Today I woke up to this lovely quote:

“Look at yourself in the mirror and critique yourself and your movements as you would a piece of artwork. But don’t beat yourself up. Unless you need to lose weight.” — A sampling from workout guru Tracy Anderson’s new food program service.

And I have been irritated ever since.  I don’t have a clue who this woman is, but I don’t like her one bit.

Now, for my vanity’s sake I have to point out that (except for those last 10 pounds just about every woman over 40 thinks she needs to lose), I don’t really need to lose weight. I want to, of course, but Sawyer is 20 months old and I have finally begun to feel like I have my body back.  My BMI is 26.7, which technically puts me “overweight” since 18-25 is normal, but I refuse to feel like shit over one or two BMI points and, as long as my clothes still fit and I don’t have to go up any more sizes, I am fine with it.  Kinda. Read More

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In rare cases, I believe so.

During WWII if an American had been with German troops planning, abetting and conspiring against the Allies wearing a German uniform and living with the Germans, not one American soldier would have been called out for shooting the traitor on sight. A story like that would have hit the new reels and pulled Americans together in horror at the treasonous nature of such an individual and the soldier would have been given a commendation. Not a moment would have been wasted worrying about the rights of such a traitor and their having been killed without due process and trial, though the only thing anyone would have thought a better outcome was that he be captured, tried with due process and hanged back on American soil – after we’d gotten as much intelligence out of him possible.

I understand that today technology exists that is truly awesome in its power and can give the impression of ease and seemingly remove the immediate consequences of  killing so that it is different than shooting someone on a battlefield like we did 70 years ago.  But then a lot of things have changed since then. You don’t have a country declaring war and an enemy in uniform out posted along a battlefield front.  It is not an army we are fighting now, it is a semi confederation of terrorist cells working underhandedly and deviously because they cannot get a legitimate government to back them and take us on face to face.

So if a born and bred American posts, plots, joins and otherwise aids terrorist groups, training them and training with them, living among them and – because they understand our lives, beliefs and culture – provides tactical and other intelligence to these enemies who have taken it upon themselves to come after us and we get the opportunity to take them out at some training camp or some hidey hole they’ve scurried to out in Yemen with a drone? I’d fire the rocket myself if given the chance and sleep like a baby afterwards.

When an American does such a thing, it is not our responsibility to follow him around the globe with an arrest warrant, reminding him of the rights he obviously does not care to have and putting troops in danger to make an arrest.  As an American you do have rights – and I think in such traitorous situations those people have exercised the right to give up those rights.  You hate America that much?  Fine.  We don’t stop people who want to leave this country.  And if they want to denounce us, they are free to do so.  Go join the enemy.  But when they join in the fight against us, they should know what they are up against.  After all, they were born and raised here.

And anyone who does such a thing and then whines about their civil rights once captured should be shot, just out of principal.  They can’t have it both ways: Death to America.  Down with the American system of government.  Oh, wait.  I’ve been caught by America?  I want my American rights granted to and protected for me by America!  Give me a fucking break.  Save the cost of a trial on that. I’d rather pay for the drone strike with my hard earned tax dollars and not give these people a propaganda platform in the guise of a trial.

You want to have the conversation about drones and whether or not they are ethical?  Fine.  There is a discussion to be had on that. We can and should debate this, especially when it comes to killing kids as such strikes by necessity sometimes do. But don’t go getting your panties in a wad about the killing of a traitor whose own actions and Youtube videos confirm it.  That doesn’t even make a blip on my ethical meter.

I have a 5 year old little boy and it has been a hard few weeks to be his mother.

It was hard to turn on the news.  Hard to listen to the names and see the faces of those murdered. Hard to hear about a child being taken at gunpoint and held underground for a week.  Hard to contain maternal hatred for men who would perpetrate such horrors. Hard to contain tears of gratitude and grief for those who stood between a gunman and children to die more valiantly than most of us could ever hope to live, much less die.

