There is just so much to look forward to…

Recently, videos with audio about “only having little kids for four years” have been making the rounds. As someone who loves the baby/toddler/preschool years, it definitely tugs at my heartstrings.

But.

I realize those years aren’t everyone’s jam. Even if they are- the last two years have definitely been outside anything remotely resembling a typical experience of those years and the last thing anyone needs at this point is more guilt/anxiety piling on. No one should be feeling deficient if they haven’t loved every second of an exceptionally difficult time.

Also- they may only be little for four years, but they’re still ours and there are many years following those four. I wrote the following for submissions late last year, it never went anywhere, but it seems perfect for this moment….

Over a year ago I had a rare day where my eldest had a day off from school, but my youngest still had preschool. We were both excited to have some one on one time and decided coffee and hot cocoa at our favorite coffee place was in order once we dropped off his little sister.

On our way to our table, I saw an acquaintance and stopped to say a quick hello and I introduced my eight year old. This friend had only seen me at the coffee house with my three year old and hadn’t realized I had an older child as well. She was there with her husband enjoying a kid-free breakfast date. It was the third week of December, we chatted for a second about the craziness of the holiday season and the additional challenges posed by the very strange year, then my son and I and I said a quick, “enjoy your breakfast!’ and went to our table.

We got settled, debated the merits of different baked goods, made our decisions, then were quickly absorbed in enjoying our treats. We were also enjoying our conversation. My son was excitedly telling me about a kid’s history book he had finished and we started talking about if we would have liked living in Tudor England. (The lack of coffee in that place and time had me down as a HARD no, in case anyone is wondering…) Inwardly I marveled at how different a coffee outing looks with this child than it did several years ago. My purse only had my wallet, keys, and our masks in it. A variety of little toys to keep him busy, along with a phone with a few favorite episodes in the event of total meltdown, are no longer required. Now I’m with a (not so) small human who is gaining more knowledge by the moment and eager to discuss and share his thoughts.

The baby and toddler years are my time to shine. It has been my favorite phase so far. I would often sideeye parents who talked the golden years of parenting being when you have mid-older elementary children. At the time I could not believe anything could ever replace or compare to having a tiny body snuggled up to you, or a sticky little hand in yours. As time has moved on I’m realizing more and more, it is not a comparison- it is a continuation. We sat there for almost an hour talking about his book, his friends, his plan for the rest of the holiday break. I realized that all of that baby and toddler time had brought us here and rather than feeling wistful like I usually would- it felt like an amazing gift. It was quite the realization over coffee and an amazing scone.

Towards the end of our outing, my friend got up to leave with her husband and stopped by our table. I expected to exchange quick holiday wishes and hopes for a better New Year, but she surprised me. My friend smiled and mentioned she had been feeling a bit wistful with her children all in full time school. In her smile and her eyes I saw a kindred spirit, another mom who had adored the baby and toddler years and was sad they were definitely at an end. I smiled a smile that I’m sure mirrored her own, and was about to say something about how fast it goes or other cliched phrase, feeling that pull towards those days of little ones even as I was truly enjoying and marveling over this outing with my big kid. Before I can say anything else, my friend added,

“I hope you don’t think I was eavesdropping, but I so enjoyed listening to you two talking. It was so much fun to hear your son talk about his book and it makes me realize even though I miss having little ones, there is just so much to look forward to.”

Then we exchanged wishes for a good holiday and Happy New Year, finished our breakfast and headed about our to-do list and errands. I thought about what my friend had said for the rest of the day and about the realizations I had as well. Then things got busy and it drifted to the back of my mind.

This past fall, as my now- four year old started reception; full-time school where we live, I was more and more likely to lament the fact that we are really and truly out of the baby/ tiny kid phase at our house. I think wistfully of chubby arms, gummy smiles, and unsteady steps more than I care to admit. I hadn’t thought about this coffee date and my friend’s comments a half a year ago until the other day and it stopped me in my tracks…

This may be a time of big changes and transitions. It may be the time where I have to say goodbye to the baby and toddler years forever.

But.

There really is just so much to look forward to.

If you also saw a only little for four years video and it made you pause, yes, we only have little ones for four years, but there’s a lot of wonderful to come after that.

No one expects…

I think most of us took the word expect and predict out of our vocabularies this year. This has been a year of the unexpected and (to a degree) the unpredictable. I was thinking about last year’s end of year post and trying to decide if and how to write one this year. There’s not really a good way to sum this up, it’s been a roller coaster. Thankfully, it looks like we might be on the last few full loops before the end of this ride.

In thinking about this year, a few things have come to the top of my mind:

I’ve been told I’m good in a crisis (this relates to the topic at hand, I promise). This is a benefit-ish of the the way I tend to process my anxiety. Sometimes it’s like my brain is on a permanent doom scroll. This means I’ve usually run through countless potential scenarios and responses/ outcomes. So, most times I have an idea of what to do next when the unexpected rears its’ head and I don’t have to think too hard, I just have to do the next thing.

Then 2020 happened.

