Rites of Passage: The 2010 Lists are Out

This morning after a much needed, but not brilliant run, (my first in, what, two weeks? so please, give me a break) I lingered over breakfast while browsing through the New York Times. After glancing over the headlines of a slow news day, e.g. Mayor Bloomberg and company getting grief for slow response to winter storm, to which I can only say, Ha!, I went straight to the Thursday Styles Section.

The top story in Styles was 110 Things New Yorkers Talked About in 2010. An amusing read and got me thinking about all the other 2010 lists that come out this time of year. Here is a sampling for your New Year's Eve Eve enjoyment!

The Best & Worst Movies of 2010   Black Swan is on everyone's best list so I guess I will go see it this weekend. On the other hand, I don't need a list to tell me to stay away from Little Fockers.

Best Blogs of 2010 Some of my favorites, plus some new ones to be discovered, like Robert Ebert's blog!

Ten Best Foreign Films of 2010 Notice how foreign cinema, as in 'not North American', is referred to as 'film' rather than 'movies'. Hm.

100 Best Companies to Work For in 2010 Yes, Wegmans is on the list: #3 this year. If I ever quit my psychology gig I will come back as a baker at Wegmans.

Top Baby Names for 2010 Elvira will never make this list.

Best Books of 2010 Who knew Patti Smith would become an award winning author?

Best & Worst Products of 2010 The iPad is Number One. Someday I will tell you how we got one for free!

Best & Worst of a Lot of Stuff in 2010 This guy, Ken Levine, is funny. He writes:

"WORST MOVIE I WILL NEVER SEE – LITTLE FOCKERS. I’d rather cut off my own arm."

A Preemie Story

My daughter weighed 1lb 13oz (822 grams) when she was born.

This week we celebrated her 16th birthday. For my daughter it is a significant milestone. She can now get a learner’s permit to drive!

For her parents it means that and so much more. She doesn’t have any memory of what it was like sixteen years ago, at the Women & Children’s Hospital maternity ward, her father and I grasping hands as the doctor told us I would be prepped for surgery immediately. I was barely five months pregnant.

My medical team had done everything for two weeks to get the baby prepared for the open air world outside the womb. I had been on bed rest the whole time, not even allowed to take a shower. My unborn distressed baby and I were monitored, poked, turned and injected twenty-four hours a day. We could only hope that it all made a difference.

I was prepped, given an epidural and wheeled into the operating room for what was basically a routine cesarean section. With the screen up at my waist, blocking the view of my doctor opening me up to take my daughter out, I depended on my husband to tell me what was going on. Then I heard a sound like the mewing of a kitten. “It’s a girl!” the nurse said. And best of all, she was breathing on her own.

Still inert on the gurney, I waited for the nurse to clean my new born daughter, then hold her up, level to my face so that I could see her. My baby fit in the nurse’s palm, her tiny face not bigger than a small potato. And she was crying.

The sound of her crying, the little kitten mew, was like a direct message from God. She was going to be OK. Our doctors had assured us, but now we believed. She was going to be OK.

Sixteen years later, she’s more than OK. My daughter is fantastic! She is five feet, two inches of awesomeness. Tough, sweet, smart, confident, more than I could ever hope for.

Much of this story I shared in an article I wrote a few years ago, Three Tips if You are Pregnant & Have Chronic Illness.  Right now all I want to say is, dreams do come true.

Happy Birthday, Baby! I love you!

The Devil has White Hair & Wears a Christmas Sweater

5 Ways to Put the All-You-Can-Eat Genie Back in the Bottle: Part 2

The party actually went pretty well. I actually managed to follow all five of my party survival tips. Wearing my Banana Republic skinny jeans (1), I arrived with a tummy filled with carrots (2). I had a small glass of white wine and after I drank that, switched to Coke Zero (3). There was pizza of all kinds. I had one good sized slice of the vegie and made it last by eating it with a knife and fork. There was a fruit salad which I was grateful for; I had two servings of that.

It was a nice party, a mix of old friends and interesting new ones. After dinner the cookies and candy wear brought out. Thankfully they were placed on the kitchen table, out of sight and mind while I hung out in the living room.

