Friday, March 6, 2015

How to Survive a Shitstorm (Deep Acceptance)

My family got walloped this week. Not just with snow. Carl hurt his back Monday morning. So badly he couldn’t get up for three days straight. I had a migraine that started Sunday and lasted until Wednesday. And the three-year-old and pug can’t take care of themselves just because we’re sick and hurt. (Can we put that clause in the parenting contract somewhere?)  

Immobile trumps migraine, so I was caring for everyone with my headache. I do not recommend this. By Wednesday night, I felt beaten. Driving home from work, exhausted, head pounding, I put in a CD called The Deepest Acceptance by Jeff Foster. He reminded me that most of my suffering comes when I want things to be different from how they are. Right. It’s so simple and so true. Is the headache causing my pain, or the fact that I want the headache to go away right this instant? Is Carl being on his back causing my pain or the fact that I want him to be up and helping right this instant? Is the snow causing my pain or the fact that I want it to be spring right this instant? Usually, what is causing my suffering is the latter. Something happens, and I don’t like it, but it’s the fighting against it tooth and nail that causes the bulk of my pain.

Why is this thought helpful? Because I can’t change the fact that the headache is here. I have meds, but they don’t always work. The headaches come when they come, and go when they go. But changing the way I think about them does relieve some of the suffering.

The snow is another example. I hate winter. So when a friend texted me yesterday to ask if Daniel and I wanted to come play in the snow with her, my first (inward) response was “hell, no.” But, after being cooped up all morning with my husband on his fourth day at home immobile, I decided an outing was a good idea. We bundled up, and trudged outside. Daniel brought his shovel with him, shoveling walks as we went. I had to admit, once I stopped wishing the snow wasn’t here, that it was beautiful. My friend was thrilled to see us, which further lifted my spirits. We lied on her lawn and made snow angels. We hunted for a sled in her basement, finding an old snowboard instead. We constructed a hill on her porch steps, then watched Daniel slide down it over and over and over, saying, “I wanna go fast!” and “Can I go again?” My grumpiness and my headache slid away as Daniel slid down the hill, as we laughed and played in the crisp winter air, laughing and loving it. 

Some days pain appears, some days joy appears. Some days both. Jeff Foster says we don’t have to try accept anything, that anything that appears we have already allowed into our experience, and have therefore already accepted. I like that. I don’t have to try to accept, I’ve already accepted. Just for today, I accept that it is March 6, that my world is snow covered, that I did not get as much work done this week as I wanted, but that I took care of myself, I was a good wife, a good mom, and I had a beautiful day with my boy yesterday. Just for today, that feels like enough.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Beating the Winter Doldrums

Come and swim at the Y M C A

January was rough. My Grandmom died, I had this nasty cough/cold that wouldn't go away, and Daniel and I were having these epic battles about getting dressed every morning. And let's face it, it was January. Does anyone like January?

Teetering at the edge of depression, I finally joined the gym I'd been talking about joining for years. We have a brand new YMCA near our house and my friends who belong are borderline cult-like in their love of it. I thought it was too far from our house, but when I google mapped the Y versus the LA fitness, it was only five minutes further, and Daniel could swim there too. Sold.

Since joining, my whole winter has turned around. During our first visit, Daniel played in the Kid Zone while I danced at Zumba - instant smile!!!! and Carl worked out. Amazing. Two happy parents and a not-too-unhappy kid.

For our second visit, we had a pool night. We all brought our bathing suits, and I played with Daniel while Carl swam laps, then Carl played with Daniel while I swam laps. It felt like a Tuesday night vacation. Three happy people on a Tuesday night in February. Amazing.

I know that endorphins make a big difference, but sometimes I guess I need a break from exercise to remember just what a big difference it makes. The week before I joined the gym I was borderline depressed. After three workouts I felt like myself again.

