LJI 12: The Sincerest Form of Flattery
writing
dawnstar4idol
The most sincere compliments are often the hardest to give, and almost always the hardest to receive. As a culture, we're conditioned to be modest to a fault, to believe that the bad things that happen are our own fault and the good things are luck.

We're a negative culture, by nature. We set unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others. We expect perfection, and are somehow surprised when it can't be achieved.

So when does "good" become Good Enough? Why do we hear, "You look great today," and run down a mental list of our own perceived flaws? Why is, "I'm so lucky to have you in my life," immediately turned back on the other person with a , "Thanks, you too," instead of just accepted?

We need more love in the world. More sincerity, more honesty, and more positivity. We need to learn to respect and accept ourselves, and to respect and accept other people. We're always trying to change something about ourselves or about someone else.

Loving yourself is not conceit; it is healthy.


Take a moment, right now, and give yourself an honest, sincere compliment. Write it down. And come back to it the next time you're feeling low. It would be a wonderful present to your future self.

LJI 10: Icarus
writing
dawnstar4idol
Unanswered questions are the sun to my personal Icarus. "Did you sleep with her?" "Are you pregnant?" "Did I do something wrong?" There are questions to which I really don't want the answer... but for me, the knowledge is irresistible.

I don't know where this curiosity comes from. I can't remember ever *not* feeling it. I can't remember a time when I was OK with knowing that there was something out there that no one was telling me. It may not actually kill me - I'm not actually a cat, after all. But it has ended friendships and caused more than its share of heartache.


The flip-side, though, is that I have an immense hunger for learning. If I could be a life-long student, I absolutely would. Unfortunately, the government won't pay for indefinite schooling, and I certainly can't afford to pay for it myself.


Conversely, though... I'm no good at teaching. I don't have the patience for it, and I get frustrated when my explanations don't make their mark. That may be why (or maybe it's the cause?) I also tend not to learn as well by instruction as I do by hands-on experience.


I love watching my son learn. It's been the most fascinating part of the past three years. I loved watching him go from a helpless newborn to a playful baby, to speak his first word (at only 5 months!) and to walk. And now I see him asserting his independence - telling us we can't help him in the bathroom, putting on his own shoes and doing up his own coat, and learning to use the computer all by himself.


His thirst for knowledge is insatiable too, be that because he's still so young and has so much to learn... or because he's the product of two lifelong learners.

I can only hope that he can more readily find the balance between Want to Know and Just Can't Deal With Not Knowing. That sun, my son, will burn you.

LJI 9: Marching Orders
writing
dawnstar4idol
The phone rings at 8:47 a.m. I miss the call, but see that it was my husband (who has been unresponsive via IM), so I call back right away. I figure he's calling to tell me his VPN went down and he can't get online.

"Hi," he says in a voice that already spells trouble, "So... for the third time, I'm coming home with a box."

Shit. Deja vu.

It was a year and a half ago, almost to the day, the last time I got a similar phone call from him. It feels like a lifetime ago because so much has changed, and yet... Here we are again - back to collecting unemployment, back to a state of limbo. Except this time we're 1300 miles away from our loved ones, we're living in an apartment which costs $300 more per month than our half-house in NY did, and we have substantially less money in savings.

I know we're going to be OK. We have a lot of people looking out for us, and this is as much an opportunity for growth and change as it is a devastation. It's just a matter of wait-and-see, to determine where the Universe will send us next.

LJI 8: First-World Problem
writing
dawnstar4idol
When I read this topic, I really wanted to make fun of myself. I wanted to snark all over the various whinings and complaints I've made over the past year: "Wahhh, we're living on Unemployment!" "Wahhh, we have to live in my in-laws' condo in Florida when all my friends & family are in NY!" "Wahhh, I just had to spend a huge chunk of my savings to move my belongings from one state to another!" All of these were legitimate causes for complaint, but most definitely lend themselves to reminders of how much better we still had it than so many other people - even other first-worlders.

However, as I think about it, only one thing keeps coming to mind - the thing I've been focused on for most of my waking hours (and several of the sleeping ones) since the decision was made: the situation of my son's education. My last Idol entry was about making the decision to remove my son from his previous preschool.

