Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Stairs

I wrote this quite a while ago, but was not ready to share it at that time. Today is the anniversary of my adoption and I've decided that it was time to share. Be gentle with me.

When I was adopted, my mother tells me, the day they made it official, I cried inconsolably as they carried me down the courthouse stairs to start my new life. As the story goes, a little more than two years later when I made the trip down those stairs again, when my sister was the newly adopted infant, I was extremely disappointed because, not only did she not cry, she slept. I wanted her to cry. Crying was what was done. My mother had told me over and over. I cried all the way down the courthouse stairs. It was my birth story, or as close as I had to one. 

I just read The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade by Ann Fessler. I shan't review it per se -- at least not here and now -- but it did stir up a lot of things I thought I'd put to rest.

One of the many things that jumped out at me -- and it probably was not nearly as prominent as it appeared to be -- was how many times stairs were mentioned. Stairs played a big part in my adoption story, and they played a part in many of the stories relayed by these women who became pregnant and relinquished their babies in the 50's, 60's and 70's. Throwing themselves down stairs in an attempt to force a miscarriage, taking their only exercise on the stairs while confined to the home for unwed mothers, and, yes, walking up and then down the stairs at the court house. A happy memory for adoptive parents, an unspeakably sad one for these young girls.

Unspeakable was a carefully chosen word. Their experiences were not spoken of.

Reading about them now, at this point in my life, was chilling.

I had no idea.

My parents had been given the company line regarding my birth circumstances. They weren't told much and -- now that I've read this book -- I doubt that much of what they were told was true. Similar stories about them were, no doubt, fabricated for my birth mother. Everyone was worried about "what was best for the child" and apparently truth didn't figure into that equation very tidily. 

I have never sought my birth mother, for many reasons, not one of which is unique. I respected my parents too much to want to hurt them with a search. I didn't want to disrupt the life of the woman who had given me up and probably moved on with her life -- maybe forgotten all about me -- probably forgotten all about me. I didn't want to give her the chance to reject me again.

I know now that that was probably misguided at best, and I am sorry.

I considered it when I was pregnant. I wanted the medical history I lacked. I considered it, but I didn't act on it. And then my daughter was born -- my first blood relative -- and I sort of forgot about it. I sort of forgot about everything. The whole game changed.

And now it's changed again. After reading the testimonies of so many women who were coerced into relinquishing their infants in that era -- not rejecting them (me), not throwing them (me) away, not ridding themselves of an inconvenient obstacle (um, me again), but instead mourning their loss (of me!) -- sometimes for the rest of their lives.

There is pain on every corner of this triad.

No-one escapes unscathed, whether we talk about it or sweep it under the rug.

I know that there are other adoptees who read my words. I know that there are adoptive parents who read my words. I don't know if there are any birth mothers who read my words or not. There is still a pretty thick veil of silence there. I hope -- by touching upon the very shallow surface of this issue here -- that I do not cause undue pain to any of them.

This book stirred things up in me.

But I won't do anything about it.

I am not brave enough to take those stairs.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Life Worth Living

Since Robin Williams' tragic suicide (as if there's another kind...) two days ago, social media -- all media, I guess -- has been inundated with tributes but also with pleas for an increased awareness of the issues surrounding depression and other forms of mental illness. I've also seen a lot of people speaking frankly about their own experiences with depression. This is a positive outcome from an immensely negative event. 

We lost a family member in the same way in the same week.

It wasn't national news. But it did cause our family circle to tighten a little bit -- to view things a little differently -- to grow as we grieve.

I have read many of these tributes and revelations and have been tempted to write one of my own, but feared that I had nothing to add to the conversation -- that it has all been said in the last two days, and far more eloquently than I could manage.

Then I remembered something from the beginning of my daughter's battle with the dementors (she'll appreciate that reference) -- when we were just beginning to fight the fight. I have seen a lot of people post links to the suicide prevention helpline. I have even seen at least one person mention that getting help can be hard, but it's worth it. We can certainly verify that. What I haven't seen discussed is the way people react.

I lost friends when I sought treatment for my daughter. 

I was judged harshly for trusting big pharma and was told that all she needed was unconditional love -- that by seeking treatment and help, I was essentially trying to change who she was. Just let her be. Just love her. She'll work it out. They implied that seeking help would make me a bad parent and a worse person. 

Other factions told me that she just needed tighter boundaries. That she needed more discipline. If any kid of theirs pulled a stunt like that... 

I was too demanding. 

