How I Feel Running v. How I Look In Pictures Where I’m Running

Here’s the thing: When I’m running, I feel so alive, so strong.  I feel the sweat trickling down my back and the endorphins slamming into my cells. I feel like I could do anything.  Like solve-the-Middle-East’s-problems anything.  Now that I’m semi-fast runner (8.30 min/mile), I love dodging and weaving and making my way forward.  During a recent 15K race, I actually thought to myself, if this is how fame feels to Kim Kardashian, then I get it.  Grease my ass and snap a picture; I will judge nevermore.

What the ?

What the ?

If I run more than 30 minutes, I start to envision my body lean and fat-free. Like a Kenyan.  I picture myself long, graceful, lithe.  I get a tremendous amount of pleasure during these extended visualizations of my gazelle-like legs propelling me ever onward.

Then, I see a picture of myself running.

Um, what?

Is that how I really look?  It’s not AT. ALL. how I picture myself. Body dysmorphia aside, I look sort of ungraceful.  And way thicker than I feel when I’m actually doing it.  I know I’m not supposed to say that as a feminist, a mother of a daughter, a survivor of bulimia/anorexia, an over-educated woman in this culture moment, an Oprah fan (including, inter alia, Super Soul Sunday).  But, it seems I can’t help it.

Just like the ice bucket challenge, I loved the moment, but the picture drags me into a nasty vortex of body shame/hating.  Makes a girl start to think she should stop looking.



Also, it’s not easy to run with your arms making the touchdown sign.  And what’s that guy on my right (your left) staring at? Has he never run a race next to a mother who just spotted her children on the sidelines?




Googling Allegations About Bill Cosby’s Sexual Aggression: A Good Use of Free Time?



What do you do with unexpected pockets of free time?  I’m not talking hours and hours, but say a solid sixty-minute chunk.  I like to think of myself as a person who uses such free time wisely.  No taking it for granted over here.  I’ma be all “let’s go for a run!” or “how about a yoga class!”  Sometimes I am that person.

But not this week.

This week, I’ve been BIZ-EE.  So dang busy.  My free time evaporated as I sat the computer.  First, I had to Google the “facts” about the sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby.  (See what that frolic produced here.)  That, naturally, let me to articles about R. Kelly, Woody Allen, and then, at last, to Lena Dunham.

Nothing like a some research on a not-light topic like sexual inappropriateness (see also assault, abuse, perpetration) to keep one’s store of lively conversation topics fresh and ready to roll out.  I’ll never forget the look on my father-in-law’s face when I told him some tidbits I learned from a Vanity Fair article about Woody Allen and Mia Farrow.

Did Jeff’s dad really need to hear about Dylan Farrow’s pain– he was trying to eat a plate of eggs in peace?  Did Jeff want to fall asleep listening to the list of grievances coming out against Bill Cosby?

I don’t know what to say about the controversy surrounding Lena Dunham’s relationship with her younger sister Grace.  If you missed this (because you were spending your free time starting a hydroponic garden or reviewing the highlights of the Ming Dynasty), the gist is that in her recent memoir, Duham writes about how she, at age 7, looked in her then-one-year-old sister’s vagina (and found pebbles there).  In another passage, she writes about how much she wanted her sister to cuddle with her and kiss her on the lips and the lengths to which she went to to try to induce Grace to be affectionate with her.

All this “leisure” reading has been totally depressing.  I read Dunham’s book and loved it.  But after reading all the criticism of her for being too white, too privileged and now, too sexually aggressive with her sister, I feel kind of dirty.  When I read about her relationship with Grace, I thought that it was brave of her to write about the weird sexual stuff that happens between siblings.  I didn’t think of it as sexual abuse, but now I’m wondering why I didn’t?  Sometimes my kids get a little  handsy and curious, and I nip that in the bud with non-shaming speeches about private parts and bodily boundaries.  When does it cross the line? More importantly, how will I know?

I was wallowing in the all-my-idols-are-sexual-deviants because CLIFF HUXTABLE, until someone made a comment that turned this all around for me.  “At least this is getting people talking about their experiences.”

Hells yeah!  That’s right.  All this discourse is bringing more awareness to the murky lines between sexual exploration and sexual exploitation.  I don’t have any more answers than I did before I started my perusal through sex scandals, but I have more willingness to talk to my kids.  I have the chance to look back at my own experiences and decide what they meant to me and how I will parent as a result of them.