It was hard to process the mixed feelings of relief and shame at that relief because the only thing that was different about me and someone else was their unimaginable loss and grief and my luck and chance not to have lived where they did.

Then a murder/kidnapping on a school bus 20 minutes from my parents’ house where I grew up – 10 miles from the bus route my daughter rode for years – reminded me that proximity was a risky defense on which to base my relief.

And, to be perfectly honest, in an attempt to shield myself I pulled away from these stories to a certain degree.  I read about them daily, I offered my prayers and held out hope, but I stayed away from commenting, watching and participating in the hourly drama of it, because the more I watched, the more certain I became of one fact.

There is no real safety for my children.  And that haunts me.

I grew up in a world where mothers don’t die in childbirth and, except in the direst of cases, babies live.  Polio, smallpox, dysentery and other child killers have all but been eradicated due to the advances of medicine.  I walked through an old graveyard months ago looking at all the tiny gravestones from 150 years ago (one family I remember had more than 5) and gave thanks that I live in an age where my children will most likely all live to adulthood – something that didn’t happen for either of my grandmothers, nor any of my great-grandmothers. In that I am so very blessed.  Even with the health risks of Downs, Sawyer has every expectation through science, education and the advancement of compassion to live a high quality life where 100 years ago doctors would have recommended I never see him and that he be thrown into an asylum to rot –something completely unfathomable to me, as his smiling face is my greatest joy every day.

But I have other things to fear – not viruses and disease – something worse: my fellow human beings.

The things I used to lay awake worrying about in the night – that Ezra may one day put himself danger because he doesn’t listen when he should and do something dangerous like run out in front of a car, that Sawyer will one day be taken advantage of and mistreated because of perceived disabilities – have been replaced by more violent actions from the insane adults around them.

When my daughter was growing up my big boogeyman fear was that she may be lured into a van with candy or a puppy and raped and murdered.  I taught her about strangers, was vigilant and kept my fingers crossed, relying a good deal on the knowledge that – statistically speaking – she was probably safe and doing my best to keep the odds of such dangers as low as possible. I tried to raise her to be aware of her surroundings and stay out of high danger situations. She is 20 years old now; so far, so good.

I still have that boogeyman to worry about with my young sons to some extent (I cannot forget about the Sanduskys of the world), but now I have a new one to hate and fear.  One whose insanity cannot be explained away so simply and straightforwardly as a child predator taking one child at a time for their own sick gratification.

Now we have these mass child murdering motherfuckers to worry about.  Ones whose insanity is sneaky and devious and seemingly has no recognizable profile as of yet.  Ones that you cannot warn your children about because if your child is in the presence of this kind of madman, it is probably too late.

How am I supposed to teach my little boy to be vigilant and protect himself when his entire world view is based on the knowledge that he is precious, loved and cherished and that adults are his protectors? Do I shatter that innocence?  Would that be more dangerous?

These crazies operate so far outside of our society’s moral contract that the rest of us cannot fathom their levels of insanity. And quite frankly, I don’t care to.  As compassionate as I can be, these monsters engender no compassion or forgiveness from me – no matter their circumstances, problems or mental diseases.  May they rot in the bowels of Hell for all eternity.

The mindset of one who would intentionally target children is so horrifying and terrible that it is impossible to protect against it. I listen to the arguments from banning all weapons to putting armed guards in schools and know that neither would work.  Neither would stop someone who wants to kill children. There is no sure safety against that.

There is one thing that we all agree on, no matter where your political, religious, racial, ethical, sexual  or any other dividing line in society may be; whether you have children or suffer from a phobia of them; we ALL operate under then indisputable knowledge that children are precious.

We recognize and believe that children who are the least among us in years are in fact the future of the entire world. Just the amount of energy and imagination embodied in one child is so precious to  us as adults who have grown up and lost their wonder that, without children, we would be utterly lost in a cynical world unsavable and unredeemable.

Our children are that redemption.

They are our lights, our beacons, our reasons, our future.