I wasn't demanding enough.

I'm not going to lie -- I second guessed myself. Constantly.

But ultimately I continued to seek help. I dedicated myself to it. 

I left a job I loved because I couldn't do it well and continue to give my child what she needed.

I lost friends.

But I have my daughter -- and she is healing. She is well. 

So I guess that's what I want to add to the conversation. Depression cannot be loved away. (Nor can it be beaten out of someone, although that seems sort of like a no-brainer to me -- but a lot of people continue to entertain the notion...) I wish it could, but that's just not the way this particular beasty works. It takes hard work and diligence and sacrifice. 

Worth it.

We have worked our way through several hospitalizations, many meds and med combinations, many therapists, a few psychiatrists and many psychologists. It has been all-consuming.

Worth it.

When she had her very first meeting with her current counselor, the counselor told Tom and I, "This is not suicide prevention. We can't prevent suicide. If she really wants to kill herself, nothing you or I or any friend or any boy can say or do will stop her. We can't prevent suicide. What we can do is teach her to have a life worth living."

She is learning that.

I am learning, too.

I lost friends. 

I lost my source of income and a chunk of my external sense of self. 

It's a lesson that comes with a cost.

Worth it.

So I guess that's what I want to bring to the conversation. Right now the climate is very encouraging. Get help. And I want to underline that. But I also want to warn you that the world isn't always as supportive as it's been the last couple days, but it's worth it to pursue every avenue of help that is available. For you. For your loved ones.


Maybe we can love it away. 

Maybe we just need to reframe our ideas about love.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

If a Picture Paints 1000 Words

Last week, my trainer started working on some back muscles I didn't know I had. They were a little weak, as you can imagine, but I'm at a good place with my training. It felt much more like a challenge than a defeat.

As I was driving to my weekend getaway, those back muscles flexed a couple times, involuntarily. It felt amazing. Powerful. Flexion laden with potential. Righteous. I mused on a conversation I'd had with my trainer earlier in the week. I told her that I could feel my muscles growing -- especially my biceps, which we don't work that hard in isolation, but they get a lot of peripheral action. My quads, too -- man are they feeling strong. I expressed my frustration with the fact that she and I are the only ones who really know how strong I'm becoming -- the extra layer(s) of ME hide the evidence pretty well from the general populous. "That's alright, babies," I assured my incognito guns, "I know you're there." I sealed my loving sentiment with a little kiss for each one. I was alone in my car. Nobody noticed. And if they did, well, then they have a story, I suppose. Crazy old fat lady in the next lane sucking on her big old arms in an attempt to satiate herself until she could pull over and buy a tub of chicken and a quart of ice cream.


I knew the truth.

I had bigger things to worry about anyway. I was on my way to camp - alone - in another state - to sleep and craft in the woods with 20-some people I'd never met. I was excited, but more than a little bit nervous. There would be a strict ban on social media for the whole weekend. That was scary enough, but I understood the desire to have everyone be fully present. If I wanted to have this adventure, I'd have to have it without a lifeline. All in. The scarier part was that the only camera I have is in my iPhone. While cameras were allowed, I knew I couldn't be trusted to not check my messages (real quick!) if my phone was in my hand. In my pics-or-it-didn't-happen world, would I even continue to exist if there were no photographic evidence?

I aimed to find out.

So I went and I lived and I socialized and I did it all without taking a single picture or writing or answering a single text. I did it without posting a status update or a tweet or an instagram. I pinned nothing. I did it. I lived an un-shared weekend. I wouldn't want to make a habit of it, but I'd definitely like to do it again. It seems very healthy (in small doses).

Now one of the things I do with my (perhaps way more than is healthy) online time is participate in a group that takes daily selfies. This is not out of any sense of vanity or ego -- it is just a practice we all use for our own purposes. My purpose is to become more comfortable with how I look -- to recognize myself -- to learn to treat myself with gentleness instead of picking myself apart. The latter is a lot easier than the former, and that just shouldn't be so. So I'm working and learning and making slow progress.

I thought I'd learned to recognize myself and not recoil in horror every time I saw a picture of myself.  I thought that -- until the pictures that other people took at camp started showing up. I am not speaking hyperbolically -- I saw those pictures and burst into tears. I recognize myself in the mirror --  I recognize myself in the selfies -- I did not recognize myself as captured by someone else's  eyes. 

Two days earlier I'd been kissing those hiding-but-existent biceps -- loving them and loving me --  and less than 50 hours later I was looking at arms as big as hams on a body they looked reconciled with. Fucking fuckity fuck.

