Super

Super
And for once I was SuperMom

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Miraculous Christmas

It started with the ears.  I plucked them off while I was waiting for my mug of water to heat in the microwave.  I prefer the kettle, but our stove isn’t working yet.  I didn’t know you could devour a Mickey Mouse waffle in only three minutes.  A Christmas miracle?  Probably not, probably just gluttony and the gastronomical looseness of the holidays. 
We had moved into our home just three days prior to the holiday.  We had heat and electricity in most rooms, there were boxes and unpainted walls everywhere.  Our goal was to complete the living room before Christmas day.  There we sat, blankets over knees, on brown leather couches, children slamming and playing upstairs, in our ‘finished’ living room.  Walls painted, furniture set up, what it lacked for in lamp shades and art work it made up for in comfy seating.  The past few days of arranging and re-arranging (it’s good here, but it’s better here), finding (oh, there’s our dust ruffle), and cleaning, we had slowly taken one room from construction zone to home.  Tools banished to acceptable areas of the house, but dust and rubble creeping in from elsewhere, Scott and I would push back against the dust with wet rags and incredulity.  Where did this all come from?  Why are our hands black every time we come up from the basement? 
Lest you think we are silly for moving right before Christmas and are clucking your tongue at our ‘simmer in the stew of your own making’ stupidity, we didn’t plan it this way.  We had planned it in October, and then November, and then it was now or never.  Now came and we moved.  The timing has put a new spin on everything, enough paint to cover the trim in the living room; Christmas miracle!  Cooking spray for the waffle maker that I didn’t know I had; Christmas miracle!
Christmas Eve was Chinese takeout and ‘Charlie Brown’s Christmas.’  We wrapped gifts and then I started cutting in on the dining room,
“You’re going to paint?” Scott asked.  I needed something to keep my hands busy while I waited to talk to my brother about my father’s return from the hospital, he seems to be losing his year long battle with cancer.  Well into my second glass of wine and feeling that carelessness that one can only feel during late night art projects I tried to think of blessings that I could write on the walls, prayers written underneath the paint for generations to come.  All I could come up with was, ‘Eat, Drink, and Be Merry.’ A phrase that might be damning to the weight conscious.  ‘You will be blessed among women,’ kept popping up in my head, but as I am the matriarch of this house that seemed self centered.   
Scott woke me on Christmas morning with a light touch to my foot,
“The girls are awake,” I had told him that I needed him to wake me, I didn’t want to miss the looks on their faces.  I think I was too tired to notice.  Stockings were opened, new videos were watched, we took breaks to make Mickey Mouse waffles, and let the girls play with their toys.  One relative gave chickens in our name, I have wanted to give that gift before, but was uncertain how it would be received.  At first I felt mildly jipped, then I didn’t care, ‘good they need chickens more than I need another gift.’  I was pleasantly surprised at my reaction.  I was thankful and relieved. 
We napped through the afternoon.  Christmas day always surprises me with how low key it turns out to be.  All this fanfare so that we can sit around in our pajamas.  All this stress so that I can sleep the day away?  It always seems that we should be ramping up for so much more.  Maybe we need all that stress to feel like we deserve the day off. 
That evening I prepared our steak dinner by cooking in shifts on our electric skillet.  A side dish abandoned because it required baking, a feat I could not achieve with a broken stove.  Scott and I both poked at it, unplugged and re-plugged, it stayed resolutely dead.  Scott chuckled because I poured myself a glass of wine early, 
“Look if I’m going to do this,” a spatula pointed towards the skillet that is simmering brussel sprouts, “I’m gonna drink,” I declare.  He saves the dinner by producing our George Foreman grill.  We finish the day by tucking the girls away and watching Scott’s stocking stuffer, ‘Goldfinger.’

Unusual?  Yes.  Unusually quiet? Yes.  Necessarily so?  Yes.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Beauty Tips for the Haggard

"You look tired," I am getting so sick of people saying that to me, "is your daughter sleeping through the night?" my doctor asked me.
"Oh, I think I'm just going to be exhausted until they go to college," I shrug.
"My husband keeps planning these mountain biking vacations, and I tell him that I just want to go somewhere and sleep," being a mother of young children she shared my experience.

Becoming a mother has changed my perspective on beauty routines; 'I'm lucky if I can get it,' and 'I'm just trying to look 'not dead.''  I always  eagerly flip to magazine articles that promise instant ways to make you look less tired, I have learned such helpful tips as 'wear blush,' 'wear mascara,' and 'wear concealer.'  Really?  I think I figured that one out already.
I guess I'm not the person that should be doling out advice on this topic considering that so many people keep telling me how tired I look, but here a few tips from someone actually on the 'front lines.'

1.  For those days that you are not showering: get a style wear you can stick your head under the sink and and re-style it or become friends with finishing cream.  I've been growing out my hair just so I can stop showering every day, I've learned that if I run some finishing cream through my hair,and  put it back all cute like, no one knows the difference.  I've also learned that if I wash my face and put makeup on, it all still looks the same....until you absolutely have to bathe.  If you have absolutely no time to bathe, you should rethink some things.

2.  BB cream is awesome.  I've become a fan of combination products, like concealer and eye cream in one (Cover Girl and Oil of Olay have come out with one that works), and BB cream.  BB cream stands for Beauty Balm (forgive the redundant name 'Beauty Balm Cream') and is a fancier tinted moisturizer.  So instead of buying facial moisturizer and foundation you have one product that encompasses both.  They don't provide complete and total matte coverage, more of a dewy look, but I'm just going for 'not dead' rather than 'red carpet ready.'I have tried Cover Girl, and Garnier brands and have found both to be completely workable.   Then again my makeup purchasing style is 'oh, I have a coupon for that.'  So again, maybe I'm not the best to give advice on this.  I know that high end companies make the same products, so if you're a more MAC than Maybelline, sally on up that counter and ask some questions.  If you are reading this and are thinking 'I don't have time for moisturizer or makeup,' you should rethink some things.

3.  Horn rimmed glasses are your friend.  If you wear contacts and have a day wear you just can't stomach putting those things in your eyes make sure your glasses have a horn rimmed frame and pop them right on.  The dark rim to the glasses will literally block that purple bag under your eye, puts a line right through it.  I discovered this after looking at my post birth photos.  I didn't look completely dead.  Then I realized that was because I was wearing my glasses and you could not see the shadows under my eyes, giving testimony to the two sleepless nights prior.  If you don't actually wear corrective lenses, please don't wear fake glasses.  That's just silly.  If you never feel like you can wear your contacts, you should rethink some things.