I am terrified for all of them – quite selfishly, mine in particular – and thus the future of humanity.

Ezra got scared at bedtime last night.  I am still not sure why. 

We have been going through some bedtime issues off and on over the past several months. I was leaving the hall light on for a while, but Ezra started getting up in the middle of the night and, finding I had turned the hall light off after he was asleep, would get up and turn it back on – at 3 a.m. That had to stop. 

So we got a night light for his room. 

Unfortunately, I found out night lights cast scary shadows and were unacceptable. There was wailing and gnashing of teeth. There were bargainings and other lights added to supplement the night light.  Eventually it was too much and I had to find another option.

So I spent $30 on a Dream Lite.

If you have a small kid who watches Sprout, you have heard the commercial whether you know it or not (“Pillow Pet Dream Lites are the amazing nightlight that turns your child’s room into a starry sky … “). I took Ezra to Toys R Us and let him pick it out. He responded so well that Ezra’s dad made sure he got one for Ezra at his house, too. It worked great.

For about 3 weeks. 

Last night after he’d been in bed about 30 minutes he “saw something move and it was scary.” I have no clue what he saw or thought he saw.  It really doesn’t matter. It was real and it was scary to him. So much so that he refused to go back into his room and cowered against my legs out in the hall trying to explain.  When I made him cross the threshold, his entire body tensed and he started to come a bit unglued, with big tears spilling out of his eyes.  The Dream Lite was on and Sawyer was sitting in his bed in the room as well, but neither had the talisman-like qualities they had last night.

I didn’t know what to do. 

I tried reasoning.  (See my hand making a shadow?  It is nothing scary.  There is nothing out there.  Shadows will still be in Mommy’s room, too.  There is nothing to be scared of.  Whatever it was that scared you is gone now.) No way.

I tried authority. (Ezra, that is enough.  Sawyer is in here with you.  Your Dream Lite is on.  There is nothing else I can do. Enough. Lay. Down. Now.) Not a chance in hell.

His panic started to escalate and I was in danger of him having a complete meltdown.

And then I said something without even thinking about it. 

“Jay is here.  I am here. You are safe.”

He immediately quit whining. The tears stopped instantly.  The tension drained from his little body.

His relief was palpable.

Encouraged by his obviously positive response, I continued along those lines, laying it on thick, “Nothing is going to happen to you.  Jay is bigger and stronger than any scary thing you see.  It is his job to take care of us and my job to help him.”  (I may have also volunteerd Jay for monster recon duty in the backyard, should it be necessary – I was just going with it at this point.)

Ezra smiled and hugged me.  “It is Jay’s job? He’s stronger than monsters??” he asked, impressed.

“Yes.  That’s what parents do.  They keep little kids and babies safe. He keeps me safe, too.”

Right in front of my eyes Ezra transformed from a tearful, scared child into a relieved and reassured little boy, confident in his safety and complete in his trust.

Apparently, my belief in Jay’s bravery was enough to make him brave as well and he began to put in his two cents.

“And it is my job to help him.  If the bad guys and monsters come, Jay will fight them like this,” he said, showing me a karate chop and punch (complete with sound effects), “and I will go get the net and I will catch them like this,” he demonstrated with a big swoop of his arms.  “I am a good helper.”

Just that quickly the crisis was over and without one bit of argument he let me tuck him back in.  A few hugs and kisses, some reassurance that he is “my guy,” and Ezra contentedly rolled over and went right to sleep. 

I went back into the living room and laughingly informed Jay of his now near superhero status.

But later, as I snuggled up against Jay in our bed, I realized that – even though I don’t have the simplistic pureness of childhood belief anymore, and although I can be jaded by the monotony of day to day life – what I told Ezra was a simple but powerful truth. 

And with that belief, I drifted off to sleep feeling protected, safe and content as well.

Millie fumbled with the cap on her Xanax.  Tears streamed down her face and her hands shook.  She finally got the top off and poured a handful of the small pills into her hand.  She laid out one on the table and then, after thinking for just a moment, added another one.  She poured the others back into the bottle and gulped down the two pills.  Then she lay back on the bed and sobbed. 