I’ll turn it over to Monty Python for a second here…

Substitute global pandemic for Spanish Inquisition, and yup, that about covers it.

It’s a little disconcerting to realize even with hours worrying and planning for (I thought) everything possible- I hadn’t even gotten close to the way events rolled out this year. That’s a lot of wakeful hours spent over the years- and I still had to make things up this year as I went along.

My biggest takeaway from this year was a pretty blunt reminder that you cannot prepare or plan for everything. The best you can do is just look for the next choice and go from there. It’s a tough concept for a control freak a planner to wrap their brain around. If I’m going to reframe this in a positive light- I am achieving new levels of flexibility and adaptability.

I should note- on a greater geopolitical/ social level, so much of what has happened in 2020 should absolutely have been expected. That’s a discussion for another time as I don’t think I can give it the deserved detail and attention today. There are also so many writers more qualified than I am to speak on many of the inequalities and injustices of this year and I feel it’s been best to share their voices rather than add in my less informed/experienced opinion.

Like everyone else I’ve looked for inspiration this year and have found many sources, thankfully. One that has been on my mind a lot has been the Queen. Binging The Crown most likely had something to do with this. Living in England probably factors in too.

I’ve thought a lot this year about World War Two and the hardships and separations experienced by those who lived through that time in history. I don’t feel like it is a perfect comparison as there are many differences in circumstances and the way this year has been experienced, especially compared to the average American’s experience on the home front during the war. However, The Queen is in the unique position (among many other very unique aspects of her life) of being someone who can speak with authority on both of these times in history. Her speech in March, at the start of lockdown, has popped up in my mind again and again as the months have gone by this year. This was at the point the reality of how long this could go on and what that would mean for me personally was just dawning. I have now been out of the US the longest I have ever been in my life, and this is the longest I’ve gone without seeing my parents, as well as many other family and friends.

The Queen referenced lyrics from a song popular during the war, which have become increasingly appropriate as time has passed this year,

“We will meet again”

I have come back to these words again and again this year, and I’m sure I will keep them in my mind for the coming months.

I know this it is true and with each passing day we get closer to the day where we will meet again and this current reality becomes a chapter for the history books.

Last year, I wrapped up with a joke about my new favorite shirt:

Clearly… I had no idea just how much foreshadowing was happening there.

In related news, I think I might be retiring this shirt.

Just in case.

Happy New Year everyone. Stay safe, and hopeful that better days are coming soon.

The Weak Bridge

Said weak bridge

In the past eighteen months, I’ve moved to England and turned forty. Oh, and we have a pandemic going on and we’re currently white- knuckling through election week and starting lockdown 2.0.

At this point, standard 2020.

I’ve had this in my drafts folder for a long time and it seems appropriate for right now.

We’re living in a more rural part of England, both Gingers go to school in a nearby town. Fortunately, school is still happening so I continue to drive the route for school drop off that I have for over a year (not counting the seven month pause) now.

After everyone was dropped off, the way I drove out of town leads me over a bridge – somewhat ominously called a weak bridge. This is not a name you usually want assigned to a piece of infrastructure you use daily, particularly one that was built before the American Revolution.

Last year, once I’d managed the challenge of being on the wrong (to me) side of both car and road, I started to gain a mastery of roundabouts. Fun fact- if you were awful at double Dutch jump rope as a child, roundabouts are probably not going to be your favorite traffic device. With all of that reasonably under control, I found myself with time to think on my daily drive out of town. As I got to thinking I realized the weak bridge was a perfect metaphor for certain seasons of life..

Vehicles over a certain weight aren’t allowed on the weak bridge and there are bollards to ensure that more than what the bridge can handle does not get through.

This seemed like the perfect metaphor for turning forty at the time and feels even more applicable now.

Even before factoring in the upheaval caused by current events it had been an interesting year or so. At times it felt like the universe was trying to hammer home the gravity of the impending milestone birthday by lobbing life events at a rate that was almost darkly comedic at times. In my close circle of friends, most of us were turning forty within the same nine months or so. As a group, we experienced so much change, loss, health issues, and major life events in six months that if we’d submitted it to the writers of This is Us it would have been kicked back for being a bit much.

It was a natural point in my life to take stock, do some evaluating, make necessary changes, and stop allowing anything that is not good for my infrastructure through.

Then the pandemic happened.

Its been a situation without precedent in most of our lifetimes. Quarantine, worry, illness, stress, financial insecurity, have all left us in an emotionally weakened state. Our values have been tested as well as our resilience and many of us have had to inspect our views to make sure we are creating a world that provides equality, safety, and fairness for all. Now, we are anxiously watching election results and hoping that decency and kindness will win over the unrelenting chaos and calculated cruelty of the last four years.

It has been a time of trying to juggle so many responsibilities that cannot be dropped and constantly trying to figure out what would bounce and what would shatter if dropped. Quarantine meant that we were isolated from so many of those we would turn to for support. Many have endured illness and loss without being able to say goodbye or to grieve with and hug those left behind.

Yet, we STILL have so much that still has to happen on a day-to-day basis. That will not change as things start to slowly reopen and hopefully inch towards yet another new normal. Everyone will come out of this with varying degrees of structural damage.

