Saturday, October 20, 2007

Love (Accept? Like?) the Body You Have

According to my writing comrade and a leader in the fight against women hating their bodies, Harriet Brown, today is National Love Your Body day. Check out her site and take the Love Your Body pledge.

One of my longish poems, about the role in my life of eating, food, binges and self-love/hate, is currently part of the Love Your Body art exhibition at Salem College Fine Arts Center, in North Carolina. This, plus Harriet's well-timed reminder, and Diane Morrow's Year of Love and Healing project, got me thinking about how mothers so easily discount and verbally disrespect our own bodies.

Since becoming a mother, I try to keep reminding myself that no matter what physical/visual shape my body has been in (and believe me, the scale has ricocheted like a roller coaster stuck between gears for years), that my body continues to serve me well.

My body, I must remember, has carried me through the pregnancies and deliveries of my two sons, and nursed them for months. My body provides me with enjoyment -- bicycling, long walks, the odd tennis game, swimming, hugs, and yes, even sex!

My body can lift and carry things -- sometimes quiet heavy things indeed (think exhausted seven year old in soccer gear and cleats, or grocery/baby seat with baby in it/purse/diaper bag/keys).

My body has been resilient and resourceful, healing after broken bones, a major cut, surgeries, and other traumas.

My body gets me where I need to go, protects and comforts my children, is there for a friend to lean on, and is the best reminder system on the planet, never failing to let me know when I need sleep, nourishment, mental stimulation, a good laugh or a cleansing cry.

Sure, my body continues to vex me, but it's the only one I will ever have. I have decided to at least appreciate it?

I'm working on the love part.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Boys to (Young / Very Young) Men

Recently a friend with much younger sons – hers are two and four – asked me how motherhood looked from where I sit not, with kids aged 9 and 13.

Not quite knowing where to begin, I simply told her about my week: On Saturday, my 9-year-old and I slogged our way through the “Choose to Refuse” booklet about – you guessed it – drugs, tobacco and alcohol and I learned that ‘Special K’ is more than a breakfast cereal….We spent the better part of last Sunday afternoon and Thursday evening attending open houses at two private high schools with the 8th grader and learning to stay more or less in the background (not that we can afford private high school without forgoing groceries for four years, mind you, but one can browse)….Fall season baseball started and one of my kids (I promised not to say which) took three days to work up the courage to tell me he needed a bigger size athletic cup….my 13-year-old came scouting for new books to read (sorry, novels) on the shelves of my writing office…the 4th grader has started to hand-in-hand with me on the two blocks from where we park our car only until we get to the corner where he turns to the school, then abruptly yanks his hand out -- and is that a bit of a strut I detect in his stride as he waves `bye?...

All of which is just fine, expected and very normal.

But the thing that made me cry – most recently, that is – was when I was heading out the other day for the annual community pumpkin sale and I asked who was coming along – more as a formality, because after all, wasn’t everyone? – and not a single male in the household spoke up.

And while this meant I could pick out any pumpkin I wanted without anyone arguing that it was too lopsided, too round, too square, too big, too large, too orange, not orange enough… hit me: I don’t have “little” children anymore.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

We Go Together

This was the summer my husband and I decided that we were not going to spend hundreds (thousands!) of dollars signing up our kids up for summer "camp" programs to keep them busy a few hours a day. Since I work at home, we reasoned, and we have a semi-large house, and since our boys are not little kids anymore in need of constant entertainment, and since we have a fenced backyard and more toys, games and sports equipment than Target, it would be a good thing, a very good thing, for the boys to learn to keep themselves occupied on their own wits.

Besides, I was determined not to sacrifice this precious gift of 10 weeks of unscheduled unhurried free time. I just didn't want to forsake the kids' and my own delicious right to sleep in, and I liked the idea of not resorting to a no-frills, shortened summer vacation at a relative's house because most of the disposable bucks will have been sucked up for "camp."

Besides, neither boy was clamoring to play supervised basketball for two weeks or rehearse for a goofy musical in a hot church basement or even shoot off hand-made rockets in a field behind the swanky private school where, for a few years previously, each had been enrolled in something speciously called Talent Explosions.