4.  Give yourself a break.  Pat yourself on the back.  You showered and wore makeup today.  Yay!  Tomorrow give yourself a break from this whole appearance thing, wear some sweats, and who cares?

I know it's hard to not feel down about yourself when you see a reflection in the mirror and think, 'wait, did the zombie apocalypse start?' And then realize that is your reflection.  I mean at least you still have a reflection.  That's good, because I'm sure that some nights you're up so much you feel like a vampire.  But having little kids is tiring.  Deeply tiring in a way that you don't understand until you walk a mile in those slippers.  They will grow up and you will turn into that old lady in the store telling young mothers, 'to enjoy every minute.'

Or you can accept your bare face for what it is and tell people you are participating in Barefaced Beauty week!  And people will think you are brave and not just tired.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Wallpaper

I wonder if this comes up?
I dig a finger nail into the corner of the room, underneath an edge of lavender painted paper.  The prying nail pulls away the edge.  Finger tips grab hold.  Pull.  Hands grip into fists. Pull.  The entire wall of paper comes off in one big sheet.  I stand amazed, elated at the accomplishment, discouraged at the second layer of paper underneath, and knowing that the rest won't be as easy.
As I examined walls, squinted, scratched, and picked I realized that every wall in our house was covered in wallpaper.  Some walls with two and in special sections three.  We Googled 'wallpaper removal,' like do-it-yourselfers, and found out the best processes.

"Wait, is this like, a thing?" a friend asks.
"Yep, Google it," I say, like Google is the holder to all things true, "this is really how you do this, scour it, spray it with the fabric softener, and then scrape away."  Out of the corner of my eye I see her long dark ponytail wiggle as she scrapes at the wall.
We've discovered that the best scraper is a long handled four inch scraper.
I smiled as I realized that I scrape wallpaper the same way that I carve stone, left hand holds the shaft and presses down applying pressure, right hand (dominant hand) drives the scraper at the back.  I've found this is the most effective way to remove the paper, scrape after gravelly scrape against ancient plaster.  Over the past few months I've found my body will actually crave the sandy scraping motion.  My shoulders and arms wanting the workout.  Finding myself sore for days afterward, I decided that this does indeed count as a workout.
After hours of scouring with the Paper Tiger (a little red device with sharp cutty wheels in it that you run over the wall) or cutting into the paper with a box cutter (only recommended if you are cutting through several layers of paper, it will cut into the wall if you have only have one layer), at least five large bottles of fabric softener (including one of those terrifyingly large ones from a bulk store), and even more hours of scraping we are done.  The last of the paper was removed this week.  This photos are taken from our first day working, that was in August.  Notice we are still smiling.

Our friend Becka joins us, here she is taking on the living room.

We've hit pay dirt!  Or horse hair plaster.
You can see swirly lines from the
Paper Tiger.

 I discover that those wall paper scrapers are sharp.
My ghetto first aid job, thanks to Becka's duct tape.

Emma and Carys get in on the act, it's not toxic, right?

The three layers in our hall;
fake collage, pink, flowers and then cracks.
After our ten year old nephew discovered this
crack, he suggested we leave the paper,
"I think it's holding the wall together."
Truth from the mouths of the young.

At least she can sleep. Later this
renovation will keep me awake at night.


Monday, November 18, 2013

The Beginning

In July we closed on our house.
We have yet to live in it.
I'm sure you know that.  But I thought I'd let you know.
Our first visit to the house, all by ourselves, without a real estate agent or a contractor was after church.
There we were in our Sunday best, and we couldn't help ourselves.  We started picking and peeling at the layers that the former owners had left behind.
Here's a look at what we had:
Our new Living Room,that light spot in the corner is where the couch was, the rest are stains.  Not shadows.

Linoleum stairs, oh my!
                                                     
Parquet floors in the Dining Room, usually a selling point.  These are soooooo dirty, we tore them out.
       
Peach walls in the Dining Room.

A 'My Little Pony Purple' Bathroom!

Another angle of the bathroom, dirty carpet and all.
                                                   
                                       
Swans on the shower door!
                 
Another 'My Little Pony Purple' Room.  This will be the girls room.
Master Bedroom, a door to the roof and linoleum on the floor.
The Guest room.  Looks not too bad?  That's click and lock Pergo, and those brown walls are painted on wallpaper.
                           
             

When we first saw our house on the internet listing I had a good feeling about it, I don't know why.  When we pulled up I knew it was going to be our house.  As we toured the house and I saw that the pictures I had seen did not give away the true state of the home I started to panic a bit.  My real estate looked at me, with hands planted against my face,
'Well, what do you think?'
'We're going to buy this house,' I said, fingers pressing into cheeks.
'You don't look that happy about it,' she stated the obvious.
'It's just such a mess...'  She encouraged us about the house, it does have potential.
So we've begun scraping and scraping and scraping and scraping, removing the layers that were left behind to find the potential underneath.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Funny or Die

"Allright, I'm gonna smash it," I announce, making eye contact. She stops the harp with her hand,
"I'm actually playing song, it's off key, though," I nod.
"I know, that's why I threatened," I smile.
One of the things that I love about working with college students is that they are hilarious.  Currently they are experimenting with different forms of scooting on the hardwood floors of the house we share.  While one of them strums the aforementioned off key harp.
They also have way more time to find funny things on the internet, please enjoy:
Milk Smash:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzfQqt5q0Ak
Falling:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGjHK5X8mzE

We've been 'Falling.'  It's fun, but it usually makes my kid cry.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Color Me Yours

