Forty Years

Forty years ago today my Mother wore on a dress borrowed from her best friend and my Father donned a rented tux only the 70s could have created. My Grandfather walked my Mom down the aisle as his own tux strained against his ample belly. And my parents were wed.

Forty years.

Do you want to hear something crazy? They still like each other.

I’m not telling you they have a perfect marriage. Thirteen years into wifehood has taught me there is no such thing. There are good years and bad years. There is joy and heartache and more hurt than you ever thought possible.

But creating a family with another person is a sacred thing. I might be agnostic, but I believe in marriage. I believe in family. I believe in love. I believe in friendship. I believe in intimacy. I believe in comfort. I believe in seeing each other at our worst and loving each other fiercely anyway. I believe it is all what makes life worth living.

I believe it because I grew up watching my parent’s partnerhood. The daily operation of their union is much different than my own, still I started to learn what marriage means from them. Eventually Z and I had to make our own way, but the foundation my parents gave me and the example they set us was an enormous influence.

In the spring of 2008 family from both sides was in town to attend Z’s graduate school thesis show. One night both sets of our parents, Z’s sister and her wife-to-be, and Z sat around our dining room and played a game. Can’t remember the name, but the deal was everyone wrote down a question. Someone drew a question and the name of a person playing. The question was read and everyone was told to write what they thought the chosen person would answer. The person would also write their answer. The person who was “it” had try and choose what that other person wrote. Is this an actual board game? That night they played on pieces of paper and pens scrounged from our apartment. I had an early shift the next morning at work and was already in bed, so I missed the fun.

Someone drew my Dad along with the question “What would your dream house have it in?” As it happened, during that very time my parents were building their dream house as my father prepared to retire. Because of that the answers given were all sorts of fancy bells and whistles. But two of the papers had the same answer written—my Mother’s name.  It was the answer provided by both of my parents.

That is their marriage in a nutshell. They are on the exact same page. They need each other to be happy. They might drive each other nuts, but at the end of the day there isn’t anyone else they want to spend everyday with.

Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad. I wish you 40 more years together. And look! No swear words just for you!

40 years

December 29, 1973

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Wegman’s Mystery Solved

Do you guys have feelings about numbers? Even numbers feel safe and cuddly and warm to me. Odd numbers feel dangerous. Multiples of 12 are friendly. Prime numbers are lonely and sad. I wasn’t thrilled to be turning 37, not because I’m worried about getting older (hell of a lot better than the alternative!) but because the number makes me uncomfortable. Especially after the warm fuzzies of the soft and gentle number 36.

While I’m not crazy about the number 37, life as a 37 year old has started off splendidly. Z let me sleep in again. He made me coffee and brought it and presents up to the bedroom. The boys and I cuddled while we waited for him.

I couldn’t wait to open T’s present. What did he get at Wegmans? I was burning with curiosity.

birthday bumblebee

Bumblebee the Transformer.

T got me a Transformer! Because he knew that is what I, um I mean he, wanted more than anything else in the world. I cracked up as I opened it. And as soon as it was out of the packaging I passed it right over to him.

It was kind of confusing. Wegmans is not known for its Transformer section. I looked at Z. “It was all T’s idea. He wanted to get you a Transformer the whole time. But if we said we were going to Target he thought you’d know what the present was. So he suggested we tell you we were going to Wegmans to trick you.”

Dude is four years old. Can I be all annoyingly parent-proud and say that his sophisticated thought process was actually a hugely gratifying birthday present? Even if he will use that trickery for evil soon enough? I was so impressed I couldn’t stop grinning.

Z passed me his present. Which was an awesome scarf I picked out at a craft fair last weekend. I dramatically wrapped it around my neck and told him I loved it. He told me there was something else in the bag. Surprised, I peeked inside.

It was an iPad mini.

I started to cry. Z told me that he’d had some money squirreled away. Definitely not the most responsible course of action. But some days it is pretty fucking fantastic to feel spoiled rotten and loved really hard.

