Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sex Without Love

Just because I've always loved this poem. And because it's a question I've often thought myself.

Sex Without Love
Sharon Olds

How do they do it, the ones who make love
without love? Beautiful as dancers,
gliding over each other like ice-skaters
over the ice, fingers hooked
inside each other's bodies, faces
red as steak, wine, wet as the
children at birth whose mothers are going to
give them away. How do they come to the
come to the come to the God come to the
still waters, and not love
the one who came there with them, light
rising slowly as steam off their joined
skin? These are the true religious,
the purists, the pros, the ones who will not
accept a false Messiah, love the
priest instead of the God. They do not
mistake the lover for their own pleasure,
they are like great runners: they know they are alone
with the road surface, the cold, the wind,
the fit of their shoes, their over-all cardio-
vascular health—just factors, like the partner
in the bed, and not the truth, which is the
single body alone in the universe
against its own best time.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Chocoholics Not-So-Anonymous

I am a chocoholic. I love the stuff. I crave the stuff. Well, as long as it's MILK chocolate. Dark chocolate doesn't seem to do it for me, which is too bad, because at least then I could claim it had health benefits. The only benefit I get from milk chocolate is the endorphin rush. When I'm on chocolate, I seriously feel as if I could do about anything. For someone for whom self confidence issues are a daily battle, this is powerfully seductive.

The problem is, those feelings don't last. I get half an hour, maybe an hour tops, and then the sugar lows hit, and I get tired and headachey and want more chocolate. More more more.

People have told me often I don't need to give up chocolate - just have it in moderation. Only I can't. Maybe one day I start out with one Kit Kat. But soon enough, whether it be days or weeks, I will literally be eating almost nothing BUT chocolate, in gross amounts. Yes, I mean disgusting amounts - we're talking 8-10-12 candy bars a day.

So, the best thing for me to do with chocolate is to abstain from it. Interestingly enough, once I make it through the first week, I don't miss it. I truly don't. I feel much more even-keeled, and while I miss the high, I'm grateful not to have the low.

This is the reason I gave up chocolate on 9/1/11. And I made it all the way until 10/26/11. See, I don't promise I'll give it up FOREVER. I had told myself I could have some on Halloween. But I made the mistake of buying our candy stash early (and of course only items I LIKE to eat), and opening it early, and have basically been on a 5 day chocolate trip.

I promised myself I would stop on 11/1. Maybe I'll have some again at Christmas, but for now I need to stop. My mood has been all over the place, but predominantly bitchy. I haven't been as focused in the things I need to do. And I certainly don't want to step on the scale.

Chocolate, I love you. But you don't love me. I am like a drug addict, and you truly impact my daily life. So, good-bye again for now. Maybe in heaven Kit Kats will be side-effect free.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bruised Pride

Yesterday the family and I went to Back Home on the Farm - a wonderful pumpkin patch farm full of fun activities for the family (pig races, corn maze, sling shot, etc). One of my daughter's favorite things there is the Cow Train Ride - a bunch of plastic barrels laid sideways with holes cut in the top and seats built in. The barrels are up on wheels and fastened to a 4x4, which hauls them around to the sound of much squealing and laughter.

The last time we were at the farm, I declined the Cow Train ride, figuring I was too large to fit into the barrels. This year, my husband and son had gone off to do the corn maze, so it was just Ellie and me. She wanted me to do the Cow Train Ride. Of course she did. And how could I tell her, "Mom's too fat?" So I gallantly tried to get in to the sucker, even though I was already embarrassed at the idea that I might not fit. And indeed, I didn't. My butt is too big. So, cheeks already burning crimson, I tried to oh-so-casually exit the stupid barrel. Only my feet apparently had other plans - as I was trying to withdraw my right leg, the shoe caught on the lip of the barrel. As I was working to pull it free, I thought to myself, "This is bad. I'm going to fall. I'm going to fall out of this barrel in front of all the people who just saw me be too fat to fit into the friggin' barrel in the first place. Wonder if I can fall without killing myself?"

Yes, all those thoughts went through my head as I, indeed, tumbled out sideways from the barrel and landed with a THUD on the ground. A collective gasp went up behind me and the 4x4 driver came rushing over. "I'm O.K.!" I shouted, as I got up. "I'm O.K.!" I tried to laugh it off. I reassured Ellie that mom was fine and asked her if she wanted to go by herself (she did!). I walked over to the other parents watching their kids about to go on the ride, trying to crack jokes. They helped me brush all the hay off of me.

