Monday, October 31, 2011

Funny Girls

When I was a small girl, the Saturday night line-up of comedies on CBS was about the best thing in the whole world.   I got to see smart funny women being smart and funny.   The night would start off with All in the Family with Edith and Gloria getting the best of Archie and Michael (most of time).   Next the Mary Tyler Moore Show came on and our gal Mary Richards worked relentlessly to produce the WGM 6:00 p.m. Newscast with an over bearing boss and an inept anchorman named Ted Baxter.  Then there was The Bob Newhart Show where Bob's brilliant wife Emily tried to keep things in perspective between Bob's crazy friends and even crazier patients.   Sure, M*A*S*H* was in the line-up too, but I never really saw Major Hot Lips Houlihan as much of a role model even after she lost the "Hot Lips" and just became Margaret.  Finally, we had my patron saint of comedy, Carol Burnett.   I would have to beg my mom to let me stay up until 11:00 p.m. to see the entire show.   I got to sit at the altar of funny ladies every Saturday night and in the 1970's - they ruled network TV.   Back then, aspiring to be a funny girl did not seem that outlandish.   It could be feminine, sexy and intelligent.  You did not have to be Lucy and have to outsmart Ricky to get laughs.  You got what you needed on your own terms and if a man wanted to come along for the ride, all the better.   

Maybe it was because in the heyday of the Equal Rights movement, anything seemed possible for girls.  You had women in Congress like Bella Abzug and Shirley Chisholm daring to question Richard Nixon and his administration during Watergate.    You had Margaret Thatcher's rise to power as a women who wore pearls and puffy hair but could easily stare down her male counterparts just as easily as Winston Churchill.   Golda Mier was the Prime Minister of Israel and was first called the Iron Lady before Thatcher got that title.   Then in India, there was Indira Gandhi -- another nation ruled by a very strong woman.  It seemed conceivable that women were making strides everywhere and if you could dream it, you could be it.   I dreamed of making the world a better place through comedy. 

Praying at the CBS altar of those sacred Saturday nights helped form the comic sensibilities I have today.   The stand-up comediennes of the 1960's like Phyllis Diller, Totie Fields and Joan Rivers had to denigrate themselves to get laughs.  Samantha Stevens and Jeannie had to pretend they were less powerful then they were to assuage the insecurities of Darren and Major Nelson. But these new women of the 70's, these comic goddesses could hold their own with their male counterparts and had the strong ratings to show for it.   I loved them as extended members of my family.   I'd wear a bright paisley head scarf to my fifth grade class like Rhoda and pretend my desk was like the one Mary had in the newsroom.   Sometimes I would pretend my bully Lisa was Sue Ann Nivens - the Happy Home Maker - it made Blue Lakes Elementary a more bearable place to learn.  Once I was in Junior High, I'd get to stay up and see a little of Saturday Night Live.  Gilda Radner and Jane Curtain were a revelation.   Never mind that John Belushi once said that women weren't funny - who needed Samurai Deli and the Blue Brothers when you had Roseanna Danna and Candy Slice?  These women were writing and pushing the envelope in a very subversive way and I loved it! 

In the 1980's the trend continued with shows like Kate and Allie, Designing Women, Golden Girls, Roseanne, Murphy Brown, and Grace Under Fire but for some reason they just didn't resonate with me like the my old CBS Saturday nights.    I liked the Designing Women and no one on TV could monologue like Julia Sugarbaker.  Murphy Brown seemed to be strong in a one note kind of way and every now and again you got to see her vulnerable.  I loved Claire Huxtable and her no nonsense way with her husband Cliff and her five kids.  I could identify with being in a large family and not wanting to tell your father that something around the house was broken for fear he would try to fix it.   God bless my dad, but he was not a handy man like Cliff and we would pretend that the dishwasher was working before we could get a repair in while he was out of town, just like Claire. 

But then in the 1990's - things changed.   You a had few stand out sitcoms like Seinfeld in which a character like Elaine was out numbered by three other male players.   I loved Mad About You and identified with Jamie Buckman during the early years of my marriage to Max.  We even got pregnant about the same time.   Ellen was very funny but the networks bulked when she came out.   When was the last time you saw a pair of lesbians on a sit-com like Cam and Mitchell on Modern Family?   I guess the networks were and still are more comfortable with Will being gay than Grace. 