We are all weak bridges right now.

We all need to take more care to insure we can get let through what must get through and we put up our bollards to stop what is trivial and what we cannot bear right now. Our tolerances will vary in what we can handle as we go forward.

Everyone has been shaken, but some were closer to the epicenter than others. Those of us that are in better condition may have to take on some “traffic” for others so they can remain standing.

As for me, I’ll keep thinking of the signs I saw every day for a while -Temporary Road Works. The weak bridge was not weak forever. The crew worked on it to shore up the worn out arches and reinforce the foundation. One day the bollards came out (much to the relief of my poor car, which has more than one scratch due to my misjudging where they are) and the bridge returned to doing it’s job as normal.

The bollards- they look wider in this picture than they actually were.

We won’t have to have our bollards up forever either. Things will improve, we will learn how to navigate around the permanent changes in our landscape. It will become clearer what responsibilities can be set down until restrictions are lifted to the point we can share them with others again. In the meantime, bollards will stay up, we will all still be able to do our most important jobs. We will get where we need to be, it just might take a little longer than before.

Sometimes you have to turn centuries old masonry for a good metaphor about the current state of the world. Who knew?

Before you post that meme…

This is something that has been rattling around in my head since April. I’ve written a bit about this before, and it’s not intended to call out anyone specifically.

Dear Friend,

Before you share that meme about weight gain in the pandemic,  I’m asking you to pause for a second.  Right now, if you open any social media account you are guaranteed to see at least one post, meme, or joke about gaining weight during quarantine.  There are jokes and memes about “gaining the Covid 19”, clothes not fitting, images altered to make the subject appear fatter than they are, and that’s just scratching the surface. At the core, under the seeming lightheartedness, they are all weight-shaming and more than a little fat-phobic.

On one level, I get it.

Weight may feel like the one thing we should or can control right now. I have to ask, though- is it really the most interesting thing that has happened to you or that you have thought about these last few months? Are scale numbers the most impactful numbers you’ve read?

Doubtful.

Before you hit post, I want you to consider a few things.

Your body holds your wonderful heart, which has ached with disappointments both small and large during this time. It holds your brain which has been swimming with more concerns and worries that would have seemed possible at the start of the year.  Figuring out home schooling and how to keep children entertained has probably consumed a not-insignificant amount of your time.  You’ve held children in your arms who are crushed, anxious, bored, frustrated, and just plain out of sorts.  Do those children care about the number you see on the scale when you’re comforting them or helping them stay busy?

No.

You are working through a time where the way many holidays are celebrated has changed drastically. Not to mention Mother’s Day, an emotional mine field for so many.  Normal rituals and activities that provide a comfort or a distraction from grief aren’t available.  If you have eaten more of your favorite foods than normal, does that make you a bad person, less worthy of love and respect?

Absolutely not.

Maybe you’re an essential worker.  You have worked harder and most likely cried more in the last several months than you ever have in your professional life.  It has been unrelenting. Amongst all of this, groceries still need to be bought, childcare issues need to be sorted, education figured out, and there are family members  you are especially  worried about. You are doing everything in your power to make sure your family isn’t put in harm’s way due to your exposure and hoping as hard as you can you stay healthy.   In short, you have been coping with an unimaginable load on top of worrying about all the things everyone else is worried about.  Is now the time to add feeling ashamed for not tracking every morsel that you put in your mouth?

I can’t believe I have to say this, HELL NO!

Perhaps you are married to essential worker, you probably haven’t seen much of your spouse since March.  You may not have seen them at all. You most likely are juggling all of your children’s needs and the bulk of the household chores on your own.  Maybe you are desperately trying to work as well in the midst of this chaos.  You are definitely constantly worried about your spouse, praying they stay healthy and that the rest of your family does as well. Should you be beating yourself up if you haven’t crushed several workouts this week- especially if working out is something that feels like added pressure on your to-do list, instead of a relief?

No, you shouldn’t

You might be among the countless people who are awake at night trying to figure out how to make finances work while being furloughed.  Or laid off.  You might be a small business owner wondering if you will be able to open your doors again.  You may be wondering if you will still have a place to live and food in the kitchen in the coming months.  Should you be made to feel like you are less than if the number on the scale is more than you are used to seeing?

No, you really shouldn’t.

Or maybe you are someone who is overweight.  You are dealing with all of the stresses everyone else is facing.  But, there is also one stressor not everyone will understand. You’re seeing time and time again, from all sides, that having a body that looks more like yours after lockdown is over is the absolute worst thing that could happen.

During a pandemic. 

When people are under horrible financial strain.  At a time when people are experiencing grief and psychological distress. 

While people are dying.

These memes and jokes imply that even with all of this awfulness going on, the most awful thing is still being or becoming fat.  You are being told your body is worse than all of the horrible things  going on right now, combined.  That is the message you are getting from every post, joke,  and meme about the horror that is pandemic weight gain.  Is it going to make you feel diminished, ashamed, and like your only worth is measured by the size of your body?