A wise friend pointed out that it wasn't just the exercise, but the family date that put the smile on my face, and she was right. Since she said that I've been trying to do some kind of weekly family excursion once a week - whether it's splashing at the pool, or eating at Outback, something just for fun. In spring and summer, spontaneous fun abounds. In winter, it takes a bit more work. But with some focus and attention, with exercise, with watching daily comedy, I find that as friends complain about the winter doldrums, at least for today, I'm feeling pretty good.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Back to School

Last weekend, after visiting Manhattan on Saturday, and staying with dear friends for the night in Pelham, we stopped by my alma mater, Fordham, for a brief visit. Usually when we go to the Bronx, I want to go to Mike's pizza, or Ann and Tony's for penne a la vodka, or Butchie's for their chicken sandwich. I love to walk through the Botanical Gardens, or visit the zoo, or walk up Fordham Road or Arthur Ave for a slice of local life. But this Sunday, in the dead of winter, after a very full day on Saturday, all I really wanted to do was walk through campus, and have brunch in the cafeteria, much as I would have twenty years ago.

I charmed the security guard with my true story of being an alum, wanting to visit and buy some Christmas gifts from the bookstore. He allowed us to park for free on campus. (Christmas miracle!) We walked through the biting wind, stopping for a picture in front of Keating Hall, and Daniel actually looked at the camera (miracle number two!) Walking into Keating, memories leapt out at me: the absolute confusion in Calculus, which I promptly dropped for an easier version; the glory of studying with Elizabeth Johnson, one of the premier feminist theologians of our time, as a freshwoman; her asking me to read one of my essays about gender aloud to the class; feeling sometimes slighted as a woman by the Jesuits; feeling enlivened by New York City - that anything was possible.

As we walked around campus I remembered writing for 'the paper,' the alternative campus newspaper, and that they asked me at the end of my freshman year, to be the editor-in-chief. I declined the honor, not wanting the responsibility, but I did keep writing. Looking back, it was good to remember that even then, I was a writer. That fact was obfuscated for awhile, but it has always been a part of who I am.

Brunch was pretty much the same, though they do have a gluten and nut-free station now. I told Carl how I had fought for vegetarian options in my day. Daniel had donuts, ice cream and frozen yogurt, which is probably how I ate when I lived there. "Is it possible to put on the freshman fifteen in one day?" asked Carl as he came back with his third plate of food.

The bookstore was closed, and though I didn't leave with any souvenirs, I did take home a clearer sense of myself, which is probably better than another Fordham t-shirt.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Biggest Party Night of the Year - With Kids

Nothing can stop this family from having a good time
The night before Thanksgiving used to mean meeting friends in a swanky lounge downtown, or a local neighborhood pub, or a sweaty dance club. For a few years, when most of my friends had kids, but I didn't, I held on to this tradition, tried to rally my gang for a night out, unable to accept that things had changed. Now, three years into parenthood myself, I get it. I'm not getting a babysitter for Thanksgiving Eve. Not gonna happen. But as I contemplated the weekend arriving, I wanted to be with friends. My nights in sweaty clubs may be (mostly) on pause, but that doesn't mean I can't see friends. So I took matters into my own hands, brought the party to me.

What the biggest party night of the year looks like, with kids, is this:

Your husband for some reason decides to clean off the top of the fridge for the first time in 10 years, right before everyone arrives, leaving the whole house smelling like bleach. This makes you open the windows even though it's 25 degrees and snowing. He's still vacuuming when people are arriving, since "there will be babies crawling," and though you want to murder him, because who cares if the rug is dirty when the food isn't ready, you remember his mom telling you to never interrupt a man who is cleaning, and remind yourself that it's good to have a clean rug and a sweet husband.

Four other families with youngens come, arriving at 6 pm. You order pizza, cook up some veggies from the CSA, and French fries for the kids. The guests bring crudite with hummus, Greek salad and pumpkin pie. You feast, eating in shifts, some people standing. Parents are used to this. When Rhoda stands, you discover she was sitting on your son's stethoscope. She laughs and said she didn't even feel it. You love her for this.

Daniel, Jacob and Ruthie, ages 3, 3 and 5, eat quickly - only pizza and fries, obviously, and then go play in the living room. When Teddy, age 3 arrives, he joins them. The babies, Trixie, Tyler and Kieran, ages 7 to 12 months, join the fray. After dinner, parents sit on couches, sprawl on the floor, talk in pairs or triads. The moms sit in the dining room for a blessed fifteen minutes and talk about comedy dreams, while the dads manage the mayhem in the living room. A few times you look in the living room and shudder to see every scarf, glove and hat that you own strewn about, along with every lego, toy, musical instrument and book. Oh well, it is the biggest party night of the year.

