Thursday, November 20, 2008

My name is Vanessa and I'm a Blogaholic

This is how I feel inside

I crossed a line last week. I don't know exactly when I crossed this line, but I recognized the breach when I found myself vocally yelling at the computer screen.  Hotheadedly shouting at an undisclosed and non-living news site which listed its prime top stories side by side as  1. The children in the Congo struggling to survive and 2.  Madonna's ugly divorce proceedings.  I am not going to go into all the problems I have with the media.  It is the same reason that I can seldom stomach watching Oprah Winfrey.   Tuesday's episode about hidden beauty secrets and how to look 10 years younger is a huge slap in the face after Monday's solemn and soul-wrenching hour looking into the lives of child prostitutes.  Yes, I am being embarrassingly negative, pessimistic, and hypocritical.  That is what crossing the line did to me.

There are many areas in which I lack self-discipline, but I have always thought myself immune to the seductions of cyberspace. More than an hour at a time at the computer usually results in a backache, nausea, and a general feeling of out of body yuckiness. When I started this blog almost a year ago, I was a bit skeptical of the longevity of my efforts. I didn't think I could stick it out. I must admit that I quickly found it a satisfying endeavor, felt devoted to it, and found it enjoyable to dedicate a part of my week documenting our recent family adventures.  It was a therapeutic outlet for learning, creativity, and self-expression that is  priceless in my life as a stay at home mother.  I love reading other blogs, feeling connected to friends and family, and glimpsing morsels of their personality that remain elusive in vocalized communication.   

Face book has been a serendipitous adventure similar to finding a twenty dollar bill in the jeans I haven't worn in a year.  I have reconnected and reminisced with friends that I haven't spoken to since my heart-breaking move from New York to Utah 25 years ago.  It is miraculous how you can sum up the past 25 years of your life in a paragraph and then resume the relationship without so much as a hiccup.  It is an amazing testament to the strength and tenacity of friendship.  And then there are those random people from high school that want to be my friend, even though I can't remember them ever saying a word to me in high school. I think that we are just looking for ways to connect to people in some way.....and if the fact that we graduated the same year from the same high school is enough for them  to consider me a friend...maybe this connection is all we need.

 What a miracle the Internet is.  I can find out what is going on in every corner of the world with just the click of the mouse. I can have discussions with people on the Internet about what is happening in the world.  I have a voice. I can answer all of Ansel's strange questions with the help of my great friend GOOGLE.  I took swimming lessons and knitting lessons via you Tube. 
I can go to a remote village in Italy on Google Earth.  It truly is an unfathomable means of global communication.  

 Again,  I am not sure at what moment this occurred, but last week was point where the scales tipped and I realized that my healthy relationship with cyberspace was in danger of becoming pathological. 

Psychologists are debating the possible symptoms of Internet addiction.  It is not officially listed in the DSM IV yet, but it is most likely just a matter of time as more and more lives are being sucked into black hole of cyberspace. 

I have listed some of the symptoms that have been discussed and how they relate to my life recently.

1.  drastic lifestyle changes in order to spend more time on the net
CHECK:More than 4 hours a day is a drastic change in my life

2. general decrease in physical activity
CHECK:I only went to the gym once last week.

3.  a disregard for one's health as a result of Internet activity
CHECK: one jar of nutella and stolen Halloween candy from the kids stashes

4.  Avoiding important life activities in order to spend time on the net
CHECK:  Waiting until after the kids are starving to make dinner.   Ignoring Corey. Pretty much not doing anything else. 

5. sleep deprivation or a change in sleep patterns in order to spend time on the net
CHECK:  I found myself so wrapped up in things, that I would get into bed with my heart pounding.  I did once stay on so late and was so nauseous that I threw up....and then got right back on. 
6. neglecting family and friends
CHECK:  It wasn't so much what I did, but how I felt about them.  I wanted them to leave me alone.  I wanted them to play on their own.  I chose to miss out on them.  I couldn't wait for them to go to bed so that I could get back on the computer.  

8. a craving for more time at the computer

9. neglecting job and personal obligations
CHECK.  I went through the motions, but didn't put any heart into any of it. 