Because as bad as it feels to watch people I admire tumble from grace or have their images tarnished, denial is much, much worse.  Luckily with the holidays approaching and open enrollment season for my company’s benefits upon me, I’ll be too busy cropping pictures for the holiday album and picking an insurance plan to delve too much deeper into these dark recesses of our culture.  But that doesn’t mean there not there; they are whether I look or not.




This entry was posted on November 6, 2014. 10 Comments

Two Literary Agents Have My Manuscript


The morning I peed on a stick and got a positive result, I’d told at least 20 people by lunch time.  Defying decades of cultural compulsion to keep that shit a secret until you hear a heartbeat or get to 12 weeks, I blabbed to everyone.  Not because I was so sure my little embryo would go the distance, but because I wanted other people’s loving support and witness.

People screamed in joy with me.  One friend bought me a drumstick, nostalgic grammar school confection that I devoured in three bites because PREGNANT.

I’m not good with keeping things under wraps.  I suck at secrets, so PLEASE don’t tell me any.

For six days I’ve mumbled quickly or sent soundless emails to friends far away saying that two literary agents asked for my manuscript after I pitched it to them.

And I can hardly imagine a more exciting sentence I’ve ever written about my writing.

I pitched; they asked for a full; I sent it.

I’m in the perfect moment right now.  You get that right?  This is that moment before the blind date rings your bell and you can project onto him that he’s your perfect soul mate who will light your eternal flame and let you decorate ya’ll’s living room for the rest of your days.

It is the moment before you open the perfectly wrapped present that contains every fanciful dream you have about what’s inside. (Diamonds! The key to a new convertible! A platinum Costco card!)

This is the day you land the job interview for the job you’re sure you want.  It’s the morning of the race you hope to PR

It’s peeing on  a stick knowing full well you could get your period in two days.  Or miscarry in two weeks.  It’s saying yes to your co-worker with the weird teeth when she offers to set you up with her brother, the architect, who, you admit, looks pretty foxy in the picture on her Facebook page (his teeth = normal).

I also try not to think about it.  I know it will take them a while to get back to me because literary agents.  That’s fine by me.  Take your time, please.  I’m trying to learn my new job, and I’m getting tons of bang for my buck with my therapist these days: “Doctor, I keep dreaming about a door being slammed in my face.  What do you think that’s about?”

Yale-educated therapist: “Fear of rejection.”

Yes, my dreams are laced with vivid rejections scenarios, but when I’m awake?  I know this is the sweetest moment ever.

It can’t be wrong to root for your fetus.

This entry was posted on November 1, 2014. 24 Comments

I Didn’t Get What I Wanted

I knew exactly what I wanted: a brilliant, late-fall run on the lake. I may not be a Millennial but I nevertheless have a finely-honed sense of entitlement. I wanted that run. The time change is coming and in less than a week, I won’t be able to run home from work because it will be too dark and you know what happens to women who run alone in the dark, right? Ask Kitty Genovese.


It took less than four steps for me to determine this wasn’t going to be one of the runs that makes me feel like a bird in flight. This was going to be the run of a middle-aged woman who brought the wrong running bra and didn’t eat sufficient protein throughout the day.


At .7 miles, I made it to the lakefront path. There, I was greeted by an asshole headwind, cousin to the one Dorothy encountered back in Kansas.


So this run is complete suckage, I thought, digging deep for some acceptance. I reminded myself of the great spiritual principles, such as (1) no one owes me a sublime run just because I toil in an interior office all day long; (2) at least I have legs to run; (3) Mother Teresa never bitched about adverse conditions on the running path.


I wasn’t getting what I wanted.


Half a mile on the path, a freckle-faced teenager passed me on a skateboard. He looked like he’d just barely grown out of a chubby phase and it was taking all of his effort to remain stabilized on his skateboard. His outfit looked private schoolish: a navy, long-sleeved collar shirt and khaki pants. His forehead glistened with sweat from his considerable efforts.


I resisted the urge to suggest he wear a helmet instead of the maroon baseball hat. Really, I was just pissed he passed me. I don’t like to be passed, even if by kids less than half my age on wheels.


He bobbled off the board, and as I passed him, I saw a surprised look on his face. He didn’t seem to fully understand of the physics of skateboarding. I smiled at him and decided he looked like a younger version of my friend Robert’s son. I wanted him to master that skateboard. Now instead of a lecture on safety gear, I wanted to pull him aside and say, “I hope you always have that impish innocence about you. I hope your keep that goofy grin for the rest of your life. I hope you’re the fucking coolest kid in your class. If you’re not, then I hope you know your day is coming. Be a good guy and you’ll get to have plenty of sex.”


