Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A Woman in Her Thirties Turns SEVEN?

Dear Anna,

This week, you are SEVEN YEARS OLD. Ready for this?









When I started writing these birthday letters to you, it was because I didn’t have a way of telling you, not in a way you’d understand, all that was going through my mind at the time. Not anymore. Sometimes, through our conversations, I’m sure your understanding of the world and your place in it surpasses my own.

You are so bright, so articulate, so kind. You want to be a scientist (!) and revel in all things cheetah print. You are a full-fledged member of the swim team and master (sorta) backstroker. Princesses were SOO last year, along with dresses and “girly stuff” in general. Your reading homework every night is always non-fiction books you’ve chosen. The weather. Manatees. The Rainforest. "Why is everything in nature endangered??" you asked this morning. Sigh. But the truth is, I’m learning a lot, right along with you. It’s awesome.

Beyond awesome.

The bad news is that I’m thirty-nine. That means, by the time another birthday letter time rolls round, this blog will be defunct. (Maybe that is good news!) So, in case this is my last public birthday letter to you, I’m going to give you a few words of what I like to think are wisdom, for you to take or leave, from age seven to age seventy.

1. You own your story. 

Because I am your mother, I’m going to use words like “perfect” and “super genius” to describe you. While that will always be true for me, to others you’re going to be something different. In fact, you’re getting to an age where people are going to be very free with their opinions about you, and those opinions are going to have the power to shape how you see yourself. If people have opinions about you that are favorable, great! But don’t fixate on those, and don’t let them define the decisions you make. Same goes for people’s negative opinions about you. You decide your story in this world, no one else.

2. Anne Frank was right. 

The line from Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl that will always stay with me is, “I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are good at heart.” Bubba, this world is full of terrible people. I hate that this is true. But it is more full, it is OVERFLOWING, actually, with good people. Kind people. Supportive people. You will always have the choice between being paralyzed by fear or taking a risk, and you will always have the choice to live thinking the world is out to get you or that people are worth loving and even trusting. I really hope you’ll choose the latter.

3. Your body is a gift. And it’s YOURS. 

Someday in the not so far future we are going to have a talk about what it means to be a woman. While my sole purpose in life is to keep you from any harm whatsoever, I know I can’t always do that. So I need you to know that you are a gift. Everything about you is a gift. You own who receives the gift of you. No one else. You.

4. You can’t have it all. 

If there is one thing I hate, it’s the idea that a woman must be, do, and achieve everything. Let me be the first to break it to you: that’s not how life works. You can be, do, and achieve many things, but not everything. So choose what you want, and make that stuff happen for you. And please, please, turn off any noise that is telling you you aren’t enough of one thing or another. You are enough. Your life is enough. Your strengths are enough. Your choices are enough.

Bus stop selfie with your biggest fan.

Ugh, how do you end a letter to your favorite little girl, your most precious gift, your beautiful little sidekick whom you simultaneously want to wrap in your arms forever and at the same time set her free to forge her own path?

The only answer I can come up with is that you don’t. End the letter, I mean. This is an ongoing conversation, one we’ll have countless times and in many ways, because if I have done my job right you will understand that I am always here for you, in every single way, for always. Not just when things are easy. Not just in a time of crisis. But always.

And always. Forever.

Happy Birthday, my big (but always my little) girl.


Saturday, November 4, 2017

A Woman in her Thirties Gets Lice

Is your head itching yet?

Mine too.

Before I tell the story, let me preface by saying this past month has been a month of some hard-core adulting. For the past year I've felt really blocked creatively, depressed by the state of the world, and feeling like my voice is... well... dumb. Not anymore. Spending a month dealing with the woman-in-her-thirties realities of life has unlocked a lot of stories that need to be told.

And here is one of them.

Last week, as Anna and I sat at the table with her reading homework, I took a good look at her hair. The only reason I did that was because I'd just had a conversation about how lucky we'd been to avoid lice in our house. If not for that off-handed conversation, I might not have looked. But I did look.


You can fill in the rest of the blanks. There was swearing, accompanied by a mad dash to Walgreens for a lice removal kit. Hours of shampooing and combing. Then checks of all the remaining members of our house. 

I also considered burning our house down, obviously. 

The next day, I went to The Lice Lady. Yes, that is an actual (thriving) business here. I wanted to be 100% sure that the rest of us were lice-free. 


Not lice-free. 

