Monday, November 21, 2011

If Chivalry is Dead, I don’t want to Live!

I know.  That was a little dramatic.  But here's the truth about this very independently-minded woman.   I want my husband to open the door for me on the way in to the restaurant.  When my car breaks down, I want him to drop everything and come to my rescue.  I want him to remain the knight-in-shining-armor I married - at least on occasion!  

This isn't because I’m a helpless damsel in distress.  I'm a capable, get-my-hands-dirty kind of girl.   High maintenance, I'm not.  But I want my man to show me those little gestures that won me over back when I enjoyed that glorious "girlfriend" status.   Doors opened!  Windshields scraped!  Tires inflated!  Girlfriends have the life.

I know this is what you might call having your cake and eating it too - at least that’s what some guys have said on this subject.  Because I admit it - I do want it all.  I want to be treated as an equal by men in general.  But I’m not sure we all agree on the definition of equality.

To me, equality means each human on earth has intrinsic value and potential.  It doesn’t mean I have to beat a guy at tennis or wield a pick-ax to prove my worth.  I try not to generalize any of us.  Some guys are pros at swaddling and soothing babies; some women can knock down raging fires right alongside those swarthy, strapping firemen.  (Not that I ever think about swarthy, strapping firemen, mind you!!)  But I believe men and women were created for different purposes - with different strengths to bring to the table.  Where would we be without each other?

So when hubby jumped down a ledge during a hike last week, I wanted him to turn around and offer me a hand down.  He didn’t.  Not that he’s a bad guy – and I don’t want to throw him under the bus.  He's always been my hero when it really mattered.  And no - I didn’t necessarily need his help.  But I wanted him to ask.  For me, chivalry is more about manners.  When my husband - or anyone for that matter - opens a door for me, it’s a courtesy, and I love it.   But I've always been kind of a sucker that way!

True - the practice of chivalry claims origins in knighthood.  But we can adapt some of its original code of gallantry to today’s complex world of gender politics. I don’t think its contemporary practice implies a woman needs a man to drive her car, put his jacket over a menacing puddle or lift her from a life of drudgery.  Today, chivalry translates into sheer politeness.  Sometimes heart-stopping valor.  We need some more of that in the world, if you ask me.  

Even if they rule the boardroom, I'm betting most women - single ladies and wives alike - love some tender cherishing once they kick off their heels.  (And a man who practices chivalry can often inspire his wife to shed more than her shoes.  Just saying!) 

What do you think?  Is it too confusing to guys to ask for chivalry and equality at once?  Is chivalry really dead – an antiquated notion?  What do guys really want?  My inquiring mind needs to know.

Share your perspective with me.  Meantime, I'm getting some cake.  And I plan to eat it, too.

John 15:13
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (NIV)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dinner for Breakfast

This morning: got out the frying pan to whip up some eggs for my brood to sustain them for another 8 hours of hard time at school.  Then, started thinking about dinner.  Even before I cracked the eggs!

This is what it means to be a wife and mother – when you’re blessed enough to have plenty of food in the fridge.  I don’t take it for granted- there are so many who don’t. 

It's true, you’ve come a long way, mama.  You can forge a career, rock the Mompreneur route, stay home and create a haven or work part- time while juggling your darlings.  Motherhood's evolved, and we've got plenty of choices - thanks to our own mothers, who endured the days of shoulder pads as they eked their way into a man's world. 


One responsibility hasn’t changed much in motherhood – at least here at my house.  A big part of my job is feeding the masses.  Food consumes my thoughts constantly – and not because I actually get to eat it piping hot.  No, it’s because the many tummies in my house are a demanding lot.  And it’s up to me to sustain my brood, which means I can barely eat one meal without thinking about the next!

Now - I can hear hubby, reminding me he does plenty of the cooking around here on weekends.  It’s true, and I’m a lucky gal.  Seriously, when I declare there is nothing to eat and we simply must go out, he whips up a beautiful seafood souflee with all the trimmings.  He’s that good.  (Don’t be jealous ladies.  He has plenty of other flaws, just like your man.)

Still, it’s up to mama to make sure the fridge is chock full of snacks, lunchbox fare, breakfast cereals, after-school munchies and ingredients for those yummy, healthy and cost-effective meals I have to generate during the weekdays.  So I live at the neighborhood grocery store, where “everybody knows my name….” 

I mean, they greet me constantly from the moment I walk in! I wish the managers thought I was a hot ticket, but I think they’re just thinking, “cha-ching!”

