Four Seasons Luxury in a $50 Dress

In my haste to post my reaction to what was happening in Egypt, I left out a crucial detail. Far froman authority, I believe this detail lends me a voice. I did a lot of research about Egyptian history, customs, and people before my trip. I went with an open mind, not knowing what to expect from my first, hands-on experience in the Mideast. I never imagined the impact this trip would have on me. What began as a pleasurable vacation, ended as a life changing journey.

My third night in Egypt. I was invited to attend the opening reception of the Mediterranean Food Summit, which my husband was a part of. I was a bit apprehensive at first, because I would be there alone. At the last moment, I decided to go. Why not? I thought. I will  only go to Egypt once in my life, and after all, I will never see any of the attendees again.  After trying on everything I had packed, I donned my $50 “designer discount” Marshall’s dress and took the elevator to the seventeenth floor. The guests had begun to gather. I scanned the crowd for a familiar face, and not seeing one, I walked over to the edge of the balcony. The circular pool was surrounded by a transparent glass wall. Beyond it was the Mediterranean Sea, above it  a full moon shined down, and far below it, Alexandria’s bustling street scene played out. Party music that came from the speakers could not drown out the sound of car horns, nor the eerie siren sounding its last call to  prayer for the day.

I thought how amazing it was to be standing there. I felt like I was on top of the world. The sound of footsteps broke my reverie and I was joined by a well dressed, older gentleman who spoke with an accent. In a rather deep voice he asked, “Breathtaking, isn’t it?”  I sighed and said something about how lucky I felt  and how incredible it was to be in a country that I had only dreamed of visiting. He laughed aloud. We went back and forth for awhile. Soon a woman walked over and he introduced her as his wife, Suzanne. What I came to find out later,was that what appeared to be run of the mill party banter was, in reality, a brush with fame.

Had I known in that moment, I would have been freaked out; I would have been intimidated and not able to relax enough to be myself. I am now thankful  I was blissfully unaware. I had no idea to whom I was speaking. The conversation ended when introductions for the gala began. As the couple walked away from me, the general manager’s wife came over and asked me how I felt after talking with the President.

When I look back now, I can remember the signs. I can see the security guards move closer as they formed a tight circle around us. I notice the men on headsets as they reported to one another and I recall a curious crowd of onlookers staring in our direction.  The security detail was protecting President Mubarak and The First Lady of Egypt.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The House That Twitter Built

Having spent three weeks in Egypt, three summers ago in August, I can’t help but be struck by what has transpired there this past week. As I watch videos and read newspaper articles about these current events, huge numbers of Egyptians  gather in protest. People flock to the streets in both cities of Cairo and Alexandria. They have joined together in peaceful protest, not only to bring to light the universal hardships of high unemployment and inflation, but also to decry the lack of opportunities for growth and prosperity within Egypt itself.  They live under a supposed democratic system that renders them helpless. Their president, Hosni Mubarek pontificates his adherence to democracy while he yields authoritarian rule. In other words, he has served 30 years as a dictator in a democratic sheep’s clothing.

His submission now takes its toll.

This is  has been Mubarak’s tact all along, and  largely the entire “Mideast as a Whole Way” of controlling the masses. Mideast governments keep dissidents quiet, jail those who object their dictatorships, as they  shamelessly tout their “democratic ways”,a disgusting abuse of power as I see it. I can only observe this  from afar now, but I am encouraged to hear these Egyptian voices, a distant sound in chorus, joined not only  to gain freedom, but also united in consideration of their own fate. Their voices can no longer be silenced. Their tyrannical leader must bow to their pleas and resign.

In the blink of an eye and emboldened by their close neighbors in Tunisia,  Egyptians gather enmasse’ to demand a change in regime. Their uprising, alone is not unique, but what does set it apart from any before it,  is the way in which it was organized to begin with. An all new forum exists from which to launch political movements.

We’ve all heard the names, Facebook, My Space, Twitter and such. They are instantaneous channels of communication, ways to speak our minds and document each moment of our daily lives. We share and the world is apprised. At the tap of a key, we transmit  details of our daily lives with friends and strangers alike. News arrives at our doorsteps within the moment it occurs. Egyptian youth have embraced  this new way to communicate. Regardless of Mubarek’s attempts at control, Egyptian voices were heard. His usual means to squelch his minions, met with failure.

 I actually loath a lot of this new technology. My kids drive me nuts every day with it. They glue themselves to their computers. They text their friends while composing a school essay in Word. The printer churns out said essay. Meanwhile 10 of their friends await their, more often than not, rude replies. The world moves forward while they are on hold. What they fail to grasp, is the power they have at their fingertips, the ability to change the world if they so choose.
Twitter and Facebook are largely to thank. Social media allowed these oppressed people
 to communicate their plight and unite in a noble cause.  They alerted one another, inspired like minds to join in a crusade, and gathered together to face the opposition.  By the time their own President was apprised, the cat was out of the bag, and the uprising had begun. Makes me wonder? Could Twitter be reason to celebrate?  Can it serve as one stone in a foundation, on which a country can build a brighter future?

