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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Last Words on 2013 - "So What?"

One of my favorite things that I did this year was a family trip to Punxsutawney, PA for Groundhog Day with several of my friends and their families.

We were hit with unexpected snowy weather and a bitter bitter cold morning that only made everything seem even more of an adventure.

My husband and son and I decided to take a roundabout route so that we could stop in Pittsburgh and tour the Andy Warhol museum and have lunch at the original Primanti Bros. restaurant where they put the fries right on the sandwich (so much better than the chain versions that have sprung up in the area).  YUM!

For me, the Warhol museum was one of the highlights of trip. I am fascinated by Andy Warhol's extraordinary talent and unique approach to life.  

 It turns out Warhol was actually equal parts artist and philosopher ;)  

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” ― Andy WarholThe Philosophy of Andy Warhol

In many ways, Andy Warhol's words of wisdom mirror what I have learned in 2013.  I've experienced quite a bit of personal pain these past few years and have been working on healing and growing and changing from it. I've had this toxic person in my life who, like a bad penny or a stubborn stomach virus, just won't seem to go away. Even today she continues to try to paint a picture of herself as a victim and I am somehow her bad guy.  The truth is, I haven't done anything but get put in a bad situation, not only by bad choices made by her and others, but by her inability to move on.  I've been watching her pattern of playing the victim and dredging up the past to make pointed and hurtful commentary on me and my life, repeat itself over and over. It has gone from infuriating to annoying to now just plain ridiculous. 

Lke Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day, I've had to learn to stop using my time and energy on shallow stuff (like someone else's drama) and start using my experiences to grow and learn and become a better person. When Bill's character in the movie finally made this connection, the spell was broken and he was free from the neverending cycle. That's been me in 2013. 

“Sometimes people let the same problem make them miserable for years when they could just say, So what. That's one of my favorite things to say. So what.” 

― Andy WarholThe Philosophy of Andy Warhol

Almost without even recognizing  the change happening, I now realize how much I have changed and how I have let old problems make me miserable for no reason. This, I think, is the most important thing I learned in 2013.  

What I've also learned is, that while you can't rush change, you just have to hang in there and keep putting one foot in front of the other, you also have the amazing power of choice.  I get to choose how I feel and what I allow in my life. I get to be the catalyst for the changes I want. I've also learned that sometimes you just have to let yourself feel the pain.  Nobody wants to do that.  It's sometimes easier not to go there, especially if you are as good at avoidance as I am.  I am the queen of that.  But, once I learned to just accept that I'm going to feel bad sometimes and that's ok, I learned how to express my feelings and get them out, rather than suppress them and be miserable inside.  I learned that, as scary as it is, the route to change and healing is through being vulnerable and honest, not just with others, but with yourself.

2013 has been a very good year.  A year of change, a year of realizations and year of feeling good - really good, not just suppressing the bad and hoping to feel only the good.  The change has been real, the fun and laughter and good times have been real, and even the bad feelings, when they came, have been real.  Getting through it all has been real.  And that is really good. 

So, Thank You, Thank You Mr. Warhol for my new favorite thing to say "So what." (RIP)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Open Letter to Someone Who Knows Nothing About Me

To the Woman in the Middle School Drop-Off Line who approached my car and tapped on the window to tell me that my pet adoption sticker on the back of my car was offensive and hurt her adopted daughter’s feelings:

I want you to know that I have carefully considered your position and I believe I should have the opportunity to express mine.  However, since you didn't bother to introduce yourself, and I don't know anything more about you than that you have an adopted daughter, I have no way of contacting you.  

I am stressed about how to nicely handle the situation if I run into you again.  I do not wish to be confrontational, but I do want you to understand why I don't agree with your actions.  I did remove the magnet from my car (and replaced it with new versions).  I did this to show a certain amount of respect (respect, by the way, that I do not think was afforded to me) and because our children go to the same school.  If you see that I have changed the magnets on my car, you can choose to explain it to your child however you wish.  But I want you to know the truth of the matter.

The truth is this:  It is not ok to go around teaching other adults a lesson.  What exactly you thought the lesson was about, I'm not quite sure -- Thoughtfulness?  Kindness?