Almost definitely.

So, wonderful friend, please think about what you’re saying before you hit post. You probably aren’t aware of how hurtful it is, or you are trying to be in on the joke instead of the butt of the joke. I know you, and I am certain would never tell me these things, and you would be horrified if I told you someone had said something derogatory about my size to me directly.  It isn’t you, it is part of our mindset.  It is a very telling sign of our culture and how much we value thinness over physical and mental health. It is a sad commentary on how we are trained to hate our bodies from a young age.

We can continue this by sharing those jokes, and passing on those memes.  Or we can choose not to post and make steps towards change.

Love,

Your friend who doesn’t think her body is the worst possible outcome

 

Featured

It’s Chaos…

“We’d have these huge philosophical arguments where I was like- I don’t believe in an intelligent creator, per se, but I think there might be a latticework of logic and meaning to the universe that maybe we’re too small to see. And she was like, Sweetie, it’s all random, it’s all chaos. It’s chaos. Be kind. It’s chaos. Be kind.” -Patton Oswalt, Annihilation

I was invited by the wonderful Smelly Socks and Garden Peas to write a post about what we will do the first weekend after the end of quarantine/ lockdown.  It has been a challenge, with all the togetherness of late it’s a miracle when I can construct a complete thought without interruption, let alone an entire blog post.

As I thought about what I might want to write about I turned over several ideas, perhaps returning to simple pleasures like parks and pubs, maybe those historical sites I have been dying to get to (once a Tudor history nerd, always a Tudor history nerd) or maybe something about the overnight trips we want to plan?

But.

The above quote from Patton Oswalt’s Annihilation special on Netflix keeps running through my head and blocking out all of those other thoughts of a post-lockdown existence.  Father of Gingers and I have been big fans of Patton Oswalt’s stand up for years.  His slightly curmudgeon-y and misanthropic, sharp, nerdy, occasionally quirky take on the world speaks to us and our sense of humor.

However, Annihilation was hard for both of us to get through.  It was the first special after the death of Oswalt’s wife, Michelle McNamara.  A not-insignificant portion of the set is him talking about losing his wife, and worse, telling their elementary school- age daughter that her mother is gone and how they both dealt with it and are dealing with it.  It is the only comedy set I’ve ever watched where I had to repeatedly try to swallow around a huge lump in my throat and needed several breaks to wipe my eyes.  Through it all, he comes back to McNamara’s philosophy on life, “It’s chaos, be kind.”   She was speaking in a more metaphysical sense, but it has very practical applications right now.

The current situation in the world is best described as Chaos with chaos sauce, chaos sprinkles, and an angst cherry on top.

There’s not much left for us to do, but be kind.

There is so much information bombarding us from every corner.  Everyone has a slightly different priority order, the vast majority of which carry absolutely no malicious intent towards others.  The majority of people are making decisions using the best information they can to make best decisions they can in a time of best worst choices.

It’s chaos

Some of us are going to have to make decisions based on medical information. They may be too much at risk and they have to stay inside until this storm is further past.

It’s chaos

Some feel the lockdown has gone on too long, some feel it’s ending too early.

It’s chaos

Finances may be the driving factor in some family’s decisions on how they’re going to proceed. Mental health is a not-insignificant factor in the balance as well.

It’s chaos

Everyone is on on edge- these are life and death choices, not just for the threat of COVID-19, but also in terms of mental health and financial stability. There isn’t a one size fits all answer.

Be Kind.

The bottom line is there is no way around this chaos, the only option is to just get through it. It doesn’t have to be pretty- but how much better will it be if we are kind?

This is a very long winded way to say I don’t know yet what my first choice is for when our first weekend out of lockdown comes. We will be taking a slow approach for several reasons that make it the best fit for our family. I do know I’ll try my hardest to be kind.

There’s a very real chance I totally misunderstood the assignment… but at least this is off my chest.

Remember- Teachers are dealing with the alligator closest to the boat right now.

*This was originally slated to run on another site and I was just notified it was dropped from their schedule today. When I wrote it on Monday, very few teachers had been able to reach out to their students, and as we all know the week has been rapidly changing.

When my husband and I are working through a crisis, we usually remind each other to focus on the alligators closest to the boat. That is- worry about and address the most immediate/ threatening problem first before trying to move on to the next. It has served us well over the years and I keep coming back to this maxim when I think about the teachers trying to navigate this current crisis.

Full disclosure- I am a teacher who is currently a SAHM and working to realize some writing aspirations. That is why I have time to write this, if I were teaching right now, I would be focused on more pressing needs. If I’m being honest, seeing some of the comments about school closures and how work will be provided to students makes me hesitant to ever return to the classroom. I’ve been greatly disheartened by how many complaints I’ve seen from parents feeling like their children aren’t getting digital assignments fast enough, that teachers are probably just taking this time as a vacation, and so on.

To that- I say please realize teachers are trying to get two families through this crisis, the one in their home and the family they spend at minimum every Monday through Friday with. I say at minimum because do the countless out of contract hours they spend with this second family and preparing to teach. When I was in the classroom, there were always students who kept me up nights as I worried about circumstances in their lives that were completely outside of my control. That was in the course of a normal school year- and this school year is no longer normal.

