Bullies Among Us

Tomorrow is the return of my personal bully.  She has been living quite some distance (read, multiple time zones) away for a few years.  It’s been nice.  We have a great relationship when we don’t have to spend any time face to face.  Or talk on the phone, or email, or… Well, as you can see, communication is our biggest problem.

About this bully, she is not your typical bully.  It is highly unlikely that she sees herself as a bully, even if/when her actions are pointed out to her.  And, I have been called a bully too.  I don’t intentionally do it, but I’ve a strong personality, I voice my opinions, and some people think I’m trying to force them to see things my way.  Usually, I am not.  Occasionally, I’m un-yielding in my opinion, and the other person’s desire to act on that opinion and (in my opinion) potentially hurt or endanger someone else in the process does result in me being more forceful than usual in sharing my opinion; and this is when I’ve been called a bully.

So, I’m trying to see my experience through her eyes.  Does she feel the same?  Is she a bully when she thinks I’m going to potentially hurt or endanger someone?  In this latest (which was 3 years ago), I can say that yes she did.  Unfortunately, in my opinion, she crossed a line.

So who’s opinion/point of view is more correct?  I guess that depends upon your point of view.  (By the way, I should comment, I still say my point of view is more correct).

The background ~

Hubby was out of town, had been for a few months (work) and would be for some time to come (another month: work).  Kidlet was 18 months old. It was easter, which is a big deal to my in-laws and a blip on the radar to me.  My MIL wanted us to travel 4 hours to visit them for easter.  MIL and I are not the best of friends.  We don’t see each other a lot.  She doesn’t really like me, but she loves her grandchildren (Kidlet and his older cousin).  I also have a fear (read: phobia) of travel (I’m working on it and getting better, but it was pretty bad back then).  So I declined the invitation; however, there was the suggestion that I send 18 month old Kidlet.

Let’s clarify ~

My MIL, Kidlet’s grandmother, loves him dear, but does not see him more than a couple times per year.  Kidlet was missing his daddy, and momma was being asked to put him in a car with an Auntie (whom I trust very much, but Kidlet was 18 months, and has never spent a night away from us) and travel hundreds of kilometres to visit people he doesn’t know very well.  I felt that Kidlet would see that as abandonment, and I was not doing that.  I would never do that.

So I declined again, knowing that MIL would be upset.  And I let my two SILs (Supportive SIL: S-SIL and unsupportive SIL: U-SIL) know.  S-SIL took the info as I’d hope: as information.  U-SIL freaked out.  Apparently I’m a mean, unfeeling, horrible person for putting the Needs of a Child ahead of the Wants of an Adult.

And U-SIL still seems to believe that in that case, the Wants of an Adult (her mother) out-weighed the Needs of a Child (my child). 

So I can’t trust her with my child.  She’s not a horrible person, and she is good with S-SIL’s son, but U-SIL does not respect my parenting (nor my husband’s) and she has proven that she will put the wants of an adult ahead of the needs of a child.  And I have felt bullied by her in regards to this ever since.

But soon after the incident she moved to a land far, far away.  It was nice.  Tomorrow she returns.

So the discomfort begins again, and once more, family gatherings are something we’ll have to decline until she can sort herself out.

Happy Birthday, Self

My biological birthday is not January 8th, but two years ago today my world shifted plains. Someone said and did the unthinkable, the unmentionable. As the words that rolled out of that mouth, the positioning of the body, the look on the face, the dialogue presented in the non-verbal communication all screamed: “You’ll do what I want you to do because you always have. I’ll get my way because that’s the way it’s always been.”

Two years ago, it clicked. The message that I had ignored for too long finally registered in my brain. And what to do about it was simple: Walk away.

Walk away; don’t argue, don’t look back, and don’t expect things to change by changing nothing. I had been changing for years. I had been trying to grow for years, and in many ways I had, but this was the last big step. Actually, it was the biggest step. I had to draw a line in time and move to the other side of it. I had to recognise, actively recognise, that things were not going to improve unless I either walked away or forced the other parties to change.

Let’s face it, you cannot change people. People have to want change, and then they have to change themselves. You can encourage, you can support, you can beg and plead, but change isn’t going to happen until they’re ready. You cannot force people to change.

Walk away. It was the only reasonable option. I don’t even remember what those words were that came from that mouth, but the message that finally clicked told me to close my mouth, take a breath, finish buckling Kidlet into his car seat, and get behind the wheel to calmly, purposefully, drive away from that person, and metaphorically, walk away from the negativity.

