Momentary Snapshot – March

Momentary Snapshot – March

Processed with VSCO with l5 preset

 

It’s technically still the first week of the month, so I am taking a momentary snapshot. Some call it “taking stock”. If you could take a snapshot of my life at this moment, here is what it would look like:

Reading: just finished “The Keeper of Lost Things” by Ruth Hogan, getting ready to start “A Place for Us” by Fatima Farheen Mirza

Listening to: The Pet Shop Boys. Seriously. At some point this month, I heard on of their songs and instantly wanted to hear all of my favorites so I downloaded them. Thankfully, this 80s flashback didn’t make me want to get a perm!

Watching: “The Bachelor”. Yes, I admit I watch it. My daughter and I love discussing it. And any excuse to talk to her is golden. I really thought Colton was going to end up with Caelynn, but he sent her home last week. What? And then this week happened and things went haywire and he did jump the fence and WHAT?

Worrying: about my mom. I’m not sure anything adequately prepares us for aging parents.

Gearing up for: March Madness. I went to UVA. My husband went to Duke. You get the picture.

Channeling: my inner smile. It’s March. I have seasonal depression. March can be hard. So I am exercising and focusing on the sunshine to come.

Beginning: a new chapter. I was a stay at home mom for years. During that time, I served on many local boards. I’ve been named a trustee of a charitable foundation that gives away large grants in my local area. My first meeting is tomorrow. It’s a huge honor and I am thrilled to be part of it. I’m nervous, but really excited to learn more about my community.

Wishing: I was still floating in this pool @halfmoonjamaica. The sea, pool, sunshine and supremely kind hospitality there were the perfect antidote to the winter doldrums. Post coming soon on that.

Purchasing: the bathrobes at Half Moon were so comfortable.  Like, honestly, this was the most comfortable bathrobe ever.  I am kicking myself for not buying one.  But I think I found them online, so I am going to treat myself!

Accepting: all of those freckles and lines and age spots (for the time being). They are part of my story. And I’m not perfect. I’m just me.

Thank you, Kate Spade. I wish I could have returned the favor.

Thank you, Kate Spade. I wish I could have returned the favor.

Years ago, I had postpartum depression. It was bad. I loved my baby so much but I felt so incredibly inadequate as a mother. I had no idea what I was doing. I could not get organized, which is a big thing for me. I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t know who I was anymore. And I couldn’t stop crying.

I was the first of my friends and first of my siblings to have a baby so I had no one to talk to except my husband, who later told me that he thought he had lost me forever to a giant cloud of darkness. I would start crying in the middle of the day and he would have to leave work and come home and help me. He probably felt helpless too. We never told anyone (this was over twenty years ago, it was a different time). We did tell my doctor and she got me the help I needed and gradually the giant cloud of darkness got smaller.

It is easy to say, “how could you be so sad when you had every reason to have been so happy?” And believe me, I asked myself that question many times. But that’s not how depression works. It doesn’t discriminate. You don’t get to choose whether you have it. It isn’t something one can just “shake off” (advice someone gave me).

One day in the midst of that fog, I went to a local shoe boutique. The doctor had suggested I should do something nice for myself. I had been carrying around this quilted cotton Toys R Us diaper bag with a bazillion sections that I hated because to me, it symbolized the loss of me. If you know me, you know how much a love a good handbag and nice shoes. Always have, always will.  This boutique had beautiful shoes, and always featured up and coming designers (and still does).

And there on the shelf was the Kate Spade diaper bag. It was really expensive. I had never heard of Kate Spade, no one in my town had. This diaper bag was hip and modern and it didn’t have pastel baby animals all over it. It was black. And when I slung it over my shoulder, no one would have guessed it container diapers and wipes and Cheerios and teething rings.

They only had one so I bought it. That purchase felt like the start of me reclaiming me. I loved that bag, which joined me on my long journey out of that dark cloud. By the time I no longer needed a diaper bag, I was better and the bag was in tatters.

I’m not sure how many of her bags I have owned since then.  I have a clutch that looks like a ticket that I take to film festivals, one that looks like an 80s mixtape, one that looks like a watering can, and one that looks like a champagne bottle and comes out for every celebration.

