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Entries in family (15)

Wednesday
Oct192016

The Single, No Kids Follies

The garage of doom. September 2016. Houston, Texas.

Let me tell you about the time I pulled the car out of the garage and couldn’t get the overhead door to close behind me via the in-car remote.

Sounds fascinating, I know, yet bear with me.

Scene #1: The Garage

Frustrated and late for a yoga class, I exited the vehicle and dashed inside the garage to press the “close” button and dart back to the car. I’d figure out what caused the issue when I got home.

And then, as I stood in the garage with my finger still in the air, having just pushed the red button, the overhead door slammed to the ground, stranding me inside with no house keys or phone and leaving my car running outside with the door open and my purse in the console.

I managed to McGuyver my way out.

I won’t bore you with the details. Yet in the panicked minutes I stood trapped in my Houston-summer-hot garage with no method of communication to the outside world and no way to get inside the house or outside to the driveway, I wondered how long it would take for someone to find me, especially given that this had happened on a Saturday morning—meaning that no one would likely notice me missing until at least Monday (and probably not even until late that day, given the number of external meetings I have scheduled during the average week)—and with the likelihood that someone happening by would shortly steal my car, handbag, phone, and wallet, leaving nary a tip-off clue for my neighbors.

Scene #2: The Run

And let me tell you about the time I tripped over some road-construction debris on a run, breaking a rib and cracking my head and causing enough of a visible commotion to stop at least a couple concerned bystanders, who asked if I knew the name of the president and the day of the week. (I did, but I could hardly breathe enough with a broken rib to answer. Amped up my levels of pathetic a few notches, don’cha know.)

One of the bystanders asked me repeatedly—incredulously, really—who he could call to come get me and whether I had someone at home to take care of me when I got there. My family couldn’t have arrived to my location in any sort of reasonable timeframe.

And I had no one at home to help me.

I had to admit both to the rescuer, which made me quite the sorry character. In fact, his concern seemed so deep, especially as he dropped me at my front door and asked yet again whether I really, truly didn’t have anyone inside who could help, that after I finally managed to pry off my sportswear, I had a little pity cry in the shower.

The Dangers of Having No Tribe

As much as I enjoy living independently, having no tribe has its hazards.

First, let’s define “tribe.”

Though some strict definitions consider “tribe” a group predominantly allied through kinship, I prefer a broader definition from psychology and some sectors of anthropology that considers a tribe “a social group of humans connected by a shared system of values and organized for mutual care, defense, and survival beyond that which could be attained by a lone individual or family.”

Though I have a relatively close family, none of us call each other or see each other every day. (Well, the married and nuclear-family components do, but between these groups, we do not.)

I have no kids living at home or living remotely to check in with me.

I do not have a group of people for which I watch out and take care and that does the same for me, other than my company cohort (and even then, only on weekdays and during working hours).

Experts say people who live alone should have companion animals—and I’ve written about whether I agree. Yet Ramona can only look out for me so much. She can’t help me in a practical fashion when I’ve managed to hurt myself (go me, the eternal klutz) or have picked up an illness somewhere. She can’t do much if I don’t come home one night and haven’t called. And she can’t free me from the garage.

Given that more of us live alone today than ever, I have company in the challenge of living alone without someone to look out for me or assist me when stuck.

And so, other than getting one of the nifty necklaces with a button that calls emergency services when I’ve fallen and can’t get up, how do we solve this problem for the many solos out there in the world today? What services can we provide to address these needs?

Or will reverting to a communal-living arrangement end up the best solution, after all?

Your thoughts?

Wednesday
Sep072016

Summer 2016: My Review

This post marks an attempt at something new on this blog, something more diary-style, though necessarily selective in its details.

We’ll see whether I keep it up. This may turn into a one-of-a-kind. Yet in case it becomes a regular feature, I’ve decided to craft it as a season in review, and to cover June through August.

Here goes:

Work, Work, WorkWorkWork

The FrogDog team's two wins at the IABC Bronze Quill Awards. June 2016.

Let’s get the professional matters out of the way first, as they probably have less interest for the most of you and, out of necessity, I can only and always keep relatively mum on specifics in this life facet.

In June, my FrogDog strategy team and I won two Bronze Quill Awards from the Houston IABC for our work helping a client redirect its marketing strategy and message through primary research and analysis.