Solving this dilemma has only opened the door to several other, related-but-different dilemmas:

1. Telling him about our decision. So far, we haven't. Today would've been his first day back, and he didn't ask any questions at all about why he was staying home with Mommy instead of going back to school. (This is probably an advantage of taking him out right after vacation - it just meant his routine wasn't going back to what it was, instead of a brand-new disruption.) Until he asks, or we have a solution (whichever comes first), our decision is to hold off on any explanation. I'm not entirely comfortable with the lies of omission, but it seems the best way to keep his world as "normal" as possible.

2. Finding a new preschool. He's only 3 and not fully potty-trained yet. Both of these limit our options, and make things more expensive than if he were older. There *is* another Montessori we're interested in, but it's a lot more expensive than the old school was. However, they do offer financial assistance, *and* they're looking for an office assistant... so I'm hopeful something can be worked out. If not, I'm sure there's another good option out there somewhere, but it's going to be difficult (but not impossible) to find everything we're looking for, at a price we can afford.

3. Being a solo-SAHP again for the first time since summer '09. This makes me nervous, I admit. However, today was our first day, and it wasn't a disaster - even though I'm underslept and hormonal. We'll just take it one day at a time, until the solution arises.


All-in-all, there are a lot of worse problems we could have. There are a lot of worse problems we *have* had over the past year-and-change. But even those problems were certainly "first world problems," and by definition not as bad as some folks have it. Still, we play the hand we're dealt. Right?

LJI 7: Brouhaha
writing
dawnstar4idol
As a chronic worrier, I often have to ask myself, "What's all the brouhaha?  Is this *really* as a big of a deal as you're making it out to be?"  Yet, when it comes to my son's education - and especially his safety - the answer is usually yes.  We've struggled a few times with his school.  This is the second institution he's attended; the first was merely a daycare, and we felt he was best suited in an early preschool program, such as a Montessori school.  Of course, those are usually very expensive, so we were lucky to find one that was within our budgetary restrictions.

Sometimes, though, I wonder if we're getting lesser quality in exchange for the lower tuition prices.  His school has been cited a few times for failure to comply with student:teacher ratio, and we're starting to see the impact of that, ourselves.  On more than one occasion, L has come home in the same diaper he left in, and it was HEAVY with pee.  This is less a problem these days, as he's using the potty more and more, but it should never have been a problem in the first place.

However, the more serious issue is with his food allergies.  His school has a sign on the refrigerator with every child's dietary restrictions, but ... I don't feel like they enforce this as well as they could.  For example, my son is allergic to nuts, soy, and sesame.  I don't know how many of you have ever checked, but soy is in *everything.*  He can't have most commercial baked goods or breads, crackers, salad dressings, etc.  To date, we have had at least three known incidents where L got into things he shouldn't have eaten.  Now ... he's 3.  He gets into things.  Kids do that.  However, there are ways to avoid this, or at least minimize it.  We've suggested numerous ways over the time he's been there, and some have even been implemented.

Eventually, though, a line has to be drawn.  My son's safety has to be the top concern.  Fortunately his allergies haven't yet proven to be severe; he gets rashes and gastrointestinal effects, but nothing life-threatening.  Still, I think it is common sense to keep children with food allergies from sitting next to children eating foods to which they are allergic.  My son was seated next to (and tried to trade sandwiches with) a classmate who was eating peanut butter the other day, despite our suggestion (and the teacher's agreement) to separate them based on meal rather than age.  This suggestion had been complied with for several weeks, so I was surprised when this happened again.  It also seems common sense to not put out a snack (veggies with salad dressing) for communal consumption, if any of the children can't have it.  This happened yesterday, and his teacher informed me that he'd probably gotten into the dressing, given that he was a little bit pink-faced.  Again, thank God soy allergies tend to be very mild!