And yes, really, overall I was fine. I hurt my right knee a bit, and apparently fell on the edge of my shoe with the back of the other knee, because it's got quite the mottled bruise today and hurts a bit. I'm probably lucky I didn't break anything, given the amount of weight I slammed down on to the ground.

But what's bruised most of all? My ego, of course. Not from falling out of the damn barrel. But from being too fat to fit into it in the first place. Well, O.K., a little bit from the fall, too. Grace is not my middle name.

I admit, it must have been funny to see the fat lady fall over. And the first question my husband asked when I told him I'd bit the dust? "Is there any video?" Thanks a lot, honey.

But the biggest pain today is not from my leg, and not from my knee. It's from being confronted again with the fact that I am fat, fat enough that it precludes me from doing a lot of things. That hurts more than any physical bruise.

Friday, October 14, 2011


Prioritizing apparently is not my forte. At least not in the sense of prioritizing in order to bring balance to my life and my work, and to ensure that everything that needs attention is getting it. I'm very good at prioritizing whatever it is I want to be doing, to the exclusion of everything else.

And therein lies the rub. I'm living a multi-tasking life, as we all are. There are not only many different things that I HAVE to do, such as caring for kids, doing the dishes, running errands, paying bills, but also many things I WANT to do, such as work on eBay, write my book, sort out the unfinished side of the basement, read, blog, etc. And it seems there's just not enough time to do it all. Which necessitates prioritizing. Which I suck at.

It's kind of funny to be just shy of 40 and really having to face the realities of these shortcomings of mine. I'm not good at prioritizing, and, related to that, my time management skills could use a boost. I tend to operate by emotion, rather than self-discipline, meaning if I feel like doing something, I will, and if I don't, I won't. There are obvious exceptions - I must help the kids get ready for school, I must make dinner for the family, etc. But there are many things I ignore because I feel like doing so (the dirty toilet, the errands I was supposed to run yesterday, the Quicken software that feels too complicated to learn right now so I'll do it 'later', etc). That's a luxury. It's something I would never do in a real paying job.

So I'm left wondering today: 1) Am I doing too many things? What is realistic? 2) How do I prioritize in such a way that everything gets the attention it needs, in logical appropriations of time invested? 3) How do I develop the discipline to do what I ought to do, not just what I want to do? 4) How do I let go of the guilt I feel for not excelling in 1, 2, & 3?

In some ways it's great to be excited about so many things. I LIKE that I'm interested in writing, genealogy, drawing, eBay, etc. But real life is real life, and I don't want to short shrift my family in favorite of those things. And I think I often do. Not only that, but even when I'm doing them, I'm thinking about everything ELSE I should be or could be doing, and so I'm not even 100% in the moment with the things that I enjoy! Is that nuts or what?

How do YOU find balance in your life between what you want to do and what you need to do? And even within those categories, how do you decide how much time to give to each thing?

Monday, September 19, 2011

What A Difference 5 Years Makes...

Picking up the kids after school, I said to Ellie, "Hi, cutie!". Not wanting to leave Jefferson out, I turned to him and also said, "Hi, cutie!" He walked by me mumbling in a disgusted voice, "I'm not that cute, mom."  

Bwah ha ha! 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Midlife Adjustments

Both of my kids are in school full-time now. This means that my job, such as it has been for the past 10 years, has changed. Before I was an on-call stay-at-home-mom, with a few breaks here and there, maybe a couple of hours for preschool, but nothing major. Now, suddenly, I own my time again. At least big chunks of it.

And it's taking some adjusting. At first it seemed like it was an incomprehensibly large swath of time, and that I would not only be able to get my work projects done, but would also be able to deep-clean the house and get to the things I'd been putting off for years, like the baby books. Only that hasn't happened yet. I'd be able to get to the gym for at least an hour every day, with plenty of time left over to get all the household errands done, as well as a little window-shopping in stores I haven't set foot in since I had kids. That hasn't happened yet, either.

Don't get me wrong - I have time. A lot more than I used to. It's just not as much as I thought it would be. Or, namely, I've once again overestimated what I am capable of getting done in a 7-hour time span. Part of this may be due to time management skills that, well, could use some improving. But I'm not watching TV during the day. I'm not wasting hours on Facebook games anymore (although I am still on Facebook far too often and probably DO spend more time than I realize playing Words With Friends).

What am I doing? A few hours of eBaying - and it takes longer than I think it should, all the collecting and photographing and photo editing and description writing and listing creating and packaging finding and label printing and shipping... On a good day I've gotten 10 listings up. Most days, fewer. I'm "supposed to" be writing one to two days a week, as well. "Supposed" being my word, but I did declare to my husband I was going to do it, and I want to do it. Luckily a writing conference this weekend has actually spurred me on, and I've spent at least 5 hours working on my story this week... and cranked out 2500 words. That's it. Apparently most novels are 80,000+. Eek.

