Sunday, November 3, 2013

Dear Sons, You're Not What You Eat But You Are What's Eating You!

Dear boys,

Mommy has always been a "fatty". I do not know what it is like to grow up thin or fit, I was that pudgy girl that was teased and stared at in school. To this day some of my elders take joy in retelling stories about how voracious my appetite was as a child. I hate those stories. But the truth is I am emotional eater and so when that line about "you are what you eat" came about I looked in the mirror and wondered, "is this what a pork shoulder really looks like?"

Over the course of all these decades I only now realized just how in control of ourselves we really are. After all, we ate when we were happy, when we were sad, angry, frustrated and we definitely ate when we were bored! It didn't help things that my two favorite past times had absolutely nothing to do with being physically active! I loved reading and watching television! I loved the two distractions that taught me how to dream as well as hide.

Let me tell you something about being bullied in school because I was different from the other kids. Back in my day (goodness I can not believe I have to write that sometimes!) being heavy was unusual. I was the biggest kid by those standards and yet today I'd probably be in the middle of the pack. Yet kids are cruel and they learn that cruelty at home sometimes because their frustrated parents get diarrhea of the mouth and let it all hang out in front of the kids. You know what I'm talking about, your mom's not immune. There are those days mom comes in bitching about some reckless driver or the nut who didn't clean up after themselves at the office break room. I get judgmental when I'm frustrated, I'm human. Yet I'm reminded of the days when boys teased me and girls were so mean to me, simply because I was larger than them.

You know Mom is better for it now don't you? You've heard me say, "Mom's larger than life! Of course she has to be a bit bigger than the rest!" I am much happier with my body nowadays, although I still find myself grimacing at photographs! (yes believe it, smart alecks) It took me 47 years to realize that how I was feeling was how I was feeding myself. Now bullying is a whole other sets of letters believe you me but self esteem and self awareness are things I hope I've taught you all well enough so that you don't have to endure all the suffering I did within my very own head.

The power is yours. It always has been. The power to believe what you're told by others lies with you. The power to start a bad habit or stop one is yours. The power to believe what people say about you because you're different lies in your head, in your heart. Yes, we can buy that five pound tub of ice cream but what's the rule? One cup a day, if that, and never to self medicate ourselves because we're feeling something very strongly. Yeah, yeah, yeah, the same with wine but I'm not on that topic now am I!
Of course all of this seems reasonable until you're besieged with name calling or dirty looks in school or at the office. Then your body starts freaking out and you want to hide and sometimes there simply is nowhere to hide so you hide in that tub of ice cream.

Your big brother went on an interview the other day and was asked what type of food are you. (First of all what Human Resources person comes up with these questions? Who are they channeling? Barbara Walters during her brain fart moment when she asked Katherine Hepburn if you were a tree what type of tree would you be???) But my darling eldest said he was celery and his reasoning behind it made me proud. (the fact that you are as slim as one sometimes gets on my nerves but we all can't be this amazing and curvaceous can we Beulah) He said he was healthy and mobile. Like celery. Goodness my son is brilliant. He equated his food as the resource it was, explained its functionality and its appeal. Pure genius, I'd hire him.

As I sit here, looking at my one egg and tomato omelette on toast I am reminded of those feelings being squelched after the first mouthful. I am reminded of a sense of love practically warming my young unknowing frame as I went through that pint of Haagan Daz after the last break up. Well,at least I loved me as I ate it to medicate my senses and put salve on my bruised ego. And this was just last year!

You are all coming to those wonderful ages of 18, 21 and 25! (Translation: Mommy is free! Kinda, sorta) I watch how you eat and if I haven't taught you how to care for yourselves by now I never will. You all eat in moderation, for the most part. You all have your indulging moments but I see you reward yourselves and so I know it's more of a present than a punishment. It's good to see how Mommy has handled things and then talk about it right! Those nights mom cried into her Lamb Korma, or Shrimp Scampi, or Tuna Sushi Rolls, hey, mom loves food! Or when I was pouring over IRS forms (last week) and was eyeing that Carvel Cake commercial like it was porn! Did you know that small Carvel Cakes are now $20! Goodness, are the milk prices that high in Carvel Land, what the hell!!