I recalled with perfect clarity a conference I'd attended when I was in my 20s. I'd zoned out a little bit because I was distracted by the woman in front of me. She was a big woman. That wasn't shocking. I'd seen big women before. But her arms -- her arms were shocking. They were -- SO big. I remember thinking initially -- and quite uncharitably -- that she had no business wearing a sleeveless dress. As the conference ran on and I became more bored and squirmy and hot, I remember becoming more sympathetic rather than less. If I was that uncomfortable how uncomfortable must she be? This was so many years ago, and I never even spoke to her -- yet this memory came flooding back so clearly I could hear the speaker -- I could smell the room -- and I could visualize every flower on her faded shift dress.


I'd become what I'd judged.

All that work I'd done -- in the gym and in the mirror and with the rear-facing camera -- obliterated in an instant. Strong, emerging, offbeat -- yes, even beautiful -- replaced in less time than it took to blink by old, fat and ugly.

I'd been kidding myself, and quite successfully.

Let's rewind a moment. 

Months and months of working my way up to a place of self-acceptance. Months and months of getting stronger -- physically and emotionally. Months and months. Was I really going to let one moment -- no matter how undeniable the evidence was -- take all of that away from me?

This morning I made myself do my hair and put on make-up before I left the house. I didn't want to. I couldn't imagine why it would matter. Lipstick on a pig, and all that. But I did it. And it felt sort of good. Then I took my daily selfie. I hadn't been able to manage that yesterday. And it took a couple tries, but I recognized myself.

Tonight I will run.

Tomorrow I will train.

Because old fat and ugly cannot win. It cannot own me. How I look through someone else's lens isn't as important as how I look through my own. I've had a setback. But through my own lens, I am still strong. And oh, I am still emerging.

Have I written 1000 words? I think probably not. Have I painted a picture? I hope so. And I hope it is somehow -- in some offbeat way -- beautiful.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Button, Button

I have been working on decorations for Lea's graduation party for a couple days now. I really shouldn't be. There are more important things to be done. But creating is what I do. I can do this part. I can control this part. This part keeps my hands busy and allows my mind to slip subconsciously into a state that is damn near Zen. This is good -- because left to it's own devices, my brain has been an absolute mess for a couple weeks. The prevalent themes are: I can't believe my baby is graduating and I wish my dad were here to see this -- my dad should be here to see this, peppered with a lot of wondering how much food is enough because whose brilliant idea was it to have an open house with no head count, anyway?

Screw it -- let's make paper flowers and bunting. Activate hands; deactivate brain. It's better for everyone this way.

I was working on a project that was missing something, but I couldn't decide exactly what. Flowers weren't right -- but it needed something colorful; dimensional, but only subtly so. Eureka! Fetch Momma her button box!

I dumped the buttons I'd amassed throughout the years on top of my party notes and lists and started sifting through them, looking for the best ones to suit my need.

It was a happy chore, unlike the dusting and vacuuming that I was neglecting in order to do it.

And then I saw it.

I bet you know what's coming...

Peter Rabbit.

Peter Fucking Rabbit.

Peter was a leftover button from a sweater I'd made when I was expecting Lea. We didn't even know she was Lea, yet. At that point, she might have been Evan. Peter seemed sort of neutral to me. I remembered standing there in the fabric store in front of all of the cute buttons, trying to find something that would be just right for a little person I'd not yet met but who already owned my heart. The sweater was simple and white -- the only color was from these little buttons.

I picked up this button and promptly lost my shit.

I mentioned that I've been kind of a mess for weeks -- and Tom and the girls will certainly vouch for that. I tear up over nothing and lose my train of thought -- but I'd not actually cried.

Until I held that stupid button in my hand.

Ugly cry? Oh, you don't even want to know...

I'm glad, too. 

A good cry is cathartic, more often than not.

I had a sweet baby. And now I have a beautiful daughter standing on the brink of adulthood. She worked so hard to get here -- overcame so many obstacles -- it is such an accomplishment. And she did it.

Damn, I'm proud of that child.

I wondered what button I would choose to put on a sweater for her now. And then it hit me -- I wouldn't choose. She would choose for herself. And it would be perfect.

And some day -- 20 years from now -- when a spare one rolls out of my button box -- I will probably weep, remembering this time -- when the whole world was in front of her.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Boy, the Way Glenn Miller Played...