I'd all but given up once the year 2000 hit.   It seemed like the new millennium was not ushering in new comedies with women at the helm.  Sure you had Friends, but no strong females pushing the boundaries.   Just when it looked like another season of sitcoms with men in the leads and women as copilots - Tina Fey came along with 30 Rock and the comedic embers of my youth were rekindled.   She, like Mary Richards, is the head of a motley crew of actors and writers whose egos lead to comedic chaos.  Her boss is a network executive that is way hotter than Mr. Grant.   The writing is intelligent, irreverent and not politically correct.  Liz Lemon faces being forty, unmarried and having that ticking biological clock with a charming mix of goofiness and brains that makes it one of my favorite sitcoms.   In fact, NBC Thursday nights are my new CBS Saturday nights with sitcoms either created by or starring women who are trying find that yoga-like balance between work and family that seems to elude them each week and many of us as well.   

I've written before about how comedy is my drug of choice.    Having an improv troupe and the ability to make very silly videos gives me a positive outlet for my frustrations.    Acting like a crazy lunatic all these years on stage and YouTube has kept me very sane.  My comedic idols taught me that women can show strength through humor and that laughing at yourself is the best medicine of all.   Edith, Gloria, Emily, Mary, Rhoda, Phillis, Carol, Gilda, Jane, Claire, Murphy, Julia, Jamie, Leslie, Ellen and Liz, you have been there for me when my life has been at a tipping point and I needed a compass to find my way.  Your comedy has been that needle to help me find my way out of an emotionally dark jungle of fear and gave me the courage to believe in myself even when other people wanted to write me off.   That gift, my comedy goddesses, is one I'll always treasure and pass down to the next generation.  

What I've learned is that these funny girls can teach our daughters more than the Kardashians or the Real Housewives ever could:  that life is funny, sweet, ridiculous, you don't always look hot and yes, sometimes it's really, really unfair.   Ellen came out of her career tailspin with a great talk show and a burgeoning entertainment empire.   She survived on her own terms much like my favorite sitcom heroines.  Learning to roll with the punches and laughing at ourselves is what life is all about.   Taking yourself too seriously is a sure recipe for a reality Diva meltdown.   What our girls need to see today are women who know how to be strong, smart and funny.   Women who know how to throw their hats up in the air  and smile because they know they are going to make it after all.  

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pennies from Heaven

My dad used to love to pick up pennies.   If he saw one on the ground he would happily pick it up and say "I got a visit from the good fairy" and would put it in his pocket.    When I was a little girl and I would find a penny, especially a shiny penny, it was as though I had been visited by my fairy godmother - that finding a penny was a sign that I was special.   Even now, as an adult, when I get a shiny penny, it makes me smile.  My father used to tell me that after he was gone that if I saw a penny in an unusual place, that it was his penny from heaven.   I've found pennies in some really random places, like the dishwasher where you would not expect to see them.  My dad loved to cook so seeing a penny in the kitchen let's me know he's around checking out how Max is making seared salmon with a caper and dijon lemon sauce.   It's comforting because I know he's watching over the family. 

I'll be the first one to admit that I lean on my guardian angels for help and recognize when I've gotten a little divine intervention.  It can be as simple as feeling lost and finding that turnoff at the last minute that gets you to your meeting on time or that little voice that told you to grab that important paper that you almost forgot as you rushed out the door.   When my sister Kathy and I drove down from Tallahassee to Fort Myers Beach for my mother's 80th birthday, we found a guardian angel charm on the ground near our car when we got out to get something to eat.   It looked like the angel on the pins that Kathy gave us at my Dad's funeral and that she put on my father's suit in his casket so that we all could still all be connected to him.  For Kathy and me, it was a sign that Dad was with us on the trip and would guide us to our mother's birthday celebration safely.   Sure it could have been pure coincidence, but it made me feel a whole lot better once I found it.  I still have that guardian angel charm on my key chain. 