So right now I'm feeling as if I'm trying to do a lot of things, and not doing any of them particularly well. It has occurred to me today that perhaps the goal should be to make enough money to hire someone ELSE to clean my house and maintain my yard, because I don't seem to be making them a priority. Why scrub the floor when I could be listing items online and potentially making money?

What I dislike most is feeling at loose ends. Wondering if I'm spending time in decent ways. Wondering and feeling as if I ought to be doing it differently, but not knowing - yet - what that would mean. I'm not even taking time to socialize and hang out with other moms. I'm not really shopping much - not leisure shopping, at least, except for Friday mornings when I hit the garage sales searching for cheap treasures to sell high on eBay.

I dislike the frantic feeling. I need to learn that I can't do everything at once. I can, as the quote goes, do SOMETHING at once, however. It's O.K. to focus on one thing at a time. It's BETTER to focus on one thing at a time. And I may have to make some choices. Do I focus more on the selling career? Do I stop it and focus on writing? Do I find a balance and do a little of each, knowing that results will take longer to appear?

I had made up a daily schedule, but don't really seem to be following it as well as I thought I would. Maybe generally, yes, in that Tuesdays I list on eBay and Wednesdays I've been writing. It hasn't helped that I've been sick, and have spent some of this "free time" in bed. But, oh, the luxury of being able to do so - of being able to crawl in bed and just sleep when I'm not feeling well, instead of having to try to entertain and take care of little people who don't give a hoot about the state of my health.

It's only September. It's only mid-September, at that. This change will last the rest of my life (summers not included, of course). And it will only get worse, in a manner of speaking - the kids will need me less and less, they will eventually go off to college and have their own lives and own families. It's weird to think that. It's such a change from the intensity of the early years of mothering.

Hopefully by the time my kids are grown-ups I'll have figured out this time-balancing thing. But I kind of doubt it.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Writer's Block

I'm attending a writing workshop tomorrow. I'm excited and nervous. I feel as if I'm boldly proclaiming "World, I want to be a Writer" - while doing so passively sitting and absorbing information.

Now that the kids are both in school, I'm supposed to be dedicating at least one day to writing. "Supposed" being my language, but my husband is, um, 'heavily encouraging' this. I know he is truly supportive, but I also know he truly has fantasies that I will write a novel that makes us rich.

That kind of pressure isn't helping my anxiety, which has already come back with leaps and bounds. I guess it's one thing to always say I want to write, while feeling that that was somewhere down the line, and another to actually DO it.

I could fail. Spectacularly. I could succeed. Even spectacularly. Both options are scary. But it's time to stop saying I want to do it or I'm going to do it someday, and do it now. I need to commit to writing EVERY DAY, whether on my book, on other writing ideas, on my blog, whatever - I just need to do it to get over this paralyzing fear.

Step One is attending the workshop tomorrow. Being willing to introduce myself to other writers. Networking. Step Two is writing. Write for me. Write because I love it (and I do). Write without worrying about whether anybody is ever going to read it, or whether it's any good, or whether I'll ever be published. Write for me.

Another book I'm reading, entitled "The Digital Mom Handbook," emphasizes you can create a digital career through blogging about your passion. So, they say, figure out your passion. This is a lot harder than it seems. I have enthusiasm for a lot of things - genealogy, history, German, food, music, language. I get really excited about genealogy and eBay and chocolate and romance novels. How to turn those into something lucrative?

Can I blog about my process of becoming a writer? Do I want to?

I guess it doesn't matter in the end if I use discovering my passion to write a blog - or write a novel. It's clear to me that the written word and playing with language fuel me like almost nothing else. Except sugar. Only that's an artificial fuel, and probably not worth blogging about beyond what I already fess up to here regarding my addiction to it.

What's your passion?

Friday, August 19, 2011

(Turn and Face the Strain) Ch-Ch-Changes...

First of all, I always thought that line was "face the strange... changes." Which I kind of prefer. However, "strain" is also somewhat applicable.

You see, my kids go back to school next week. Both of them. As in, my daughter is now a kindergartner and will be attending full-day kindergarten. And I am now a woman 11 years out of the working world faced with the conundrum of what to do next.