Last week,  I dug my iPhone of of my current straw “Sam” handbag and saw that Kate Spade had died. And I cried about a woman I never met, who I would have liked to thank for the small but important role she played in me finding me again, but who somehow lost herself and then lost her life. I wish I could have helped her like she helped me.  May she Rest In Peace.

If a giant cloud of darkness has descended on you or if you’re lost, scared or overwhelmed, ask for help…1-800-273-8255

Wash. Rinse. Spin. College. Or not. Why I have no plans to teach my son how to do Laundry

Wash. Rinse. Spin. College. Or not. Why I have no plans to teach my son how to do Laundry

I am friends on Facebook with two sisters, Anne and Beth (names have been changed to protect their identity).  Anne posted a link on the wall of Beth entitled something like “13 Things a Mother Should Teach her Son Before he Goes to College”.  Anne wrote “be sure to focus on number 3.”  I’m about to send a son to college.  Of course, I had to look at the list.  Most of it was about good manners, throwing footballs, being kind, teaching him to respect women, reading to him, all good stuff. Things I felt like my husband and I have done.  All except for number three.  Number three was “Teach Him How to do Laundry”.

I have also been to a couple of social gatherings recently and when I mention my son will be going to college, someone invariably asks, “have you taught him how to do laundry yet?”

When my son’s birthday was approaching,  he told us that he really couldn’t think of anything he wanted, so getting him things he could use at college would be great.  I mentioned this to my friend and she lit up, “I have the best idea.  Get him a laundry basket and a roll of quarters.  He will definitely use that!”  All I could think was, “do college laundry machines still take quarters? It seems like technology would have come farther than that.”  And I didn’t want to hurt her feelings, but what boy wants a laundry basket and a roll of quarters?

Everyone is very concerned about whether or not my son can do laundry.  Except me.

I’ve got news for y’all. I have absolutely no plans whatsoever to teach my son how to do laundry.

I hear you going into the spin cycle: “how could she?”, “who does that?”, “oh, the humanity!”

Hold the detergent, Soak on this:

1.  He wants to be an engineer.  He can figure it out. Isn’t that what being an engineer is all about?  Discovery?  It’s not rocket science. It’s okay to have to figure some things out on your own.

2.  If he can’t figure it out, he can just ask someone.   Asking someone may be the way he makes a new friend or even the way he meets to girl of his dreams.  He can also text or call me, I am pretty sure I can explain it over the phone.  Again, it’s not rocket science.  And aren’t I doing the universe a favor by teaching a man to ask for directions? (Guys, to be fair, that is a totally sexist stereotype)

3.  If he screws it up and his white shirts turn pink because there was a red sock in the wash, he’ll live.  And he’ll be mad. And then he’ll laugh.  And he’ll never do it again. Lesson learned.

4.  The Facebook post list claims that if I teach him to do laundry,  “his wife will thank me.” Wife?  Wait, he is going to get MARRIED? Isn’t that getting ahead of the whole “going to college” thing?

5. I’ll confess, I’m throwing in the towel (yuk!yuk!) partly because, let’s be honest here…does this look like the room of a boy who will do a lot of laundry?

image

I have a limited amount of time to teach him all the stuff I am supposed to teach him.  And it seems to me that there are some things that never make these lists that are actually way more important than whether someone knows how laundry.

I’m going to teach him some of the things that were not on that Facebook list.  That list was great, but it left out a couple of things:

Managing money.  I used to work in a bank near a college campus and we saw so many students who could not manage their own money.  You think it is a joke, but we would get students who would say things like, “but I still have checks, how can there be NO money in my account?” or  “I lost my credit card three months ago, what do you mean someone has been using it?”  Schools, for the most part, do not teach personal financial management.  So, this Spring we are focusing on banking.  I’m getting him a checkbook and a credit card and we are going to start learning what they do, when to use them and how they work.  How to write a check and balance a checkbook.  How to use the ATM.  Why a credit card is different than a debit card.  Why you don’t want to run up more debt than you can handle.

Alcohol awareness.  Alcohol is part of living on a college campus. We are having discussions on things like binge drinking, drugs, and personal safety.  I plan to discuss different types of alcohol and why 12 ounces of beer is not the same as 12 ounces of vodka.  And why he needs to get his own drink at a party and keep track of it.  And why you don’t take someone else’s prescription drugs.  And what to do if someone becomes so inebriated that they pass out.  And when to call the rescue squad.