Millie just could not understand how her daughter-in-law could be so mean and ungrateful.  Anna had no clue how much time Millie had spent making Poppy the dress that Anna obviously felt was not good enough for Poppy’s school pictures – and she obviously did not care, either.  Too fancy?? It was not too fancy for school! Millie had been a teacher for almost 30 years before she retired and she would have loved to see any one of her students dressed so nicely! Especially in something so beautiful that a loving grandmother had made by hand! Anna was just an ungrateful lout of a girl who did not deserve to be with Millie’s baby boy. Her feelings shattered, Millie curled up on the bed and cried.  She thought Roger or Bess would eventually come in to soothe her. 

“What is the matter with Momma, Daddy?” Bess asked her father.

Roger barely looked up from his book.  “Poppy didn’t wear the dress she made for school pictures.  Anna just emailed the proofs and Poppy is wearing regular school clothes.  Your mom’s feelings are all crushed.  As usual.  She will get over it.”

Roger shrugged and went back to reading It Takes a Family. He thought Rick Santorum had some good points, though Roger knew he could have done a better job of writing it. But then what could he expect from a Catholic who just popped out kids and probably drank? At least he had the right ideas about the gays and women and all, though, even if he did follow the Pope.

“Anna is going to say it was too dressy for school pictures,” Bess said, as she got a bowl out of the cabinet.  

“Well, a grateful daughter-in-law would have let her wear it, anyway.  I keep trying to tell your mother that other kids just have not been raised with the manners you have and she is just going to have to deal with that for the rest of her life.”

“Well, Poppy could have changed clothes after the pictures. Anna knew how proud Momma was of that dress.  I guess you’re right, Daddy, other kids weren’t taught proper manners like us, but you would think some of ours would have rubbed off on Anna by now.  She’s been married to Daniel for 7 years.  Surely he would have taught her some.”

Bess took her bowl of ice cream and headed upstairs to watch the new Lifetime movie.  She paused at the door to her parents’ bedroom and listened. 

“She is still crying, Daddy.”

Roger shrugged and kept reading.  “She’ll stop.  Or she will fall asleep.”

Bess sighed and went upstairs.  She was going to miss the beginning if she didn’t hurry. It was one about a man who was having an affair he was going to be sorry for, according to the previews, and Bess was not missing the beginning. Daddy was right, Momma would stop – eventually.

Millie heard Bess’s footsteps pause outside the door and she let out a fresh string of sobs. She heard murmurs of conversation and waited for the doorknob to turn.  Bur that didn’t happen.  Instead she heard Bess going up to her room next to Trevor’s. Millie realized Bess was not coming in to check on her.  A fresh wave of sadness washed over her and Millie rolled into it and buried her face in the pillow.  After a second, though, she turned her head.  Roger might not be able to hear how upset she was if she cried into the pillow – and there was still a chance he may come.  Millie let out a little wail, but there was no responding movement from the next room.  Roger was not coming – and with that final realization, Millie began to cry in earnest.

I stood in front of my closet, took a deep breath and opened the door.  I was going to have to try on last some of my fall clothes this morning.  Ugh. This is not going to be fun.

I sifted though my choices and finally noticed my taupe skirt peeking out of the bunch. Well, it does have an elastic waistband, at least, I thought as I took it off the hanger.

Feels alright.  Nothing too tight anywhere, thank goodness. I tried it on with a shirt I liked.  I figured it was a good enough outfit for the office yet fit loose enough that, should I find myself in a situation where I had to chase a toddler, haul around a baby or have the immense good fortune and find a few minutes to nap, I could do any (or all) of it comfortably enough and without ripping, tripping, things slipping out of place… or generally embarrassing myself.

Most importantly, I could breathe.

Good thing I can, I thought, as I took a deep breath and stepped in front of the mirror.  The moment of truth.    