The fact is that you don't know the first thing about me.  I happen to be extremely sensitive and kind-hearted. The interaction I had with you actually left me in tears and very shook up.  I didn't like thinking for a minute that I had been thoughtless and unkind.  I took your words to heart, and considered them very seriously.  I understand and appreciate that you were merely trying to protect your child.  

You see, what I also want you to understand, is that I too, have a child with special needs.  My child has been picked on and made fun of for his particular issues, and it is no fun to watch him be hurt and suffer that kind of pain and embarrassment.  So, I do understand that as parents of children with special needs, we are on even higher alert than most.  

Some other things that you don't know about me (and can't have known about me, since you don't know me at all), is that my husband who is himself adopted and who picked out the "offensive" car magnet, also has a sister who is adopted.  It never occurred to him, or to her when she saw the magnet, to think of it as hurtful in any way.  Also, we have considered adopting a child ourselves.  Child adoption is not something that we are unfamiliar with. 

In addition, and what the magnet is clearly actually about, is that for various reasons, pet adoption is a cause that is near and dear to my family.  

I am truly sorry that your child was upset or hurt in any way by my car magnet.  However, in my opinion, you could have used that moment to connect with your child and explore her hurt feelings; or to explain to her how important it is to adopt pets instead of letting them be put down; or to explain how adoption is an act of love that is even more powerful because it is an expression of choice.  You could have used the opportunity to explain to her that people who adopt are generally extremely big-hearted and loving. There are just so many ways that interaction could have gone, that I am stunned and appalled that what you chose to do was to confront me (in front of my child, no less). 

What you showed her by example, is that it is perfectly acceptable to confront someone who chooses to express themselves and their passion differently from how you would express yourself, even when the underlying passion or message is one of love and acceptance.  Worse, you taught your daughter that it is ok to assume that you know better than someone else that you don't even know, and that you can make assumptions about perfect strangers based on what you see reflected on the outside.  And above all, that in the act of making those assumptions, you should go with the worst possible assumptions (that I am thoughtless and unkind) rather than the best (that I have an appreciation and a passion for adoption, and that such people are generally more thoughtful and kind, not less).

Your child is going to run into a zillion things in life that are upsetting and you can't fight these mini-battles for her forever.  Next time you see the same car magnet promoting pet adoption (and they are on cars in our area everywhere - mine was hardly unique), perhaps instead of confronting another adult (who by the way, may not react as politely as I did) you should have the (maybe uncomfortable) conversation with your daughter to educate her, instead of validating her hurt feelings over something (pet adoption) that clearly has nothing to do with her (adoption of a child). 

Or maybe next time, you could simply thank the person for showing support of adoption (in any form).

My new car magnets! Please excuse the dirty  dirty car - 
these were taken right after a recent snow :)  

Thursday, December 5, 2013

"Love, Actually" isn't actually about Love.

Let me start out by saying this - I LOVE romantic comedies.  My husband has long teased me that, if I had my druthers, they are probably the only genre of movie I would watch.  I think that is taking it a little too far. I do have other interests. However, I will admit, that I would watch them a LOT. The problem is that really good romantic comedies just don't come along all that often.  For that reason, I so desperately wanted to love this movie, with such an outstanding cast and Christmas as a backdrop, how could it go wrong?  But it does.  So grandiously Wrong.

I've hated this movie since the first time I watched it (going on 10 years ago - wow, I'm geting old). It left me feeling depressed and vaguely angry, but I couldn't really put a finger on why.  After seeing and hearing praise for it over and over again, I gave this movie several more tries at winning me over, thinking that I was possibly in a bad mood or in a bad place when I saw it.  But, no. Each time I watched it, or tried to watch it (I don't think I ever got completey through it after one viewing), I just became angrier and angrier.

Then recently I noticed in my Twitter stream that 'Love, Actually' is having its 10th anniversary (has it Reeeaalllly been Ten Years?  See previous comment). I noticed new articles about the movie and people anticipating watching it again over the holidays.  I thought to myself - "what is wrong with me? Could I really be the only person on this planet who HATES this movie?" Then I began to think "what is wrong with our society that people can be so in love with this movie!?"  So, I actually googled - "Who Hates Love Actually?" and was rewarded with several reviews that left me feeling both vindicated and far from alone in my "bah humbugness."