And so, we settled in for languorous weeks of....nothing. Well, I had work to do, but hours spent working when one hears one's children downstairs and in the yard, inevitably squabbling instead of daydreaming, quickly collapsed into two hours a day. Who wants to work when one can play with the kids? So nothing soon turned into daily trips to Grandpa's pool two miles down the road, afternoons of watching vapid videos on our air conditioned house, and mid-morning trips Dunkin Donuts. We were all happy.

For a while. We slept in. We played cards together. We all read exactly what we felt like reading, in the living room, together. We even played board games. Together. We took bike rides, all together. We went grocery shopping, school supply shopping, and shopping for new DVDS, board games and other entertainment we could do together. Can you see where this is heading?

Today, T-minus 16 days until school starts again, we have had enTirely Too much of the T words: too much Togetherness.

The boys want to scalp each other. And who knows what they want to do to me. I of course am the perfect mother - calm, full of fun ideas, unflappable. Neither mutiny nor humidity upset me.

And that bundle of unused camp cash, which we were going to use on a pull-the-stops family vacation next week? Gone, mostly - spent. On DVDs, miniature golf, matinees, bowling, bookstores, lattes, remote-controlled NASCAR vehicles, gel-cushioned bike seat covers, carnivals, IMAX, museums, and the military history boat tour of New York Harbor.

Yes, we're still going on that vacation. We will travel the highway all together in our SUV (but with headphones and DVDs for the boys!), stay in a mini-suite (separate bedroom for the boys!), and attend a family party (where there may even be a kids table). We might have enough left for a boat tour of Boston Harbor, too, when we do some sight-seeing with my sister and her fiance. All Together.

I love my boys.

But I also love that word that ends in -er, the one which signals the perfect balance between how much time a mother and her two kids should spend with one another: September.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

My Own Mothers Day Gift -- to Myself !

An essay of mine, "When a Child Outgrows the Safety Net," will be published in the New York Times on Sunday, May 13 (tomorrow!).
Am I ever proud of my brave son Sean, who allowed me to share this very personal journey we made together, from the land of special needs to a brand new place.

Read all about it over at my other blog, which is all about writing.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Thanks, Maggie

In one gulp, actress Maggie Gyllenhaal has done more for mothers who nurse than 25 years of earnest blathering about nature and nutrition. Isn’t it incredibly stupid that in this country, women who bare their breasts to feed their babies are a source of controversy, but those who barely cover their nipples for the sake of publicity, commerce, or titillation, run no such risk? Maybe if more and more women breastfed in public, children of both sexes would grow up with a far healthier understanding of what those mammaries are there for in the first place.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Dad, Hot Dogs and Eggs -- and Memory

My father, who died six months ago, was not much of a cook. He didn’t have to be. In his day, that’s what wives were for and for 59 years, my mother kept him fed and satisfied – even if, in the last 10 years, much of what she set on the table came from their favorite nearby restaurants.

But Dad did have those hot dog concoctions. Now, Dad had a picky palate that ran to oysters, lobster and most of the best pasta dishes. He frequented better restaurants and didn’t mind paying top dollar for finely prepared dishes. But he was also a child of the Depression and knew his way around the canned goods aisle. He knew that filling the belly was sometimes just as important as savoring a meal. And he liked a frying pan full of hot dogs, sauerkraut and tomato sauce. Or hot dogs, leftover pasta and cheese.

Or my favorite. Sometimes for a late night snack, or a Sunday afternoon can’t-wait-for-dinner snack, he’d fill a pan with beaten eggs, toss in a few cut-up hot dogs and drop in a big handful of canned peas. He’d scramble it all up with a fork and everyone would dive in. When I was a kid, this was my idea of high cooking. I was sure there was an art to how he combined ingredients no normal mom-cook ever would.

I evolved.

Now I’m a pretty decent cook and mostly from scratch. I do many things with eggs (souffl├ęs, quiches, breakfast, salads, homemade mayonnaises), but until today I had never once combined them with hot dogs. Yet after getting home from church today, with a foot-long grocery list tacked to the fridge testifying to our unusually bare cupboards, I poured a container of Healthy Choice egg substitute into a pan and cut up a Jenny-O turkey hot dog. Trust me, if we had a can of peas around I would have plunked them in too.

It was heavenly, delicious.

Maybe it was the older gentleman I saw at church this morning, the one who was wearing the same tan, impeccably clean windbreaker I remember my father wearing last spring. Something about the way this man slowed his stride and allowed his graying wife to slide in front of him at the communion line, or the way he adjusted his band-aided eyeglasses reminded me, all too vividly, that Dad was gone. I had to look away quickly. But my father’s memory stayed with me.