Mom's eating habits have gotten much much better and you know what, so has her outlook. I eat to live and while I love to eat, I plan for those times when I want to indulge in sinfully wonderful tasting foods. I try to examine when I'm in a foul mood or just moody period. Most of the time it's an old insecurity rearing its ugly head and I have to talk myself off that ledge. We all want to be loved and appreciated, to be respected and to feel relevant and needed. We give those distinctions to ourselves boys, not other people. We certainly don't get what we want from others out of a food container (or a bottle) either.

You all are so handsome and healthy in your long, lanky and lean frames and the chunky little girl in me is so glad that you don't have to endure what I did, what I sometimes still feel like in my own skin. You don't have that fear of being rejected or looked at as being weak or less appealing. Life is funny, human beings even funnier. For that is good in the world people would rather put high marks on body size than on what a person contributes to their every day life and those around them.

Thank goodness you are all so much better at it than your Mom. So go on and be that celery and be healthy! Mom's working on it and she's right now trying to look like a very sexy veggie/fruit smoothie, in a figure eight glass of course. I'm actually enjoying the freedom and the power to choose the foods I'm taking in and not giving into the feelings that come across my brain every day.

Oh by the way boys, someone has to go back to the store. We're out of ice cream.

Love Mom

Carmen M. Colon is a mother, an engineer, an education and childrens advocate, an author and a workshop facilitator on the topics of leadership, womens empowerment, career advancement and now on parenting. She is writing a series of "Dear Kids" letters to her three sons on a series of topics and issues.
Her website is http://carmenmcolon.info
Her books can be found online: http://amazon.com/author/carmencolon

Mother to three amazing self sufficient civic minded sons. Devin Christopher, 24, Fashion Designer, college student in NYC and youngest athletic director ever hired at a major sports complex in NYC. Antonio Fernandez, 20, choreographer, dancer, model, college student in NYC, has already performed with Cyndi Lauper at the Beacon Theatre and simply ready for his close-up. Taylor Aidan, almost 18 (at this release), HS Senior in NYC, amazing singer who is studying to be the next greatest sign language interpreter the world's ever known. (DISCLAIMER: Ok, mom wrote that.)

Dear Sons, Kids Are Spending HOW MUCH MONEY? That's Not Even Their Name On It?!

Dear boys,

Look, I was your age once and stop rolling your eyes at me because I was. Let me tell you about a pair of "jelly" shoes that your mom wanted. These shoes were see through and plastic and really when I think about it, kinda ugly. But you couldn't tell me anything at the time because it seemed as if every girl wanted a pair and I wanted to fit in, to be like everyone in the crowd and to have my own. Now your grandpa, who I still swear was switched a few years ago by pod people (ask Donald Sutherland and Brooke Adams, they'll know) always told me clothes and shoes were uniforms. He would schedule, based on the seasons, when to purchase our clothes according to our needs. Let me tell you, there was NO retail therapy going on at our house! Clothes were for specific purposes and play clothes were just worn out clothes that no longer served their purpose. Sooooo, my siblings and I received "school clothes", "church clothes", "special event clothes" as needed. No one was going to tell dad to please buy them the latest shoes because they wanted to be stylish. Heck, dad's response was always, "when you work you can buy yourself whatever you want, you'll have earned it. For now, I say you wear what you need."