Recently a friend received a surprise discount. Delight turned to horror as she read the code on the receipt -- she had been awarded a senior discount. Another friend piped in that it had happened to her, too. Then another. It's happened to me. Couldn't they call it something nicer? Like a 'you are so damn good-looking' discount or something? But, no. Senior. Yuck.

A couple evenings ago, Tom and I were channel surfing. We don't have cable -- we have rabbit ears -- so channel surfing for us is more like letting the waves lap around our ankles with our pants rolled up than actual surfing. 

I'm saying our choices are rather limited. 

We chanced upon a rerun of All in the Family (as opposed, I suppose, to a current episode of All in the Family). We enjoyed it. It was still funny. During a commercial break, I turned to Tom and said, "I bet Archie and Edith are about our age." He pulled out his phone and before the commercial was over he had confirmed that Carroll O'Connor and Jean Stapleton were indeed right around our age when the show was being filmed -- just a smidge younger than us, actually, in the first season.


Well, that didn't quite seem right...

I mean, Archie and Edith were old! 

I don't look like Edith! Tom doesn't look like Archie! For a nano-second, I entertained the notion that I was being vain. Maybe we DO look like that and I just can't see it. But that passed quickly, because nobody I know who's my age-ish is anything like them. And that's not only because of the narrow-minded racism thing.

When we were younger, that's what middle-age looked like. That's what 50 looked like. That is no longer the case. Not even, if I may say so myself, close.

I've always sort of scorned all of the 50 is the new 30 -- or anything is the new anything, for that matter -- platitudes. (Orange is the New Black is the exception. I don't scorn that even a little tiny bit. Quite the opposite. But thats not really relevant.) 50 is 50 and 30 is 30 and neither is inherently superior to the other. But watching that show -- trying to find a way to relate to those characters -- made me a little more sympathetic. I don't want to be middle-aged if THAT'S what middle-aged looks like! But guess what? That's NOT what 50 looks like anymore. 50 has not become 30. It is still 50. But it doesn't look like the Bunkers. I can't name a TV couple that it DOES look like, but that's another issue for another day. 

That actually helped me a lot.

Now bring me a beer, huh?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Summer's (Almost) Here, and the Time is Right...

...for racing in the streets.

Ok -- I'm a suburban mom with an SUV. I don't really do much racing in the streets. I left the Johnstown com-pan-y years ago. I don't even have a screen door to slam. But I have been known to relive the glory days. And today -- today I just can't seem to stop the lyric, "There's a sadness in her pretty face -- a sadness all her own..." from running all around in my brain. 

So many of the women I love are facing a sadness all their own. They can hide 'neath the covers and study their pain, but, ultimately they are still -- well -- lonely for words that ain't been spoken.  

I feel like the lyric-speak needs to stop -- but honestly, all morning my brain has been playing snippets of Springsteen songs that meld into each other seamlessly. It sounds great, if only in my mind. But it is a melancholy soundtrack for such a beautiful day. 

I can't tell you the stories that are hurting my friends, because they are theirs. The same as and different from the stories that might be hurting you and the stories that are hurting me. A sadness all their own. I can't tell you the stories that are hurting me because -- like most painful stories -- although the sadness may be all my own, the story is not only mine.

I guess I would just ask -- for compassion. Because we don't know each others trials. We can sympathize -- we can empathize with the parts that feel familiar -- but we can never actually know. That strikes me simultaneously as very sad and very wonderful. We are all so unique in our joys and triumphs as well as in our trials. 

I know I have fallen into the trap of thinking that my problems are worse than anyone else's. You think YOU have it bad...  Try living MY life for JUST ONE DAY and then we'll talk... I would be willing to bet a couple hard earned nickels that you've entertained the same notion, at least once or twice.

We can't really walk a mile in someone else's moccasins.

But I guess we (I) can acknowledge that ours (mine) isn't the only road that's rocky and treacherous and potentially inhabited by rodents of unusual size.

Maybe, though, as we intersect each other's roads, we can remind each other to roll down the windows and let the wind blow back our hair. Maybe instead of judging each other, we can help each other out when it feels hard to move on. 'Cause tramps like us, aw, you know what tramps like us were born to do.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Don't Let the Past Remind Us of What We Are Not Now (Throwback Thursday)

Ok, First things first.

I love Throwback Thursdays.

I love looking at your old pictures and I love looking through mine.

Some of you post songs or antiquated ads or movie clips and I love it all.

Trips down Memory Lane can be a blast. Groovy. Dy-no-mite. The bomb-diggity. Awesome. Sweet.

