This past week, I attended the Mass Conference for Women in Boston. Promised to be one of the largest networking events for women, 11,000 women deep to be exact, it’s an inspiring estrogen filled forum. Not a fan of driving into Boston, I left at 5:15 for a 7:00 a.m. arrival to beat traffic and allot time for getting lost.
I do that a lot. Get lost, that is. If my GPS was personalized, it would be shouting at me on a daily basis – I said turn, how did you miss that? Turn here, now, now, Jodi – turn now! Instead I get the “rerouting, rerouting” and end up on side streets I had no idea existed in my own city. Thanks to my GPS, I usually don’t have to think about where I’m going. I just go.
At the conference, I felt another sense of loss. The speakers usually discuss their personal stories and how they arrived at their definition of success. There’s a takeaway message about perseverance and sacrifice, along with a suggestion to let go of that which is not useful in one’s life. And there was my rub; what could I let go of? I can (and often do) break out the mini violins and say I can’t fit it all in – I’m out of my house for 10 hours a day, I have a husband and 3 kids, I have chores to do and friends to see and the gym to get to…but I feel grateful to be overwhelmed by such things. Anxious and bitchy some days for sure, but mostly fortunate.
My job doesn’t feel like a chore. I work with people who make my workday fun, which is a good thing, because I’m there for most of my waking day. What has taken a hit since I’ve started working in the corporate world is my writing. I mourn the creative part of myself that got lost on a computer screen for hours, absorbed in an encapsulated world that gave the INFJ in me an adrenaline rush. Today that part, once sparked with light and energy, feels dull and colorless. And I can’t seem to find my way back to center. I have to admit that I wasn’t keen on listening to women who made it when I feel like I tanked.
At one of the breakout sessions, the speaker asked us to turn to the person next to us and disclose something that needed nurturing. I disclosed to my coworker, Stephanie, that I felt like jammed paper in a copy machine when it came to the written word. Which is why I’m writing this blog rather than baking cookies for Christmas. Stephanie dared me to. Challenge accepted.
When I first starting writing, my intention was to be a well-known author, almost famous. Not J.K. Rowling or Stephen King famous, or even Jodi Picoult famous. But renowned enough that my name was recognized and people wanted to read what I wrote, would state that my writing stayed with them, changed them, made a difference. Perhaps that would be true if I actually wrote consistently.
I’m not sure what I’m going to let go of, or if I’m willing to let go of anything. I thought I wanted a job for a paycheck, but turns out I would like a career, and careers take time and energy. I thought I couldn’t write properly if I couldn’t be a full time writer, but I know that’s a flat out lie. What I do know, after being reminded at the Mass Conference for Women, is that I can always reroute when lost. I can make a conscious choice to change my thoughts, shift my focus, and get out of my own way. Unlike my GPS, I may not always know where I’m going, but I can go anyway and trust in the process.
We were asked to choose a daily mantra at the end of the session. Immediately I thought of a quote by Epictetus – “If you wish to be a writer, write.”
Undergarments aren’t what they used to be. They used to be basic white shapeless briefs that were meant to protect you from your clothes, or vice versa. Then fashion took over and removed the bulk and droop of the past. There are now choices of cotton boxers, frilly briefs, basic spanks, and silky bikini bottoms. Panties that promise no show lines make me a happy girl.
The thong is considered a tried and true choice for a smoother looking outfit, eliminating the pantiline problem. I have tried wearing different variations of thongs to no avail. After a fair amount of attempts, I could not manage to become one with the thong. I felt it the entire time and became hyperfocused on how I could casually reach back and pluck the strip of fabric from out of my behind. This doesn’t mean I want to be a crinkled fashion faux pas when wearing certain outfits, nor do I want to worry about it. After all, there are more important things to worry about without having to wonder about a bunched up bottom or deep underwear lines that separate your upper and lower stomach into two parts. I understand that the wrong choice of underwear can lead to a wardrobe malfunction, which is why I was willing to try thongs. And while I’m being honest, they’re more of an underwedge than underwear. I think of them as tortilla sized scraps with a runway strip of fabric that nestles itself inside well inside your butt cheeks.
My friend S. feels differently.
“If you buy the right fit, you won’t even know you’re wearing one,” she told me.
To which I replied, how can you not feel something stuck in the crevice of your ass? Even if they did feel okay, I’m too thong-conscious to commit, especially when wearing a dress or skirt. What if I fall? What if the wind bows? What if I have a laughing fit on a full bladder?
