Tuesday, January 29, 2013

39-year-olds Gone Wild.

I’d like to blame the following on my 39-year-old gorgeous, hilarious friend who was visiting from Denver last weekend. 

But we all know that I would be lying.

Picture this:

Downtown Toronto. 11 p.m.
Clubs recently open.
Frickin cold streets clambering with joint-carrying hipsters and 21-year-old sex pots.

And. Two 39-year-old women dressed like the cover of a Costo circular, looking to relive a bit of their past after a shared bottle of wine.

These two.
Yes, they did.
They chatted it up with these joint-smoking hipsters. 

And then the ones with the joints tried to lose the two hot 39s.

To no avail.

In-shape 39s can run in chunky heals. Unlike the sexy hipsters who wear the skinny ones. Silly girls.

Line ups at club entrances? No problem.

Free entrance for two retired hotties? Check. For entertainment? Perhaps.

Line-up for inspection of purses? Yabsolutely.

As I opened up my 12-pound arm luggage, the 40-ish year old woman cop (searching for weapons? maybe illicit drugs? nice pencils?) must have been oh-so-disappointed when she discovered the Wagon Wheel that I had stolen from my children earlier that day. 


Bar, two beers please. Dance floor, empty.

Thus began the release of two beautiful 39-year-old souls. The abandonment of every propriety we had forced upon ourselves. Finally, an audience to witness that dance we had been perfecting on our kitchen floors for years.

There were appendages swinging like fly swatters. 
There were hips thrusting as violently as they were while stuck in stirrups during the pangs of childbirth.
There was uninhibited laughter that women only have when they’re knocking on 40.

But. There was no communication over the thump, thump, thump of the club. 
After yelling into each other’s ears failed, we resorted to texting. One of us may or may not have texted to the other: “I keep farting!”

And there were boys wanting piggy back rides. Young boys. Even 19-year-old boys, here in Canada.

And then there were two nervous 39-ers finding walls to protect their weathered and well-seated bottoms. 

Don’t worry. The tired 39-ers all made it home safely. We and our bottoms. 
And our Wagon Wheels for that late-night snack.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Zeligs and 10 year olds

I am a Zelig. 

It looks like this: I can “mirror and match” most humans: body language, topics, facial expressions, tone, pet peeves, and even thoughts, be them shallow or cynical, pathetic or poetic...

The intellectuals: I can lean back, listen and nod. I can ask good questions. And even throw in a good vocabulary word every now and then (a beneficial side-effect of teaching high school English). 
The materialists: I can talk Prada and Nordstrom and fashion with most, but I am best at lamenting my own lack of style. Self-deprecating brings out the sympathy of these types, and they love a challenge (and flattery, don’t we all). 
The athletes: I have just enough knowledge about most sports to be a little dangerous. I can drop one good line and then come up with an excuse to leave the room shortly afterwards. 

I am my best at first impressions. I’m a “wooer” according to some experts.
And I’m dangerous. 
I know a little bit about a lot of stuff. But I don’t know a lot about...anything.
I was bragging about this particular quality of mine to a friend once, and she busted me. 
She asked, “Then who are you, really?”
And that question has bothered me for almost a year now.

Maybe a better question might be, “Who were you?” 

As in, who were you before you started trying to please everyone around you? Before you started bowing down to the most important person in every room? Before you started comparing yourself to everyone else around you and always found that you fell short? Before you signed yourself up for this contest that you have always perceived yourself as losing? 

And this goes back. Way back. This must go back to before I was 10 years old.

Back then I was joyful. I was curious. I was vibrant. And I smiled a lot. I only dressed for utility and ate to sustain. And drank only water or milk. I read for pleasure and played with gusto. I skipped and ran and hunted and dug and swam... and slept in peace.

This world does some horrible things to us women. It tries to strip us not only our clothing, but our self-respect and our worth. Our potential and our self-esteem. It tries to create a gauge in us that always lacks. It tries to convince us that we are a fixer-upper in need of repair.

But I don’t want to be a victim. I will not blame the world for doing this to me. I did this to myself. I chose to believe the messages sent to me from every magazine cover, every whisper from my own brain, every TV show, every comment made to shame me, every criticism... I blame not the world, but my own lack of courage to kill my little self-doubter long ago.