Right up until the last forkful I had the eggs and hot dogs all to myself. My kids weren’t interested. They don’t know what they missed.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Kids and Poop. Perfect together.

So, here's a little something I wrote when my younger son was, well, even younger. Ok, Ok, so he's not in kindergarten anymore and maybe he wouldn't want the world knowing about his particular pooping proclivities, but I think it's cute.

My morning, or: Why Plan?

Ok, so here's the deal -- life, kids, grad school, jobs -- it all marches on with or without your OK. I had a rocky semester in my MFA writing program last fall. Now, everything's jake. My father died five months ago and I still feel it, every day, many times a day. In August and September I lost 20 pounds, in December and January, I gained back 30. (Oh, sorry, that's business as usual.) Up until this past weekend, my older son, 13, would not spend a night away from home except for Grandma's or a family vacation. Now, freshly returned from an overnight bike outing in Manhattan and Staten Island, he has signed up for another and this morning I noticed suspiciously darker hairs at both corners of his upper lip. So we Moms go with the flow and try not to get bogged down.

Take this morning. I had it all figured out -- drop kids at school, write for 4 hours, pick up groceries, learn how to use the new printer/scanner/fax/copier, plan out meals for the next week and give the house a once-over before Mom arrives for a two-week visit.

What's that expression about making plans?

While the boys ate breakfast, I opened the cupboard to put away the clean mugs from the dishwasher. I'm not sure what happened first, whether I heard something crash and then ducked, or if the two chunky beveled glass mugs thudded into my forehead first. I know only that I quick-stepped backward just as the mugs hit the counter and floor, sending pellets and shards in every direction -- inside the dish drain, fruit bowl, toaster, sink, cupboard shelves, the open dishwasher, and in my hair, as well as on the floor and the full length of the countertop.

"Put on your shoes right away and get me the broom," I shouted to one startled boy.

And, I might have added, drive yourself to school, I'm busy.

The just-got-back-from camping son retrieved his sneakers from the back porch, and then tracked mud chevrons, in the perfect shape of the sneaker-bottom grid, throughout the kitchen, hallway and bathroom. I know I can't get to it until I return from the school run.

"Get me the dustbuster," I shouted to that boy.

And, I might have added, walk home today, now I've lost a half-hour at my desk.

Finally, we settle in the car, only 15 minutes behind schedule.

"What's that?" younger son asks, pointing to the digital diagnostic message display on my dashboard, the one I rarely pay attention to because I'm a word person and what the heck are all those little symbols anyway?

"Tire pressure," they both pronounce, certain of their interpretation of a digital dingbat in a way anyone over 40 will never be.

Nevermind, I think, I can't entertain another delay, and we drive to school. Back in the driveway, I make the acquaintance of an oversized bolt protruding out of the tread on the right rear tire. But I am "lucky" and can get it fixed for under $25 (a bargain in northeast NJ, and for a bloated SUV) I'm told, that is if I can wait until after 10:30 to bring it in and wait for about 45 minutes.

Sure, why not? I have nothing else to do.

And, I might add, no plans either. Because you know what happens when you do.

Friday, February 09, 2007


OK, so I lied. I have not been updating. But I respond well to direction. Leave me a comment and ask me something. I'll answer.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

New Year, New Stuff

Hey folks. I'm not one for New Year's resolutions, but I will be keeping my blog updated at least once a week or so in 2007.....really.'s something fun. Get a copy of the January 2007 issue of O, The Oprah to page 179's me! I wrote "Lisa R's Diet Diary" over the course of late summer and early fall 2006, when I had the privilege of being counseled by O Magazine's life coach guru, Martha Beck (who I had long admired as a writer, beginning with her exquisite pregnancy memoir Expecting Adam). Martha tried to help me understand my weight loss-weight gain cycle and eating Martha's article (on p. 174) first to get your bearings. [Hers is online, mine is in the print magazine only]. Martha's new book, The Four Day Win, is due out in a week or so; it's "dieting" for the I-refuse-to-be-deprived set.

Lots of other things happening as with broken bones...losing my beloved father...finishing the first semester of my creative nonfiction MFA program...but I'll let you all in on the details a little at a time. Meanwhile, happy new year to all.