I won't go into detail about the hideousness of each and every story line.  There are far better reviewers who have done that.  See here:
and here:
and especially here:

The best review, in my opinion, was the one I found by Mary Elizabeth Williams on  Not only did I see a kindred soul in her appreciation for romantic comedies and wanting so much to love this movie, but I think she very intuitively hits the nail on the head by pointing out the decidedly misogynistic point of view of the entire movie. See here:

Since the major issues have all been well covered by much better writers than I, there is only one point left that I feel the need to make, and that is this *steps up on soapbox*:

'Love, Actually' actually has nothing to do with Love.

'Love, Actually' is a commentary on what our society accepts as love these days.  The devaluing of real love because it takes a lot of time and committment on the part of both individuals.   These are things that our fast-paced "I want everything now and I want it wrapped up in a great big pretty package with a bow on it so that I can feel good right now" lives have no patience for.  Love should not be disposable, and if you aren't ecstatically happy all the time, that doesn't mean you're not "in love" anymore.  It takes real committment, communication and sometimes sacrifice. You have to take the time to focus on your significant other and his/her needs.  And that's what it's all about, folks.  The rewards in the end are multitude, including lots of laughter and fun, and worth every bit of effort and then some. But, for some reason, I see more and more people thinking that love should only be easy and fun.  When it's not, or they are bored with the lives they have built with someone, they look for something different.  Something easier, something new and fresh and exciting, but in my mind, massively less meaningful.   I am not so eloquent a writer nor self-grandising enough to think that I can describe what real Love is, but (much like pornography), I know it when I see it.  And, more importantly, I know what it is not, and it is most decididly not anything depicted in 'Love, Actually'.
*steps down from soapbox*

All that being said, a good romantic comedy should simply leave the viewer feeling happy and optimistic about love (aka "The Wedding Singer" and "You've Got Mail", two of my all-time faves).  True, they typically depict the beginning of love, when everything is exciting and new, and there is so much to be optimistic about. Real life however,  is messy and so is real love.  But, that's ok too.  There are so many great romantic comedies out there, from classics to more modern movies, that I can't even begin to list them. However (since I went there), here are some pretty well curated lists:

Although one of these lists does include 'Love, Actually', for the most part, as I peruse these lists I am reminded of so many truly great "feel good" rom-coms that I am now dying to spend an entire weekend binge-watching them  (don't tell the hubby.)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Happy Anniversary To Us!

Today is our 23rd wedding anniversary (this is a co-written post :-)).  We chose to get married this time of year because it's our favorite season (Winter is coming).  The fact that it's also the most hectic, especially once children are in the picture, never entered our minds when we were walking down the aisle.  Over the years,  we've found that it's not easy to carve out time for ourselves to celebrate, between Thanksgiving festivities and getting ready for Christmas. We have learned though, that it is important to make that effort and make that time.

We've had so many wonderful and warm congratulations from friends and family remembering our wedding day, it is truly heartwarming and humbling.  We feel that it's a tribute to the fact and evidence that it really does take a community to support a marriage and a family. It's also striking the number of comments that we get saying how "easy" we make it look. We've got friends and family who talk about how they hope for a relationship like ours.  As flattering as this is, we really need to set the record straight - it's priceless and wonderful but it is absolutely, unequivocally, not easy.  

Anyone who tells you different - that their relationship is easy - is either lying, or in for a very rude awakening. Life and marriage are full of ups and downs.  If you're in it only for the good times, then don't expect your marriage to last.  That may sound harsh, but it's the plain truth.  Things won't always be good.  The goal is always for the good to outweigh the bad; that's what makes it worth hanging in there and doing whatever you need to do to support each other.  Learn how to communicate, address any issues as soon as possible and in the healthiest way possible. We've both had to learn how to talk about the things we didn't want to talk about. Our knee-jerk reaction to almost any problem is to ignore it and hope it will go away.  Trust us, it doesn't. (And it really doesn't help if your partner has the same inclination).

