Adulting · Anxiety

A Mom’s Anxiety

Have you guys seen Ariana Grande’s brain scan? The one showing the PTSD she has after the Manchester Bombing? Yeah I think I should scan my brain too. No joke, seriously.

It all started 4 or 5 years ago. See I just have one cousin my age growing up. She and I were born 1 month apart. We grew up together, went to playdates and birthdays together, and went to elementary school together. Later on we did grow apart a bit as she went to a different high school and university and we both had different groups of friends.

But then we got closer again as we got older. She actually set me up with my husband as he went to the same high school as hers. We got married months apart then life and kids happened .. and we weren’t as close as before though we tried to keep in contact as much as we can.

Fast forward a couple of years later .. got the shocking news: my cousin, who just had twin babies, has leukemia.

I think I blocked those days from my brain but now that I am writing this, I’m starting to remember the day. I was living at my moms with the kids as my husband was doing his 9 months masters course abroad. I remember it was before 8 am, I just came back from school drop off when I saw my uncle walking around in circles in front of my mom’s gate. When he saw me he hurried off. I didn’t know why but now I know he didn’t want to face people. Now I know .. he was devastated.

After that I don’t remember exactly what happened, as I said I blocked a lot of things from my brain. But I do remember clearly my uncle telling my mom: after our mom (my grandmother) passed away, you’re the only person I have left in this world that can give me strength so please help me .. I don’t know what to do. From that day us three girls knew we had to be strong for our mom, just like she had to be strong for her brother.

Looking back now, there’s a lot of things I don’t remember. I don’t remember who told me she passed away. I don’t remember that date she did. I don’t remember if I was pregnant with my 3rd or not (why cant I remember?)

But I do remember her birthday, Nov 4. And I do remember her first crush and the code name she gave him. And I do remember us trying to fake injury and go to the school nurse together to get out of class.

I also remember that I did not cry in her funeral when everyone else was crying. I remember thinking: what’s wrong with me? Why am I not crying?! It took me an entire month to break down, alone in my room.

And to be honest, I still don’t think I dealt with all my emotions. Being a wife and trying to be the person your significant other needs, having a household and trying to juggle all the responsibilities, raising 4 kids to the best of your abilities .. you just cant breakdown and deal with your emotions.

This is why we moms have perfected the “I’m fine” syndrome. Just sweep everything under the rug and deal with it later because no worries .. of course I’m fine.

But then .. anxiety started to creep in.

Ten year ago, they found a polyp in my colon that was just the type that could’ve turned into cancer. I was very lucky and I did the needed follow up after it. I’m due to have a check up soon. Oh my God .. what if it came back? And already grew into cancer? It’s called the silent killer for a reason! My God .. what will happen to my kids?

I felt a bump in my breast. I’m breastfeeding but still went to have it checked. The ultrasound showed that it doesn’t look cancerous and the doctor said she would rather wait till I finish breastfeeding because it was close to a milk gland and they’d rather not prick it .. especially when it’s looking so reassuring.

But what if the Dr. is wrong? What if the ultrasound technician missed something and was wrong too? What if I had breast cancer?! Would my husband remarry and go off with his new wife forgetting our kids (just like her husband did?) My God .. what will happen to my kids?

My arm hurt the other day and I had a tingly feeling in my hand. It must be that the breast cancer spread to my lymph nodes and cause this tingling. Forget that I slept on the rocking chair holding my 10 kg baby .. no it must be cancer.

Then my shoulder hurt for a while. OMG how didn’t I see it. It’s a symptom of lung cancer, along with a recurring cough, which I did have throughout the year.  My kids .. my four beautiful kids .. what will happen to them if I die??

Think it would be best for me to go to a doctor. But if I do go to one and ask for a colonoscopy because I believe I have colon cancer, a mammograph because I just know its breast cancer, and a chest x-ray because yes I do, I think I have lung cancer too. You know what, just throw in a brain scan in there too because it wont take me much time to diagnose myself with brain cancer.