Corey mentioned last week that he thought I was taking life a little too seriously.  I never want to do that.  I don't think you can be much of an instrument in saving any part of the world if you are not savoring any part of it at the same time. When I had a thriving optimistic relationship with the computer, it was a tool for enriching my life and documenting my relishing in this living.  When this tool took the precedence over actually having a life, I knew I needed to take a step back.  I will be more careful in the future.  I promise that my next blog  will be back on the other side of the line.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Foggy Ideas

A fog descended Halloween night and has yet to retreat. It has either been drizzling, raining, and/or clouding the entire 10 days. This is fairly typical for the transitional weather between fall and winter here in Spokane. It has something to do with the topography of the Columbia Basin in eastern Washington.  I really enjoy the first few weeks that the sun begins to take its hiatus (3 minutes lost every day). I can easily rationalize staying home and curling up with a book. I feel a little lazy and I am ok with it. The in-house activities that I have been stowing away for rainy days are fresh and exciting. It is an unexplicably comforting experience when the upper atmosphere descends and nestles itself by our front door....similar to being wrapped in a warm blanket of dry ice.  I love dry ice.  My muddy afternoon strolls though our woods are filled with a surreal romanticism mixed with a touch of terror considering I can't see that far ahead of me and I have heard a few rogue gunshots lately (During the election, I grew fond of the word rogue).    
So what have we been doing with our extra time indoors?

We spent almost an entire day building and flying paper airplanes. Ansel quickly dubbed his favorite, The Ninja, and I found the way that he curls his tongue above his upper lip when he is launching 'The Ninja' to be completely irresistible.

Ansel has stashed his Halloween candy in nooks and crannies throughout the house. He says "I am saving it for winter." Every day he asks me if it is winter yet. I don't think he has partaken of even one piece.

I am hoping that our spacious great room with the huge windows will spare us from the severe cases of claustrophobic stir-craziness that afflict many of us living at 47 degrees N. latitude  during the long winter months. Corey just purchased a snow-blower (our gravel drive-way is a quarter of a mile long...we are justified, right?). I am still hopeful that there will be a few snowy days that we will be completely trapped in our house.

I don't know if there has ever been a "Fantastic" school picture in the history of school pictures. There have been many horrible school photos. I think the results for 2008 are "acceptably cute"

Emmy keeps her candy in this bag by her bed. She eats one piece a day. From Where Where Where did these self-disciplined children come? My Halloween candy was always gone in two days. In all fairness, my father did take half of it due to potential "poison and razor blades."

Due to her incredible amount of focus and ability, Emmy has forced her teacher to design new math tests to personally suit her cerebral needs. While volunteering in the classroom, I have noticed that the teacher has positioned Emmy to be her personal teacher's aid. Emmy says that she doesn't mind this role, but I am not so sure that this is an ideal situation. Any suggestions?

Savanna--5th grade 2008

Vanessa.....5th grade 1982

5th grade doesn't seem that long ago to me and in some ways, I still feel like a 5th grader.  I see a small resemblance between the two of us. Unfortunately, Savanna is lacking the luscious long bangs, the over sized pink sweater with bits of silver flair laced throughout, and best of all, the feather barrette purchased at the local flea market with hard-earned paper route money.

Savanna's class recently traveled back to the year 1621 and demonstrated what Pilgrim life was like living with 6 other people in a 12 foot by 12 foot thatched one-room house and sharing a piece of bread for breakfast. I have a hard time believing that cat's cradle and marbles were enough to keep these people from killing each other.

I mentioned in an earlier post that Savanna recently won the Wilson Elementary t-shirt logo design contest. Here it is. I can't wait to take a family photo in our matching shirts. The shirts may not last forever, but Savanna's beaming face when she told me she had won will hang in my permanent gallery of memories. And a banner with the logo will hang in Wilson's main hall until the end of time.

Food tastes so much better when:

1. It is cold and wet outside
2. I am not the one doing the cooking

We have been having some great meals.  I sing Glory Halleluiah when Corey will cook dinner and I have been singing quite frequently the past few weeks.  It is still in debate as to whether or not I fell in love with him or his salsa.  I haven't tasted a fresher Pad Thai (above) and he recently added this amazing Tomato Basil Soup to his "menu of meals I would consider trading my children for." 