Safety.  I want him to walk a girl home from a party or the library or a party instead of letting her walk home alone.  I don’t want him to walk by himself late at night.  I want him to not let his friends drive drunk and not drive drunk himself and not let his friends get into cars with people who have been drinking. I want him to call a cab–that’s a good use of money!

Health, both mental and physical.  We have been over his health insurance card and now I let him check in when we go to the doctor’s office so he gets a sense of how that works.  And we talk about when you should go to the doctor and when it is okay to call.  Our school system did a great job of discussing mental health, but we have also discussed mental illness at home.  And we have discussed our family medical history too.  Of course, he can call and get that information, but it is still good to discuss health openly.

Exercise.  If it’s a stressful time and you have a choice between doing laundry and getting outside and playing ultimate frisbee or basketball or football or whatever, go outside.  It’s a no brainer.  Exercise enhances our mental abilities, it reduces stress, it encourages social interaction.  Laundry can wait.

If he asks, I will teach him how to do laundry, but if not, laundry is something he can figure out on his own and he will be just fine.  And,  for his birthday, I got him some LL Bean boots because if it’s rainy and cold, you still have to walk to class. And:

dry socks = less laundry.

And he loved the boots.

Just to be on the safe side though, I might buy him 50 pairs of underwear and 50 pairs of socks.  That should hold him until he comes home for Thanksgiving.  And Thanksgiving will probably be the exact moment I curse myself for, you guessed it… not teaching him to do laundry.

Pursuing Perfect: Body Image, Grades, Poltergeists and Love

Pursuing Perfect: Body Image, Grades, Poltergeists and Love

image

When I was about thirteen, I thought that if I could be perfect, all of my problems would disappear.  I would look great and feel great, I would be confident, I would have tons of friends, and my parents would get back together.  I’m not sure why I thought my parents should get back together, but I thought that was what perfect was–a mom and a dad together.  Oh, and to be perfect, I needed to look like my best friend.  She had boobs, she was thin, she was always tan, she wore bikinis to the pool while I was still in my awkward one piece swim team issued suit. Boys loved her. Did I mention she had boobs?

Now I have kids and I realize how silly all of that thinking really was. No one is perfect.  You can’t be perfect. And I want to make sure my kids learn that earlier than I did.  Okay, the rational side of me knows that they have figure that our for themselves. A friend recently told me that her elementary school aged children had been talking about the “f” word.  But it wasn’t that “f” word, it was the other “f” word. As in “fat”. And suddenly I realized that that particular “f” word hasn’t really come up in my house and my kids are much older than hers. I’m not sure that I have ever addressed the issue of weight with my teenaged daughter.  Sure, we have talked about how loving someone has nothing to do with looks and everything to do with personality and feeling. And about how the number on the scale isn’t always an indicator of how healthy or fit you are.

I think I haven’t addressed it because I am afraid of going overboard.  I don’t want to create a problem.  Many parents struggle with the issue of talking to their kids about body image and the other “f” word.  And it doesn’t help that it comes along at a time when we are coming to the realization that our own bodies don’t look like they used to –wrinkles, belly fat, cellulite, saggy boobs. As with everything, finding the balance is the challenge. And I don’t know what “the balance” is. I keep hoping it’s like a looking for a four leaf clover and all of a sudden it will appear in the mass of green and I’ll will see it and be able to pick it out. And it will be perfect. It’s such a cliche, but parenting is so hard!

And the other “f” word isn’t the only thing out there. So much of what our kids hear is about perfection: “she has perfect grades”, “he has perfect SAT scores.”, “that was the perfect triple axel”, “that soccer/lacrosse/field hockey goal was a perfect shot”, “that’s the perfect prom dress”, etc. I have read that we should not focus on looks, but instead emphasize things like intelligence. But what if telling your child that they are smart rings hollow? What if being smart isn’t his or her “thing” and he or she know that?  As adults who have been out in the real world, we all know that grades are no indication of smarts. And of course our kids have talents we can encourage.  But we can’t escape that kids see grades as their indicator of how smart they are. Except for that one person who is ranked first in the class, everyone else is not number one. And the person who is #1 seems perfect. The truth is that no person on this Earth is perfect, not even the person who is #1. But, still the search for perfection marches on. And somewhere in there, for some of us, pursuing perfection can become unhealthy and destructive. It’s like that closet in the movie “Poltergeist”.  The door opens and there’s a vortex that sucks you into another dimension. Lets put a deadbolt on that door, right?

