And for once I was SuperMom

Sunday, April 30, 2017


So there I was in the locker room of my local YMCA, and I hear a voice behind me say,
"I was just on the treadmill and the girl next to me was flying."
And I thought, 'oh geez, was that me?'  I tried to remember who was next to me on the other treadmill.  I couldn't remember.  The disappointed voice kept talking,
"She was doing like a 7, and she wasn't even sweating."
I thought, 'Well, that couldn't have been me, I sweat like a...a something that sweats a lot...' As I passed her on my way back to my locker I smiled, just in case it was me.  I didn't want to be the source of her discontent.  I didn't want to be the person that made her feel bad.  Everyone should be able to exercise to their ability and feel good about themselves.

Now I've been on both sides of this fence.  I've been the girl eying everyone else as they pass her on the track, and I've been the girl 'flying'  on the treadmill.

Here's something I want you to all know, never once have I ever thought, 'I'm going to run fast on this treadmill to make the person next to me feel bad.'
Never once have I ever thought, 'I'm going to throw myself down and do one more burpee to make the woman behind me feel out of shape.'
Never once have I ever thought, 'I'm going to lift heavier weight to make other people in the gym feel weak.'
Not even once.
I couldn't remember if she was the person next to me on the treadmill because I was focused on my own run.  Hear that?  'Because I was focused on my own run.'

This kind of comparing hurts everyone.

If we constantly compare ourselves to each other in ways that make ourselves feel bad we all lose.  If I know that my success makes you feel bad, I can't be openly proud of what I've done.
If you're looking around you comparing yourself to the other people who are 'doing better than you,' well then, you've already lost.

We've all done it, the sideways glance into the mirror.  The frustrated pat on some part of our body that we hate.  The 'go away' pat.  The 'I hate you' pat.  The 'I wish you were different' pat.  After a Spin class I did that sideways look, and I remember patting my belly.  That part of my body that has been stretched and pulled to produce babies, that part of my body that has never been the same after the birth of those babies.  I remember that angry pat, but what was different about that pat was that immediately after I corrected myself.  I thought, 'Lara, you just put yourself through a workout that would make some people throw up.  Be thankful for what your body is capable of.'  The revelation rang deep in me.  Don't focus on what I look like, but be thankful for what my body can do.

Exercise is one of the best things you can do for yourself.  Hours on the treadmill, weights lifted, time on the mat, it's all money in the bank.  All of it will help you feel good about yourself.  All of it will keep disease away.  If your only motivation is to look a certain way you will never win.  If your motivation is to feel good and chose health over illness you will always win.

Do you feel good after you exercised?
Than you've won.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

New Year's Resolutions

Here's how 2016 went for me:

I started the year with the New Year's resolutions:
1. Don't wear pants with a button until February.
2.  Drink as much coffee as I want.
3.  Give away more produce from my garden.
4. Try to eat more balanced meals.

I started my Group Exercise Certification.  So I could start teaching group exercise classes and work at the gym.

Then (about a week later):
I found out I was pregnant.

Then (a few weeks later):
I applied for a job as a teacher, at a community art program.  I saw the ad in my Facebook feed, and thought, while rubbing my growing belly, this is bad timing, but I should apply for it anyway.  I got the job.

Then (a few weeks later):
I was promoted Program Manager of that community art program.

I worked really hard.  I made a lot of spreadsheets.  I am not sure that anyone read them.

I left that job.  Because it was a mess.

I voted for Bernie Sanders in the primaries.
I got Hillary Clinton as a candidate.
I voted for Hillary Clinton in the election.
I got Donald Trump as a President-elect.

I had that baby.

2016 was not what I expected.  I did not plan on having another child.  I did not plan on getting and leaving a job.  But these things happened.
Scott predicted that my supervisor at that art program would not be there much longer.  I remember his exact words,
"He's not long for that job," I remember thinking, 'that sounds right,' but not being able to trust that it would happen.
When that supervisor actually got let go, Scott pointed out that he called that event.  And I couldn't articulate why I hadn't fully been able to think that he was right.  Then finally the words,
"I didn't think it would happen, because what's supposed to happen, often doesn't happen," tumbled out of my mouth.  Scott just nodded, he understood.

This year felt like a series of that.  Not that they are all bad things that happened, those things that weren't supposed to happen.
That baby wasn't supposed to happen.  But here he is, unexpected.  I don't feel like writing all the platitudes about what a blessing he is.  I knew he would be.  Once I found out I was pregnant I thought, 'let's just get this over with and give me the kid.'  Now, the pregnancy is over, and I am healing.  He is here, and he's delightful, and chubby, and gorgeous.