I like going to the grocery store.  As a mom, it might be the only time someone might appreciate me all day. When the guys at Safeway ask if they can show me the aisle where I can find said ingredient for linguine and clam sauce, I let them.  A girl's got to get her decadence where she can.

So - I make lists, cut coupons (OK, not that often), take requests, shop for groceries, store them away, cut them up, fry ‘em up, put in front of my family, register their complaints, engage in high level negotiations for required number of bites, then, supervise clearing, scraping, loading and scrubbing.   Done.  For now.

Then, I wake up, take out the eggs, and think about dinner.  Sigh.  I think I'll just swing by Safeway ...

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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Sick, Like a Man

I know it’s a provocative title - so bear with me a second.

It was years ago, but I remember exactly what my girlfriend said when she called one afternoon.  “Guess what?  I got to be sick today.  Like a man.”  I cracked up.  I knew exactly what she meant.

I bet you do too, seasoned wives and longtime girlfriends.

You see my pal’s husband had been home on an extended leave from his job.  (I don’t want to give away his identity, so let’s call, him - Brian.)  He’d gotten to see what life is really like managing the kids 24/7.  So, when my typically-whirling-dervish-friend got bitten by a flu-bug, “Brian” took the kids to school while she, for once, got to stay in bed.  For the whole day.  Stop the presses!

That’s right, ladies.  She got to be sick … like a man.  Meaning instead of having to “cowgirl” up to carpool and kitchen duties, the resident caregiver got some care.  I was jealous.  I don’t know if I’d ever taken a sick day once the kids arrived on the scene. Those aren’t included in mommy-contracts! 

That day, “Brian” took girlfriend’s temperature, delivered soup and meds, picked up the house, curried the kids from school, managed homework, conjured up dinner and tucked everyone in bed.  All while she made friends with a chunky comforter and the remote.  She read; she slept; she furtively called me to boast.

I’m thinking about all of this because hubby’s been in bed today and while I wouldn’t trade places with him, it’s a familiar scene.  After the bug arrived, hubby begged off work and retreated to bed. I’ve kept the noise at a minimum, written copy for my clients, wrangled the kids and crept up to ensure he’s had a steady supply of water and meds.  I’ve offered empathetic smiles and listened to his descriptions of what had most recently exited his body.  Ewww; I know. 

I don’t mind taking care of him – really … I don’t.  That’s what marriage is all about – and I really don’t want to sound like a martyr.  I consider myself to be a (mostly) good Christian gal, and I know serving others is one way we connect with God. 

But OK - I admit it.  I can’t help but feel a teeny-weeny bit of resentment.  Because when I’m sick, things look a little different.   I want someone to take care of me, too.  Usually I drag myself out of bed and stumble through the round.  Kind of seems to me that when guys get sick, they have no trouble ditching work, closing the door and waiting for the nursing services to arrive..  Why can’t I do the same?

Part of my angst (over nothing in the scheme of things, I know!!) is this - I want my man to volunteer.  I want him to admonish me to stay in bed while he relieves me from some part of my responsibilities.  Is that so bad?  I’m not asking for much.  A bowl of soup - an offer to make breakfast for the kids or run to the store for ginger-ale.  Because it might be my fault; but its hard form me to let go and stay in bed when I've got three bear cubs in need of porridge.

So what’s your take?  Should we take a cue from the guys we love and simply stay in bed and let the chips fall?   Should we ask for help instead of silently steaming while we juggle trips to the bathroom while changing diapers?  Or should we simply call our girlfriends to the rescue?

I don’t know the answer - but I’ve got to run.  Hubby needs some Ibuprofen!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Sex and the Suburbs: It starts in the Kitchen

Dad, I’m really glad you said my blog was way too “girly” for you.  Good.  Because you definitely won't want to read today’s.  Even though I’ve had 3 children, in your eyes I’m still the 8-year-old girl who wanted to marry her daddy, so let’s just keep it that way!

So, what’s on my mind today that I just had to share with you?  Sex.  (There; I said it!)  Mostly because it’s not on my mind enough.  I feel bad for my husband.  He married a girl who wore sexy lingerie, and over time, favored flannel jammies and preferred cozying up in front of The Daily Show to passionate evenings. 

Hubby, on the other hand, never changed in this area.  He’s still every bit as interested today as he was on our honeymoon.  I know I should be grateful for his attention… but I just can’t keep up with him.  (Pun intended.)

Back in the day when we were DINKS (duel-income-no-kids), it seemed I had plenty of energy for - and interest in - sex.  My husband’s mind, body and soul was still terrain I just had to explore, and we spent lazy Saturday mornings tangled up together until one of us finally felt compelled to get up and at least make coffee. 

