Archive | February 2014

Are the Early Morning Gym People Getting Weirder Or Am I?

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Children have a way of ruining early morning jaunts to the gym, which is why I haven’t done many since Sadie was born four and a half years ago.  But thanks to a new friend who’s willing to pick me up and ferry me to spin class, I’m back on the 6 AM circuit.

Query: have the people at the gym gotten weirder or have I gotten less tolerant?

What the hell is up with the lady who spread out all of her cosmetics on the community counter? Why do I need to see her toning lotion, her moisturizer, her firming gel, her eye cream, and her three (!) bottles of foundation?  She had them lined up in a semi-circle.  Damn stuff looked like an amphitheater she’d constructed around herself.  Easy there, you’re not Adam Levine and this ain’t Madison Square Garden.  I stood there and stared at her because I had to see what size make-up bag she put all that crap into.  Guess what? After applying each of her products, she scooped the bottles into a Lululemon bag (size Large).  I have to say I pretty much saw that coming, but it was still worth being a few minutes late to work to confirm.

Before motherhood, certain gym people grossed me out.  Like the women who insist on sitting on the bench with their bare butts putting half a gallon of lotion all over their bodies.   Also, I was always mystified by the ones who had to do everything naked– hug their friends, dry their hair, pluck their eyebrows, read the paper.  Everything.  I’m not much of a doing-chores-while-naked type of person, so their willingness to tackle dozens of morning rituals in the buff in front of a locker room full of women was something of a revelation to me.

Now that I have passed through motherhood, those women don’t gross me out.  The bar is so much higher now.  One of them would have to shit on me to phase me after the things I’ve seen in motherhood.  Hell, I hardly flinched when I forgot my shower shoes– I just prayed that the flesh-eating bacteria would be too grossed out by my winter, pedicure-less toes to attack.

And that woman who was talking on the phone loud enough to drown out all three TV’s, well, she was annoying, but not gross.  It seemed important to her to tell her boyfriend that she’d just run into an ex-boyfriend who “looked fierce as hell” and “asked for her number.” I get that.  Some calls can’t wait until 7:00 AM.

But I do think it’s weird that in a room full of empty lockers, someone had to pick the one right next to mine– where I happened to be in a towel doing that awkward balancing thing you have to do when you are putting tights on while standing up.  Why did she have to pick the locker next to mine? It reminded me of my kids who want to rub up against me when I most need some space.

I also thought the woman who asked me to move my bag so she could get to the trash can it was ostensibly blocking was kind of hostile, considering there were three other trash cans closer to her that were wholly unobstructed.  I’ve heard of having a preference for a certain treadmill or spin bike, but trashcan in the locker room? That one’s new.

So many people, so many habits, so much territory to claim.  I have to relearn the unspoken rule.  I also have to get some counter space before Adam Levine shows up with her suitcase full of face mousse.  It’s going to take a little getting used to.

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This entry was posted on February 26, 2014. 38 Comments

A Solo Trip To Mexico: Tragedy, Perspective and Seinfeld En Espanol

No one questioned my decision to spend Christmas in Mexico.  Alone.  At least not to my face.  I’m going to Mexico alone because there’s nowhere else for me to be.  I said it like a warning, a flare I sent up that broadcasted that I was single, lost, and mad as hell.  My younger sister was a newlywed and my older brother just had a baby.  No way was I headed home as empty-handed old me.

Nope. I was headed to Cabo, pretending to be brazen, secular and flush with disposable income.  In truth, I was terrified, praying my ass off, and completely unclear about my finances.

When I checked in to my hotel, I felt the first hint of regret that I’d given everything at home the finger and jetted off to Mexico like I was Jennifer Aniston.  When I clicked the room card into my door, there was no Courtney Cox waiting for me.  Instead, I looked under the bed for a rapist and in the closet for a gunman.  I barricaded the balcony door and the entry way just in case someone planned to take advantage of this senorita.

There was a vague flicker of victory.  It was Christmas Day, and I’d traveled to another country alone to lick my existential wounds and get a tan.

That first dinner alone in the grand dining hall was the nadir.  Some little kid took the last of the fresh mango slices and the restaurant was closing early because of the holiday.  My instinct was to take a seat against the wall at a two-top to be inconspicuous; not the Old Maid taking her front and center seat in medias res.

There were no seats along the wall; those were all occupied by amorous twosomes who were ringing in the birth of Christ with a lot of kissing.  With tongue.

Fine. I set my plate down on a four-top between a large Jewish family from Winnetka and an extended family from Northern California.  No one gave me a second look.  My version of a Christmas miracle.