I knew he’d pass me again so I stayed to the right.   I considered resuming my complaints about the state of my lungs and the gale-force winds, but before I could really amp up my bitching, he swooshed past me. This time, however, his hat fell off about three yards past me. He didn’t seem to realize at first.


Without breaking stride, I bent and grabbed the bill of his hat and ten strides later passed it to him like a baton. He gave me what I imagine is his signature big goofy grin. Oh gee, lady, thanks for grabbing my hat, huh huh huh.


The next two miles felt marginally better physically, and infinitely better mentally. Something about my connection with that kid and his hat changed everything inside me.


I didn’t get what I wanted.


I got what I needed.


Help! My Daughter’s In A Friendship Triangle

Before my daughter started school, I prayed (literally, said prayers) that she would find her way socially with ease and joy.  “Please let her be like her father– easy-going, adaptable, friendly, confident.”  When I got really desperate, I begged God to spare her the dark sides of my personality and keep her from being too insecure, desperate, dramatic, histrionic, low self-esteemy.

I was pleased when my prayers were answered and she seemed to be “in the flow” socially and found a great group of friends.  Actually, she found two best friends, darling little girls who share her abiding love of coloring and exercising executive leadership skills. 

Two.  There’s two of them.  And you know what that means, right?

My daughter’s in a friendship triangle.  Kindergarteners, ya’ll.   Already I’m having to navigate my daughter (and myself) through the gauntlet of a threesome.  Someone’s always left out.  When it’s my kid, we spend the ride home talking about how unfair it is that she’s stuck with me while her two other friends are together, having great adventures WITHOUT MY DAUGHTER.  When my kid is on the upside of the friendship seesaw, I breath a tenuous sigh of relief.  Because it’s only a matter of time before she’s crying again.  Left out again.

Friendship’s hard, ya’ll.

It’s been massively triggering.  It brings up every relic of my own friendship triangles, a configuration I carried into my 30’s.  It’s been an opportunity to look back at my own past, relive some hurts and ultimately heal.  I like to think that revisiting my own friendship struggles will help my daughter work through her own feelings.  I found that engraved into my cells is the exhausting experience of trying to keep up with two other friends.  Trying to be sure I’m still “in.”  Scrambling, chasing, clawing at every opportunity to keep a toehold in the relationship.

I don’t want this for either of my kids.  I realize there is no way to spare them their own experiences, but God, I sure want to.  How much is it going to suck when one day she comes home with a heartbreak over a friendship’s end?  It’s going to happen.  Even when it’s for the best, it hurts in a way that’s as deep as death and as immediate as a broken bone.

But then again, it’s the failed friendships that taught me what I most value in friends: humor, emotional availability, loyalty, honesty.

When the day comes that either of my kids arrives at the Heartbreak Hotel– Friendship Edition, I’m going to hand them this book.  It’s written by women who survived and thrived through the vicissitudes of relationships with friends.  These authors survived and so will my kids.


Order the book: My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Losing and Leaving Friends by clicking here.

Sick of Hearing Myself Say “No Thanks, I’m Fine”


By 9:10 AM I’d already turned down an offer for water, one for breakfast, one for an extra napkin and one for company on my five-block walk to work.  Pretty curious behavior for someone who purportedly wants capital M more out of life.

If I can’t even accept a fistful of napkins from a friend, how exactly do I expect to take in the big ticket items? (An agent, a publisher, a pension, a Disney vacation)

I watched myself systematically and reflexively say “no, no, I’m fine” repeatedly yesterday.  It was the same “no” that keeps me from accepting hot tea from the lady who trims my hair or my neighbor’s offer to watch the kids while I make dinner when Jeff’s out of town.  It’s my knee-jerk, my go-to, my happy place.  This “no” broadcasts to the world my essential and subconscious mission statement: I’m not a person who can take in unbidden offers of kindness, help or pleasure; I’ve got everything taken care of thankyouverymuch.

But here’s the deal.  I actually was thirsty that day when Anna was cutting my hair, but I couldn’t take her up on the offer for hot tea.  And when my friend offered to buy me a yogurt parfait for breakfast? I was fucking starving– I’d just been to spin class.  But I thought, no, I have a Clif bar in my purse so … so … I’ll just say no and watch her eat.  When my neighbor offered to watch the kids so I could put my cauliflower concoction in the oven, it would have been so much better to say yes.  Had I said yes, the kids and I would have had dinner before 7:30 PM, before the epic meltdowns, before the power struggles over who has to wear a pull-up to bed, before I resorted to sneak-eating ice cream in the downstairs bathroom.

It would have been so much better to say yes.

