Sunday, April 13, 2014

Bored Peggy Puts a Bird on It

My friend Sara is always steering me towards fun craft ideas.

A while ago she sent me this. (Oh my gosh, I love Pinterest so much...)

During a recent bout of moving things around, the acoustic guitars that had been proudly displayed on the relatively large wall behind our sofa found new homes and we were left with a big empty wall  and an empty guitar rack. The timing seemed right.

That's a lot of empty...
I perused cross stitch patterns, seeking something that would be simple enough to still look good when done in huge -- 1 inch! -- crosses on a super-large surface. I opted for a silhouette. I loved the shaded floral of the example, but couldn't find anything in that style that I thought was a good fit for my space. (Plus -- the silhouette took 2 skeins of super chunky yarn. The cost of this amazingly -- um -- frugal project would've increased pretty quickly if I'd introduced a lot of colors.)

It took me weeks to actually buy the peg board. Partially because I just couldn't manage to remember that term. I kept saying,"Let's go pick up that cork board." No one could figure out why I wanted cork board. Mostly because I didn't. "Peg board. Peg board. Peg board. Why can't I remember peg board? Peg, Peggy, Peggy Hill, Peggy Sue Got Married, Peggy Bundy, Peggy board, Peggy is bored, bored Peggy." I pictured Peg Bundy sitting on my sofa with the big empty wall behind her, skin tight leopard clad legs furiously tapping a brightly colored pump encased foot. I never forgot the term again and my project was christened Bored Peggy.

I bought the peg board, but decided the dark brown color it came in might not provide enough contrast with the black yarn I'd be using for the silhouette, so I spray painted it tan. I painted it on a breezy day, which was also windy. Spray painting did not go quite as well as I'd hoped. The wind created a sort of mottled effect that -- ok, I'd be lying if I told you I didn't dig it. Absolutely a happy accident.

A 4'X8' peg board is not exactly something you can work on in your lap while watching TV (as its namesake Peggy Bundy would've no doubt preferred), but I figured it out. It was a two person job. Liv sat behind the board and I sat in front and we passed the needle back and forth. We talked and we didn't and we just generally enjoyed hanging out together. She is already planning a similar project (on a slightly smaller scale) for her bedroom. I'll be proud and happy to sit behind the board to assist her with that.

Tom added 2X4s for stability and dimension then hung it on the wall that we had freshly painted purple because it's really hard to be unhappy in a room with a huge purple wall. Not too shabby, eh?

We're a little late to the game, but when we put a bird on it we PUT a mother loving BIRD on it.

Hey -- the day I'm afraid to dust off a dated pop culture reference is the day monkeys might fly out of my butt.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Cosmopolitan Woman

When I was a freshman in college, I bought a subscription to Cosmopolitan. It made me feel very sophisticated and mature. Not a steel town girl. Not a small college town girl. A cosmopolitan woman. Don't you forget it.

Oh -- that reminds me of another thing I did freshman year: I pledged a sorority. One thing my sorority sisters -- and therefore I -- would not stand for was being called girls. We were women, thank you very much. Women whose parents were still footing the bills while we dipped our toes into adulthood -- women whose parents were, in most cases, still doing our laundry -- but women all the same.

Women who read Cosmopolitan. Hear us roar.

I also subscribed to Playgirl, but that's not really relevant to today's story. Although it might go a long way towards explaining my attraction to men doing mundane things. I haven't opened a Playgirl in 30 years or so, so I have no idea if this is still a valid reference, but at the time every photo spread featured non-threatening naked or mostly naked men doing mundane things -- yard work, car maintenance, etc. There were also usually a fair contingency of firefighters and cowboys and -- you know, all the Village People professions. I remember thinking that based on my admittedly meager exposure to girly magazines, it seemed that photos of naked women designed to entice just made you think things like, "There's a naked lady. She sure is naked. She's awfully pretty, all naked like that." I don't know. I'm as straight as the day is long. Those were the sort of things that I thought when I looked at girly mags. Your mileage may vary. But Playgirl? It was like I was supposed to imagine a conversation like, "Excuse me, Mr. Construction Worker Man. Where are your pants?"