First I checked the overall look. The top and skirt worked together well and had style I could enhance with those 1930s style shoes I never get to wear and some earrings.  If I did my hair right, I could create a bona fide retro look. Let’s not get ahead of myself, I thought ruefully. 

Now for the hard part.  As I turned to each side, I gave a critical eye to the waistline, neckline, arms and butt.

Hmm.

I stood up straight and sucked in my abs like all those instructors in all those exercise classes I never found the time to get to would surely have admonished.

No belly bulge.  Whew! Great! Awesome, actually. I can wear this!

Wait.  Shit.  Let’s see what happens…

Now I let go, slumped a bit and did not hold in my abs.

Bulge. Fuck! Of course, there is.  How bad is it?

I had not been in this skirt since the fall before Sawyer was born.  I had seen this coming a mile away.  I chided myself as I picked a pashmina out of the basket of shawls, scarves and such in the closet, trying to decide if I could really wear this or not all day long.

The bitchy conscience I never seem to be able to strangle into silence piped up with a more than a chiding and made the decision for me.

“This is what you get for thinking about exercising, making plans to exercise, putting it in your calendar to exercise, but NEVER ACTUALLY EXERCISING!  Today you are literally going to suck it up and suck it in.  This weekend, you are going jogging!”

Ok, ok.  Fine.Your are right. I will, I will. I promise. What a way to start the day, though I suppose this IS a form of motivation, dammit

I grabbed the pashmina, wrapped it around to hide any bulges resulting from slips in posture and ran out the door to take my punishment, sucking in and standing up straight.

I roasted a chicken and a half with vegetables on Sunday evening. 

Being the ever-on-top-of –it working mother that I am, I had dutifully read my Real Simple magazine, gotten new cooking ideas and recipes, made my grocery list and ran through the store at breakneck speed so I could get back in time for Jay to go pick up our Phish tickets for this coming Saturday’s show. I wanted to cook a nice Sunday dinner, especially since Greta was home.

I had cleaned the kitchen, poured a glass of pinot grigio and began to cook.  I was cooking enough for dinner that night, dinner the next night and lunch leftovers for me for the next couple of days at work.

I was busy. Things were being cleaned and cooked and prepped in a small space at a high rate of multitasking speed…and there was that pinot.

For reasons I will not get into, I was a bit distracted and emotional.  I had also fielded a couple of calls from my emotional and high strung mother while cooking said meals and was even more distracted than cooking for 5 people and 4 meals would have normally been – and that would have been hard enough.

When it came time to take the chicken out and check for doneness, I could not find the meat thermometer. 

I am horrible about timing chicken.  In an effort to make sure I do not serve my family salmonella on a plate, I over cook the chicken every time.  Then I am disappointed when I cut into that chicken and realize with the first bite that I did it again and, therefore, my efforts for a perfectly cooked meal were in vain. After all that work. Dammit.

So I have begun to rely on the thermometer.  Once that baby says my chicken has reached 165 degrees, it is out of the oven to rest.  I will not over cook the chicken.  I will not over cook the chicken.

But, when I tried to find the thermometer I had specifically laid out on the counter in preparation, it was not there.  I had just had it.  Greta had seen it on the counter as well. Still it was nowhere to be found. 

After a few minutes search, I realized I was wasting too much time looking for it and cut into the chicken to check for doneness.  It wasn’t. So I put it back into the oven and, after thinking about it, decided that the 10 minutes Jay had suggested could not be long enough and I doubled it to 20 minutes.  (Ensuring later, of course, that the chicken would, once again, be over cooked.) 

I moved on to the next step in the recipe – prepping the maple Dijon sauce. As I got the Dijon mustard out of the refrigerator, my mother called. again.  I listened to whatever it was she’d forgotten to tell me when we were on the phone 30 minutes before as I shook the mustard. I sat it down and checked the vegetables. 

Realizing they were almost overdone, I pulled out the roasted vegetables and poured them up into a corning ware dish and covered them with foil while I waited the last few minutes for the chicken (to over cook).  