If I could get through the first night, I’d survive this “vacation”.  Back in my room, I propped myself up on two pillows and searched for some escapist TV.  CNN would have to do.  I fell asleep with the TV on to keep me company, though all it did was remind me that there was no one there to turn it off for.  At midnight, I got a glass of water, ate complimentary chocolates with one hand and grabbed the remote with the other.

Within minutes breaking coverage of a tsunami hitting southeast Asia interrupted a story about a “real Santa Claus” bringing hope to Detroit.  The reports intensified as the death roll rose.  By 3:00 AM there were thousands of deaths.  By 6, it was tens of thousands. I stayed up all night watching the crawl update the rising death toll.

The next morning, stretched on a chair by the beach, I sat behind my sunglasses, shell-shocked from fatigue and the images of water erasing whole lives in an instant.  It should have been easy to separate my “tragedy” from real tragedy, but it all blurred and swirled together beneath my skull like a mash-up of Kesha and Bob Dylan.  It made no sense.

That night as I tucked myself into bed, I prayed for relief from the horror, both real and self-created.  I found God’s mercy in an episode of Seinfeld en espanol that served as a lullaby before I fell into a dreamless sleep.

Would You Wear Mom Jeans to Justin Timberlake?

When I bought the tickets in November I had one goal: to make it to the concert dressed in something other than my cozy, over-sized jeans, those last faded mementos from a maternity leave for my son who just turned three.

“I”m not wearing mom jeans to Justin Timberlake, so help me Baby Jesus,” I vowed.

Actually, I had two goals. I also wanted to wear a bra purchased from somewhere other than Target.

Lofty goals, people.  I was  Justin Timberlake, after all.

Would you wear your mom jeans for him?

Would you wear your mom jeans for him?
Image credit: Sebastian Kim/GQ

But somehow between November and Sunday night’s concert, life got in the way.  Holidays, birthday parties, rearranged aisles at Costco (Hello? Where are the roasted almonds, south side Costco?).  And it’s not like I forgot about the concert.  More than once I looked lovingly at that tiny square on my Google calendar that said, “J. Timberlake concert,” on February 16. That simple entry got me through  many a long, winter afternoon.

I couldn’t find the jeans I wanted to wear: the Joe’s jeans that make me feel like I have long legs, a perfect backside and L’Oreal hair.  I finally fished them out of the bottom of my dirty clothes hamper, thinking maybe they’d be okay.  Sure, they were dirty, but there’s dirty and then there’s too dirty to wear.  Unfortunately, these were the latter– the combo yogurt-snot stain on the leg was too much.

As for the bra, let’s just say I missed in that goal as well, which wasn’t surprising since 99% of my bras failed to meet the desired criteria.

But when the opening chords were struck, I didn’t care that my undergarments cost half of what it cost to park for the concert.  I didn’t care that I’d be awakened before dawn by my son who would want to nurse.  Who cares? It was a night out seeing a great show.

The concert was a near-perfect show, marred only by my incessant worry that JT was dancing too close to the edge of the stage and might fall.  It was perfect because I was out past 11 for the first time in ages (that trip the ER in September doesn’t count).  I had the money to buy a ticket for a not-cheap show. I had the eyes and ears to appreciate the scrappy, dancey, sexy business that is JT.  I had a dear friend willing to come with me and talk about the hassles of childcare during the intermission.  I had (and have) a husband who’s willing to be honest that he does not want to attend but will happily hold down the fort with the kids.

Life is good.  Way better than it was when 0% of my bras were from Target and all my jeans were “hot.”  It’s not that I “still got it” but it’s just that I don’t really need “it” like I used to.  And that’s okay with me.

Not-the-Last Fight With My Four-Year-Old Daughter

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The storm started in a quiet moment when I was working a puzzle with Simon in that dead-zone before it’s time to get dinner ready but after all the positive energy of the day had been spent on school and surviving the afternoon.  “Look! I found Iron Man’s hand,” I beamed because even 40-year olds need victories after a long holiday weekend.  Sadie’s fury began to gather steam by the window.  She was trying, unsuccessfully, to tape a valentine to the window.  Her solution was to stomp her feet and sigh loud enough to get my attention.

So that’s how this is going to go, huh?

I told her in my genuinely calm voice that when she was ready to ask me for help, I’d happily help her execute her vision of taping the heart to the window.  With great effort, I focused on the puzzle and let her work it out.  If this escalated, it wasn’t going to be my fault.

Of course it escalated.

Soon I was using my fake calm voice, and she was way past discussion.  My words were like a match to her flaming fury and when she spat at me, I felt my own pilot light flare and surge with blue-white heat.