I started with my New Year's Resolutions.  I hate New Year's Resolutions.  Just another opportunity to find ourselves wanting and set up goals that we will fail at executing.  Goals that we will white knuckle towards, goals that our hands will loosen on, and we look at our empty palms and think, 'I didn't do it again.'  I tried to make my goals positive, not life changing or painful.  Fun.  Funny.  Not ways to improve my personhood, maybe just a few things to make my life more entertaining.

Let's revisit them:
1.  Don't wear pants with a button until January.  This is because I believe that January should be renamed Pajamuary.  January is the worst.  It is cold.  It is month long hangover after the holidays.  It should be withstood wearing only pajamas.  I have to admit that I failed at this goal.  I wore jeans at some point during that month.
2.  Drink as much coffee as I want.  Did it.
3.  Give away more produce from my garden.  The garden was not as successful this year.  Which is kind of what you'd expect from someone who's gardening philosophy is basically, 'let's stick this in some dirt and see what happens.'  I almost didn't do the garden when I found out I was pregnant.  Then I thought, 'it will make me move and it will make me eat vegetables.'  The garden accomplished that, I moved and ate vegetables through my pregnancy.  I would like some credit for that.
4.  Try to eat more balanced meals.  I was actually able to do this.  I added fruit to my breakfasts and started turning my salads into a more balanced bowl of whole grains and protein.
Did you read that?  I ate salads while I was pregnant.  I would like credit for that.

So let's try again, for this year, for 2017, here are my New Year's Resolutions:
1. Don't wear pants with a button until February.  I think I will make it this year.  None of my pants with buttons fit.
2.  Give away more from my garden.
3.  Get outside more.  Pregnancy is a funny thing.  The process makes you slow down.  Settle inward.  I didn't leave the house for much of the fall.  I needed to, but my family and myself suffered.  So that's a goal.  Despite the weather that New England can drum up for us, we're going to get outside.
4.  Heal well from my pregnancy.  Give myself time and be gentle with myself.  Don't focus on appearance, but health.  I want my back to stop hurting and I want to feel strong and energetic again.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Letter to an Insomniac

'Oh, well, I just couldn't sleep last night,' I said.
Her eyes grew wide.
I suddenly realized that I was speaking to someone who had never had trouble sleeping for one night in her life, ever.
I guess, I thought that everyone, from time to time, has a hard time falling asleep.
Even my incredibly emotionally stable husband, sometimes, can't his get his body to fall.
Even my lovely sweet friend, sometimes, can't get herself to stop thinking.
Even my strong brother, sometimes, can't relax in a new place.

I remember that first it happened to me, right after I had a child.  Those first few weeks of such extreme sleep deprivation. So tired all the time.  Even the most awake of us can fall asleep at the drop of a head, with newborn cradled in arms.  I remember my eyes, open, surrounded by a fog of dark, and thinking that adulthood just keeps on.  Even when you haven't slept in days, that sometimes your brain just keeps you awake.  Worries don't go away just because you're too tired to deal with them.

I remember those weeks that it happened to me in college.  So tired, that I think I went a little insane.  Nights built on nights, until I wasn't falling asleep until the sun came up.  The cruelty of those first bars of light.  The sandy feeling of tired eyelids.  Feeling crazy.  Feeling like something was wrong with me because I couldn't let go.

As adulthood marched on I came to know that sometimes you just can't let go.

Sometimes it's as simple as not having any time to yourself.  There's a song lyric, 'do you like you.'  When you're alone, do you like you?  Unfortunately I do.  Sometimes in the wake of children and husbands and guests, I don't get to see me.  I can't check in and think my thoughts.  Then when I lie down next to my husband at night, those thoughts come, they seep out from the space between my brain and my skull.  They climb on a carousel, that brings up some emotions I didn't know I had.  Or sometimes they just keep twirling.
Then I'm not tired.  Those thoughts are twirling.  Those emotions are brewing.  Or not.

Tonight, with glass of red wine to my left, feet stretched out before me, surrounded by a calm blanket of dark, I think I just miss me.

I want to go back to that young woman who was just so tired and wrung out and say, 'hey, hang out with yourself.  You're pretty cool.  Nothing is wrong with you.  Sometimes we just didn't take are of ourselves and our body can't let go until our mind does.'
I want to take her hand and say, 'that mind carousel is normal.  So many people have that.  In fact I kind of worry if someone hasn't had it.  Take some time. Get out of bed.  Climb on that ride.  Listen to the music.  Ride it around a few times.  Let it unravel.  You will sleep.'