What? It can happen.
Let me cite an example of an innocent night on the town gone wrong: S. is walking down a main street in a busy city dressed in a black sundress. It’s at the end of a long day of boating and food crawling, and dinner is next on the agenda. S. steps on a subway grid just as a train passes underneath. She feels an undercurrent of air brush her lower body, nothing to cause alarm. Continuing forward, she realizes all too late that she has stepped into an embarrassing situation. The chain of events occurs so fast that S. has no idea what hit her. A nor’easter blasts up from beneath the grid. It takes S. a moment to realize that her dress is well above her waist, and at the same time she is swatting at something by the side of her head that is tickling her ears. God, is it a fly, a bee, or worse, a bat?
You know that moment when you clearly understand what is happening? S. had this moment while swatting and flailing about; it wasn’t a living creature she was swatting, it was her dress. It had blown up and over her hips, fabric positioning itself around her head like a hood.
You might be thinking, as I did, “Why the hell didn’t you sidestep off the grid?”
Like a like a deer in headlights, S. had gone stupid and froze.
because S. was wearing a thong, her derriere on exhibition for all of Main Street.
Behind her, S.’s friends witnessed her struggle, and one of them had the wherewithal to step forward and end the fanny fiasco.
S.’s incident solidified my thong fears. If I fall victim to a windy street grate, I’ll be in color coordinated granny panties.
My husband and I are both from Massachusetts, but we met in New Hampshire, where his family owned a home. Turning off the main street, you ventured approximately one thousand feet along a narrow dirt road that led to six houses situated on gorgeous lakefront property. We rented from his cousin, who was located two doors down. It was the summer of ’77, and we were 11 years old. We’ve known each other for 40 years and have been married for 27. Nice love story, huh? But that was just background information. Keep reading.
Twenty years ago, his parents sold their home. This summer, we returned to the lake to reminisce and enjoy family time. Our childhood friend Andrea, who lived next door to my husband, happened to be visiting from North Carolina. We recounted tales from the past, how we braved the sting of mosquitoes to swim at night when the lake seemed black and foreboding, and treading water was the only way to ensure something wasn’t going to grab you from below the surface. We constructed stories about lions and tigers and bears while running down the dirt road giving each other heart attacks. We spent our days swimming, fishing and boating, and lived in each other’s pockets. We were on a beautiful lake, with lots of kids and lots of commotion. Our parents didn’t own iPhones with location trackers or text messaging. They knew they’d see us eventually, and that was good enough. One landline was connected to two cottages, for emergencies only. Keeping in touch with your friends meant walking into town and buying a 10¢ postcard that arrived to your friend around the same time vacation was over. WBLM 107.5 offered the most promising static free music, as long as you turned the dial at a slow pace, easing into the station. My husband had a TV with two knobs and bunny antennas. Maneuvering the antennas just so allotted us a snowy viewing of the Six Million Dollar Man.
The summer of 1976, right before our two-week vacation, my sister and I ordered the Monkees Greatest Hits. No Amazon prime or free overnight shipping on $50, no email notifications that our packages were at our doorstep. We lived in the dark, anticipating that our albums would be sitting on our porch when we got home. We squealed as only teenage girls can at the sight of the brown delivery boxes on our porch. I tore open the cardboard and held up the album like Mufasa did to Simba in the Lion King. Darting to my room at warp speed, I removed the plastic wrap and slid out the crisp record. Clean scratch free vinyl with visible grooves, one for each song. I turned on my record player, navigated the needle, and listened (not in stereo) to The Monkees. I would eventually wear the album out, scratching it accidentally while trying to find the exact spot on a song that I wanted to hear over and over so I could memorize the words.
I have often thought about that night, when my sister and I blared the Monkees in unison. We danced, we sang, we celebrated to Daydream Believer and Pleasant Valley Sunday. We didn’t post it or Instagram or Snapchat the memory, yet it remains clear in my mind.
An avid fan of technology, I’ll admit to having anxiety without a cell phone in my hand. Free two-day shipping? Yes, please. Yet, I can’t help but feel a loss over the fact that the future of technology has stolen something precious – the lesson of patience and the art of being/living in the moment. We’ve lost the opportunity to experience anything other than immediate gratification. There’s something to be said for anticipation, for foregoing photo ops to enjoy a Facebook free moment. Imagine getting lost without a phone, being unable to track something or someone. Now, imagine doing that by a lake, an ocean, a park, your backyard, a quiet room. Go ahead, take a deep breath and a technology break, and embrace the moment.
