Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Making Mistakes AND How Beverly Goldberg Saved My Relationship with My Teenage Sons

"Don't be afraid to make mistakes, to stumble and fall because most of the time the greatest rewards come from doing the things that scare us the most...Who knows where life could take you. The road is long and in the end the journey is the destination." --Unknown from www.searchquotes.com

I gave a speech today at the Wallingford Toastmasters club. It was my fifth and for the first time I froze. Completely froze. Like a l-o-n-g silent PAUSE that seemed to go on forever...

So I just stood there. And stood there. And stood there. Trying to remember the rest of my speech.

I always seem to give the best version of my speech on the way to the meeting and today was no exception. That version was perfect. Spot-on. I hit every mark and I remembered every word. Not so while actually giving the speech.

Early in the first few lines I made a mistake. I revised my speech on the fly and in so doing I lost my way. I didn't know what came next because I had mentally deleted my cue word.

So I stopped. And stood there. I didn't have any choice because I was lost.

And then I remembered. And the rest of the speech went very well.

My evaluators were all VERY supportive and I even got props for having the courage to stand there in all that silence.

Afterward I felt sad, but not defeated. Of course I wish I had given the VERY BEST version of my speech to the club, but I did the best I could in that moment and I couldn't help thinking that maybe there was a higher purpose to be found in my mistake.

There were a lot of new members and guests in the audience today and maybe, just maybe, my l-o-n-g, l-o-n-g pause will give one of them the courage to try something that scares them. To make a mistake. To stumble and fall.

Because I did it and survived. And even thrived a little.

The text of my speech about how a TV sitcom character saved my relationship with my teenage sons is below. I hope you enjoy it.


~  *  ~  *  ~  *  ~

Almost like clockwork on his thirteenth birthday my older son became sullen and withdrawn. He started spending more and more time in his room. When asked a question, he mumbled or grunted, and turned away. Worst of all, he began to recoil from my touch when I went to hug him. I had heard that this was “normal” teenage behavior, but it scared me and I didn't know what to do about it.
And then I met Beverly Goldberg.

For those of you who don't know her, she is a big-haired, Jazzercizin,' 1980's Super-mom who is one of the main characters on the television sitcom The Goldbergs (which can be seen on ABC Wednesday nights at 8:00pm PT) along with her long-suffering husband, Murray, and her three teenage children.
The show was recommended to me by my sister-in-law who said it was “a great family show.” So I started recording it and watching it with my sons. We loved it right away and became huge fans.

After a few weeks the boys started teasing me and saying that Beverly Goldberg reminded them of someone...I didn't see it, but I immediately recognized this as an opportunity to connect with my sons and I started watching the show more closely.

There are three primary pillars of Beverly Goldberg's parenting style: AFFECTION, NICKNAMES, and MEDDLING. I started with affection.

In The Goldberg household affection is not optional. It's even spelled out in their family rules. House Rule #5: Mandatory hugs every time you walk in the door. I decided to make this one of our “house rules” as well and everytime the boys came home from school, or left to go to a friend's house or walked within arms length of me, I reached out and grabbed them for a big bear hug. Or a nuggie or a kiss on the cheek. I called it “Beverly Goldberging” them.

My younger son, who has always loved to play chase, took to this right away. He would take off running through the house screeching at the top of his lungs trying to get away from me, screaming “NO MOM! N-O-O-O!” until I caught him and he landed on some flat surface, laughing and smiling as I Beverly Goldberged him.

My older son was less enthusiastic, but instead of pulling away with a scowl, he did it with a smile on his face, so I kept going.

Next up, NICKNAMES.

In the Goldberg household all nicknames start with Schmoo and expand out from there: Schmoopy, Schmoopy Loopy, Schmoopy Poopy, Schmoop-a-loopa-ding-dong, Schmoop-du-jour, you get the drift. We had also been liberal with nicknames when our sons were small, but it was a habit we had all, seemingly, out grown and I was determined to bring it back.

I started calling my younger son Little Bear. Or Beary Bear. Or Beary Beary Bearerton. Or sometimes just Bear. We had always called my older son O, the first initial of his first name, so I just started riffing on that: O, Owie, Owie O, Owie Owie O.
Once again the reaction was more positive from my younger son, who positively glowed every time I used his nickname; my older son just smiled an embarrassed little smile, but he was smiling more often, so I kept going.

The third pillar of Beverly Goldberg's parenting is MEDDLING. There isn't an area of her kids' lives that Beverly is afraid to jump into with both feet, ususally one of them in her mouth (her kids' nickname for her is THE SMOTHER). School, sports, friends, romance, you name it Beverly is there mixing it up and – more often than not – making a mess.

As I watched the show more closely I had to admit that it was in this area that I most closely resembled Beverly Goldberg. And it wasn't pretty.

When our children are small we do everything for them – we feed them, we clothe them, we change them, we even move them around in the world – and then they grow up and we don't always know when to stop. In particular I was a meddler in the area of homework.