Otherwise, the summer brought a number of evolutions to FrogDog:

  • We worked on setting an aggressive road map for the rest of 2016, for one.
  • For two, we started assessing our strategy for the year ahead.
  • And third, we had some staff changes: In addition to bringing on board an amazing new FrogDogger I’ve tried to team with for a couple years at least—a big win!—one of our staff transitioned out due to her husband’s transfer back to Australia and another left as planned a full-time MBA program at The University of Chicago. A couple other teammates moved on to other roles. We miss them!

Ahead for fall: Our end-of-year plan and our strategy work will kick into action, which excites me. Also, we’ve applied for the next award up from the one we won in June—the regional Silver Quill—for which the IABC will announce nominees in late September or early October.

Friends

For one reason or another, spending time with friends became a big focus of this summer. No huge doings: Just getting together over food, drink, fireworks, parties and celebrations, porch sitting, and even pedicures.

In most cases, these friends and I live near enough in Houston to see each other more often than we do—and shame on us that we don’t—yet a few of the occasions brought in friends from as near as Corpus Christi and as far as Guelph, Canada.

Life feels better on all levels with close friends to share it. Not long ago, I took my friendships for granted. Not so much in recent years, in which nurturing my friendships has taken priority.

Family

The gardens across the street from The French Laundry. July 2016.

In July, my mother and her husband, my brother and his wife and two young children, and I met up in Calistoga, California, for a long weekend of family time.

Nonstop time, actually, as the swimsuit and extra books I brought for relaxing and reading by the pool went untouched: We visited a couple wineries, saw some of the Redwoods, feasted at The French Laundry, ate at other fabulous restaurants (frankly, I munched my way through Napa Valley), and had a photographer come along to take varieties of posed and candid family photos.

After that, I needed a vacation from the vacation. (Didn’t happen.)

In August, a cousin threw a housewarming party that brought together members of the family I rarely get to see though with whom I grew up.

We didn’t have nearly enough time together as I’d have liked; it feels melancholy, a bit, to spend so little time with people you saw weekly as a kid. Though distance makes it a challenge, I call for more such gatherings in the future. (Too bad I don’t have a backyard pool to lure people!)

Dating

I’ll say here that dating this summer has held some interesting surprises. And I will leave it at that.

When I have more distance through which to distill the lessons learned, I might. Stay tuned.

Fitness

My blindingly, awesomely vibrant new Adidas boxing shoes. August 2016.

Can’t say much changed in the fitness arena—I still ran four to six miles four or so times per week and boxed on the nonrunning days—except that the importance of exercise increased with my eating. Even when not with friends or on travel, I managed to feast on everything terrible I could find, from cookies to chips to crackers to cake to… You name it.

This fall, I’ll need to keep my mouth shut in addition to keeping the body moving to atone for my sins.

Thankfully, I now have a pair of super-sweet Adidas boxing shoes that help. (Think I’ll blind ‘em?) And watching Claressa Shields, Heather Hardy, and Shelly Vincent fight on the national and international stages gives me motivation, as does a 10k with a good friend coming up on Thanksgiving morning. (Love when I can mix two loves at once: Friends and fitness!)

World Events

I can’t hark back to a golden era—a time during which truth and beauty and light infused the majority of this planet. Yet this summer, the world looked sad and dark, indeed.

I have so much more to say—and have written so much already on some of this summer’s predominant tragic themes—but I’ll hold the additional words for some other, future post.

Tell me about your summer.

Tuesday
Aug122014

Taking Photos at Funerals

A good friend who takes fantastic photography as a personal hobby sent me a few text messages upon the memorial service of a close friend of his family. He asked why we don’t take pictures of funerals.

My first reaction: Of course we don’t. How morbid. How gauche.

And then: Why not?

For centuries, humans captured the features of forensic cases and deceased celebrities (interesting juxtaposition, but I digress) through taking wax or plaster casts of their face or hands. The practice continued until photography came along.

Photography made it possible for many families to take photographs of the dead, often in their caskets. In many cases, these photographs of the just-deceased served as the only visual memory of them as, for many years, photography stayed costly enough to prevent most people from having photos of the living. (You can see some unnerving examples via this article on Mental Floss.) The practice subsided with the spread of photographic technology, which lowered photography’s cost and increased its accessibility.

With photos of the living, no one needed photos of the dead.