I've never been very career-driven. This surprises most people, since I was, in what feels like a previous life-time, a doctoral student in medieval history and intended to become a professor. But not because I wanted the "career" - mostly because I liked history, and had always excelled in school, so why not keep doing something I'd been good at?

Would I have been good at it? Probably. Would I do well in a full-time, career-track job? Maybe. But I kind of like jobs that I can leave behind at the end of the day. Jobs where someone else tells me what to do, and I do it competently and usually get recognized for that. (Neither of those describes motherhood, so no, I don't know quite how I ended up as an at-home mom). I always jokingly say I don't wear my current mom/wife/housekeeper hat particularly well, why would I want to add another hat?

But it's kind of true: if I have to go to work, I want something I can do well but not focus exclusively on, so that when I'm home I can be with my family and focus on them. I guess this comes from knowing two things about myself: 1) When I'm focused on something, I want to focus on it pretty much to the exclusion of about everything else, and 2) Anxiety can keep me from wanting to do things in which I could fail spectacularly. I didn't say those were good or bad things - they're just realities about my wiring.

I want to write. I continually say I want to write. I've even not only been THINKING about potential story lines, but have actually written some ideas down. And yet, I've gone no further. Partly because it's hard to write in 20 minute blips, and partly out of fear of... something. Failure? Rejection? Success? Don't know.

I want to sell things online. I can do it from home. I seem to be good at it. I can make my own hours. And I can contribute at least somewhat to the family coffers. Not much, but something. Will it pan out? Will it be worth it? I don't know.

I want to clean out and organize my house and get all those projects done I've been putting off while home with the kids. How much of this will happen? I don't know.

It feels bizarre to realize that a week from today my kids will be in school for 7 hours and I will be at liberty to decide how I spend all those hours. That are "free". That are "all in a row." I'm excited! But I'm nervous, too.

Time to go find that David Bowie song.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Happy Anniversary, Baby...

Brett and I got married twelve years ago today, in the chapel on the University of Virginia campus. Since our ceremony took place at 8 in the evening, we opted to do pictures beforehand, and took most of them in front of the UVa Rotunda.

Today, to honor 12 years together, we took the kids on a spur-of-the-moment trip to Charlottesville to show them where mom and dad got married. While the kids enjoyed the trip, it was of course less meaningful for them than it was for me.

Going back to UVa feels so poignant. It's where I met my husband. It's where we dated and hung out for 2 years. It's where I went through some of the worst self-doubt and anxiety in my life. It's where I had some of the best times of my life.

Seeing all the college students around brought back pangs for those times; wishing, even if briefly, to be back in those days of reading in the library and hanging out with friends and books at the local coffee shops. In some ways I was so much freer then, in spite of the academic stress. I just didn't know it.

Am I O.K. with my decision not to finish my PhD? Yes, I am. I truly believe I'm happier now than I would have been trying to finish something that I wasn't totally invested in anymore. I'm happy I chose my relationship with Brett and chose starting a family over academe.

But today, just for a little while, I wished I were back there. At the same time, I appreciated the wonder of being there today with my children. Our children. People who didn't exist 12 years ago today.

When I wonder what my life's work is, I guess that's the biggest part of it - my kids. Sure, I find parenting tough. I often think I don't handle it nearly as well as many other parents do, often think I could and should be such a better mom. But I love my kids. It was a joy to be able to show them where I met and fell in love with their daddy. Even if they didn't really give a fig, and just wanted to run around in the Rotunda. And that was O.K. with me.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Blog Blog Blog

Gee whiz, I haven't been here in a while. And the thing is, I really want to blog. Not for you. For me. O.K., a little for you - whoever you are - because a blog without an audience is really just a diary, and if I want a pure diary experience I ought not post online.

Still, what gives? I don't know. I feel I lack focus here, but who says I need focus anyway?

Here is what I'm busy with and may soon blog about:

1. Genealogy - I've always WANTED to work on my family history, but now I've actually started to.
2. eBay & online selling - I've fallen in love with the idea of being able to do this again (I was an active seller for a few years before Ellie was born) - to earn a little extra money for the family without having to commit to a job outside the home (and outside our own schedule), while also using skills I actually really enjoy using - shopping! bargain hunting! photography! writing copy! using the computer! printing labels and mailing things! (Yes, I really do enjoy that...) I even created my own logo - whee haw!
3. Trying to figure out what else to do with life now that both of my kids are about to be in school full-time.
4. Spending time with said kids, encouraging them to be more active and in general trying to "play" more. I don't "play" well, but I'm working on it some.
5. Working out. Actually, I'm in a lull, far off my energetic pace of the spring. It will come back - it HAS to come back. But summers are always hard for me in terms of motivation - it's just too darn hot for me to want to sweat ON PURPOSE.
6. Traveling - AWESOME trip to Kansas and Iowa to see family this summer. Great trip to the New Jersey shore (excepting the first few days, in which I was seriously feverish). Makes me realize how much I miss family.