I think most probably, this doctor will refer me to a psychologist .. which yes by now I know I really should go see someone professional about this.

The first time I had a full on anxiety attack, it was 9 pm .. sitting on a rocking chair with my baby. My older 3 sleeping soundly in their beds. I was going through my phone and saw a video of a little girl who was being abducted by a predator.

My heart started beating very fast, I started sweating, I couldn’t breathe properly and felt dizzy. I put my baby down and started breathing long deep breaths. I had to talk to myself and reassure myself over and over again: it’s ok .. my kids are safe .. it’s ok .. my kids are at home with me .. sleeping in their beds.

After I calmed down, I went to each of my kids and kissed them on their foreheads. Then I saw how crazy this all was. The incident in the video was in another country, in a place that we never visited. But deep down, I’ll always have the “what if”” .. “you never know” .. “it just takes a sec” .. “it can happen to anyone”.. that I just cant seem to shake off.

So yes .. I believe I suffer from anxiety. And yes .. It is getting worse by the day. And yes .. I am very worried I might transfer my anxiety to my kids (which is making me even more anxious). And yes .. I know I know .. I really need to go see a professional and get the help I desperately need.

But for now .. I’ll take my antibiotics for my throat infection while giving my son his dose of Ventolin on the nebulizer and while I just remembered that my 3 year old needs to wear clothes from a different country tomorrow to preschool and did my daughter remember to put her homework in her school bag?

I promise one day I will get the help I need but for now .. I’ll just sweep my anxiety under the rug and smile .. and always reply I’m fine .. absolutely 100% fine.

Book Reviews · Reading

The Red and the Black Book Review (#85)

Book: The Red and the Black by Stendhal

#85 on the Telegraph’s 100 novels everyone should read.

Grade: C

What is the story about?

The story follows Monsieur Julien Sorrel and his rise from obscurity, the son of a carpenter in the countryside, to fame in the posh Paris salons.

Verdict?

I really wanted to like this book .. but to be honest .. it’s just meh.

I left the book with an impression of reading a wana-be Romeo and Juliet but not quiet getting there.

In the end I felt like everyone was in love with Julien except for me. He actually annoys me for most of the book. He was too full of himself and thought the world revolves around him.

I also didn’t like the ladies in the book. Mme de Renal was a good wife and mother until Julien came along. Then it’s like she loses her mind and forgets everything she ever believes in when she gazes in his dreamy eyes.

As for Mlle Mathilda .. Oh my. She is a spoilt girl who enjoys getting things she can’t have .. but then loses interest as soon as she actually gets them.

The only character I liked was M. de la Mole, who was wronged by almost every character in the book.

If I have read this book back in my teens when I was a hopeless romantic .. maybe I would’ve liked the story more.

But for now .. it’s just meh.


Next book: The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas.

I used to call my sisters and I the three musketeers. will be nice to know their real story..

Till next time ❤

Parenting · School

Snowplow Parent: Failing to Prepare Kids for the Real World

It’s been a while since I wrote a parenting post (writer’s block maybe?), but reading a very interesting article in the New York Times made me think, and rethink: Am I preparing my kids for the real world?

The article calls our kids age the “everyone-gets-a-trophy generation” which is absolutely true and frustrating. See it started in kindergarten sports day, there is no winner or loser. You think it’s ok, they are just kids and who wants to deal with 20+ temper tantrums on a day that’s supposed to be fun for the kids?

Then it slowly, without realizing it, started creeping to the older kids. See in our school we have houses with different colors. These four houses compete against each other on sports day and the winning house gets a reward like a pizza party or something. Three years ago it was the blue house (not my kids team), two years ago it was the reds (yay our team!), but last year and this year .. there were no winners. It wasn’t like announced that it’s not a real competition and ‘everyone wins’, but the lack of winners/losers seemed to make everyone happy.
failureisnolongeranoption

And it’s not only that. Last week we had the IT fair in our school. There were 15+ teams showing their robots that they created. Some were better than others but at the end, every single team won. Every team was called up on stage and given a certificate and a medal. They had different categories like: most creative, most innovative, best looking robot .. etc. I feel bad for the person who had to come up with 15+ different categories, just so everyone could ‘win’.