"Well, little lady,"

"I am a woman. I am not a little lady."

"Well, little -- er, um -- well, Woman, I had pants on when I came to work this morning, but they were chafing me a little bit, so I doffed them. Besides, I like the way the fresh air and sunshine feels on my pert well-muscled bum as  I swing a hammer and do otherwise manly things."

"I see. Well, that's very nice. Carry on."

I didn't subscribe to Playgirl for very long. I found it far more silly than sexy.

But Cosmopolitan -- oh, Cosmopolitan.

I read each issue cover to cover, then saved it on my bookshelf. When year two of my subscription began, I started noticing a trend. If I compared January to January, it was almost the same issue. Even the colors of the spines of the magazines worked through a 12 issue spectrum. It was very predictable. As the third year began, I knew I was ready to give it up. I still thought of myself as cosmopolitan and sophisticated -- or at least, as POTENTIALLY cosmopolitan and sophisticated -- but I had already READ these articles. Very little changed year to year. 

This saddened me tremendously. 

If the life of a cosmopolitan woman was predictable and boring, what chance did I -- a steel town girl, a small college town girl -- have at an interesting life?

These thoughts occurred to me as I found myself thrilled today at the changing of the season. It's not warm yet, but it's getting there. There's promise. The magazine cover for my life this month would probably be a bright green and would tease such articles as: 

New Season, New You! 
Spring Cleaning Tips that will Have your House Party Ready in No Time! 
Lose That Winter Gut! Step Up Your Game in the Gym and in the Kitchen 
Fresh Recipes to Help you Shake off the Winter Blahs and Get Moving Again! 
5 Simple Moves to Get You Out of Hibernation and Onto That Bike! 
Find Your Style -- Simple Wardrobe Fixes for Any Budget That will Keep Your Look Up to Date 
Just A Number -- Makeup and Fashion Tips to Help You Look Your Best at Any Age

I could probably go on, but I think you get the idea.

The same articles that would've been featured last year at this time. Heading out of the same articles that were featured last winter. 

It's a rut. It's not necessarily a bad rut -- there is always something to do -- always something to look forward to -- but they're the same things I did -- looked forward to -- last year and the year before that. I think I need something -- new. That steel town girl wanted so badly to be that cosmopolitan woman. This suburban mom doesn't even know how to articulate the longing.

I'll figure it out. And if I don't I can at least look forward to Making a Summer Oasis in My Own Backyard and maybe 7 Cocktails to Keep You Cool When it's Hot Outside.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


Lea was controlling the music in the car. Lea is always controlling the music in the car. It's fine. I realize that the things that make me smile or sing along or tap out the rhythm on the steering wheel or bang my head at stop lights ceased to be relevant decades ago.

"I love this song!" she says, turning up the volume. I'm going to need to turn that down after she gets out of the car, I remind myself, or it's going to be really shocking the next time I turn the key.

Ah. 1985. When is this stupid song going to stop feeling so relatable? I might change a few of the specific references, but the gist sure is uncomfortably accurate.


I was in grad school in Texas at the beginning of 1985 -- thousands of miles from home -- still feeling the sting of a broken engagement. MTV was on 24/7. My roommate and I knew every ladies' night and beer special in town and we were out pretty much every night. I had started up a rebound romance that was as doomed as rebound romance generally are. When they make the movie, the part of the rebound boyfriend will be played by John Cusack. Hopefully he moved on to someone who treated him much nicer than I did. He wasn't a bad guy, it was just a bad time. I wasn't a bad girl, it was just -- oh, who am I kidding? I sucked. I was a lousy girlfriend and a lousy roommate. My shit was definitely not what you might want to call pulled together in the early months of 1985.

