How Marriage is Like a Presidential Debate

As I watched President Obama and Governor Romney duke it out again in last night’s third debate, it struck me that there are a lot of similarities in the way husbands and wives often interact – minus a Candy Crowley or Bob Shieffer to moderate. After all, aren’t we always trying to be heard, get our argument across, point out injustices, fact check and fix the deficit? And much like in presidential debates, we also enjoy  talking over each other, rebutting and trying to get the last word.

In my marriage, however, my husband always gets the last word. It’s “yes dear.”

Here are some other ways the recent debates can be akin to marital dialog:

We need to do a better job of balancing the budget.

That’s a lot of malarkey. I think if you did the math, you’ll find that I actually took the trash out 208 times over the last four years.

Why is your 401k bigger than mine?

Honey, can you bring me those binders full of healthcare bills?

Not tonight, sweetheart, unless you support planned parenthood.

Can we outsource the children to your parents this weekend?

And while I am at it, I’d like to offer the candidates these words of wisdom that my father offered my husband on our wedding day. It goes like this. “If you’re wrong, admit it. And if you’re right, shut up.”

Photography: Clouds

Last week I shared my snaps of the abundant colo(u)rs of the fall leaves which, this very weekend here in Massachusetts, are at their peak. Much as I have been obsessed with photographing their amazing scope of colors, I’ve also been addicted to photographing the skies and especially the clouds, in all their crazy, strange forms in different types of weather. After all, we spend so much of our time squinting at our smartphones, staring at other screens, commuting, face-to-face with other faces and in crowds that, sometimes, it feels good to stop and look up at the vast heavens above and take a deep breath. And a photo or two.

Here are some of mine. Enjoy.

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My Zumba Journey

This morning I dragged my lazy derriere out of bed and to my 10am Saturday morning Zumba class. Every week, it’s the same. I really don’t want to go. It takes having a serious conversation with myself to talk (aka guilt) myself into it. Off I go, begrudgingly.

Fast forward 60-minutes or so and I emerge – sweaty, my muscles aching beautifully, invigorated and high on the having shaken my booty to great tunes! After all, I’m my happiest when dancing and that’s what Zumba essentially is.

It’s a mixed blessing that, as part of this, I spend an hour in front of a mirror forced to examine my pudgy, jiggly fleshy bits squeezed into my exercise gear. This mostly unpleasant vision reminds me why this weekly “torture” is required. However, what mitigates my negativity, is that fact that I am surrounded at Zumba my similarly bouncy, middle-aged woman. Ninety-nine percent of the class attendees are, like me, in their 40s, working Moms, trying to squeeze in an hour to themselves, trying to squeeze in some exercise, trying to squeeze into their Lycra. Some of them come to class fully made up, wearing dangly earrings. This confuses me. However,  together, we jiggle, strut, samba, cha-cha, groove and sweat, in a merry, flabby fashion. Sure there’s always at least one super skinny gal there, sporting a dancer’s body and a six-pack. I try not to look.

What I love most about the studio I go to – VavaVoom Fitness –  is it is focused on celebrating women, curves and all. Large posters on the wall display a fleshy Marilyn lifting weights, a seductive Beyonce, gorgeous J Lo performing and Shakira’s incredible body. Not a skinny waif in sight. No ripped muscles. Just images of sexy, confident, resplendent curvy woman. The goal is to motivate us to reclaim our bodaciousness, to celebrate our confidence and womanliness through dance. And given dance is something that inspires and motivates me, this is why I come here. However, putting aside inevitable self-consciousness and allowing yourself to circle your hips, grind a little, wiggle your butt, shimmy your shoulders and dance sexy is not always an easy journey. In fact, one of the male Zumba teachers often complains that his hips move better than ours!  The fact is that, in our day-to-day lives, especially as working Moms, there’s no time or, quite frankly reason, to act and feel sexy. Even long before becoming I mother, drawing attention to body through clothes or shoes was an anathema.

But every Saturday morning, for one hour, I revel in shedding this insecurity and I gloriously strut my stuff, buoyed by the music, the dance and the fact that I’m not alone in this journey.

What I See

I see clouds that make the sky seem like a giant cotton wool bouncy house

I see kids cartoons that glorify violence but also celebrate good vs evil

I see people who are emotionally invested in their work

I see glee & curiosity & pride in the eyes of young children

I see clothes/shoes that need buying and wearing

I see Adam Levine

I see people in need of an ear & a shoulder (lean on me?)

I see other Moms trying to doing their very best

I see colors that ignite my creativity & joie de vivre

I see the here and now

I see books that need reading

I see my friends, my family, my co-workers

I see people who work to live and people who live to work

I see laundry

I see food I’d love to eat if it had no calories

I see time ticking by ….

I see choices & self-determination & conviction

I see opportunity & optimism

I see people who deserve more

I see selflessness & generosity

I see the glass half full

What do you see?