I asked one of the judging teachers and she said that they had to do that because of the amount of angry complaints from parents they get each year.

I for one don’t like the everyone wins policy and kind of felt like the school was a pushover for giving into parents complaints .. until I saw for myself first hand how ruthless it can be.

cagle00

Just three days after having that conversation with the teacher, my daughter took part in the awaited Battle of the Books. Each year, our librarian chooses a list of 20 books for the grade to read. Five students from each class are chose to compete (this is done by student voting in class). These five students have to read the list of 20 books between themselves, so each student reads four books (you can read more if you like) in almost two months. (My daughter read Pippi Longstocking, Loser, Mostly Ghostly: Have you met my Ghoulfriend?, Holes, and Hatchet).

So anyways, we moms were excited as this is the first year we get to participate (only grades 4 and 5 have it). We created a booklet with questions so they can summarize their books in, took them to Starbucks so they can have book discussions and so on. It was so much fun and in the end, all we wanted is to build a love of reading in our kids.

Fast forward to the morning of the battle, my girl was very nervous. I told her it doesn’t matter if she wins or loses because in my eyes she is already a winner as she did a great job in reading and summarizing all those books. And I’m proud of her for stepping in and helping her friends when they couldn’t finish reading all their books. So as a reward for all her efforts, I am taking her out and buying her a gift, no matter what the outcome of the battle is.

I really really wanted my daughter’s team to win. They hot a couple of questions wrong, and it was nerve wracking but did end up winning in the end. What surprised me was the amount of temper tantrums/crying the other teams had (keep in mind they are 9 – 10 years old). What surprised me even more was the amount of temper tantrums the moms had!

The amount of abuse the organizing teacher got was ridiculous! He put the effort from his personal time (he has twin babies btw so I’m sure he could’ve spent this time in many other ways) to organize the competition, come up with the questions, and host it, all to provide the kids with an enjoyable event and to promote reading. And what did he get in return?! Screaming, angry parents accusing him of cheating, neglect, and being reckless with kids emotions. Looking at all their angry faces I don’t think they realize how ridiculous they look!

So we took out the winning team to dinner and on the way there I had a talk with my daughter about what happened. I asked her to think about what happened and how Mr. S must’ve felt. And I told her if she participates again next year, if her team doesn’t win, I want her to be an example for the rest and congratulate the winning team and lift the spirits of her own team. As for me, I promised to take her out next year to celebrate as long as she finishes her four books and summarizes them, because I reward effort and not just medals.
battlebooks.png

So, what are we teaching our kids by bulldozing all obstacles they face? I know it’s hard to see your kids fail, not win, be disappointed, but shouldn’t we teach them how to deal with these emotions? Shouldn’t we model behavior instead of screaming at a teacher? If a child sees his mom doing it, what will stop them from doing it and disrespecting their teachers in the future?

I’m sure these parents don’t mean to do wrong towards their kids and their parenting. On the contrary, they believe by doing this, they are protecting their kids and always ensure they have a leg up on anything they want to accomplish. But by doing that, they rob their kids of experiencing failure.

The NY Times article points out that failure teaches kids to “solve problems, take risks, and overcome frustration.” These are “crucial life skills” that kids need to build up in order to face the real world. The article goes on to list examples of students who got accepted to top universities like Stanford but dropped out after the first semester because they didn’t have the tools to cope by themselves.