Now, as we're also gearing up for an out-of-state vacation, my husband and I are additionally now sorting out what to do about L's schooling.  I don't want to keep him home full-time again, as he benefits so much from the social interaction with other children.  We can't afford the other Montessori schools in the area.  The other classroom at his school requires the children to be potty-trained, and he's not quite there yet.  (This was our ideal solution, and it may be possible soon, but not quite yet.)  We won't be making any changes until the new year, but between now and then we have packing and shopping, a 20-hour drive, and a week in New York. 

Yes, this one definitely is as big of a brouhaha in reality as it is in my head.

LJI 6: Not of Your World
writing
dawnstar4idol
You see me walking through your neighborhood; I see you giving me the once-over from your Lexus.  You think I don't belong here, with my last-season's (or maybe even older!  *gasp*) clothes and my scuffed up shoes.  You own your unit; my family rents ours. 

You're right, maybe I don't "fit in."  I don't sit by the pool for hours on end, gossiping about our fellow neighbors.  I live in one home, all year round; I'm not a snowbird.  I drive a used station wagon instead of a flashy new convertible.  And besides, I'm only 35 - retirement is a long way off for me.

Still, does that mean you can't greet me with a friendly, neighborly smile and wave?  Does it give you the right to judge me?  Or to dress me down for allowing my son to use his sidewalk chalk on the community walkway?  Does any of this make you better than me? 

We're different; we come from different worlds.  And yes, it's true that I am the one who wandered into yours.  Please excuse me as I wander my way right back out again.

LJI 5: Afterthought
writing
dawnstar4idol
Sometimes I treat myself like an afterthought.
It started when I became "Mommy."
Leaving the house, with no hat or gloves,
 too distracted by bundling baby.

Sometimes I think of myself as an afterthought,
 included out of some obligation.
I never quite know where I stand with some people,
 so I sometimes expect they won't like me.

Sometimes my marriage becomes an afterthought.
Life becomes busy or stressful.
We get caught in the mundane,
 and intimacy falls to the background.

Sometimes, my sanity is an afterthought,
 letting everything else take priority.
My family, running errands, or tackling housework,
 and I forget to make time for myself.

But sometimes, fear is an afterthought instead.
I hit stressors head-on, like the Brave Little Toaster,
 just getting through each moment.
Later, when it's safe, I can afford to fall apart.

And sometimes strength is an afterthought, too.
It's rather easily forgotten.
A problem arises, panic alongside it.
Until I remember, I'm strong.

LJI 4: The Elephant in the Room
writing
dawnstar4idol
Whatever you do, DON'T think of an elephant.  I mean it.  Stop right now!

You can't?  Oh.  Yeah, I guess that makes sense.  Sorry about that.


We all have images that come unbidden into our minds, certain associations that we can't seem to escape.  If I say to you, "Red balloon," you may picture a shiny red ball of latex floating up into the sky.  Or you might think of that song by Nena (aka 99 Luftballons, which Wikipedia tells me does *not* actually translate to anything regarding the color red).  Still, something will doubtlessly pop into your head by the power of suggestion.

I find this a fascinating part of psychology; actually, I find most psychology fascinating.  I almost studied it in college, but determined that it wasn't what I wanted to do for a living and studying it just for fun didn't make much sense.  (Not that what I studied is in any way contributing to my livelihood, but that's besides the point.) 

Sometimes the "Elephant in the Room" is an earworm.  Right now, mine is "Don't Cut Me Down" by Olivia Newton-John, which makes me think of my long-time friend who introduced me to her music some 16 or 17 years ago now. 

I kind of love that this entry has gone all stream-of-consciousness.  It wasn't what I expected to have happen when I sat down to write, but this is apparently what the Muse had in store for me.  The only problem is that streams of consciousness don't really have a graceful ending.  Or really any ending, unless of course one lapses into a coma in the middle of writing, which I kind of hope not to have happen to me.

I feel like I'm kind of baring more of my soul than usual, while simultaneously not saying anything at all.  You're all seeing the way my brain works - or at least, the way it is working right at this moment - and yet I'm sharing not a single detail about my present-day existence.

It's fascinating.  Kind of like psychology.  And elephants.