Getting over the hump in bad times and getting through them with your relationship intact takes a lot of work; a lot of forgiveness; a lot of understanding; a lot of compromise; a lot of prayer; and a lot of love. We're writing this together for a couple of reasons - it seemed right - an anniversary is a team effort. We're also writing this together because we've come through some really, incredibly hard times and are now coming out the other side. We want to say to anyone out there having trouble in their relationship or even in finding love, not to think that if it isn't easy, it isn't good or it isn't true love.  You don't know what goes on behind closed doors.  You only see the face that people choose to show the world. Relationships that seem great could be really troubled in private; or ones that seem troubled, could actually be really healthy because the individuals have learned how to express themselves and accept each other.  You just don't know.

We are  firm believers that anything can be worked through if both partners want to. Our marriage is living proof of it. It's not always been easy but, it's always been worth it. We've been through a lot, but we are very happy and very much still in love. That's the reason that it is so important to make time to celebrate it.  It's an accomplishment that we are both proud of and that deserves recognizing, no matter how hectic the time of year.

<3 Mark and Greta

Monday, October 14, 2013

No More Lies

As the clock winds down on the 14th day of the government shutdown and we edge ever closer to defaulting on our country's debt, I find it ironic that my right leaning friends and I are actually, for once, agreeing on something.  We are all thoroughly pissed off at the stalemate and frustrated with the lack of progress being made toward some sort of resolution to this crisis. We are "liking" many of the same postings or comments on Facebook. The irony, however, is that the reasons behind the posting or the "like" are diametrically opposed.

Each side blames the other entirely for the mess. Republicans would like us to believe that everything they are doing is the result of unfair actions of the opposing side; that they are somehow being forced into this outrageous behavior.

In my opinion, the trouble comes when uninformed people choose to believe the lies being told by a few, very vocal individuals. They want to believe in the leaders of their party and blindly trust what they are being told.  The media, for the first time in longer than I can remember, at least seem to be waking up to the danger of letting these leaders just tell whatever lies they want.  But, is it too little, too late? Is this what happens when we let people tell lies and spin stories for the sole purpose of making other people look bad and never stand up and call them out on it?

My sense of justice and fairness is strong.  My son seems to have inherited this trait, and I don't
 know if that pleases me or worries me. There are times when I want to tell him that he needs to be less sensitive and let some things go. I tell him that you can't control what other people say and do. You can only control your own actions. But I understand, only too well, his frustration when he witnesses injustice and hurt caused to innocent people due to one person's lies.  Some people just can't handle accepting that things don't always go their way. And when they don't, these people, even grown adults, will do anything to try to force the outcome they want.  

On The Ed Show the other night I heard a politician express in simple terms why the President is not in a position of power in this situation, despite the fact that the HealthCare Reform Act was legally passed and upheld by the Supreme Court.  The reason was simply, "you can't negotiate with Crazy."  They went on to discuss the warped understanding that the American public has of the Health Care Bill, by playing clips of the Jimmy Fallon show's man on the street interviewing people on whether they were for or against "ObamaCare".  (In case you missed it, no one interviewed knew that "ObamaCare" was the same thing as the Health Care Reform Act, and while they were all in favor of the Health Care Reform Act, and each of the aspects of the Bill that were detailed for them, they all were against "ObamaCare").

It is clear that flat out lies are being told, confusing the public.  Talk of impeachable offenses, and the President being born in Kenya are still accepted by a portion of the public, despite being faced with unrefutable facts otherwise. It infuriates and sickens me and I don't know what can be done about it.

You know the old adage, that if a lie is repeated often enough, people will start to believe it?  Well, it seems that it's true.  Scientific America published an article to that effect, indicating that, not only is it true, but that trying to contradict the lies with truth often may inadvertantly strengthen the lie.

I don't know about you, but I have a really hard time just accepting that there may not be a way to stop lies from becoming "truths" in the public mind.  I admit I'm pretty idealistic and always look for and expect the best in people.  But, I don't think it's naive to stand up and fight for something that matters, for truth and honor, justice and respect.  The truth is honorable and should win. Period.  Our President is the leader of free world and deserves our respect. Period.

Maybe calling bull-headed politicians who are wreaking havoc in our lives Crazy (with a capital "C") is not helpful.  Maybe calling liars and manipulators in general "Crazy" is not helpful.  But, does that mean letting them get away with it is? I don't think so.

