Wednesday, November 27, 2013

This Thanksgiving, I'm Thankful For What I DON'T Have

Moments after the first leaves have changed from green to brilliant orange, our lives are abuzz with lists of things for which we should be thankful.  However varied, ranging from friends and family to jobs and religion, there is one common theme.  People tend to be thankful only for the things that are present in their lives, not for those that are absent.

Honestly, it makes sense.  In assessing how we feel, we take into consideration the state of our health, home, employment, love life and even shoe collection.  We think about the gifts that have come into our lives, via hard work or good fortune, but rarely do we think about the gifts that have left.  Well, this Thanksgiving, I am bucking the system.

Tomorrow as I sit down for dinner with my sister, her baby bump, my brother-in-law, my husband and my two beautiful daughters, I will be expressing gratitude not only for the things that are in my life, but for the things that have left it.

I will be thankful as much for the marriage I have today as for the troubled one of just a few years ago, as it was those challenges that forced us to look closely at the weaknesses we both let damage our relationship-- and ultimately empowered us to majorly overcome them.

I will be thankful as much for the job I have today as the one I left at The Bachelor nearly three years ago, as it was the difficult decision to leave the excitement, stability and comfort of that opportunity which lead to tremendous personal and professional growth elsewhere.

And I will be thankful as much for the people that are in my life now as I am for the lasting impressions (both positive and negative) left by those that have gone.

The funny thing is, once you are thankful for the things that have left your life, they have an uncanny way of returning to you- multiplied abundantly.

Several months ago, Trista Sutter reached out and asked if I would contribute a story to her book, “Happily Ever After: The Life-Changing Power of a Grateful Heart”.  Not long after we began exchanging ideas for what I would write, Trista sent a draft of her introduction to my piece.  For me to learn of the impact of just one friendship I created while at The Bachelor, likely one I would have predicted as fleeting, brought me to tears.  In fact, I had never been so grateful for the franchise.

Shortly after that, I arrived home to three enormous boxes delivered from my mother back east.  In them were my Barbie Dream House (circa 1978) and all of its original contents from disco print lounge chairs to wardrobe even Lady Gaga would kill for.  And while I have my mother to thank for meticulously packing and safe-keeping the items for decades, I am also grateful to my father (who we lost decades ago) for buying me the pad in the first place.  His gift has now returned to his grandchildren, whose creativity and imaginations will benefit greatly from his aged generosity (not to mention the positive message about body image sent by a less sexualized Barbie).

So, there is real truth in the statement that if you love someone (or something), you should set it free.  It may just come back to you in ways you never, ever expected.

Monday, November 11, 2013

These Parents Had An ENORMOUS Impact on Your Family (And I Bet You Have NO Idea Who They Are)

Do you know this woman?

Or this cute family?

Or this man about to give his precious daughter away?

How about this lady, who looks like the perfect neighbor...

... or this one, even if she's mid noise complaint?

Unfortunately, though, her distraught is warranted.

Same goes for this couple...

... and this one.

My guess is that none of them have done major harm more than the rest of us.  I'm sure they had high hopes, beautiful dreams and the indescribable desire to give the gift of life- and they did.  Still I wonder, if given the chance now, if they would rescind that gift from the very being to which they gave it.  Because if they could, maybe... just maybe... they could save a great many lives more than they created.

74 of them, to be exact.

These People Are:
1. Nancy Lanza, mother of Adam (Sandy Hook, 2012)
2. The Zawahri Family, parents & sisters of John (Santa Monica, 2013)
3. Sam Bishop, escorting daughter Amy Bishop Anderson (University of Alabama ,2010)
4. Susan Klebold, mother of Dylan (Columbine, 1999)
5. Cathleen Alexis, mother of Aaron (Navy Yard, 2013)
6. Arlene & Robert Holmes, parents of James Eagan (Aurora, 2012)
7. Kathy & Wayne Harris, parents of Eric (Columbine, 1999)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Halloween Made Me Question If I Am Abusing My Kids... Or You Are Abusing Yours

My daughters go to a nut-free school.  Well, let’s face it.  I live in Los Angeles.  There are plenty of nuts at her school, but no tree nuts.

On Back to School night, I asked in both of their classrooms if there were any children with food allergies or dietary restrictions.  Among several allergies, we also discovered some vegetarians and vegans.  My daughters are 3 and 5 years old.

Fast forward what felt like a mere number of hours, and Halloween was upon us.  Like many schools, ours too has a no candy policy.  So we dressed up for the costume parade, did some insane ‘Trunk’ or Treating that would put LA's finest set decorators to shame, grabbed some pencils, bubbles and stickers, and left our sweet teeth at home.

(This is not my trunk, but the fact that my children attend a school with a mother this talented is inspiring enough.)
The abbreviated school day concluded with a family style snack time in the classroom, cucumber sushi rolls included.  Teasing aside, it was a great morning, after which we went home to rest up for a night of "real" Trick or Treating where nut filled, non-vegan candy would abound.

So like any other time when I had a long list of to-dos that I should have been concentrating on, I let myself be distracted by a debate I have muddled over many times before.

Is it right for parents to force their own dietary choices upon their young children?

Now before you go pegging with me your organic heirloom tomatoes, give me the chance to say that I know many restrictions are in place for medical reasons.  I get that allergies are on a frighteningly rapid rise, and while I am lucky to have not (yet) lived the fear for my own children, I am very aware of its existence.  BUT.

Many limitations are imposed for religious or ethical reasons, and it is those that I put in question.  My daughters enjoy playing with a neighborhood friend who cannot eat in our house because we do not keep Kosher.  And though I feel terribly that I cannot offer her a snack, I know she does not pine for the Halloween themed Oreos in my cupboard.  Or does she?

I consider becoming a vegetarian at least once a month, before mixing up an incredible Sriracha based marinade (while I can) and throwing a flank steak on the grill.  I haven’t made the jump for a number of reasons, ranging from the fact that I am very anemic and crave red meat to fear of the extra effort it would cause me in the kitchen because I would not want to force a vegetarian lifestyle on my children until they are old enough to weigh in on the subject for themselves.

I feel like forcing one or the other is very wrong… I am just not sure which one.