You know how I was talking about the hard-core adulting going on in my life right now? Well, nothing like a case of head lice to make you feel like you're seven years old again. 

I've become a head lice expert now, something I never wanted to be an expert in, but it turns out lice is really not that big of a deal. You get treated, you wash your sheets. Ain't no thang. 

But here's the part of the story that should be told. Almost everyone I have told about dealing with head lice has said, 'Oh yes, we've had it too.' But it's quiet, like you're revealing some sort of state secret. 'Don't worry,' Anna's teacher told me. 'We won't tell the kids that she had it.'

This was in stark contradiction to how I was handling the situation. I told anyone who would listen about the lice. I complained loudly, and often. 

'I HAVE A LIST OF THINGS I DON'T HAVE TIME FOR," I yelled when I arrived for my lice treatment. They put me into a room with a curtain for privacy. 'YOU KNOW WHAT IS ON THE TOP OF THAT LIST? LICE!'

It wasn't until I ran into a person I knew, another parent from Anna's class, who was getting her lice treatment at the same time as me, when I realized I was not handling this in the normal way. She was horrified to see me, and promised up and down not to tell anyone that we were there together. 

'Oh,' I suddenly understood. 'I'm not supposed to be talking about this?'

I've told this story several times in the last few days, and I always get a laugh. 'You're my soul sister!' People say. 

But am I? 

I don't know what it is, but for some reason we are afraid to talk to each other about real life. And sometimes the people who SAY they are honest and genuine are the worst offenders. We say we are great when we are not great. We assume no one wants to listen to us, so we don't give them a chance to listen. We don't ask for help because we're under some false impression that quietly suffering is a noble thing. We confuse a social media rant with actually doing something about the things that matter to us. 

Most of the people reading this blog are people I would consider friends. And friends, getting to hang with me means getting reality. I pooped while giving birth to Anna. I am an introvert and need my quiet alone time. I'm dealing with some really hard family stuff right now and sometimes I just need someone to listen to how difficult it is. 


And I am still, without a doubt, the luckiest woman in her thirties in the world. 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

A Woman in Her Thirties and the Heroes We All Need

Have you guys seen The Great British Baking Show? If not, it's on Netflix. And you're going to need to watch it.

Let me be clear about a few things before I start talking about this important piece of television. The first is that I don't have time for television. Neither do you, I'm guessing. We are back to school, the newest members of the swim and hockey teams, oh, and did I mention work and all the other millions of things we have going on? Every single day is a race to the finish, and every morning we wake up and start a new race all over again.

Who has time to watch TV? WHO?

After a particularly taxing day recently, I decided that instead of 'winding down' with a scroll through the news and reading about how things are... well... very... you know... I decided I would give The Great British Baking Show a try.

This is the show the world needs right now. Here's why:

Everyone is kind. 
I completely realize I sound like a Pollyanna hippie when I say this, but I simply don't understand why people are so friggin mean to each other. Maybe the mean parts of The Great British Baking Show are edited out; maybe Mary really is a horrible human being who is secretly making fun of each contestant on the show, but I doubt it. The Great British Baking Show is a competition, and yet everyone, even the people in competition with each other, still finds a way to get along and not call each other horrible names.  See, people? It's possible.

There is no unnecessary drama. 
We need to talk about how news nowadays has been sensationalized to to soap-opera proportions. Don't get me wrong-- I love a good drama, and I love getting all the feelz. But a Kardashian announcing a pregnancy is not 'Breaking News'. In fact, it's not important in the least. Maybe we should also apply that philosophy to some other famous people, too. The Great British Baking Show doesn't have ridiculously dramatic music; the hosts don't pit people against each other and try to get them to talk sh*t. It's strictly a fact-based presentation of how each competitor has performed. How refreshing!

There is civil discussion of complicated issues. 
I'm a woman in her (very) late thirties now, so I know a few things. One thing I know for sure is that very few issues have black and white solutions. Let's take Mary's Cherry Cake, which was part of the competition in the first or second show:

Each contestant had to recreate this masterpiece, using the same ingredients and minimal directions. Each came up with varying versions, each with their own problems and successes. It took a lot of discussion of technique and evaluations of the final product to come up with the winner, and even that one had its flaws. If Mary's Cherry Cake requires this much bi-partisan discussion, I think it's safe to say that a zinger on Twitter is not going to solve the problem of, oh I don't know, immigration reform.