So tonight I'll let it unravel.
Maybe I'll sleep.
Or maybe I won't.
Maybe I'll just hang out with myself.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Stolen Time

I'm left with the corners.

Some people love the corners.
The corners of the brownies.  The two sides of crunchy.
The corner piece of the pizza. That one that is mostly crust.  I would like to figure out a pizza that is all crust.  I would eat that.
The corner of the couch.  Pillows supporting you on both sides.
The corner of a child's blanky.  That piece that got rubbed and loved until there was nothing left.

I like some corners.
But not only corners.

It's the corners of my life that are left to me.
The end of the day.
When all I really want to do is sit on the couch (maybe even in that corner) and watch Mad Men with my husband.  Those are the moments left to me.  To drag myself into my studio and magically create.

Gracious, Lara, when you put it like that...
Well, I didn't realize it until I wrote it...

It's so hard as a mother.  So many needs crying out.  So many mouths.  So many people that you actually want to be around.
I keep learning things about my friends.
'I did an Ironman once.'
'I was a ballerina.'
'I hiked the Appalachian Trail by myself.'
'I raced outrigger canoes.'
I hear these awesome feats that my friends accomplished and I am proud of them.  The things we did before our time was taken from us.

In the book Out of the Silent Planet, C.S. Lewis paints a picture of a race of bear like alien creatures that only have sex for a short period of their life.  Sex is used for procreation and pleasure, but when their procreative years are over they stop having sex.  (The planet that they live does not have any concept or understanding of sin, all of the creatures live in harmony with each other and themselves.) One of these aliens explains to the main character, Ransom, that things are best experienced when you are given a chance to remember them.  This moment in literature has reverberated in my brain for over ten years, I read Out of the Silent Planet in a literature class in college.  The idea that you only do something for a short period of time and then cherish that particular thing in your mind afterwards, was a huge paradigm shift for me.  If something is good shouldn't you be able to do that all your life?  Especially sex?

Well, with the advent of modern birth control, we don't have to face the same choices that these bear like aliens did, but there are many things in life that I think it's best to wrap this idea around.
Sadly I think that some of the awesome things that we did in our youth are those things.  I was the one who raced outrigger canoes before I had children.  I loved it, I would spend three hours on the water for three days a week.  I was probably in the best shape of my life.  Then I moved to Chicago for graduate school.  When I left I had a sneaky feeling that I would never have an opportunity to race again.  As of yet, I haven't.  I have either lived in a place that was landlocked or just simply, haven't had the time.  I've been able to fondly remember racing; that summer when I was so strong and probably did most of the sun damage I have on my body.

Some things though, we just can't let go.  No matter how many babies need to be bounced.  No matter how many floors need to be swept.  No matter now many people ask of us.
We jam those things in the corners.  Right now, my children are in bed.  My house is somewhat picked up.  My husband is on the phone with his parents.  So I take this time to let some of that pressure that has built up out.  Like that first psst when you pop the top on a soda can.  Just let's the pressure out, so we don't go crazy.  A little peace of time to remind us of who we are, of who we once were.
An hour writing.
A long run...without the jog stroller.
Twenty minutes reading a book on the beach.
Sometimes you're not even alone.
Pushing off on a rock, up the trail.  Strong legs connecting with earth.
Warm sun on your back.  Anytime.
Bare feet in grass.  Always.
Sometimes it's even just looking at your children and remembering your childhood.  Their eyes seeing what yours once did.
Braiding clovers into crowns.
Swinging so hard that you think your feet will touch the sky.

You can roll these moments over in your mind, cherish them.  And every now and then you get to do something a little awesome, all by yourself.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Yesterday was Easter

Yesterday was Easter.
I didn't post yesterday.  I was too busy just being present.
I don't have any fantastic photos.  I was too busy just being present.

We rose early, before sunrise.  We drove to an outcropping of rock that overlooks the Atlantic, and two churches met and worshiped God for the miracle of His son.  I wish I could say the service was lovely.  It was not earth shattering.  I was largely distracted by hefting a thirty six pound five year old off the ground.  Standing, wrapped in a pink fleece blanket, and looking at the backsides of adults didn't seem particularly worshipful to her.
Can't say that I blame her.
The service was different, though.  A simple change of plans.  Instead of in church we meet outside and gazed at his creation.  Instead of a comfortable nine o'clock time, we met at daybreak.
I can get behind that.
The weather was cold.  We were nipped and chilled.  And maybe a bit more alive than inside the safe walls of a church?
But the sun showed up; bright pink, bright orange, and lovely.
My first east coast sunrise.