Late winter turned into spring and spring turned into summer and summer saw me moving briefly back home, then to Maryland where I got to be a lousy roommate again -- this time to two of my friends instead of one. I met Evil Tom before the year was out and began a spiral I needed to actually be rescued from.


But I've made it sound awful!

It wasn't!

I mean -- parts of it were. I DID end one bad romance and begin another all before I'd gotten over mourning the one from before... I DID find out that the one from before had gotten married -- because I called -- I never called him because I knew it was stupid and there was always someone around and I didn't want to look stupid in front of anyone, but one weekend my roommates left me unsupervised and I called and his dad said he couldn't come to the phone because he was on his honeymoon and I lost my shit in the most epic meltdown you can possibly begin to imagine. And I WAS a bad girlfriend to a good boyfriend, and a bad roommate, and a good girlfriend to a bad boyfriend -- all of that is true -- but there was more.

There was -- Springsteen, Madonna...

There was all this potential -- life could've taken me anywhere.

Now I've got two kids in high school (to tell me that I'm not cool). My dishwasher is broken. I wash dishes an average of 4 times a day. Between errands. In the SUV. Which isn't yellow, but it IS an SUV. And this is my life. I don't know that I ever aspired to shake my ass on the hood of Whitesnake's car -- but I sure never envisioned this.

Not in 1985.

But again, I've made it sound worse than it is. Not that I love doing dishes and driving. Because I'd be hard pressed to come up with two things I like less. Pretentious people, I guess. I like pretentious people less. And inequality. That's something I really can't get behind. But I've digressed.

I have stability.

It isn't as exciting as unlimited potential.

But it is warm and comfortable and sweet. It is deep and real and good.

I would never trade it for 1985.


I remember an evening, in the late summer of 1985, drinking wine with my roommates and discussing our married friends and wondering, somewhat wistfully, if we'd ever have that. We longed for someone to love -- and for someone to love us -- and for a house to keep.

No, I wouldn't trade even a moment of what I have now for what I had in 1985.

But I reserve the right to indulge, from time to time, in a little preoccupation.

Monday, January 6, 2014

I Set My Sights on Monday

I have been hearing the opening verse of America's Sister Golden Hair in my head for almost a week now.

Well I tried to make it someday, but I got so damn depressed, that I set my sights on Monday...


Except the actual lyric is I tried to make it Sunday, which essentially renders my whole interpretation invalid. So -- for the purposes of this post -- let's go with the perceived lyric rather than the actual one.  You can call me out on this if and only if you have never misheard a lyric yourself. I'm not expecting much flack -- not from honest people, anyway.

I don't make New Years resolutions. But I get them. We like to start new things at the beginning. The first of the year, the first of the month, the first of the week -- all good days to get started on a new goal or a new endeavor. I've always liked to start things on Monday. 

I set my sights on Monday.

I tried to make it someday. 

It has been clear for months that I need to get my shit together. I took hits last year that I only recovered from in a superficial manner. I needed to pull things together for real. While I continue to believe in the concept of Health at Every Size, I had stopped being healthy. I could whine about how hard it is to eat right and exercise and stay big -- I've whined about it before and, frankly, I think it's a pretty legitimate reason to whine. It's unfair and it sucks. I don't look much different now -- as an unfit fat woman -- than I did nine months ago as a fit fat woman. In the appearance-oriented society that we live in, that is not exactly a huge motivator. I can look like this and work out every day and give up the food and the drinks (oh, God, the drinks) that I love-- or I can look like this and indulge in anything I want. 


That doesn't seem like a hard choice.

Except that I feel yucky now, and I felt confident and -- well -- healthy then.

And I'm tired of feeling yucky.

I sure have enjoyed the nine month carb-fest, though. Not gonna lie.

But it's time to crawl out of myself. If I allow myself to continue to wallow in self-pity and depression over what looks like the coldest winter in recent history, I might never make it out. This is not entirely melodrama. It is a danger that was becoming more real every day.