Active listening. 
Though every contestant on The Great British Baking Show is an expert baker and the judges are legitimately famous for their craft, I have yet to see anyone on that show plug their ears, say their way is the only way, and not be willing to listen to other people's ideas and concerns. Here's an example of what happens on this show:

Notice how they are looking at the person talking and listening to what they are saying. They might think this guy is totally out of his mind doing what he's doing, but they are still giving him the decency of listening to him and letting him speak. And when they have questions, they ask them of the person. They don't gossip or roll their eyes or make assumptions. They just ask questions when they have them, and get the answer from the person who can give the answer. I mean, what a concept!

There is a conscious moving forward.
Of course, The Great British Baking Show is a competition. People are eliminated each show, and while that is a necessary sadness, there is also support and hope for this person's future. No gloom and doom, no screams of the apocalypse. This is, in fact, the system. Concessions need to be made for the greater good. And at the end of the day, if the person eliminated is someone the judges or the audience truly believes in as a baker, we have the choice to support them in other ways. You picking up what I'm putting down, here? A person doesn't need to win The Great British Baking Show to make a positive impact in this world. And we, the audience, can choose to support that person in their loss and elevate their... baking... in other, maybe even more impactful ways.

This is, you know, life. We can move forward with hope. We really, really can.

Monday, September 4, 2017

A Woman in her Thirties, Post Summer

No, blog, I have not abandoned you. I know it seems like I have (and in the home stretch, no less!). Believe me, I've had no less than ten posts brewing in the last few months:

A Woman in her Thirties Goes Vegan
A Woman in her Thirties Finally Gets her Husband to go to Yoga
A Woman in her Thirties and the Fast-Paced Game of Mini-Golf

But I keep going back to a conversation I had with a woman I taught with in China. She was from Europe and had lived in Asia many years, and when I told her I liked to write she smiled and said, 'Write quickly, then. If you live in China for a year you can write a book, but if you live in China for two years you can't write anything at all.'

I think I finally know what she meant by that. There is a lot going on in the world right now. A lot of despair and sadness. Was all that despair and sadness there before? Sure. But call me privileged or call me naive or call me whatever you want, but it feels more palpable now. I struggle to comprehend a lot of things, and while I'm reading and listening and focusing and trying to understand what seems fairly clear cut to me in many instances, I remain like the person I was after three years overseas: Void of anything substantial to write.

I want to write about how my kids are starting 1st grade and Pre-K, and I'm biased as hell but I think they are pretty much the greatest little people ever.

I want to write about the awesome people I'm working with, and all I'm learning from them.

I want to write about how nervous I am for our fall schedule to begin this week. We are exceedingly overbooked, even more than usual, and everyone keeps telling me to get used to it, but I'm really, really not looking forward to being so busy. 

I want to write about what we're struggling with this summer, what we're doing to fix those things, and what we're not doing to fix those things, and how being a parent means that every damn day you're negotiating who these little people are with who you are, and that requires a great deal of self-reflection and humility and patience. 

I want to write about this TEDx talk, and how the absolute truth of it makes me feel both inspired and terrified at the same time. 

I want to write about our summer. Our trips to California and up north. The joys of swimming and building elaborate LEGO cities and paying way too much to go on little adventures around the cities and neglecting our piano practice. 

But I don't know where to begin. Because while all these things are true, my voice feels small and unimportant right now. The entire premise of my second book was that if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. I guess that is where I'm residing. Frozen, figuring out how to be part of some bigger solution. 

At any rate, dear blog, I have not abandoned you. I'm thirty-nine now, in the final year of this little writing adventure, and while I'm grateful for all the ways you've helped me process the last (seriously awesome) decade, my relationship to you and to all my writing has changed. 

Stay tuned. There's more, I'm just not sure yet what that means. 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

A Woman in her Thirties, Five Years Out

Dear Mr. Bud,

This week you are five years old. FIVE. Ready to count?






In the words of your pre-school teacher this year, you are "pretty much a perfect little boy". You are curious and kind and energetic and smart and sweet and loving and not afraid to stand up for yourself. You love Power Rangers, sharks (Still! Though Sharky has been in semi-retirement for awhile. Don't worry- I still have him. I'm going to give him to the person you choose to marry one day, and tell them I hope you love them as much as you loved Sharky.) and your sister. Everything, every day, is all about sharing it with your sister.

(This isn't to say you always get along. No, that is definitely not the case. But for the most part, the vast majority of the time, I am beside myself with gratitude for the relationship you two share.)