Now, 17 years and 3 lively kids later - well, we’re just arguing over who should get up and make the coffee on Saturday mornings.

Not that I don’t find my husband attractive.  I still do… but the trouble is, by the time I’ve ended a whirlwind day of wrangling and chauffeuring kids, cleaning, working, cooking, managing homework hour, volunteering and walking the dogs… well, I’m just exhausted.  When I finally put the kiddos to bed, I just want my comfy jammies, a glass of wine, and 60 minutes where no one aks me for one single thing. 

Which is typically when my husband gives me the look.  You know the one....

And I really hate to say this… but sometimes sex just feels like one more chore for me to do at that point.  (Sorry, baby.  No offense.)  I know I should prioritize my husband’s needs, but I need some help.  So I’m interested in hearing what you have to say about it.  Got any suggestions?  If so, my husband will praise your name and probably cook an amazing dinner for you.  

Some of my girlfriends say great sex starts in the kitchen, but not in the way you’re thinking.  Many of us seasoned wives seem to find our men doing housework a real turn-on.  This is because when we’re relieved of just some of the mind-numbing drudgery that comes with homemaking, we can take one more step toward relaxing.  And for me at least, the key to being ready for sex is a successful move from “mommy” mode to “lover” mode.  It's no small task to unwind a whirling dervish.

My husband absolutely hates to unload the dishwasher, but when he does, well, my affection for him skyrockets.  He’s doing it for me and me only, and I love him for that.

I also think an evening headed toward sex starts in the kitchen because I’ve heard it said if you want to make love with your wife in the evening, you need to start in the morning.  In other words, the smart husband pours his wife some coffee before he leaves for work, takes a moment to massage her neck, unloads the dishwasher or tells her she’s beautiful.  Yep; it means making extra efforts.  But think of the payoff!

Of course it’s hard for my husband to get this, because he’s ready for sex anytime, anywhere, under any circumstance.  Doesn’t matter if he’s been beaten up by customers all day, the kids are screaming bloody murder or if we’ve just had a huge fight.  He’s able to compartmentalize his life and drop everything (again, the puns) if I agree to run upstairs.  I admire this about him; and I can learn from it. 

Still, he has to learn that I’m not ready unless all stars are in alignment… I need to feel emotionally close, relaxed, and appreciated.  It might make me a high maintenance woman, but then, he’s high maintenance in his own ways, too.  (And that will have to wait for another blog post, if said husband is still speaking to me after I’ve laid us bare here.)

Then of course, there’s the kids.  Their very presence means most parents have to get creative in finding time and space and energy for love-making.   I’d love to hear your feedback on this one, because the truth is, both hubby and I agree one of the best things we can do for our children is to remain happily married.  And sex is an essential ingredient to that end.  Our kids are old enough to entertain themselves a bit while we escape for an afternoon “nap,” but it doesn’t always stop them from knocking on the door. 

Our solution has been to be open with them.  It’s how they got here in the first place!  We tell our kids we need private time, and to stay away from the door unless there’s an emergency.  (And running out of goldfish does not constitute and emergency.) And if you have little kids, I say, adjust your expectations and take every advantage of their naptime.  The dishes can wait.  Especially if your husband is willing to do them afterward!

I won’t say I don’t have to work hard to stay focused and not jump at every sound they make.  But when I make the effort, I think it endears him to me.  And I always feel better, because after 17 years, hubby keeps honing his prowess.

Then, my very hot man is ready to unload that dishwasher.  And, I think, we might just make it after all.

Got some tips for me?  Leave a comment and share!  How do you keep the home fires burning when the  flames flicker?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Girlfriends are a Girl's Best Friend

Mail.  Real, live, stamped, slightly crushed - mail.  YES!

Tucked inside scores of bills, catalogs and the junk... SCORE!  A thick, buttery soft envelope, the color of mocha.  It was from Julie.  And I knew my day was about to improve.

I'm still the same girl that bounds to the mailbox in anticipation - although my steps today were slow, heavy ones.  I adore snail mail, always have... and Julie knows it.  I willed my children not to discover my absence for just 2 more minutes, and tore into the delicious envelope.   My simmering tears, in search of their muse, sprang up.   Inside the card was a faded newspaper clipping, carefully cut and showcased against floral stationary.

Because that's just how Julie rolls.

I smiled at the faded picture.  It was one of Erma Bombeck's columns.  Do you remember, At Wit's End?  She's my hero - and Julie knows that, too.