If you read my last blog, you’ll recall that it was about discomfort and why I felt motivated to make healthy food choices. This blog is an extension of sorts because it has to do with why I exercise, and hint, it’s not to acquire six-pack abs, though that would be lovely. I think my constitution errs on the side of laziness and though I feel great after a workout, I don’t much care for that sore muscle feeling of screaming thighs and sore lats. The older I get, the more I end up exerting too much of one thing and not enough of another and before you know it, I’m holding some area of my body and moaning ouch.
I exercise because I fear the sitting disease. That’s right, the sitting disease, and I’m hoping to scare you enough that you fear it too, because I want you to live a long and happy life. It’s a fact that sitting for prolonged periods will kill you. A couple of years ago, I saw the photo to the right online, and to be honest, it was hard to look at and read. Click on it and it will take you to the bigger photo. Go ahead, I’ll wait while you look it over.
You back? A bit disturbing, ya? I thought so as well. Here’s an even more disturbing quote:
“For people who sit most of the day, their risk of heart attack is about the same as smoking.” ~ Martha Grogan, Cardiologist, Mayo Clinic
So if you smoke and sit, you best get moving!
I don’t have a set workout regimen; my goal is to keep moving enough that my metabolism stays active and I hopefully stay alive longer because of it. I go to the gym anywhere between 1-4 times a week, depending on my schedule, my body, my time, and my energy. I spend anywhere from a half hour to an hour on cardio, weights and stretching. My friend Roger, who is a personal trainer, shared his workout regimen when I told him I was looking to tone and strengthen my overall body, and it’s been a great addition to my non-routine. I also wear a Fitbit and participate in challenges with coworkers. Fitbit shaming is a great way to get in some serious steps.
Not sure on what workouts you want or need? Pinterest is loaded with how to’s on every body part imaginable, including exercises you can do while sitting at your desk. I have saved many pins on working out and have probably followed a quarter of them. But at least they’re on my boards as a reminder.
Do you sit on your butt all day? If they offer it, request a sit/stand desk at work. I have had one for a couple of years and it makes a huge difference. If this isn’t an option, set a mobile alarm as a reminder to get up every hour. If you can’t move from your station, do a couple of side steps, touch your toes, and stretch your neck and jaw. Go to the gym before work, during lunch, or after. Get a personal trainer if you can. Do something.
Let’s face it, it’s all too easy to fall prey to not moving, and the more you do nothing, the easier it is to continue doing nothing.
Before you know it, you’ll be going from couch potato to exercise aficionado and doing a split handstand against a beautiful backdrop in a public area in no time.
OMG, did you think that was me? I can’t do that, I’m sure I’d break something attempting such a feat! That’s my friend Melissa doing a most excellent handstand, and who seems to have the upper body strength of
five men. This is me on the left; I’ve gotten as far as the wall hold, and believe me, it’s an effort.
Like I said, I workout because I like my life and my people, and I don’t like discomfort.
So if you’re not a natural workout kind of person, don’t despair. If I can hang on the wall, you can walk around the block.
The quest to eat right, along with the market that sells advice and products on how to eat right never gets old. Plans vary, however the blanket message usually goes something like this; decrease junk, eat lean and green, get plenty of rest. Drink lots of water, exercise.
I’ve been clean of foods that fall into my junk food category for 23 years. I haven’t had one piece of cake, one brownie, or one ice cream cone. No pizza, no pasta, no English muffins with slabs of butter. I work out as often as I can and practice any feel good slogan stuff I find myself attracted to; memes about growth with a pinch of struggle and strong notes of appreciation and letting go – yes, please.
As far as weight loss initiatives, many programs promise to be THE one program that will propel you into a successful weight loss. And by the way, most diets aren’t diets any more; they’re a food plan, a way of eating for life, a new beginning to better habits. In the absence of a serious food addiction, I believe any program would work if the dedication to it were there. I was a pudgy kid who grew into a heavy young adult. In my early 20’s, and pushing a size 14, this no longer served me. I wanted to be thin because my belief was that thin equaled a healthy body and mind. Thin was where it was at; thin people were loved more than me and if I were thin, my worries would melt away.