So that's it. My quest for blog focus and blog perseverance continues. Not that anybody besides me cares. Bwah ha ha.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Oh, Blogger, Where Art Thou?

You know, blogging really seems like it would be something right up my alley. I love to write. I love computers. I love things that look pretty and organized and include words. I even like the physical act of typing. So why am I not a more active blogger?

Well, there's Facebook: I get on the computer with the intention of completing various tasks (answer those e-mails, write that packing list, check on airline tickets) and end up updating my status. Often. And reading my "newsfeed." Next thing I know, it's time to make dinner, or help the kids, or clean up cat puke, or what-have-you, and all those things I intended to, including perhaps drafting a wise and witty blog entry, just don't seem to happen.

Also, there's focus. As in, lack of. What is the purpose of my blog? Maybe I need to focus on something. Successful bloggers seem to have a basic premise, a predominant theme which laces the whole blog together. Mine is... well.... me. And while navel-gazing may be of interest to me, even I, in my myopic ways, know that that isn't enough of a reason to blog.

So I don't know. Should I make this a Blog With A Purpose? Or just occasionally pop in willy-nilly and record the funny quips my kids say, and the occasional angst session I need to get out?

I don't know. But it was fun being here a few minutes, all the same.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sometimes Funny Is A Four-Letter Word

Earlier this week Ellie was singing a Lady Gaga song (Lady Gaga has become quite popular in this house and is heard at various times of day throughout the day).

"I'm a fwee biwtch," she sang out.
"Ellie, that's not a very nice word, so even though she sings it, I don't want you to say it," I told her.
"What word?" asked Jeff.
"Oh, the free part," I tried to say nonchalantly.
"What, I'm a free bench?" he asked again, obviously puzzled as to what was bad about a bench.
"No, Jeff, not bench - BITCH!" yelled Ellie.

So much for not saying it.

Then today I was trying to help Jefferson work out a conflict with a friend. The friend had gone home temporarily, and Jeff was very upset by what had happened. I suggested to him he view it from the friend's point of view - if that friend did to Jeff what Jeff had done to that friend, how would Jeff feel? "I'd feel like calling him the S-Word!" he proclaimed. Just as I was mildly freaking out that apparently my son knows words I didn't think he knew, he continued, "Whatever the S-Word is. I don't know."

Bwah ha ha!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Of Mice And Me...

"A ship in the harbor is safe. But that's not what ships are built for." - Anonymous

I like safety. I do. One of the highest compliments I can say about my husband is he makes me feel safe in a way that no one else does. 

The world is rather scary to me. I am anxiety-prone, so I'm sure a lot of those "eek" feelings are related to my brain chemistry. Especially when I talk to others and realize not everyone feels the way I do - that kind of general fearful feeling I carry around with me most of the time apparently is not something everyone else has. 

But when it is O.K. to play it safe and when is it not? If I prefer safety, is it all right not to venture too far out of my comfort zone, or is that a sign it's even more important for me to fly from the nest? 

Why this? Why now? Because next year my daughter will be in kindergarten. And I'm left staring at the question, "What now?" Do I go back to work? If so, what do I want to do? If not, why not?

There is a big part of me that would love to stay home - to see how it goes, to see whether or not it's beneficial to the family, to see if I can finally get those projects done I've been putting off for years. My husband is supportive of whatever choice I make. I have a choice. I'm very lucky in that. But there's a little part of me that knows that desire to stay home is related to or stems from that desire to stay safe. Life is familiar here, and not too terribly risky.

But it is a valid reason to maintain the status quo? I feel like I ought to challenge that, like I ought to push myself. But why? Because of society's expectations? Because of other people's expectations? Or because that's the best way for me to grow? 

Is it? 

Maybe the best way for me to grow is to bloom where I've been planted. Stay at home and figure out who I am now. Write. Work on self. Unless my blossoms are really ostriches sticking their heads in the sand (how's that for a bizarre mixed idiom?). 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Disney Princess Indoctrination Effect

Last night at dinner Ellie asked me who my dad was. The conversation went like this:

Ellie: "Mom, who's your dad?"
Me: "Well, Grandpa Alan is my stepdad. My mom married him when I was 17. But my real dad is Don - he lives out in Arizona. He and my mom decided not to be married anymore when I was 5."
Jeff: "Yeah, it's called divorce."
Ellie, aghast: "WHAT? You can't change your MIND!"