She knows it because Julie's a true-blue friend, the kind that knows your Starbucks order and your labor stories by heart.  She listens; she pays attention, she springs into action at precisely the right moments.  Like the time I was summoned from Preschool to pick up my wee one with a head full of lice.

I was freaked out, of course... a scarlet "L" emblazened on my mommy rap sheet.
It had been a brutal morning, complete with a walk of shame to the pharmacy, a box of RID and a sheepish preschooler in tow.  When she heard my plight, Julie dropped off lunch, a bottle of chardonnay, and a card (of course!) at my doorstep.

She ditched everything she had going at that moment because she knew my "baby" would be hungry after her sweet little lice-infested scalp had been scoured with an iron comb.  She knew I'd need a drink by the time 5 p.m. rolled around - OK, maybe 4 p.m. - and mostly, she knew I needed to laugh.  Good friends call and empathize.  Girlfriends bring wine and insist you don't interrupt nit-picking to answer the door.

Back to the card.  Let's just say it's been a tough week.  Of course Julie knew that, and so she took the time from her own crazy life and scored some vintage Erma Bombeck for me.  Who does that?   Girlfriends do that.  And a lot more.  You probably already know that.  And if you don't; better find some.  Because you're going to need them.

Especially if you're married.  But don't get me started!

I have  feeling Erma had scores of girlfriends.  Did you know that she was a wife and mother for more than 30 years before she hit the typewriter keys and recorded her legendary musings?  Erma was way ahead of her time, snickering at domestic servitude and bucking the system... refusing to succumb to the pressures of the "girl watchers" and acknowledging the bittersweet side of motherhood.  She rocked then, and she still inspires me now.  Because for all our progress, things haven't changed all that much for mothers.  Even pioneer mothers couldn't go to the outhouse without small hands knocking on the door.

And today, just when I needed it most, Julie channeled the Queen Mother herself and delivered me some serious TLC.  And you want a girlfriend like her when you've had one of those weeks.  Better, you want to be a girlfriend like Julie to a friend who's had one of those weeks.  (You know, like when the lice brigades infiltrate the Preschool.  Or when your husband... well, like I said.  Nevermind.)

So thank you, Julie, again.  And cheers to you, Erma... I hope your afterlife has been a bowl of cherries.   Because you lifted a lot of girlfriends out of the pits.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Confessions of an Imperfect Mother

Let’s hit the Powder Room, Ladies.  Today: motherhood.  Even if you’re not one, listen and learn.

My plan was to rock it.  I’d wanted it since 3rd grade, strolling my “Chrissy” doll around the neighborhood.  Motherhood. I was destined for it.

Growing up in the 70’s, I admired Jan Brady.  She artfully managed her brood with steady calm, doling out advice and homemade cookies.  She always looked cute in her stylish plaid, too.

Jan made it look so easy.  But then, she was a TV mom with a housekeeper and an adoring husband.  My life looks a bit different from hers - and I’m not just talking about the polyester.

I wouldn’t say I’ve become the perfect mother in my na├»ve mind’s eye, eternally patient and poised, always prepared with band-aids and emergency granola bars in my purse.  (More like, I’ve got a crumpled napkin and I can dig out a few lint-covered mints in my purse!)  Like most moms, I can seamlessly cook dinner, scan homework and resolve sibling warfare while cataloguing my workload by priority.  All in all, not bad.  I’m a good enough mom.


I never did quite measure up to my own standards, and there was a time I felt serious guilt over it.  I obsessed and worried and stressed over every decision I made… and felt terrible that some days I just couldn’t muster much passion for one more game of Chutes and Ladders.  I adored my kids, but no one really tells you the rigors associated with mothering after the new-baby euphoria fades.

As a new mother I felt similarly as a newlywed; blissfully unaware my passion for my new role and for my precious brood would simmer.  Totally unaware I’d wake up one day and the sweet, chirping voice I’d heard from myself had taken on a bit of an edge.  That the doting mommy I once was, consumed by my children, obsessed with doing it all by the book… well, she’d been replaced. 

Mommy 2.0 is tougher.  A bit more so on my kids, a bit less so on myself.  More confident; wiser. I make mistakes, lots of them.  I yell at my kids.  When my husband drives me insane (so glad he rarely reads my blogs) I often fail to edit my responses in front of my kids.  But I also apologize for my mistakes.  I show my children that it’s ok to struggle, to fail, to cry, to yell, to have a full range of emotions. 