At 8:15, Lauren starts to pack up baby Trixie, the youngest of the bunch, with the biggest eyes, and most adventurous palate (duck confit, yes please says baby Trixie.) The dads do a crazy cleanup sweep that you wouldn't believe if you hadn't witnessed it. Your living room is restored to order in five minutes. Babies are bundled into car seats, kids into winter clothes. Hugs and kisses are exchanged. Your little guy is jumping on the couch like a maniac, fueled not even by sugar, but by the sheer excitement of Thanksgiving Eve. He's shouting Happy Halloween! Happy Easter! Your husband puts him to bed as you begin cleaning up and cutting up the bread to make the stuffing for Thanksgiving dinner.

No alcohol was served, it was hardly swanky, but it was loud, and full of love, and connection. The only thing missing was dancing. Next year, I'm adding a dance party to the mix.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Elvis Has Possessed My Three Year Old

The King lives

A few months ago I asked my son what he wanted to watch on YouTube. Typical answers range from Elmo to Ingrid Michaelson (he's eclectic.) On that particular night he said, "Elvis." I assumed he has watched this with his dad, so I didn't think much of it, and gamely pulled up Elvis Aloha from Hawaii. Later when I mentioned it to Carl, he said, "Yeah, he asked me to watch Elvis the other night, and I assumed you had watched it with him before."

"You mean, this didn't come from you?"


We looked at each other, dumbfounded. Where, then, did our child get the idea to watch Elvis?

Whatever its genesis, my son loves the King. We have watched Elvis Aloha from Hawaii almost every day since then. I have shown Daniel other Elvis footage, the comeback concert in '68, when he's still svelte, dressed in black leather; the classic footage of him shaking his pelvis, causing uproar in 1956; we've even watched the tragic but beautiful Unchained Melody performance, just weeks before his death (at age 42!). But no, the boy is only interested in watching Elvis in Hawaii. Why? I can't really say.

The Hawaii concert makes me a little sad. Yes, he's still the King, but he's clearly high, and has begun his descent into his addiction. Yet he also has moments of clarity, charm, and talent to spare. He's not the man he was in the earlier performances, but vestiges of his prodigious gifts remain. Watching clips from the videos now, I'm struck by his lack of perfectionism, by the fact that he was still working, even in his addiction, until the very end, still offering his gifts to the world.

He may not have been sexy or even coherent all the time, but he was still singing. And my three year old loves it. Go figure.

Thanks. Elvis. You're still the King.

When I asked Daniel what Nalu should be for Halloween, he said, without hesitation, "A hunk of burning love."

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Is Bottle Good Enough?

A still from the simpsons shows a group of moms staring at Marge in horror after she dropped a baby bottle

I'm very excited to share an essay I wrote about breastfeeding, published by Bitch magazine. Please read it if you're interested, and pass it along to any moms who may benefit from my experience.

As always, I love to hear your responses, either here on the blog, by email, or any way you wish to share them. I know many women, like me, have trouble with nursing. Failing at this act that seems like it should be so easy and natural caused me a lot of shame, and pain, at a time when I was vulnerable, hormonal, and sleep-deprived. The judgment from health professionals, other moms, and strangers didn't help. I might still be a tad angry. But writing the article helped. Check it out:

Is Bottle Good Enough?

Friday, August 22, 2014

A Daily Dose of Humor, My Cure for End of Summer Blues

Can't every day be like this?

End of summer. Not my favorite time of year. My prescription for handling this is a daily dose of humor. In addition to all the other necessary self-care: the exercise, the meditation, the sleep, the healthy eating, time by myself, time with friends, time with Carl. Yes, I need all of it, and yes, sometimes it's exhausting. But right now, I also need to laugh.

So here is a link to something that helped me look on the plus side of back to school: Baby Got ClassAnd if you've yet to discover The Lonely Island, Andy Sandberg's comedy group, check them out. My personal favorite of their videos is People Getting Punched Right Before Eating, but there are so many good ones. Warning - most of them are explicit - so don't watch at the office or with your kids.

Please post your favorite funny people or links here. Share the wealth.

Buying something cute for fall helps too - even if it's just one small thing. Just saying.