Brett and I tried very hard to control our laughter. And failed. "At least we know the Disney Princess indoctrination is working," Brett quipped.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Out of the Mouth of Eleanor...

Ellie's preschool teacher related the following story to me last week:

Apparently while on a field trip around Christmas time, one of the preschool activities was listening to the story of Jesus. Ellie went right up on stage with the person reading the story, and clearly knew all the action and what was going to happen next. When the reader finished, he asked the kids, "So, is this a true story?"

"No!",  Ellie laughed. Then added, "But I've seen Santa Claus!"


Don't believe everything you think.
Don't compare your insides to someone else's outsides.
Don't compare your outsides to someone else's outsides.
Scales are for fish.
Shoulding on yourself is a four-letter word. 
Feelings are not facts.
This, too, shall pass.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Poisonous Thoughts

My son was angry last week. Very angry. He was mad at his parents for the consequences we had given him for his behavior choices. I could hear him in his room, muttering to himself about how we didn't love him, how he was bad, how he might as well run away, how we were so mean. Part of me, of course, wanted to go in there and chastise him. *I* was mad that he would say such things about us, that he would say such things about himself, and that his beliefs about himself and us were just so... wrong.

I didn't. I wanted to, but I didn't. I knew at that moment he would not be receptive to anything I had to say. So I let him go to sleep mad. The next morning, he was in a fine mood. I said to him, "Jeff, do you remember some of those things you were saying last night? About how we don't love you, etc?" "Yeah," he said. "Well, those are examples of what I call poisonous thinking." His eyed got wide, and he put his hands to his throat (my literal boy!). I continued, "No, they won't really kill you - but they poison your perception of reality because they aren't truthful, but will start to feel truthful if you say them over and over to yourself." He nodded. I *think* he got it. I ended by saying, "My brain can do the same thing to me - I can repeat mean things over and over that aren't true, but they start to feel true. It poisons me, too."

And sadly, that's the truth. Even more sadly, I often still don't even fully register when I'm doing it.

This morning I made chocolate chip cookies. When I called a neighbor to ask if she wanted any, she said "Sure," but also wanted to know why I was baking. She knows I've been trying to eat better and drop some weight, and she knows I've been struggling a lot lately. So she was checking in. "I'm bingeing," I answered, to which she replied, "For 2 weeks? What's going on? Are you stressed?" Now, part of me got defensive. How dare she question my eating? What's it to her if I binge my way to kingdom come? The other part realized she was speaking the truth in love - she knows I'm trying to change my eating and be healthier, and was asking legitimately what was going on because I haven't been eating in a way that will get me anything but fatter.

Earlier this morning I was at the gym. I was walking the track, but my heart wasn't in it. I was very tired (I've been going to bed too late), and just couldn't get motivated to kick it up a notch. I realized, as I took a short bathroom break, that I was beating myself up about it, chiding myself for not working out harder, telling myself I should be in the Zumba class, or at least doing the stair master, or, for Pete's sake, at least moving faster than I was. Realizing that I was saying those things was amazing - because I hadn't fully acknowledged that critical self speaking to me. I'd accepted it and believed it - but didn't totally register I was even saying it to myself.

I also think the only reason I really acknowledged what I was saying is because of an article a friend posted on Facebook this week, the premise of which is speaking kindly to ourselves will help in weight goals. It wasn't a new idea to me - I've been aware of my negative self-talk for years - but just seeing it again in black and white, and seeing it applied to relationships with food and bodies was great. Talk to yourself the way you'd talk to a friend, the article encouraged.

If a friend came to me and said, "Man, I'm here at the gym, but I'm just so tired. I don't feel I have it in me to really go all out - I think I'll just walk today," would I have criticized her? No! I would probably be empathetic and agree that walking today sounds like a good option - she could always do a harder workout tomorrow! And praise her for even being AT the gym when she didn't feel like it! Likewise, if I see a friend wanting to eat healthfully but pigging out on donuts at that moment, would I reject her? Would I chastise her? Absolutely not. I'd sympathize, maybe ask if there were any reason, be supportive.

I would not tell her she sucked. I would not tell her she would always be fat. I would not tell her she couldn't do it. I would not tell her she was lazy, or dumb, or had no willpower, or was a bad example, or obviously was going to fail.

I wouldn't do that, because I cared about her. And I wouldn't do that because I know that a) none of those things are true, and b) negative talk doesn't motivate anybody. Except maybe to shut down.

