Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Getting Out From Under

Sometimes the first steps are the hardest. All the way through, from toddlerhood to old age, it seems it's always the first steps that require steel eyed courage and matter the most. I don't care if it's stepping into that first yoga class where you don't know a soul or leaving your jerk of a husband, without that motion forward you stall.


 As in, no oars in the boat kinda deal.

As I get older I wonder if we forgot how vital it is to keeps making steps forward.

When we are younger motion forward is expected of us, demanded. We navigate through first days of school, first days of soccer, new teachers, new neighborhoods, you name it, we are led by the collar with change. As we get older we seem to settle into things and the ride starts to slow down for us. Years go by and somehow we mellow and the malleable parts of us show themselves. Don't get me wrong, it's OK and necessary in some cases to do this--I think we all know the flip side of not making this change; ever watch over the hill Peter Pan's running around? Ew. Oh-so-not-attractive.

So where is the balance? When to ignite, throw our hat into the ring, keep things fresh? Researchers tell us those who are living healthy and alert into their 80's and 90's have one thing in common; they are passionate about something. Whether it's birdwatching or ballroom dancing, they love it, do it often and have a can't miss frame of mind around it.

I often find myself watching in awe those who push beyond the boundaries, those who don't take no for an answer from life. It would be an understatement to say I worship these people. I think about them on my runs. I dream about them at night. It's like having a PSA in my brain throughout my day. It speaks to me on kind days to "keep going!"  and on not so kind days to "stop whining!"

I recently ran a 200 mile overnight relay. It was really hard. Not just the running but the lack of sleep, the cold, the port-o-potty's! I remember feeling especially sorry for myself at one point and at just that moment, almost on cue, whizzing past me comes this guy running- with a prosthetic leg. He has a smile on his face. He has Obama 2008 "yes we can!" campaign energy. He has me feeling like a tool.

We NEED people like this in our lives, heck, we need to be these people. In a society of instant gratification and comfort we need to push back and wake ourselves up from nodding off.
Only then will we be the ones teaching a classroom of kids to hula hoop when we are Ninety-five.

 I am getting my hoop out of storage today.

Join me?

Friday, August 5, 2011


From the time our hormones kick in (13 for me) we are propelled into this allusive game of chase.  Do we or don't we?  Do we meet the cutest boy you ever set eyes on after school or do we glance his way, smile casually and keep on walking?

For me I had a bit of a wild streak.  I so related to my beloved horse books where the untamed colt refused to be stifled, her spirit unbroken by all who attempted to reign her in.  I like to think of it as pre-Thelma and Louise for girls. 
That way of thinking followed me into my twenties.  I liked to be caught for a bit but then would soon tire of the same old pasture.  Not so much because of who attempted to own me but for the simple fact that my heart wanted bigger terrain.  The sad, strange thing was that even though I would bristle at first under the saddle, I eventually would be lulled into a relaxed state.

I would get comfortable.  I would forget the whiff of adventure in the far off breeze.  I would settle in.  I would want to please.  I wouldn't kick up a fuss.  How remarkable that on one side I was the demure girl, on the other, the racy you -better -run -if -you -corner -me -girl.  Both roles made me well, uneasy.  I didn't wear either coat particularly well.  Inevitably I would be in a corner quietly pulling at loose threads or attempting to rip the damn thing off me.

I remember my Mother saying to me she thought I always did better without a man, I was more "myself."  I never quite knew what she was trying to say to me intellectually, but I got it in my gut.  Alone I stood taller, had a handshake that would make grown men wince and liked being a person who was up for anything, no requirements please.  To this day one of the most treasured things ever said to me was being compared to an orchid--"beautiful and a little wild."  I hold onto that when I am doing laundry.  When I am in line at the grocery store, when I am so fatigued from giving giving giving I feel like I am going to crack;
I silently say to myself like a prayer, I am a wild beautiful orchid.

'Yeah right', the little voice in my head says. 'In your dreams cutie pie.'

When do we get to the point where we run to the harness instead of away from it?  When do we say to ourselves we are ready for the capture as long as we have a view to look to?  As long as we have our moments racing down the highway, sun blazing, hair flying, feeling the invincibility of 16?

 I like to think that the right capture is the one that lets air under the saddle.  The one that understands there will forever be a person inside us that wants to be encompassed by love but also has it within to flee in the middle of the night.

The right capture lets us exhale fully, lets us become who we are meant to.  The right capture has us smile heartily and fall hard when we need it.

We hope we can do the same for them. 
We hope we don't pinch them into doting versions of some 1950's TV show. 
We hope they feel they can yell they hate us, even though they don't.
We hope they can be swept away and live, wringing every last moment out of their existence, not just seeing a quote on a fridge about it but LIVING damn it, to do what they are meant to do without ever saying "I wish I could but..."

Knowing fully this wicked-wild crazy ride of stepping in and outside of lines; only for the bold of heart, only for the ones who really want it,  only for the ones who capture us; our hearts, our spirits- they are the ones who are deserving to own all of us; every last sticky, flawed, wonderful, messy, ecstatic, frightening part of us.

 I can tell you I wanted nothing less.  I can also tell you I fell hard trying to get it.  I failed.  I was stupid, reckless, beneath myself, foolish.  I was quiet, delusional, childish, selfish, broken.  I spoke love but only knew a shadow of it.

When I finally see, the glimmer, the too bright light that you politely ask to turn down please, it's giving me a headache, it's giving me vision, it's giving me a momentary flicker of what could be and dear God I don't know if this bravado girl can handle it. 
I don't know if the dead on look I give strangers will hold when I look into my future husband's eyes. 
I don't know why when I say my vows to him I am barely a whisper, so profound, so humble is my offering.
The man who captures me takes it; cups my burnt offering in his hands and with kindness scatters the ashes around to show me what they all add up to.
  How they swirl and stick to my eyelids, words, the parts of my life.  He welcomes to our table the two versions of me; the warrior and the little girl.  He wraps them in, folding tight with his own fragility, recklessness, strength.  I see that the view is there.  All at once I look to him and I look outward.  I put the harness on gladly, completely, with honor.  I wander and I dream.  I come home.
The light is always on.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Can I get an Amen?!

The blessed first week of camp!  Last drop off, kisses and hugs dispensed and I'm off!  Gleefully in my car, windows down and the wind blowing through my matted down hair.  Matted down because I haven't showered.  In two days. Or really eaten a meal sitting down when I think about it.. in.. actually, well, lets see, since the kids got out of school.   It's been just shy of a month since I wrote last. I am embarking on the quiet stillness; needing to empty the writing bin in my head that taunts me as I make PB&J sandwiches fifty times a day. Two hours of alone time coming my way!  Yay!  What to do..what to do.. lets see, I can:
 fold laundry/do laundry/go grocery shopping/pick up the toys-mess-laundry-wrappers on the floor/clean the bathroom/vacuum/remove gum from the bottom of tub/drop off the overdue books at the library/shower/run/yoga/write. I can fit it all in. Sure. No problem.

That's it though, it never gets fit in.  I may do most of all of the above but inevitably a shower gets missed or my butt doesn't get in the chair to hit the keyboard.  I'm all preachy to anyone who will listen about the importance of balance in one's life.  Yeah, whatever.  Even I want to tell myself to shut up.

There is no balance.  There, I have said it.
No. Balance.  There is no balance in Motherhood.

There are moments of calm, there are moments away, there are moments you may even think you have got this thing down but there is never truly balance.  How can there be?  Your life is not your own!

 And as I say now, a reformed balance militant crazy woman, that is A-OK.

Just as you embrace that new wrinkle sprouting angrily from your lip line
(Mantra: I still can rock it, I still can rock it) embrace this:

Maybe there is a infinite lesson here...grace under pressure, keeping our heads above water, finding the humor, all the things we tell our children are important in life- things that can never be put to use if they are not desperately called upon to be tested out. 

Time to take the training wheels off and fall.  Get the band aids ready.

I was always so afraid if I didn't run the house like Julie McCoy from the Love Boat something awful would happen.  Don't ask me what that awful was, I have no idea, just that it would be well, be a poopstorm I wouldn't easily walk away from.  I remember a movie I watched with a Mother talking about all the balls in the air that she juggles and how she cannot under any circumstances crack under the pressure of effortlessly having them in flight.


I'm getting the Post it notes out for the bathroom mirror.  So what if you make jello for dinner?  So what if the laundry piles so high you post avalanche warnings?  So what if you rock in a corner for a few minutes feeling like you are going to implode?  Feel it.  Let the balls clamor to the ground.  Lose your balance and fall.
Nobody said you couldn't get back up.

You know Alice from the Brady Bunch felt like this. Sure, she hid her rage in her apron next to her bourbon bottle, but I know she felt it.  Hell, we felt it for her through the T.V. screen.  Wouldn't it have been so much better if she just let it rip one time?  Think of what she could have taught us!  Better than any public service announcement.  "Alice loses her shit- tune in at 5:00 to see it happen...."

