he is thoughtful, caring, smart, and funny. One of the best things about him is that when he loves you, he would go to the ends of the Earth and back for you.

Is he the best Dad ever? No, but his girls have made and are still making some awful decisions that are causing him a lot of pain, so no one in this family is going to be receiving any awards this year. All I know is that if my Dad asked me to compromise or told me that I caused him pain, I would do everything I could to make it right again. With that said, rather than continuing on the destructive course they are on, I hope they find a way to truly listen to each other without defending their past actions.  I hope they find a way to understand and move through the pain they have all caused each other, both in the past, and more recently.  Mostly, I hope that they will be willing to do whatever it is that needs to be done to make sure that the relationship can begin to grow again. 

The father I know in my fiancé (and the fathers who are in similar situations), will always love his daughters and will always want their happiness, even if he can’t be a part of it. And to the children of Dads in similar situations, although he may not have earned the Dad of the Year award, he is your Dad; he is your blood; and he loves you more than you will ever know.

Happy Father’s Day to the awesome dads who go the extra mile, and for all of those Dads who don’t, but wish they could.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Give Me a Break!

Back in the day, taking breaks at the office was normal and quite enjoyable.  Over the years, there has been quite a shift in the acceptance of taking breaks at all.  Because I have worked for the same company for a really long time, I watched this shift occur right before my eyes.  I went from taking a leisurely lunch with a bunch of my colleagues to grotesquely shoving my lunch into my mouth while at my desk.  And although I can’t speak for everyone, I definitely know of people who work in other professions who don’t take breaks either.  For example, I was recently dumbfounded when a friend of mine, who is a nurse, told me that she doesn’t even get time to take regular bathroom breaks.
Not taking a break has become the norm in many places of employment.  I remember the days when we were so busy that our management teams ordered food for us and apologized profusely for not allowing us to leave our desks for lunch because we were so slammed.  Most of us were okay with it because we knew that it was only a temporary situation, and that we would get our full lunch hour back in a few days.  Fast forward to 2015, where I can’t remember the last time I took a full hour for lunch and didn’t feel guilty about it.

My managers are actually pretty great.  I work crazy hours, I work hard, and they always find a way to let me know that they notice.  So you would think that I would be a little less paranoid about getting up from my desk.  But for me, this is not the case.  Because I work from home, my concern is that someone will call me and think that because I didn’t answer, I am down at the beach having a cocktail instead of being at work.  I worry that if I don’t answer the phone every single time it rings, people may perceive me as unreliable, unavailable or, even worse, a slacker.  Not to mention, it just so happens that almost every time I dash to my kitchen to make myself a plate of food or get up to use the bathroom, I get a phone call with some sort of an emergency.  So, that doesn’t help my fear at all. 

Recently, I started to wonder if employees are on overdrive, constantly trying to prove their worth, and in turn, creating this “no break” environment?  Or has the work environment become too demanding of the employees?  Maybe it is a bit of both.  Regardless of the cause, my question still remains-what happened to lunch breaks? 

One of my favorite bosses used to occasionally take us to lunch for (insert GASP here) over an hour.  We talked about work, but also about our lives.  We laughed and created a personal team dynamic.  We weren’t just colleagues; we became friends.  Instead of focusing on myself, my worth, my deadline, my ability to prove what an asset I was, I focused on my team and how we could work better together.  I wasn’t stressed out about being the best.  I was driven to be a better part of the team.  The moral of the story is that when you are friends with the people you work with, you will tend to do just about anything to help each other succeed. 

In addition to providing great team morale, I believe taking breaks (and not the 10 minute gorging sessions we now call lunch) during a busy or stressful work day can be great for productivity!  Can you imagine going to a meeting without your stomach growling the entire time, wondering if you would get a chance to eat that day?  Can you imagine a room full of employees who had just taken a break, who are refreshed, attentive, sharp, and ready to go instead of cranky, disinterested and hungry?

This brings me to my next point, which is health.  As my readers know, I am a Type 1 diabetic, so eating for me is actually a necessity.  Just because I happen to have a disease that makes eating a requirement, shouldn’t others who are disease-free be allowed to eat the proper nutrients they need in a relaxed atmosphere?  Eating quickly can cause indigestion, which in turn, can cause misery for an employee.  If someone knows they only have ten minutes to get lunch, they may not spend that ten minutes pondering at the salad bar.  They will most likely pick up something pre-made and not nearly as healthy. 

And lastly, we have the stress factor.  If people feel stressed out about going to lunch, getting lunch, eating lunch quickly, they are probably causing themselves unnecessary health issues.  Stress has been linked to serious conditions like heart disease, obesity, diabetes, asthma, panic attacks, headaches and depression, to name a few.  Simply stepping away from your job for a specified period of time could really help someone in a stressful environment.  But if the break period is also stressful, there is no benefit to the employee, or the employer, for that matter.

I realize that in these times, having a job with a steady paycheck is extremely important, and taking breaks may not be seen as a wise choice.  However, I think that if your place of work enables you to take breaks without the guilt, then indulge yourself!  And if you happen to work for a company that frowns upon breaks, maybe starting a conversation with your colleagues or your human resources department might be a good way to go. 

I think we all deserve to add some enjoyment back into our days without feeling like taking a break could get you fired.  It would be great if management could start a movement in which THEY take breaks too!  Leading by example doesn’t only have to apply to the work part of the day.  If managers took noticeable breaks, that alone would encourage their employees to take breaks as well.  And then we would all be happier, healthier and more productive.

I can imagine it, but unfortunately, the trend doesn’t seem to be heading in that direction.  I remain hopeful that we all find some sort of balance to the increasingly stressful days at work.  Until then, I urge you to take your allotted ten minute lunch, walk away from your desk, and reboot.