Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hugs and Kisses

Sometimes you just need a hug from the right person.

Today was that day. I was getting ready for work, the boys were watching cartoons, and Ian said goodbye to all of us and left for another day at his job. I heard his truck pull away, followed a few minutes later by little footsteps up and down the driveway. Then the footsteps traveled to the sidewalk. Then I heard tears.

I bolted downstairs to find Nolan bawling on the front porch. "Ian left and I wanted to give him a hug." More sobbing. I mean SOBBING. Break. My. Heart.

Of course Ian had said goodbye, but today, after he left, Nolan really wanted a hug from the guy. So we called him.

"Hi, honey. Are you on the highway yet?"

"Not yet, why?"

I explained the situation.

"Put Nolan on the phone."

Nolan took the phone from me, nodding his head a lot, wiping snot from his face, drying tears and nodding some more, with a few yes's thrown in for good measure, so Ian would know he was listening. He hung up the phone and handed it back to me.

"Well, what did he say?" I asked.

Nolan's voice was light and happy, and he skipped to the front door. "He told me to wait for him on the front porch!" Smiles. All smiles.

So my little Nolan sat there, in the middle of the porch stairs, watching and waiting for his Stepdaddy to drive down the road. He turned back to look at me a few times, since he knew I was keeping one eye on him out there. "He's coming, baby. Be patient," I reassured him.

And there he was. He pulled up in front of the house, stepped out, and Nolan ran to the truck, giving him a great big hug. A big, big, big one. After a few words and another snuggle, Ian was back in his truck and off to work. And Nolan was about 20lbs lighter in his heart.

He came back in the house, ready for a day of camp. Sean was sacked out on the couch, exhausted from waking up (and staying up!) at 3:30. Bad dreams about animal heads growing out of rocks. He was wrecked. Tired. Bumping into walls.

I sat down next to him. Nolan skipped around the house. "Do you feel better now, Nolan?"


Sean stretched and leaned toward me with a yawn, keeping his eyes on the TV, and draped a sleepy arm around me.

"Love you," I whispered, kissing the top of his head.

"Love you, too."

Never, ever underestimate the power of knowing you can count on someone to be there, no matter what.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Oh, magazines. I love to hate you.

Not all magazines. I love Real Simple...home decor magazines. Project mags. Garden mags. Food mags. But celebrity and "beauty" mags??? No. I do not love them. Especially the celeb mags, for on one single cover they'll proclaim, "John and Kate plus Eight Pounds!" and "Scary Skinny Celebs!" Honestly. Go rot tethered to a mountain with your liver pecked by vultures, publishers. You suck.

I hate, absolutely hate (and I try not to hate anything) that these magazines perpetuate the war women are at with their bodies.

I know, it sounds cliche. It sounds very '90s. Or '70s. Or whatever. But it is this: We are women; we are not static individuals, capable of maintaining a certain slim, wrinkle-free, youthful look until the day we die. NO ONE is capable of that. No one. Slim, maybe. Fewer wrinkles, maybe. Youthful? In spirit, yes, and I hope I have that one nailed down. But honestly, what we have come to expect of ourselves makes me sick to my stomach, makes me glad I am not raising a daughter right now.

Think of a piece of wood, like driftwood, or a tree. Think of how time tumbles that driftwood through the ocean, and makes it soft, pliable, worth collecting--a piece of wood that has a story to tell. No longer full of life but somehow lighter and more beautiful, shaped by experience. Similarly, a tree grows, sprouts leaves, shoots high into the sky, sheds bark, and when it dies--maybe after hundreds of years, in some cases--it leaves a thick trunk full of rings that hint at a time we can only romanticize.

Women.... why do so many of us hate our bodies so? Why do we wrestle with 10 pounds here, five pounds there? If it were concern for our coronary health that really motivated us, I might understand. But vanity is really what keeps most of us motivated to view our aging bodies as failed specimens. For my part, I have had two beautiful children, been through a whole lotta life experience that has been as up as it has been down (like most of us), and what do I see? Lumpy thighs. Yep. Nevermind what I've always told my yoga students ("Don't judge that body! Stop criticizing it! Love it for all that it's done! Love your legs for carrying you through your life! Love your arms for lifting yourself and others from one moment to the next!" etc...). Nope, I judge myself.