Two years ago, my Self began to live. I didn’t realize it at the time, and I’m still getting to know my Self, but what I know for certain is that my Self took a first breath that day.

Happy Birthday, Self.

New Year’s Wishes…

I don’t want to be political in this blog, so I’ll forward this to the universe without mentioning parties, lobbyists, organizations or names; these are my wishes for 2012:

Children are Cherished

Not only by their parents, not only by those who love them, not only by those who know them personally, but Cherished by All. Too many children are living below the poverty line. Too many children show up at school without a breakfast to start the day; in fact, too many children have their only meal of the day at school (lunch) so as to no raise suspicion regarding how difficult things really are at home. Too many children are in one classroom – not receiving enough one on one attention. Too many children are home alone afterschool, because their parents cannot afford childcare nor can they afford not to work.

Role Models actually Role-model

Why is the professional athlete a role model? Is it because he/she is rich? Famous? Because he or she is on tv or gets free stuff? What about the musician/singer? Or the actor? Or the reality television personality who has managed to prolong their 15 minutes of fame? The athlete should be a role model because they demonstrate what teamwork and good sportsmanship is. The musician or singer because it takes dedication and practice – because they’ve worked hard on their craft, same for the actor. And that reality television star, what has their accomplishment been? They should only be role models if they demonstrate a trait worth following. Fame and riches are not worth moulding oneself after.

Worthwhile role-models: the teacher or coach who inspires, the doctor or nurse who goes above and beyond to care for people in need, the volunteer giving of themselves, and the parent who should ultimately be their child’s first and best teacher. There are many people who inspire with their greatness – true greatness.

Life is for Living

This may be sticking my nose in other people’s business; however, it’s my blog so here I go: I would love for people to recognise that food nourishes – enjoy it. Take smaller bites. Sit and enjoy. Share a meal with friends and loved ones. Taste your food. You’ll be healthier, happier, perhaps lose extra pounds (or maybe put on needed weight in a healthy way). I would also love for people to make more time for themselves and more time to share with others. Play a board game or assemble a puzzle with your family. Go out for coffee or walk with a friend. Connect. We are human beings, social creatures by nature, let’s move away from just surviving and actually start living our lives – with other people.

That’s only three wishes. Three wishes for the New Year. Or maybe three wishes for that genie would might, possibly, probably not, never pop out of that magic lamp.

Remember, the Secret of Life is in the Journey.

Marshmallow Christmas

Christmas is a time of strange foods: head-cheese, for example. Head-cheese was a staple on the festive table as I was growing up, but my GramZ turned my stomach away from this “delight” by describing in great detail exactly how to make head-cheese. I still want to be her when I grow up, but I cannot see myself ever making or eating head-cheese.

Other Christmas surprises through the years tend to come from my in-laws. I could blame the interesting food on fact that they are not Canadian born and raised, and they bring their traditions from the “old country”. But to be perfectly honest, the “old country” is the good ol’ United States of America. And the unusual food has come in the form of things like canned chicken, or in the case of this year: Gingerbread Marshmallows!

"Gingerbread Marshmallows"

Actually, gingerbread marshmallows are probably a good idea. Unfortunately, Kidlet and I are a bit squeamish about some foods: soda/pop, jello, and (of course) marshmallows. But then the marshmallows did this:

"Can't catch me, I'm the marshmallow man!"

"Can't catch me, I'm the marshmallow man!"

Notice his body language? He’s pointing out an escape route while gesturing for the one in the bowl to help the others and follow him. I don’t doubt that he spotted my knife block. Well, there’s only one thing a wimpy-momma set on self preservation can do: melt him down into something else.

"Take that you creepy Marshmallow Man!"

Fondant! Just take a bag of creepy marshmallows, melt them in the microwave with a couple tablespoons of water (it dilutes their powers of creepiness) and nuke those bad-boys for one minute. Then add massive amounts of icing sugar, and roll out until they’re flat as a pancake (if not, flatter). Drape over a yummy chocolate cake, and suddenly the creepy marshmallow men are no more.

Chocolate cake covered with gingerbread marshmallow fondant

Working with fondant takes a wee bit of practice, but if you’ve recently played with play-dough, it’s not that different. And the results are much more to my liking.

We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby, But…

Yesterday my MIL shocked me with her point of view “men’s jobs are more stable”. Irk? MIL and I have not always seen eye to eye, to be frank, we rarely see eye to eye, but I’ve always thought of her as a head strong, confident woman. This comment sounded so backwards, 1950s, good little housewife. I was immediately taken aback. Shocked. Stunned. And might I add a tat bit offended.