37

Z’s card. There are 37 growth rings on it. Lovely, right?

It was a perfect day. Our friend came over to watch our boys so we could go to dinner. The restaurant scene in Syracuse is pretty grim. There are some “fine dining” places, but I always leave seething with anger. I don’t mind paying for excellent food, but New York City prices for mediocre? That actually offends me. Z warily asked where I wanted to go a couple of days ago. He hates going out to eat with me in this town because he knows I’ll tear the meal apart and sulk on the drive home. Yup, I’m a real prize. Aren’t you sad I’m not your wife? I suggested Lemon Grass, a Syracuse institution, because I hadn’t been yet.

Best meal I’ve eaten in this town.

The steak was awesome, the bacon app was divine, but the desserts were where the fun was.

raspberry balloon

Red Balloon. It’s raspberry puree frozen with liquid nitrogen on top of an almond sponge cake and some lovely Creme Anglaise.

chocolate pyramid

Chocolate Pyramid. The pyramid was filled with chocolate mousse (ok, it was gritty, but the taste was good). The vanilla ice cream was made in house.

Again, it was a perfect day. Now I can’t wait for Z’s birthday in May. I hope I make his 41st as special as he made me 37th.

grandma's coat

For the first time I wore my Grandma’s old winter coat. My Mom has had it in her closet for decades and she gave it to me a few years ago. I loved it, but just didn’t have the balls to wear it. The best part about getting older? I care less and less what people think. Z pointed out that 25 year old me wouldn’t have been able to handle leaving the house is something so attention grabbing. Man, am I happy not to be 25 anymore. 37 in a fabulous coat feels a million times better.

Resolution

Saturday was supposed to be my long run. It was 9 degrees when I got up, the forecasted high was 18. Z suggested I wait until the afternoon and I had no trouble agreeing with him. Problem was the snow began by the time it was a balmy 14 degrees and I was ready to go.

pre Saturday

Suited up.

It was stupid and dangerous and terrifying and slow. I did 2.3 miles yelling at myself the whole way that if I got hit by a car it would be my own damn fault. That bitch Anxiety was back. She told me if I didn’t run something terrible would happen. The sane part of me told myself if I did run something terrible might happen. Crazy won.

post Saturday

And I was a fucking mess by the time I finished.

Over the weekend one of my smartest friends told me if I increased the the incline a bit on the treadmill that I’d get closer to my natural stride. I took her advice to the Y on Monday (thanks J) and managed to jog two very slow miles. Damn, is it hard to jog on a treadmill. But they were safe and snow free miles.

SU does a great job keeping the campus plowed, so today I tried South Campus for the jog. It was early enough that the roads were still a mess. I basically chased snowplows, or they chased me. It was 10 degrees and snowing. It felt good to be out there even if one of the miles was more than 12 minutes. Running in snow is like running in sand. It is a whole body workout.

Jogging in winter. I’m figuring it out. I want to figure it out. Mostly I’m biding my time till spring. But I’m sticking with this thing even if it scares me to say it.

I’ve been thinking about jogging a lot. How if I’m going at a slow pace I feel like I can just keep on going forever. How I haven’t stopped to walk since the first time I did 5 miles on November 16th. I learned when I feel like I can’t go on now to just slow down a bit. I’m figuring out these little tricks. Coming up with a training routine on my own that changes things up, speed, hills, medium run, long run.

It is still hard. I have to force myself out of the door. I get disappointed when the snow or the treadmill affects my time in such a major way. I beat myself up when I have a bad run. But I’m going to try and stay healthy. I’m going to keep at it.