Why all this body talk? Well, I'm a good 20lbs heavier than I was about four years ago. What's ironic is that I'm "not heavy", by any standards. I'm still between a size two and four (so I should just shut TF up, right?) Heavier, yes. Heavy? No. And yet, I'm frustrated. It's a combination of things that led to some weight gain: Necessary medication, a more sedentary lifestyle now that I'm behind a (fucking!) desk all day, growing children who no longer need or want to be nursed, held and carried, no longer stressed and wasting away in an unhappy marriage, no longer eating the "single mom" dinners of cereal and wine, finally happy and content in healthy relationship, age/slowing metabolism, etc.... But I look good. I'm not as thin as I was, but I am still fit. As my oldest, closest friend, Renee, recently reminded me, it takes some getting used to that we can be fit and still not be skinny minnies. True. And, for real truth, when I was that thin four years ago, it was an anomaly, a testament to what was really going on inside my head, my house, my marriage at the time. I have always been more of the build I am now. Petite, but curvy. Not stick-skinny. Stick-skinny, for me anyway, is what happens when your soul is dying.

Not to be melodramatic or anything.

But some days I do miss being a size 0, which I was. I'm not going to lie to you about that. It was nice to not ever think about muffin top, for about a year. It was nice to put on anything and have it fit. It was nice I enjoyed that for a year or so, before I snapped back to reality. Before I snapped back to myself, and threw myself a lifeline before I wasted away to nothing.

Not everyone who is thin is miserable. I was, however.

So what's my point, three glasses of wine deep tonight? Three glasses of wine that the Livestrong Calorie Tracker app says I can have because I ate pretty much an egg and berries all day? My point is this: Girls, listen up. We are not the measure of our dress size. If you feel crappy, exercise and don't eat crap. You'll start to feel better, for sure. But don't compare yourself to some other person, some outward ideal. The truth is you don't know that person's story, and their life story has as much to do with their appearance as your experience has to do with your appearance, like it or not. You are not them, and you can't be them. You are you. I am me. They are them. Love yourself for who you are and your story for what it is. Love your legs for carrying you this far. Love your belly, for all of its great big sighs or maybe the baby (or babies) it carried. Love your arms for all that they've reached toward and grasped. Love yourself and treat yourself well. Stay active. Eat "alive", healthy food. Don't overdo it with too much of anything--sweets, booze, deprivation--and you'll find you're the weight you're supposed to be. And love yourself for that. Because some day, on your deathbed, you know you're not going to wish you had worked more in your short go 'round on Earth. But will you wish you had enjoyed life--and yourself--more? Probably. Start now.

I say none of this to be preachy. I say it because I am trying to remind myself that I am not the sum of of my calorie tracking app. (My great grandmother, who walked and drank one glass of wine and much tea every day until she died at 98 was spinning in her grave as I typed that sentence.) I'm saying it because I've lost precious hours of my life lately judging myself for something superficial, stupid. I am beautiful, strong, healthy. I am smart, capable, lovable. I am well-loved, appreciated, and adored by my children, who don't see things or people as "skinny" versus "fat". They only see the arms that hug them, the legs that run toward them, the hands that make dinner for them, the face that smiles at them, the ears that hear them, the lips that kiss them, the voice that says 'I love you' to them, the belly that lets them put their head down to rest, the chest that has a heart beating a lullaby... that, and so much more, is the measure of who I am.


Monday, July 13, 2009


After a weekend full of parties, including an impromptu gathering of close friends and family--(including naked babies and dogs) in my front yard, I finally had a quiet moment yesterday. The boys were asleep, Ian was closing up shop before bed, and I was staring for a long time out the back window of our long, narrow living room. The window overlooks our backyard, and I was admiring the lavender and impatiens that have grown so much in the past few weeks. Illuminated by the back porch light, these plants seemed to be in the spotlight, while the shadows of my vegetable garden loomed large, threatening a full takeover of the yard. I wouldn't argue with it.

The window was wide open, and I felt like one of my children, leaning against the back of the couch, listening for crickets that just don't seem to be chirping too much so far this cool summer. "No crickets," I said to Ian, my back to him.

"No?" he asked, half-interested from his spot next to one of the dogs on the couch.

"Nope. Fireflies, though. A few of them."

There they were, those pretty little fireflies, flashing their light before fading into the darkness, reappearing a few feet and several seconds later. I only saw two or three fireflies in all.

"Remember when we were kids it seemed like fireflies were everywhere at night?" I asked Ian, my back still turned.