Wow, I look back at those time and I remember feeling so dejected and distressed because some kids at school seemed to have more uniform choices than I did. But I look at the kids now and my mouth opens to the point I know flies are planning their vacations around me. So, these jellys right. They were ugly, I'm going to be upfront about it but I wanted them and I was determined to get a pair. I hounded my dad for weeks, put on the waterworks and just outright begged. OMG! (Goodness, how easily I revert to 21st Century text speak) Yes! My father breaks down and buys me a pair! And you know what? They were uncomfortable as heck, they weren't all that attractive and I think wore them once and never looked at them again. My father sat me down and explained that the $9.99 he spent was equivalent to about two hours of work for him. It blew my mind! All I could think about was how my dad was working for two hours and in all that time all he had to show for it was my ugly pair of jellys that I didn't even wear. I think I cried. I sure as hell never forgot and when I got my first job and went buck wild shopping and spending my hard earned $2 an hour wages on crap my dad reminded me about those jellys.

Now you know your mom and you know I've spent A LOT OF hard earned money on crap. Can we say "Retail Therapy"? (Call Alice, my shrink) Sometimes I can show what I've done with it and sometimes I shake my head at how I wasted serious cash on indulging my ego and inner child. I see young people wanting things not within their means and for all the wrong reasons and while I'm not as strict as your grandpa - pre-pod abduction of course - I do try to remind you that when you take those Summer jobs you make fiscally responsible choices, not only for your sakes but for your future needs.

Now ever since my financial advisor Candi Sparks entered our lives over 15 years ago, around the time your mom had to be on public assistance because times were hard, I've always tried to learn how to manage my resources better. Cash, moolah, duckets, paper, it's all currency and it's all simply a resource, a tool. Don't try to live to make it, don't let one tool overshadow all the amazing other things life has to offer and no I'm not talking about the next designer jacket. I've been pretty blessed. You all took it well when you were younger and I explained that mommy only had a set amount of dollars per week. I showed you the bills as they came in and I showed you how some could be paid and some would take time and effort. You were so mature and amazingly understanding when lights and heat went off and we lived by candlelight for a while. You would go to Payless Shoes or Conway Department Stores and never complained as we found sturdy long lasting items for you and me. It was as if the light bulb had gone off in your head. Yes! Mom would work 40 hours a week to acquire money and that money had to be stretched to pay the utilities, the food, the transportation (the Silver Bullet to us!) and our 'uniforms'.

I watch you all now and I see when you have that gleam in your eyes and splurge for yourselves. You've earned those instances many times over, as I watch you compare items when you shop online and I watch you weigh whether to put off a purchase until the semester is over. I am so proud that while you all have amazingly exquisite tastes you take care of your bills first. (I'll take some credit for that, after all I taught you quality before popularity and classic items never goes our of style and fads will surely always result in that retro picture you wish you hadn't taken) I marvel at how great you all are when you come asking for money and relay to me the depth of thought you put into the purchase you want help with. Even your designer choices make sense and you buy those items on your own, with the money you've earned.

I feel bad about the kids who don't plan, who don't understand the value of the dollars they are spending or the amount of energy expended to acquire that dollar. Designer stuff is nice but you can't live on those clothes if you're about to be evicted for not paying your rent or mortgage. Don't even get me starting on the hoarding of crap and clothes out in this country right now too! Where will they keep it all? Is that what their lives amounted to? Having tons of stuff and clothes? Will cemeteries start selling storage space for it all as well? Shoot, I'm in the wrong business then!

So, as you've all begun to embark on your lives as adult men (I am so in awe of all of you my darlings, how proud I am to be your mom) I want you to keep doing what you're doing and weigh in those lessons you learned from your elders, like Titi Candi and Titi Maddy. (Titi is Spanish for aunt) I've seen some "jellys" in your closets but I smile. We all need at least one, if only just to remind us of how silly we can be when we want something we don't really need.

Also feel free to pool your duckets together come Mothers Day, because Mom likes trips now, not shoes.
Love you boys!