I’ve been thinking about jogging and time and my birthday and the fact that I’m 37 on Wednesday and that 40 nearly has me surrounded. A year ago right now I couldn’t jog for two blocks. Now I can go for 5.3 miles. This time of year is naturally a time for reflection. Every year I turn to Z and ask what he thinks we will be doing and where we will be in a year.  Life is full of surprises, wonderful and heartbreaking. This year I am focusing on the good- I learned that the impossible is possible. I learned no matter how many times I swore up and down that I could never exercise regularly that it was a big lie. I can make myself do hard stuff.

The other night we were sitting on the sofa after dinner. “I’ve been having a tiny little thought.” I told Z. “Hmm?” he replied. “Now, I get that this is crazy. But what if I were to try and run a marathon before I turned 40?”

Z looked at me like I was an injured bird he found on the sidewalk. He clearly didn’t want to spook me. “I think that is an excellent idea.” he said very soothingly. “I think you can do it.” He paused, terrified he was going to say the wrong thing. “Maybe this summer you could do a half marathon first and then do a full one.”

“Um. Totally. I’d have to start with a half.” He was visibly relieved that I wasn’t going to try and force my way through 26.2 miles in March.

Starting tomorrow I have three years. Before December 18th of 2016 I will run a marathon. There. I’m being bold and outrageous and reckless. I will run a marathon. And you can hold me to it.

bye daddy

Waving goodbye to Daddy on a snowy morning.

snow boat treehouse

The boat treehouse looked lovely dressed up in snow this morning.

Birthday Countdown

The boys are at Wegmans. I’m rather buzzed (post sledding hot toddy and cider with dinner. Yes, I’m a cheap date) and blissfully home alone. Z let me sleep in until I woke up both mornings this weekend.

He is being fucking amazing because rather than spend the upcoming week with us he has to work. We really need the money, it is super good he is working. But it was a hard trade off. It was supposed to be family time. I mean, it sucks ass for him as well.

He is also being fucking amazing because my birthday is on Wednesday. I love birthdays. Not just mine, the day of birth of anyone who I care about is an event to me. Celebrating is fun, cakes are delicious, presents are the best. What is not to love?

Z doesn’t give a shit about birthdays. His, mine, the boys’, anyone’s.

Which means he is terrified of my birthday. I get it. I’m scary. And I have unarticulated and extravagant expectations.

We looked at our “finances” (I use air quotes because you can’t call that little money finances with a straight face) the other day. He told me that he had been planning to get me something very expensive that I wanted really badly for my birthday/Christmas, but it would be irresponsible and he couldn’t do it. He’s 100% right. We are broke. I don’t get whatever I want just because I want it. I’m a grown up.

Still, I’m not going to lie. I was a bit bummed.

This Wegman’s trip the fellows are on is about my birthday. And evidently T has orchestrated it. That kid. I have no idea what his plans are. For once he’s been able to keep his ginormous trap shut. I hope he makes it to Wednesday without spilling the beans.

Maybe I’m growing up a little bit, but I’ll tell you what. I’m fucking excited about the Wegman’s present. So I don’t get the fancy thing I wanted. My kid is old enough to plot with his Dad to get something for me. That is pretty magnificent.

this face

Man, do I love this boy.

jack frost

Jack Frost visited this weekend. It is so cold in our house. So very cold. 80+ year old windows are not the way to go.

sunglasses

Who knows? It might get bright enough to need sunglasses at any moment!

Overwrought Metaphor

Yesterday morning I managed to do this:

photo (30)

Cobalt Blue Fiestaware, I still love you after all this time.

We’ve had the sugar bowl for thirteen years. It was on our wedding gift registry back in the olden days. The first bunch of years of our marriage we got coffee from whatever corner deli that was down the block from our apartment. We didn’t even keep coffee in the house. We got a cup to sip on the train on the way to work each day. On the weekends we would stumble down to the corner and stand mutely in line until the nice guy behind the counter would pass us our drinks. We loved being regulars, loved the feeling of belonging, loved not having to talk to anyone, even to order, until the first sip of coffee removed some of the cobwebs from our brains. Ugh, I’m getting homesick for Brooklyn.