I should just absorb her rage– I’m the parent, the adult, the one with the therapist.  I should not be reacting.

She ran and I followed, the air crackling with dispensed rage.  When I reached her, I held her as she squirmed like a feral animal.  My instinct was to hold her tighter– not to hurt her but to let her know that I am stronger.  I am stronger than her rage and her fatigue and her boredom and her frustration at being little in a big person’s world.   I wanted her to know she could test me with all her might, but still, even though I was angry, I was still stronger and I could take whatever she was dishing out.

I wanted her to know. I wanted me to know.

I spoke first.  Real-calm had returned to my voice.  She sniffled, unenthusiastic about making eye contact.  I touched her chin, “Please look at Mommy.”  When she did, I tossed my script about appropriate behavior to the curb.  Instead I said, “You’re angry with me, right?” She nodded.  “I feel angry too.  We’re angry at each other and we had a fight.  That’s what just happened.  We had a fight.”

She smiled.  I’d finally made something simple instead of more complicated.  A parenting first.  “It was just a fight, Sweetie.  We gotta learn how to fight fairly, though, okay?”  She nodded.

The air moved with the pulse of our newly-won peace.  “We had a fight,” Sadie said, testing the words like she tastes a new food. Tentative.  Willing but unsure.

I looked at Sadie. “It probably wasn’t our last, Sweetie.”

Two beats passed.  “Definitely not, Mom.”

I felt closer to her when it was over.  There was an intimacy to all that rage.  But I still hated it.  I want to get along with my preschooler. I want to keep my cool. I want her deplorable and age-appropriate behavior not to trigger me.  I want it to be our last fight.

But it’s definitely not.  I’m struggling to make peace with that.

I Should Love Slow Days, But I Don’t

Image from wikipedia commons

Image from wikipedia commons

 

I’m 40 years old, so I should like these quiet days, right? I should enjoy the respite that comes on the rare days when I’m caught up at work and the phone isn’t ringing off the hook and there’s no interesting email to speak of.  On these days, I get to exhale little by little without racing to or through the next thing.  Isn’t this what women my age on coffee commercials are dying for?

I should wrap these days around me like a handmade afghan, brew some herbal tea, and lounge in my favorite pj’s.

But I don’t.  While work hanging over my head makes me anxious, being all caught up brings another sort of dread—I feel useless and bored and lethargic.  Voice mails raise my blood pressure because (1) I have to listen to them and (2) I might have to do something about them, if only make return phone calls.  But when I don’t get them, I feel lost and a little voice whispers you have no friends, and you will die alone with no pallbearers to hoist your casket.

In the spaces between all the things there are to do, I panic.  I brood.  I get extra tired.  I need more snacks.  On those days, every email from the Gap and Kate Spade and J. Crew entices. Maybe they have what I need. 

The technical term may be boredom that word is too simple for what I feel.  And my therapist says that boredom is just a code word for loneliness, so think about that the next time you tell yourself (or hear your kids tell you): I’m bored.  Maybe that’s it.  Maybe I’m just lonely today.  No one seems to be around and I don’t have a crushing pile of work to rev me up or distract me.

And the retail option that has always been my sure thing is complicated now that I’ve read a zillion Facebook posts about going minimalist.  I get it; I really do.  Having more stuff isn’t going to make me happy, but sitting here bored lonely isn’t such a fancy cup of wonder either.

So, I’ll sit here and explore this pocket of loneliness. Face it without a chaser or until I think of one that might still work for me.  Until I do, I’ll sit back, but I won’t relax and I probably won’t enjoy it.

This entry was posted on February 13, 2014. 35 Comments

20-Year Old Sorority Rush Memories: Time To Let Go

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It was so hot that my hair, which had obediently twisted around the hot rollers just an hour before—fell limp and straight below my shoulders.  My head was woozy because I didn’t eat enough breakfast to gird me for the upcoming task of enduring hours of pretty, over-scented college girls singing in my face.

I’d made it to Day 4 of sorority rush.  Whoever decided that the third week in August was a good time for Texas co-eds to traipse up and down sorority row every day in increasingly fancy clothes should be subjected to a virulent strain of flesh-eating disease.  Or something worse—like sorority rush.

With two more days to go—the big finale was on Saturday—I was encouraged to “figure out where I thought I belonged.” All I knew was that I wanted to join any house with fully-functioning air conditioning and ice cold beverages.

During a break I sat on a bench in the relative shade of the Zeta Tau Alpha house.  I’d arrived early, hobbling across two hot parking lots hoping that my strategically placed Band-Aids would stay put for the next three hours. I fanned myself with a piece of paper I’d found in my purse and prayed that the day would speed by.