            “What should I color this duck?”  I asked Emma pointing to the duck on the coloring sheet.  She squirmed in my lap, balancing all her weight on my right thigh.
            “Ummm, this blue,” she hands me a dark blue.  I was thinking yellow, but that is pretty boring.  I took the blue marker from her with my left hand and very carefully started to fill in the black lines of the duck.  Emma’s perch on my right leg, blocked out my ability to use my right hand, she often does this when we color together.  I just decided to try to use my weaker hand, making coloring a more challenging exercise for myself.  Instead of thinking about all the things I could be doing I tell myself that I am exercising my brain.
            Sad that I have to trick myself to play with my child.  When she asks me to play ‘tea party’ or ‘dragons’ there are about a million things that bounce  through my head that need more ‘doing,’ than spending time with my child. 
            I remember watching a friend of mine groan while putting shoes on her child,
            “I can’t wait until this stage is over, and they can do things for themselves,” I remember watching her and thinking that she had just made this stage so much worse by wishing it away.  Subconsciously I absorbed this and have not focused on the stages that my girls are in, I just try to enjoy them.  I will be more thankful when my interests and Emma’s collide.
            Later that day,
            “Mom, can I have some juice in my owl cup?” I hear her a small voice at my elbow during dinner.  Knowing full well that I probably cannot find her ‘owl cup’ and don’t want to waste valuable eating time looking for said cup I lean over, our foreheads connect, her blue eyes are expanded into one,
            “Yes, you can have juice, but you have to promise not to freak out if I can’t find your owl cup,” I reply.
            “Okay,” she says and returns to playing at eating her dinner.  I push back my chair and find the nearest sippy cup I can, not the ‘owl cup,’ fill it with half juice and half water and give it to my waiting daughter.
            And?
            She did not freak out.  She accepted the cup and drank away.
            Why?  Why this time was it okay?  So many other times when I have given her the ‘wrong cup’ it has gotten a less than charming reception.  A vague thought simmered at the back of my head that because I had spent time with her that afternoon, listening to her, showing her that I value her, and that I value her opinion that the absence of an ‘owl cup’ might not be that earth shattering.  Her need to assert herself was diminished because she had her needs met that day.
            Whenever she starts to fall apart on a regular basis Scott and I will take the time to do something special for her.  Spend some intentional time with her, and always, always, her behavior improves afterward.  I have to remind myself of this so often, because it is so easy to refuse her invitations to play.  There are always more important things to do.
            But what is more important than shaping the little life that I was entrusted to care for?

            

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Under the Weather

This afternoon I performed my second rendition of a HIIT workout, High Intensity Interval Training.  I felt alternately like a goon and a stud while doing each exercise.  I tried to encourage myself by telling myself that not a lot of moms are in good enough shape to do this, that I look great compared to other women with two children.  Despite the extra belly jiggles and muscle failure on push-ups.

Afterwards I was so nauseous that I had to sit down.  Afterwards I was so nauseous and tired that I needed to go lie down.  Afterwards I was so nauseous and tired that I fell asleep for an hour.  Maybe that pumpkin curry for lunch was a bad idea....

Just when you think you're badass, you need to take a nap.

Scott was bewildered when I stood up, sweaty in my spandex and announced that I didn't feel well and needed to lie down.  He said,
"You haven't been feeling well a lot lately, what's going on?"  So my inner monologue meandered to wondering if I have cancer while I was trying to fall sleep, it sallied past 'maybe it's just that cold from last week,' and whipped around on a candy land board of anxiety back to cancer.  Through those twists and turns it wind about the fact that my family and I are currently sleeping in one large multi-purpose room all together.  In fact I was napping with my youngest child only a few feet away.
Let me explain...
This year in February we put an offer on a house.  It was accepted.  Yay!
The deal did not close until the end of July.  Boo.
But 'Yay!' because at least it closed, right?
The house is over a hundred years old.  Don't freak out, that's normal around here.
So we are getting it renovated.  Yay!  A house all done up just the way we want it, cause for celebration, right?
It is still being renovated and we really have no idea when it will be done.  Boo.
So since June we have have had four different temporary housing arrangements.  Boo.
But, they were all free.  Yay!
Currently we are staying in a house with twelve college students and their Resident Director.
You'll notice I didn't blog for the entire month of October. It's been taxing.
I do actually love the students.  They are hysterical.  They play with my children. They clean the house.  The cook dinner.
And we don't have much privacy to speak of.  And I sure would like to live in that house we bought.
Did I mention my clothes are in piles on a ping pong table?
Maybe that's why I've been feeling under the weather lately.
Did I mention that I wake up at night stressing out about paint colors?  I think I bought an entire gallon of the WRONG green.
Does Home Depot take paint back?
Maybe I will still use it....
Did I mention that my husband and I are sleeping on a blow up mattress?
I guess I should remind myself that I am lucky to have a house, that I am privileged to have bought a home and to get to decorate it.
Because it's true.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The New Norm of Tragedy

When someone tells me that they don't like Facebook or are taking a break, I get it.  If I didn't keep this blog I would forego the site at times.
Because sometimes I hate it.
I do.
Really.
Especially in times like this.  For the past few days there has been a hostage situation at a mall in Nairobi that I always used to go to.  In fact Scott and I used to comment that Westgate was where an attack would happen because so many westerners frequent there.  I remember sitting there in Artcaffe looking at the patio and picturing shattering glass, wondering where I would go if it came to that.
Then it did, it didn't happen to me, but it happened so close.
I wandered that mall while pregnant.  I took my daughter there.  My infant daughter there.
As CNN showed cell phone footage of someone running through Nakumatt, I recognized each aisle.  Each and every single step that person took, I have taken.
I have been on the periphery of so many tragedies lately, a former co-worker of mine, Jessica Buchanan Lindemalm, was kidnapped and held captive by Somali pirates, the Boston Marathon bombing, even Newtown (only one state away) felt awfully close, and now this.
When is it my turn?
When am I the one huddled over my child?
When am I the victim of terrorists or a crazed gunman?

Then I log onto Facebook.  Someone complains about something asinine, then there is a post about Westgate.  On it goes, asinine, tragedy, asinine, tragedy, asinine, tragedy...
It feels like whiplash from part of my worldview to the other.  Protected, it can't happen to us here, America, dangerous everywhere else.

The worse part is I have no idea what to do about it.  If I write letters for gun control in the US does that change anything?  If I raise money to educate youth in hot bed countries does that change the world fast enough.
If I write this blog, does it make a difference?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Happy Days