Mommies are human too, and while we may be able to explain the differences between a T-Rex and a Stegosaurus, we really don’t have all the answers.  My husband says we should never show a chink in our armor (don’t tell him I told you that), but I disagree.  I’m modeling for my children what it means to walk in the world and respond to its demands, including theirs.  Sometimes the world has to wait, and so do they.

I’m a different mom now - a seasoned one.  Good enough to know I’m doing OK, humble enough to know I can do better. 

So Happy Mother’s Day to me.  And to you.  I might not be a perfect one, but I just got a card where my brood called me the best mom in the world.  Yours probably feel the same way.  Just for today, let’s let them believe it.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Life, Standing Next to the Dishwasher

It’s the title of the book I’m writing in my head 24/7.  I’d probably have finished it by now, if, well, if I just wasn’t tethered to the dishwasher.  Seems not so much has changed since Erma’s day; with all our advances, we still spend plenty of time in the kitchen.  (Erma Bombeck that is.  She’s my hero… finding humor and camaraderie in her domestic servitude.)

I spend a lot of time here by my dishwasher, fielding long division questions, scanning recipes, wiping counters, and loading and unloading the blasted thing day and day out.  (Sorry, foremothers, because I know you would have killed for an electronic dishwasher to do the scrubbing for you. I apologize for complaining!)  The kitchen carnage left behind from 3 kids and a husband who loves to cook (again, I should be roasted for complaining) is relentless, I tell you.

For a very, very long time I’ve filed my relationship with the dishwasher under, “drudgery.”  I’d rather do about 10 million other things.  But every Princess who weds her dashing Prince discovers she’s still destined for Cinderella’s life after she reaches her brand new castle, full of responsibilities.  Like cleaning the royal “thrones.” 

I truly want to be grateful for my blessings… I mean, all this cleaning proves my life is an abundant one.  Still, dealing with the dishwasher is just plain mind numbing.   And even though I’m delegating dishwasher time to my kids these days, it will be years before they achieve real proficiency.  Years, I tell you.  And so even as their labor provides some emancipation, I’ve got work to do, teaching the fine art of ensuring oatmeal crust is scraped before loading.

I admire the Quakers for believing that every mundane task is worthy of offering thanks to God.  That in doing so, they recognize their relative insignificance to the broader picture.  Hmmm… how to feel grateful about my time standing next to the dishwasher?  I know there’s something I can learn from finding significance in the daily round…

Oh, I know! 

Years ago I placed a group picture of my closest girlfriends just above my sink.  I look at that picture every single day, and am reminded of just how blessed I am for the gift of unfailing friendship.  I know they, too, stand at their dishwashers day in and day out, serving their families, and serving God in the process.  Looking at that picture reminds me that I am just one in a long line of women who’ve underwritten the fabric of our society for centuries.  And I feel satisfied about this work.  And it is without a doubt, work.

How’s that?

It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it.  I may as well learn to take pleasure in the contribution it makes to the Kingdom, and to my family.  Now if they’d just learn to scrape that oatmeal first…. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

No. There, I said it… and You Can too!

I can’t be the only one.  The words, “sure, I can do that!” tumble from my mouth; but inside, I might cringe.  Really?  Even though I’m barely keeping my head above water I’m agreeing to yet another commitment?   

Yes.  Because I can’t say no.

I’ve always had to cope with my penchant for saying yes even when I really, really should have said no.  I couldn’t say no to boys when I was 16; I couldn’t say no to my girlfriends when they wanted to skip school; I couldn’t say no to one more hour at the club even when I should’ve been studying for exams.  And today, I can’t bear to say no to the opportunities, invitations and requests that come my way, even when I'm clearly in the weeds.   When I say no to my kids I’m often consumed with guilt.  Why is that?

For me, I think my yes-woman tendencies are tied to my people-pleasing nature.  I want everyone to like me.  To find I am helpful, agreeable, generous or capable.  That I'm a fun mom, a loyal friend, a go-getter with a servant's heart.  If I say no, am I admitting I can’t handle one more thing?  If I turn down an opportunity, will I get another?  Will I make someone mad?  Will they hold it against me forever and curse the day I was born? 

My husband jokes that he’s the only person on earth who gets a no from me.  I really hate to admit he’s right, but he’s hit the nail on the head.  When I say yes to one person, it almost always means I have to turn down something, or someone.  And since I can’t let my kids down, very often, he gets the short end of the stick when it comes to my time and energy.  And what will I have gained if I’ve pleased someone else with a yes and disappointed my husband with a no?