I lost the weight, and I felt great. Of course my thinking was distorted and my baggage still intact, but that’s another post. I told myself I’d keep eating the way I was eating until I hit the ripe old age of 60. At that point, I’d be old and close to death and my weight would no longer matter. At 60, I would proceed to eat whatever I wanted and die of heart disease like the rest of America. Fat, on meds, but happy enough with my apple pie and vanilla ice cream.
Flash forward 23 years later, much closer to 60 and hopefully not within the Reaper’s line of sight, I’m a brand new woman who has no plans of ditching the way I eat or exercise, unless it’s via improvement.
Want to know my secret? Here it is; I hate discomfort. If it’s in my power to adjust, I do. I consider my discomfort a gift against complacency. When it got uncomfortable enough to be in my own skin, I crawled out. Sounds easier than it was, and I can assure you it was a haul. Gone are the days where I have to unbutton the top of my pants to draw a breath after a heavy meal. Food brain fog is no longer part of my daily life.
This isn’t a blog meant to bash overweight and happy folks. Nor am I promoting the thinner the better. For me, it’s about how much discomfort I’ll tolerate, and how long I am willing to tolerate it for. Live according to your values. If you feel that you’re happy being overweight, no judgment here. Being overweight won’t affect your ability to live a meaningful life or find love, happiness and friendship, unless you let it. But if you are someone who is looking for a plan, pick one. There’s too much on the market to tell yourself you can’t find something that works for your personal needs.
I adore this Brian Tracy quote, “You can make excuses or you can make progress. You choose.”
Which will you do?
- Capacity: Ample room so that it could almost be considered carry-on luggage, but at the same time doesn’t look like my son’s book bag.
- Strap strength: Durable, medium width, firmly stitched where bag meets strap.
- Fabric: I prefer leather.
- Style: Simple and functional over flashy and cool.
You cannot dispute the importance of a woman’s purse:
- My purse as a weapon – If I had a sturdy enough strap and just the right carry through with an intense swing, the weight of my purse could render an attacker unconscious, possibly dead.
- Like MacGyver, my purse holds everyday items that, in the right hands, could possibly make complex devices in a matter of minutes.
- Headache? Cut? Sore throat? I’m you’re go-to gal.
I can’t comprehend how some women can leave the house with a credit card sized purse and not a care in the world. What if they need a pen or elastic or an Advil? Perish the thought!
I’ve tried to lighten my pocketbook, but end up in anxiety mode because what if I’m out somewhere and I don’t have what I need?
Don’t ask me what this “need” is that I’m referring to. I couldn’t tell you, but if I don’t have my stuff, I get twitchy. Could I possibly be one of those women that writer Mavis Gallant referred to when she said, “She had the loaded handbag of someone who camps out and seldom goes home, or who imagines life must be full of emergencies.”
Guilty as charged.
Honorable mention and shout out to my computer bag and canvas lunch tote that I lug to work. The sheer weight of it all could cause a lesser or lighter woman to need a hip replacement.
I’ve even tried the unfashionable fanny pack. I had a Coach fanny that had a surprising amount of space and stuffed it so full that it was like holding a pudgy baby on my hip all day.
Perhaps I’m dealing with some deep separation anxiety from my household and having my “things” with me lessens this feeling?
Or maybe I’m a purse hoarder, like those house hoarders, only I hoard in my purse? Is there a purse intervention person?
Or maybe I’m overthinking and I just like my shit with me.
I kinda think it’s the latter.
Whenever my shoulder feels like it’s going to come out of its socket, I vow to cut back on my purse load. Purse cleaning is a mixture of excitement and dread. It’s an opportunity to reorganize my life, and if I happen to be changing pocketbooks, I get the benefit of new pocketbook smell; fresh glue and good old leather greet your nose at the unzipper.
The bottom of my pocketbook could easily be a contender for Dirty Jobs. I begin by dumping the entire contents of my purse on the kitchen table, which resembles the mess at the bottom of a man’s toolbox, only instead of screws and woodchips, one finds barrettes and month old mints. Remnants of indistinguishable receipts look like they were thrown into an angry ocean, torn and battered from being tossed into the vast center opening. Shuffling through the mess, I find: endless to-do lists – some checked off, some ignored – loose change, which always comes in handy when you’re at a tollbooth, a Splenda packet that had been slain, pierced by a sharp object, no doubt a pen. Tiny grains of sucralose line the bottom of my purse, leaving white dust on a few pieces of gum that had escaped their package.