So I set my sights on Monday.


Now I remember reading once that if you are setting a start date -- and waiting for that date to start a lifestyle change -- that you are not ready to change. When you're ready -- when it's real -- you'll start right that minute. No making it someday. No setting your sights on Monday. Just do it.

I disagree.

I think a few days to celebrate those indulgences -- whether they be carbs or cigarettes or booze or whatever you love but know you'd be better off without -- is a good thing. Experience them. Enjoy them. Treat each instance of indulgence like it may be your last. Like it WILL be your last. Then hit that date -- set your sights on Monday -- and let it go. Someday is over.

I had set my sights on Monday.

I had a plan.

I have a plan.

I'm tired of feeling yucky. I'm tired of looking yucky, too, but that is something I just need to accept. Feeling yucky is not.

So it's Monday.

Record low temperatures don't make going to the gym too enticing. Heck, they don't make going to my home gym in the basement too enticing.  Y'know what is enticing in this weather? Hot chocolate and cinnamon rolls and intermittent naps under a warm blanket on the sofa.

I mean -- it's cold. And I think I might be getting sick. Again. And everyone else is huddled under blankets. Too cold for school. Too cold for work. Too cold. And there's always next Monday...

But that sounds a lot like someday. And someday isn't a valid goal. 

I set my sights on Monday. 

Today is Monday. 

Let's roll.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Santa, Baby

Santa Baby, 

I've been bad more often than I've been good since your last visit. I'm sure that stoolie, the Elf on the Shelf has already gleefully relayed all of that -- unkind thoughts, jealousy, resentment, quick-to-temper, selfish, blah, blah, mother-fucking blah. Oh, and cussing, too.

Here's the thing, Santa -- I'm not going to make excuses or even offer explanations. Bad behavior is bad behavior. Guilty as charged. I'm working on it.


Some of your minions -- the good toy-maker type elves, not the tattletale snitch elves -- have been asking what I want/need for Christmas. I am at a loss to answer. What do I want? I want more counter space.  I want a real vacation. I want the will to make the mundane seem sublime. I want acceptance for all people and marriage equality and the de-stigmatization of mental illness. I want to be beautiful and vital and strong. Oh, there is such a long list of things that I want!

If I try really hard to behave better, maybe next year Santa Baby, maybe next year you could slip some of that under my tree. I'll pass on this year completely if you think you could make that so, big guy.

Sincerely Trying,

Friday, November 8, 2013

Radical Acceptance

Life has thrown me some curves.

This makes me absolutely the opposite of unique. 

For the past eight months or so, I have allowed my demons to consume me. I was helpless to change things -- so I accepted them -- but I did so while harboring a huge load of resentment. I resented the circumstances that changed my life. I resented everyone who wasn't dealing with those circumstances. I resented the people who were able to craft escapes from their own circumstances in one way or another. I became bitter and found it difficult to cultivate even the smallest seed of joy.

It was miserable to be me and it was miserable to be around me.

Then, things took a turn for the worse.

And the damndest thing happened.

I accepted it.

I accepted it almost calmly.

I accepted it rationally.

I accepted it -- radically.

I wasn't yet familiar with the concept of radical acceptance, but I was experiencing it.

It washed over me unexpectedly. This is my reality and I will be living with it. I may as well live with it harmoniously.

My thoughts had turned -- as I suspect the thoughts of many folks my age do -- to "What is my life worth? Is this all there is?" It's a really helpless, hopeless thought and it was difficult to bear.

Until I really considered it.

What if this really is all there is? 

I have the chance to see something beautiful every day.

I listen to music that moves me.

Every now and then I get to spend some time near the sea. I have mementos.

I spend time with clever people who make me laugh.

I have a hobby that feeds my creative side as well as my personal need to touch fabulous fibers.

I drink good coffee in the morning and good wine in the evening and I eat good food more often than I don't.

I love the people in my life and I suspect that they love me in return.

A kitten is purring in my lap as I type.

