April 7, 2008, 12:58 pm
Filed under: daily | Tags: , , ,


So, I was blog surfing just now. I won’t link to the blog, because I want to protect the innocent. But, really, this rant has a basis. I promise

I have a much older half-brother. Obviously, that means we share one parent (dad) but not the other. He’s 13 years older than me. My parents got married when he was 11, and started dating when he was 9. We get along, but I wouldn’t say we’re close by any stretch of the imagination. We’re two only children who happen to be siblings, and I got the healthy, two-parent, happy-household childhood that he didn’t. Not a whole lot I can do about that, but it makes for an awkward family dynamic. So be it.

A lot of the awful stuff that creates an awful family dynamic on my mom’s extended family is the act of comparing. This one is like this, but this one does that. This one is so successful! This one lives in new york! But that one is going through a nasty divorce. This one, that one, this one, that one. This one is out going, but she doesn’t ever read. This one is really shy, but look how smart she is. BLAH BLAH BLAH. They like to pride themselves on not doing that. BUT THEY DO IT. ALL THE TIME. VOMIT.

My parents compare my brother and I. To our faces. I’m much more comfortable in my own skin, with social graces. He’s not. He’s incredibly brilliant, particularly at math and science: hello, nuclear engineer! I’m far more verbal, but I can hold my own in sciences that don’t relay entirely on math: hello, bio and english major. I need people; he shuns human contact. I like dogs; he likes cats. I have straight hair; he has curly hair. I have to fight to gain weight; he has to fight to lose weight. I am usually very happy, but make it evident to everyone when I’m not; figuring out the difference between him happy and him unhappy is like telling the difference between “beige” and “oatmeal”.  We’re siblings, not carbon copies. Hell, we don’t even have the same mother, what makes you think we’re going to be alike? What does comparison accomplish?

Let’s talk about what we have in common: same eye color, same fair skin that burns easily and gets eczema, same nose and forehead, same tendency to read voraciously, same sense of humor. We both like pie. We both drink milk with pie. We both have musical inclinations, but are uneasy about performing by ourselves. We’re both smart, successful people who have actively pursued our own interests and hobbies. We are both good people, even if we’ve come about it from different angles.

So, please: if you have a stepson, don’t pick out one of his “bad” traits, pick it apart, and then say “but hey look! MY son is the opposite of that. AND I AM SO HAPPY. My kid came out better!” And don’t do it on the internet. Are you crazy? You’re setting yourself up to seriously hurt a kid, just because he has a different temperament than you and your kids. Unkind, uncouth, and bordering on cruel. More importantly, your stepson is your son’s brother. That will never change. Don’t mess with that.


Proof that the World is Ending
March 6, 2008, 10:07 am
Filed under: Current Events | Tags: , , ,

1. Treadmills for Kids. Why does a kid need a treadmill? The answer is, there is no reason. If you want your kid to get some exercise, and to run around and get some “cardio”, send your kid outside and chase him around. This is a very easy concept. Live in the city? Take him to the park. It’s too cold out? Bundle him up like Ralphie. Afraid of people kidnapping him? Then don’t take your eyes off of him. THIS IS NOT A DIFFICULT CONCEPT.

Besides, the idea of exercising for the sake of exercise is a foreign idea to children. Exercise is a byproduct of playing. Playing happens best outside. The great outdoors also blows the stink off of your kid. A treadmill is boring to him, it won’t get used, and then you just threw 109 bucks down the drain.

So, take your kids outside. It’s free and fun.

2. Patrick Swayze has pancreatic cancer. I love Patrick Swayze in an entirely illogical way, particularly in “Dirty Dancing”. I know he’s a terrible actor but look at how dreamy! And that mullet! Oh, excuse me while I swoon. *fans self*

Seriously, though, pancreatic cancer is a terrible diagnosis. You only have a 5% chance of living for 5 years after diagnosis. That awesome computer professor from Carnegie Mellon, Randy Pausch, is dying from it. I have only the best wishes for Patrick Swayze, but I don’t see this turning out well. The poor guy.

At least I’ll always have “Dirty Dancing”.

(I seriously recommend clicking the “Randy Pausch” link. It takes you to the youtube video of his last lecture, which is now an international phenomenon. You will cry. Bring tissues. I highly recommend it. No, really. Watch it. Why aren’t you watching it? DO WHAT I TELL YOU, MINIONS.)

3. The Mon Wharf is closed.

Oh wait, no, just kidding, that happens every other week here in Pittsburgh. The news just acts like its evidence of the world ending. Sorry, I got confused.

4. Bear is in the air today. He is probably on a plane now. He is supposed to land around 3 this afternoon. So of course, I opened, and what do I see? This. This is what I see. Hey, Universe? When my dear darling boy is in a plane, there should not be near-collisions near Pittsburgh. I don’t care that it wasn’t his plane, and nothing actually happened. I had to spend at least 5 minutes deep-breathing before my eyes would un-bug and allow me to blink correctly. I may have to go get a drink. Of something strong. Don’t do that to me!