LJI 3: It's A Trap
writing
dawnstar4idol
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Our rental agent said this a couple of months ago, with regard to a scam-ad we'd found on Craigslist.  Where was she a few months before that, though, when we were searching for a way to move our stuff to Florida in the first place?  My husband found this *amazing* deal online, wherein the movers would pack the contents of our storage unit into their truck, store it for a month for free, deliver it to us, and unload it into our new place, all for (supposedly) a fraction of what other companies were charging.  With the help of their customer service agent, we estimated the square-footage of our belongings and she calculated the (incredibly low) estimate for us.  We scheduled it, and made our arrangements to fly back to NY for a visit and to meet the movers at our storage facility.

The day of our appointment, almost everything that could have gone wrong, did.  We were supposed to meet up with friends at the zoo; that didn't happen.  The movers wanted to deliver at a different time than scheduled, then took probably two to three times longer loading up than we'd figured on.  Eventually, though, our stuff was all loaded into their truck, ready to go to a different storage facility in NJ (our stuff is very well-traveled, now!).  And then we got the invoice.  It was more than 3 times what the telephone agent had estimated for us.  We had a lot more stuff than anticipated, and it was going to cost accordingly.

Please note: the movers had full view of our entire unit before loading the truck.  They do this for a living; they know how to reasonably estimate square footage, and *certainly* had noticed that we had considerably more stuff than the estimate had covered. Yet, they deliberately chose not to tell us this until after the truck was loaded, and they refused to unload it, as per the contract we had signed.  We were stuck.  Trapped.  And suddenly a heck of a lot lighter in the bank account.

Come to find out, this is a very common tactic among moving companies, and the law protects them.  What the small company in New Jersey did was not illegal, just unethical.  This is not to say we didn't have any blame, ourselves.  We should have questioned the estimate from the get-go, should have known our square-footage was much higher than the agent estimated for us.  We walked into their trap, and remained stuck there, held in the grips of new debts, for months.

LJI 2, Deconstruction
writing
dawnstar4idol
As building a house requires more than a single brick, pulling it apart does also.  Though it's easy to place blame on a single event, things are rarely that simple.  My first marriage did not end because we both cheated (in different ways) during the weekend we spent apart to sort things out, nor because of the fight we had on my birthday, a couple of weeks before then.  It fell apart because it was never built upon a solid foundation in the first place, and therefore each additional chink we put in the walls brought it closer to tumbling down around us. 

It was the classic story of a fairy-tale romance, wherein we expected our problems to magically disappear and for love to conquer all.  Fact: love does not conquer anything, and no problem is surmountable without each party being will to work towards a common goal.  We lived together for two years, our relationship defined almost entirely by sex and huge, explosive fights.  Somehow I believed (and maybe he did, too) that marriage would act as a bandage.  Unsurprisingly, it did not. 

There was a lot of loss that year.  Together, we lost a baby and our marriage - neither given much chance to exist before dying.  We both cut ties to members of our individual families, and we certainly each lost friends.  For a while, I was fairly certain I'd lost my mind.  It would be easy to list the whole relationship under "things I regret," but I don't. 

Though my first marriage and the divorce which followed are at this point mostly "invisible" pieces of my past, that time period has helped to define who I am today.  Typically when people say that something "builds character," it may as well be a euphemism for "sucks," and this was no exception. I certainly can't claim it was a *fun* time in my life.  But nor can I claim there was no positive after-effect.  Because of my divorce, I learned independence and how to live on my own.  I learned to pay my own bills, to (eventually) hold down a steady job, and to not have to ask my mother, grandmother, or random friends for money.  More importantly, I learned valuable lessons about trust and insecurity, about partnership, and about realistic expectations in relationships.

For weeks preceding my separation, I had recurring nightmares and insomnia.  I had delusions and fears about the coming apocalypse, which I only later discovered were simply manifestations of the fear that *my* world was ending.  It was, and it did.  But I did not end with it.  Instead, I grew stronger for what I had learned, and was able to become a wife and mother, a responsible member of society, a Unitarian Universalist and a volunteer at the local church, and a person who is constantly learning to respect herself and those around her.

Only out of deconstruction can reconstruction begin.

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