My oldest is just 10 years old and I still feel new to all this and trying my best to figure it all out. I’m sure I made a million mistakes on the way that I really hope doesn’t mess my kids up forever. But I am happy, after reading this article, that I didn’t send my daughter’s math book to school when she forgot it at home after doing her improper fractions homework. I told her a million times she is responsible for her books and schoolbag. Now she will always remember to put her homework back in her bag and I’m glad I didn’t bail her out (even though I thought about it). This might seem like a small thing but hopefully, it’s a correct mindset and heading towards the right direction in a world where everyone-gets-a-trophy.

I am writing this post after just coming back from my niece and nephew’s birthday party. My daughter won the book “Oh the Places you’ll Go!” What a fitting book to end my discussion with her, and to end my post too.

So will conclude this with the wittier of the cleverest.. Dr. Suess:

Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best                                                                   Wherever you go, you will top all the rest                                                                            Except when you don’t                                                                                                          Because, sometimes, you won’t                                                                                                      I’m sorry to say so                                                                                                                            but, sadly, it’s true                                                                                                                           that Bang-ups                                                                                                                                    and Hang-ups                                                                                                                                    can happen to you …

But on you will go                                                                                                                      though the weather be foul                                                                                                             On you will go                                                                                                                             though your enemies prowl …

KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!

Here’s to hoping all our kids will move their awaiting mountain, and we just be proud parents with as little meddling as possible.

Because just as we should be proud of our achievements, they should be proud of theirs too!

Book Reviews · Reading

Old Man Goriot Book Review (#86)

Book: Old Man Goriot by Honore de Balzac

#86 on the Telegraph’s 100 novels everyone should read.

Grade: A-

What is the story about?

The story is about Eugene de Rastignac, a student coming from a loving family from the South pursuing his education in Paris. He lodged in Madame Vaquer’s boarding house where he met Old Man Goriot as well as other interesting characters. Here, he learned the workings of Paris’ upper society.

Verdict?

Before I get into this review, you have to know one thing about me: I’m a classics girl. After reading a number of books in this list from different genre’s, it was very nice and comforting to read a classic, it’s like going back home again after a wonderful whirlwind adventure.

And what a classis this is! I loved it and really enjoyed reading it. It’s not like most classics where its very slow in the beginning then it picks up. It was interesting from the start.

About society .. my mom used to always talk about the ‘good old days’, how life was simpler, people had more respect and values. This book shows that no not really. Since the 1800’s (and I’m sure even before that), it was, is, and always will be about the money.

When Rastignac saw the workings of society, he gave up on his studies because he knew it won’t get him anywhere. It’s all about your connections, who you know and who can take you places, and your street smarts too.

He also knew that wealth brings power and respect. He knew that he had to look the part so he can be accepted in the highest circles of society. So he borrowed money from his mom and sisters knowing very well they really needed it, but he had to get it so he can be seen in the correct waistcoat. And surely enough when he was dressed correctly, he earned people’s respect.

Just like in this day if you drive a monster of a car that costs a fortune, people show respect on road. And I’m sure many inappropriate incidents were laughed off just because the perpetrators are filthy rich.

Another theme that I really enjoyed in this book is human nature. Take Vautrin for example. He is the famous villain in Balzac’s novels. Even though he was a runaway convict, you can still see he has some good in him. Then you have people like Mademoiselle Michonneou, a vile spinster who talks behind everyones back, lives for gossip, and would sell her own mother for money. As Vautrin himself says “we bear less infamy on our shoulders than any of you do in your hearts.”

Another theme that Balzac got into is marriage, which he painted in a very bleak way. No wife in this book is loyal to her husband and none are happy with this institution they are in. Though I agree with most of Balzac’s ideas presented in this book, this is one that I do not agree with.

This leads us to the most important event in this book, which is, as a parent, truly heart wrenching to read.

Old man Goriot is a selfless loving father of two girls (Rastignac was in love with one of them). He gave everything to his two girls, he lives for them. They, on the other hand, are ungrateful kids who only come to their father when they need money. One of them went crying to Goriot because she doesn’t have a decent gown to wear to the ball. Her father, who was already sick, took all he owned and sold it just to get the 1000 francs she needed for her gown. She then sent her maid to collect the money and didn’t even have the decency to collect it herself.