5. I’m going to the Bahamas. I know! Over a week of no posting! The world IS ending. I leave for The East tomorrow morning, then we go to New York City on Saturday morning to get on the boat. A week at sea, and then I’ll be back in Pittsburgh next Sunday. If you want to stalk me, here is the itinerary. You can be jealous. Hell, even I’m jealous of myself.

Parenting For Dummies
February 15, 2008, 1:27 pm
Filed under: daily | Tags: , , ,

My grandfather’s family owned a successful candy business in my hometown through most of the 20th century. He was expected to take it over eventually. He was not allowed to go to college or become a pilot, his dream.  He was expected to live out of his daddy’s pocket for the rest of his life. This mostly served him well. He had a steady job, where he was given a lot of money. They built him a very large house out in the country. He had 4 children and a beautiful wife. He also had no freedom or respect from his own father: he was ordered around, forced to do his father’s bidding. He had the head for business, but then constantly butt heads with his father and brother who didn’t. When my mom was 16, he walked away from the business, and was disowned. The bottom dropped out. It was rough for them. My mom paid her way through college, even though her grandfather paid for her older brother to go to college, because girls weren’t supposed to go to college. They fought tooth and nail to keep that big house until I was about 11 when the upkeep became too much. Nobody talks about it, but everybody knows my grandfather regrets not being able to stand up for himself and become a pilot like he wanted. He was too worried about having the approval of his father, and it has dictated the course of his life even now, at 83, some 30 years after his father died. It genuinely makes me sad to think about that.

Because of this, my parents have been absolutely vigilant about giving me space to become the person that I want to be. Going to college was never doubted: I had the talent for it, and their only expectation was that I do my best in everything, especially school. However, what I wanted to do at college was up to me. My mom told me when I was a senior in high school, “Whatever you do, I want you to have the ability to support yourself and your family, no matter what happens.By that she meant that I need to acquire the education and skills to be able to have a decent job and earn the money to support my family if something should happen to my husband/marriage and I am the only breadwinner. I think it is the most important advice anyone can give a young person, particularly young women. You don’t have to “be” anything per se. The greatest prize of the feminist revolution isn’t women being high powered businesswomen; the greatest prize is that women have the choice to do what they want, no matter what that is. They have the power to support themselves and their families if they want to, or if they have to. At no point in this day and age should a woman EVER wake up and find herself divorced/widowed/caring for an incapacitated husband and think, “How will I take care of my children? How will I pay the bills? I can’t get anything but a minimum wage job!” If a woman wants to be a stay-at-home mom, she has every right to be. However, if the bottom drops out, she needs to be able to deal with that.

That requirement that my parents gave me leaves me with a lot of room. I have their support, no matter what I do. Once I graduate, and I am off the family dole, my mom will be done making decisions about what I can and can not do. That is why I can live with my boyfriend out of wedlock: she might not be happy about it, but from now on, those are my decisions and she won’t try to interfere. I am grateful to her for this amount of trust and support. I believe that this is why we have such a good relationship. She does not control me. When I lived at home, I was a minor and I had to abide by her rules. When I went to college, and she was paying the rent and food, she was unwilling to pay for me to live in sin. Once I’m paying for things, what I say goes, and she respects that. I respected her rules, and she respects my right to make my own now. She saw what happened to her father when he lived under the thumb of his father, who wouldn’t allow him to do what he wanted. She saw what happened when her father waited till he was in his 40’s to walk away, and the financial fallout that resulted in such a long wait. She’s not willing to stunt my life or my development in order to fit me in a box she picked out, nor is she willing to lose a relationship with me by fighting over it.

Because of that, it makes me see red when I see ROOMMATE! dealing with his father trying to force his hand in making life decisions. It infuriates me that he worries every time he checks his email or his voicemail, for fear of what cruel and vitriolic words he will have to swallow from his own father. I am SO mad that my roommate has a father who does not respect him as a person or an adult, who is trying to bribe him with money to stay attached to his strings, and then calling him an idiot for not taking “free money.” Money isn’t free when it takes away your personal freedom. Money isn’t free when it comes with strings, nay ropes and chains to tie him down to a life HE DOES NOT WANT. Money isn’t free when the cost is his self-respect.

That is why I am so proud of him that he choosing to walk away now, at 21 almost 22, forcing his father to respect him and his choices. I am so proud that we signed the lease that his father called idiotic. I am so proud that he is making this decision, even though it might be one of the hardest paths to walk. The only harder path is sacrificing himself to his father.  I am so very proud. It will all turn out for the best, that I can guarantee.