So, this Summer I am forgiving myself of Julie, Alice, and anyone else I may have picked up along the way.  Forgiving that my hair looks like dreadlocks, forgiving that no article was written this week.  The laundry is still there but so are the smiles on my kid's faces.  We drop into bed at night with a full day had.  I wipe my perfection mask off and replace it with sunscreen.  Pretty soon balance will be back.  For a moment she will sit and have tea with me.  It will be a nice visit, one I will look forward to, all the while knowing she won't be staying long.  Hey, if she stays to help with the dishes, that's fine with me.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Octomom on my shoulder

It took me being called Octomom to snap out of it.  There I was in a puddle of my own doing, crying over my last baby graduating Kindergarten when a voice whispered to know, it's not too late....
I could have another baby, I could delay this transitional pain, I could just very well postpone it to another day.
It could happen.
I am after all newly 40 and fit, love being a Mom, do it well most days and hope to the heavens my kids forget the days I don't.  It could happen.  Why not??

As I mulled this over, gnashing it about in my head I made the mistake of actually saying it out loud.  My girlfriend, who has known me since I was a child, practically screamed at me, her words shaking me at the keyboard- "ARE YOU CRAZY???!!! DON'T YOU KNOW YOU ARE ALMOST THERE??? YOU CAN SEE THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL FOR CHRISTSAKES!!! VACATIONS ON THE BEACH! NO RESPONSIBILITIES! KNOCK IT OFF OCTOMOM!!!!!"

That did it.  At the same time repelled by the comparison while completely understanding it, I saw the reflection in the mirror.  And I didn't like it.  Nope.  Not one bit.

I consulted my Midwife friend who has grown children of her own but also gets to hold delicious babies on a daily basis.  I asked her, "does this feeling ever go away??  The I could syndrome?"
"Never" she says.
"Welcome to womanhood" she says with a laugh.
I do not find her funny.

I think I have amnesia.  You know how women get amnesia about labor?  I get it with the early years.  I have completely glossed over the sleepless nights, breast infections, toddlers running around your ankles so fast you are sure they are an inch away from running into traffic.  I forget my exhaustion, the balancing act, the doing 17 things at once to keep all from the brink of some imagined disaster.  I especially forget the seemingly endless thrown up food particles in my hair.

What I do remember is all that has filled me up.  I remember the dead of night, sitting silently by the Christmas tree nursing my Son, the only sound, his burroughed contentment against me.  I remember first words and first steps, the joy of seeing snow for the first time, the undiluted giggles of, well, everything.
It's a freakin Hallmark movie in my head.

I don't think I am done.  That is what the little Octomom on my shoulder tells me.  "Nooo, you are not" she insists.  My husband and she fight often.  They surely would not sit next to each other at the Thanksgiving table.
Because he remembers.
He does not don the rose colored glasses Octomom and I stylishly wear.
He pays the bills, the bills we can barely pay now.

"But couldn't we"....she nudges back as she passes the gravy to him.
"No we can't" he says.
"No we won't" he says as he struggles not to throw the gravy boat at her.

Husband is right.  We don't have it in us.  We have this wonderful, crazy, joyful family, this total full plate and as much as I want to put one more piece of pie on it I know my stomach would be churning within minutes.
Isn't that how it is though?  We always think we should have more of what is good.  My inner Octomom struggles with the boundaries nature has placed upon my body, spirit, emotional capacity and finances.

And let us not forget at the end of the day what looms; gasp-- the next phase I am slowly with each passing year inching towards.  One where dinner does not need to be made, laundry does not need to be folded, permission slips do not need to be signed.  Even though I may as well be decades away from that moment it is still there, beckoning me, telling me that now is not forever, all roads are not endlessly open or mine.

Appreciation and gratitude are what brings me down the river.  Like that beautiful flower you place in a vase, you know it's wonder will not be there but for a moment.  All of which makes the intoxicating smell, uniqueness and awe of it demand to be enjoyed for the time that it graces your table.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The ride is everything

Adolescence waits for me as I open my eyes.  She snickers as I place my optimistic feet on the ground.  Oh no, you will not have her today she cackles in my ear.  My daughter already up, is straightening her hair; her beautiful, long curly hair, she straightens.  She grunts an acknowledgement and continues on her task.  I conjure up my cheeriest greeting.  It is met with an octopus-like disdain.  I cringe as it's tentacles wrap around both our throats and our steps, stopping our voices and blocking our path to a peaceful morning.

There is much I want to tell her this morning. 
 I want to tell her to: wear sunscreen/pack a good lunch/maybe the skirt is a wee bit short?/don't forget to empty the dishwasher/boys respect girls who say no/is this your math folder?/cherish your friends/too much mascara is a dangerous thing/and please let the dog out.

We don't get much past the sunscreen.

I internally do my morning routine of tug of war -do I let go/do I hold tight- as I pour my tea.  She starts to tell me something about her day and I concentrate like a gambler betting it all with my poker face.  I hardly hear her story as the internal dialogue is the bomb squad talking me not smile, no sudden moves, only look in her eyes at key phrases...too much raise of the eyebrows and the bomb will explode and chaos will ensue.

Like a ransom call I will do whatever I can to keep her talking.

I find there is comfort in numbers.  If I could not vent to my friends who walk this shrouded way with me I'd surely start the day with rum in my tea.  How else to cope with losing your child?  She will come back yes, but when?  And who will she be?  I loved her when she was at my breast, when she screamed in the cereal aisle, when she dug for worms until the sun went down.  I love her still.  But there is a tinge of red in this water break.  It is a rebirth where nothing warm will be placed next to your heart.

My heart aches for her.  I see the clutches Adolescence has her in.  Adolescence doesn't care.  To her it's nothing personal.  She gets around that Adolescence.  I hear her in dressing rooms, restaurants, school concerts.  She is everywhere.  And wherever she is is a teenager with her head spinning around her shoulders and a Mother looking like she was just punched in the stomach.

When those moments arrive I try hold unto something. 
A picture.  A memento.  The counter. 
 Like an awful roller coaster ride I know I will be back down to the bottom eventually but the ride is still going to make me puke.  I see myself at the top, frozen in fear, unable to do anything but scream primal as loud as my lungs permit.  There is always someone on that same ride with you after yelling and clutching seems to accept that there is nothing to be done.  You both chose to be on this ride, you both knew the drop was coming.  But these people, they actually smile, as if to say what goes up must come down, hang on but also enjoy the ride.  I am not one of these people.  I am still mastering my clutch.  But each day I try that much harder to laugh at my lurching stomach and think how lucky I am to even be on this ride.

It's the only thing that gets me back down to the bottom.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Things they never tell you in birthing class

Like most expectant Mothers of the time I found myself at Barnes and Noble perusing the parenting aisle looking for the bible of all pregnant Mom's to be: What To Expect When You Are Expecting.  Right there with Brazelton and Leach was the hefty book with a friendly, peaceful looking lady all cozy in a rocking chair.  She looked so happy.  So confident.  So reassured.  All would be well she said to me.  What was I so worried about??!   I was sucked in like a sailor to the siren on the rocks.  Duped into buying that expensive book which I would find in short order was going to rule my pregnancy like a wet blanket soaked in terror.  I was certainly not that calm, collected lady on the front.  And that book was the reason why.  I am sure that it has it's place somewhere.  I'm sure there will be those who come forward and tell me how wrong I am, that the book is informative and wonderful.
Here is the place where I will insert a little nugget of wisdom to those who may consider it:


 Unless you hate her, or like frantic phone calls 5x a day asking if all the horrible things that the book says can happen actually will.

Much of what I endlessly poured over, bookmarked and never read past my weekly chapter on (saving it like a great dessert, one spoonful at a time) was in a word, rubbish.

I certainly didn't need to know all the information they were peddling, all the inaccuracies, all the stuff that can go horribly, devastatingly wrong, reducing me to a pile of rubble, contemplating which blood test I should get next and whether genetic testing was really for me.

As a wise experienced Mother of three now I can truly say that I needed a much different, looser power point presentation as to what was on the horizon for me.  I think it only right and proper to write down what I wish would have been told to me during that special time.

For your kind consideration:

Things someone (doctor, parent, mailman) should have told me as soon as the plus sign appeared

1) Your ass is gonna get fat.  Forget Posh Spice.  Your butt will never look like that.  It will grow at an alarming rate to match your stomach.  Anything less than that and you will topple over.  I have seen Posh fall. It ain't pretty.  Really.

2) While there are a few amazing, incredible women out there that run marathons at 37 weeks and rule the world while pregnant, you do not want to be one of them.  They cry in airport bathrooms while shoving chocolate in their mouths.  Move yes, but sit your behind on the couch and rest.  You're gonna need it.

3) Keep negative people away from you.  Especially that woman (everyone has one) that loves to spout how awful her labor was and how terrible you are going to feel any moment now.  Just give her a shove.  Growl a little too so she thinks your crazy.  The police will understand.  They don't want to arrest a pregnant woman. Do it, you will feel better.  But most importantly DON'T LISTEN.  She's icky and that was her experience. This is yours.