This is the book with which I  have doing the recent curling. It has been a rough relationship. I haven't struggled this much with a book since the 3rd and last time I tried to read Moby Dick. I can't understand why I hate it so much when it has been critically acclaimed and Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment was one of my favorite novels. This book is just too much work. I am hoping that I am just not in the mood for a Russian 19th century novel about a severely dysfunctional family at this particular lazy moment in my life. I am really hoping that I am not just plain too dumb. Last night, I decided to put it on hold for a while and began reading the biography of Gandhi.

Friday, November 7, 2008

One of my Blinding Moments

I was that girl in the class who NEVER raised her hand. I would answer when called upon, but never by my own volition. I was terrified of being wrong, or even worse, being laughed at. If grades were assigned based on voluntary vocal class participation, I would have undoubtedly flunked. Fortunately, I knew how to go with the flow, adopted each of my teacher's individual teaching methods, and kept a low,  unopinionated profile. I was a model student.

But today, I need to raise my hand. I know that we are by no means in short supply of political opinion and don't pretend that I have anything of real value to add to the massive throngs of passionate outbursts. I have tried to adopt a policy of non-offense in my persona. I value humanity and the many solutions to a problem that can be presented by each of our own personal experiences. I have a "Rubik's Cube" theory of the world. We are all part of a whole and each of our movements can affect one another, but we need to have respect for our individual colors while we make these movements. Absolutism is one of my greatest fears and consequently, I tend to remain a bit mushy on almost every issue. I want to keep a flexible stance so as to remain open to different points of view. Usually, I have rationalized this behavior with the excuse that I don't have enough unbiased information to make a completely objective decision. Heated conversations are often interpreted as personal attacks. What I have realized more recently, however, is that it is also very likely that I may not trust my relationships with others to withstand a strong differing opinion. I need to apologize to those people in my life. I am sorry that I allowed my own fears of disapproval or disappointment to inhibit me from fully offering myself. And if our relationship doesn't withstand the whiplash of this offering, I apologize for not putting forth the effort to establish a stronger relationship in the first place.

I don't have enough time to elaborate on my LDS background and I know that my blog doesn't extend far beyond the boundaries of those of similar Mormon faith. I graduated from Seminary, served a mission, got married in the LDS temple, prayed fervently, read my scriptures, and truly desired and still desire to be a good person. I tried to have the childlike faith that entail believing, even if not understanding.

I have known about Polygamy all my life. It was one of those things of the past that I could shrug my shoulders, laugh, and say, "thankfully, I don't have to understand that in this lifetime." I have seen many personal ancestral pedigrees including wife #1, #2, #3. I am a product of polygamy. I can't explain what happened to me the day I read the journal entry of a polygamist woman who wrote of the day her husband took another wife, "Today, all the joy my life has ended." Something in my heart broke and I cried for days thinking about what that woman had to endure. I still cry when thinking of these women. I had a similar experience the day  I read about the man who was found dead on the LDS church doorstep, a self-inflicted bullet wound, and calloused knees from trying to pray his homosexuality away.  It is impossible for me to reconcile God's love with the pain these people were feeling. Is there something we can do to help alleviate this pain? Is there something that I am personally doing to contribute to the pain of another individual? It is far easier to label their pain as a product of their weakness or lack of faith than to take any personal responsibility.

My family is the most important thing in my life. It is my family, not because I had a female mother and a male father, numerous cats, and lots of brothers and sisters. My family is my family because they are people who will accept me for who I am; they are people who will love me on my dark days and on my brighter days. They are my family because I have hope that they know that I drove our family car through a flooded parking lot, are witnesses to some of the really strange things I can do and they still love me. When my sisters married, their husbands didn't become part of my family because they were male--they became family because my sisters chose to love them for who they were, and I choose to love them and accept them.