The other one, Rastignac himself said that “he sensed that she would walk over her father’s dead body to get to the ball,” which in the end both daughters did as they were not present at their father’s deathbed, burial, or funeral. It was really painful to read the loving father call out painfully for his daughters but not finding them there next to him when he needed them most.

What I didn’t really get (which is why my rating has a minus in it) is the ending, but it might be lost in translation a bit (think if I read it in French it will be clearer). My version ends with Rastignac telling the city of Paris: “Now let us fight it out!” which I wasn’t sure if he meant he will fight society because of what it did to his dear old Goriot, which he regarded as a father figure by the end.

But I know in other version the line was translated differently and the word ‘fight’ wasn’t used. So did Rastignac fight the social injustices he saw, or did he yield to the social norms and accept them to move forward?

When I further looked into it, looks like he chose the latter path as apparently, the word ‘Rastignac’ is now used in France to name a social climber, who will do anything to better his social status.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book. It was entertaining and full of meaning in almost every page. A true classic!


Next book:

#85 on the list: The Reb and the Black by Stendhal .. another classic!

Happy reading 🙂

Book Reviews · Reading

On the Road Book Review (#87)

Book: On the Road by Jack Kerouac

# 87 on the Telegraph’s 100 novels everyone should read.

Grade: F

What is the story about?

The book is basically about a road trip, or several trips that the main character, Sal, and his best friend Dean go on.

Verdict?

I did it! I finished the book!

I persevered and powered through endless nonsense, more nonsense, and even more nonsense.

Sometimes I read a book on this list and say: Yes! This is exactly why I started this journey following this list .. to get out of my comfort zone and find a gem of a book.

Not this time. This time is the time where you think: how in the world did this book land on this list?!

The Telegraph says Kerouac wrote the book in “three near-sleepless weeks” and it clearly shows. He must’ve been drunk too because it’s not really a coherent story.

It’s like having my almost 3 year old talking about Peppa Pig then jumping to what happened in preschool then teasing her younger brother then going back to Peppa Pig again. Only difference is my 3 year old’s babbling is actually more interesting and cuter than the incoherent ramblings of Kerouac.

It’s like having a narrow minded, arrogant frat boy showing off his conquests and going on and on about his endless partying, drinking, girls, and outings.

Although I read some book’s I did not enjoy on this list, this is the first book that I have no favorite quotes from.

Maybe you have to be drunk to find one?


Next book: Old Goriot by Honore de Balzac. I’ll be happy if this book actually has a point to it.

Book Reviews · Reading

Eugene Onegin Book Review (#88)

Book: Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin

#88 on the Telegraph’s 100 novels everyone should read.

Grade: A

What is the story about?

Simple answer: Eugene Onegin. Follows a part of his life and covers everything from love, friendship, society, values, and life in general.

Verdict?

I decided that I love Pushkin even more than Shakespeare.

While Shakespeare writes in beautiful lyrical verses, his words and stories are so magical but out of this world. They can’t happen in real life, melodramatic tragedy.

Pushkin, on the other hand, is like chatting to your best friend. It’s like having a witty and fun conversation with your close friend and the irony and satire makes you laugh out loud.

Even though this is a tragedy in all sense of the word, it’s funny, witty, clever and so well written that I now feel like if I ever somehow meet Pushkin, and speak Russian, we would hit it off immediately.

Keep in mind this is a translation so hats off to Mr. James E. Falen. I’m sure it’s not easy to translate from Russian, especially while trying to capture the essence of it and keeping the rhyme in this novel written in verse.

So imagine reading it in Russian!

When I know this was a novel written in verse I was skeptical and honestly dreaded to read it. But I loved it!

It was a quick and light read. It was clever and witty. It was insightful and sad. It was simply amazing!