Now that we all have a plethora of pictures of everyone we know in print and on-line and loaded onto electronic devices, I’d definitely argue against resurrecting (bad pun, but I had to keep it) the unnerving practice of photographing the deceased.

Yet we might want to rethink the unspoken prohibition of funeral photography.

As a friend said on Twitter, to which I went with this debate, funerals and weddings convene people who rarely get together. Why not capture the gathering for people who attended and people who could not?

Further, I can see value in recording—via photography or videography or both—the memorial service for someone we love. In seeing the people who came out to pay tribute and support the family and in preserving their beautiful and touching speeches, don’t we further honor the person who has passed away? Doesn’t the funeral provide a glimpse of the value of the deceased’s life? And couldn’t revisiting the memorial via photos and videos help loved ones grieve?

Of course, no one could ever consider selfies taken in pews during the service or at the graveside respectful, and I’d recommend people keep cell phones in pockets and handbags as a best practice. Rather, the family and friends should leave the funeral photography function to a professional event photographer who knows how to take pictures respectfully, with the advance approval and guidance of the family, and without too much intrusion or disruption.

What do you think?

Should we take pictures at funerals?

Thursday
May222014

Parenting Has Become a Turn-off

As I’ve written in the past, I’ve long felt that whether I would have children would depend on finding a relationship in which kids made sense for us both.

Though I haven’t yet found “the” relationship, I can say that today’s parenting culture has nearly frightened me off the notion.

Parenting today has turned into a hypercompetitive sport.

Parents one-up each other on the best of everything for their offspring: Parties, nurseries and kids’ rooms, couture toddler wear, toys and electronic games, summer camps, vacations, schools, cars in high school, and so on.

Giving children the best means ensuring that Tommy and Lucy never feel anything but cosseted, necessitating time to drop them off and pick them up at school—heaven forbid they face the school bus—and ensuring they don’t spend too much time with babysitters or in day care—how dull. Any level of real or imagined discomfort or stress that parents can ameliorate, they ameliorate.

Also, it means scheduling little Tommy and Lucy for a kajillion activities, ranging from a sport or two each to scouting to crafts and tutoring and more.  A neighbor once told me that she hadn’t talked to her husband in two weeks because they had divided the kids’ after-school responsibilities between them. By the time they got home each night, they just went to bed.

I wonder whether children ever experience—gasp!—boredom in today’s parenting era.

To give the kiddoes all these fantastic things—material and experiential—parenting turns adults into slaves to their children. Today’s parents subsume everything other than work and kids. They have no personal lives. They have no side interests. They have no hobbies. They have no time for each other or their marriage. They make decisions—all decisions—based on what the children want.

Kids run the household—and their parents’ lives.

Healthy for children, who need to learn that the world doesn’t revolve around them? No. Healthy for marriages, which need quality time? Nuh uh. Healthy for individuals, who need personal actualization? Nope.

And yes, I could do it my own way. I could exit the parenting rat race. I advocate doing so in every other facet of life, absolutely.

However, every good parent loves her children. And children cannot understand the bigger, broader picture—even explaining doesn’t truly drive it home. (Only life experience will.) What if a child sees other parents’ one-upsmanship and wonders why his mom and dad don’t do the same? What if he feels less loved? Less supported? Less advantaged?

Because a parent can opt out of the parenting rat race, but a child cannot. And children care too much about what their peers think. If their parents don’t act like other parents, especially when it comes to them, children may feel alienated.

What do you think?

Wednesday
Aug072013

Children: Yes or No?

A children's clothing display in Memorial City Mall, Houston. August 3, 2013.

I’ve never been married. I have no children.

Occasionally, I’m asked whether I want kids.

My biological clock has never ticked.

Growing up, I regularly stated that I didn’t want children. In my midtwenties, after some introspection, I decided that children—for me—would happen only if I shared the experience and responsibility with someone else.

And if found a relationship in which children didn’t fit within our big picture, I’d feel completely okay with that.

I can see healthy, happy relationships in which children would prove a fun, mind-expanding project. And I can see fulfilling relationships in which children don’t quite jibe with plans for travel, creative exploits, business and personal challenges, and other adventures.

Each relationship is a unique, living organism. Like a chemistry experiment, you need to know the exact components to understand what might result. Without a specific life partner, I have no idea whether children make sense for me.

Of course, the decision on whether to have children is highly personal. Anyone else’s thinking likely widely varies from mine.

How did you decide on children?