"Yep." An F1 race was still on. We had DVR'd it. I could tell without looking that his attention had never left the television.

"There aren't so many anymore. They seem to be going the way of the bees...into extinction," I remarked. Hearing myself say this made me sad.


The buzzing of F1 cars on the course in Germany was all I could hear. I leaned closer to the window. Nope. Still no crickets.

I kept watching for the fireflies, but I didn't see anymore. I sat by the window a long time, waiting. Yet not one more appeared. Murphy's Law, I guess. You wait for something and it never comes. But when you least expect it, it appears.

A while later, Ian let out the dogs, shut off the lights, and kissed me goodnight. "I'm going upstairs," he said.

"I'll be up in a minute," I said, tiredly smiling at him. I could barely keep my eyes open.

As he creaked up the stairs in our old, little house, I sat in the darkness, my back to the room. I listened for at least one cricket. I waited for just one more firefly. They never came, but at least for a little while I enjoyed the quiet of the night and the rhythm of my sleepy breathing.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Pedal to the Floor

I sew because I like to create. I also like the immediate gratification that sewing brings, since most projects can be completed with relative stealth, compared to knitting or crocheting, for example. This fact says a lot about me, I think. I am learning to be a more patient person, one who appreciates the process as much (if not more) than the results. But patience is a process in and of itself.

I had intended to write about how my need for the immediate gratification of sewing mirrors my impatience. But instead, I really think it comes down to this: If I can have that immediate gratification somewhere, then I can be more patient in other areas of my life.

I still like to knit, crochet and, more recently, wield the embroidery floss. (There are some great embroidery patterns out there that are more rockabilly than granny.) But I gravitate toward those as a means to slow down--rather than to accomplish something. I have many unfinished yarn projects. This doesn't bother me. Knitting and crochet allow me to leave some things unfinished. Sewing enables me to stitch everything up nice and tight.

In other words, sewing = control and accomplishment; yarn stuffage = acceptance and loose ends.

I have been sewing a lot this week.

Meanwhile, my house has gone to hell. With the kids away with their father this week, Ian and I have blissfully taken ourselves off the domestic track. He finally picked up groceries last night, so we have more to eat than just some cheese and a few rotten grapes. And tonight is a big chore night for me. The boys will be home after dinner tomorrow. Therefore things must become orderly so that they can once again be disrupted.

I miss my little boys. I miss them a lot. Considering they only spend about one night a week (or even every two weeks) with their dad, an entire week without them is a bit of a shock. My routine is thrown off. I'm forgetting things in the morning (coffee, my phone) on my way to work. I have moments of total silence and boredom. This is GOOD! Believe me. I need this. I need to just *be* while the boys are gone. But I'm ready for them to come home. The house has been very, very quiet. The dogs are confused. I miss their little arms and big hugs. I miss their smiles and laughter and silly jokes. I miss running around the yard, tossing one kind of ball or another with both of them. I haven't been able to sit still since they've gone away. I've been walking, running, doing yoga--constant movement. It keeps me sane.

But at the sewing machine I am still. Lost in creative thought. Lost in an artful process that yields something useful and beautiful within minutes. Something I can dream up--and complete. And enjoy. Or even give away.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Catch It While You Can

How on Earth did Great Grandma make it to 98 without losing her mind? She died 16 years ago this August, and I still marvel at the wit and vigor she had right up to the end.

I've concluded that the hardest thing (for me, anyway) about getting older is not lost elasticity of the skin or a slowly declining metabolism. Those things truly suck, but they're not the worst. It's loss. Period. Lost relationships. Lost people. Memories that intensify with time and relationships that fade.

When we are young, we fully grasp the adventure and vastness of life experience laid out before us. As we age, we limit ourselves, defining where we go by where we've been. I try my best not to do this and to see things from the eyes of a child. Easier said than done.

Because some days I just plain miss people--the dead ones, the ones who moved away/got away/moved on/moved out/moved me. The ones I never really knew; the ones I knew too well; the ones I could have known. And so sometimes I linger too long looking back, instead of ahead. We all know you can't get anywhere that way.

I think of Great Grandma, who buried grandchildren, siblings, a husband, parents... toward the end, she spoke only of people who had been dead for years. Yet, she was happy. Maybe because she idealized those relationships now those people were gone? Maybe because she accepted everything for what it was? Or am I'm just idealizing her now that she's gone.