Afterwards we all made our way to the church building and enjoyed a pancake breakfast.  Pancakes came out slowly, cooked quickly to feed so many hungry and waiting mouths.  Parents waited, fed children first, hosts waited, fed guests first.  No one complained.  This was Easter after all.  We eventually all left full and warmed up.  Sharing this day with our family that we picked, eating with people that we've chosen to do life alongside.  Every church service should start with a meal.

We were home by eight in the morning.  We took our time, played with our kids.  Mid morning we hid eggs while the girls were distracted upstairs.
No one ever tells you that watching and hiding is more fun than doing.

One moment made me rethink it all; the first time my eldest ever did an egg hunt, she didn't seem to get it.  She would refuse the eggs that she didn't like, put them back and look for the 'right' ones.  She didn't end up with very many, I was worried she would be distraught when she saw how little she had compared to the kids that had gone full boar.  She wasn't bothered.  This year?  She was cutthroat.  Cutting her sister off, shaking with the urgency of getting as many as possible.  I thought, 'are we just teaching greed?'
Maybe we are.

Their baskets were simple, a few chocolate eggs, and a paper carrot filled with jelly beans.  And a craft; a ceramic bunny to paint.  They were so excited to paint those little bunnies.  That I did not expect.

A lunch of deviled eggs and salad.  The girls were so excited to peel the eggs that we had dyed earlier in the week.  That I did not expect.

I took my time cooking scalloped sweet potatoes and bacon wrapped green beans.  Celebratory food, a little more butter, a little more sugar than normal.
We headed over to a friend's house and ate and drank more than any one person should in one day.  The few of us who don't have family in the area.
This is the only thing that rings disappointing to me.  This makes me feel a bit like the leftovers.  That my family is gathering on one coast and we are here.  Our holidays with our girls have come to feel too quiet.  I miss the jokes my brothers would sling at me.  I miss the fussing that any of my parents would do over me.  I miss the extra hands to make work light.  I miss the extra mouths to eat the food, and celebrate a little too much butter and a little too much sugar.

The day was quiet, thoughtful, celebratory, out of the ordinary, but not over the top.  No stress.  No panic.  No unrealized Pinterest moments, ruined by children, being, you know, children.  I missed my family.  But I dug deeper into some good friendships.  My children got to do things they don't normally, and got to eat an inordinate amount of sweets.
So did I for that matter.

Saturday, April 4, 2015


Easter usually sneaks up on me.
Um, didn't you give up something for Lent?
Yes, but Lent is so long...
I seem to remember other posts about holidays sneaking up on you.
Look, I need due dates.  How do you think I got through school?
Um, the date of the holiday is a due date.
I mean, I need exact assignments.
Buy stuff for your kids?
Look, okay I just was not on the ball this year.
You're never on the ball?
I was never any good at sports....

Easter usually does sneak up on me.  Maybe it's that lack of spring flavored lattes at Starbucks.  Or that there are no radio stations that switch over to playing Easter music for six weeks.  This has always seemed a little unbalanced to me.  Isn't the death and resurrection of Christ just as miraculous as his birth?  Is it because a birth is more fun than a death?
I can see that.
Maybe we need something to really celebrate in winter.  So our culture turned the beginning of the cold and dark season into a major fanfare, so we would forget what was really about to come.  Easter comes at the advent of a something that is already a celebration.  Spring is a celebration in and of itself.  The warmer temperatures bring relief.  The little crocuses peeking out from the brown ground bring hope.  The nubbly buds on trees astound us that nature knows the turn of the clock better than we do.

Tomorrow is Easter.
There wasn't six weeks of cookie making.  There wasn't six weeks of parties.  There wasn't six weeks of shopping.
All of that preparation gave me a colossal Christmas hangover.  Then the actual day came, I was left with this sense of, 'that was all for this?'
I think we miss the point.
This particular winter has been hard and long.  We still have snow on much of the ground.  Ground that we normally would hide eggs on.  Ground that would normally be bringing forth new life is still frozen.  I didn't bother buying sunny happy expensive Easter dresses this year.  In New England a sundress isn't quite yet appropriate.  We dress in clothes that don't match the weather, pose before bare trees, and declare that it is spring.  I didn't feel like playing this year.