It's interesting how in this day and age when we have access to computers, the internet, smart phones and any number of technological advances that scream for us to be logical - that many of us still believe in a the supernatural or a higher power.   It not only can make you feel less alone, but it also makes society a more cooperative place to live in.   It's even been studied by a psychologist who is an avowed atheist who experienced his own epiphany when his mother died.    Dr. Jesse Bering's mother passed away on a Sunday night around 9:00 p.m.   He went to bed trying to find some rest before the rigors of planning a funeral would occupy his time.   At 7:00 a.m. the next morning, he heard the chimes outside his mother's window ring softly in the otherwise silent house.  

"It seemed to me ... that she was somehow telling us that she had made it to the other side. You know, cleared customs in heaven," Bering says.  This thought took him aback.  Being an atheist, his perception was guided by the here now.  He prided himself on being a scientist, a psychologist who believed only in the measurable material world. But, he says, he simply couldn't help himself.  "My mind went there. It leapt there," Bering says. "And from a psychological perspective, this was really interesting to me. Because I didn't believe it on the one hand, but on the other hand I experienced it."   He went on to do a number of studies that verified his simple hypothesis:  when we believe that something other worldly is watching, we're more likely to behave in a moral fashion.   We're more cooperative and less likely to cheat.  If the world as we know it does not ask us to answer for our sins, the next one will.   That knowledge has helped guide me in how I treat others.   In fact, the Golden Rule - "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you" is a basic concept in almost every religion known to man with the exception of Satanism in which the the main conceit is "Do unto others as they do to you" which just escalates a bad situation and certainly doesn't foster forgiveness.   

Seven years ago, the kids and I went to visit Kathy.  We went with her and my mom to see Dorothy Oven Park which has an annual holiday light display.   We were touring the park when my mother took this picture on the way out.   I had to leave Tallahassee with the kids and my mother the next morning to drive back to Duluth, Georgia so we took the film (35 mm) to be developed at Costco.  When we looked at the photos, it was clear that at least one or more other worldly figures had been caught on film.   When I showed it to Max, he thought that we might have captured images of ghosts.  One of them seemed to have a tri-cornered hat similar to that of someone in the Revolutionary War.  I wondered if it had been some sort of photo processing mistake and yet none of the other photos had the same image or light spot on them  - this was the only one.    We asked some ghost experts to take a look at it and they asked if it was a digital photo.  Apparently, digital photos can sometimes create abnormalities and "orbs" to fill in pixels in photos.   When they were informed that this was taken on a 35 mm camera, they said that it could be ghosts or something other worldly, but it was inconclusive.  

The next year, we went back more the see the lights then go ghost hunting.   My mother once again had her trusty 35 mm camera with her and took this photo of the kids on a bench swing.    This time, when the photos were developed by my sister. we saw four images standing around the children - seeming to say "Hi - it's us - Happy Holidays."   What's even more striking is that the figure with the tri-corner hat seems to be on the left with with it's mouth wide open.    We really had not gone expecting to capture anything.   We looked at the other photos and there was no cloudiness on the rest of the roll.  I felt a little uncomfortable seeing these misty figures around my kids.   I sent both photos to another ghost expert who e-mailed back something surprising.   To her, they did not even look like ghosts because the apparitions were so white, but rather spirit guides or guardian angels who wanted to let me know that my children were well protected.   She even felt that one of them could be an ancestor who was keeping an eye on the future generation.   My sister felt that the one in the tri-corner hat might be our dad since he was a Revolutionary War buff.   We went back the next year and the next, but have never caught anything other than what we captured those first two times.  Maybe that was all we were meant to see and it was way more than many people get to experience. 