I know this: Every moment with every person is a gift. I'm grateful for all the moments I've had, and will have. And I do not want to limit myself. Life is still an adventure. It's vast. It's full. It's beautiful, sometimes overwhelmingly so.

Last night I got back on the sewing horse, putting together a few new projects that have been on my to do list for some time. The house was quiet, except for the fans, my sewing machine, and a few neighborhood dogs barking at moths. I was content, focused, creating. I went to bed late, alone. I don't remember Ian coming in from his shift at the bar. I don't remember him getting up for his day job at Yale. I do remember sharing the same pillow with him, however, for the few hours we slept side by side.


Monday, July 6, 2009

It's All in My Head.

I haven't written in a while. Too long. So I'm back today in an effort to dump thoughts out of my head and, hopefully, out of my dreams.

I have always found it funny that we use the word "dream" synonymously with "goal". It lends to the definition that if we can think it, we can usually make it happen, which I believe is true. But real dreams, in the classic sense, are just fantastic little stories played out while we sleep. We cannot necessarily make them happen. Nor do we even want to.

I have recurring dreams. They're not the same story, over and over. Instead, they're of the same person (sometimes, but not usually, people) over and over. Usually, there is no real story to the dreams. Instead, my mind plays out a few select scenes from my life with this person. It's like a collage of photos thrown up on a wall, and I stand before it and mull it over while I sleep, trying to find some message in it all.

They started when I was pregnant with Nolan and, simultaneously, when my marriage was really getting rocky, although at the time I was in complete denial of that fact. It was very odd to me that I would dream of this person, this old friend, no more than a casual aquaintance, again and again, since they weren't someone I usually thought of or spoke to outside of my sleep.

And then life happened. And suddenly, a couple of years later and after divorce papers had been filed, the dreams came back with a vengeance. What they mean, I'm still trying to figure out. Maybe it's nothing. Maybe it's just my subconcious trying to work out whatever it feels is unresolved. Maybe, on some level, I'm trying to create that resolution for myself in my sleep, and this person symbolizes something for me. Whatever it is, I'm tired of this process and I just want it resolved already.

While Ian and I lounged around Jeff and Renee's patio table with them at dinner the other night, Renee mentioned I have always been a very "determined" person. It came up when we were talking about how I once approached Eddie Spaghetti, singer for the Supersuckers, at a show at the Wetlands back in '93 (I think). I was about four drinks deep and chatted him up, trying to persuade him to literally give me his very cool t-shirt off his back. Renee smirked about my persistent nature. "You'd say, 'I want that' and go for it until you got it," she said. "You're not as intense as you used to be, but you're still focused."

Is such persistence a good thing? Sometimes drive is really just an effort to control. Sometimes it is out of sheer compulsion to improve, change, or distract ourselves. And sometimes, it's to pursue a dream, a goal, a thing some might label as one's destiny. But I don't believe in destiny, per se. I believe we create our own circumstances; we make our own luck. Ironic, though. My name, while Gaelic for Mary, is also the name of the three fates in Greek mythology.

My other dreams are straight-forward and conscious: I will write a book "someday"; I will complete nursing school and be an RN "someday"; I will complete my 500-hr RYT "someday"; I will go to India "someday"...and so on. Curiously, though, I have put all of those things on the backburner right now. While school would be a huge financial sacrifice at this point, the main reason I'm sidelining any big plans is time. I want to enjoy this time I have with my children and Ian at this point in my life. The past several years have been in flux, one way or another. They've been turbulent and transient. So rather than distract myself with yet another pursuit (and nursing school would keep me out of the house at least four nights a week, in addition to my full-time job), I want to root down, give all of myself to my family and to me, and simply enjoy some downtime to create, daytrip, roadtrip, and just "be".

And so maybe it's because I have chosen not to pursue anything new right now that the dreams have returned. Maybe...and how many times can I say maybe in a single blog?... maybe I feel a sense of being trapped when I choose to just focus on the now, so I escape in my dreams. Or it could be even simpler than that: when I'm less scatterbrained and full of thoughts and plans, space is created in my head so that it has energy to work out any unresolved issues--primarily when I sleep. And so, like a shaky limb in yoga that will wobble until it depletes its energy and essentially cleans itself free of any accumulated toxins in its muscle, my dreams shake and wobble the same old thought until it's finally gone for good.


I never did get Eddie's shirt. But I do have a cherished memory of that night.