I got off the phone with my mother and got out the maple syrup and a bowl.  I went to get the mustard and wisk.  No mustard on the counter.  Or in the frige.  Or in the pantry.  Or next to the sink. 

Where the hell was the mustard, dammit???

I had just had it. 

Of course, I had also just had the meat thermometer as well.  And no one could find it, either.  Jay had come into the kitchen and looked; Greta had come into the kitchen and looked.  It was gone.

And now the mustard.  AAARrrrrgggghhhh.

Jay, hearing my frustration and frantic search for the mustard, came into the kitchen.  With a “what is it this time?” and a cursory look around the kitchen, Jay helpfully suggested that I use the creole mustard he found in the frige instead of the Dijon mustard whose whereabouts I was currently losing my mind over. 

No.

No, no, no.  I was not using the creole mustard.  It was not like I had not checked the frige before I went to the grocery store and made sure we had the ingredients I needed to make the recipe.  Had I screwed up and not had it, ok. I would use a substitute mustard, as much as I would have hated doing it.  But I had the right mustard.  Hell, I had HAD IT IN MY HAND shaking it up not 10 minutes ago.  I would only need to use the creole mustard if we did not HAVE Dijon.  And, unless someone came into the kitchen and DELIBERATELY took the Dijon mustard and threw it outside, we HAD Dijon mustard. 

I AM NOT CRAZY.  It was here.  It was right here. I was on the phone with Mother.  I took it out of the frige.  I shook it up so the watery stuff that settles would not drip into my dish. 

I put it right HERE. I slapped the counter in the spot where I knew I had set the mustard a few minutes before. 

Or had I?  Had I imagined it?

Jay told me I was overreacting.  He told me it was not there anymore and no one knew what I had done with it.  We checked cabinets, the freezer, drawers.  I got more and more upset because the stranger the places we looked, the worse I felt.  If we did find the Dijon mustard in the freezer, then I am a lot more scatterbrained and out of control than even I thought.  And I hate that about myself.  I hate being scatterbrained and high strung.   I want desperately to be one of those calm, in control moms who have all the tools and time everything out – and never over cook the chicken.    

I was on the verge of tears.

Have you ever seen the movie Midnight Lace? It is a Doris Day, Rex Harrison 1960s thriller.  It has been a while for me, but from what I remember it is about a married woman who starts to doubt her own sanity.  Things start happening she cannot explain. She gets death threats by phone.  Then notes that disappear. When she tries to show proof, there is none to be found.  Her loving husband and best friend stand staunchly beside her as she descends into madness and hysteria.

I am pretty sure in one scene the husband takes his nutty, hysterical wife by the shoulders and tells her she is overreacting.  

Only the husband and best friend are having an affair and have orchestrated the whole thing so when the poor wife winds up dead it is not from them murdering her (which they fully intend on doing) but from her tragically taking her own life due to her stedily increasing paranoia.  Their mutual grief (and the conveniently dead wife’s inheritance) is the basis for their growing love and affection leading to their marriage and happily ever after.

Apparently, Ezra has seen this movie.  And understands it well enough to use their tactics to get rid of me. 

While Jay was in the kitchen holding me by the shoulders telling me I was freaking out for no apparent cause and it was just mustard, for heaven’s sake, who cares which one you use, Greta took Ezra into the living room and asked him where he put the mustard. 

Just as I was trying to tearfully explain to Jay that I felt like I was losing my mind and I had already been upset and THIS WAS NOT HELPING, Ezra showed Greta where in the pantry he had hidden the Dijon fucking mustard. I never even saw him sneak into the kitchen, the little rascal.

I understand that I had Ezra when I was 37 and that means I will be old, demented and crusty when he is in his 30s. I just never thought he’d have the wherewithal to start laying the groundwork for my incompetency hearing this far in advance.

He never would fess up about the thermometer though. 

Greta found that under her bag in the living room the next day. 

I am going to have to keep an eye on this one.