Then the devil, in the form of the spunkiest white-haired woman you can imagine, decked out in a bright Christmas sweater, decided the cookies were not getting proper attention in the kitchen. So she brought three (count them!) THREE trays packed with all varieties of cookies and chocolates and put them down right in front of me!

I grabbed her arm, "You are the devil!" I gasped. She laughed an innocent angelic laugh, and sat down beside me. Taking advantage of the diversion, I introduced myself. Thank God she had a great sense of humor. As we chatted (4), the cookies shrunk away, no longer a threat to my peace of mind.

My family was among the first to leave (5) and as we drove home in the cold, dark night I felt pretty damn good that, for this day at least, the Genie was back in the bottle.

5 Ways to Put the All-You-Can-Eat Genie Back in the Bottle

The day after Christmas and all through the house are sweet, rich treats begging for attention! What is a person to do? I gave myself a holiday from counting calories these past two days. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day I ate cookies and home-made chocolate whenever I wished. Our meals were to die for, with creamy, complex sauces and cheesy (in a good way) appetizers. Food is part of the celebration and there was no guilt involved. Even Michael Pollan, author of Food Rules, says that a person should allow themselves exceptions from the Rules (Food Rule #64: Break the Rules Once in a While).

Now that Christmas is over, my deep fear is that once I’ve broken my own rule of counting my calories daily, I will never be able to return!  I will continue to eat and eat and eat like an out of control Pac Man. This fear is egged on by a nasty voice in my head that says, “Go ahead, eat that cookie, eat five!!! You already broke your own rules for Christmas. What’s another day?”

 Can you hear that evil laugh?

One thing I know for sure: Elastic waists are very forgiving. Too forgiving. Deceptively, the-devil-invented-elastic-waists, forgiving.

Another thing I know: If I don’t want to be another statistic and gain even one pound over the holidays, I had better stop eating all the cookies. I needed to get back to counting calories. And if I was to get back to limiting my calorie intake, I needed an icy cold slushy-in-the-face reality check.

My healthy mind, the part of me that understands that treats aren’t treats anymore if we eat them every day, the part of me that wants to say no to the cookies and YES! to new found energy and a size six, that part of me wanted the discipline back. This morning I woke up knowing that today I would be counting my calories again. It was a promise I made to myself and I needed to honor that promise.

And what was the first thing that happened? My husband offered to make me breakfast! An omlette with a side of crispy, smoky bacon! I gripped the edge of the kitchen counter and squeaked out a “No, thank you.” While I made my own breakfast of grapefruit and a slice of chewy whole wheat toast with strawberry preserves, I breathed in the aroma of bacon and fantasized about eating it, a method that apparently has some scientific basis these days.

After the agony of saying no to the bacon, I had to admit I felt pretty good. Next was lunch. I ate all the vegetables I wanted to, mostly left-over from Christmas dinner, and instead of a bunch of chocolate chip cookies, I ate a bunch of raisins. That went well too.

My next challenge is the Boxing Day party we’re going to tonight. I already have a plan to deal with that:

1)    Wear my unforgiving skinny jeans to remind me why I am saying NO! to the pizza. No elastic!

2)    Do not go to the party too hungry. Eat a filling salad and baby carrots before leaving the house.

3)    Drink a lot of water or zero calorie beverage. Usually a host has some non-alcoholic options. Alcohol will weaken the already weak resolve I have; I know this from experience. Besides, holding a glass is a good excuse not to be holding a plate full of munchies.

4)    Spend the time at the party getting to know the other guests instead of hanging around the buffet. Usually the excitement of listening and talking to new people and old friends is a good distraction from the edible goodies.

5)    Leave the party early and get to bed at a reasonable hour. Sleeping well reduces stress which helps the body keep extra weight off

I'll let you know how it goes!

A Merry Christmas Wish, the Gift of Laugher

What I think we can always use in this life, whether things are going as we like and we are reasonably happy, or we are stressed to the max and feel we can't possibly take it anymore, is a good laugh. The importance of exercising and maintaining our sense of humor is second only to knowing how to breathe.

For Christmas my teenage son gave me the gift of laughter. He had no idea it would become one of the best presents I received this year. Off-hand, as we ate our pancakes and bacon breakfast, he told us about this website, whenparentstext.com, that a friend turned him on to.