Maybe I've been reading too many comics and watching too may superhero movies (Nah).  It is always a good thing to stand up for what you believe in, regardless of your fears, regardless of how difficult it may be, regardless of the odds against you.  I believe that with all my heart, and I always will.

 Yes, we are fearful of what may happen if the shutdown continues to go on, or if our country is allowed to default on our debt.  But we can't let fear cause us to succumb to this blackmail.    No one should be allowed to hurt others with lies for their own gain or blackmail someone to get their way. This is what I teach my son. This is what I  try to show him by example. This is what I am hoping our President shows us all by standing up to the Republicans holding our country's well-being hostage.

At the end of the day, we all have to do our own research and find out the facts before placing blind trust in statements being put out by people who have a definite agenda.  Usually the most vocal people are the ones with something to hide. They are the ones who have a vested self interest in ensuring that their stories are heard and drown out any opposing views, for fear that that may be all it takes to take down their house of cards.
The truth is quieter and more sure of itself. Seek it out and don't let the liars win just because they make the most noise.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Geeky Ties That Bind

SO I went to Dragon Con in Atlanta this past weekend :)  I could go on and on about what a great time we had, but what I really want to express can pretty much be summed up in this one story:  I was at a panel with Lee Majors and Lindsey Wagoner - that's right the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman - pretty geeky, I know.  Well, at one point this lady went to the mic to ask a question. As soon as she started to talk you could hear a quiver in her voice. She told them both how happy she was to see them (they don't do many Con appearances) and how she watched them both growing up. She then told Lee Majors how from the days of the Big Valley and The Virginian to the "Six Mill" (as Majors calls it), to the Fall Guy - he was her mom's "top guy." Her voice got even shakier. Then she said that her mom had passed away just last month and how she wished she could have brought her to Dragon Con, but how happy she was to be able to be there herself and tell them how much they meant to her and her mom. There wasn't a dry eye in the house. Everyone clapped when she was done and both the stars said some lovely things. That show, though - with the track suits and Oscar Goldman and Steve Austin - that was part of the connective tissue between that lady and her mom. 

The reason there wasn't a dry eye in the house was because everyone was sitting there (picture the courtroom in Big Daddy) thinking about the geeky things they had done and seen with their mom, dad, brother, sister or best friend. They were thinking about the shows, the comic books, the cartoons, the action figures, the movies, the games (the pop culture energy that binds us all together) that were the impetus for many very special shared moments in their lives. That's the reason I love Cons.

I grew up watching The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman and I wanted to share that with my son and all that it meant to me.  Lindsey Wagoner was one of the first women on T.V. that I identified with that was strong and independent and made her own decisions.  The show did an exceptional job of using Lindsey’s femininity and intelligence as a part of her strength and not just constantly relying on her bionics to solve every situation.  She was a superwoman without being a comic book character.  She was someone who could be real.  She embodied a woman’s strength at a time that coincided with the women’s movement.  I was only in grade school when the show was on, but my sister, who came to a couple of days of the Con with us, was a young woman.  And yet, for both of us, Lindsey Wagoner embodied the women we wanted to be, and it was a nostalgic and exciting moment for us to share.

My son introduced me to Dr. Who this past fall.  I was hooked after one episode. We then, introduced my husband to the show, and soon the whole family became pretty devoted Whovians. We spent last fall as a family working our way through all the current Doctors (9, 10 and 11) and are now selectively watching “Classic Doctors” as we await the start of the new season.  It was no surprise that my son wanted to see as much Doctor Who as the Con had to offer, and my husband and I enthusiastically agreed.  At Dragon Con we got to meet the 5th Doctor (Peter Davison; who, for non-Whovians out there, also happens to be the 10th Doctor’s Father in Law ;)).  He was friendly and personable and told personal stories and jokes and was everything we hoped he would be.