            A friend posted on Facebook, ‘What would you do, as a profession, if you had no restrictions?’  The comments that followed were ‘race car driver,’ or ‘travel show host,’ or, ‘beer taster.’  One friend, who is childless, just wrote, ‘mommy.’  My heart sank a bit.  A thin finger of conviction wiggled its way into the hollows of my heart.  I know that there are thousands of women that would give what they have to trade with me.  I have wallowed in self pity about my status as a stay at home mom.  Something I chose because I didn’t want someone else to raise my children, but once it started getting real I wasn’t so sure I wanted the job anymore.  Feeling hands tied I have stayed.
            The friend who posted ‘mommy,’ regularly fosters children from a local orphanage (she lives in Kenya), she takes in children for the weekend.  This is done so that the kids can get a little more loving than they would from the overtaxed workers.  I could drink some sour stew and say that she doesn’t know what it’s really like to have children.  She doesn’t know how hard it is.  But fostering certainly gives you a fair taste of what it would be like.  Yes, there is nothing comparable to having a child of your own flesh, but I will chose not to sip that bitter drink. 
            You know when you’re grocery shopping and some nice elderly lady or gentleman stops you and tells you to enjoy every moment of what you’re doing?  Or tells you that when their children were young was the happiest time of their life?  And all you want to do is say,
            “Hey, look lady, I have poop on my jeans,” I usually just smile and say, something dumb like
            “Well, I like them,” and shrug. 
            This is hard, young children are the trenches of parenting.  So many ways I have felt like I have lost my sense of self, sense of dignity, sense of space, sense of time, I feel tired in my bones, I feel holes in my mind…  I don’t want to deny how hard this is, that would be unreal.  In truth it would be lying. 
            I have thought and thought about this, maybe the key to all this is not to pretend that these people ‘can’t remember’ or ‘don’t know what it’s really like.’  To tip that other cup of bitterness to my lips and say ‘they’ve forgotten,’  or, ‘it’s different now.’
Maybe the key to loving ‘the now’ that we are in is to focus on the happy moments. 
            When I spread out a blanket on the lawn and they jump on my belly, don’t focus on the sharp knee banging against bones and the elbow in sensitive crevices, but focus on the sweet face just inches from my own.  Focus on the feel of soft perfect skin under kisses, hugs, and tickles.  Focus on the way that two sisters look at each other and then play.  Focus not the fact that she brings me flowers when I am looking for keys with laden bags, and asks me to just stand there and hold them, but the sweet fact that she is bringing me flowers at all.  Focus on the look of round cheeks and laughing mouths.  If I sink in those moments and hold those more dear maybe the potty accidents, the long nights, the disrupted dinners, and the ruined clothes won’t matter as much.  If I am alive in the good moments, make sure that all my senses are on, maybe when I see a young mother with child in tow I will remember early morning snuggles, and late afternoons where I said, ‘to hell with dinner,’ and sat down and played with my kid.  Let the happy moments be the sweet music that punctuates and covers over the white noise of stress. 
            That’s what those people women who don’t have the children they want see; the little hands, the precious gift of a child, the deep love of ‘my own flesh and blood.’  That’s what those sweet people in the twilight of their lives remember; the giggles, the kisses, the laughter, the incredulity of raising a little human being.

            I am going to try and see that now, so that I don’t poison this time with stress and frustration.  I am going to remind myself that those who stop and tell me to ‘enjoy every moment’ might be looking back on their life and wishing that they did.  It’s hard to enjoy poop on your jeans, but maybe in a few years it can be funny.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Dirty Laundry

Earlier this week I met my husband, his assistant, and his twelve students out on the Colorado Trail.  We hiked Mount Massive together.  At the end of the hike I gathered up their old stinky clothes, their trash, and gave them new clothes and new food.
Today I washed their  laundry.  I dumped out the black trash bag; the pile of mesh, quick-dry, and wool smelled like a mix of garlic, meat, and smoke.  Exactly the way mine smelled seven years ago when I completed my student trip in a similar backpacking leadership program.  I smiled, humanity, we all smell the same at the end of the day.  Or the end of a week spent hiking in the woods.
I knew when they handed me the bag that I would wash it.  I couldn't leave it sitting for two weeks.  The smell would fell trees.
I decided I would fold it and lay it out on a table to they could find what they needed.  I washed it in a mixture of soap, oxi clean, and a cup of white vinegar.  I washed each load twice, with vinegar both times.  The thing about backpacking clothes is that the smell isn't terrible, it just lingers.  It infests the clothes, almost has a life of it's own.  You can't wash other items with the clothes, the smell will take over.  It will only die after many, many washings.  This beast is only aided in it's existence by the fact that most hiking clothes are made out of synthetics and wool, fabrics that retain smell.
I hung a drying line and hung each item up, the Colorado sun and wind would whisk away more smell than any dryer could.  As I hung the clothes, I kept thinking, 'I don't think I would have done this before I became a parent.'  Something about having children, seeing and caring for these little ones makes me think of everyone person as that.  We were all children once.  We were all birthed, we all squalled when we needed love, some of us got it and some of us didn't.
I read Mother Teresa's book last year.  Expecting great wisdom from this woman that embodied Christ's kindness.  Expecting earth shattering advice.  Expecting standards that I could not live up to.  But over and over again she said, 'Go home, love your family.'  Go home, love your family.  Love those next to you.  I can't go to Calcutta and comfort those with leprosy.  But I can wash some laundry.
No, these college students aren't the least of these, most of them have some sort of privilege.  But they are people.  They are someone's baby.
Maybe one day when someone hands them a bag of stinky laundry, they'll just wash it.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Am I There Yet?

My last post started a bit of a discussion on Facebook, the women debating are people I respect and value as being thoughtful.  One pointed out that the fact that we are still discussing a girl's 'coming of age' without the male sphere of influence means that we are still very far from being independent from that sphere.

My heart sunk as I read her words, I know that she's right.  We're still talking about this crap.  Men don't have to defend their autonomy.  We still seem to need to.

I reflected on those few years after college where I came into my own, I do remember how much I longed to be in a relationship.  Makes me sad that I wasted so much mental energy on that desire.  But aren't we made that way?  Aren't we made to be in relationship?  Do men crave it just as much women?

I remember a moment where I was completing a backpacking training course, one of our teachers asked us if we felt like we were adults yet.  My hand went up half mast, bent at the elbow, a question waving in mid air.  I was dating the man that I knew I was going to marry.  I was 24.  Shouldn't I be an adult by now?  With my hand still aloft I decided that by the end of that summer I would be an adult.  Not because of that man that I would marry, but because I felt like getting married was a pretty adult decision and shouldn't I be one before I make that commitment?

The more I read the responses that people send me the more I wonder about much our focus on individualism has hurt us.  So many young adults don't know when they become an adult.  We crow so much about making our own journey we forget that we all journey, and that we are still in this together.  America is not a group of random people all sharing the same borders, we are a community.  Whether we realize it or not.  It should be the role of those in the community to say, 'Yes, you are an adult now.'

In Romania you are not considered an adult until you are married and have children.  In our culture we can't say something like that, because that excludes people that have chosen to stay single, or stay in a relationship but remain unmarried, or gay people who cannot get married, or those that have chosen not to have children, or are infertile.  So what are our markers?  A few mentioned 'work.'  Being tired after 'work,' or 'working' in a cubicle.  Does that make us adults?  We are so work focused in our nation that being dedicated to your work surely does make you an adult.  That seems to be what we value the most, considering our unfriendly policies towards paternity and maternity leave.  We don't value children much because they don't make money and they get in the way of our individual autonomy.