4) Remember that women have this down.  You are not the first nor will be the last to go through this process.  Trust.  Worry does nothing but make you lose the little voice inside you that guides.  You are going to need that little voice.  Especially when people say stupid crap to you in the grocery store.  Voice: do not shove anymore people today.  You do not look like you are carrying triplets.  Ignore and walk away before you get arrested again.

5) Labor will hurt like hell.  But you can do it and you will feel like a bad ass after.  Good job Mom.  That's what you say to yourself as you hold your baby.  Good Job.

And because What To Expect When You Are Expecting gives a little postpartum yummy advice, I submit the following:

6) Your body will resemble Austin Power's Fat Bastard after.  That's O.K.  It will bounce back.  Except your boobs.  Sorry.

7) Milk will squirt sideways out of your breasts making your husband vomit in his mouth a little and look at you like Sigourney Weaver in Aliens.  Oh, and you will kind of feel like her too.

8) Do not expect to get right back in the saddle.  Like #2 there are women who do but they are also the ones who look all pinched in the face.  You just stretched a human being out of your hoo hoo.  Or you were cut open.  Or you just had a newborn placed in your arms.  You are gonna feel nuts, exhausted and like you cannot do this.  You can.  You just are going to feel like you can't for awhile.  And anyone who does should be shoved.  Be careful though; the police are still watching you and you are not pregnant anymore.

9) Accept that this time will not be an episode of Little House On The Prairie.  There will be moments you will HATE your husband.  Much like dispelling the facade of the rocking chair peaceful pregnant lady, do the same with this.  I thought we were supposed to be so ridiculously happy.  And we were.  But we were also sleep deprived and grouchy, overwhelmed and doing everything we could to take care of this new little being.  Be gentle with yourself.  And him.

10)  Enjoy. Like the little old ladies in the grocery store who tell you it goes by so fast, they are honestly not talking smack.  It's true.  One minute you are cuddling your newborn and the next she is rolling her eyes at you asking for 20 bucks and informing you, you have "like, no style whatsoever."

Parenthood is fun.  Cathartic.  Engrossing.  Messy and joyful.  One freakin' wild ride. 
And with it the rule: no rocking chairs allowed.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A good bra can fix anything

I don't care what it is, any problem, no matter how monstrous or trivial, life altering or mundane, can be solved with just one thing; a good bra.  Think about it- world peace, in-law troubles; you name it- all can be taken care of by the simple action of finding that splendid unmentionable and connecting it's maddening hook clasp between our shoulder blades.  A good bra makes us stand a little taller, smile a little brighter, shine that little speck more.  We all know what happens to our morale when we put on a saggy, misshapen, dingy-drab from so many washings it looks like it was grey in the first place- bra.  We feel like that.  We feel the blah, we feel the misshape.  We greet each new set of eyes with an Emily Dickinson-like stare, please don't really see me, I'll be the wallflower in the corner, thank you.

We can't blame ourselves for this, it truly is not our faults.  When we are teenagers and our boobies appear we think they, like the mole on our arm will forever be with us just as they are in that moment.  We take them for granted.  We walk around letting them fly free.  We do not care!  We are 13, 18, 26, 30!  We should be getting the forklift ready for their descent but we don't.  No, we just ignore and look away, we pretend not to see them melting like the polar ice caps.  We get pregnant.  We get forty.  We breastfeed.  We run that 5k with that terrible shot elastic in our sports bra.  And then BAM!  One day, they don't greet the sun quite like they used to.  Or they deflate like a balloon popped by a horrific child.  We look around, we want to yell "WHO IS THAT KID ANYWAY??!!"  We want to blame somebody.  What do you do though when there is no one really to blame?

You stop blaming.  Like the stages of grief you finish your bargaining, anger, and pleading and you hit your own version of acceptance.  You stop buying your bra's at Wallmart and your march yourself into Victoria's Secret.  You ignore the 16 year olds who are asking you "Ma 'am, can I help you?" and you keep walking because homicide is not on the calender for the day.  You tell the most mature salesperson you can find (21 year old girl) that you need something that will help you with the breasts that have betrayed you.  You tell her you want to take the fat from your ass and inject it into your breasts but that you will not do that because 1) you can't afford it and 2) how would you justify it to your daughters that you convince yourself are looking up to you??  Once you have explained all of this to the 21 year old who is texting security you take a deep breath, lift your shirt and say- "can you, for the love of God, help with this please??" "

I have been told that there is a panic button for this kind of moment at Victoria's Secret.  A hush falls over the store, walkie talkies are involved.  You find yourself escorted into a special back room with not a florescent light in sight.  You are placed in a vault-like dressing room where bra's are slipped to you through a secret compartment in the door; gingerly handed to you like little sticks of dynamite.   Tentatively, with jaundice and malice you try the bra on.  Like a golden arch of sunlight piercing the dressing room door, a miracle occurs- you look in the mirror and Voila!  What has forsaken you has been restored, the prodigal son has returned.

You wear it out-you have no concern for the way clothes are made with formaldehyde these days- no need to wash it first, you can't be bothered with such trivial details!   The world has changed!  Hell--oo!   You go to the counter.  You don't check the price- you don't care- you would mortgage your home for this bra!  You walk out of the store with it on under your shirt and close to your heart; your heartbeat and bra are one.  You let people pull out in front of you in traffic!  You laugh off your Mother in-law's comments about how she had it harder than you!  You saunter into your children's school at pick up time and wipe off any trace of Emily Dickinson!  You and your new bra look them all in the eye with the fearlessness of an outlaw at high noon; you don't look away!  You start that letter to the United Nations and it begins with "listen up 'cause this is how it's gonna get done!"  Yes, things are going to be different now folks.  Look out, nothing is ever going to be the same again.  A good bra can fix anything.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

You know it's love when it's 10:00 pm and he's at Target buying you tampons

I want to take a poll. I want to make up a really scientific poll that asks women one important question: "How do you know your man loves you?" I bet I would get all sorts of profound, heart soaring answers that would make me cry, sigh and shoot my husband dirty why don't you do that?! looks.

Love is a very complex thing. Some may argue that you can't even effectively articulate what it is. Even the Gods struggled to quantify it.
 But I think I have them all beat. Yes, I dare come forward and say I know what love is.

Love is being in your PJ's on a rainy Monday night watching the game, getting ready for bed and hearing your wife shriek from the other room-- "Oh crap!!! I am out of my super expanding lifeboat overnight pads!!" and with only a defeated sigh, get up off the couch, get your coat and go to the store to buy her some. That's right ladies; I'm going to say it-- it all comes down to absorbency. The reason I am so sure of his love is not because of our shared life together, our connected hearts, our family- it is because of my feminine hygiene products.

I am fairly confident the dread of buying tampons, pantiliners and pads is something that men are born with, right there with more muscle mass and in most cases, hairier upper lips. The absolute deer in the headlights fear, middle school-octane embarrassment, alarm, the Oh my God will anyone see me at the check out line panic that our guys have when buying "the stuff."

There are varying degrees and category's of this. For example:

Pantiliners are on the lower scale of the terror alert for guys. They can hide the pack under and amongst their Maxim and Men's Health magazines. And make no mistake; their purchase of both Maxim and thong pantiliners together make them feel about as cool as Shawn Cassidy in 1977.

Tampons are presenting less of a shock and awe reaction these days. He may never like getting them, but it's relatively O.K. because the guy next to him has them in his basket too.

 But the knock down, cut you off at the knee's, biggest Mother of all mortifying purchases is the heavy, heavy, super elephantine extra wings to land a 747 ultra sponge, soak up a lake OVERNIGHT PADS.

Diapers in a box.

Fill up a landfill with just one pad.

Oh yes, the big ones.

  There is no way out of the tornado with this one. Nope, nothing cool, no thong time here. Just a nice chap trying to hide your Grandma king size package with his poor little Maxim. And please know he is going to bump into:
His boss.
The principal of your kids school.
The mechanic.
 His running buddies.
His new client that is just getting to know him. Oh, but he knows him now. Yes, he knows more than he wants to about him now.

Hopefully he sees what I see, a man who puts others before himself. A man of great capacity. A man who does not care if he goes over a bridge on the way home because he has a flotation device in his grocery bag.

When I was younger I used to think love and romance were sweeping unspoken hot passionate looks and embraces, sunsets and you and me against the world moments- ala' Say Anything (cue John Cusack image with boom box over head, under window--sigh) As I march towards forty I see what it really is, in all it's blazing glory; true love. Wrapped up neatly in a enormous bag of Niagara cushions for your hoo-hoo.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Throw off the covers Part 2: An emerging woman's guide to life

I realized when I was writing Throw off the Covers that I also had another writing assignment ahead of me~ a personal letter to my oldest, who at thirteen is making an important rite of passage.  I wanted to have what I wrote be about the blind leap marching towards adulthood.  I then realized that the letter, which called me to start from the bones of Throw off the covers, was a letter not just for those who are making the bridge between girlhood to womanhood; but to all girls.  I found it amusing that some of the things I wrote applied equally to both women and girls, that is why some key points remain unaltered.  It was a surprisingly daunting task.  Would I be able to adequately express the good/bad/ugly/hold onto the railing/ stuff of life?  Present an open road? 