After we relocated to Providence in 2006 the sugar bowl did become a regular part of our lives, I mean beyond sitting on the counter and looking pretty. For 13 years I’ve looked at it almost everyday. For seven years I’ve used it almost everyday. It would be fair to say I’ve taken it for granted. Thought it would always be there, serving its function forever.

Z is going to glue it back together this weekend. We’ll still keep using it. In the scheme of things it isn’t a big deal.

So why have I felt sick to my stomach since it happened?

The sugar bowl is tied to our wedding in my mind. Of course breaking it makes me wonder if I could break our marriage as well. An obvious, armchair psychology, eye roll worthy thought. Also pretty damn morbid, and it isn’t like our relationship is on thin ice or anything. But the idea that it could break scares the living shit out of me. Thinking about the precariousness of, oh, everything in this life keeps me honest, reminds me that I do take Z for granted. That I shouldn’t. That he deserves better from me.

Breaking the lid makes me feel uneasy. It reminds me how much I have and how little attention I give it. As Z pointed out the sugar bowl can be fixed. Broken things don’t have to be thrown away. And why am I so scared of breaking our marriage? It was broken once. Shattered, really. And we managed to pick up all the tiny shards and glue them back together again. It wasn’t the same marriage as before, but we weren’t the same people. I don’t want the same marriage I had when I was 23 or 24 or 25. I sure as hell don’t want to be the person I was back then.

All the breaks and patches and scars our Frankenstein of a marriage has weathered have made it more interesting, more beautiful, and somehow stronger. Yes, it could break for good. But as long as we pay attention to it and each other I hope that we will keep on trucking along.

Not sure why my knickers are in a twist over this. It’s not like we aren’t on our 4th butter dish of the marriage. All broken by me. I really am the klutziest resident of the Northeast. If I’m at your house, for the love of god don’t trust me with your favorite coffee mug.

c and z sleep

C and T snoozing last week.

T and K goofing off

T and me watching some Harry Potter post anxiety attack (for me) last weekend.

Flip Side

It was cold out there during my jog this morning. In the high 20s, but the wind was cutting and brutal. Since I wrote the post about jogging last week I’ve struggled. Don’t get me wrong, I go. I do it. But it has been harder.

Writing a post that declared I’m sticking with this exercise thing nudged my anxiety. And she informed me that I was a fraud. A non-jogger. That after my fancy proclamation I would fall on my proverbial face and never lace up my sneakers again.

Oh my god, she is such a fucking bitch.

Wednesday was a rest day, so last Thursday was my first jog after the post last week. Man, the anxiety dogged me for the whole 3.12 miles. It was scary hard. At the end I wanted to cry.

That’s the flip side to this whole thing. It’s important to acknowledge. Exercise is as much of a head game as it is a physical activity. You have to convince yourself to go. You have to convince yourself that you can do it, that you are worth the time it takes, that you are doing good work even when you aren’t PRing all the time. Sometimes you give it your all and you still don’t achieve your goals. Sometimes you phone it in and hate yourself a little. I’m guessing that the struggle is just a part of the game long term.

If it is hard for you, if you get discouraged, well, I do too. Let’s just keep on keeping on.

photo (28)

Sometimes there aren’t ecstatic pride selfies. Sometimes there are exhausted and pissed and frustrated selfies. But it is part of the process.

If you guys love blogs and FB as much as I do you’ve come across that Fit Mom “What’s Your Excuse” meme. I don’t want to link to it because I think it is incredibly harmful, but a quick google search will locate it if you are interested. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at the picture. While she is wearing workout gear, she also is in full hair and makeup. It is great for her that her hard work has paid off and that she has earned her conventionally attractive figure. She didn’t earn her conventionally beautiful face, she was born with it. But she is beautiful and if I looked like her I’d feel pretty great about myself as well.