You are an early riser like me. You love Lego Batman and Ninjago and Go Fish and Monopoly Junior and any other game where you can be silly. You love skating, much to my dismay, and much more to my dismay, you are really good at it.  Ugh.

The list of things you don't love is short: The dentist, roller coasters, and FOOD. That's right. FOOD. I keep waiting for the day that you figure out eating food is one of the great joys of life, but as of now, eating is your great de-motivator. You'd much rather be doing... well, anything else.

As I'm sure it will always be on your birthday, it's impossible for me to not get pretty reflective about your entry into this world. So let's go back to zero for a second, shall we?

Something very strange has happened over the last five years. The story of my pregnancy with you and your birth-- arguably one of the defining moments of my adult life-- has somehow faded. It has been condensed into, 'Yeah, that was a crazy time.' When it comes up with people I've just met, I simply say, 'I had a complicated pregnancy with Aaron,' and leave it at that. It's not that I don't want to talk about it, it's that there aren't words for it that adequately capture the whole of it. The fear those many months, that wild night you came, those long and scary days in the NICU, the cardiology visits, the healing of my own body that I am still-- five years later-- working on. 

We all have our hard times and dark moments, and at the end of all we've been through together is this:

So I am hardly sad or ungrateful. In fact, the past five years have been an exercise in real, actual gratitude that has changed my life in the most positive of ways. I'm different because of you, and all the ways that your entry into this world brought up the deepest fears in me. There's so much truth in that adage about needing darkness to appreciate the dawn. Someday, when you get out into this messed up world and make it better, you will understand this. 

But until you do, you're going to have to put up with me getting a little sentimental around your birthday. The tears I shed are ones of pure happiness, relief, and ultimately of humility. You, my beautiful birthday boy, are nothing short of a real, actual miracle. I won't forget it, and neither should you. 


Saturday, June 3, 2017

A Woman in her Thirties, Post-Grad

I would like to state for the record that I have always thought the whole pre-school graduation thing was major overkill.  I mean, seriously. Look at Aaron a couple weeks ago:

Can you even?

But as with all things in parenting, and all things as I grow older (39! What?!) my tune is starting to change. The truth is that I grew up thinking that people who changed a strongly held opinion were weak or wishy-washy. It explains why I held on to bad relationships, why I worked endlessly to prove a point in an argument that had long since blown over, why I held on (still hold on) to customs and traditions and memories. I associated stubbornness with strength.

Don't get me wrong- sometimes stubbornness is strength. Persist, ladies! You don't owe anyone a damn thing! But that conviction needs to come from within you, not from some outside source or self-imposed pressure.

I thought of this as I watch Aaron walk down the aisle to the Graduation March song, singing songs about fun and learning, holding back tears. I realized I was holding back because I'd told myself at some point that this was ridiculous, and not allowing myself to feel the feels was a difficulty I only had myself to blame for.

This has been happening a lot lately, at least for me. The realization that the person I thought I was or would be is not actually the person I am.

I had always been very sure that by age 39 I would be the grown-up version of me. And yes, in some ways I am. But the grown-up version of me has also realized that the growing up process doesn't have an end point. It's evolving constantly. It's when it stops evolving that the world seems to fall apart.

My children are now off to the final year of preschool and first grade. Which is nuts.

Soon my influence will start to become less important. Soon I won't be able to keep up with their homework. Soon they're going to have to figure out how to manage life without me constantly at their sides.

So in case I forget, or in case my own stubbornness prevents me from showing it all the time, I hope they know that it's okay to cry at graduations, it's fine to find new friends or change a belief, that evolving and changing is a totally wonderful part of life. In fact, the evolving and changing is probably the most worthwhile part of living.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Woman in Her Thirties Does Whole 30*

*if she wants to. You are beautiful exactly the way you are. Don't change.

This spring has been a season of indulgence.

I saw Hamilton:

Visited K:

And visited M in Austin:

Don't get me wrong. 2017 has been a year of getting to some important work, if you catch my drift. But I figured if I'm working hard, I'd better play hard. And we've played hard. 

When I visited K in Arizona, she told me she'd done something called Whole 30. Let me be clear about three things:
  • I firmly believe that diets are stupid
  • I have never had any weight or food issues, so I can just go straight to hell
  • Life is too short to do stupid things, like diet
But K told me that her Whole 30 experience was really transformative, and not in a weight loss way, but in all kinds of ways. She said it was like a 'reset', which stuck with me. Because after months of working and playing hard, I did feel like I wanted a reset.* 

*And let's be honest here: K told me about the Whole 30 in a way that implied that she didn't think I was capable of doing it. She basically challenged me to do it. She basically MADE me do it, now that I think about it.