He’s not the only one who suffers when I over-schedule myself with commitments.  I’ve said it before… I am a natural multi-tasker, whirling dervish, Type - A kind of gal.  I love it when my fingers are in all sorts of pies… it makes my life interesting and exciting.  But there have been times when I’ve taken on so much that I can’t sleep at night, or focus on conversations with my “babies” or brush my teeth without worrying I’ve wasted valuable time.  Sometimes, I have to say no so that I can keep the balls juggling seamlessly without dropping one.  Some of you are smiling.  I am the queen of dropped balls.  See where all the yeses can get you?

I’m not saying I’ve perfected the art of saying no.  It's likely I'll never become comfortable saying the n-word.  But occasionally when my hand’s been forced, I take a deep breath, prepare for the world to fall apart, and say it with as much grace as I can muster.  No.  And you know what?  The world hasn’t stopped spinning yet.  People still ask me to do favors, sit on committees, take on projects and go to parties.  And when my life is in balance, it’s just so very sweet to say yes, and mean it. 

Just ask my husband.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Happiest Place on Earth? A Tricked out RV… Really!

Like Robin Williams said in the movie, “if you really want to find out about yourself, put your family in a RV for a week and travel across the country.”  A girlfriend bristled at the idea and said, “I wouldn’t want to be stuck in an RV with Matthew McConaughey for a week, much less with people expected me to deliver clean underwear!” 

I really love girlfriends who speak the cold, hard truth about family life.   But the kids were sold on our plan, and we decided to make some memories in favor of airplanes and room service. 

So we rented a big old RV, put way too much stuff in it and fled the suburbs.  Off to Disneyland and some beach-time in Southern California.  At least I could make breakfast with a different view!

Honestly, I thought I’d return with a treasure trove of stories of misadventures.  Our family of 5 is pretty tight, but let’s just say we have some, um, high maintenance personalities.  I’m not naming names, but you know I’m not one of them! J

Sorry to disappoint.  No tales of roadside breakdowns, Disneyland meltdowns, wacky travel companions or sewage hook-ups gone awry.  Actually, we rocked.

Mind you, we’ve determined a “vacation” entails white sand, blue waters and not having one single person asking you to cut their chicken.  A “trip” is what you take with kids.  But we’ve had our share of trips where we returned exhausted from all of our “quality time” together, angry that the kids didn’t get along or drop to their knees and thank us profusely for springing them from the hum drum.  (I know.  They’ll do that when they’re about 30.  At least they better!)

But on this trip, the kids rallied.  Helped each other.  Played together.  Mapped out the rides at Disney, complained minimally during the astronomically long lines.  Yes; they did beg for treats; but we broke the rules and scooped up the giant lollipops, Mickey-ears hats and cotton candy.  We spoiled them, but they earned it.  So did we.  It’s really, really fun to say yes… to live with abandon for a few days.  I mean, we were visiting Happiest Place on Earth! 

And for me, our visit to Disney earned Happiest Place on Earth status because I really enjoyed watching my kids get along, work together and enjoy each other’s company.

That is of course, until we arrived home and the squabbles started. Suddenly, long lines and $5 sodas seemed like a vacation.

Your turn.  Tell me your vacation from heaven or he** story!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

(No) Fear Factor

In the wake of the devastation in Japan, I read in the newspaper the real risk to these broken people is worse than radiation. It’s the fear and anxiety associated with radiation.

I’m staying in prayer this week for the people of Japan and their neighbors, and I’m contemplating fear.  What do you fear the most?

Me, I’m a recovering scare-dy cat. For as long as I can remember, my personal fear factor jumped off the charts. Everything from closet-dwelling monsters to geometry to the crippling dread that my children might be snatched right under my nose …you name it; I feared it.

Most of my fears never materialized. I’ll give you just one example. Before the babies came along, an employer required passing a killer test I just knew I was destined to fail. Who did I think I was to take on this kind of job? I was terrified. I studied like a madwoman on double shot espresso and was certain, certain I'd to fail. Leave in tears with my scare-dy cat tail tucked.

Not only did I pass the test; I earned the highest score in the class.

I can’t say I learned from that experience right away. I could tell you so many stories like it.  I tip toed through my life, certain the sky was falling.  I didn't take risks for fear of failure; but I didn't learn much either.  Until I was forced into it.

Then, a few years ago, the bottom dropped, for real.  Don't want to go into detail here … but what I can tell you is this. I endured stomach wrenching, immobilizing, searing fear. It brought me to my knees, and made everything else I feared seem innocuous by comparison.  It knocked me down hard… for a season.