My husband worked with an organization in Kenya that led rites of passage for youth in the city of Nairobi.  As Kenyans have moved into urban environments they were missing out on their tribal rites of passage, causing youth to go morally adrift.  So this organization stated that the church should be the 'new tribe' and provide youth with meaningful rites of passage into adulthood.

I keep thinking about the public deconstruction of these girls becoming women, I know that some of my friends certainly experimented sexually and I doubt they would say that made them an adult.  Most of the responses I've seen were similar to my own; realization of self, and financial independence.  I see a happy disconnect; art is not imitating life nor is life imitating art.  Maybe the media is not as powerful as we think it is.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Coming of Age

“I was disappointed by this song, I used to like Miley, but not anymore,” my friend tells me as a Miley Cyrus song plays on the radio of the bus that we were in.
“Why? What’s it about?” I ask, I don’t really have informed opinions on the lives and songs of pop stars.  In fact most of the time I don’t even know who they are anymore. 
“She really wants you to know that she’s not a little girl anymore,” my friend tactfully says.
“Unh, they all do that,” the conversation continued on to a one sided discussion about Amanda Bynes.  I don’t even know who that is.  My friend is a few years younger than me, so I suppose these are the Britney’s and Christina’s of her age group.  I talk to my friend about a pattern I see repeated over and over again, they start as sweet innocents singing songs about first kisses and first crushes. Then around their 18th birthday (right when they’re legal) their necklines plunge, their hemlines rise, their hair turns a different color, usually a tattoo happens, and their songs get exponentially more explicit. 
Their whole image seems to revolve around men.  They are either singing sweetly about boys or naughtily about boys.  Very few talk about themselves outside of relationships with men.  Packaging Girlhood talks about the marketing that is directed at young women; girls are given two categories they can either be ‘for the boys’ or ‘of the boys.’  You can be an attractive cheerleader, cheering men on; ‘for the boys.’  Or you can be a tomboy, playing sports with the men, ‘of the boys.’  Oddly enough all the women I know that have been cheerleaders exist without relationship to men.  Same goes for all the tomboys I know.
For the rest of that bus ride I mused about my own ‘coming of age.’  Our culture lacks a true rite of passage into adulthood.  Most of us just stumble forward on a time continuum; graduate high school, go to college, get job, get married, buy house, and have children.  At some point you scratch your noggin and think, ‘I guess I’m an adult now.’  I thought about when I really felt that I came into my own, really felt like I was my own person.  My mind skipped over the two years after I graduated college. I did date someone.  Then I broke up with him and was on my own for a long time.  I traveled, I took up a sport, I spent long hours in prayer and reflection.  These were the years that finished that honing that college had started.  I left my home state, moved halfway across the country, and felt that I was my own woman.
When I felt the most myself I was without a man.
Huh, I ‘came of age’ without a man. 
When I met the man who was to become my husband I felt an adult.  My coming of age had nothing to do with sex. 

Isn’t that funny?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Crave

            “Mommy what are you doing?”
            “Driving the car.”
            “Where are we going?”
            “To the grocery store.”
            A few minutes later,
            “Are we going to the grocery store?”
            “Yes, just like I said.”
            A few minutes later,
            “Are we there yet?”  I just stay silent, I feel like that should be self evident.  But maybe ‘self evident’ isn’t a concept that three year old children understand.  I remember asking these questions as a little girl,
            “Dad what’s your favorite color?” I ask.
            “Blue,” he always says blue.  Good, the world is okay, everything can proceed as normal.
            I just finished the first chapter of Made to Crave; a book about replacing your cravings for food with cravings for something more holy.  Lysa Terkheurst, the author, asks you to picture your cravings, she uses the illustration of a little orange monster.  I pictured that three year old voice at my elbow, except maybe a bit more sinister,
            “Hey, is there any chocolate in the house?”
            “Yes….”
            “Are you gonna eat it?”
            “No, not right now.”
            “You should eat it.”
            “No, I don’t think so.”
            “Have you eaten it yet?”
            “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
            “You really should eat it…did you eat it yet?”
            End scene with me hiding in pantry with said chocolate now staining my fingers and the edges of my mouth.  Like a zombie with brains.
            I’ve begun to be perturbed by my relationship with food as of late, because I know that feel healthier when I eat healthy foods, cleaner, lighter, and better.  Yet I still will choose sugar and carbohydrates over fruit and vegetables, almost every time.  Why?  Why do I keep doing that?  Lately, that little girl at my elbow that tells me to eat all the time has gotten really annoying.  Why is she there?  Why do I feel the need to eat constantly?   I think a hangover from pregnancy and nursing is being afraid of being hungry.  When I feel that first little gnaw in my belly, I get a little frightened. 
            Awhile back Emma and I had come home from some morning event and I was trying to make lunch, her toy rolled under the coffee table.
            “Mommy, I need my toy,” she interrupts me.  Tears streaming down her face, panic fully evident across her sweet little cheeks.
            “I can’t help you right now,” I responded, trying to pull together something from the nothing that was in our fridge.  Our exchanges continued, it escalated.  I refused to get the toy because it was pushed into a place where I could not retrieve it fast enough for my taste.  I sat us down and we both shoveled the food into our mouths.  Slowly the anger and frustration receded, I felt myself relax.  ‘Oh, we were hungry.’  Ever since that exchange I’ve become wary of growing too hungry.  If I get too low, it gets ugly.
            Lately I’ve been letting my eldest watch TV while her sister naps (which either makes me the best or the worst parent ever, depending on your opinion), she was watching an episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.  An animated rewrite of Mr. Roger’s neighborhood.  A song chimed out,
            “Stop, Look, and Listen,” it repeated it’s saccharin tones to levels annoying, but as it twinkled on I thought,
            ‘Wait, you should stop, look, and listen,’ when that little voice at my elbow asks me if I have devoured every morsel of chocolate in the house I should ‘stop, look, and listen.’  Why is that voice there?  Am I stressed out?  Am I angry?  Am I sad?      
            Yesterday I got hungry, I checked my phone, 10am.  Snack time.  I mean, it's snack time for my kids, doesn't mommy get one too.  Well, Mommy you are no longer growing, and don't go everywhere at a run.  I told myself, 'it's okay, just be hungry.  You'll live.'  I 'stopped, looked, and listened.'  I was fine, I made it to lunch.  And no one lost their head.
            Right now it’s the end of the day, my husband has left to rip up pergo flooring from our new house, there is Cadbury bar in the kitchen.  That little voice by my elbow has turned from little girl into full raging monster,
‘Finish It!’ I hear, like that voice in Mortal Kombat.  Why?  Because my husband is gone I feel like I deserve a treat?  The girls went down easy, in fact I had a nice time playing with Emma before she went to sleep.  Is it because I am alone?  But here I am finishing a blog that I’ve been intending to write for days.  I’ll try some of Terkeurst’s tricks, praying, reciting scripture.  Realizing that maybe I’m not as stressed as I think I am. 