Three seats down from me, some girl was holding court.  She spoke with the authority of an expert.  The Dr. Ruth Westheimer of sorority rush at big agricultural schools in Texas.  Forgive me if I ignore you, I thought.

I’d already heard Dr. Ruth proclaim she was a triple Pi Phi legacy, which explained her smug tone.  My mom was in a sorority too, but it wasn’t one that had a house on my campus so there was no way to spend my legacy currency.

“For example, you are supposed to be wearing panty hose today.” I could feel her eyes on me when she spoke; her words a sniper aimed at my insecure little heart.  Bullseye. 

I looked down at my freshly shaved legs—I could feel the fresh nicks stinging as sweat snaked down my leg. No fucking way was I wearing panty house on Day 4.  I was willing to on Day 5 when most houses served cheesecake and tried to make you cry by singing songs about friendship.  But Day 4? Nope.

“If you want to get into the best houses …” She prattled on, other girls gathered around her drinking her wisdom like a fragrant mimosa.

I wasn’t going to look, but then, of course I had to.  If I was going down in a fiery shame spiral, I wanted to put a face to that grating voice.  I shouldn’t have looked over. I should have directed my attention to the sweet looking girl from Arlington on my right who stared straight ahead as if we were headed to a firing squad, not a sorority party.  She wasn’t wearing panty hose either.

For the next four years, I ran into Dr. Ruth around school regularly; the sight of her always accompanied by a dull zing of shame and rage, even though I’d found a place where my naked legs  were welcome.

As I clicked “accept” to her recent friend request last night, I remembered that sweltering afternoon and decided it was time to let go.  I’ve carried this story long enough.

I’m Bragging About Buttermilk Today

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Today I’m introducing a feature I have no plans to ever do again.  So, if you hate it, it’s your lucky day. If you love it, then you will have something to brood about besides the weather and that hot guy who said he never wanted to have sex with you again.

Win win.

This week I did many brave and wonderful things.  Normally, my weeks are full of foolish antics and hapless hijinks, so this is going to be hard for me.  Bragging and being all big in my britches.

The most impressive thing I did was dredge a piece of raw meat in buttermilk and breadcrumbs.  I shit you not, I purchased a carton of buttermilk, not something I’ve even laid eyes on since 1979 in my Grandmother Tate’s old yellow farmhouse.  Then, I followed a recipe I’d memorized for so-called Unfried Chicken that I saw Trisha Yearwood (of country music fame) make on an episode of the Food Network.  I watched that whole damn thing while in the treadmill because the TV was broken so all I could get was country music chicken recipes or Joel Osteen. Don’t judge. I was hungry.

Anyway, because I  was running while watching my concentration was at its peak.  I’ma make that recipe.  I got all the stuff together: Panko breadcrumbs, Louisiana hot sauce, chicken, lemons.

Listen, it didn’t taste any more like fried chicken than the sole of my flip flop, but it was decent.  Edible.  And that was not me who snuck out later to buy some Popeye’s chicken and biscuits.  Not me– I don’t like biscuits. (Yes I do.)

What else? I was sure there was something else magical and noteworthy that I did.

Does downloading three Willie Nelson songs count?

What about losing my ever-living shizz in the parking lot after swim lessons when Sadie was refusing to get into the car and I was starving because it was 2PM and I hadn’t eaten? That was the lowest point of my parenting life EVER.  It was so awful.  I could tell I was going to blow at 1:30, but Sadie simple wouldn’t be hurried. I was begging her, “Mommy is super hungry and she gets pretty mean when that happens. Let’s try to hurry.”  When she started crying a few minutes later because I wouldn’t let her play at the outdoor playground even though she had wet hair and it was only 20 degrees outside, I blew. I blew my stack long and hard and as forceful as that nasty nor’easter that blows off the Lake.  She cried.  I cried.  Simon cried.  Little snow pigeons cried.

Later that night, I used my buttermilk to dredge the chicken.  It was an offering.  A please forgive me for not taking care of my physical needs and for putting myself in a situation where there was no way I wasn’t going to blow.  It was an amends.  A prayer for better days ahead and better snacks in my purse on swimming days.  It was a promise to learn from the pain.  It was an I’m sorry your mother is deeply flawed, but here’s some healthy breaded chicken.

Normally, this whole post would be about that bloody afternoon and all the ways I failed my kids, myself, and humankind.  But like writing with the non-dominant hand, I’m exercising other muscles. It feels weird to be bragging about buttermilk, instead of ragging on myself.

So, yeah, I was awesome this week with the whole buttermilk thing.