Funny thing about meeting up face to face with fear. You emerge... so. much. stronger. Once you stare fear straight in the eye, walk over its coals, heal and recover; well, you can allow the callouses that form to represent strength and mercy.  I'm not the anxiety - ridden person I once was.  But I'm stronger, and softer, at once.

Fear is empowering.  Facing it is a necessary component to growth, to success.  A wise woman once told me to do that which you fear most.  It works.

Now, I'm free from the constant need to protect myself against the shoe dropping.  Because it will.  But I don’t have to ruin today until that happens.

I still experience fear, but now I spank it, tell it to go to its room and think for awhile.  I can’t dwell in the house of fear anymore; I’ve got a life to live.

I don’t know how I would respond to sudden, seismic, cataclysmic fear, such as surviving the crushing events endured by the people of Japan. (Or losing a child, or facing my own mortality.) My prayer is they emerge with a renewed strength and vigor. And, that we each help in some small way. (Text Japan to 80888 and donate $10 to the Salvation Army’s relief efforts.) But I can draw inspiration from survivors. We are far more resilient than we realize.

The biggest fear I’ve got going? Traveling for a solid week in a tricked out, gas guzzling R.V. (did you see that movie?) with three lively, squabbling kids. We’re going to DISNEY! I can’t wait to get to the happiest place on earth. I'll let you know if I face my fear of driving that big rig.

Quote: A woman is like a teabag; you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water. -Eleanor Roosevelt

Dear Lord, You are my fortress and my shield. Dwell within me; help me to walk with confidence, compassion, kindness and strength.  Amen.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I'll Have the Guilt, Please

I had almost made my escape.

Our excursion carefully planned, one of my favorite "bestie's" and I anticipated a rare evening out together.  As usual, I ticked the mental list of responsibilities before we fled to the nearest restaurant featuring actual menus - the word, "happy" nowhere to be found.  Homework finished, check.  Dinner made, check.  Instruments practiced, check.  Toes washed, warm and ready for tuck-ins with Daddy, check.  Talking points readied, I anticipated a frosty mug and several hours of blissful girl-time.  Ah, the decadence!

Dashing out the door, I pried my big kids away from screen time for goodnight kisses.  The real test was getting past our yummy  4-year-old... our last hoorah with the "baby" years.  Foiled again.  She wrapped a fortress of pink polka dots around me and wailed, "don't leave me mommy!"

Enter the most powerful of all emotions.... mommy-guilt.  And I've got it in spades.

Now, at this point, the logical section of what is left of my brain, where the wise, calm, seasoned mother resides, launched into  practiced reminders.  Stay strong.  You deserve a break.  You're a better mom when you take time to nourish your soul, blow off some steam, connect with your friends, excavate Diane, that capable girl everyone counts on to get the job done.  But even the wise mother in me was powerless against my baby girl's quivering lips and brimming eyes.  Extracting her from my unsteady legs, I held her fiercely and then, mustering every ounce of my steely reserves, left.  But not without taking the guilt along for the ride.

I think this is the common denominator between so many mothers.  We all relate to feeling guilty, stretched as we are.  Doesn't really matter what choices we've made; working moms feel guilty for not being present every single minute; stay-home moms feel guilty over frustration with burnout and isolation.  Most moms I know wrestle with guilt over just about every aspect of our jobs... if our children squabble, surely we must not have taught them enough about self control.  When our kids get sick, we blame ourselves for not sneaking enough Vitamin C into their 3 squares.   We feel it wash over when we just want to finish a project for a client while fending off whomever is nipping at our heels for attention.   When the house appears as if Armageddon's arrived; when our husband takes last place on the totem pole; when we fantasize about silence and bubble baths and hot meals and killer jeans... and well, you get the picture.  What's up with that?

I'm wondering about the origins of mother-guilt.  Does guilt reside within us by design, a mechanism that serves to ensure we respond to our relentless demands?  To spring out of warm sleep for months on end to nourish a newborn?  To forgo lazy Saturday mornings to take in the rounds of Little League?  To keep bedside vigil during a bout with the flu?  Check under the bed for monsters for the 100th time?  Save cash toward college tuition instead of buying a those AWESOME new jeans?  (Sorry; I've got a thing for jeans ... )  Maybe there is a method to guilt's madness.  Maybe there's a place for it, but I must make my penchant for guilt behave.  It must be disciplined, harnessed.  Taught to get out of my way and let me take a run, finish some work, or get out of the house without the pesky pangs to which I've become accustomed.  I've got to remember to mother myself, to be as gentle and loving and patient with myself as I try to be with my precious brood.