I keep thinking that I should just let myself eat whatever I want until I am through with all the transition that we have.  So much stress, just eat it.  But then life is stressful.  All the time.  There’s always something.  I’ll just let myself until my kids are in school…I’ll just let myself until summer…

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Cookie Monster

            I have thought long and hard about writing about this, it seems almost too personal.  I like to pretend that I am above this subject.  I like to think that I am too mature, too confident, too comfortable in my own skin for all this nonsense.  Unfortunately….
            Once upon a time I believed that I was above emotional eating.  I had a breakthrough in junior high, I had a crush on a boy.  A boy that I would never know….all right it was Christian Slater.  (This is going to get so personal.)  I bought a tub of Haagen Daz, ate it, and afterwards all I had was a stomach ache.  So I never did that again.  I thought my brilliant logic had protected me from (as a friend once said) ‘pile driving carbs into my face’ when I was sad.  I smugly believed this fallacy for many years, until…
            I stood in the kitchen, half empty boxes were strewn around me, almost everything was almost empty, but not quite.  I mentally inventoried the contents of the cupboard, half finished bag of almonds, some prunes, six month old crackers. None of it normally tempting, but right now I wanted to eat it all.  We had not closed on our house yet, but the time had come to move out of our apartment and into temporary housing while we waited on the process to be completed.  We had ‘faith’ that it would and acted in such.  Then why, as I stood in that kitchen, was the only thing on my mind shoving food into my face?  An epiphany blew the face of my own lies,
            ‘I am a stress eater,’ the thought rang out in my head.  I love eating.  Some days I think I am just sitting around waiting for the next time I get to eat.  I love food.  I have met very few foods that I do not like.  Okay that’s a lie… So personal…
            Dill. I don’t like dill.  Do not try to convince me of otherwise.  I know that I hate it.  It’s okay, I like almost everything.  So I feel justified in hating dill.
            I have been trying, vainly (pun intended) to ‘lose that last five pounds.’  In that quest I have started tracking my food intake on the website myfitnesspal.com.  My husband thinks I am crazy.  I eat pretty healthy and I don’t feel like I eat all that much at meals… so what’s the deal?  One day I ate 600 extra calories in just random stuff I popped in my face.  Handing out goldfish crackers to my kids?  Some for Mommy.  Someone brought in brownies?  One down the mouth hole.  Bought donut holes to keep kids happy?  I like the classic kind, down the hatch. 
            As we’ve been moving and in a time of huge transition my ability to say no to extra dessert has left the building.  I’ve thought about this.  I’m not overweight.  My husband is still interested.  Why does this matter? 
            But is this healthy?  That I want to shove food down my pie hole when I’m stressed out?  Shouldn’t I have better ways of coping?  Sure the occasional glass of wine or chocolate cupcake isn’t going to cause an early death, but should I go there every time the mercury rises?  I’ve been thinking about how to invite God into this, before when I’ve prayed about losing weight I swear I’ve heard,
            ‘Or you could learn to accept yourself, Lara,’ which is not really the answer I want. 
            Let me level with you for a moment before you start typing very encouraging notes to me about how thin I am, most of the time I’m pretty happy with what I’ve got.  I know that I am more than the sum of my body parts.  I am my intellect, my passions, my personality, my love, and all those parts of me I like.  I just think there should be a better way of dealing with stress with more caffeine and sugar than I would like to admit.  Openly, on the internet.  For all to see in black letters. 
            I bought a copy of the book ‘Made to Crave,’ it’s sitting unopened beside me on the couch.  Ready for its maiden voyage.   All the testimonials on the inside of the cover talk about how happy they are and they started losing weight, and they can’t believe it.  And I think, ‘that’s not the point.’  I don’t want to make this about losing weight all the time.  I don’t want to live my life in bondage to the way my pants feel around my waistline.
            But I do want to stop ‘going into survival mode’ and for stressful periods, mama gets what mama wants.  That is usually chocolate, wine, and large cups of coffee (just in case you were confused.).  We are in another period of transition and stress in our lives, I felt myself pouring that glass and sinking into that hole.  I keep thinking, ‘isn’t there a better way?’


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Way Past Post Partum

On Monday I saw that someone had posted a video of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor leaving the hospital with the royal baby.  I try to avoid celebrity gossip, I get sucked in by glossy photos of the beautiful people and then I always feel a little dirty afterwards.  I don’t know these people, why should I know these details of their lives?  Is my life so boring that I live through theirs?  Usually I feel badly afterwards like I’ve seen something I shouldn’t have, and I always feel a little poorer and a little frumpier.  But I have become a sucker for babies, so I clicked.   Here’s my inner monologue during the one minute viewing,
Wait…what, she let them video her while leaving the hospital?  Girl is crazy…well I guess it’s expected of her.  Wow, how insightful of her to have picked a maternity dress, someone must have told her.  She is wearing makeup and has her hair done?  Maybe the nurses held the baby?  Well, she is a princess, I’m sure she has lots of help…Awwww, his daddy is holding him.  So cute…all right, I’m over it, time to go change the laundry.
Sure, there was some satisfaction tinged around the fact that she still looks six months pregnant.  But, really, that’s actually great.  Makes the rest of feel, well, normal.  We see our friends with their leftover bellies, but does that happen to everyone?  Aren’t their people who leave in their pre-pregnancy clothes?  Wouldn’t the rich and famous be those that did? 
Nope, there she was, with her leftover belly.  I loved it.  I felt sorry for her and was a bit proud of this person that I do not know.
Then I heard that people were making rude comments about her.  That her workout regime was posted in a magazine.  That people were tweeting that she looked gross. 
Wait…what, that’s unreasonable!  The woman just had a baby!  It takes your uterus six weeks to go back down!  These people must not have children.  They should be spanked.  Or have their right to tweet revoked.  Most women leave the hospital in sweats and very large underwear.  She looks great.  What idiots.
I was talking to friend about it, a friend I can admit my guilty pleasures to and my silly inner monologues.  She had this to say,
“Maybe we shouldn’t be seeing her?” Simple and so wise.  We’ll keep her around. 
Every time I see a shot of a woman who is pregnant and in the spotlight I feel bad for her.  Pregnancy is the great equalizer of women, something nasty happens to all of us.  I would hate to be scrutinized through that nine months.  I don’t blame women like Angelina Jolie, who gave birth in Africa, I’m sure she did it to make a statement about Africa and I’m sure she didn’t mind being away from all the cameras.