And finally; why did I feel it necessary to cross myself before typing the first word?

Here is what inched forward:

Throw off the covers: An emerging woman's guide to life:

Banish the tip toeing, the diplomacy, the hierarchy of how things should be.

 Lets have them how they can be.

Right now.

Here is my how to guide for being a woman of substance.  Pay attention, it gets tricky as you go.

1)  No matter what you are wearing, be it sweatpants or taffeta take time to put on intention and dignity.
And when you do, don't be dainty about it.  Put it on like a girl who knows what's ahead of her.
Even when you don't.

2)  Do not apologize for who you are.  Contrary to what the magazines and some time friends may say, you are enough. No need to be more of anything.  Be you.

3)  Get some sun.  Be bold, go outside, soak it all in.  Bring nature to you like family.  Expand your sights to things bigger than yourself.  Feel humble by the mountains, small by the sea.

4)  Drink water, unplug and breathe.  There is nothing that is so important that cannot wait until you do those things.  Believe me, life will be waiting for you once you return.

5)  Make good friends.  Have them be the people you can call on when that boy breaks your heart and who will cheer for you when you cross the finish line. There will be moments in your life when they will be the ones keeping your head above water.  Cherish them.  Be a good friend back.

6)  Laugh.
So hard and so loud it makes people uncomfortable.  Makes you feel full.

7)  You don't have to answer anybody's questions.  Especially when they are rude and asked with a smile. It's not your business what others think of you, be mysterious; give them something to talk about at the grocery store.

8)  Make it personal.  Forget what you have been told.
If you don't like  /it/him/her/ scrap em' in the bin.

9)  Listen.  To everything.  Every motion and twinge, every single pull of your heart.  It's a road map.
Follow it.
10)  Give till you break.  But only for the things/people that are worth it.  Let me repeat.  Only the ones that are worth it.

11)  Be in the world but not of it.  This world places great importance on things that are frivolous.  Do not get wrapped up in it.  Repeat # 3 and # 4.

12)  Be of service.  There is no greater thing you can do in this world.  It can be within your family or for an entire Country.  What direction that takes is up to you.

13)  Be honest.  Nothing in this world is more precious than being able to put your head on your pillow at night knowing you have done your best and right action has flowed through you.

14)  Remember love does not hurt.  It does not make you scared, confused or trapped.  It does not require you to mend damage; broken wings or cups with breaks.  Love will lift you up, enabling you to settle in your bones.  It compliments, connects and makes our lives rich and pure, trusting and joyful.
Do not settle for anything less.  Ever.

15)  Piggybacking on # 14.  Make sure you know who you are before you become part of an us. 
Choose wisely.  Choose wisely.  Choose wisely.

And finally; know that we are forever in your corner, forever by your side.

Love to you~ Mom

Monday, May 9, 2011

Throw off the covers

OK, so is it acceptable that I want to drink copious amounts of red wine each night instead of going to yoga, instead of cooking dinner, instead of eating dinner, instead of laundry, baths, bedtime and any other item that falls under my current job description??  I want to channel Liz Taylor in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.  I want to slam down pots and pans, have a snarl when I talk and walk around like a bad ass.  And why not all those things?  I am not interested in boxing myself in the saint or slut container men so often put us in.  I want to go further.  I want to be a little unhinged.  I think the generation before us wanted that too.  If you look hard at the black and white photos you can see the perspiration rings on the pillbox hats, ardor itching to be free.  Don't you think Jackie O. wanted to untie her Valentino, say what she meant and declare what she wanted right then and there with a loud booming anti-Jackie voice?  Throw down the covers, open the curtains and make everyone around her really, really nervous.

Hell yeah.  That's the way to roll.

Banish the tip toeing, the diplomacy, the hierarchy of how things should be.

 Lets have them how they can be.

Right now.

Here is my how to guide for being a bad ass.  Pay attention, it gets tricky as you go.

1)  No matter what you are wearing, be it sweatpants or taffeta put on red lipstick.
And when you do, don't be dainty about it.  Put it on like a woman who knows what's ahead of her.
Even when you don't.

2)  Do not apologize.  Contrary to your family's belief it is not all your fault.
Wear that bit of information like a badge.

3)  Get some sun.  Be bold, throw the sunscreen in the trash and let your cheeks get uncomfortably rosy.

4)  Drink.  As in  luxurious Mimosas at least once a weekend.  Stay in bed, read the paper and say piss off to your "have to" list.

5)  Go out with your friends.  Hit the road, hit the time limit square in the eyes and share, gripe and let it all loose.  These women love you.  Let them see your ugly cry.  Chances are they will join you.

6)  Laugh.
So hard and so loud it makes people uncomfortable.  Makes you feel full.

7)  Wear what you think you can't anymore.  Who made the rules?  Work that nose ring and tell those who look at you funny you also have one where it's not polite to mention.

8)  Make it personal.  Forget what you have been told.
If you don't like  /it/him/her/ scrap em' in the bin.

9)  Listen.  To everything.  Every motion and twinge, every single pull of your heart.  It's a road map.  Follow it.

10)  Give till you break.  But only for the things/people that are worth it.  Let me repeat.  Only the ones that are worth it.

Live it up girls.  Nobody is gonna do it for us.  I'm off to find Liz.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Motherless child

May is a hard time for me.  Mother's Day rolls around and I'm a bit twitchy, there is a definite edge in the air. Even though the torch has been passed to me in celebrating the day, it always goes back to my own Mother. How could it not?  Like the nightlight we forget to turn off in the morning, she's always there in the background.

I lost my Mother 13 years ago to cancer.  Lost is such a funny word in describing death don't you think? Like she went into the grocery store with me and just wandered off.  With so many years passed and so much having happened in those years it feels like my life is truncated into two parts: my childhood with her and the beginning of my adult life.  That's a really strange compartment.  Comparable to playing in the sand one minute to having a house on it the next.

She missed so much.  She will never know my husband,  the man who transformed the way I love.  She will never look into my children's eyes.  She will never see them come into the world, never hold them, never comb their hair.   Never be part of any Christmas or Birthday, never again ring in the new year.  She will not see the radiant smiles walking down the aisle, not laugh at the antics of my Dad.  All this I know.  I wear the finality of it like a coat.  There is nothing to be done with it but sit with it and invite it to the table; less painful than having it linger by the door.

I feel less alone now than when my kids were babies.  So many nights wondering: is this normal? /did I ever have a rash like that?/was she as exhausted-elated-exhausted as I am?  I'd watch my friends Mum's with that look in their eyes- bottomless love, enchantment, that buffer; how they would relish their time; the tender lessons only a Grandmother can teach.
I could do many things but I could not trace her footprint in their lives.

I'll say it.  I'll say it out loud.  I felt cheated.

Gradually though and with much inner destruction, I realized not all paths were meant to be ours.

The ouch of it all did ease with my husband's Mother.  She was not my Mom but she loves her Grandkids. My heart melts every time she plays Crazy eights with them.  Isn't that funny?  Crazy eights.  Who knew that would be what dulls the ache.  My kids are surrounded by people who love them.  My Dad's wife dotes on them like they were her very own.  It's enough.  We all pretend it fills the cup that is cracked.  We put napkins on the floor to cover the drip.  It's enough.

So now May comes around and I garden.  I dig and plant and arrange and concentrate.   I clean my house. I fold my laundry.  I write.  I smile during the Spring tea's at school and love my homemade cards.  And every year I silently say the only prayer I can muster; Happy Mother's day Mom.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Mommy's magic door

Ahhh. The blessed bathroom door. Sanctuary and pure bliss. I'm fairly confident this magical door has saved many marriages, derailed some serious fits of temper and stopped many a woman from setting something on fire. I don't think I have ever paid tribute to the bathroom door and seeing how my forehead rests on it on a near daily basis, it's about time.
What is it about this sacred space? The lock? The cold tile floor? The way it muffles all screams, blocks any and all peanut butter from entering? It is without a doubt the ultimate ultimate Mommy's little helper. Yes, I have been guilty of bringing my wine/chocolate/ipod/ phone/ in there. I have been the one who shuts the door with a loud thud and exhales. I am the one who sits on the floor simultaneously laughing and crying. Nobody better judge me. I'm a desperate woman.

I love my children. They are little bits of pure joy undiluted and free of corn syrup in my life. And they love me. They love me so much that they want to share and share and share all the glory and wonder of their day with me; all at the same time. And I want to hear it all. Every Mother wants to hear it all. I'm just going to need a teeny tiny break for a moment to recharge before it commences that's all. No biggie. Hey, after all it's only a bathroom door. It's not like I am running away to Bermuda. With their pink seashelly beaches. With their blue cocktails and dreamy breezes and...No.
The bathroom is definitely better.