Tomorrow is Easter
There was some quick planning for dinner with friends.  A cake was made.  Eggs were stuffed.  Baskets are filled with candy and toy bunnies.  Coffee is in the pot, ready to be brewed early.
Tomorrow we'll rise earlier than normal, dress warmly, and sing as the sun rises over the Atlantic.
I don't think I'll have a hangover.
I don't think I'll be disappointed in the 'magic' of the day.  I don't think I'll wonder if this was all it was for.
I think it will feel just right.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Cleaner Things

It was late, the coffee pot was gurgling away.  A late night cup of coffee, to keep me awake to do creative things?  Nope, instead of the robust brown smell of coffee steaming out, a thin stingy smell of vinegar and stale coffee bit at my nostrils.  I was cleaning the machine, that brings me so much life, a small-ish scoop of baking soda in the basket and a splash of white vinegar in the water, hit brew, and the liquid that is brewed is far from drinkable.
I've used that grade school science experiment kaboom of baking soda and vinegar to clean out the blocked holes in my shower head as well.  The pop seems particularly effective as getting rid of hard water deposits.  Or the scrub brush I jammed in the holes afterward were effective at cleaning hard water deposits, who will ever know?

That particular night I was bit heady from reading too many blogs that espouse the wonderful combination of baking soda and vinegar as a cleaning powerhouse.  I picked up my kettle, if it worked on coffee pots, why not kettles?  
A few minutes later while I was scrubbing the kettle with real soap, with toxic bubbly phosphates and all, I thought about all the times that these all natural cleaners don't work and how, sometimes, you just need some bleach.

Like the time our High Efficiency clothes washer started to smell bad.  Which meant that, you guessed it, our clothes started to smell bad.  I, sheepishly, Googled this problem, what was I doing wrong?  Are we that dirty?  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it is a fairly common problem, there is even products created to abate that smell.  Being wary of spending extra money on a cleaning product that might not work I clicked around until I found a blog that told me I could just use white vinegar and run the machine on hot.  I thought, 'that's cheap, I have vinegar, can't hurt anything.'  So I poured half a gallon of white vinegar in there and hit the hot button.  One cycle later our washer no longer smelled.

But then there was the time I made orange vinegar.
Every time I peel an orange I look at the peels and think, this is a valuable resource.
Seriously Lara?
You've no idea how cheap I am.
And I love the way orange zest tastes.
Or candied orange peel.
Really?  I thought only old people liked that?
Yep.  And me.
The last time I was climbing the stairs to clean our upstairs bathroom, the handles of the four different cleaners that I require for a clean bathroom were cutting into my fingers, and I thought, 'there has to be a better way.'
Then I was looking at that orange peel, I think I must have Googled 'how to make cleaner from orange peels.'  Then I found orange vinegar.  The next time I climbed those stairs with all my bottles, a new bottle of homemade orange vinegar was among them.  I eagerly sprayed it on my sink and wiped away.
A few moments later when I was re-wiping the sink with actual bathroom cleaner, I thought, 'maybe this isn't the wonder cleaner that the blogger promised....I remember using vinegar to clean things when I was a kid....what were those things...?  Tile floors...but we only have tile in the....BATHROOMS!!!'
Eureka, I may have found one purpose for that stuff....

I'd like to wean myself off of those disposable Clorox wipes.  The first time I saw them I thought, 'those are so bad for the environment, how could anyone use those?!?!'  Judgment.  
Then I potty trained.  
And, look, you just throw the poop away.  It's all clean and all gone.  It's like that trashy TV show.  you just can't stop.  You know it's bad for you, but you just can't look away.  I keep buying those wipes, and thinking, 'I'll stop when they're all potty trained.'  Or, 'I'll stop when they stop spilling milk at the table.'
I am never going stop.

Still every time I open the cabinets and look at all my different sprays for every different surface, I think, 'there has to be a better way.'
They're just cleaning supplies, Lara.
Yeah, but something about ALL of them bothers me.
Yes, I mean fifty years ago we weren't using disposable wipes for everything!  Right?
Yeah, but I bet if Grandma had them she would've used them.
Maybe.  I've found that some people that have gone before us are much more wise about seeing the consequences.  The big consequences.  Like all the bottles from these cleaning products piled up in landfills.  Like all the toxins that we're wiping over all our surfaces.  All the silly excess, two cleaners where one would work just fine.  Complex products for one specific purpose.
I suppose that just bothers me.
During my semester abroad in college, I did a home stay in a remote village in Tanzania.  At the end of the week when we asked where to throw our little baggy of trash, from our baby wipes and q tips, our host father just motioned at the front yard.  There was no bin.  There was no trash in the yard.
We produced trash.  They, seemingly, didn't.
That stayed with me.
What other things do we have that aren't necessary?

Like when we have two pairs of shoes.  When we could have one.
When we produce more trash, by buying two things, when we could buy one.

If only that orange vinegar could wipe out my bathroom sink better....