Does a turbulent voice tolerate a deaf ear?  The Egyptians with help of revolutionary technology made their voices loud and clear.  Mubarak has now agreed in part to disband his government body and to replace it with another. An important question hangs in midair, “Replace it with who?” One of  his cronies or better yet his capable and willing (who wouldn’t be) son, Gemal? What Mr. Mubarek  needs to realize is that he no longer presides in a world where dictators can meet with easy success. Times have changed drastically since he set out on his own voyage for power. The world as we’ve known it has been turned on its head. Social networking makes it possible for the once silent minority, to be heard at long last.

In light of  this, I realize my responsibility as a parent. My kids assume their technological freedom is a birthright.  My job as Mom is to tell them it is not. They need to know that what they have at their fingertips is powerful, and to be respected in every way. My kids are sadly mistaken to believe that they are Kings and Queens of their solo universes. It is up to me to make them realize the small space they take up in the world as a whole. If I want them to be World Citizens it is up to me to teach them to be that. After all, we do have strong voices. we must embrace them and sing just as the Egyptians have done.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Bows and Arrows

I will just leave a quote here today. You can ponder it awhile until tomorrow morning when I will relate it to to my here and now.

Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you. They are with you though, they belong not to you. You may house their bodies, but not their souls. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might, that His arrows might go swift and far. Let your bending in the archers hand be for gladness; for even as He loves the arrow that flies; so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Kahlil Gibran

A friend sent it to me earlier today. Gibran has always been an inspiration to me. Enjoy! Until tomorrow, which is actually today. I must go to sleep.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Thank You for the Views…But PLEASE Make Some Comments

I am thankful to each and everyone of you who has read my blog so far. The views have given me the confidence to continue my chronicle. This all sounds very dramatic, but my life is at the point of no going back. I am at a precipice. I will continue on this journey, regardless of my fear or doubt of what might come. I will muster the strength to continue on my journey back to whole.

You might wonder why I am writing this. I can’t begin to tell the day I have had. Many a truth was revealed. I am still processing how it fits into my present situation.  I will write about it after I have had a day to mull it over. You will all be apprised. I promise. For now, I leave you with a plea for comments. Presently, writing this blog is both comfort and release. I welcome your feedback to help guide in this venture.

Write to me! Share. I need it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Movin’ too Fast

I broke a promise yesterday. I did not post. No excuses!  Kids were off school. We had 14 inches of snow. When I  finally sat down to write, my brain was a jumbled mess. My head was pounding. I felt a cold coming on.  I tried my damndest  to describe baking biscuits, but face it, reading about it is about as exciting as watching paint dry.  After all this blog is not really  about about my biscuits anyway. It is a  diary of my everyday life. The trials and tribulations of being a newly single mom with 3 kids, a dog, a 100 year old house and a red minivan, who greets each day with the best of intentions and occassionally loses her way.

 The dog barks. Three kids vie for my attention . My untidy house screams out, clean me, clean me and a  keyboard awaits my not so gentle touch. All the while I know I should be working on the Grrchews launch.  I  officially enter “OVERWHELM”. Welcome to the chaos that is my world.

Overwhelm is my point of no return. Patience walks out my front door. Life as I know it deteriorates into pure mayhem.  I put a lot of pressure on myself in my ridiculous strive for perfection. I want to do so many things. Super mom, I assume I can do it all. I bark my orders. I expect my kids to do things exactly like I do. I hover over them to make sure they are doing their designated tasks correctly. They complain. I get frustrated, let them off the hook, figure it is less hassle to do it myself, and in so doing, I reinforce their false belief that I am their full time, live in maid. It is a no win situation.

Yesterday I set out  to clean our house. I enlisted the help of my children. I watched them as they worked. They were arguing with one another and literally getting nothing done. The dog started to bark and FRUSTRATED ME went into overwhelm. I ranted and belittled them for their lack of progress. The situation was about to fall apart at the seams when my son said, “Mom, I just want you to leave! You have made it impossible for me to get anything done now.” This morning his words still ring in my ears. Whoa Nellie!  I can feel the insight a comin’ at last!

 My son was right! If I take away any possibilty for success, I deny them opportunities to make mistakes and learn from them. When I hover over my kids and expect them to do things only my way or the highway, they will not learn how to do it themselves.  Regardless of the fact that I consider myself an expert housecleaner, my way  is not the only way. After all, who died and made me Betty Crocker?

How important are a few stray dust bunnies, when there is a biscuit to be baked, a snowman waiting to be born and children to be listened to and truly understood? I need to pay better attention. I need to slow down. In the words of Simon and Garfunkel, I sign off.

Slow down you move too fast now
Got to make the morning last now
Kickin down the cobble stones
Lookin for fun
Feelin groovy

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Tiger Mom for Better or Worse? Part 2

I wrote my last post from  a purely emotional point of view. It sprung from the fiercely protective part of ” Mom me” that would like nothing better than to see my kids sail into adulthood unscathed by adversity, untouched by harm and full of self esteem. But alas this is not possible.