The real threat to my family is not a redefinition of marriage. It is the possibility that we can be ripped wide open, see each other for who we really are, see the pain and insecurities that we are each facing, and turn away from the not so pretty picture. My greatest wish for my children is not that they will find an opposing-sex spouse and have the white picket fence. My greatest wish is that they will support and hope for other people, whoever they are, the same happiness that they have had as a family.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

I am Charlie Brown and I approve this message

While listening to NPR this week during one of my many vehicular missions to and from school/dentist/piano lessons/play dates, I was momentarily shocked out of media political and economical exhaustion when I heard a two minute light-hearted vignette about the psychology of Halloween costumes. In view of all the unconscionable immaturity displayed by both political parties, Halloween is actually more likely the least scary and more intelligent thing going on this month.
The basic gist of the story was that experts have suggested that your choice of Halloween costume is a reflection of your inner self. The mask you wear may represent an aspect of personal identity, symbolizing qualities that you already possess or qualities that you wish you possessed. I have a lot of fond memories of Halloween as a child (and still unabashedly love the holiday), but my costumes share less than fun-sized portion of these memories. I can only recall the year that I was a witch. I was known amongst my siblings as the slapper sister, so I believe that underneath my shy exterior lurked some definite inner-witchiness. I am a little distressed that I can't remember my other costumes, but that is beside the point of this blog.
I decided to put this theory to the test when I volunteered for Ansel's preschool Halloween party. Within the first five minutes, the Incredible Hulk, a Ninja Mutant Teen-aged Turtle (I know I am saying that wrong, but what a stupid name for a character however you scramble the words), the Iron Man, and Jack Sparrow were entangled in a brawl that produced real blood and tears, while the princesses and ballerinas were staring blankly into space. Maybe there is something to this costumology. I was so drained by the end of the school day, that for the first time ever, I did not have the energy to find a costume for myself.

My kids all chose to be animals this year. According to this researcher, animal costumes symbolize certain traits or attributes in myth as well as popular culture. In the tradition of the Native American, we may even regard an animal costume as being an individual's totem...a symbol of one's essential nature of potential. Hmmmm....

TOTEM ATTRIBUTES: Magic and mystery. Curiosity, independence, cleverness, unpredictability and healing. Protectors and Keepers of Secrets.
FINDINGS AGAINST: Emmy is very predictable, likes schedules, and doesn't like going anywhere independently.
FINDINGS FOR: Her peaceful nature does have a strong healing effect in our home. She is very protective of her siblings and keeps absolutely everything a secret. For example, when I ask her what she did at school, she says, "Stuff". When asked what she ate at a friend's house, she says, "Stuff". She does not give up information easily and is very mysterious about her daily activities. This leaves me more than curious, but since I have only seen a few papers come home from school with anything less than a perfect score, I don't think she is smoking in the bathroom. She is clever.

TOTEM ATTRIBUTES: Power, Speed, Focus, Brotherhood
FINDINGS FOR: Ansel is extremely fast when he is doing something he enjoys such as showing us how fast he is. Jumping onto my back when I am least expecting it is one of his beloved of activities. He knows how to stalk his prey. He is so efficient with the brotherhood attribute that I think he truly believes that his friends and cousins are his brothers. This helps alleviate the guilt I sometimes feel due to the fact that he doesn't have any "real" brothers.............yet.
FINDINGS AGAINST: When he is grocery shopping or in a situation where we are in a hurry, he is suddenly rendered powerless and UNSPEEDY.

TOTEM ATTRIBUTES: Grace, Determination, Aquatic, Etiquette, Self-Confident, Dreamer, Inter dimensional Existence,
FINDINGS AGAINST: Savanna is an awkward stage of development and is lacking in the grace and etiquette department. Give it some time.
FINDINGS FOR: Savanna can move with such determination that she actually doesn't move her arms. She loves swimming and has a self-confidence that is completely unfettered by the opinions of others. Those who know Savanna can vouch for her inter dimensional existence. I can't even begin to understand the workings of her mind, but I do believe that her creativity requires her to move frequently between worlds of fantasy and reality. If she doesn't remember entire conversations that we have had or if large chunks of her school day have mysteriously vanished without explanation, I can recognize and appreciate (still working on that) that she was visiting another realm during that period of time. She recently won her school logo design contest and is now working on her novel and some short stories, so something good must be going on in these other dimensions.

CONCLUSION: The bit of journalism that I heard on psychology of costumes may be a pile of phooey. All journalism is very likely a big pile of phooey.