It’s always difficult to say goodbye to a purse. One of my favorites was a Burberry canvas purse/backpack with two black patent leather straps and adjustable buckles. It was love at first sight. The flap-top opening and long body made for generous room, and because it was backpack style, I didn’t have to worry about the future of my rotator cuff. I wore that Burberry out like an old pair of comfy shoes. I almost wept when I retired it.
Of course, having a heavy purse has its downsides. Lopsided posture, wear and tear on the old joints. And yes, if I were at the Cape on my in-law’s boat and somehow went overboard, I’d sink clear to the bottom, as if chained to a boulder.
But let’s not dramatize.
I recently attended a bridal shower where the guests played a game called “purse raid”. The bride-to-be called off items that may be found in a purse and guests got points for each item they had. You received 10 points for a cough drop, 15 for an expired coupon. Flash drives were 50 points.
“Who has dental floss?”
“Doesn’t everybody, I wondered?”
“Who has a gift card?”
“Me, that’s who.”
“Old sales receipt?”
“Please, challenge me.”
“Three of them.”
MacGyver ready, per usual.
I was the lucky recipient of the bulging purse prize and went home with a lovely basket of goodies, none of which would fit into my purse.
When I was a teen the only kids that sported tattoos were the bad ass ones; roses on boobs, skulls and crosses on arms, flowers on ankles. At 17, I desperately wanted a tattoo, but my parents would have killed me and quite frankly, I didn’t have the nerve. Mini needles drilling into my skin, pain, fear of ink poisoning, no thank you. Nineteen years later, I was ready for my ink.
New Hampshire tattoo parlor, weekend getaway with my husband, who had already planned on getting a tattoo, so I figured carpe diem. I had three children; surely, I could handle this. I perused the artwork and settled on a dragon design for a couple of reasons; it would complement one of my husband’s tattoos, and I liked the fact that the dragon stood for courage, strength, and wisdom. Even better, when I informed the tat artist of the probability that my threshold was about 20 minutes, he told me that this tattoo fit my criteria. When the stencil was placed on my ankle, trepidation hit, and I mentally planned an escape route. If it all went bad, a line or two could be chalked off as a birthmark, but once the outlining was underway, I’d be in it to win it.
Okay, you know how they say tattoos hurt? Know this: they do. I looked at my husband for support. He smiled in a please suck it up, don’t make a scene way. Dammit, why didn’t I go with a girlfriend? And just like that, my wish was granted. She was tall and blonde with a plus-sized body that was squeezed into many sizes too small biker chick clothes. Her Dolly Partons bulged out of a shirt that fit her like a condom and her nails were red talons. She was loud and raucous, and carried a tray of Jell-O shots that she had gotten from the bar next door.
She heard me whimpering and rushed to my side. “You can do it honey,” she smiled, her red lipstick framing perfectly white teeth. “Look at my rose,” she said, leaning the girls close enough to touch my cheek, revealing a blue rose that looked like circa 1970s. It was like resting my face on a pillow, and better yet, it distracted me from leaping out of the chair.
“Here, squeeze my hand,” she smiled. This chick was like the Jillian Michaels of tattoo coaching, and for the next 20 minutes, this boisterous beauty was my new BFF. When my two-inch long by one-inch wide dragon tattoo was complete, I thanked her for being my personal cheerleader. She laughed and hugged me – hugged meaning her boobs momentarily absorbed my face – and took her Jell-O shots to the bar next door.
We’re moving ahead seven years, present day:
To celebrate her 18th birthday, my oldest child, and only daughter, announced she was getting a tattoo. I asked if I could go along with her two friends for the historic moment and she said yes, as long as I didn’t tell the tattoo artist what to do.
Oh, please. Like I’d tell a tattoo artist their job.
I’d suggest maybe, but definitely not tell them what to do. Geesh.
My daughter wanted a dragon tattoo for the same reasons I did; she liked what they represented, and she wanted to compliment mine and my husband’s tattoos. She described the tattoo to the artist, and like magic, he sketched a design. “I love it! It’s everything I wanted,” she beamed.
We proceeded to the back room where folks were getting branded with loved one’s names or symbols that held special meaning, their faces a mixture of pain and pleasure. My daughter’s friends took turns holding her hand, the four of us giggling and wincing together. During the process I said to her, “It’s big, huh? It’s going to be weird to have that on your foot.” And she said, “No, I was ready. I said goodbye to my foot this afternoon. I said, Goodbye plain foot. This is the last time I’ll see you like this.” I smiled at her, content that her tattoo decision had not come lightly.