My own mother's advice, I'm certain, would be to cut myself some slack.  After all, she'd feel pretty guilty if she didn't teach me otherwise. :)

Your turn!

In honor of Erma:  The lullaby is the spell whereby the mother attempts to transform herself back from an ogre to a saint. -James Fenton

Prayer:  Gracious Father; remind me that like you, I give, nurture and sustain life.  Help me to remember that you are pleased with my efforts; move me to reside in your perfect, unconditional love.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Join the Brownie Rebellion

Something struck me watching the Oscars last night - yes, I admit to my cheesy devotion to awards shows, which is about as close to glitz and glamour as this mama is going to get - and it wasn't just the silliness of such self-congratulation.  (That I willingly took part in.)  It was the women.

What I noticed was a sameness among them.  Most of the actresses looked like carbon copies of one another... minus the variations in gowns.  Non-existent waistlines (except for Natalie Portman in her glowing, pregnant glory), polished skin, chiseled cheekbones, taut upper arms, graceful necks and perfectly styled hair.  I know, I know; it's their job to look glamorous, an effort through which we can live vicariously and prepare our own acceptance speeches.  (On that note; wasn't the King's Speech director adorable in thanking his mother?)  But if that's the ideal, let me just say... I'm bored to death.  I like women with laugh lines; I love hair that's a bit disheveled; a cool, understated dress. Call me crazy, but I'll take my real, every day, every woman look over theirs.  Mainly because... well, I love brownies.  I love to swim under the baking sun; I love laughing until I can feel the wrinkles creasing.  And it shows.

Now, don't get mad at me here.  It's true;  I was blessed with a high metabolism,  but I have body issues like every woman I know.   According to my evil twin sister's voice in my head - we'll call her Dierdre - my calves are way too skinny, my stomach's too squishy, and my liver spots are, well, too many.  Come to think of it, I never once met a woman -  even those raised by mothers who marched with NOW - who loved her body.  Who didn't obsess about some aspect of her weight, skin, hair, hips, thighs, backside, whatever.  But the older I get, the more I look at my body with reverence.  It was created not for adornment, but for enjoyment.  To fulfill a purpose.  I've got three of them to prove it, my perfect little excuses for eating cupcakes.  I want them to remember their mom licking all the excess icing off their slices of cake, instead of turning away an opportunity to score the serious pleasure of chocolate.

I'm all for heathy eating habits, and I enjoy my week-end runs.  But these days, I exercise to blow off the steam created by the endless demands of my life, not to achieve some impossible picture of myself.  So I can drink red wine (in moderation of course!) and live my life fully in it's endless possibilities.  Won't you join me, and love your body instead of finding fault with it?  Admire it's power, resilience, strength and beauty.  Let's leave the obsessing to the starlets; their colossal paychecks command an effort to look gorgeous every minute of the day.  As for the rest of us, let's revel in this... we are "fearfully and wonderfully made."   To jump in the pool and mess up our hair.  To give birth to the next generation and do serious damage to our tight tummies.  To scale mountains, serve the needy, write a book, get that promotion. To eat brownies.

Your turn!!

"There is no cosmetic for beauty like happiness." - Lady Blessington

Friday, February 25, 2011

We're all Sisters in Here

So, I've got the answer to the age old question.  Why do women always visit the restroom together?  (Picture two guys sitting at a restaurant table, shaking their heads.)  Well, allow me to solve the mystery.  It’s the perfect excuse to snag a quick break and “plug in” to our instant camaraderie… where we effortlessly trade compliments and labor stories, relationship advice and lipstick....  fix a menacing bra-strap or release a few welled-up tears.  Or just take a moment to re-calibrate so we can tackle the world once again.  Mothers, professionals, great-grandmothers... doesn't matter.  Ours is a common bond; we're just trying to live up to our potential despite that nagging voice in our heads.  The one that insists we're not quite capable enough, smart enough, thin enough, whatever enough.  Not in here, ladies.  This is our sanctuary.  

Of course, gentleman (emphasis intended) are welcome to enter and learn.  If you knock first.  And enter with reverence.   This is our space.  Listen, learn and share.

Welcome to The Powder Room.  Jump in on the conversation.  Get inspired.  Giggle like a middle-schooler.  Blow off some steam.  Fend off the small hands pounding at the door…  blow off the dirty dishes or management reports for 5 more minutes.  This is your time, my time, our time together.  Come on in; there's no line!