As soon as dinner was over I would ask: What is your homework tonight? How much of it do you have? In which classes? When is it due? Can I take a look? Have you done it yet?

It was a nightmare for them – and a nightmare for me – and it made many of our evenings most unpleasant. So I decided to stop. To take myself out of the homework game. To become the Coach and not the Team Captain, the safety net and not the straightjacket.

My husband and I decided on minimum standards of achievement, we communicated these to our sons and then we let go. After all, once they are grown up and have jobs I am not going to be going to work with them, sitting in a chair next to their desk saying, “Remember you have a meeting at noon. You should probably start that report for your boss now. Did you spell check it?” They are going to have to work it out for themselves and it seems to me that this is one of the most important things they learn in school.

It's been about two years since we started watching “The Goldbergs” and I am happy to say that my younger son, who just turned thirteen a few months ago, shows no signs of becoming sullen and withdrawn.
And my older son, now fifteen, routinely comes and sits down next to me and asks me to scratch his back or rub his head. Before going to bed each night he comes in and tucks us in, lying at the foot of our bed and telling us about his day, about what is going on in the world of sports, or showing us a funny video he saw on YouTube (only the ones that are “appropriate for parents”).

I feel like I have my son back and I owe it all to Beverly Goldberg. 

Monday, February 27, 2017

WRITE YOUR LIFE in Portland!

"START a  new life today, WRITE a new life today, WRITE YOUR LIFE!"

Quick - and very exciting - announcement! I have been invited to lead a WRITE YOUR LIFE workshop at New Renaissance Bookstore in Portland, OR on Saturday, March 11 from 6:00pm - 8:00pm. If you live in the Portland area I would love to see you there! Click here to learn more. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Moving Mountains

My sign for the Women's March
 January 21, 2017

"When the silent women SPEAK, they will move MOUNTAINS.” --My paraphrase of a Chinese proverb

We have a choice to make.

The choice to sit down and stay silent, or to stand up and speak. The choice to despair, or to hope; to wallow, or to act. I am here today to speak and I hope that you will join me.

At 10:30pm on Tuesday, November 8th 2016, when it became clear to me that he-who-shall-not-be-named was to be our next President, I turned off the TV, crawled into bed, threw the covers over my head and thought about staying there for the next four years.

Alas, the next morning my alarm went off as usual and there were kids to feed and a dog to walk and life to be lived. So I got up and started living.

Over the next couple of weeks a strange thing happened. As I talked to my friends about the election and why the result was particularly devastating to me, I began to feel....hopeful. This was not what I expected.

It happened because I started to speak about things which I had kept silent about for years, and it happened because as I spoke about these things, my female friends began to speak as well and in this sharing of our stories I found a kind of healing and more than a bit of hope.

It started for me when I was seven years old. 

I was standing in the stationary aisle at our local five and dime (what we used to call a drug store) choosing a new pencil case to take with me to second grade. Would it be the denim one with the little pockets or the shiny red one that smelled like plastic and cherries? I wasn't sure, but I was enthralled with the chosing.

So enthralled, in fact, that I didn't notice the fourteen year old boy who had sideled up next to me. Eventually I felt his presence and turned to look at him. When I did he said, “I want to fuck you.”

I didn't know what this meant at the time, but I knew it wasn't nice and I immediately burst into tears and ran to find my mother, who was shopping in another part of the store with my little sister.

When I found her, I grabbed onto her leg and held on for dear life, but I didn't tell her what had happened.

I also didn't tell her when a boy grabbed my breasts while I was waiting in line to ride the roller coaster on a church youth group trip to an amusement park, or when my grandfather's best friend tried to look down my dress and then my grandparents forced me to give him a hug as he left. I didn't tell her about all the times I was groped and grabbed, flashed and fondled, propositioned and harassed over the next forty years from age seven to age thirty-three - in a car, at school, in a train station even at a wedding.

Why not? Why didn't I tell her? Why didn't I SPEAK?

As women (and girls) we are taught to be ashamed, we are taught that we are responsible, we are taught that keeping silent is easier for everyone. But it isn't. Not really. If anything, the election has hopefully taught us this.

On election day when the man who thinks it is his right to grab a woman's pussy whenever and wherever he wants to was elected to the highest office of the land I thought that I was devastated for those women - the women on TV - the women he harrassed and grabbed and (alegedly) raped. (I use the word women here liberally, some of the "women" he has been accused of assaulting are as young as 12 or 13.)

How must they feel, I thought, to have HIM held up as a leader, a role model, an example of what a man should be?

But the more I talked to other women, the more I realized that we all have a list. A list of men like HIM who see our bodies as their birth right, to use and to abuse at will. And I realized that I was not devastated for them, but for all of us. For myself and for my sister and my mother, for my nieces and my friends, for my husband and my sons. 