I guess my point with all of this is that we are not alone and we're not meant to be.  I can't provide a pat answer to all the ills,  unfairness and tragedies in the world - to me saying that it's God's will is always such a cop out.   It's up to us to handle what gets thrown our way and hope that our guardian angels are there to catch us.   When it's our time to leave this earth, they'll help to take us to that next level - whether it's heaven or another life if you happen to believe in reincarnation (personally, I don't count anything out because for me anything is possible).   I just try to value the people that I meet as best I can and treat them as I would like to be treated -- with dignity and respect.  And when I find a random shiny penny - I smile, give it to my kids and tell them that it's from their grandfather.  Because at the end of the day nothing is more priceless then a penny from heaven. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Happy Place

Maybe you, like me, might have had one of those days, weeks or months when getting your sorry ass out of bed was a huge effort.   You turn on the TV and there's Matt Lauer unloading more depressing news on the economy and how we might be headed for another double dip recession.   The employment figures are dismal which means now might not be the best time to reinvent yourself and switch careers by starting that improv program for at-risk kids you've always dreamed of doing  (Insert your own dream here).   You get into your car and put on NPR which has an interview with an economist who tells you that the world markets are not rebounding as they should and things may never be the same economically in your lifetime.   Your heart starts to beat faster, so fast that you can see the steady thumping through your shirt.   Your breathing becomes shallow, you're sweating profusely and starting to get light headed.   You realize that you might be headed straight into a full blown anxiety attack and might pass out at the wheel on your way to work.   

You pull over into the nearest parking lot, try to catch your breath and try to calm down.   You turn the radio to a pop station just to listen to something different.  Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" blares out of the speakers and suddenly you picture those Glee kids singing their hearts out oblivious to Sue Sylvester lurking in the background.   Your heart starts to slow down and you take a shaky swig from your bottled water.  After a minute or two, you can finally catch your breath.   Rather weakly and barely on key, you join Steve Perry at the refrain: "Don't stop believing - hold on to that feeling - streetlights, people - oooooooohhhhhh!"  A sort of calm takes hold of your body as you continue to try to out sing Journey's front man.   Then it occurs to you - that you need to stop listening to depressing news shows and start listening to Lady Gaga and Bruno Mars instead.   Because while National Public Radio definitely has the lock on probing interviews - you discover that what you really need is a good dose of the Lazy Song during the morning rush hour.    Singing badly at the top of your lungs in your car is just one juicy slice of awesome to get you through your day.  

Finding your happy place can be a challenge in this day and age.  We seem to be so programed for negativity and gloom and doom that being joyful can seem like a guilty pleasure - especially when the internet is primed to really bring you down.  For every laughing baby on YouTube, there's at least 10 rants from the Real Housewives or a new outbreak of violence or disease in a developing country.  I was talking to a group of women when the resident Debbie Downer proceeded to read a series of depressing statistics that she was getting from her Twitter feed.  When I suggested that she might be happier if she was following Conan O'Brien or Jimmy Fallon and watching a sitcom to break the tension - she looked at me seriously and said "Never!"   Why kill that sense of constant righteous indignation with something fun and mindless? 

Here's the problem constant negativity - habitual thoughts and behaviors create specific neural pathways in the wiring in our brains, similar to the way water flowing downhill creates a groove in the earth. When we think or behave a certain way over and over, the neural pathway is strengthened and the groove becomes deeper. Unhappy people tend to have more negative neural pathways -- their minds are literally stuck in a rut.   But here's the good news: new research shows that when you repeatedly think, feel, and act in a different way, the brain actually rewires itself. This means you can change your happiness set point.   Leading brain researcher Richard Davidson, PhD, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison reported recently that, "Based on what we know about the plasticity of the brain, we can think of happiness as a skill no different from learning to play a musical is possible to train our minds to be happy." 

For me, finding those little moments of happiness in my day can do more for me than a double dose of St. John's Wort ever could.  For instance, on Saturdays, I go to Zumba and then spend the rest of the day in my yoga pants because frankly it's the weekend - I'm just too lazy to wear real pants.   Going to Target with my kids and getting a decaf low fat Salted Caramel latte with a little whipped cream is a sure ticket to my happy place - it just makes me smile.  Taking the kids to the park and jumping around like an idiot is very therapeutic.  Sitting on the carpet and watching movies with the Amber and Daniel is another way I like to spend some fun time on the weekends.  Cuddling with my husband or exchanging really inappropriate "That's what she said" jokes is a simple way to laugh together.  

Many people expect too much from the pursuit of happiness and make themselves miserable along the way.  They think that by finding that perfect spouse will end their days of loneliness, or getting that big promotion will guarantee financial independence, or finally going to Hawaii on the perfect vacation will give them the Nirvana that they've been searching for.  In the end, they end up disappointed because, no person, place or thing will ever give them that sense of satisfaction if they don't know how to find it for themselves.   