Kids send in their parents efforts at texting, often with hilarious results. As a parent it is part embarrassing because I know I've sent my kids some awful texts that could easily be submitted for all the world to see.

But it is also part unifying in that we are all in this weird, wonderful world together, make the same mistakes and can laugh at ourselves, together. Take a look and see what I mean. It helps to look at it with a teenager who can translate as needed.

What makes you lol? Please share your favorite laugh inducing activity, website or joke (keep it G rated, please) and have a very Merry Christmas.


T’was the Night Before Christmas…

My husband and I created our own tradition of reading this poem to our kids on Christmas Eve night before tucking them into bed, after putting out cookies and milk for Santa. Here it is for your enjoyment.

An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas

by either Major Henry Livingston Jr. or Clement Clarke Moore

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.


Are Your Parents Toxic? A Guide Finding Out

You are an adult, or at least the law says you are, so why are your parents still treating you like a kid?

Growing up was never easy but these days the challenges of becoming economically independent may be confused with the need to be emotionally recognized as an adult. Let’s say you’re visiting your parent’s home for the holidays. Or maybe you are living with them while you look for a job. Your parents impose a curfew on you. Are you kidding me, you ask? You want me home by midnight? What?

And that’s just relatively normal stuff because some perfectly nice parents have a hard time recognizing their job as a parent is pretty much done. Usually they grow out of it as you grow older as long as you don’t panic and argue with them over every little thing. Choose your battles, speak calmly and reasonably (like an adult) and they will eventually come around to seeing you as a peer instead of a kid.

But, what if your parents use a cunning kind of psychological warfare to keep you off balance so that you never trust your decisions? What if they use every opportunity to make you feel stupid or a failure? What if they are experts at using emotional blackmail to make you feel you need to do what they tell you to do instead of what you want?

Then your parents may be truly toxic. When you have truly toxic parents it is best to recognize the fact that you may not have the nice parents you always thought you did and start dealing with having the parents you really do have. Because they don’t hurt you physically does not mean they are not abusive.

Ask yourself these nine questions:

1. Do your parents still treat you as if you were a child?

2. Are many of your major life decisions based on whether your parents would approve?

3. Do you have intense physical and emotional reactions after you spend or anticipate spending time with your parents?

4. Are you afraid to disagree with your parents?

5. Do your parents manipulate you with threats or guilt?

6. Do your parents manipulate you with money?

7. Do you feel responsible for how your parents feel? If they are unhappy do you feel it is your fault? Is it your job to make it better for them?

8. Do you believe no matter what you do, it is never good enough for your parents?

9. Do you believe that someday, somehow your parents are going to change for the better?

If you answered “Yes” to even three of these questions, chances are your parents (or any other close parental figure) are toxic to you. Dr. Susan Forward, author of Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life, writes:

“…all toxic parents regardless of the nature of their abuse, basically leave the same scars. For example, your parents may not have been alcoholic, but the chaos, instability and loss of childhood that typify alcoholic homes are just as real for children of other types of toxic parents.”

To begin recovery from having toxic parents Dr. Forward and I agree that:

1. You are not responsible for what was done to you when you were a defenseless child. It is hard to let go of the child’s perspective of responsibilty even as adults. We still think: “I should have been able to keep my Mom from being depressed.” “I just wasn’t a good enough kid.” “If I was better my dad wouldn’t have left.” “I let her down.” Whatever the hurt is that happened long ago it was not your fault. It was the responsibility of the adults charged with caring, protecting and nurturing you.

2. Starting today, as an adult, you are responsible for taking the positive steps needed to liberate yourself from your parent’s toxic legacy. The past is not your destiny. You are an adult and you can learn to be an even better parent to yourself than your toxic parents ever could be. When you hear their abusive, putting down voice in your head, talk back! You are not a failure! You are not stupid! Remember your strengths. Tell yourself you are good, kind and brave.

3. A good therapist can help guide you. Sometimes figuring out if your parents were/are toxic and how to recover from their poisonous influence is too complicated to do on your own. That is not a failure! It takes courage to recognize that it may be time to call in the cavalry.

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