No wonder it turned into the famous opera act composed by Tchaikovsky!

Out of all the books I read on this list so far, this was the most novel I can relate with when it comes to views of social norms and life overall. Funny the novel I saw myself the most in was one set in 1820’s imperial Russia, but that just shows you how clever and timeless Pushkin is.

If you get a chance to read this book, please do. You won’t regret it!


Next book: # 87 on the list: On the Road by Jack Kerouac. Again a book I know nothing about, excited to read it!

Till next time ❤

Book Reviews · Reading

The Golden Notebook Book Review (#89)

Book: The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

#89 on the Telegraph’s 100 novels everyone should read.

Grade: F

What is the story about?

This book is very complicated but I will try my best to describe it. It follows the life, or is mainly about Anna Wulf, a disgruntled, divorced, communist writer who is dealing with, among many other things, writer’s block.

She has 4 notebooks: 1) a black notebook (about her past in Africa), 2) a red notebook (mainly about the British Communist Party), 3) a yellow notebook (to write fictional stories in), and 4) a  blue notebook (her diary). At the end, she tries to combine the four notebooks into one golden notebook.

Verdict:

Wow Ms. Lessing, I hope you have found the peace you deserve because I honestly don’t believe you were 100% ok while writing this book.

I imagine Ms. Lessing was brainstorming what styles should she write in: should it be a memoir? A novel? A diary? A short story? Let’s just do them all so I can show the world I am capable of each.

Then she brainstormed topics: should it be about politics? Communism? Race? Feminism? Relationships? Mental state? Depression? You know what, Let’s just do it all in one big book because hey why not?

But having all these loaded topics all in one book just makes it so messy and actually takes away from whatever message she was trying to make in all these topics. (I’m sure there’s a lot more topics she tackled but throughout the 620 page mess of a book I forgot them).

This takes me to another point, this book is so freaking hard to read! There are no chapters. It is sectioned off in parts that supposedly should free women (free women 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5). What is ironic and hilarious is the greater you get into freeing these women, the crazier it all gets until Anna comes close to a complete mental breakdown.

The build up to this mental breakdown is so intense and described in such scrutiny that you can’t help but get sucked into the darkness as well.

But low and behold, at save the women number 5, it took an American wanderer 3 days to magically heal her by pulling down all the crazy newspaper cuttings on her wall. This “healing” took place over a max of 4 pages, while the complete and utter breakdown took 600 pages to build up and explain. (This is why I believe Ms. Lessing was not in a very healthy state of mind while writing this as she described anxiety, depression, and the breakdown of reality so realistically, but did not realistically write down how this woman got out of it).

So each section (except saving #5) starts with a ‘real’ scene in Anna’s current life, mainly with her daughter Julie and her friend Molly. Then it goes through the four different notebooks, which to me where as follows:

  • Black notebook –> complete degeneration of society & disregard to any morale code anyone follows.
  • Red notebook –> hypocrisy of politics; lies people on all sides of the political spectrum say and do for their individual gains.
  • Yellow notebook –> relationships; mainly being the mistress; the ‘other’ woman (progressive, unbound by social norms yet they all define themselves by their men).
  • Blue notebook –> mind numbingly boring conversations between Anna and her psychiatrist; oh and a list of her ‘meaningful’ dreams.

But, Doris Lessing did stay true to one main theme throughout the entirety of 630 pages: sex. This includes: extra-marital sex, homosexuality, female orgasm, endless sex-capades, and last but not least, a detailed study into an insect sexual encounter.

If I come across as angry throughout this book review, yes I have to admit I am angry. This book was a complete waste of my time. I even googled why the heck this book won a Nobel Prize.

Bottom line is, if you have a choice whether to read this book or not, my advice is: run! Run as fast as you can in the other direction. Do not waste your time on this insanity.


Next book on the list: Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin. Hope this one is good after two disappointing reads.

Happy reading!