I gave “yes” a spin today.  I let someone hold the gym door open for me while I swiveled my double BOB stroller through it.  I’ve done that move 50 times and never accepted help.  It took three seconds out of this guy’s life to help me out.  I said yes.  I didn’t die.  I simply got through the door without trying to half-heave the stroller and 85 lbs of my own flesh & blood through a three-foot opening.

After that, I decided I’d accept any offers to receive for the next two hours.  Lucky for this old creature of habit, none were lobbed my way.  But, I’m putting “yes” on notice: I’m coming to get you.  I’m coming to grab you with my own sticky paws.  I’m going to hold you up to the light and examine you from every single angle.  In a few months, I’m going to be all Yes! to napkins! Yes! to babysitting! Yes! to free scalding hot beverages!

Yes! to help and pleasure and kindness and attention.

Because the price of “no thanks, I’m fine” is too high to ignore.

This entry was posted on September 17, 2014. 35 Comments

On Setting a Ceiling and a Personal Record (“PR”)

I’m fond of posing rhetorical questions to myself.  Lately, my favorite: Who put this ceiling up?  By ceiling, I mean limitations, and I’ve got an answer to my question.




On August 11, 2005, I ran a 5K race really fucking fast.  Blazing speed, huffing lungs, endorphin rush– the whole damn deal.  The race was a charity event for Chicago Volunteer Legal Services and because we lawyers are fucking hilarious it was called “Race Judicata.” FN 1.  On the way home from the race, my boyfriend summer fling broke up with me with the piercing line: “You’re not The One.”

I took it exactly as you’d expect.  I hurled my favorite Tag fruit bowl on the floor and cabbed it to my best friend’s house where I slept cried on her guest bed all night long.  The next morning at work I kept my door shut and informed my secretary that I was not accepting visitors.  I was busy waiting for my therapist to call me and tell me it would be okay.

In my grief, I checked my official time for the race. 24:44 (7:57 minutes per mile), a PR.

My time was a small consolation for the heartache.  “At least I ran faster than I ever had before.”

It was fun to set a PR.  I was 32– single (suddenly), childless and fast.  I was sure I’d never beat that time.  How could I possibly?

Every year I would see the sign-up sheets for the annual Race Judicata, and I’d sneer.  As much as I loved my PR, I didn’t like the memory of my post-race dump.  I swore I’d never run that blasted race again.

And while I am a woman of high integrity who keeps her word 99% of the time, I retracted here.  When folks from my office organized a group to run this year’s race, I relented.  After all, my story had a happy ending– I met and married someone exceedingly better for me than Race Dumper, and we have two beautiful children.  I was done with the ghosts of Race Judicata past.

“Sign me up,” I cried, fist to the air.

It wasn’t in my plan to set a PR.  Impossible.  For God’s sake, I’m 41, I’ve got a 10-inch scar on my lower abdomen from my children’s births, and breasts that are still nursing.  The last thing I need is a PR.

Maybe it was the perfectly ripe banana I ate right before the race.  Or the Amy’s enchiladas frozen entrée I ate for lunch.  Maybe it was the breeze off the Lake that evening or the fact that I wanted to go home and eat dinner with my family.  I don’t know, but I did it: I PR’ed the goddamned Race Judicata, clocking in at 24:37.  Not by much, obviously.  Though, I’d argue that 7 seconds is significant in a wide range of important contexts.

Like this one.

This one where I said over and over (to myself), “Your PR days are over.  You’re middle-aged.  Your’re a mother.  You’re probably closer to an artificial hip than a PR.”

Folks, none of that was true.  None of the bullshitty, limiting things I said to myself about this 5K race were accurate.  My C-section scars and my unevenly shaped breasts didn’t keep me from besting my 32-year-old self’s best time.

Absolutely nothing physical keeps me from reaching any finish line I choose.  It’s the thoughts, each one a brick creating a ceiling above my head that requires me to crouch and stoop and, more importantly, hides the limitless sky from view.

So, who put up the ceiling?

I did.

FN1: Race judicata is a play on words.  It refers to the legal principle “res judicata,” which shares its pronunciation with “race judicata” and is Latin for “a matter already judged.”   In both civil law and common law legal systems, a case in which there has been a final judgment and is no longer subject to appeal; and the legal doctrine bars (or precludes) continued litigation of a case on same issues between the same parties. In this latter usage, the term is synonymous with “preclusion”.  In the case of res judicata, the matter cannot be raised again, either in the same court or in a different court. A court will use res judicata to deny reconsideration of a matter.

See how hilarious the law is?

WAKE UP! You’ve got to go get the kids and file your expense report!  Get Going!