I want to kill it now though.

This voice that reminds me of all of my past foibles and failures. 
This echo of all those things I have done that I should not have done.
This memory of the raised eyebrows and hushed snickers.
This question of whether or not I have the ability or capacity to achieve.
The replaying of all those things I said. Those idiotic things I said.

I want to kill these, but I don’t know how.

Do I line them up like a firing squad? Or do I drown them all with my tears...or in a bottle? Do I stomp them underneath my runners? Or do I lecture them to death and try to reason them away? 

I do not know. But I want them dead. 

I want to be 10 again. I want to move ahead fearlessly without worrying about what every eye (seen and unseen) thinks about my movement. I don’t want to care about those eyes at all. And I want to feel absolutely perfect and beautiful, even when I look like this:

Clearly, I felt beautiful here. And I knew so little of hurt here. In spite of my mother's poor choice of hair dressers and eye glasses.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

bacon tears

Thys sobbed in my arms tonight. He bawled in the way that happens when you release all composure (which six-year olds don't even have yet) and give in to your visceral instinct: his little body shook, tears raced down his cheeks, and his voice tried to contain itself (but I could sense its longing to release).

It all started over bacon.

You see, I was supposed to make bacon for breakfast this morning.

But I forgot to get up early.

And I forgot to thaw it last night.

This did not go over well.

The day truly began with disappointment.

(Don’t all days end up with this sooner of later? Sometimes better to get it out of the way, I say.)

The announcement about the lack of bacon was greeted with vehement protests.

I wanted to yell: “Stop crying! Like you always do! I am so tired of it!” 
I wanted to slam a door. Or kick something.
I wanted to reason the tears out of existence: “Do you have any idea how good you have it in life?”
I wanted to appease: “Fine! I’ll make your fucking bacon!”
I wanted to hurt back. I confess. I did want this. I have little patience for irrationality.
I wanted to squelch the bacon tears with reality: “Really? We’re talking about bacon, for God’s sake, which is about the stupidest thing to cry about. Couldn’t you pick something important, like the Middle East or Kate Middelton’s baby?”

But tonight, when the bacon memories came back and he started crying all over again, all I could do was hold his little head in my arms and kiss his soft cheeks and whisper in his ears while his voice pounded, “uhhhhhh, uhhhhhhhh” in unison with his pulsing body. And. All I could say: “It’s okay baby...you’re okay...you’ll be okay...” 

And when you hold another trembling human, you have no choice but to soak in a bit of the pain, even if you don’t understand it. 

But you wonder about it.

And you wonder where it comes from. And if it’s a community pain. Or a generational pain. If it's a pain of longing. Or one of sadness. God knows it cannot be a pain of shame. Not yet.

But it certainly cannot be all about the bacon. At least I don’t think so.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

true stories

My life today:

1. My boys woke up crabby.
Me: "Here's your breakfast (that I got up earlier than you did to make for you)."
Boy: "I don't want that; I want waffles!"
Me: "Go back to your room until you can come out with a different attitude."
Slamming doors. Grunts. Disgust.
Me: "And all I'm packing in your lunch today are leftover oatmeal and carrots and celery!"
Me again: "And maybe a little ham if you're lucky!"

2. I got home from work 30 minutes early, so I thought I'd grab a quick run before I picked up the crabs. I changed, grabbed my phone and left.
I got home 45 minutes later with the boys:
Hubs: "Where were you?!?! (he works from home)
Me: "Run."
Hubs: "Sheesh, I thought I heard you, but when I looked, you weren't here. And all your stuff was here, I was so confused."
Me: "Sorry."
Hubs: "God, I thought the Rapture had happened!"
Me: "Yikes."
Hubs: "And then I thought, 'why would you be gone instead of me?'"

3. I got mail.
A letter from my mother.
It says: "Happy 40th!"
And my birthday is not until November.
Apparently, telling her that I am celebrating all year connected with the wrong synapsis.

Friday, January 11, 2013

water bottle disaster

At a Pampered Chef party I recently attended I encountered a woman with her two-year old in tow. She immediately struck me as someone who was highly cranked on coffee, or possibly meth, with her loud voice, overly forced facial expressions, and huge arm movements... she brought a lunch box full of tupperware containers of fruit and vegetables for her young daughter to eat. She also struck me as the type of woman who says Happy Anniversary to her husband on Facebook.