Honestly, if you are able to complain about not having digital resources yet for your child, the good news is your child is nowhere near being the alligator closest to your teachers boat. Teachers everywhere are trying to figure out a completely different style of teaching on the fly (especially those who teach the younger grades). While they’re doing this they’re also worried about some of their children being safe at home, having enough to eat, and if those students are going to even have a home while this crisis lasts.

Rest assured your child(ren)’s teacher(s) care about them, they have invested a lot of time into every student in their care. They want to see “their kids” succeed and are likely crushed that they will not be spending time with their classes in the coming weeks. Events like class plays, field trips, proms, and graduations are all cancelled or potentially cancelled. There are children who were just having concepts click, finally making gains in essential skills and now they are in a holding pattern. All of these examples represent countless work hours by both teachers and their students. Please know teachers everywhere are losing sleep worrying about children in their class and trying to figure out how to make sure their students get the best possible education in a completely unprecedented situation. Please give them time to deal with these alligators. They are dealing with all of these worries in addition to the ones we all currently share. I promise they will get to you. These are trying times and while you are worried about your children, understandably, just remember that the teacher you’re frustrated with is worrying about dozens.

Moments Dear and Not So

So, one of my favorite things I’ve ever seen on social media is this:

Profound, right?

Along with everyone else, I’m thinking about the last decade and the changes it brought. There’s a lot to be said about having a December birthday and having your personal milestones wrapped up with a big one celebrated by A LOT of people… and it’s been extensively covered by many others so I won’t rehash that here. I will say the weirdness seems to jump up a notch when you have a December birthday with a birth year ending in nine. It’s convenient because I always know what number needs to go in the ones column of my age -a hack I’m finding needing more useful as time marches on and I’m left occasionally unsure of the day of the week.

However, it also means that my personal decade meltdowns milestones coordinate with everyone’s and it can be a tad much at points. This one seems to have more gravitas than any of its predecessors. It think it’s because this is the first chunk of ten years where I’ve been (or at least pretended to be) and adulty adult the entire time. This was the decade of transatlantic moves (where I was one of the adults responsible for making it happen) and parenthood; it’s been terrifying, exhilarating, awe-striking, heart melting, and at times excruciatingly real.

Which brings me back to the quote above (If you’ve read my posts before you knew I’d get there eventually). Based on the above Broadway math, there are 600 not so dear moments in each year, so roughly 6,000 not so dear moments in a decade. That’s about 4 days and some change of not stellar moments. That’s not too bad for ten years, but in my more pessimistic moments reviewing the last decade, it seems unrealistically low.

For me, this decade has had some of the highest highs and lowest lows. I’ve had some amazing gains (please refer to- Ginger, Big and Little) and life experiences for which I am forever grateful. I’ve gained a better understanding of who I am and where I’m going. I can honestly say that when I’m reviewing the balance sheet of the decade, the dear moments make anything and everything else worth it.

On the other hand, it has also been the decade where the fact of loss has made itself more prominently known both in my life and in those close to me. I’ve also lost intangibles as my views on issues and others have shifted. The most impactful probably being my evolving body image and food. This is a welcome reminder that not all loss comes without gain.

I think a side effect of parenthood is you become more acutely aware of the passage of time through the bittersweet dichotomy of having to say goodbye to cherished stages while marveling at the ever-changing small human in front of you.

So, I’ve fully contradicted myself numerous times in a relatively short amount of writing and I’m now going to attempt to tie it all together. Stand back, this could get messy.

In times of loss, I’ve looked to the words of others to help me make sense of what has happened. Colin Murray Parkes, a British psychiatrist, has made a great impact.

The pain of grief is just as much part of life as the joy of love:it is perhaps the price we pay for love, the cost of commitment. To ignore this fact, or to pretend that it is not so, is to put on emotional blinkers which leave us unprepared for the losses that will inevitably occur in our own lives and unprepared to help others cope with losses in theirs.

-Dr. Colin Murray Parkes

(Incidentally, I’m not alone in this, Queen Elizabeth II has paraphrased this sentiment and the quote is often misattributed to her. All in all, not too shabby company to be in. )

Back to the task at hand, where I attempt to reconcile a hilarious Tumblr post with profound advice from an expert on loss. I’ve come to the conclusion that the not so dear moment math is probably correct. This is because the not so dear are probably best reserved for my woodland creature crises and other moments that are now hilarious. My moments of loss don’t count not so dear, because they are the product of having loved and been loved deeply and well. Those are truly moments so dear and worth every tear and heartache.

The times I’ve tripped and fallen in public, those I could happily lose, along with a fair amount of middle school…

Now I’ve sort of wrapped up a decade for me… I’ve been trying to do this for weeks now and can’t quite wrap it up the way I want to. I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last decade, I’ve learned where I draw boundaries, I’ve learned I’m stronger than I ever imagined. I’ve paid the price for loving and being loved and I’ll continue to pay it without complaint because I know how lucky I am to be here at forty and to have so much to look forward to. I’m grateful that I know myself so much better than I did ten years ago. I’m not just saying that because I finally found a shirt that describes me to a tee (see what I did there??)