An hour later, my daughter was sporting a fine looking dragon on her foot. She received the proverbial pat on the back and looks of admiration from other artists and patrons. My daughter’s tattoo happened to coincide with the release of a movie and I’ve given her the nickname of…wait for it…the girl with the dragon tattoo!
Senior year teaches parents what parents initially taught their child: how to sit, crawl, stand, walk, and finally, how to let go. For this rite of passage, I wanted to commiserate with women who were walking in my shoes, consumed by the crazy senior year agenda that included visits to campuses, financial aid and college dorm shopping. It’s a good nine months of vacillating between wanting the tedious details of the search to be over, and then knowing when it is over, you’re going to do the ugly cry. For some of us it will be a virgin voyage, for others, the beginning of an empty nest. Either way, it’s a niggling uncertainty over where our lives will take us now that we don’t have to buy food in bulk.
Logically, I understood this was a natural transition, but it didn’t feel natural at all. My brain was divided into two systems of happy and distressed and within those systems were branches of infinite emotions.
Two weeks prior to her leaving, this was me:
- I have a headache.
- I’m so excited for her!
- My jaw hurts. My sinuses hurt. Everything hurts.
- Yay, she got into her first choice!
- I think I’m getting sick. I’m sick. I just might be dying.
- Can’t wait to go dorm shopping, whoop!
- The air is too thick; I can’t take a deep breath. Where the hell has the oxygen gone?
- Funny, I don’t remember drinking 10 cups of caffeine this morning, yet…
- This is gonna be great!
- Xanax, anyone?
I knew from the moment she was born that this day would come, that the process of letting her go began when she took her first steps. I raised her to be independent so that she would leave our nest armed with basic knowledge, from household chores to grocery shopping to career decisions. I watched her mature into an individual with a strong sense of determination and responsibility. I covered all the ethical and moral bases I could think of because I knew that soon enough the time would come for her to venture out on her own. What I didn’t know was how fast “soon” would come careening around the corner. Family life as we knew it was about to change, and I didn’t feel ready for it. I wanted to put a camera in her college dorm so I could be part of her life on a daily basis – not because I’m creepy, but because I didn’t want to miss a day in her life.
Yes, I know. It sounds wicked creepy, even though I’ve clarified myself.
I felt compelled to text her daily, skype her, and send her informative articles on her major.
Way past encroaching on helicopter mom territory. Duly noted.
After years of encouraging independence, this desire to micromanage my daughter confused me. It wasn’t like I wanted to do it forever mind you, only until it was my turn to visit life everlasting.
Oh, give me a break.
Moving day wasn’t as dramatic as I’d predicted. My daughter was beaming, and I realized it was hard to be sad seeing her this happy. I envisioned our goodbye a bittersweet parting. We’d hug, wipe away a few tears and I’d hand her a letter I had written that summed up my belief about the strong woman she had become. That was not the exit. We were surrounded by dozens of people, and although I was perfectly able to cry in the messiest way possible, I wanted to spare my family the drama. I hugged her, handed her the note, and casually said, “So, give me a call.” “I will,” she smiled. Her body was already turned away, ready to bolt for freedom.
She made it four steps before I dove like a linebacker and death gripped her ankle.
Aw, come on.
No, I didn’t. I turned to leave before turning back for one last look. She was walking away from us, toward a friend’s dorm and low and behold, I didn’t see my four-year-old pixie. I saw a beautiful, young woman venturing out into the wide, wide world. I went to bed crying and woke up crying. I went grocery shopping and in the produce section, “Hey, Soul Sister” blared over the intercom. More tears. It’s not easy to pick non-bruised fruit through tear stained eyes.
With each passing week, I found myself feeling better. My daughter had met great friends and was adjusting to her new life. And that’s what I wanted. I wanted her to thrive and grow and bloom, and she couldn’t do that under my supervision. I’d just be telling her what to do and how to do it, and that is not a mother’s job. My job is to let go. As parents, we hope that the college years will be filled with opportunities and higher learning, new relationships and dorm partying. This is the time of their lives, their introduction into adulthood without the adult baggage that will come soon enough.
Before my daughter left, the thought of inevitable change frightened me, but it’s not change we should fear. What will cripple us is the not letting go. Over time, I’ve adjusted to our family’s new normal of one less person in the house. Although I still miss my daughter, I can only think of two words to describe her future: how exciting!