They can also be a little treacherous. Most non-non-non-triumphant.

Tom and I have discussed this at length.

We have both been known to assault people we've barely met with pictures of what we looked like 20 or 30 years ago. Wanting, I suppose, to assure them not to be fooled by the middle-aged camouflage we're wearing. They are, indeed meeting cool, relevant people who look good in bikinis and/or spandex. It's important to us that they know that.

So I have learned to approach Thursdays with caution.

I always go through old pictures on Throwback Thursday, whether I post them or not. Today I came across this photo:

I remember this weekend well. It was the weekend my beloved niece was christened. That's her -- crying in my sister's arms. My grandma is in the chair -- the only one looking at the camera. Hi, grandma. Miss you. My beautiful cousin is in white. Her eldest is looking over her shoulder at something outside the frame. If I had to guess, I'd say that something was probably a barely toddling Liv. Her youngest -- my Goddaughter -- seems to be looking at Lea. That's the back of her sweet head in the foreground. It's not a beautifully composed picture, but it is making me very happy today. 

I remember this weekend well.

I have a souvenir.

Two, really.

They are two pairs of completely threadbare mens basketball shorts. 

Now this was a time when there wasn't much money. The kids were little and I wasn't working -- any extra money we DID have went to buying clothes for them -- Liv still needed a new wardrobe about every three months; Lea about every six. I didn't get new clothes. I didn't get manicures. I didn't even get haircuts. I remember that about that day, too. My dress was very outdated -- and when I took the bandana off of my hair and faced the prospect of actually styling it for the christening, I was at a loss. I had no idea what to do with it. We all went shopping and I saw these shorts at a sidewalk sale. My mom felt bad for me, I think -- unable to afford anything and only wanting these stupid shorts -- and she bought them for me.

She had no idea what a big deal that was.

I hadn't had anything new for quite a while.

The elastic was shot long ago. There is a paint stain on the back of one of them that is a color we don't have anywhere in this house. I don't remember what I was painting, but whatever it was, I definitely backed into it. There used to be six pairs of shorts, but four of them were deemed unwearable years ago. 

I wear these shorts EVERY week.

Since that picture was taken.

To give you some perspective, that crying baby is finishing up her freshman year in high school. That preschooler with her back to the camera is preparing for high school graduation. The young lady in the gray dress has been a teacher for a couple few years now and the one with the big white bow is a college graduate.

So -- yeah.

I've been wearing those shorts every week for a pretty long time.

If it will ease your horror any, I don't wear them as outerwear. I wear them under skirts. But still.

I have hung onto them, despite the fact that I probably shouldn't have, because I have never found a pair I like as much. 

Not even nearly. 

And believe me, I've tried.

When I bought these shorts, I weighed -- a number. I lost 50 pounds and continued to wear those shorts all the way down. I gained 80 pounds and wore those shorts all the way up. I lost 70, then gained 65. Never missed a week of wearing those shorts. All of that yo-yo-ing probably put more stress on my body than I put on those shorts.

They are awesome shorts.

And their days are numbered.

But we do this, no?

This isn't just me.

We find something we love and we cling to it. 

When I was gearing up for that 50 pound weight loss mentioned above, I bought 5 pairs of yoga pants to work out in. 

They were -- are -- perfect.

They come up high enough to cover my ass no matter how much I stretch or bend, yet they sit low enough that they aren't automatically dismissed as mom pants. They flare just enough at the bottom and are just the right length. They do not -- and some of you will appreciate how magical this is -- pill. Anywhere. And they are so soft... 

As it takes a little time to go -50+80-70+65, you can rest assured that I've had these a long time. Not quite as long as the shorts, but -- you know -- long. Three pairs have not passed the test of time, but two have. Until yesterday. When bleach landed on one of them. I was horrified. 

And then there was one.

Now these are not -- like -- Lululemon yoga pants or anything. Mostly because Lululemon doesn't think women who are built like me need to exercise -- or deserve to -- or something -- I don't really know, the conversation revolving around that particular fiasco became too offensive for me to keep up with really quickly. No -- these were Kohl's house brand. So they were not only perfect, they were pretty cheap. I mean, inexpensive. Because if they were cheap they probably wouldn't have lasted quite as long.


They don't make that particular cut anymore. 

I have never found a pair I like as much. 

Not even nearly. 

And believe me, I've tried.