A lot of conversation has happened in the media and online about her message. The fat shaming (which she insists is not fat shaming) is obviously problematic. But putting all that aside I find the image, the implied goal, to be rather boring. Instead it is extremely plastic, completely unattainable, and frankly I feel sorry for her because she is missing the point.

No matter how hard they work out 99% of women are not going to look like her. Especially without hair and makeup done and a professional photographer lighting the session. She has achieved what society and the patriarchy has dictated is the female standard of beauty. But that standard is bullshit. It is unrealistic. It is designed to keep us striving for a goal most of us will never achieve as a way to undermine us and keep us less than.

I don’t jog five times a week so I can look like her. No matter how hard I exercise the stretch marks from my second pregnancy aren’t going anywhere. My boobs will never be perky again. The lines will never disappear from my forehead or from around my eyes. In fact, they are going to be joined by a shitload more wrinkles as time marches on.

I do this because it makes me feel good. I have more energy. It is probably keeping my anxiety a bit in check. Last week my father asked me how I’ve felt since starting the jogging. “Lighter in my body.” I told him. “Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean I weigh less. I just mean it is easier to maneuver my body around in the world. I have more control, feel capable of more.” That is more of a reward than trying to look like Gisele.

If Fit Mom really wants to inspire people why is she advertising physical beauty as the outcome? Isn’t it more helpful and more honest to cop to how hard it is to regularly exercise? To admit that some workouts suck. You let yourself down, but you dust yourself off and try again the next day? Because cumulatively you feel pretty terrific in your body even if a group of frat boys wouldn’t deem it fuckable? No frat boy would want to get with this middle aged lady. And guess what? I don’t give a crap because I can’t imagine wanting to get with a frat boy either.

On her website she has a bunch of tips for her “healthy lifestyle” including putting post its in her kitchen that say “Food is Fuel”. It actually made me cry when I read it. I feel sorry for her. Food is joy, food is celebration, food is delicious, food is family, food is pleasure. Moderation is certainly key, but denying yourself the richness of experience that eating provides? Making food the enemy? Major red flag. And to be clear, this is pure speculation, but it is moving towards a disordered relationship with food.

I want to encourage my friends to exercise because I can’t believe how wonderful and proud it has made me feel. Just a month or two ago I would have told you that I could not jog for 5 miles. I simply couldn’t do it. And now I’ve done it three times. I am amazed that my body is doing hard things. If a lifelong couch potato can do this you can, too.

So keep posting selfies. Even if you don’t look like Fit Mom (I sure as fuck don’t). Even if the workout sucked ass. Every time out there isn’t going to be a win.

————————————

Back to this morning. After my jog I was chilled to the bone. Z had to split for work, so I settled the boys in front of a movie and ran for a quick shower. The hot water felt amazing everywhere but my belly, ass, and thighs. Fat concentration means less blood flow to the surface. The cold was intense in those areas. The water burned as it hit the red patches, still icy to the touch.

I was trying to rub life back into my thighs when I heard C pad into the bathroom. “Hey kiddo, what’s up?” I called. He sidled over to the corner of the shower curtain and pulled it back with a huge shit eating grin on his face. This kid. He really does have the shit eating grin to end all shit eating grins.

He grinned at me. And then he triumphantly held up a deli bag of ham.

Motherhood. God damned Motherhood. When I imagined it years ago I never thought it would involve a toddler interrupting my shower time holding a contraband bag of deli meat that he scored. Let me tell you, the shaved ham in the bathroom was way more hilarious than anything I came up with when dreaming of future children. Man, these kids keep me laughing. Even if I was pissed as hell when we went downstairs 20 minutes later only to discover the fridge door had been left wide open.

lion t

We went to the zoo today. When we walked by this display T insisted I take his picture. With his crazy hair he makes a perfect lion.

safari c

And here is my intrepid explorer. He’s probably hunting for some ham.