Raising a teenager, there is this hollow echo in the back of my mind: “please don’t get an eating disorder”.  I hear it.  Personally, I have never had an eating disorder and I consider myself lucky. But, I fear it.  I had three friends with various eating disorders that ruined parts of their lives. Two got help and struggled through treatment and finally came out the other end in a great place. One left college and we never heard from her again. I have often thought about why that didn’t happen to me. I have OCD and in college it hit new heights. Wasn’t I ripe for developing an eating disorder? What was so different about my upbringing over theirs? There must have been some secret reason and if I can figure that out, I will be able to protect my kids from it. Was it that I had never had a full length mirror in my room? Was it because my father, who was quite “rotund”, skinny dipped every morning and every night in our pool and therefore thought nothing of being naked? Was it because I was an athlete and I saw lots and lots of different body types? My mother was a public figure and there were constant comments about her weight and rumors floating around that she was pregnant when she wasn’t. It was painful for her. How did that fit in? I don’t know. I’m still confused.

On the surface, it seems like it should be easy.  We can stave off this eating disorder thing by teaching them how to eat right. Teach them to eat healthy stuff and this will never happen. We can do that and everything will be “perfect” for our kids! That is so simple! Wait… no, it turns out that it really isn’t that simple. I recently read about a new eating disorder called orthorexia, where people become so obsessed with healthy eating that it becomes destructive. And it is just as dangerous and unhealthy as other eating disorders. And the cases are growing in number. There is such a push to make sure our kids eat well, how do we keep from setting our them up for that?

How do we strike the balance of teaching them not to obsess over something? There is a delicate pendulum swinging there and I want so badly to keep it from swaying too far either way. I don’t know how to do that. I would love to say I can do it, but I know better. They are hardwired already, in ways yet to be discovered. I can’t protect them from everything, right? When my kids were little, I once jokingly said that I wanted them to put them in a padded room so that nothing would hurt them and my brother, who is a crazy smart statistician and analyzes whether or not product is statistically hazardous for a leading consumer safety group, told me that the padding may not be safe. There is off-gassing and chemical leaching and possible lead! There is whole boatload of stuff out there that is potentially dangerous and out of my control.  I have educated myself on what to look for, but that may not be enough.  At some point I have to let go and let them make their way on their own…yikes!

Here is the best I feel like I can do: I have a son leaving for college in the fall and my daughter will be gone before I know it. I am at once indescribably excited and scared to death about what the World with a capital “W” has in store for them. I really only wanted one thing for my kids and it wasn’t smarts or money. I wanted them to know love. So, I try to make sure every day all the time that they know how much I LOVE them -every them, all of the time no matter my mood or theirs–happy, angry, sad, or just feeling regular.  Some days I do a good job of letting them know, other days not so much.  But when they leave my house, I hope they take this with them:

I love the well mannered him and the naughty him,

I love the her that encourages me and the her that rolls her eyes at me,

the him that loves junk food and the him that learned to like salads,

the her who shined so brightly in her homecoming dress and the her in pajamas who really needs to take a shower (she got that look from me, it’s my signature look),

the zitty him and the clean complexioned him,

the her that likes me to come in and sit on her bed and talk to her about her day and the her that shuts the door because she needs to be alone,

the him that still comes in my room every night to say he’s home and tells me to sleep well and the him who doesn’t answer my repeated texts to tell me where he is,

the her that baked cupcakes and the her that left the kitchen covered in confectioner’s sugar,

the him who admitted he tried a beer last night and the him who stayed sober last weekend and drove his friends home from the party and made sure they were okay,

the her who feels both love and pain so deeply,

the him who liked a girl and was on top of the moon and the him who had his heart shattered into a bazillion pieces and spent a weekend in bed.

the them who set a big goal and achieved it and the them who fell short of their dreams,

and the her that loves her brother and the him that loves his sister.

The truth is that most of the time they won’t feel perfect. Hopefully they will still feel loved. And if one of them ever get sucked down deep into the vortex, there will be a little light there and maybe they will know enough to seek it out without embarrassment or feeling of judgement and say, “I need your help”. And, I don’t know, maybe I will be strong enough to walk them through it. I know that it might not make things perfect, hopefully it will be enough.