Happy New Year everyone!

Pain Spanx…

img_7693So, I guess we should start with the title of this post.  Pain Spanx is not the name of a metal band comprised of thirty and forty-something moms.  Although, how epic would that be? I feel like I could be on to something here, I’ll have to file that away for later…

Back to the explanation, I’ve been working on getting back into an exercise groove.  It’s absolutely never been my favorite thing, but I know it’s something I need to do.  Last week I took Little Ginger our regular Stroller Strides classes.  Stroller Strides for the uninitiated is an exercise class you do with your baby or toddler and the stroller.  They get to sit in the stroller and be entertained, you get to work out and be entertaining, everyone wins.  It’s a good fit for me as I don’t really find exercise relaxing and it’s not something I’m super jazzed about spending my limited time to myself on.  It also has the added benefit of socialization for Little Ginger.

The classes are also a lesson in humility, we often sing to the kids as we work through various exercises.  It is impossible to take yourself seriously as you’re working through a series of exercises that are challenging your already limited coordination AND sing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” at the same time.  I’m currently working on a theory that requiring everyone to do something like that would help us work through a lot of societies ills – a few burpees while singing “B-I-N-G-O” will level any playing field pretty quickly.  Maybe Congress should give it a whirl, if nothing else the entertainment value would be totally worth it.

I decided this month I’d add the moms-only class that focuses on High Intensity Interval Training (which is exactly as much fun as it sounds like) to my routine as I am a realist.  If I pay to exercise, chances are I’m going to be better about attending.  So, I upgraded my Stroller Strides membership to include the Body Back class.  I had several reasons for being very hesitant, not the least being the name -I wasn’t exactly sure where my body had gone and why I needed to go get it back?

Nevertheless, last week was my first week of doing both classes and as expected; I. AM. SO. FREAKING. SORE! I feel like I have put on Spanx made of pure pain (upside- great post title).  Once again -totally expected.  I know I’m going to be crazy sore for a bit, but as in the past, if I keep at it, in time, it will get better.  Although, it does seem to take a longer and longer time each time I get back into this… (I see you standing over there, forty.)

What I AM trying to change this time I put on the pain Spanx is how I look at exercise as it relates to my body image.  In the past I’ve viewed the pain Spanx as a just punishment for being in possession of a body that will (as I’ve come to realize and sort of accept) never ever ever look like  what we as a society seem to see as an ideal body.  Even when I’ve been able to run three consecutive under ten minute miles I’ve never been anything approaching skinny or even trim.  So, I’ve viewed the soreness as only fair.  I obviously just didn’t work hard enough on diet or exercise so I should pay the price in discomfort physically as well as mentally.  Now, I’m trying to focus on the fact that while I will probably never feel comfortable wearing a bikini and that that’s just a life experience I’ll miss out on, this body has done some pretty amazing things.

This is the body that has carried me all around the world.  It carries my brain- with all the thoughts and knowledge I have- with it, it takes my eyes to see amazing  sights, it has taken my heart to dizzying heights and crushing lows.  It has soldiered on through joint pain that was not the result of my weight- despite what the doctors were determined to believe. This body has rallied after every surgery for torn cartilage and every bone broken in my ongoing fight with gravity. This is the body that grew my babies and then nourished them.  This is the body that rallied after losing a pregnancy and soldiered on long before my brain and heart caught up.  This is a body that has done absolutely everything I have asked of it and more. Except to be skinny.  Oh, and the splits, but I think I am going to have to let that one go.

So, here we are at me trying to change my attitude to diet and exercise.  A friend has being pointing me in the direction of  Health at Every Size (HAES) and Intuitive Eating information that is well-researched and solid advice. I’m debating ditching the scale, because no matter how hard I try not to- I find myself drifting that way every day for a quantifiable measure of my progress.  I want to stop viewing exercise as something I do to me  as punishment but instead- as something I do for me; to help me be stronger, healthier, and keep some of my stabby tendencies in check. (Right now is a perfect example- spellcheck is determined that neither stabby or stabbier are words.  I’m embracing the total fatigue endorphins brought on by exercise and letting it go – for now. This isn’t over spellcheck.) I want to focus on eating healthy food that I enjoy and listening to signals from my body rather than constantly berating and second-guessing myself.  This is baggage I really don’t want to take into my next decade.  I want to leave it behind with the the self-consciousness I’ve felt, the memories of times doctors have immediately pointed to my size before even reading the chart, the times I’ve been told I’d be so pretty if I’d only lose the weight, and the belief that I’m somehow less than because my body is more than.

img_7689This picture is an excellent starting point for my attitude adjustment. This is a live action shot of one of the classes responsible for the pain Spanx. The instructors take pictures in each class and post them in the group Facebook page. My first instinct on this was to ask them to please for the love of all that’s holy not take and/or post my picture. I was not a fan, to say the least. I’m still not overwhelmed with joy by these pictures, but I am trying to walk the walk and change how I look at things. Instead of seeing a picture that is most certainly NOT my best angle (and I chose the most flattering option of the workout pictures) and seriously questioning the pattern on those pants- I’m trying to focus on the fact that picture is proof I’m getting stronger. It’s a reminder I did something healthy for my body and took some time for me. So, for the time being, I’m going to go with the flow and work on not cringing when I’m tagged. Yay. Growth.