Love Mom


Carmen M. Colon is a mother, an engineer, an education and childrens advocate, an author and a workshop facilitator on the topics of leadership, womens empowerment, career advancement and now on parenting. She is writing a series of "Dear Kids" letters to her three sons on a series of topics and issues.
Her website is http://carmenmcolon.info
Her books can be found online: http://amazon.com/author/carmencolon

Mother to three amazing self sufficient civic minded sons. Devin Christopher, 24, Fashion Designer, college student in NYC and youngest athletic director ever hired at a major sports complex in NYC. Antonio Fernandez, 20, choreographer, dancer, model, college student in NYC, has already performed with Cyndi Lauper at the Beacon Theatre and simply ready for his close-up. Taylor Aidan, almost 18 (at this release), HS Senior in NYC, amazing singer who is studying to be the next greatest sign language interpreter the world's ever known. (DISCLAIMER: Ok, mom wrote that.)

Dear Sons, Tell Google To Kiss Your... Wait I Have A Notification! BRB!

Dear Boys;

Once upon a time, in the last of so freaking long ago, when your mom was your age, there was no such thing as the internet. Yes, now pick up your jaw, you dropped it. Kids in their teens played board games or went outside for fun and to socialize. They waited until they got to school to tell each other everything and they rarely called on the house phone (yes a house phone, pay attention!) to gossip because parents wouldn't allow it.

Now I know you've all thought me harsh when I bought you all cell phones (once you all were teens and not a second before) and they only came with calling capabilities, no text and no data plan for you. But the phones were and still are what I consider a resource, a tool for emergencies. PERIOD. No one needs to be texting (OR EVEN CALLING) you while you're in school, because, WELL. YOU. ARE. IN. SCHOOL. Unless of course it's me or your dad and it's an emergency.

I love technology and you all know I'm all about the next best greatest TOOL that is discovered but all this "instant" communications" and "social media" technology is what I call "easy street to a loser's life". You can't live online. You can't experience life if you are too busy hashtagging, instagraming every meal and tweeting about every bowel movement. Worse still, you can't pay any of the damn bills either if you are too busy being distracted with what the rest of the world is doing!

Now, people will say that your mom lives on the computer but you all know the deal. I PLAN for my time on here and yes, sometimes I get carried away and instead of the allotted hour I look up and three have gone by! It is seductive to be where you can get an immediate response (sometimes) from people but it's not living. This is why I wanted you to grow up knowing what it's like to go outside, play with friends outside, not stay inside playing video games. Sure I must sound like all the other old timers but you know me. YOU KNOW ME! I see some of the apps you download and I know you're paying attention. You download utilities, yes! Rarely do you download games. You do pay attention! (Unless I ask to take out the garbage, or come home early, why is that?)

Let me just school you on these companies and not to put all the blame on Google, although they took the proverbial football and ran with it across the entire cyber universe! They do what mommy does, they gather data. They gather data all day long, the same as I once did when I worked in the department Data Extraction and Manipulation. (yes, this is why the Mayor and Chancellor called me a Rabble Rouser but I digress...) Mommy used to get information from many applications being used by her company. This was all so that I could generate reports for all the executives or any Managers that wanted a progress report. Now what I learned in the department is that I could actually make any report sound great (happy, happy, joy, joy!) or not so great. (OMG, WTH, we're in for it now!) That my darlings is called SPIN. I can spin great news or I could spin bad news because what the Managers wanted as an end result was what dictated that. The final numbers wasn't important to them, what they wanted from the people reading the reports was! Ok, let me break it down for you. All these apps track everything you do on it. After a while computers can estimate what you next step will be, so based on everything you're reading online, every movie or TV show on Hulu you watch, everything you buy (with mom's debit card) on Amazon, they start to send you commercials, in your gmail on the right of your screen or in the ads on your FB so that YOU will do what THEY want you to do, which is download something or buy something. Get it?