Hey, if we don't take our moments away we will be rocking in a corner. But worse than that, far worse than even that is that we will also be teaching our children that it's all about them. Everything. That everyone in their life will be endlessly available, putting aside their basic sanity to be present all the time.  Whew. I am exhausted just thinking about it. And what a set up for those little bunnies. I don't think when I was dreaming of having a family that I dreamt of having a family of narcissist's. Hmm...nope.
I did give a hearty go at the "all available, all the time" routine though, pre-bathroom door. And it didn't go well. It came roaring in to bite me on the ass, just before I collapsed.

On the bathroom floor.

As I lay there thinking I didn't have another speck of energy to wipe, sing or carry anybody left in me the clouds by the bathroom window parted and a voice spoke to me.

I like to think it was the bathroom God voice.

It said: "Lock the door. Now. Sit on the floor and ignore Raffi drilling a hole in your nervous system.


And you know what? I did. It all turned around for me that day. That day led to even more moments of self care. Daily showers. Walks around the block. Even (gasp) a yoga class out of the house! Those merciful moments given to me that day in the bathroom enabled me to swing open that door with a smile. Everyone learned something that day. My kids learned that Mommy needs a little time for her and that's OK. They learned to start working through the squabble over who's hair elastic it was and not to give themselves a haircut when I was unavailable. It was really a win win.
Bermuda may be an exotic dream but my bathroom door will always be there.

Thank Goodness.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Compassion ain't just for Bullies

I remember the undesirable response so clearly. Like it was yesterday. I had come home tear streaked and dirt caked. I had been pushed by a terribly vicious mean girl and my face and ground had become one. My Mother while cleaning me up was trying in her Jackie O. way to enlighten me on feeling some love towards the offender on the playground.

I was having none of it.

"But...but... but..." was all I could stammer forward. Didn't she get it?! Didn't she know what had just happened??
Of course as a Mother now I understand. Understand what Mom was trying to do. I can also pretty much bet that even though she was calm and still as lake placid she was also doing her best to stifle her "hand that rocks the cradle" rage too. All in an attempt to instill in me a different vantage point to consider.

Again, having none of it.

Which begs the question; how do we teach our children and for that matter ourselves to have compassion? Especially in those sticky situations where all you really want to do is go Soprano's on their ass? I used to think it was stuffing the anger like a sausage and channeling Gandhi. But now I am not so sure. I think it's more about Milk and Dark chocolate. Doesn't it always come back to Milk and Dark chocolate?

Everyone has some 90% cacao bitterness to them. Everyone. We also have our light, fluffy Milky Way side. Most of us walk around each day with a little bit of both. Some of us hide our bitter side well, some not so much. The trouble comes in when we get hurt, betrayed, generally disheveled and we start looking at everyone like they are one flavor. We start crying, ruminating, venting dark chocolate morning, noon and night. We see only dark chocolate for miles and miles, stretching out before us.

Where compassion comes in and makes an appearance is when we see both sides of the fence. Where we try to do the "walk in their shoes" motto. You know, what Mom said. We don't know why we are being pushed in the dirt. Is it because they are being pushed?

It's really hard to hate someone when you feel for them. Try it. It's hard.

We can't make what happened to us magically vaporize, can't set the fracture, can't unring the bell. But where we can sufficiently save ourselves is when we can compassionately look in their direction. When we give them a second glance and forgive them their foibles. Forgive them their need to push us down to a stumble.

I imagine if they could do it for themselves they would. All they can really do is push that pain out and away, like vomit. Give it to them they say to their inky hearts. They don't know what to do with it.

But we do. We know. We just have to have the courage to take that step, make that pinky finger motion forward. Clean up our faces, lick our wounds and do what Mom told us to.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A teacher's spirit

Come, take my hand. I am going to greet you with the BIGGEST hug, more of a tackle really, I am ready to go! (All before 9:00 am) I am going to tell you that I had pizza for dinner last night, how my Brother pulled my hair and how I read that new book you told me I should check out. I read it after I was supposed to be asleep. Don't tell my Mom though, O.K.? Thanks!

Come, take my hand. I am quiet this morning as there was too much noise in my house last night.
My Dad is really mad, he left for awhile. He wasn't there when I woke up this morning. I am glad to be here. I am glad for your smile, your touch, the way you really look at me to see if I am doing O.K. You see me, and that, shapes my world.

Come, take my hand. I was on the playground this morning and my friend wouldn't talk to me. She like, always talks to me but today she didn't. She likes her new friend better. They don't include me and when I said I liked her new skirt she kinda just looked at me and didn't say anything but I know if her new friend wasn't there she would have like, totally said something back to me. There is nothing as important to me as this is RIGHT NOW. My Mom, she kinda rubs her forehead and says "O.K. enough conversation about this!" But you, you are always interested. You ask me questions like, maybe my friend is having a bad day, and do I ever have days like that? And even though my Dad said kinda the same thing like 100 times, I listen to you.

I am not so upset anymore.

Come, take my hand. I am nervous to be here today. I don't always understand my Math work. Sometimes, I get embarrassed because everyone else is doing so much better than me.
Sometimes I don't want to try anymore. You come over to my desk and help me. You explain it in a new way that I get now. You tell me everybody gets stuck on something sometimes.
Maybe I'm not so bad at Math, after all?

Come child, take my hand. I have been here since 6:45 this morning and my 3rd cup of coffee is making me shake. I was up way past when I should have been last night, but I just couldn't sleep thinking about how I could: Help you. Guide you. Care for you. How I could explain something differently to keep that spark in your eye lit. How I could quietly feed you a little something extra because I know you didn't get enough to eat today. How I could celebrate with you on the triumphs, both big and small, that you accomplish each day. How I could comfort you when you stumble.
I was overwhelmed, thinking, how right before my eyes you grow so much each day, how you get on surer footing, with every step that you take. How humbled I am knowing each day together brings our time closer to an end. But I know when I see you in the hall, we will smile at each other. I will know that you carry a little sliver of me in yourself that will be there when you walk into your first job, or read to your child. I will remember what you were like when you were eight when we see each other when you are twenty. I will never forget, because that is the gift of my time with you here, that we share. So come child, take my hand and we will start our day together anew once again.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Coming around the mountain

I've come to realize that aging is like September. One minute you are basking in the glow of Summer, the next you are hugging the sweater around your shoulders. It's still lovely out, still warm, but something has changed...the climate is not the same, there is definitely a chill in the air.

This is not to say we don't love September. There are many, many wonderful things about September. It's a gentle time, kids are back in school, days are slow and after an activity filled Summer it's nice to take some time for you. Instead of sunbathing you take a picnic to the beach. That walk on the shore, now more empty and still, brings out it's emerging Fall face. The beach is longing for not just the pitter-patter of little feet and plastic toys, chicken salad sandwiches and umbrella's. It is sentimental for the richness of a peaceful moment, the stretching out of solid feet.

I get it. I know we don't go from puppy one minute to hag the next. It's truly wonderful to fit into yourself like an cozy sweater. When you understand why you do what you do, why you feel how you feel. The liberation, the joy. Got it.

What I don't get is the crack in the tea cup. That one hurts. Big time. What starts as a tiny hairline fracture blossoms into a full on break.

I know what you are thinking-- that I am talking about my boobs again. Wrong.

I am talking about my bones, my hips, shoulders, arches of my feet. I'm talking about going from running 40 miles a week to my knee starting to ache a bit to surprise! not being able to run at all. For six months. I'm talking about running a mile now and having it hurt. No injury here; my body is just talking to me.
As in, what the hell are you doing woman?? Don't you know I don't move that effortlessly, completely, heartily anymore?? Actually, no I don't. I have selective amnesia as to what my body can do. My brain thinks I can still rock climb like a twenty-five year old.

 My body laughs at my brain. Silly, silly brain.

I think that it happens this way to humble us. To remind us that the endless Summer is not ours to keep. That's O.K. I've had too much time in the sun anyway.

I have just over a month left being 39. Holding up all right thank you very much. Except my boobs (you knew that was coming) and my saggy tushie. I can still rock a pair of jeans but my bikini days are numbered. I would really like to know when I went from accenting with lipstick to needing it to flush out the color in my cheeks. Oh Well, I hear the vampire look is in now anyway.

So I take my supplements and get lots of sleep. Drink red wine and laugh everyday. Say a prayer to my knees before I run and pinch my friend who says it only goes downhill from here.

All the wisdom I have gained is in my laugh lines. My boobs fed my kiddos and my tushie was never my best feature anyway. I wouldn't trade to be twenty again.

 I'm looking forward to September.

Monday, April 25, 2011

At the end of the day it's just a plastic egg.

How to manage disappointment. Tricky thing. Whether you are eight or eighty it is something we all struggle with.