As I’ve been thinking about my goals to meet by forty, the thought kept circling, JAWS-like, in the back of my mind that I should really have a weight goal in the mix. Instead, I’m going to focus on making sure this body, my body, that has done a great job getting me this far, is as healthy as possible as I head into the next decade. Continuing to be realistic, I realize this isn’t something that I can poof into existence.  In all honesty- it would be so much easier to set some arbitrary number goal for pounds to be lost and minutes to be exercised and sulk for a bit if I don’t hit those numbers.  But- it won’t be easier to haul all that baggage around for the rest of my life.  I’m sure there will be more to come about if I decide to ditch the scale, and how I approach the diet aspect this.

Right now, I’m off to approach some Advil and a hot bath with Espsom Salts.

Jade Rollers and Julia Child…

So, I know this is a super random pairing but bear with me.

First thing first, Father of Gingers (FoG) got me a jade face roller for my birthday. I’m a sucker for anything natural (looking at you, Morning Thunder) and I have an eye bag situation (looking at you, Gingers). In theory it’s supposed to help moisturize my face by encouraging absorption of products, de-puff my face, and roll the effing wrinkles out encourage my “laugh lines” to move on. (Once again I specifically requested this gift- FoG is alive and well) I also got a bonus gua sha stone with my roller.

My plan for the is to use the roller at least once a day, hopefully morning and night, but I’m trying to be realistic about my ability to diligently roll my face while my hair is metaphorically on fire on school days. Last I checked, “My child is late (again) because I’m pushing forty and doing my best to ward off wrinkles” isn’t going to fly as an excuse for tardiness.  Also, the stress of running late to school is just going to cause more wrinkles, which kind of defeats the purpose. I’ve done some diligent research (I watched a few YouTube videos and picked my favorite) on how to use the roller and I’ll add in the gua sha once I get comfortable (i.e. watch the second half of the YouTube video…)

I was going to use this as a before picture:

But honestly, that’s a pretty low bar for this process to get over. So we’re going to go with this…

Good luck to you, jade roller… this is after a 5:15am wake up because, well, toddler…

So I’ll check back in on this challenge in a week or two and let you know. I totally have a backup plan of bangs (I’ve heard it called Bangtox) if all else fails.

On to part two of today’s random post… Julia Child

As I go through this last year of my thirties, I’m going to try to ask myself, “What would Julia do?”  The answer isn’t always churn out an amazing omelette and add more butter…

I just finished reading, Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child by Bob Spitz. I read My Life In France years ago and have always been a bit intrigued by Julia. I don’t want to rehash what has already been covered very well by Julie Powell  in her blog, and later her book, and of course there’s the movie as well.  Honestly, for a bit I wasn’t sure if I was charmed by Julia, or Meryl Streep-as-Julia…

For me, my infatuation with Julia isn’t because I love to cook, even though I do love it.  I’ve realized it comes from a place of admiration for an unconventional woman who lead an unapologetic life. I’ve been thinking about Julia a lot as I work on this blog. She  really personified the whole “age is just a number” thing. Her first cookbook didn’t come out until she was in her forties.  She started her television career until her fifties.  I mean, she didn’t even really start cooking until her mid- thirties after she married Paul. What I found most compelling about Julia is she didn’t settle for what society/convention/her family thought she should do in a time where it would have been so much easier if she had.

Julia Child was tall, like remarkably tall.  Six feet, two or three inches, depending on the source.  She definitely didn’t fit the ideal standard for women in that day in age.  It would have been so easy to talk herself into “well, this relationship is as good as I’m going get” or, “this is pretty good, considering my size.”  But. She. Didn’t. Some of it was that she wasn’t sure what she wanted out of life.  However, in reading about her I got the sense that she always knew what she didn’t want.  Sometimes that can make all the difference in finding what you do want. There was an easy, predictable path open to Julia; she could have married a local guy in California and probably led a pleasant, quiet, respectable life.  It wasn’t going to be enough, so she struck out on her own and hit many bumps along the way.  Julia’s unwillingness to settle took her into government service and overseas during World War II, at which time she met Paul Child. It was an unconventional path that led to what became her life’s work. (Needless to say I’m doing some MAJOR paraphrasing here!)

“If it is vile, the cook must grin and bear it, with no words of excuse. Never apologize”

I want this tattooed on my forehead… I won’t do it because that would be awkward, but the desire is still there.  I read this book over my thirty-ninth birthday and this is the quote that stuck with me and I plan on carrying with me to forty and beyond (with apologies to Buzz Lightyear for stealing/modifying his catchphrase).  Not because I plan on starting to throw insane number of dinner parties, but because I plan to abandon the idea I need to constantly apologize.