Like Tom and I clinging to the visual of our former selves, I am clinging to the comfort of these shorts and these yoga pants. It's just as stupid. It's time to step out of the comfort (literally, in this case) zone of nostalgia and step into the present.

I can't find yoga pants like that anymore. Bummer. But I like compression pants. And if I can find long enough T-shirts (hello mens department and Pinterest!) I can put together a new gym look that will probably actually suit me better. As for the shorts -- since they are only worn as underwear -- maybe instead of looking for comparable mens gym shorts to replace them I should be looking at satiny, lacy tap pants.

The past is good.

But maybe the future can be better.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Quinoa, Diet Coke and Humble Pie

One thing I cannot abide is people who will not admit it when they are wrong.

I am stubborn and bull-headed and opinionated, but when I realize I've been wrong, I'll tuck my tail between my legs and apologize. 

It's really just to soothe my own delicate ego. I think people who are cocky and sure of themselves to the point where they will not even entertain the notion that there is a remote possibility that they are wrong -- or even that there might be another way to be right -- are among the most unattractive people I know. It's an obnoxious trait. 

A little humility can be uncomfortable, but it's almost always the high road. 

The first thing I need to confess that I was wrong about is quinoa. I avoided it (pretty vocally) when I started watching carbs because I thought it was a grain. It looks like a grain, it cooks like a grain and it's used like a grain, so it was a pretty honest misconception. I thought it was just one of those trendy miracle foods that make their flash in the pan and are forgotten when the next hot thing comes along. You probably already knew this -- because you're probably not as bull-headed as I am -- but it is indeed not a grain. It's a seed and a member of the same food family that contains spinach, Swiss chard, and beets. Perfectly legit for a low-carb diet, as well as versatile and delicious.

If I ever argued with you about quinoa, I was wr. I was wr--wr--. I was wrong, ok? I will eat it in a boat and I will eat it with a goat -- I would eat it here or there, I would eat it anywhere. I admit! This stuff is not a scam! It's true! I like it, Tam I am.

I'm pretty sure that's quinoa on the plate. I told you it was versatile.

The next one is bigger and harder.

Not so terribly long ago, I posted a status about having a cup of coffee in one hand and a Diet Coke in the other and still being exhausted. It was meant as a light little slice of life observation and I was completely caught off guard when more than one person jumped all over me about the evils of diet soda. I defended my choice and was confused and a little angry at the people who had taken my innocent little statement and turned it into an opportunity for a lecture. Like many other humans, I don't respond well to being told what to do. I bucked it a little bit publicly and a lot privately. How dare they? What the fuck? There were a lot worse habits I could be -- and wasn't, for Pete's sake! -- indulging in.

photo credit:
Overly dramatic? Maybe... 

Fast forward to 6 weeks ago. I decided that it was time to give up carbs again because I was tired of feeling crummy all the time, but every attempt I made had been a miserable failure. I'd done it before -- and very successfully -- but I just couldn't find my way back. So I decided to go slow -- first eliminating sugars, sugar substitutes and all manner of sweeteners, then, after a few weeks, flour -- bread and pasta and such, then starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn and eventually fruit.  I set a start date, enjoyed a last hurrah, and eliminated everything sweet (with the exception of fruit) from my diet. I was still eating bread and pasta and pizza -- those things would be next -- but for that week or so, just sweeteners.

It went well.

I craved nothing.

Except Diet Coke. 

I swear, I woke up wanting one, felt the urge to grab one several times each day, and went to sleep wanting one.

Every day.

In two weeks I cut out the bread, pasta and pizza. 

I craved nothing.

Except Diet Coke.

Dammit, did all of those people who jumped down my throat have a point? I mean, I was clearly dealing with an addiction. I love sweets and sandwiches and pasta and most especially pizza, but I had walked away from all of those things in their turn without a backward glance. But Diet Coke? I'll tell you -- even writing about it now I'm starting to salivate and shake a little bit.

It's been 6 weeks since I've had one. 

And I still want one ALL the time. 

So to those of you who attacked me -- I'm sorry I responded in anger instead of in earnest interest in what you had to say. Because you were right and I was wr. I was wr--wr--.  I was wrong, ok?

So there. I've eaten a little humble pie. Without the crust, of course. And it went down ok.

If you are one of the folks I wronged, I hope you'll accept this apology.

But a word to the wise: wisdom imparted is usually better received when it is given with respect than when it is given in judgment. Just for future reference. Because I'm sure I'll be wrong again.

Me and the Fonz. Ayyyy.

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.