In the movie, It's a Wonderful Life, George Bailey spends his life regretting never leaving Bedford Falls and feeling like a failure when his business is about go under on Christmas Eve of all days.   He's sacrificed so much to help others and in the end he is emotionally and financially exhausted (as someone whose spent my entire adult life working with charities, I can relate).  He is so tied into finding his destiny once he can leave his hometown that he cannot see all the blessings that have been bestowed on him.  It takes an angel named Clarence to show him what the world would be like if he was not around.   He realizes that it's his wife, family and even that drafty old house that makes him happy not that elusive dream of building bridges overseas.   

You have to find those moments of happiness each day - because if you don't find them for yourself - frankly no one else will.  It's so easy to play a crappy mood forward or to pass on a lousy day at work to those who are near and dear.   One way to beat that is to make some else's day by complimenting a co-worker or the women next to you in the supermarket checkout on her hair or shoes (this is a safe choice even if you're a guy and worried that she might think you're flirting with her - complimenting hair and shoes is not something most straight men do).   When you see how happy a compliment from a random stranger makes someone,  you end up feeling great too.    Those small acts of kindness make your world a better place and can really be a tipping point in someone else's day.   

This parable form the book 5 Habits of Truly Happy People by Marci Shimoff and Carol Kline really brings the importance of happiness into focus: One evening a Cherokee elder told his grandson about the battle that goes on inside people's heads. He said, "My son, the battle is between the two 'wolves' that live inside us all. One is unhappiness. It is fear, worry, anger, jealousy, sorrow, self-pity, resentment, and inferiority. The other is happiness. It is joy, love, hope, serenity, kindness, generosity, truth, and compassion.  "The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf wins?"  The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."  

So do yourself a favor and find at least 30 minutes a day to laugh and spend time with someone you care about - even if it's a pet.  Tell the people that you love simply that you love them.    Watch an episode of The Office after a bad day at work - it will help put things in perspective (because let's face it - we've all worked for a Michael Scott at one time or another).   Happiness can take time to create - but it's totally worth it.  Just close your eyes, take a deep breath and don't stop believing.  

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sense of Direction

"Mom, we've been walking around for two hours - where is the car?" asked Daniel, my 10 year old who was red faced and tired of downtown Atlanta.  "It hasn't been two hours, it's been closer to 45 minutes and I'm pretty sure it's this way."  I replied as we walked down another side street in search of our Honda Civic.  A hot June day was not the best time of year to lose your car with two kids in tow.   So many of the streets in the City Too Busy to Hate look alike and many of the ticketed parking areas are run by the same company and are identical to each other.   "Daniel, be nice, she's doing the best she can," my daughter Amber offered in my defense but the way she said it seemed like a left handed compliment.  

We had started the day down at downtown Atlanta from the highest point - the Westin Hotel - which has a restaurant on the 73rd floor that rotates so you can see for 10 to 20 miles from the top.   We saw people the size of fire ants playing in the fountains of Centennial Park.  We could see Stone Mountain which was about 20 miles away and Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves.  Everything was a picture perfect Atlanta day until it was time to go home.   At the fifty minute mark of the auto quest and after several prayers to Saint Anthony (the patron saint of lost things)  - we finally saw our blue car with the telltale dent in the driver's side.  The sense of relief was amazing.  Once I was in the car and turned on the AC - I drove out of Atlanta finally sure of where I was going. 

I've always been directionally challenged.    At age three I wondered away from a White House tour with my parents and four other brothers and sisters.   According to my mother, I somehow slipped out of the line and started to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue.    Apparently the head of the U.S. Archive happened to be looking out his window and saw a toe headed toddler in a paisley jumper sprinting down the street holding my own hand (you always needed to hold a hand crossing streets even if the only hand to hold is yours).  He saw that I was headed away from the White House (apparently other small children had also tried to make a break for it) and sent his assistant down to get me and take me back.   I remember this very tall man with jet black hair on the sides of his head, bald on top and a thin black tie leaning over and saying "May I help you little girl?"   He picked me up and took me back to the White House lobby to my worried but relieved parents and a few Secret Service Agents.