We also attended Wizard World in Philadelphia this year. As a smaller Con it offers easier access to celebrities and more intimate venues for panels, etc.  We went to panels on Whovian history and cosplay and we managed to attend several other panels, at both Cons, from Star Trek TNG to William Shatner to Stan Lee to The Walking Dead.  I wasn’t sure how much my son would “get” or be interested in some of the panels, but it turned out that he surprised me.  Not only did he stay engaged and asked some really smart questions afterwards, he enjoyed them so much, he wanted to see more. His enthusiasm remained un-dampened by crowds or lines (something rarely encountered in this 13 year old). Both Michael Rooker from The Walking Dead and William Shatner kept him laughing until I thought he would bust a gut!  His favorite parts, of course, are when the actors tell stories about being on set and playing pranks on each other or rib each other.  In the past couple of years he has become engrossed in his middle school theater group, so I think he not only relates to the stories, but is surprised and happy to hear that his experiences are not that different from adults in theater, particularly celebrities.

My point here is that, whatever your particular “fandom”, it really is so much more than just a T.V. show, book, movie, comic, celebrity, game, etc.  Pop culture and the Conventions that celebrate it mean so much more than just getting to see your favorite celebrity up close or an opportunity to dress up as your favorite comic book hero. It is an atmosphere of acceptance and understanding, and a place where fans can come together and let their “geek flags” fly with pride.  But most of all, for everyone there, and especially for this little family, it is a place where we can connect. It is the energy, the conversations that are sparked, and the memories made, that are one of the important ties that bind us.  

Monday, August 5, 2013

In Defense of Privacy - The Difference Between Private and Public

When Bradley Manning leaked documents to Wikileaks, DOD employees still couldn't look at them on their work computers. Why? Because in DOD's eyes, those documents, while having been made public were actually still considered to be classified. Sometimes the private gets made public - that doesn't make it any less private.

The same goes for Huma Abedin and her husband. Their problems were made public - that in no way changes the fact that they are very private, the most private, matters. The problem is that when they were made public, a lot of people thought that gave them the right, not just to comment on them, but to stand in judgment of how they (particularly Huma) were dealing with their problems. It didn't. What people should have done, is to say that it seems like an awful situation and I sure wouldn't want to be in that situation myself BUT (and here is the critical part) I don't know all the details, it’s not my life, I don’t live in their shoes. A woman (or a man, for that matter) dealing with a tragedy in her (or his) marriage deserves respect and privacy to deal with it.  

Can we, as a public, be any more demeaning and callous?
ny post huma

I don't presume to know why Huma made the decision(s) she made, but I'm going to respect her private life and not act like judge and jury and wear some sanctimonious cloak of 'I know better' and 'I would behave differently.'  The short answer and the true answer is that you're not her AND unless you're her best friend, I'm guessing she hasn't called you up to talk through all this. 

I also don’t have any idea why Hilary stayed with Bill after his escapades were made public. Again, that was a seriously private matter made public, and their handling of it was and is a private matter.  So I seriously think that anybody who wants to judge Huma or Hilary  - two incredibly smart, and by all accounts tough and successful women, are actually doing harm to the image of two women who could and should serve as role models NOT JUST for women but for men as well. The dirty truth that no one seems to want to admit is that it is much tougher, more courageous, takes much more self-esteem and hard work to try to repair a damaged relationship than to walk away from one. The fact that these women have had to try to do this in the face of public scrutiny should be respected, not ridiculed.  

No one is to say whose marriages will survive and whose won’t, what transgressions can be overcome and what can’t, and who can or will change and who won’t. Until you’ve walked a mile in someone else’s shoes you cannot say what they should do or what you would do in their position, because you don’t really know what “their position” is.  You only know what it looks like from the outside.   

Life is complicated; marriage even more so. Let's put down the arrogance and presumption that we know enough about the personal lives of anyone, including public figures, to judge them on how they conduct their private affairs. 

My husband is a historian who studied Early America.  It always upsets him when people refer to “The Founders” as if they were some kind of supermen and not really human.  They were human, they had flaws, they made some seriously questionable decisions.  But, on the other side of that scale, is the great work they did – not because they were superhuman, but precisely because they were human and they faced the same struggles we still do today.  That’s what makes people role models – not their perfection, but their imperfection; not their success, but the way they face their challenges.

Male or female, we all make difficult decisions in life.  I have a son, and I hope that I am a good role model for him.  I hope that when confronted with challenges in his life, he will be able to face them with courage, grace, intelligence and strength, and not let other people's judgment influence his decisions.  I want him to know that it is important to be respectful of other people and private matters, even when they are made public.