Prologue: Since this initial blog, my third and final child left for college. My older two have moved out and for the first time in 26 years, my husband and I became empty nesters. There are still many days when my brain functions on two systems with branches of emotions. I miss the babies I had, but I’m also a wife who was able to become reacquainted with the guy she became starry-eyed over many moons ago. Our initial response to being empty nesters: the roost has been reclaimed!
It was a no go, but because one’s general mood of the moment can easily sway perspective, I like to give books a second shot. A month later, I tried again.
The book was too something – juvenile, ridiculous, a bit cruel how the boy was forced to sleep in a cobwebbed cubby of a closet – that it prevented me from reading beyond the first chapter.
It wasn’t until three or four years later that I understood the infatuation with the boy who lived. I had injured myself in an accident that left me immobile for two weeks. I don’t know about you, but there’s only so many cooking shows or reruns I can watch before television starts to blend into a cluster of garbled crap. I hobbled around the house searching for a book and came up wanting. As I passed by my daughter’s room, I glimpsed the familiar cover of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The way I saw it, I could read the book or go back to watching Charlie’s Angels reruns. No contest. The Angels were killing my self esteem with their million dollar smiles and perky boobs.
I became lost in Potter world for two hours. This Hogwarts was good stuff. There were spells and potions, places called Diagon Alley and Gringotts. There was a sorting hat and a sport called Quidditch. What fascinated me was that J.K. Rowling had conjured an impressive and compelling tale about an 11-year-old boy doomed to die at the hands of the book’s antagonist, Voldemort, a.k.a. Tom Marvolo Riddle, a.k.a. the Dark Lord, a.k.a. You-Know-Who, a.k.a. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. There was so much to absorb, so many ways to interrupt and analyze the story.
Within two weeks, I finished all the Harry Potter books released to date. As Harry aged, so did the plot, with the storyline taking on a more grown up magic. I wanted to MapQuest Hogwarts and hang out with the Weasleys. I wanted to see a Norwegian Ridgeback dragon. I wanted to visit the Ministry of Magic. I wouldn’t even mind seeing He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named from a distance.
Most of all, I wanted my own wand. As a busy woman, how awesome would it be to own a piece of wood that, when you point and shoot it, you receive immediate gratification? Lost something? Forget the St. Anthony prayer; grab the wand and say, “Accio”. Sick of broken or chipped plates? “Raparo” will fix them, free of charge. Clean my toilets? No problemo. Ready, aim, “Scourgify!” Pissed off at a coworker? Get ’em in the parking lot with “Stupefy”. That’ll make ’em think twice.
Harry Potter discussions became the norm with my daughter, Jocelyn, and her best friend, Erika, a.k.a. E. We attended the Barnes and Noble midnight releases of books 5 and 6, standing in line for hours so that we could deep dive into Harry’s next venture. Pretty soon, Chris (E.’s mom) jumped on board and began reading the series.
Chris and I started a tradition, taking our combined six kids to all Harry Potter movies to date. In short, we became fanatics. The girls have read the series countless time. I’ve read book 5 three times and the last two books four or five times. I couldn’t even begin to count the amount of times we’ve watched the movies. Over the years, we’ve had hours of discussion on spells and potions, psychoanalyzed Snape, and recited lines verbatim. I’ve taken multiple online sorting hat quizzes. I thought I was a Ravenclaw, but I’m a Hufflepuff/Slytherin. Go figure.
We attended the Harry Potter exhibit at the Museum of Science for my birthday, where we purchased “Muggle” shirts. I also got a wand. This summer, E. went to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal. We were all jealous. My daughter is going this spring.
Our movie tradition lasted until this summer, with the release of Deathly Hallows, which I ordered temporary Death Eater tattoos for. The anticipation building up to the two-part ending caused a flurry of conversation and admitted regret that this was the end of an era.
Author Howard Pyle said, “The stories of childhood leave an indelible impression, and their author always has a niche in the temple of memory from which the image is never cast out to be thrown on the rubbish heap of things that are outgrown and outlived.”
Over the course of ten years, Harry and company have given me and my daughter and to some extent, my two sons, an avenue of communication that wouldn’t otherwise exist. Chris, E., Jocelyn and I have a common bond that can’t be broken, that we’ll cherish forever, and that we’ll never tire of. An eternal comfort zone. Who would have thought such a favorable link would be created from a children’s book about a boy with a lightning bolt on his forehead? Not me. But it’s exactly why I’m wild about Harry.