On Wednesday I drove a half an hour to buy blue and white porcelain lamps from a Craigslist ad.  I had this conversation with the woman that I purchasing the lamps from,
“We just bought a house in Gloucester, so I’ve been spending a lot of time on Craigslist,” me, feeling like I need to explain my silly Craiglist habit.
“Craigslist is great,” she smiles, “So you’re expecting another one,” she motions one hand toward my belly.
“Nope, no I’m not, I think we’re done,” I say, a tight smile stretching my lips out.  I gaze away from her giving her the space to beck pedal, or, even, apologize.
“Oh, you have kids, how old are they?” she asks, so even though you’ve just insulted me we’re still having a friendly conversation.  Okay.
“They’re three and one,” I reply, still stretching that smile.
“Oh one?  So that’s why you still have the baby belly,” she says.  I think she thought she was excusing herself, and not digging the verbal grave she had started shoveling out deeper. 
Yes, I still bought the lamps.  I liked them, they were a steal.  I was still polite.  When I relayed the story to my friend who had come with me (same friend as above) she said,
“I’ve seen you at Gull [Pond, in a bathing suit] I would punch someone to look like you.”  She’s a good friend, we’ll keep her around.
When I relayed the story to my husband he asked,
“Did you punch her?”  No I didn’t.  Another friend said that maybe I just had ‘food baby.’  She’s probably right.
What this woman didn’t know is that my abdominal wall is not the same after carrying and birthing a nine pound child.  It did not go back quite right, my abdominals are still bowed outwards, and there seems to be not much I can do about it other than accept it.  I actually had grown more accepting of it in the last few months.  I bought a one piece that makes feel sexy, I feel comfortable in it and I’m not afraid that my jumblies are going to fall out.  I look around and say, ‘for a thirty one year old woman who has had two kids, you still look pretty good.’  I focus on my fitness, how far I can run, how I am improving in yoga, and I feel strong and healthy.  My husband is still interested…all good, right?
That night it didn’t bother me.  One flippant comment from some insensitive woman.  Oh well.  Move on.
The next day I woke up with an emotional hang over.  I was foggy, tired, and incredibly sore from the track workout that I had done the day before.  All the work I had done in the past few months felt gone, swept away by some stranger.  All day I thought about throwing myself on the floor and doing crunches like a mad woman.  Finally I fought it.  Damn it all.  Aren’t I more than just my appearance?  Is that all that matters?  Certainly not, right?
Then I thought about Kate Middleton, in her world she has to make sure that she looks flawless at all times, or she gets raked over the coals in every periodical in England and the US.  Even right after giving birth.  When it should be your God given right to sit around unwashed in a robe for as long as you please.  To fall asleep on the couch undisturbed with a child nestled in your shoulder.  To discover the deeply frightening emotions that accompany bringing a child into the world without having to or being able to articulate them.
I also feel that my abdominal is no one else’s business.  And neither should Kate’s be.


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Meanwhile Back at the Ranch

On Sunday after church we went into our new house.  Without a real estate agent, an appraiser, we didn't have to tell anyone that we were coming, there was no one there telling what we could and could not do, or the terms of this or the terms of that.  We walked up, turned the key in the lock and walked in.
It smelled.
Like smoke, and other people.  It looked like dirt, smoke, and other people.  We had friends with us who had taken on an extensive renovation job for their first home purchase.  They found a stair that looked as if it had once hidden drugs.  They picked at wall paper with us.  They marveled at the stained rug and made suggestions about how it gotten so dirty so fast.
Eventually the went home and we were left alone.  Scott started picking at the corners of the floors and pulling up whole sections of carpet.  He found linoleum underneath.  Then he found more linoleum underneath.  Then he found glue.  Then he found sheets of black paper underneath.  Then he found slats of wood.  Original wide pine floors.
I dug my fingernails into corner of walls and started peeling wallpaper.  My three year old comes up to me,
"Yeah, I can help," she says.  I point to a corner of decrepit paper and let her pull.  She lasts for a few moments and then runs away.  I stand in my Sunday best and peel almost a complete wall of paper in one pull.  Then I find more paper underneath.  It looks old, from a decade I can't pinpoint, certainly one I didn't live in, and maybe even one my parents didn't live in.  I dig a fingernail into that paper, tiny pieces flick off.  Not the big large satisfying strips.  That stuff is gonna take more work.  I give up.
We leave, I have dirt patches on my black dress, dust in the corners of my eyes.  My toes hurt from being pushed in the corners of my heels.  I am happy to leave to change clothes and put my exhausted baby to bed.  Eager to stay because I want to take more away.  Peel off each layer of former owner and make it mine.

"So you're all moved in right?" my dad asks on the phone.
"Um, no, we won't move in until October..." my voice trails off, my throat closes a little over the words.  The out loud, real expression of what we're going through right now.  I told him when the contractor would start.  He said that sounded like a lot, my voice cracked, and I admitted how stressed out I really was.  He was comforting and conciliatory, like a good father.
I could it all by myself, with Scott and me and our duffle bags, but with two little girls it just gets so complicated.  So harried.  So much crying, mine and the girls.

This morning Scott and I had 'the talk,' the real, out loud, talk about when we are moving where and how we are going to get through the next few months, while we lose our temporary housing and in between while our new house will be livable.  In a week we will move out of the dorm that we are staying in.  We will spend three weeks in a cabin in the Adirondacks, then we will spend the month of September in Colorado while he leads a wilderness expedition and I stay with his parents.
It's a lot.  It makes me want to cry.  I am nervous about leaving and not having decisions made for the contractor.  I am nervous about leaving the house with work undone and coming back in October to a half whole house and no where to stay.