Like the song says, I've got the sun in the morning and the moon at night.

If that's all there is -- is that so bad? What am I looking for? What am I waiting for? Who could really want more?

Is my reality like yours? Nope. And yours isn't like his and his isn't like hers and so on and so on, scooby doobie doobie. But mine isn't so bad. I bet yours isn't, either. It's not what I would have chosen if I'd been provided with a drop-down menu, but it's not so bad.

Radical acceptance occurs in that moment when you stop fighting reality. When you accept things totally and completely as they are. No what ifs or if onlys or not fairs. Serenity, courage and wisdom, and all that.

I am completely at peace with my present. That feels pretty awesome right now -- almost blissful after all of that time buried under bitterness and resentment. I suspect that the bliss will wear off, but I hope that the peace will remain.

I couldn't really hope for anything more.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Moment

Yesterday Lea and I went to our local Farmer's Market, as we have every Thursday all summer. It is a small Farmer's Market, but a nice one. Every week we walk through once to see what everyone has, then we walk through again and make our purchases. The whole process takes about 15 minutes. There was no reason to think that last night's visit would be any different. It was just another box to check off on our long weekly to-do list.

I would be hard put to tell you what shifted to make this visit different.

I suppose part of it is that my schedule is completely filled with meeting other people's needs. To be honest, I had allowed some resentment to build up around this. I'm not proud of that, but it's true. Give and take had turned into give and give and -- while I'd love to tell you that I rose to the challenge selflessly and without complaint, the truth is that I did indeed rise to the challenge, but I did so with a big-ass chip on my shoulder.

So there I was, in my usual-of-late grumpy state, completing my first round and ready to make my purchases when Lea ran into a couple friends. "Great." I sighed, "Now she's going to argue with me about leaving. Just what I need. Super." And then I stopped. As part of Lea's Dialectic Behavioral Therapy (DBT) she has been working on mindfulness -- on being in the moment. I looked at her talking to her friends -- happy -- carefree in that moment. Why would I want to take a pleasant moment from her? Was our schedule really that tight? It was not. I backed off and decided to appreciate the moment myself. 

Earlier in the week, a friend had said something that had really settled into my brain and made itself at home. Essentially, she said that if we don't make the most of the situations in which we find ourselves we are doomed to wallow in resentment. That was precisely what I was doing. I was allowing myself to resent everyone and everything that was causing me to put my own interests on hold. I was trying to think of ways to make my new situation palatable and I was hitting the wall with each suggestion. To say that I was frustrated would be a rather dramatic understatement.

So I looked at Lea -- just enjoying a late-summer moment -- and I followed her lead. 

I took note of the sunshine, and the way it felt especially nice after the light summer rain. I became aware of the smell of the homemade warm donuts that were being made and decided to treat us to a bag. The girls had asked for them before, but I'd always said no. This felt more like a yes moment. As I waited in line, I listened to the street musician, singing songs from my youth and from his heart. I thought about how much my dad loved homemade donuts and I missed him, but in a warm nostalgic way, not in a painful empty way. I took a bite then lifted the rest in a toast. Cheers, Tut. I turned the resentment aside and started letting the love flow in. How appropriate that Lea and Tut were the ones that created the impetus for this. The negative drained out as quickly as the positive flowed in. It was summer, I had a bag full of delicious fresh produce in one hand and a bag full of hot fresh donuts in the other. Yin and Yang. Balance. The sun was shining, my daughter was smiling, my thoughts were loving and all was well in my universe.

Just for a moment.

Of course the rest of the daily obligations remained. We didn't stay forever. It wasn't forever. It was a moment.

A really nice moment that put the rest of the day into perspective.

Maybe there's something to this.

Maybe I can find the good in this less than optimal situation I find myself in. 

I've been looking at the big picture.

Which is sometimes the right thing to do.

But for me, right now, I think I might fare better if I put the big picture in the background and concentrate on the details.

Take the time to smell the donuts.