She was fascinating. I couldn’t help but watch her and wonder what she would do next:
-She adamantly proclaimed that she needed all her meals “on the go,” since all she does is drive her kids to ballet and ice skating and guitar lessons and karate classes...clearly she had not recently received enough accolades for her extreme parenting measures.
-She also praised her daughter for being so smart because she sorted the pistachio nuts (she put the shells in the shell dish). Genius.
-She also thumped her butt up and down on the couch and yelled repeatedly while trying to answer the hostess’ questions about the product being displayed...

Then, she spotted her two-year old drinking out of a water bottle.

Her response to this event was akin to someone responding to a cancer diagnosis ... If you had simply watched the fear and the anger surging through this woman, you would have sworn her daughter had just been impaled on the paring knife.

“Whose. Water. Bottle. Is. This?” she franticly asked every person in the room. Three times.

For at least five minutes, I watched her. At one point I thought she was going to cry; her body was shaking.

She discovered through her thorough investigation that the only grandmother in the room had broken the seal of a brand new water bottle that the tiny girl had brought to her (because she wrongly assumed that it was hers). The shame. The grandmother was scolded and rebuked by frantic mom for not checking with her first. The grandmother apologized. Then she was then subjected to Parenting Tips. It was like listening to my six-year old give ice-skating advice to Wayne Gretzky.

I must not have disguised my fascination with her all that well because at one point she looked at me and said, “I’m sure you think I’m crazy.”

And all I could think to say was, “Is your daughter not supposed to drink water?” in a nice voice.

And she hunched her shoulders over and said, “That’s not it... it’s just that...this water belongs to someone else.” And then the desperate plea of, “Whose water bottle is this?” began again.

And I was terrified to think how this woman would respond to an actual tragedy. 

I had so many questions I wanted to ask her:

-what is wrong with you?
-are you worried that someone in this house has a horrible disease?
-is this the first time you’ve taken your child out of your home?
-did you forget to take your medication today?
-would you like some vodka?

It wasn’t until after I left that I thought of some nice things I could have said to her. Sometimes I believe that we are too shocked to consider polite gestures. At least I am. Because I do remember those days when you’re doing all that you bloody can to keep your child safe and healthy meanwhile keeping yourself somewhat sane. With no sleep in your system to support those efforts, a tiny mishap can indeed throw you over the edge. I’ve been there. And I should have empathized with her. 

It’s a strange mirror to look into when you find yourself looking back at who you were and see yourself so ridiculous. 

Up next: Why I’m secretly hoping Kate Middleton’s child is born with a Cleft Lip.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

a PhD poem

I found out today that I have been accepted into a PhD program. 
So I bought a ring.
It is actually an old spoon. 
An old spoon that has been shaped into a ring.
It is one of the most inspiring pieces of art I’ve seen in ages.
It is dented.
It is old and reminds me of my grandmother stirring her tea.
It has an impression of a rose on it.
And it is tarnished--reminiscent of the days when “go tarnish the silver” meant something to every female under the roof.
It has been repurposed into a delightful little piece of jewelry.
If not, it may have ended up in a dump somewhere. 
Or worse. Maybe tucked away neglected in a drawer. Or left to hang on a wall for decades in a decrepit home.
Or maybe if it was lucky, it could have existed on a thrift store shelf for several years.
I told my boys what my ring was in its past, and they were in awe. 
They were more in awe of my ring than of my announcement about my acceptance.
And Myles said, “Do you think people actually used that spoon?”
“Yes, undoubtedly.”
“That’s so gross!”
“Gross? Why?”
“Imagine the mouths that thing has been inside, that’s just nasty.”
“It’s not the mouthpiece anyway. Nevermind.”
I will wear it proudly. 
I may not take it off for quite some time.
Maybe I will take it off when I finally earn the PhD.
Which will take me four years.
If I’m lucky.
I will be re-entering the world of academia.
For four years.
And I am thrilled that I get to do what I love most for the next four years.
I get to read. I get to research. I get to study. I get to listen to brilliant thinkers. I get to discuss. I get to try out some ideas on other people. I get to think. And write. And create.