Another time, at age four I wondered away from our camp at Yellowstone Park around dusk.   My parents looked frantically all over the trailer park where we were staying until they found me a few trailers over where I was sitting down with a retired couple eating cookies.  After all if you're going to get lost - be found by someone with a good stash of snacks.   It was not the negative reinforcement that my parents might have hoped for.   Eventually, they started to use one of those harnesses so that at least I was just an arm's length away.  Some people might have called it a kiddy leash, but for my parents, it was a tether to some peace of mind.   

I've often tried to figure out why my sense of direction is so bad.  I've relied on internet services like MapQuest only to be led astray and had to figure out how to get back home myself.   At those times when I simply cannot find my destination, I try to comfort myself in saying that I've discovered the road not taken.  That can be of little comfort when your meeting starts in 10 minutes and you should be 5 minutes away but still have no idea where you are.   When I'm lost, I feel like that scared little three year old walking alone in Washington, D.C.  However as an adult, I have developed the additional skill of being able to weave a tapestry of obscenity as I turn down another fruitless road.   

I've even tried using mobile navigators with mixed results.   I loved that episode of The Office when Michael Scott was trying to prove that man was better than machines and when his GPS told him that the road existed where it was obvious that a lake was, he drove into the water just to prove the machines were wrong.    Sometimes you can't rely on a GPS to get you where you need to go and you just flat out have to figure it out yourself.   Giving up is not an option - you have to find your way home and back to where you need to be.   

What I have found is that by going down the road not taken (mostly by accident) you find another way to get to your destination.   You see things off the beaten path - unique homes, landscapes, lakes, small towns and farms with cows and horses.  You ask strangers for directions and while some are irritated, most have empathy and are happy to point you to the right path home.    In college, I had a group of older men in a not so great neighborhood console me and give me a cup of coffee because I think they would want someone to do the same thing for their daughters.  

I think in being lost, you have a chance to figure out who you are, both the good and the bad.   The bad parts can seem like you never seem to get where you need to go either in this excursion or in life.  Every bad thing that you believe about yourself seems to crystalize in those moments of misguided isolation.  The good part at the end of the road is that you conquer the fear, loneliness, and despair to find your way back from God knows where.   In life, you'll remember to avoid those roads that take you to the wrong places both spiritually and emotionally  

I've never seen the world as a straight and narrow path but with all sorts of trails that can take you to some interesting places.   At the point of utter frustration when I've been driving around aimlessly for an hour or so, I try to calm myself by saying that I'm in a safe place, my guardian angels are with me and how much I'll really appreciate seeing my home once I get there.    I'll give Max a huge kiss and hear my children ask yet again, "Mom what took you so long - did you get lost again?"  I'll smile and say yes and tell them about the pony I saw on this back road that you wouldn't expect to see so close to Atlanta.   When you open up to those possibilities there are times when  you get to see a sunset over a neighborhood lake that looks like a golden pond with touches of pink - and those moments take your breath away.  It's something that you never would have caught on I-85 at the height of rush hour.  

Our excursion to the Westin inspired Daniel to write an essay for one of his first assignments in the 5th grade.   His teacher showed the paper to me at our last conference.    He concluded his paper with this:   "I learned three things that day - my Mom has a terrible sense of direction, the skyline of Atlanta from the Westin is awesome and when my Mom is lost, she has a very dirty mouth."

Monday, October 3, 2011

Parenthood and the Freedom of Speech

A few years ago, I was standing around with a group of parents at our church watching our children on swing on the monkey bars.   A young dad-to-be came over with his pregnant wife and started talking politics --  spouting about how the President and Congress were all losers, that the system was pretty corrupt and they were all crooks.   He still was raging against the machine when my daughter Amber came over and asked me she if she could get a cookie in the kitchen.   After she left, another dad pulled almost dad aside and explained that he needed to watch the "People in Power Suck" stuff.  Once his daughter was here, she would need to learn to respect adults that have authority in their life such as teachers and coaches.   This man looked at the group of us and said, "So once you become a parent you lose your freedom of speech?"