Yesterday was Easter. We do this insanely wonderful thing year after year; we fill anywhere from 800-900 plastic eggs with chocolate, invite upwards of 60 family/friends/neighbors over on Easter morning and watch the kids devour the hunt in a minute-thirty, tops. We lollygag and hang out with coffee, mimosa's and ridiculously yummy food all the while enjoying the Spring morning. Most kids walk away with 20+ eggs. We have been doing this for a decade and it is great fun. Chaotic, chocolate dripping from the ears of the kids, fun.

I only have two rules: don't trample the emerging flowers in the garden and share.

If you are older and have more eggs it is your moral duty to share with the younger kiddo's. Over the years there has been little drama, the hunt has gone surprisingly without incident. No"but she has more than me or I wanted that egg!!"

I think it is because of my T.I.H.I.I. policy--This Is How It Is.

Haven't heard of it? It's my lifeline in the world of parenthood. Such a secret is worth millions, but I am feeling especially generous today, a bit of mimosa haze from the holiday is lingering so I will spill it.


With everything.


Hair products.

Dinner fare.
Especially dessert.



Mom's energy level.

and most definitely all life lessons.

Did I mention plastic eggs?

 Yesterday my Isabel came rushing up to me telling me her baby Brother smashed (gasp) her favorite shiny green egg!!
Now granted it was an accident (her words not his) but still! The injustice! The horror! The world is not spinning correctly- hello- he broke her shiny green egg!!!!

Now what to do, what to do... insert empathic look. Hand to the shoulder. Apology. Yes, that was a terrible thing that happened.
But, and here it's just a plastic egg.  T.I.H.I.I. Baby.

She got it. After years of Pavlovian-like training, she got it. All was right again, she forgave the crime and moved on with her day. There would be other eggs.

I like to think I have just saved her thousands in therapy bills.

So much of my disappointment and anger in life has been centered around the "unfairness" of my situation. My Mother's brutal end. Not getting to Grad school. My Italian hips. But what if instead of focusing on the road that led to these things I just- after many good cry's and a pot of chamomile tea- looked at it for what it is.

As in: this is how it is.

Life is not fair and eggs are going to get smashed. But what we can give to ourselves and others is the gift of resiliency, willfully keeping calm and carrying on as the Brits used to say. It's what generations before us did, it's entirely what Annie did.

I'm thinking there is a roadmap here.

I'm thinking I'm going to see where it takes me and my lovely Italian hips.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


No Olivia, I won't color my hair.

I won't mask the silvery glitter, the thick, curved strands of time that refuse to be tamed.
I will let them be who they are; full, like my life has been.

No, Olivia, I won't sit in a chair for hours on end, debating color choices named for lattes, filling my lungs with a smell of a factory not yet shut down...but should be.

I will be in the woods. I will be dreaming, conjuring up who I will be. Next.

No Olivia, I won't pull or tug my face into the face of someone else.
I will hold on to each line, I will kiss them with fingertips each morning; grateful for what they have taught me, living with them like the companions they are.

No Olivia, I will not mourn or cry for the body I don't have.
I will not curse my thighs or the way my hips sway. My thighs root me, holding me up when the world seems determined to keep me to a stumble.
I will not have the breasts of the latest model, and Olivia, I will not care. I will look at my breasts with their gaze downward, with awe and gratitude of a Mother, that the first taste in your mouth; the milk they miraculously provided.

No Olivia, I will not starve myself to shrink my stomach.
My stomach carried you suspended in air for so long; I still remember what it felt like to have you stir within me. Why would I ever want to make that smaller? The softness reminds me.

No Olivia, I will not look at the magazines in the grocery aisle. I will turn from them like Brussel sprouts.
I will not believe their lies that my world would be better if I was:
Taller. Thinner. Bigger in my lips but shrunken in my soul.
No Olivia, I won't let them get through, they will not have me.
I will wear jeans that don't crush me.
I will wear red lipstick that is way too much for me.
I will sleep even when I know I could be doing
I will tell people what I think. And sometimes, with no trace of a diplomatic smile.
I will be outside everyday no matter how chilly, how hot, how rainy, how fierce.
I will believe until I know I shouldn't. Then I won't. It won't take me years to figure it out.
I will remember time is short.
I will not wish away ANYTHING.
I will not put up with any crap. From anybody.
I will saywhatIneed. saywhatIneed. saywhatIneed.
I will remember my purpose in this world is not to be endlessly beautiful, captivating, "interesting" or good in bed.
I will stand on my Mother's shoulders, her tiny, fragile, weighed down shoulders that could not support her frame or her spirit and I will,

I will do something, different.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Someone has to say it

It needs to be discussed. I will do it in my most tra-la-la voice bringing on the high pitch to accentuate the positive, but cheese and crackers, it needs to be aired in the light of day.

Fairly confident we have what makes good friend covered.
Now lets talk about what...doesn't.

Again, skating by the snark deftly with precision, we all have been there haven't we? You are having coffee, feeling a bit low, kids are going wackadoo again, tween's head is spinning around ala' Linda Blair and you need...reassurance. You need support. You need a cocktail.

You think you are going to get it from your pal, your neighbor, your kid's teacher, the mailman for Christsakes, but noooo, sadly, you are not. You are passing the poopstorm baton and there is nobody there to give you the high five and run with it.

Here are some of my most favorite baton dropping scenario's:

Silence is a good one. When you pour your heart out and get the look. Somewhere between complete condescension and out and out scorn. Or maybe it's whatever. Hard to say.

Or you: OMG can you believe this is happening?? Has this ever happened to you??!! (insert dire look to friend's eye) Them: Golly, no, My -insert name- kids/husband/mother-in-law/boss never does that. Must be something you are doing. 


There are some real hum dingers, but the basic line is that you are not getting that loving feeling back from someone who you thought was going to be the Hall to your Oats.

Well dear ones, this is a cautionary tale. Do not do what I did. Do not pour loving kindness in, do not explain yourself more (because they must just not understand that is why the uncomfortable, deafening silence really! really!) Just let the sentence die midstep, curtsy and exit the stage.

You can still be friends, sure, but it's never going to be the same again. Know that. Much like losing your virginity, you have crossed a bridge that you cannot uncross. Ooh-I almost forgot, rule #3- don't be delusional and tell yourself what happened didn't happen. It did. It wasn't just a bad day, it just is what it is.

Listen, there are friends you can laugh with, some you cry with, some you drink copious amounts of alcohol with. Your drinking buddy is not going to bring you dinner when your dog dies. Not going to happen. Accept it now, you will feel better. All friends were not meant to fit all purposes and all friendships were not meant to last forever. Saying goodbye to them or even taking that step away can range from feeling like when your first boyfriend dumped you (gut wrenching despair) to getting your ears pierced (hurts like hell but over quickly). At the end of the day we need to do what our Mom always told us to. End the day, end the chapter, close the book and look for a brighter morning. That may mean many things in our complicated lives: to look for meaning, look for purpose or look for the friend who says Honey, I have been there--- emergency dark chocolate and cheap red wine comin' up. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Someone to watch over me

It's crucial that someone has your back. When the doo doo hits the fan you need to have that person or person's in your corner.  It's the essence of who we are.  Of what family is.  Community.  When we are rocked and thrown by the waves in our lives it is these brave souls who put us back together, patch us up.  I say brave because devastation ain't pretty.  It takes a strong stomach to watch it unfold.  We all cringe when we recall the harsh lessons of when someone wasn't there to catch our fall or perhaps when we were pushed.  I don't think I have ever experienced a more painful time (including natural childbirth!) as when I thought I had a friend, only to realize I did not.  Ouch.  How many of us have had that painful moment when you discover all is not right in Denmark?

It's the ones who say they will be there and aren't that sting the most.  Or perhaps the ones who love you just to the point of knocking you flat on your face.  So many of life's lessons give us the opportunity to see.  A lost job.  Scandal.  Ruin.  Whoever stands by us in those moments are our family.  Be it neighbor or lover.

As far as I am concerned they can pull up a chair at the Thanksgiving table because they are my Sisters now.  I bless and let go of the ones who are not.  First curse them, then let them go.  Bye, bye.  Then kiss the ground in thanks that this experience-job loss/divorce/ miscarriage/betrayal came into my life.

Thank you,  thank you,  thank you  for showing me who is true.

Thank you for showing me the creme rising to the top.

Because if I wake up with a lump in my breast I want to know I can call on you.  If my world implodes I want to know I won't get a polite smile and a too bad dear, I'll get you crawling  into bed with me to pull the covers up, cry with me, yell with me, eat chocolate with me until it gets better.  And it always gets better.  That we know.

Perpetual Winter is not for us.

Bless and let go.  Look for the ones who stay.  Look for the creme in your cup.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Oh no. Mommy's got the bottle again....

Sometimes I feel like I am the lady in the 1970's Calgon commercial. The baaby! The doooorbell! Camera cuts in to the anguish and despair on her face and then, just in the nick of time--ahhh-- the soothing voice of let it all goooooo... surrender. Calgon take me away!!.....Yeah. Whatever. Give me a big honkin glass of red wine and a mound of dark chocolate and leave me the hell alone. That's what takes me away. That and locking myself in the bathroom with the fan on yelling into the wooden door "I caaan't heaar you because of the fa--an!! Sorry! Oh so sorry!! I'll be out soooon. About an ho-ur!"  (please note I am sing--ing all this so it doesn't sound negative!) Snow white. You betcha.

You HAVE to laugh at the absurdity of it all. That or you would be rocking in a corner with your thumb planted firmly in your mouth. I laugh so much with and at my children and their all consuming hilarity, focus and wild raucous love they throw at me, sometimes I cry. The crazy cry, or what Oprah calls the "ugly cry."

All. The. Time.

 My emotions are so much on my sleeve I might as well start a clothing line.

Remember when you were a teenager and everything was so incredibly intense and magnified and real and tingly? On a good day you could practically touch the sun and on a bad day you were one move from the fetal position. But that was so you oriented. Cue the kiddo's and suddenly they are on your sleeve, your heart, your mind, your entire being. How could they not be...they are everything that is wonderful, fragile and sacred in our world. They drive you mad, rob your sleep, scream and roll on the floor flopping and crying like fish out of water over the wrong kind of toothpaste. Sag your boobs in your mid thirties until you cry.

They are without a doubt the greatest anything you will ever do.

Saggy boobies and all.

On those days where I can find a thought, follow a conversation, put my mascara on without smudging it down my cheek looking like I was just beaten by my pimp, I laugh. I have this friend who is so innately wonderful. I can call her and just start laughing into the phone and the next thing I know she is laughing too. Her crazy manic laugh matches mine and we don't even have to speak. She knows. She gets it. Our kids don't. They just think we are bonkers and that's OK. I want my kids to think I'm wacky. It will give them  more to talk about in therapy and give me the air of being really dramatic and cool. Maybe even playground talk fodder..."did you hear what she said to her kids the other day??!" 


When I was first a Mommy I was all about getting it right. Exactly, completely, achingly perfect right. Now that my oldest is a teenager and I see what a disservice I've done, I'm going for a different angle. Better to be Bette Midler than Julie Andrews. At the end of my life I think I would much rather be remembered for my raucous laughter and fierce love for them than a Jackie O. package all neatly tied in a bow. It's time for us all to loosen the bow. Just a little.

Give our kids something to talk about :-)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A wee bit lighter...

Day 9 and I have to admit I feel... better.

Kinda like when you assess the stomach flu was horrendous but now your jeans fit again!...That kind of weird/wonderful tangle. A change in energy perhaps?

I don't feel as petulant. I have more space in my little brain to move about my day. How much of my day was taken up with this silliness? I wonder. I'm sure along the ride I have massively tanked in ways I can't count, letting the negative ship ferry along without me noticing. But I have tried. Lordy, lordy, have I tried.

I think I am laughing more. Yep. Lighter.

When we get caught up in something, whether it's the bloke who yells at us to move our car or the dirty look at the grocery store, we carry that around, wearing it like a shawl. Hashing and rehashing, being pissed and thinking of all the things you could have said, or, did say. Or in my case, three days later when I finally think of my fabulous comeback only to realize I am yelling it to the bathroom mirror. That'll teach 'em!

I have been oh so silly in this arena. At different points in my life I have gone from all sides of the spectrum- from raging to Mother Teresa. Mostly raging when my kids are not around and Mother Teresa when they are.

Annie certainly had this one down. She did a funny little dance with it though. How to explain her dead eyed aim at her libel cases? She was taking those newspapers down. I can only imagine she was saturated with anger and negativity at first; but in true Oakley style managed to turn it, hold it up to the light- and deal with it.  She wasn't taking any guff but she wasn't letting it consume her either. As I have said previously, she readily admitted that the talk swirling around her nearly killed her. But where she gets the glory is when she got back up on her proverbial horse and was so darn proactive about it--instead of ruminating, marinating, she got to work; not focusing on the negative talk but somehow gracefully, forcefully, rising above it. Maybe that's the sustaining the task of keeping negativity at bay, it can only be achieved if you roll with it.

I always think of Annie as in the world but not of it. So I beg the question: can we follow her lead and be able to dislike without getting personal?

Now you could have knocked me over with a feather telling me I would ever quote John McCain, especially from a time when he was wearing his "I'm going to be as nasty as I can" hat for the 2008 election; but here we are.  He said something really poignant that sticks with me to this day and may be the key to all of this...
He said; "Never get in a wrestling match with a pig, you both get dirty and the pig likes it."

If we are rolling in the mud of negativity can we see we are just as dripping filthy as the person who threw the first mudpie?
Better to roll out of the pen, take to the road and see where it leads you.

To a lighter place I imagine.

Monday, April 18, 2011

"I feel now and then as if I could not miss." ---Annie Oakley

What gives us the confidence to go out on that limb? With so many remarkable heros in our midst both past and present, what can we glean from them as to how far to reach? So many historians, sharpshooters and those who knew her tried to explain Annie Oakley's talent. I wonder how much of her skill was her scrappiness, her hard won belief in herself.

When failure is not an option does it change the game?

Surely she didn't have any options, it was do or be done with for her. I think that can apply to many of our most famous inspirations.

Today I watched the Boston Marathon. As a runner myself I was glued to the screen in awe of the hard work and skill of these athletes. I could not contain my excitement, caught up in the race track moment, screaming at the T.V.-- GO! GO! GO!! when the race was too close to call for an excruciating three blocks. What separated those two racers, the one who won and the one who did not as they crossed the finish line? Was it luck? Destiny? Did one train harder than the other or was it that one was just unwilling to give up to the point of no return. As I watched the winner collapse to the ground, looking as if she would expire with her next breath I realized one thing. She was not going to fail. Failure was not an option. To me, she was going to win that marathon and if her leg fell off in the process, so be it. This is not to say that the other runner did not want it as badly, far from it, but to me there was a consuming desperation in that runner's eye that the other runner did not possess.

Maybe that is what draws us to our icons. We look at them and marvel at their sheer force of will. Their heart beats so loud we can almost hear it in our own ears. How truly magical it must be in that moment to cross that line, achieve that goal, hit that glass ball. It takes our own perceived limitations and shakes them from the ground up. You mark my words, you will see more runners on the road tomorrow, myself included. Each one of us thinking somewhere in our unconscious "if they can do it, I can do it."

What a delicious invitation.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Perseverance moves the world

When Annie Oakley was reported to have been arrested, disheveled and "destitute" by newspapers across the country the news "almost killed her." For someone who had worked her whole life, doing something that women did not do and no man could beat her at, she was not going to be taken down by scandal. Nope. That was not how she was going down. She demanded all newspapers retract the falsehood, telling them quite plainly that "someone will pay for this dreadful mistake"- and that a burlesque dancer claiming her name was the woman in question. Newspapers quickly retracted the story, many apologized. But that was not good enough for Miss Annie Oakley. She had come too far scratching her way up for air. She went after no other than William Randolph Hearst, mogul, larger than life American publisher, suing him for a whopping $25,000. Hearst came after her like a wild dog, even going so far as to send a detective to dig up dirt on Annie. He found not so much as a speck. Annie spent the next six years of her life not performing but travelling the country taking no less than 55 newspapers to court. When she would take the stand she was said to have "an air of perfect refinement." Of course she did. Would she approach it any other way?

Annie won 54 of the 55 lawsuits and Hearst had to pay her $27,000. In the end she lost money, most of it going to attorney's fee's but she didn't care, not one bit. That wasn't what it was about. She set her eye on clearing her name and to her nothing else mattered. Annie once again hit her mark.

I am fascinated by this part of her history. I think it shows what Annie Oakley was made of more than any tale of her sharpshooting skill. In the beginning of the 1900's women did not even possess the right to vote, but Annie Oakley takes on one of the most powerful men in the country. She dares to not only speak up but do it with a clear eyed iron fist in velvet glove style.
I love this woman. I want to be this woman.

Have you ever set your eye on something with this much intensity? Ever had a goal that was so clear to you that you would not part with it for anyone? -- Knowing your life's path so completely that no one could dissuade you from it?

I imagine she was mocked and misunderstood, downright ridiculed for taking such a strong stance to guard what was hers and hers alone; her name and what it stood for. I almost see the scorn, hear the whispers--- "She got her apology, what more does this woman want?"

Annie was one of the first American women to publicly say that she was going to write her own destiny, no help needed thanks. She would decide what it would be.

Man or woman I wonder if I would be that strong, focused, steely eyed. It is said that 80% of success is just showing up. I think it goes farther. What Annie showed us was that if you truly believe in what your given path is you will not only make it happen but you will do it in a way that sets that path on fire, announcing your arrival.

What if we all did that?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Saying Goodbye

I went to a funeral today. It was for a beautiful lady who lived her life until the ripe old age of 87. She was the Mother of a dear family friend and she I can say without hesitation will be missed, mourned and remembered. Her daughter read the most extraordinary poem at her graveside about April, about it's flowers and new beginnings and how even amidst all that the poet's only want was to be by her beloveds side.
I peered behind a curtain and caught in motion the most profound love, devotion and grace today. It was raw, heartbreaking and devastatingly lovely. The way this woman's children cared for her until she took her last breath was nothing short of a living testament to what love is, what it can be.

Funerals always awaken a 'time is of the essence' feeling in me. When you look into the faces of those who have just lost someone you forget about the petty deadlines of your day, the errands that you just can't seem to get done, the stupid thing that was said. You forget it all because bearing witness to loss makes us take notice, puts us on notice that time/is/short.

And what of that time? How are we using it? Are we moving through our world with negative apron strings streaming behind us? We have a legacy that we will leave behind us, for each person it is theirs to create.

 Today I saw a legacy of honor and sacrifice, compassion and loyalty. The simplicity of it overtook me. Watching the last remains of a family huddled close, sharing stories, laughing and being stoic took my breath away. The black and white photographs of the once vibrant woman in love, in life, seemingly without a care in the world; her smile knowing, full and electric.

In the end the things that define us seem to fall by the wayside. Even Annie's perseverance did nothing for her as she lay dying. Love was the only thing that mattered. We all know this sentiment. It's the equivalent to having diamonds lay on a sidewalk in plain view. Our family, our friends, our connections are our treasure.

Our treasure in plain sight, there for us everyday.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A little bit of sunshine is a good thing

Warmth does a lot of things. Heal. Connect. Open. When feeling shut off from connection in our lives we tend to isolate, hunker down-- ala' December in full tilt. I am so grateful for the people in my life that bring out my inner Spring. The ones who make me laugh/heal/connect/open. One way to banish the blaah blahh's of negativity is to seek out those who get us, complete us and make us giggle like a five year old.

Annie had that with Frank, of that I am convinced. He got her. I find it amazing that this man, an immigrant to this country coming from such a different place could not only love Annie, but get her. Picturing how he must have looked at her, full of love and pride, gladness and grace makes me happy. How she, like a lost traveler found her way to him and stayed. What an incredible example of what the human heart is capable of. I think she felt safe with him. And unlike the fairy tale where the prince rescues the maiden she did the unlikely thing;

She rescued him right back.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Loosen the girdle.

For the girl who starts most of her conversations with her friends "Have I got a story for you!!" I'm feeling a bit disorientated. Little by little though I am realizing that things are not that different.
However, just the fear that things will change- dynamics, bonds, is enough to make this girl quake in her boots a bit. But little by little I am easing into Annie's world.
I know right down to my core that I am at the beginning of the tunnel, all I see is inky black in the distance. But somehow today I felt a little shift occuring. I got off my Budda on the mountain top aim for perfection, lost my tension and stepped freely into conversations. I didn't cover my ears internally, didn't feel my Catholic guilt creeping in for not getting it exactly right.

I feel it only fair to disclose that I am using lots of loopholes. Oodles of them.

My new favorite one is saying something not entirely pleasant but doing it with a smile and a little lilt to my voice.
See! I am being positive because I sound like Snow White!

There needs to be a little caution here don't you think?? Stepford wife could be around the corner if I am constantly channeling my inner Heidi on the mountaintop scene.

So... to feel the ick, acknowledge the ick, and then move the thoughts out and away from the ick...that is what I'm going for.  But it's going to take practice, discipline, patience and awareness. And probably not in that order. Add in heaping tablespoons of failing, flubbing and screwing up. Yes, I said the big one- failing, which is a big scary no-no in my repitoire. I think there is a sense, like when starting a new health regime, that you will be immune to illness, to the pratfalls and pain of life's situations because you are taking a new path. But healthy people still get sick. And our brains are wired to problem solve, so it's gonna go out to the store looking for problems. The million dollar question is; how do you think it feel it and steer away from the ick? Feels a bit like juggling.

I am lousy at juggling.

So here is my latest daydream. Annie, awakens slowly in her hospital room after the train wreck. Doctor by her bedside, ( he sounds like Jack Klugman's Quincy in my dream ) "You are paralyzed Annie, you may not walk again, you certainly won't shoot again and all I can say is I am so very sorry." She listens, feels the weight of his statement and smiles. Inhale in, steely look out. I dream that she makes her choice right then and there.

It's her ballgame and she is going to play.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pretty sure smug counts as negativity...

Day 3.

Even though I basically moved through the day with my lips pursed, carefully sidestepping any negative impulses, my brain had other ideas....I literally could not shut the gerbil brain down. And I'm pretty sure that counts. But hey, gotta learn to crawl before you walk right? I have been so busy carefully dissecting all my interpersonal conversations that I have virtually ignored all the ones that happen with those near my proximity -and sometimes not even in my proximity-note the rather terse commentary I had with the beer truck blocking my car today,  for 10 freakin minutes!!!! Breathing...breathing...

My rambling point is, what of those conversations?

This experiment of sorts is rapidly becoming like the attic clean up; at first you think you will be up there an hour- tops. Then you start going through the boxes, toys, oh and remember this cute little outfit the baby wore!! Oh my goodness time does fly and next thing you know you are sitting around a pile of crap wondering how you acquired all this stuff in the first place. The 17 layer onion, that's what this is.

And what of those near and dear? I am seriously questioning my authenticity when I fight the urge to let the snark fly at my eye rolling 13 year old. Or when my hubby after being cruelly, savagely, persnickety to me  gathers himself enough to tell me his head is spinning from all the things he is doing. "We all make our choices" I say in a sing-songy voice with an awful smile. Yup. Pretty sure smug counts.

I wonder how Annie did it.

Did she go off somewhere pleasant in her mind, leaving it all behind? Or did she just say to herself, Could be worse. Even though she was not a New England girl I can almost picture her saying that, all New Englandy with a wonderfully unaffected gaze...can't you?
Maybe I am putting her on a pedestal but I really think she just let it all roll off her.

I'm trying Annie. Really, I am.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"Aim at a high mark and you will hit it" - Annie Oakley

OK. I am aiming. But by 9:00am this morning, day two, I had already missed my mark. Not in large way, more of a stumble than a fall I guess, but realizing this was not going to be a cake walk in any way, shape or form. The slip went down this way: I was talking to my friend on the phone and we were recalling a conversation that had happened to her. The outrage I felt for her was just tempting the chocolate I had sworn to keep in the back of the pantry at all costs. "That's not nice!" came flying out of my mouth, like a tube of toothpaste, there was no way it was going back in.

This is gonna be hard.

I'm thinking though, to truly take all the negativity out is to not just keep my mouth shut continuously (you might as well ask me to fly) but to change the thought pattern, the perception, the clinging on the judgement; the "OMG did they really just say that??!!" thoughts in my head. Like my kids, I think I am going to try and pack them up, kiss them goodbye for a little while and send them off. I know they will be back, just like my kids, but I won't greet them with a healthy snack when they come through the door.

So why Annie Oakley? Simply put she was one tough cookie. And a graceful one at that. She had balls of steel, fire in her belly and true grit to transcend the awful things in her life. She did it all, not for glory or praise, but to survive. And she wasn't just content with surviving; she was going to live have fun, with joy and fullness; wringing every last drop of life out, just like the smiling ruffles cascading from her famous skirts.

Coming from a destitute childhood she overcame much. Her Father died, she was taken from her family to live and work at the county poor farm, and she endured terrible abuse. She also persevered. She worked and dreamed and worked some more. She started hunting at age six and by the time she was fifteen she was supporting her reunited family and had paid off her Mother's mortgage. This was the late 1800's and this girl was making her own rules. She did it for the good of her family, she did it to make a life for herself.

By all accounts she was a lovely person. Her life story is interesting enough, but what got me completely hooked on Annie was how she responded to all said people and events that happened to her. She started to work at Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and as history tells us, was the first American woman celebrity.
Enter Lillian Smith, the decade younger upstart who openly taunted and criticized Annie, mocking her, telling the world in essence she was a younger, better version of Annie.
Annie, full of grace and dignity, held firm, held her tongue and kept doing what she did best- hitting her mark. Lillian, so busy talking smack neglected her sharpshooting skills and performed badly time and time again. After much rebuking from the public, she faded out of view and left the show.
Annie went on to endure a train wreck that left her paralyzed, multiple spinal surgeries, and a terrible car accident. She kept on, with a steady gaze that would make a sailor cry. Kept on with a smile on her face and a skip in her step. Kept on, hitting her mark. She transcended her abuse in her early poor farm years to open her heart and find love. She organized (quietly) women to learn how to shoot so as to support themselves. She was very much a feminist (quietly) feeling that she and any other woman with a strong mind and backbone to match could dream and do anything a man could.

I look at her pictures and try to see the spark that lit her. She looks sly to me, confident, humble, grounded and...happy. I try and imagine how much she and her husband must have loved each other, devoted and connected all those years of marriage. How Frank simply stopped eating when she unexpectedly died. He had had enough of a world that didn't have her in it. He died 18 days later.

So Annie Oakley. Guiding Saint in finding my way through life without taking anyone down the negative slippy slide. I'm in.