I will wear my ring as a reminder of my gratitude for an opportunity to do something I never even dared to dream of in the past... I will wear it as a reminder of the potential that each of us has if we only dare to re-imagine our purpose. I will wear it to keep me rooted in the knowledge that we are all deeply loved by our creator...who reshapes us constantly out of our sinful nature into the humans he designed us to be.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Tainted Perfection

ISWG: Happy First Wednesday. I haven’t been writing as much here because I’m focusing my efforts on some articles for publication, and it seems that I cannot write them in public blogosphere if I desire publication. A shitty catch. 

However, today I offer... 
A confession: I read Gwnyth Paltrow’s online ridonkularity... Goop. Mostly because I want to look like her. But also because I want to be her. Or at least be friends with her. Or at the very least I want to be friends with people who think I look like her.
And in her latest article, she hijacked one of my recent favorite thinkers, yup, took it right out of my brain: Brene Brown, and another favorite person of mine, Jesus. Together. But I don’t think she did so intentionally. At least she didn’t do it to intentionally piss me off. But it did. Somehow even though I admire her, I don’t want her to be a deep thinker or be real or like the same things that I do. And I like being able to harbor at least a little bit of resentment toward her (until we become friends) that empowers my thoughts of, “oh, well, you may be super skinny and hot and rich and fabulous, but you don’t listen to Ted Talks like I do, or study the Bible, or know much about Jesus...” which sounds absolutely contrary to what Jesus would want me to do...
The other night I was on a lovely afternoon walk with my 8 year old (yes, I had to bribe him to accompany me) and we were discussing the challenge of making friends. Well, to be honest, I was asking a lot of questions, and he was mostly grunting in varying tonalities.
I was trying to encourage him to be a friend to people without expecting much in return. And that if he does this, eventually, someone will want to be his friend back. And that even if people act mean to him, he still needs to be kind, even though this can be super hard. It sounded a bit like this: 
“Myles, even if *Bob tricks you and shoves you into the dirt while you’re playing Manhunt in the playground, you don’t have to write him off as a possible friend (Though you can tell Bob that he hurt you, and if he hurt you real bad, you need to tell the playground supervisor).”
“But Mom, he’s mean.”
“Well, we can all be a bit mean sometimes. It is usually a sign of something else. Maybe somebody hurt Bob’s feelings, and then he started taking it out on you in the playground.”
“Mom, (grunt) I am not supposed to be nice to someone who’s mean to me.”
“Actually, you are. Jesus asks us to. He tells us to love our enemies and turn the other cheek when someone hurts us. He even asks us to be perfect.”
“Mom! (loud grunt) why would Jesus ask us to that? That’s impossible.”
“Ya, I’m pretty sure he knew it was impossible, but he wanted us to try our hardest. What if he had just said, be okay. Or be average. Or be pretty good when you feel like it? What kind of goal would that be for us? Instead he asks us to be perfect, even though he knows we will fail. But. He promises to help us and to forgive us. And you can ask him for that help anytime, you know, even on the playground. Even during Manhunt.”
“Ya, well, I guess at least I have one friend.”
But Gwynth had a different take on perfection. She claimed that trying to be perfect stifles us and suffocates us and causes depression, divorce, eating disorders, etc. She didn’t even know that she was quoting Jesus, and I don’t know if she knows him or not. 
I, too, struggle with the fine line between the challenge to “be perfect” and the tangle of perfectionism. I suspect Jesus wasn’t talking in Matthew 5 about being perfect in the ways that I all too often get obsessed with (perfect body, perfect home, perfect manners--that’s a particularly huge challenge for me) rather I like to think Jesus asked us to “be perfect” in our little sad souls, as in: be honest, be truthful, be fearless, be vulnerable, and be willing to take a risk and trust that he will show us how and when and why.
And to be perfectly honest, I'm thinking about killing this little blog--it has been a false fantasy of mine that deludes me into thinking I have any actual readers... My apologies to the 1 - 2 of you that actually read this. I guess my son's insecurity is reminiscent of something we never quite get over.

*names have been changed in this story to protect the innocent, and clearly there are no humans under the age of 50 named Bob, even in Canada.