The world is not a perfect place in which to raise our kids and  although I adamantly oppose many of Amy Chua’s parenting methods, I concur with her major issue, we in America overparent our kids. We save them when they can learn from their mistakes, hide many of life’s truths in order to protect what we perceive to be, their fragile psyches and often allow them to drop pursuits they find the least bit challenging. This does not allow children opportunity to grow. It robs them of  true feelings of mastery and pride in their accomplishments.

 It is not always easy to get children to do what we would like them to, for instance comply to rules,  finish their homework, or practice the violin. But in today’s tough, competitive and lets face it, rather cruel world it is imperative that we foster in  them the  lost arts of resilience and perseverance. If we can reach these goals as parents, our children can and will grow into strong and capable adults who are able to handle any stress that will no doubt come their way.

There is no perfect parenting method.  Each way has positive and negative attributes.  We need to pay mindful attention rather than passive. We have to choose when to be firm rather than fair. We might opt to talk or take time out to listen.  At times we need to reevaluate our own personal perceptions so we can clearly see the reality of a  tough situation. It all comes down to finding a balance , consistency in our approach as well as consideration for the qualities, strengths and weaknesses of each child.

Being both a mother for life and a chef by trade, I can boil this debate down to very simple terms. To raise kids with only self esteem and no motivation or determination is to bake bread with water and no yeast or salt. Just as the bread cannot rise minus yeast, our children cannot rise to meet life’s inevitable challenges without some very integral ingredients. It is up to us, parents to fill their larders.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Tiger Mom for Better or Worse?

I picked up the January 31st issue of  Time magazine today in my doctor’s waiting room. The cover featured a story about a recently released memoir called “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”. Before it was published the Wall Street Journal ran an excerpt from it online. That post has been read by more than 1 million readers and garnered over 7000 comments. The book hit the stands on January 11th and is now # 5 on the New York times Bestseller List. In It, author, Amy Chua describes raising her 2 daughters within the strict confines of “Chinese Parenting”. Some readers praise her for her parenting prowess and others call her a monster of sorts.

Her girls, now teenagers, were not permitted to watch television, have play time with friends nor free time to explore the world in their own way. Instead she scheduled each hour with violin, piano and reading lessons and from what it sounds like, very little else. Amy, herself grew up in a home where any grade less than  A was unacceptable. Regardless of her American upbringing, she was required to speak Chinese in their home at all times. She received a chopstick whack for each English word she might mistakenly utter.  I can only imagine how she must have felt after being shamed by her father when she came in second place at a school assembly.  His words “Never,ever disgrace me like that again!” no doubt must have stung.

I understand having high expectations for our children. Most parents do. But what I cannot stomach  is Chua’s glaring  inability to realize that our children are not mini clones of ourselves. Regardless of our shared gene pools, each and every child is born an individual, unique in form from any other. We bring kids into the world not to control the outcome of their lives, but to guide them in a compassionate caring and patient manner, along a path that ends in independence and discovery to who they really are.

Chua states that her children’s happiness is her primary goal and that her intense focus on achievement is simply, “the vehicle” to help them find genuine fulfillment in a life’s work, just as she has. But has she given them any say in the matter along the way. If they were given the freedom to take part in the process would they make any of the same choices she has made for them.

A large part of growing up involves “finding our inner voice”. A voice that guides us when no one else is looking. When Chua’s daughters finally break free of their mother’s control, my question is whether or not they will be able to hear or even recognize their own inner voices. Where does that leave them?

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Jack Jansen

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Telling the Truth

It is Tuesday  morning. After taking time to reflect on my blog dilemma I have decided to continue this endeavour. I will not shy away from the truth. I will tell my story here as honestly  and openly as I can. If there are readers here who cannot understand, so be it. I believe there are just as many, if not more who can and will relate to what I write about. I believe my story, with all its ups and downs, is a timely one. We all face our own share of adversity. It is the actions we take to solve these problems that matters most. 

The world is a rather crazy place. I am merely trying to make sense of my life within it and to forge a path to a better place for my family.  I admit I have self doubts, but I also have a whole lot of faith . Tenacity is my forte. I certainly will not give up now. I found a quote from Steve Jobs awhile back that relates well to my train of thought.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma- which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other people’s opinions drown out your inner voice and most important have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you want to become.”

I will continue to write for these reasons. This is not a self indulgent activity but one of reaching out to the people around me. Who knows?  It might even create opportunity for  healthy dialogue and humanize what is surely not a unique life situation. I am, after all, not the only one to have ever gone through a divorce or had a child who is having rough times. Now is the time for me to reach out, to seek help and not shy away even if my words might strike some uncomfortable chords. Seize the day. 

So I begin this week renewed in spirit, grateful for my children, thankful for my life and the freedom to grow in a new direction.  As I rebuild I will loosen my grip on situations over which I have no control and tighten my hold in the areas where I can make a difference. Like getting on with my biscuit baking for instance!  In doing so I will discover a balance.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Making Biscuits

Ready to bake…

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized