Friday, August 25, 2017

I need, I want, I have to have.

Maybe it’s the never-finished back-to-school shopping with two teenage girls that brought me here.

I’ve been inundated with daily (hourly?) requests for new everything, and if one is good, three is better. It’s history repeating itself, I realize, because I remember putting my Mom through the same grueling routine every year. But now I’m the Mom and I have to say, always wanting (or being asked for) more is exhausting. As far as the eye can see, there is more to be had, and even as adults, seeing what we don’t have has the ability to send us into desire and acquire mode. The breathless chase for new things tangles up what we have (or don’t have) with who we are, and pushes us to soothe our stubborn longing with another handbag, a bigger television, a newer car.

It’s natural and omnipresent, especially around where I live. Everywhere I look I (and my daughters) see more and different stuff. Sprawling houses and bigger diamonds, more labels and less wrinkles, tighter muscles and looser spending habits. Not needing it – whatever “it” may be at that moment – is irrelevant. It’s a thirst that is never quenched. And the more we see, the more we want to see, in both quantity (hello, Pinterest) and quality (me using two fingers to zoom up on a magazine page…oops). We want to get closer, compare, decide. Those jeans are more stylish. Her skin is more radiant. That recipe looks more delicious.


But what do we do with what we already have? What are some simple ways in which we could expand our lives without also expanding our balance due?

Off the top: I could learn how to choose, spice, grill, and carve a perfect T-bone steak. I could try to mix and enjoy a proper martini, instead of always opting for the easy pour of a glass of wine. I love strolling slowly through a farmer’s market, inhaling the sweet off-the-vine smells – and I am lucky enough to have them nearby and open practically year-round – yet I rarely get up and go. I could try new recipes from one of my beloved cookbooks rather than falling back on the same rotation week to week. But for some reason, I don’t.

We spend so many hours driving, looking, wondering, working, worrying, and not nearly enough time exploring new things, diving into experiences, and being present. And this “not doing” rides in the sidecar along with the driving realization that time is the most precious commodity of all.

Striving to grow and achieve is good. Some habits are good, too. Comforting, even. But breaking the right ones can be restorative. What if we treated everyday life as we do when we’re on vacation? Take longer walks and shorter calls. Tackle harder recipes and easier commutes. Loosen up on bedtimes and tighten up our abs by laughing the night away with family and friends (even on a school night).

What if we just release the chokehold we think we have on life and attempt instead to simply live it?

As sure as I feel my heart beating, I know there is more to having less, doing less, wanting less. When I feel overloaded, I take as deep and slow a breath as I can to bring myself back to stillness and center. In the quiet, I’m more able to drown out the sound of that nagging inner voice, and listen instead to my internal mantra of gratitude. I have healthy daughters. An 84-year-old dad. The man I love in my bed. An able body and mind. True friends who see me from the heart out, rather than from the outside in.

Those are gifts – ones that can’t compare with the things we buy, give, or covet. That mantra brings me back to less is more. In that mindset, it’s not so bad to allow hunger to come into our bellies. It’s okay to want, but at the same time, not every desire needs instant gratification. Let it be. Maybe if we sit with that longing for a while, we can see where the craving is rooted, and feed it with what it’s truly calling out for.

Next time the winds of change and stress and pressure whip your hair around, instead of buying yourself out of the storm, give yourself the gift of a few minutes alone. Bend your knees, ground your feet, and close your eyes. Create space and calm. Physically let yourself sink deeper into steady Mother Earth. Let your breath expand your lungs and shrink the voices asking for more with each deep inhale and exhale. Hear that rhythmic sound preach to you instead. It says you do enough. You have enough. You are enough.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Keeping it real.

Let me start off by saying I don’t begrudge anybody their opinions or issues. If you are posting, writing about, and living your truth, then amen. No matter what you’re going through, you shouldn't compare it to anyone else’s. Your shit is your shit. I’m no hater. Peace be with you.


I know you don’t know what you know until you know. And granted, I’m not a “new” mom, so I might be a little more piss and vinegar than I am sugar and spice. But I have to say that lately, so much of what I read regarding parenting is teetering on the edge of being the written version of stock photography. It’s all cookie cutter subjects, white-washed to capture a large readership. Maybe I’m reading the wrong headlines (point me to better blogs!) but there seems to be a craze around grabbing a trending topic and writing about it. Like: What I Learned At Mom’s Night Out. Tantrums and Fussy Eaters and Potty Training…Oh My! Yoga Moms vs Running Moms: Who’s Winning The Race? How To Raise A Vegan-ager. What Nobody Tells You About Having A Three-Year-Old.


Friends, I have a spoiler alert for you: It’s not a race. Everybody wins. Also, I made the Vegan-ager thing up. And when you’re pregnant for the first time, nobody who already has a three-year-old tells you anything relevant about having a three-year-old because they already know what you will soon learn: Your darling cherub will be a different breed of asshole than everyone else’s. This shouldn’t come as a shock to you. Children are small people. We teach them to always do and want more. Crawling? Super, stand up. Standing? Nice, now put one foot in front of the other, kid. You got a B? Great, next time shoot for an A. We encourage them to push limits and ask questions and then when they do we’re like, Wow my kid is all too much, I need a break.

I’m not saying parenting isn’t hard work, because I know first hand that it is. I’m all for a spa day, drinks with the girls, and date night. But is this news article-worthy or is it preaching to the choir? Maybe complaining about how hard it is is just part of our parenting shtick. Maybe some parents use the complaints as a lead-in to complimenting oneself in public, as in, “Driving little Gladstone to advanced equestrian school every day is SO exhausting.” (i.e. Everyone behold my tiny Olympian, my Olympic-sized devotion, and my bulging wallet!) Or, “I was so tired when Astrid was first born, but after two weeks we were both sleeping through the night!” (To which I, and all of us, should say: "Dear Astrid's Mommy: Your infant never actually slept through the night, you just slept through her crying. And if she did sleep, keep it to yourself. People who are parenting little vampires don’t want to hear it.")

I get that the common threads resonate and parents are all exhausted humans. And we have an average of 50 things on our minds and to-do lists at all times. But these themes aren’t unique. Every day is the same unless we make it different. We clutch our coffee in the morning, yawn through the park/playdate/homework session in the afternoon, and have Pavlovian responses to hearing the cork pop at 5pm. That’s low-hanging fruit. (And let's be serious...if that's our biggest complaint on any given day, we are so lucky.) Let’s just assume going forward that we’re all on the same caffeine + sleep-deprivation + wine page.

I don’t sit at my computer tugging at my mom jeans, yearning to read another story about how you overcame your parenting challenges in just three easy steps to find yourself #blessed. Because here’s the truth: Nobody overcomes parenting challenges. You have a baby, it’s hard, the end. That song is on repeat for all of us forever.

I want to read about the good stuff in between…the stuff that is unique. Where are the real stories? Real is funny. Authentic gives me chills. I want less “Aw, shucks” and more “Ohhh fuck.”

I guess what I really want to know is that I won’t appear on the cover of Bad Parent Magazine solo. I want it to be me plus all of you guys. Prove THAT to me. Tell me the story that gets you invited to the cover shoot for BPM, not for Crock-Pot Daily. (Although if you’re on the cover of that one, congratulations and please send me your recipes, I need dinner ideas.)

Parents, where is the platform where we can dialogue about the really good stuff? Sometimes what makes you sob can give us all a good belly laugh later, so share it. Come on. We are all pretty much on level playing ground, aren't we? We are trying our best and making mistakes. We are teaching our boys that just because they have a dick doesn’t mean they get to be one and we are teaching our girls to love their vaginas first. It’s TERRIFYING. We are adoring the hell out of our kids and we all fear there’s only a 50/50 chance of it actually working.

If you’re a parent and your situation is truly difficult in ways not everyone can fathom (you know who you are), whine it up and use the universe as your sounding board. The rest of us need to stop it. I don’t know about you guys, but my OB/GYN never once said “And after baby comes out, you’ll have one more big push to deliver your night nurse, trainer, and chef! In a couple weeks, you’ll look great and be well-rested.” Again, I understand that you don’t know until you know, but we kind of knew…right?

And anyway, nobody can tell you how hard it will be to have one kid, because it won’t ring true for you until after you already have it, and by then DUH. And you don’t know how easy it is to have one kid until you have two. But you can’t shove them back in after they’ve come out, even when you reeeally want to. This we know. We know already. So can we please stop pretending to give sage advice about How To Organize Baby’s Closet? Because by week two post-delivery you’re going to be dressing baby straight from the dryer and we all know it. Just say that. Quickest editorial piece ever.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that even if you do have a perfectly appointed nursery or you read "5 Things Every First Time Mom Needs To Know!" - your kid is going to drive you crazy. You’re also going to drive yourself crazy, and possibly others. In fact, I might be driving you crazy right now. We are all hanging by a thread at one point or another, some of us just look better doing it. But let’s remember we all signed up for this shit show. Parenting is funny and particular and includes quiet sex at weird times and there’s nothing easy about any of it. And while it’s scary and makes us cry, it’s also super cool because it spreads us out as people. You do things you never thought you’d do, say things you swore you wouldn’t say, and you look insane half the time. (You feel insane a little more than that even.)

I think if we showed up and let everyone see that side of ourselves, the arguments between the stay at home mom vs the stay at home dad would cease. The tired fight over who has it tougher – work from home mom vs working mom vs mom who doesn’t work outside the home – would finally be put to bed. People would stop judging families with an only child, families with a gaggle of kids, and untraditional families of every kind.

Because in the end, we are all investigating buttholes, secretly reading tween texts, and talking about nipples in public. And it’s all good, because it means we’re in tune with our kids and their needs. It’s okay to put their needs first. It’s okay not to sometimes. It’s all going to be okay. It’s just going to be messy first.

I feel like I should sing you a lullaby now. Maybe I should just contact the editor of Bad Parent Magazine and tell them to budget for a cover that opens up like a centerfold because we are all going to be up there together.

I just know it.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Forks and F-bombs.

Somewhat related to my last post, I’ve been wondering lately how in the fuck I got to be this old.

Sorry for the F-bomb, it’s the end of football season and for the past several months, the traveling husband has been using enthusiastic and colorful language. And by using, I mean screaming. Usually directed towards the TV, but he’s an equal opportunity screamer in that his laptop and phone see some action, too. I remind him sometimes that the people on the devices can’t actually hear him, but it doesn’t help. Anyway, the F-bombs are contagious. So for the bulk of the year, I talk like I’m watching my team lose in a sports bar. Sexy, huh?

Getting back to my (fucking) age, am I the only one who remembers their life in snapshots and short video sequences? It’s like my memory catalogs itself in my head as a photo album with missing pages.

I remember a lot of things, but it’s not a continuously streaming video. There are several sizeable gaps. Here’s how some of my conversations go:

Friend/Husband: “Hey Am, remember (person/place/thing)?”

Me: “Hmm. Nope.”

Friend/Husband: “Yeah, you remember…the guy with that thing and that other funny girl that we met at the place…?!”

Me: “Yeah, no. Not even a little bit.”

If I subtract the missing pieces in time from what I actually do remember, I should probably be like 15 years younger than I am on paper. That might feel right. I mean, no self-respecting 46-year-old stirs their coffee with a fork, because they forgot to turn the dishwasher on the night before. Right? At some point along the line shouldn’t I have honed the necessary skills that would lead to always having clean spoons in the drawer? My parents never had to stir their coffee with a fork. They were grown ups. My hope is that this inability to age gracefully skips a generation so my kids will never be spoonless.