So when I see that, when I can really see that I wouldn't talk to a friend the way I talk to myself, how do I change my own inner monologue? It's been stuck on self-lambasting and self-flagellation for so long it doesn't know how to speak any other language.

I guess it's time to learn.

I don't want to gain back all the weight I've lost. I don't want to eat so poorly, for my own health and for the sake of my children. I want to figure out a way to be kind to myself, but not permissive. If I wouldn't let my kids eat gobs of raw cookie dough, perhaps I shouldn't be doing it either. But if I do, as I did this morning, perhaps labeling myself as a "hypocrite" in a sarcastic, snide, "you know you're bad" way, as I did, isn't the best response.

Perhaps the best response is loving myself enough to say, "You're O.K. Stop the behavior. Love the person."

Last week Jeff called anger "The Little Thief." It steals his fun. For me, self-criticism is the thief. It's poisoned my life.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Where's Anne?

Yes, I've been quiet here. Too quiet. I really do/did intend to have an active blog. The act of writing, whether of happy or sad times, is cathartic for me.

So where have I been? The gym. On SparkPeople. And playing CityVille on Facebook. The first two aren't bad - the gym is important, and I have ramped up my time and intensity working out as I participate in our local version of "The Biggest Loser," called "The Right Weigh." is a free, vast online site that supports people pursuing healthier lifestyles (yes, and losing weight). You can track your calories in and calories out and participate in forums, blog, etc. Most of my blogging energy has gone there, as most of my thoughts in the last month and more have been on weight.

Finally, there's CityVille. Just the latest in a string of Facebook games that have sucked me in. In the time in which I've been on Facebook (Two years? Three?), I've seriously played Knighthood, Warlords, Mafia Wars, Farm Town, FarmVille, CafeWorld, Treasure Isle, Treasure Madness, FrontierVille, MyTown, and now CityVille. Plus various and sundry word games, like PathWords, Scrabble, Wordscraper, Word Drop, and many more. Do you see the pattern here? I do usually play one at a time - meaning when I get heavy into a new one, I drop the old one. Most of the time. But I sometimes have played as more than one person. I have two cities in CityVille at the moment, for example.

Is it a problem? Probably. Or at least I might have to admit it is when I say to my husband yesterday, "I'm thinking about giving up my FB games for Lent - do you think I could do it?" and he, without batting an eye, states firmly "No."

Yikes. And I do spend too much time on them. How much could I get done around the house if I weren't cooking up fake eggs? How much more could I interact with my kids if I weren't busy digging up treasures? How many more books might I have read if I weren't so involved with building bookstores in fake towns?

I know I use the games as a means to relax - and to avoid. Is it better than using food? Or drugs? I guess. But it's in the same vein - numbing out from what's going on around me. The idea of giving them up even makes me a little nervous - what WOULD I do with that time? Would my kids expect me to play with them every minute? (Often I play on FB while they are on their own screen - although we try to limit THEIR screen time per day.) Would I actually get the house clean and be expected to keep it that way? What would I do for fun in the middle of the day?

Maybe it's time to find out, even if just for 40 days. I have a whole LIST of things I'd like to do, big and small, that I never seem to get to. Like staining the front bench. Or cleaning out the unfinished side of the basement. Or writing that book.

Will they all happen if I give up my escapes? Probably not. I do still have kids to take care of, laundry to do, dinner to cook. I do still need to get to the gym and focus on my health. And I'm not giving up Facebook altogether. But I think I might be surprised at how much more I do accomplish.

Including, perhaps, keeping up with this blog a little more. Even if it's just for me.

Out of the Mouth of Eleanor...

Ellie ran up to me last week and announced proudly, "MOM! D-O-G spelled backwards is JESUS!"

I couldn't help but laugh out loud. We'd been talking a few days before about the spellings of God and dog, as she had then said, "D-o-g spells God!", which I also had to correct.

Well, at least she's got the essence of the Trinity down at a young age - they are separate and yet the same. Just spelled differently. Bwah ha ha.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Fear Less

What's it like to be one of the confident people? You know, the ones whose every thought and action isn't tainted by their fear? Fear of what, you might ask? Fear of failure. Fear of success. Just... fear.

I know those people exist. I'm married to one of them. When he decides to do something, he does it. When he's faced with a new challenge, he assumes he can do it. Self-doubt, nervousness, anxiety, fear of not doing it right - none of that enters his brain.

But it enters mine. All the time. It's distressing and disabling, frankly. How many things have I not tried for because I was afraid of something? Of anything? Too many to count. It's embarrassing to admit that, but it's true.