In the meantime we have visited Home Depot twice.  I have spent quite a few hours on Craigslist buying new old furniture.  I have Googled 'retro bathroom,' 'vintage cabinet pulls,' 'how to paint laminate cabinets,' and 'bathroom floor tile' just to start.  I have been diverted from completing real tasks to sit and ogle websites of bathrooms and flooring.  So whilst the stress of all of this looms high and mighty in the end it will taste so sweet.  So sweet.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Home Sweet Home

Yesterday we bought a house.
After a seven month process of haggling, negotiating, trying to decide 'what I really want,' we signed a stack of papers and our real estate agent gave us some keys.
The lawyer announced,
"That was a crazy stack of papers," picked them up and tapped them into order.  O.A.R.'s lyrics, 'that was a crazy game of poker, I lost it all,' turned into, 'that was a crazy stack of papers, I bought it all,' starting running through my head.  I wanted to say something about it to lighten the air, but I couldn't remember the name of the song.
People kept asking me how I felt yesterday.  Mostly I just felt tired.  Numb, maybe?  There seemed not much fanfare.  Should we go break a bottle of champagne against the vinyl siding?  Should we at least go out to lunch?  We couldn't decide on a place to go, and mostly my stomach was still digesting our very large dinner from last night.  We went back to campus, collected our children, ate leftovers and went on with our day.
My husband said,
"I think we're contractually obligated to take a picture of ourselves holding the keys and post it to Facebook."  So later that day we did.  46 likes later and an ecard I'm feeling a bit more real.
Scott asked me how I felt when our day was done, dinner cooked, the kids in bed, and poking away at our respective electronic devices.
"It doesn't feel real, and part of me feels like we just a big mess," the house is a hundred years old, and, well, needs some work.  During the last walk through I kept thinking about what clothes I had in my wardrobe that I could completely ruin with paint scraping and rug tearing up.
We stood looking at the backyard that had gone to seed,
"I want to start mowing now,"  Scott said.  Good, because that pile of plants makes my head spin.  He keeps looking at me and saying,
"We're going to have a lot of decisions to make, and we're going to have make them soon."  Like a warning shot.  I might be the most indecisive person to walk the planet.  Might be.  I have been itching to decorate a house for years.  Now faced with a thousand decisions I might short out.
I still can't believe that I can be this blessed, to own our own home.  To have a place that I can finally paint, a place that we can call our home for a long time.  To be 'settled,' to have a town that we can sink our teeth into, to have neighbors for years rather than months.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Mostly

So now what do we do?

After hearing the verdict of the George Zimmerman case I shuddered throughout.  I thought we had come so far.  I hurt for Trayvon's parents.  Had my daughter's been out that buying iced tea and skittles most likely Mr. Zimmerman would have offered to walk them home.  Had I son, maybe we would have told him to run right home.  Even though any teenager regardless of color can be up to no good at that time of night.  We are capable of theft and violence, no matter what shade our skin is.  How do we change this?  How do we make our world safer for our children?

My husband runs a camp on the North Shore; an area about forty five minutes north of Boston.  The area we live in is quite homogeneous, largely middle class and wealthy white folks.  There is a town that is more ethnically diverse about a half hour south of called Lynn, it is also more economically depressed than the North Shore (which isn't saying much, most places are more economically depressed than the North Shore).  My husband started a program with a charter school in Lynn and we are now pulling Junior Counselors up from Lynn to work alongside us.  They all happen to be of Latin or African backgrounds.
Last summer I assumed that these counselors would feel a bit out of place, I wanted to reach out to them.  I wasn't real sure how to do it.  I didn't want to march up to them and be all, like, 'so you're clearly not from around here....so how's it going.....are people being all not racist and stuff?'

One of our counselors has done a particularly good job reaching out the them and incorporating them warmly  into the staff.  I happen to be good friends with her so I asked her how she did it,
"I just treat them like they're human," she said with a shrug.
Oh right.  That.
The more I study people and culture, the more people I meet from different cultures the more I notice that we're all people.
I remember a conversation I had with a Kenyan friend about introducing foods to their babies, what did they give their babies?  All soft mashable foods, one at a time...huh, exactly like we do.
Once I was having a group conversation with some Maasai women, they asked us how long our periods were and giggled with surprise pleasure when they found that they were the same length as theirs.

As for our junior counselors I did remember that they are teenagers and any awkwardness I perceived from them probably had far more to do with the fact that they are just that, awkward teenagers.  I also forget that I am, gasp, an adult, and, terrifyingly, married to their 'boss.'  So far I have tried to treat them as such, scared teenagers, so I talk to them about their broken phones, let them play with my children, and smile at them when they look the most terrified.

I think it's important to remember that Trayvon Martin was just that, a scared teenager who was accosted by a man with a gun.  He was accosted, most likely, because he was black and that is something awful that we need together on as a society.
We need to remember that mostly people of different colors than us are just people.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

She's Got Legs

            “I wish I had your legs,” I heard a croaky voice behind me. Initially I thought it was a man, I turned to see a woman who looked like my Nana following me out of the door of Target.
            “Uh, Thank you,” I smiled awkwardly and I’m sure blushed.
            “They’re great,” she finished.  I slunk away, pushing my cart, not really knowing how to finish the interaction. 
            What I didn’t tell her is that I have spent years hiding my legs in pants.  Only these past few years when I lost weight from breastfeeding and living in a developing nation have I had the courage to wear shorts on a regular basis.
            When I was about eleven years old I was doing an exercise video by Raquel Welch, she showed a still of a woman’s legs and said that these were the ‘perfect’ legs; if you can hold a coin in between your calves, in between your knees, and at the top of your thighs, so that there is a significant gap in between your thighs.  I remember looking down at the gap in between my calves, and the thighs that were pressed together in one solid seam all the way down the length of them and feeling so defeated.  My thighs still touch all the way down, and there is still a gap between my calves, but that didn’t seem to bother the lady at Target.
            I remember seeing a picture of myself in college, my friends and I had just rented our first house together.  We ran around like big goobers and took extremely goofy pictures of exultation.  There is one shot of me from behind, I am wearing one of those ridiculous pairs of super low cut jeans.  My bum looks amazing.  At the time I can remember how much mental energy I wasted thinking that I was too overweight to wear shorts. 
            Do you ever wonder what you’re going to be like when you’re older?  Often I look at older women and think, ‘I want to be like that.’  I’ll pick women I think are classy.  Those that have aged with dignity, accepted their changing body, taken good care of themselves, give advice well, I usually pick those ladies.
            Today I pick this lady.
            I want to walk around big box stores and tell younger women that they look fantastic. 
            “Hey, your butt looks great in those jeans.”
            “I wish I had those arms, I’d wear tank tops year round.”
            “Don’t wear a black bra with a white shirt.”
            Wait…
            Did I mention that I would also dispense fashion advice?  Because in my head that is what this lady does,
            “No one should wear jeans that tight, you might be thin enough, but, dear, it’s just tacky.”
            “Oh, honey, purple leopard print boots are always a bad idea.”
            “I wish I had your body, but you should still wear a bra with that.”

            I don’t know how I am going to develop the gravelly smoker’s voice…I’ll have to figure that one out when I get there.