We decided that I would go back to school as a family. This has impacted our son and my husband, but the benefits will be for all of us. We’ve also planned hubby’s return to school, as well as the possibility of me completing a PhD. This is information that we’ve shared with family. So we were both surprised when MIL shared her opinion that I shouldn’t be working on my research if hubby has been asked if he’s able to travel for work. [I should also point out that it really was a question, not a request, demand or expectation.]

In the time since the comment, I’ve done some thinking. Questioning: how unstable is the role of women in the workforce? Is my situation unique? Or is MIL out of touch with the times?

Right now, the role of women in the workforce is more stable than many jobs held by men. Historically speaking, during recessions, women have been able to hold their jobs while the men have be the ones laid off. However, these women have been in part time or low paying jobs. My job is not part time, nor do I get paid differently than the men in my field. And to continue generalizing, men have been the wage earners; however, times are changing. More and more women are on pay scales at par with their male co-workers. But I am curious just how many women are in lesser employment conditions than their male counter-parts? A lot of that has to do with perception. Regardless, my husband and I are both in careers in which men and women get the same pay and the same benefits, and we’re both in female dominated positions.

MIL raised her son to cook, clean and be a caregiver. My husband enjoys cooking. He cleans, does laundry, cares for and nurtures our son. I was raised in a household were the men did none of this. In short, my up-bringing was typical (perhaps stereo-typical) in how the gender roles played out, my husband’s upbringing was quite forward thinking.

Perhaps the question that needs addressing is: how do we convince the older generations that men and women can be equal partners in bringing home the bacon as well as frying it up? And more important: how do we ensure that younger generations embrace this?

We’ve come a long way, Baby, but we’re only half way there.

A Rose-Coloured Christmas

As of late, my facebook page has been plagued with the message: “I will not accept your well wishes of Happy Holidays because I want to say Merry Christmas”. Then a beautiful image was posted on a friend’s page:

I’m not a god-worshiper, but the season is fun, so we dabble in the buffet line of various traditions: from the pagan origins of winter celebration right up to the coca-cola commercialism and a lot of what’s in between. We will continue to teach Kidlet about a wide variety of spiritual practices, and if we’ve done our job right, he’ll choose what is right for him regardless of our personal beliefs. These are some of the ideas we blend together for the holiday season:

December 25th/Christmas
According to many, the celebration of Christmas is super-imposed upon the winter solstice or the Roman Saturnalia festival. Other, more scholarly articles date the conception of Jesus as the same date as the crucifixion (mid-March to early April) thus coming up with the two dates once disputed: December 25th and January 6th. The latter now referred to as epiphany, and the combination the 12 days of Christmas (McGowan). Many people in our North American society will tell you the true focus of the season is the Christian god and Christ/Jesus. While I don’t share in these beliefs, I do love many of the Christmas carols and other add-ons of this celebration.

Santa Claus/St. Nick/Father Christmas
Coca-cola hit pay-dirt when it created what most people now think of when they hear “Santa Claus”. But the origins of this character are as vast as any other: Nisse, Sinterklaas, Kris Kringle… whatever you want to call him, children are delighted with this fairy-tale. There is nothing that quite compares to the magic of unconditional generosity represented by this jolly old man.

Hanukkah/Chanukah
A Jewish festival lasting 8 nights. Light a menorah, exchange Hanukkah presents, enjoy meals together. While most of us don’t actively participate in Hanukkah, many people use the entire winter/holiday season as a good excuse to get together, enjoy each other’s company and, just as often as not, exchange small gifts of friendship.

Yule/Winter Solstice
I personally consider this the original winter celebration. The longest night of the year has existed since the beginning of the planet. I love that after December 21st or 22nd, the days will start getting longer and more light and life is on its way. I love Yule Logs, Yule-Tree (aka: Christmas Tree), mistletoe, lights, etc. To me, it’s just not the season without them.

Sources/Citations:

Frenaya, John (poster). Image: Seasonal Greetings (2011-12-19) Retrieved 2011-12-21 from: https://www.facebook.com/groups/198198690237992/?ref=notif&notif_t=group_activity#!/photo.php?fbid=10150473578423749&set=a.43397523748.53178.583638748&type=1&theater

McGowan, Andrew (n.d.) “How December 25th Became Christmas”. Retrieved 2011-12-20 from: http://www.bib-arch.org/e-features/christmas.asp