So don't "live your life" online boys and don't give companies any reason to try to sell you anything. There is so much more out here in this world than what the rest of the world is doing or the latest download can provide you. Don't be a statistic or unknowingly a participant in some company's crazy survey. Love the technology but don't let it dictate how you're going to live your life and for all the data collected in the world, be unique and spontaneous and responsible. Cellphones (along with the computers and gaming consoles) are tools, to be used to enhance your life, not take that away or dictate how you will spend your days.

I was talking on the phone to my BFF the other day and we were talking about it all. How people tell their lives, in excruciatingly painful detail, on social media networks AND how life changing doing something like that can be! What do I tell you??? Do not post anything that may affect your ability to live your life or get a J-O-B! Also, aside from the fact that this English language loving mother of yours cringes at the "HORRIDNESS" that has befallen my beloved language, how do some people communicate at all is beyond me!(yes, I made up a word because apparently we can all do that now, we don't have to wait for Merriam or Webster to do it!) When he spoke to the time when people had to wait until they got home to make phone calls and now people are dying left and right because they can't get their heads out of their asses because they absolutely positively have to spend every waking minute talking on their cell phones - WHILE THEY ARE DRIVING, I knew times truly had changed.

You are all of driving age now and so I want you all to tell Google and Pinterest and Instagram and Facebook and Youtube to kiss your backsides because your attention is on what matters! Your attention is on what's in front of your eyes, like the road and the school book or the smart board in the classroom or the face of the friend across from the lunchroom table and not texting each other while sitting in the same room. So you see my darlings, I wasn't limiting your life's pleasures by keeping you away from all those things, I was expanding your horizons. Don't let these companies who are only out to keep you distracted and poor dictate to you, you call me and let me know when you are on your way - THAT is an important piece of data for mom - and you use the cell to find your way with a map or to capture a moment you want to remember for posterity, that is what these tools are for.
Remember also to not be driving or doing something else either. Multi-tasking is alternating between two TASKS and walking is not a TASK, driving is not a TASK!

I know you all laugh because it seems I am attached to my phone every day but there are times when I turn it off. I simply get to the point where I've become over saturated with sensory overload. I pick and choose the hours I am available for people. I am not ever available 24/7/365 for anyone. (except you my darlings and the love of my life but that's a whole other set of letters) No, I will not answer every text the second I get it and no I will not call back in five minutes if I am called during my work day. Now, I will reply within a few hours, 24 to 48 hours most definitely, to not do that is rude. The internet and ability to reach out instantly has created some serious etiquette deficiencies out here. People are still people, so be aware and be kind but be firm. Set your times for yourself, just as I taught you, return phone calls and texts out of respect and make your daily schedule so that everything you want to do that day can get done or at least you've taken steps to get them done. Fill your lives with goals and milestones and events with people in the same room and don't live it in your heads, in cyber space or some other lame virtual reality.

Oh and one other thing, when it's me on the other end, all rules don't apply - pick that sucker up! I want you to bring home some cookies!

I love you boys. Be safe and do as I taught you, you'll thank me later, decades later probably but oh, you will thank your crazy tech savvy mom!

Love Mom

Carmen M. Colon is a mother, an engineer, an education and childrens advocate, an author and a workshop facilitator on the topics of leadership, womens empowerment, career advancement and now on parenting. She is writing a series of "Dear Kids" letters to her three sons on a series of topics and issues.
Her website is http://carmenmcolon.info
Her books can be found online: http://amazon.com/author/carmencolon

Mother to three amazing self sufficient civic minded sons. Devin Christopher, 24, Fashion Designer, college student in NYC and youngest athletic director ever hired at a major sports complex in NYC. Antonio Fernandez, 20, choreographer, dancer, model, college student in NYC, has already performed with Cyndi Lauper at the Beacon Theatre and simply ready for his close-up. Taylor Aidan, almost 18 (at this release), HS Senior in NYC, amazing singer who is studying to be the next greatest sign language interpreter the world's ever known. (DISCLAIMER: Ok, mom wrote that.)