My Dad said to me not long ago, “I’m 82 and I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up.” This from a man who is practiced and patient, wise and thoughtful. He was a nuclear engineer – basically a rocket scientist – for, um…EVER. But he is also a talented illustrator, can imitate Mr. Magoo, and dozes off on the couch with startling consistency. This is a well-rounded cat. In the words of today’s kids (at least the kids mine go to school with): The man is a LEGEND. And you know what else? HE HAS CLEAN SPOONS. He might not know what he wants to be when he grows up, but he’s got his shit together (in more ways than one).

I guess I’m wondering when I’m going to get it together. Maybe never. Maybe I simply don’t want to start the dishwasher before I go to bed. I’m not lazy, I’m a rebel! (I’m not. I don’t even look rebellious.)

Which brings me to another question: Ever think about what you look like?  I’m not talking about checking yourself in the mirror, I’m talking about what other people take in when they see you at school/work/exercise class. I wonder all the time what I look like from the outside. Like what label do people give me after first glance? Do I come across as a Poised Dancer? (Used to be.) Casually Carefree and Moderately Stylish? (Not likely, but a girl can dream.) Frumpy Mom? (Potentially.) Exhausted Middle-Aged (eew) Lady In Yoga Tights, Though Clearly Not On The Way To Yoga? (Nailed it.)

I just don’t think my book cover is a very good representation of the internal story. When I’m not in front of a mirror I feel I’m putting out vibes of gentle mama, patient wife, loyal friend. Then I look at my reflection and I see sagging jawline, tired eyes, frizzing hair. And when I pull all that frizzy hair up, I swear I have every intention of achieving a Pinterest-worthy, Anthropologie-esque “effortless messy bun.” Alas, it’s more of a “Did she just wash her face?” result. (Hey, judgy young girls, clean skin is an achievement, too.)

Perception is everything, I suppose. That is, if you care what others think of you. Honestly, I’m more curious than anything. I’ve already ditched anyone who can’t bring themselves to get past my dog-eared, wrinkled book cover. The good stuff is found on the inside anyway. The people who read me over and over saw my cover when it was hot off the presses, shiny and new. And now they know my stories as well as I do, so they can help me fill in the blanks, reminding me of what I’ve forgotten over the years.

Speaking of years, the traveling husband and I realized a while ago that we’ve been together for half of our lives. We met in middle school. (We didn’t.) Actually, who cares. He gets me. He saw me when my kicks were high and my eyes were bright, he’s seen me heavy with babies and sadness alike, and I think I could be covered in poop and he would still act like a predator as soon as Eleven and Thirteen leave the room.

Maybe it’s seeing myself through his eyes that keeps me feeling younger than I am. He keeps it real, but he loves me throughout, as do a handful of other people I know. Maybe just knowing that is what builds up the brave enough to stop sweating the book cover and just keep writing the book.

Because like I said, to me, that’s what matters. My truth isn’t hanging in my closet or tucked away in my bathroom drawer. My guess is that isn’t where your story is either, that’s just where the cover art gets created. You have to turn some pages to get the real scoop. It takes time and energy, and I kind of like throwing my effort towards building my life, my people, and our stories, instead of spending that time on my hair. (The fight against the frizz is exhausting.)

The fact is, I'm good with this life and my place in it. I don’t mind my crazy hair because I love where it came from. Even if it’s a work in progress, I respect my body because it’s strong and it created lives I love. And when it’s groundhog day, and I’m doing all the things I do every day over and over again – it’s still a gift. I like the mundane, the tradition, the surprises that don’t really surprise you, the gestures big and small, the milestones, and saying yes when everyone expects you to say no. That’s how we ended up with two fish, two parakeets, and a Flemish giant rabbit (long story) in addition to the dog.

I suppose I just talked myself out of a mild mid-life crisis, and hopefully talked you into loving your squeaky clean face and daily uniform, whatever it may be.

Thanks for coming along for the ride.

P.S.: I remembered to run the dishwasher last night, so I’m up to my elbows in clean spoons. However, I’m out of coffee. Fuuuck.