I am always leery of embracing mantras/ ideas like this because I feel like it can often lead down the wrong path.  I’ve noticed that the people most likely to embrace this sort of thing are those who least need it.  It’s been my experience that those who are most eager to “set expectations” and “set boundaries” are often using it as an acceptable way to say, “I’m going to do exactly what I want to do, but since I’ve told you what to expect, you really shouldn’t be getting mad right now.” That being said, I do think there is a place for ideas like this in day-to-day life.

Is everything I make or do going to be perfect? Absolutely not.  Not. Even. Close.  Sometimes it is going to be, well, vile (and sometimes Pinterest will have had a hand in that).  I’ll just have to move through it and push on.  The hardest thing with giving writing a try is putting these posts out there and not knowing how they’ll go over.  I am constantly surprised by how pieces do and are received.  I struggle with not adding qualifiers to every post justifying it.  I’m going to try to apologize just for having an opinion or for taking up space. It’s going to be a hard habit to break. I will of course apologize if I hurt someone, Julia Child did not just give me carte-blanche to steamroll over everyone for the next year or longer, regardless of how tempting it would be.  I can see myself yelling over my shoulder, “Julia Child told me this was okay!” in way too many imagined scenarios.  I probably need to get out more.

In the meantime, if you need me, I’ll be rolling the wrinkles out of my face while not making excuses and being unapologetic.

An (admittedly petty) open letter to the Universe

Dear Universe,

On the whole, you’ve done very well by me. I’m incredibly grateful for all that I have; my health, education, friends, family, Father of Gingers, and of course the Gingers, just to name a few. There have been challenges along the way, of course, but comparatively speaking-nothing too awful.

The one big issue I would bring up with you is 2016, I don’t think I have to elaborate. At this point I’m just assuming that was some sort of cosmic-level Pinterest fail. I know that it’s taken me a while to remove/repair the debris from an ill-advised Pinterest project more than once. (#DeliverMeFromPinterest, Right?!?!) I can only assume you’re doing the same, but due to scale, the clean-up is taking proportionally long. Keep at it and I’m hoping you’ll have it pulled together by 2020 at the latest. I have faith in you.

If you have a second, I wanted to bring one tiny mixup that happened several weeks ago to your attention. I’m sure it’s in your records that I am a total, shameless Anglophile. I love England, British shows, (I aspire to be the Dowager countess from Downton Abbey one day) and London is one of my absolute favorite cities. I’ve gotten up early to watch royal weddings and made sticky toffee pudding cupcakes to celebrate said weddings. Does that make me a tad basic? Perhaps… When it comes to this, I am fine if you want to color me basic, just pass the fish and chips, (with mushy peas!) please!

So, it stung a bit a while back when Father of Gingers told me he might have to go to London the week of Halloween for work. I rallied, though, these things happen. I wasn’t like he was going to London to spite me. It was just where he needed to be and I needed to be here to ride herd on Halloween. Fine. It’s part of being a grownup. I held my chin high and got through discussions revolving around any special shopping requests, itineraries, and musings on spots he might have time to make it to. I focused on getting some of my favorite Harrod’s tea and getting Little Ginger avocado shoes to match her avocado costume. I had this under control. Then, I was trying to get through the grocery store the morning of Halloween and not having a ton of luck convincing little Ginger that the trip would be way more enjoyable for all involved if she would sit in the cart and maybe not protest at top volume. She remained unconvinced. Then I got the following text from FoG:

This is the point where I was convinced, dear Universe, that my bucket list and the one belonging to FoG got mixed up somehow. I would only have been more convinced if I had run into Jim Harbaugh or George Lucas right there in the produce section of the store. I didn’t, and that’s perfectly okay, because the experience honestly would’ve been wasted on me. I was a little astounded though. I mean, really?!?!?

Then I was informed that there was now video of the Kate sighting and it would be sent to me when there was WiFi. I took a deep breath, reminded Little Ginger to sit in the cart, and headed for the wine aisle. Seriously, I got what we needed for the rest of the week and we headed home to get prepped for trick or treating. It was fine, and a fun evening. I even managed to say in a slightly crazed completely calm voice, when asked how FOG’s trip was going:

“Great! He even got to see Kate Middleton today!”

I just wanted to make you aware of this mixup in the event that item has been crossed off my bucket list in some great cosmic file. If there was a mixup, and that was the one opportunity allotted to our household, I get it. It’s not fair!!!!Arrrgfhhh!!! No hard feelings. However, if there is a need to balance the scales, I certainly wouldn’t say no to meeting Michelle Obama or Jenny Lawson, that would be amazing. I am a little over 365 days from a certain milestone birthday. I don’t know if you have time to read my blog…

I’d go even more challenging and ask for Julia Child or Eleanor Roosevelt, but I know you’ve got a lot to do. Honestly, just focus on fixing the mess from the Pinterest experiment that was 2016. I’m all good here. Please, the sooner the better.

Hugs and kisses,

Katie