At Safeway, our old hangout. We used to spend $50 for two weeks of processed junk food to sustain us through college. This time, as women in our thirties, we spent $50 on like four things and that was normal. 

So I was already leaning toward doing it, and then I read an article about how someone who'd done the Whole 30 plan had seen a huge difference with joint pain. Because I'm an eighty-year-old woman trapped in a thirty-eight-year-old's body, this resonated with me. Give up stuff and not feel like the tin man all the time? I'll try it. 

I jumped in, which is to say I bought two books with recipes and pointers for how to do it. I started a couple days before the books arrived at my house, which was a good thing, because honestly if I'd thumbed through the books before starting, I probably would have said no way. But once I had the books, I was committed. A woman in her thirties means what she says and says what she means. 

Tomorrow is my last day. Thirty whole days with no sugar, dairy, grains, or alcohol. Here's the good, the bad, and the ugly, at least for me:

The Good:
  • I do not have a scale, so I don't know where I was before or after, from a numbers perspective. But there is no doubt my pants fit better, which is not shocking. Cut out the crap from what you eat and that just kind of happens. (I'm also not going to be gracing the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition, either.)
  • I learned a lot about myself. A LOT. I never thought I was a stress eater-- turns out I totally am. I never realized how much sleep impacts your ability to make good decisions about food. I never realized how much sugar was in all the stuff we eat on a daily basis-- it's shocking. Learning is cool, folks!
  • I realized that I was caffeinating with sugar in the afternoons. Taking that away made me much more even keel all afternoon-- no bursts of wild energy, no lows of wishing for sleep. Just constant normalness. That was nice. 
  • I ate way more vegetables, which was better for me in lots of ways that you don't want to hear about. 
  • Starting from day 3 or 4, I got constant compliments about my skin. Everyone said I looked tan. I don't know what or how or why that is, but apparently it's the 'no crap in my system' glow. 
The Bad:
  • The people who knew I was doing this kept asking me what I missed most. The answer was gum. The thing with Whole 30 is that you're not supposed to substitute any of your sugar with fake sugar. No two-ingredient pancakes (NO PANCAKES, PERIOD). No sneaking around the rules. I love gum and chew it daily. I hated not having it, and probably so did anyone talking closely to me after my morning coffee. 
  • Whole 30 is very meat-heavy, which I didn't like. I would ideally like to eat LESS meat, not more. 
  • It was expensive. Whole Foods took a lot of my money this month. Not cool. 
  • I didn't see any results with my joints, which was a bummer. Still creaky and achy. So apparently it's not all those inflammatory foods I was eating... it's just me. Sad face. 
The Ugly:
  • I was annoying. I already am annoying enough with food, with the whole no cows-no pigs thing. I made the decision to cheat on Easter-- my MIL was cooking dinner, and I didn't want to say, 'Sorry, but you know how you offered to cook us a wonderful meal? You can't use dairy, wheat, grains, sugar, or anything else you love in it. Sorry!' That is just lame, lame, lame. I hate thinking about food, and wondering what my next meal will be. Doing Whole 30 makes you do that, which I can see would be really valuable for some people, but not so much for me.
  • I'm all about sustainability, and this isn't sustainable for me. I don't have a problem with food, so after about three weeks I started to get annoyed that I'd just created a problem by doing this thing when there wasn't one. Bread is delicious and should be eaten in moderation.  So is chocolate. Eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly, things I already do, are enough. 
I'm glad I did it though, because the most important thing it taught me was about my kids. I can't tell you how many times they offered me food this month, and I said no. 'Momma, try this cake!' No. 'Mommy, you will looooooove my string cheese!' No. They love connecting with me through food, and I love connecting with them through food. So, no more saying no to them.*

*Unless they offer me something totally gross, like sweet potatoes. 

It is really important to me that my kids don't see me dieting. Eating well, yes, and I learned a lot of tricks over the last 30 days to eat healthier which I will definitely keep up. But as far as the books and the groups go, Whole 30 is no more. No amount of compliments about my skin is worth having my daughter feel like when she's normal, she's still not enough. 

And with that, I gotta go. There's a Whole Woman-in-her-thirties-margarita out there with my name on it on Friday morning.