And the more I realized this, the more I realized that we have the power to stop these men, if not from what they do then from getting away with it. Because we have the power to SPEAK, and to ACT and to HOPE. I hope you will join me. 

And I hope you will join the Women's March on January 21st 2017 for “when the silent women SPEAK, they will move MOUNTAINS.”

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

The above is the approximate text of a speech I gave at the Wallingford Toastmaster's Meeting on January 4th 2017. I say approximate because I didn't write the speech down before I gave it, only after, so this is one of many possible versions of the speech I actually gave.

After I spoke another member passed me a scrap of paper with the following quote on it, “When sleeping women wake, they will move mountains.” I didn't know where it came from, but it touched me deeply.

Last weekend when I went to a sign-making party for the march today I couldn't remember the exact words she had written so I went the the closest approximation I could come up with, “When the silent women speak, they will move mountains.”

When I got home I looked up the quote and was at first disappointed when I realized that I had got it wrong, but as I thought more about it, I began to see the perfection in the mistake. 

For me, this version - my version - is more to the point. For years I had been silent about how men like our current President had treated my body, but I will be silent no more. From now on I will SPEAK, and I will LISTEN, and together WE WILL MOVE MOUNTAINS.

Today we are marching – and speaking - together. I hope you will join us. And if you don't join us, I hope you will at least support us.

Monday, October 31, 2016

30 Days of Thanks-giving Starts Tomorrow on Twitter!

"Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse."  --Henry Van Dyke

Every Thanksgiving Day for the past nineteen years my dad has asked us the question: What are you grateful for? But instead of making it general, he makes it specific: What inanimate object are you grateful for? What childhood friend? What live performance? 

During the next thirty days I would like to share this tradition with you. Each day on my Twitter page I will post a question asking you to name one very specific thing you are grateful for. Share your gratefuls with me - and the world - on Twitter using the hashtag #whatRUthankful4?

Here's to following that impulse and focusing on the good! (With thanks to my dad for instilling in us the habit of thanks-giving.) 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Next 30-day Challenge Starts November 1st!

"What if focusing on the good in our lives could lead to an increase in good?" --Karen Lindvig

I came across this quote recently and thought...Yeah, what if? And then I thought...maybe it's time for another 30-day challenge....a Thanks-giving challenge!

So, if you are wondering this too, or if you are just game to give it a try, join me on Twitter, starting November 1st for 30 Days of Thanks-giving. Gobble, Gobble.


#30DAYSOFTHANKSGIVING
#whatRUthankful4?

Monday, September 26, 2016

Inspire-ME Monday #8: Substituting Faith for Fear


Just one today, but I think it is a powerful one. And maybe one that explains our whole election...

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Writer or Blogger? THAT is the question

Before I took my summer hiatus (which, by the way, lasted longer than I expected, having promised to return in August, sorry about that) I wrote about listening to yourself and for the past few weeks, the phrase "Do you want to be a WRITER or a BLOGGER?" has been staring at me every time I sit down at my desk. This phrase came to me as I was working on Monday's post, "Harmonizing Yes and No," which I started before the hiatus.

This post was to be a continuation of the listening to yourself theme, specifically addressing the difficulties involved in saying YES or saying NO in specific situations. But what keeps coming up for me as I think about starting to write again is this question: "Do I want to be a WRITER or a BLOGGER?" And the answer for me is clear: WRITER. No question.

Conventional wisdom says that these days ("these days" being the days of Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and now Snapchat. Actual serious ADULTS are on Snapchat now. Did you know that?) you kind of have to be both, but I am not sure that is possible for me. I spent most of last year writing a book and I have spent most of this year blogging and trying to beef up my social media presence.

Of course while writing my book I did a bit of blogging, and while blogging I have done a bit of writing, but before my hiatus I was not making the progress I wanted to be making on my second book while also blogging twice a week. So it is time for me to get my YES'S and my NO'S in order. To say YES to more writing, and NO to more blogging, and NO to those who would tell me that this is a mistake. 

It may be a mistake for them, but it is not a mistake for me and I know because the Universe told me so. 

So Monday September 19th was the last regularly scheduled Inspire-Me Monday and this post the first of my new blogging schedule, which is to say, I will blog whenever I have time and have something to say or just feel like writing a blog post. 

Otherwise I will be working on my next book (teaser: It's about KINDNESS) and reading great books and collecting inspirational quotes to share with you and just generally living my life. 

I will still be posting stuff on my Facebook Community Page (Being and Becoming) for now and I will still tweet information about my writing and this blog on Twitter (@be_and_become), but I will be posting and tweeting a lot less. If you would like to stay in touch please like my Facebook Community Page or SIGN UP to receive posts via email in the right-hand margin of this blog. 

In the meantime listen to yourself: say "YES!" (with an exclamation point) to that which serves your highest good and "NO." (with a period) to anything that doesn't. 

Lots of love and Happy Fall!