Temper Tantrums?
February 2, 2008, 9:45 am
Filed under: Current Events | Tags: ,

FULL DISCLOSURE: I do not have children. Therefore, I don’t actually know what I’m talking about.

I was watching “The View” yesterday morning (sick pleasure. Yes I am embarrassed about it. BUT THEY’RE SO NUTTY I CAN’T HELP IT) and they were discussing corporal punishment in relationship to temper tantrums. Of course, they all say that even thinking about touching your child with anything but a soothing embrace will cause him to IMMEDIATELY DETERIORATE AS A HUMAN AND BECOME THE NEXT UNIBOMBER BECAUSE  YOU DIDN’T LOVE THEM ENOUGH.

However, they also agreed that one can never give into a temper tantrum because that teaches them one very loud lesson that they will never forget: temper tantrums = Mommy gives me what I want. This, I think everybody can agree, is a TERRIBLE road to go down. That’s a great way to produce the next unibomber.

So then, what do you do? They never came to a conclusion except don’t give in. This was an interesting addition to a conversastion ROOMMATE! and I had the night before, specifically about the use of water in our childhoods. (Water boarding? Ha! Ha!)

1. Roommate! was a breath-holder. As in, he would hold his breath until his parents gave him what he wanted. Of course, if he held it long enough, he would have probably passed out and start breathing again. Your lower brain does not allow you to kill your self by purposefully not breathing, it doesn’t work. However, what parent wants to risk having the child whose brain stem is on vacation, and then allow them to die because they held their breath over a piece of candy, all because the brain stem didn’t kick in? Not roommate’s parents. One day, they discovered ice cold water. When splashed in a breath-holder’s face, it shocks him so much that he starts breathing again. The threat that the child has is then lost, and you didn’t have to give in to him. They got so good at it that all they had to do was turn on the faucet and he’d start breathing.

He’s never tried this method of getting what he wants with me. This is good, because I am a believer in corporal punishment regarding wayward roommates. TAKE NOTE, ROOMMATE, THE NEXT TIME YOU LEAVE THE HEAT ON WHEN YOU GO OUT.

2. My brother chose to throw his first and last temper tantrum right after my father poured himself a nice glass of ice water on a very hot day. Papa! is generally a good “on his feet” thinker, and poured said glass of water on Brother. He immediately stopped the tantrum, picked himself up off the floor, and never threw a temper tantrum again.

No corporal punishment, per se, but a fairly good way to get the kid’s attention. That’s all you really need to.

I never threw temper tantrums. This is because I’m perfect.

No, actually, it’s because I was afraid of Mama!. She’s 6 feet tall. Wouldn’t YOU be afraid of her as a small child? That’s what I thought.

A few more anecdotes regarding children’s behavior:

3. My cousin’s children have opposite hair. The older one has very fine straight hair, and the younger has hair that does not experience the effects of gravity. It grows at a right angle to her head, in very tight unmanageable curls. Of course, it is this impressive growth of protein that causes people to say “oh my, what CURLY hair you have!” This actually means “Oh my GAWD, LOOK AT THAT HAIR! HOW DOES IT DO THAT?” Since children are children, the older one is filthy jealous of this. One day, she will grow up and realize that her hair is manageable and well-behaved, while her sister’s is attempting to mutiny from the rest of her body. However, at 5, all she sees is the attention that her little sister gets.  What does this mean? When left alone with little sister and a pair of scissors, chop chop chop go the wayward curls.

When my grandmother heard this, she whistled and said “Oooooooh, I would have spanked that child! Just one smack on the bottom, just to get  her attention!” Too late, though. Anything after that exact instant would have been completely lost on her: children are like dogs. They only get confused when they are punished after the fact.

4. Papa! once set the kitchen on fire when he was a small child. He was trying to open a can of varnish, and not realizing that varnish is highly flammable, he did this on the stove. All at once, the can opened, spilled, and he knocked the knob to turn on the flame. I think we all know what happened next.

Luckily, it was a small fire that my grandma (the 93 year old one, but she was much younger when this happened) was able to extinguish right away. However, one has to be impressed that his parents allowed him to survive to adulthood, right?

Note: I am not a proponent of actually hurting a child. There’s a whole separate name for that: it’s called child abuse, and that is already illegal, actually. Child abuse is abominable. Swatting a child’s behind so they pay attention when you say “Don’t EVER do that AGAIN” is one thing; hitting them hard, using other objects, leaving marks, damage, etc. is a different animal altogether. No lesson needs to be learned that way, under any situation. However, explaining to a jealous 5 year old why cutting off her sister’s hair was bad is a waste of breath. She’s not going to pay attention, because she’s a 5 year old, not a 30 year old. She won’t have learned anything from the encounter. She needs a direct consequence in order to grasp a concept. I know that’s not politically correct. Forgive me, but I find it hard to get my feathers ruffled over that.