All through graduate school I doubted my own abilities. Other people could do exceptional work and write intelligent, well-researched papers and books, but I was always afraid I wasn't good enough. Even when my advisor, himself a brilliant medievalist, insisted he thought not only could I do it, but I'd be great at it, I doubted him. I know this played a role in me deciding not to finish the dissertation. (I do still think that was the best decision overall given the direction in which I wanted my life to go - i.e., a family -, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit some of the reason I decided not to finish was simply that I worried I couldn't.)

In some ways, then, being a stay-at-home mom has been quite the safe haven for me. Leaving this haven feels scary. But as Ellie is nearly 5 and will begin kindergarten next year, it's something I've been thinking seriously about for a while. Part of me wants to stay home for legitimate reasons - the flexibility of being here for sick days and vacations, for being able to help out in the classroom, for being able to get projects done and just maintain the house a lot better, etc. Part of me probably wants to stay home out of fear, though. And that's not cool.

I heard today about a potential part-time job that *might* be created at my kids' school next year. I got excited - and immediately scared. I did mention to a board member and the academic director that I am interested in this job, which I very much am. It's an administrative assistant type thing, something I do think, in my more rational moments, I'd be quite good at and which would encompass some things I already do for the school, such as editing a newsletter, etc. But the fearful side of me has been plaguing me all day with silly thoughts ranging from, "You can't do it" to "They don't like you" to "Your skills are too outdated and they'll find that out and be mad."

How dumb is this? First of all, I don't even know if the job will EXIST - it's dependent on a lot of financial figures and school enrollment numbers for next year. Secondly, it's months away! Plenty of time for me to brush up on my Office skills, web page abilities, etc. Third, maybe someone else would land the job, but that doesn't necessarily have to reflect poorly on me. Fourth, well. I don't know fourth. I just know this fear is silly, but it paralyzes me at the same time.

And that's no laughing matter.

Tell me, how do I become one of the confident people?

Friday, January 14, 2011

"'The body is a sacred garment. It's your first and last garment; it is what you enter life in and what you depart life with, and it should be treated with honor.' - Martha Graham

In the Garden of Eden, eating was modeled as one of life's most pleasurable experiences. But then Eve took a bite out of that apple (so much for the low calorie, low fat, high fiber theory), and women (and men) have been at war with food ever since. ...Are your weight issues really a symptom of something else--boredom, depression, regret, or rejection? At the root of many issues is our self-loathing at worst, our self-indifference at best. Food is not the enemy. We are. Break the cycle of dieting and replace it with loving yourself enough to make good choices about your diet. Examine your eating habits this week. Are you honoring your body with your food choices? How can you love yourself back to a healthy relationship with eating? Take steps towards defeating the natural compulsion or craving that might take you down a path of regretful eating. Remember the sacredness of your own skin."

This was the meditative e-mail I received from SparkPeople yesterday. I post it here because it resonates with me so well. I do NOT treat my body like a sacred garment, but rather like an old, ugly coat I have to drag around. My body represents all the negative emotions I feel about myself - and toward other people. It's much easier to stuff down feelings by eating them. At least I've learned that. 

Maybe it'd actually be easier to feel those emotions - even occasionally express them! I'm working on it. I'm working on letting myself feel angry, scared, disappointed, frustrated, mad. But I'm not comfortable with those feelings. Especially anger and fear. And since, like most people, I feel those often, it's tough. Actually, perhaps I feel fear more often than many other people. I do struggle with anxiety, after all, which I guess leads me to conclude that others don't wrestle with it as much as I do. 

In any case, it's time to change my coat.  

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tales From The Backseat

Jeff wanted to sit in his regular middle-row van seat on the way home from school today. I explained to him that he either needed to move over to the other seat (normally Ellie's, but she's been opting to ride in the back row lately), or he could move back next to Ellie, since his van door was the only one that opened from the inside (yeah, um, the state of the van is another story...) and we needed our carpool kid to sit there, since he gets out first. Jeff did not like this, but he very begrudgingly moved to the back row.

"Why won't you just sit in the other middle seat?" I asked him.
"Because that's ELLIE's seat," he replied.
"No it's not," I answered. "It's for whoever feels like sitting there!"
"Well, Ellie's been sitting there for a million years and it's all covered with her germs!" he insisted.
I scoffed at this. "That makes no sense! Besides, you're related - whatever germs Ellie has you have, too."

Jeff thought about this for a second, then said, "Really? Because I'm not trying to be mean or anything, but I always thought we adopted her."

Bwah ha ha.