The rest of us looked at each other, laughed and said, yes - when you become a parent,  you do lose that part of the Bill of Rights around your kids.   We went onto explain the other rights that parents lose: the right to sleep in late on weekends;  the right to go out whenever you want to; the right to watch the late night talk shows; the right to watch movies that are not animated and the right to curse like a sailor when your little one is in the back seat and a truck has just cut you off from the exit lane.   Yeah, those good old fashioned human rights. 

Parents make a lot of sacrifices - eating the burnt toast at breakfast, waiting until your next paycheck to buy those new shoes because your child needs money for their field trip, etc.  Probably the biggest one is giving up the freedom of speech particularly when talking about other adults when those little ears are around.    I learned this when I was teaching acting in an after school program.   I was getting ready to start the class when a little boy named Conner started to talk about how Bill Clinton was ruining this country and that he was a lousy human being.   Conner was a first grader and I doubt that he came to that political viewpoint on his own (last I heard in first graders are still trying to figure out shapes and colors, not the dynamics of a two party system or the moral leanings of the Commander-in-Chief).   Conner was parroting what he heard from his parents.  Not surprisingly - he was also one of the kids that had the most trouble taking direction from adults.   Why should he show respect to a bunch of educators when his parents didn't show respect for the office of the President of the United States?  Amber was four at the time and I was pregnant with Daniel and from that time on I resolved not to speak badly of other adults in front of my children.  If Max and I had to talk about President Bush - the code name was "Commander Banana Cookoo."  If the kids over heard us talking and asked who Commander Banana Cookoo was we'd just say that he was a character on cartoon that adults had to watch.   When we were with other adults and there were no children around -- then it was cool to let the political river flow. 

I realized that I must have done something right when Amber was eight and the 2004 election was in full swing.  She asked me if I was voting for George Bush.  I had to think very carefully since as a liberal the last four years had been challenging to say the least and the idea of another four years of Bush made me feel as warm as an ice water enema.  I knew that if I couldn't say something nice and said nothing at all - it would invite more questions from my curious eight year old.  I took a breath and said that he is always is dressed neatly and that I'm sure that he loves his mother very much -- but that it was time for someone else to have a turn at being president.   She seemed satisfied with that as I tucked her into bed.    I told the truth without being disrespectful to the highest office in the land and faced four more years of intestinal fortitude.  

Now that Amber and Daniel are older and becoming more aware of the world,  I'm more likely to answer them directly if they have a political question like:  "Are people who disagree with President Obama racist?"   "No,"   I respond, "It's okay to disagree with the president - everyone does at one point or another and that's what makes our country great, you can respectfully disagree."    Sometimes it's hard to explain the personal attacks that pundits on both sides of the isle lob at each other like Molotov cocktails.  You have politicians walking out of meetings with other leaders when they don't get their own way.  How can we use them as examples for our own children to learn how to share and compromise when the people running our country seem incapable of it?   We can't ask more out of our children then we expect of our leaders.  

I'm sure that our founding fathers were not immune to the urge to talk smack about each other but hopefully out of the earshot of their children.  Imagine George Washington giving a speech at Constitution Hall and introducing Thomas Jefferson only to have his nine year old yell out - "Thomas Jefferson, that guy is a crazy ass wipe and a total douche bag!"  (insert awkward silence and  cut to Ben Franklin shaking his head).  My point is that you can't expect children to keep those comments private and they will more than likely be blurted out at the worst possible moment.   

So for new parents that might be lamenting the loss of some of their basic human rights - here are some of the rights you get in exchange for the ones you lose:  the right to break out into silly songs that makes you infant or toddler laugh;  the right to blow a tummy tuba right after a bath;  the right to enjoy the holidays through a child's eyes; the right to show your child how to skate, catch a fish or ride a bike for the first time; the right to dress up for a princess tea party and finally wear that feather boa you bought for Halloween; the right to raid your child's Halloween bag for that last Snickers; the right to get up early on Saturday morning, watch cartoons with them and eat Rice Krispies; and the right to share the best parts of your childhood.     This Bill of Rights might be different then what our Founding Fathers might have envisioned -- but my guess is that even Ben Franklin's dad had to show his kid how to fly a kite.