No matter your size, bathing suit shopping is not easy. Every spring, I prep myself for this daunting task, venturing out to find that elusive suit that will enhance the body I already have via cleverly bunched spandex. How a piece of thin spandex can do that, I have no idea, but that’s my mindset and goal.
Before I go further, I want to qualify that I have a normal sized body that I’m not unhappy with. I eat a balanced diet, exercise, and live a healthy lifestyle. I do, however, think that anyone can get body dysmorphic under unflattering fluorescent lighting in a dressing room where the mirror seems to depict an image similar to a warped amusement park mirror. Here’s what can happen within minutes: Hello stretch marks, and hey there unsightly cellulite. It’s been a while. A whole winter, in fact. Did something just jiggle on my arm when I moved? That cannot be my ass. Pfft, this mirror sucks. Glad I came. This was super fun.
In years past, I’ve launched a plan of attack visiting select stores and driving home empty handed where the end result yielded a summer in the same suits I’ve had for oh, the past four years. Avoidance is so strong that I have even taken to wearing my sports bra with my bathing suit skirt in my pool. This year was going to be different. This year, I would not end up wanting. The hunt for the perfect spandex that would satisfy my fashion sense and flatter my physique was on. At the mall, I passed by Everything but Water, a boutique shop I swore I would never enter. I can’t reconcile doling out $200 for a two month season. I mean $80 bucks. For a top. For the water. That you wear at the beach, probably covered by a shirt half the time. A suit like that better be second to plastic surgery. Because I waited too far into the season, it was a chore to find the color, size, or style I was seeking. Out of sheer frustration, I reneged on my promise to steer clear of pricey spandex and cautiously stepped into Everything but Water. Maybe they were magic spandex, and if this were the case, well, you can’t put a price on magic. Crossing the threshold, my mind did this: ooo, eeee, ahhh. They really did have everything but the water! Admittedly the suits were high quality, but nothing resonated enough for me to make a purchase, and I left deflated.
A week later, I saw my girl Sonia in a suit that I thought I could absolutely pull off. Fun and daring, I asked her where she got it, and if she minded that I copy her? Of course not, she said. I spent a week looking at images of the suit online before I went to try it on. Here’s the suit.
Stunning, isn’t it? Here’s how I envisioned myself coming out of the water:
While basking in the sun, I’d look like this:
And my ass? Here you go:
What? I would so look just like this. Off I went to the mall, excited about my pricey, yet worthwhile purchase. No daughter or girlfriends in sight, I brought along my 19-year old son, who was less than thrilled to be my sidekick. I grabbed the suit off the rack.
“What do you think?” I asked him.
“I dunno,” he commented uncomfortably, taking a seat outside of the dressing room.
“I’ll show you when I have it on, you can give me your opinion,” I smiled.
This alone may have scarred the boy.
Looking at the suit, you would think it would have a bit of stretch, some give if you will.
It did not. Houdini would have struggled putting this thing on. Nonetheless, my efforts, I was certain, would pay off. I knew once the suit was on, I’d look just like…
Holy unforgiving stupid florescent mirror. This is bullshit. That cannot possibly be me.
I’m not ashamed to say that I have loose flesh around my middle. It’s a result of giving birth to three beautiful children, the scars of motherhood I’m proud to have earned. It’s no problem I don’t have a jacked up six pack. However, it was a problem that this demon suit managed to gather what small amount of loose flesh my midsection owned and bunch it up under the eyelets. Like, in a pucker, so that my skin was perforating through the eyelets in mini flesh bumps. What madness was this?
Maybe I shouldn’t have eaten dinner first?
Maybe if I sucked in my gut…more.
Maybe….I ran out of maybes and exited the dressing room, placing the suit of my dreams back on the rack.
“What’s the matter, you didn’t like it?” asked my son.
All I could do was shake my head and in a restaurant whisper, the whispered yell you do to your kids when they’re acting up in public, said, “This is just a weird suit. It’s not right.” (See, right there, I held the suit accountable).
I actually went back with my daughter to give the suit another try because it is one killer suit. I tried on a larger size in case this was one of those suits that required more space. Her comment was, “It kinda gives you upper back butt. See there, it’s pinching your back together.”
Upper back butt? That’s a thing? Exit stage left.
The good news is that I found the suit in skirt style online, which of course will make all the difference in the world.
The below is how I’ll look:
Com’on now. You understand that having a skirt makes absolutely no difference, right? Live the lie with me. If it doesn’t work out no harm, no foul. Another summer in the same old same old suits me just fine.