Individuals

Z and I sat on the sofa sipping our coffee and trying to recover after a night of nightmares and crying jags brought to us by the boys. T wanted a bagel, but Z told him he needed to eat his yogurt first. T and C sprinted to the fridge. We keep the yogurt on the bottom shelf so the boys can get it themselves.

A moment later T hysterically burst into the living room, “There is something in front of the yogurt! We can’t get it! You have to move it!” he cried.

I lumbered to my feet and slowly made my way to the kitchen. C was bent down in fierce concentration, tugging with all his might on a leaking and collapsing takeout container. I sprinted over to him and grabbed the container from his hands, spill averted. C reached for the yogurt and T immediately snatched it out of his hands.

I rolled my eyes and returned it to C who broke the four pack into pieces and handed one to his brother.

Back in the living room I settled on the couch, coffee back in hand. “You know,” I said to Z, “That little interaction was basically a distillation of who those kids are. When faced with difficulty T panics and runs for help while C attacks the problem.”

An hour later when Z was headed out the door to work he turned to me, “You were right, you know. That thing with the yogurt–it is exactly who the kids are.” “Yup,” I replied. “T is me and C is you.”

Knowledge is power-T needs encouragement to face the world. C needs us to remind him that a blitzkrieg attack on the world isn’t always the most advantageous approach. Neither way is better than the other, but understanding how to approach each kid makes a huge difference.

Doing the work to figure out who they are and how they respond to the world is exhilarating and frustrating as hell all at the same time. And it seems like we need to relearn lesson that they are individuals who need to be treated differently over and over-when you’ve spent tons of time developing an effective way to deal with your kid it is sort of heartbreaking to accept you are back to the drawing board with the next one.

T cares about pleasing authority figures-Z, me, his grandparents, his teachers. C does not give a single fuck about pleasing us. He cares not that we require him to eat his chicken before he gets more pasta. As hard as it is for me to bend, I’ve realized that giving him an extra piece of pasta as a peace offering will, more times than not, get him to put more chicken in his mouth. I would never do that with T-a simple I’m going to count to three and if you don’t finish your chicken you will lose your dessert works nine times out of ten.

How to negotiate with your kid….not the most fascinating topic. But it is the key to a smoother coexistence. It matters a shitload more than I thought it did before I was a parent. Back when I firmly believed that my kid would never throw a tantrum in public–my superior parenting skills and firmness as a disciplinarian would prevent it.

Ha! I say to my old self. Ha! And you are an asshole! An ignorant asshole at that! Ha! You are in for a very rude awakening.

Is it legit to feel schadenfreude towards an earlier version of yourself?

Though my faced burned fuchsia on Saturday in the Wegmans Cafe while C was spread eagle on the ground screeching at the top of his lungs, I knew that he was frustrated as fuck that he couldn’t explain to us exactly what he wanted because of his limited vocabulary. Delayed speech sucks ass for the kid. He knows what he wants. He thinks he is explaining himself. He has no earthly idea why we don’t understand. He isn’t losing his shit because he’s a dick, he is trying to figure out how to navigate this big bad world and it is not working out for him.

Me-from-a-few-years-ago wouldn’t have been able to work any of that out. She would have looked at the toddler on the ground and then she would have looked at the parents and she would have JUDGED. Big time.

C (or T for that matter) doesn’t have free reign to behave any way he wants because life is hard. Z and I are responsible for teaching him how to be a contributing member of society, not a spoiled dickweed. Understanding who he is and having some sympathy for him actually helps with that process.

Most people don’t have to become parents to figure this shit out, but that’s what it took for me. Yeah…I haven’t always been the smartest or most mature person in the room. Better late than never, though. I’m pretty damn grateful being a parent has made me a kinder person. Those sweet boys, T and C, they have done a hell of a lot of good for me.

t school 2013

Trying to decide if we should order school pictures.

C school 2013

They are pretty damn cute.

sledding

First sledding event of the year.

Bob Dylan lullabies for C.