So I Have This Problem with Halloween

October 31 is 13 days away. A date that fills me with dread, consternation and cultural awkwardness. 2012 will be my twelfth Halloween in the USA and the fifth or sixth “celebrated” since having kids. You’d think by now I’d be cool with it but every September, just as soon as the kids go back to school, it’s all about Halloween every which way you turn and I just don’t dig it. Here’s why:

Costume Craziness

Halloween, otherwise known as All Hallows Eve, the night before All Saints Day or Toussaint, has many origins but it’s mostly about getting spooked out by ghosts, ghouls and witches. So I can understand dressing up in white sheets, pointy hats and broomsticks, and skeletons but I do not get costumes that have nothing to do with Halloween. Cowboys, princesses, ninjas, Batman, Darth Vader, Minnie Mouse, Thomas the Tank – none of these are appropriately themed in my book. Any why are we OK with spending $25 or more every year purchasing brand new costumes for each kid from the growing numbers of retailers willing to take our money? Not being crafty myself, making or sewing a costume for my kids is rarely an option. So, the weeks running up to October 31 are usually spent trying to gently persuade my kids to either re-wear the costumes bought last year (which have not been worn since) or convincing them to make their own designs.

And while we are on the topic, I have never and will never understand adults dressing up at Halloween. Especially at the office! I do not want to be in meetings with a French Maid, Spider Man, a fireman, Cinderella  Frankenstein or any other caped crusaders. I do not want to sit in a cube across from these characters, bump into them in the corridors, kitchen or bathrooms. I’m all for fun at work but grown-ups in costumes, I just don’t get.

Candy Craziness

I have always been a candy nazi, strictly limiting the volume and kinds of candy my kids consume. In the days prior to Halloween, I totally have to psyche myself into being cool with the fact that they will be consuming huge piles of the nasty sugary stuff. I’m not a total spoil-sport, I let them go to town on Halloween. But it makes my skin crawl and sets off every parenting alert signal. And after the sugar high, the inevitable crash, followed by the awesome moods the following morning. Ugh! What I don’t understand is why does there have to be so much candy? And not just on October 31 but in the days and weeks either side?

Extended Celebrations

Halloween is technically just one evening, so why the parties 7-14 days before? Why decorate houses as soon as October hits? Why is there so much Halloween themed junk on the shelves of stores? Halloween cookies, recipes, crafts? Why are there Halloween Hallmark cards? Who sends these things? Happy Day of the Dead? Gee, thanks for thinking of me. It’s all overkill.

There are many American celebrations and seasons  that this Brit wholeheartedly embraces, particularly in the fall when pumpkins are plentiful and the foliage breath-taking. And, of course, I want my kids to experience all that is fun and cultural and seasonal. But, when it comes to Halloween, I admit I am a Grinch. So bah humbug.

And pass the candy.

Guest Post: A Sinking Tale of the Shared Bathroom

by Ali Corton

Call me spoiled, but I have been fortunate enough to have lived in a house with a master bathroom since PK.  That’s pre-kids in our world. Seriously, I have only had to share a bathroom with my darling children on vacation or while visiting family or friends.  I confess, I have taken this luxury for granted. It’s not just the cleanliness of my own sink, it’s the ease and convenience of having all my stuff in one place.  Nobody moves it, shares it or spills it.  It is mine.  All mine.

When we bought our “fixer-upper” nearly 8 years ago it was with the intent that we would eventually get to the master bath project sooner, rather than later.  It is the last major project in a house full of them!  So when we decided about a month ago to just “go for it” and get the bathroom done, it may not have been as well thought out as I once figured.  Yes, the design, layout, contractor, lighting, toilet, sinks and faucets were all selected but it had not crossed my mind that I would have to share my private space with so many people!

Let me rewind a bit – the old master bath had double sinks so it has been a long time since I had to deal with anyone else’s toothpaste smudges or eyelashes in my sink.  It was MY sink.  I did not have to share.  I stored MY things under it and above it and in the drawers next to it.  There was room to spare!  Suddenly, three weeks ago I packed up all my items and moved them into what we call “the kids bath”.  I could call it a lot of other names like “the yuck zone”, “land of sticky toothpaste smudge”, or the “streaked mirror palace”.  I have yet to figure out why I am the only person who can change the roll of TP.  I am trying to keep my things tidy and make sure I do not leave a trail of conditioner, moisturizer, or worse.  However, the others sharing my space have not been as considerate.  Here is the scorecard so far – and remember it is only week 3.  Let’s hope the sharing does not have to go into November!

  • Mirror wiping – 3x/day
  • Clorox wipe sink – 4x/day
  • Move step stool – 6x/day
  • Hang towels – I’ve lost track!!
  • Fill soap dispenser – 2x/week
  • Fill TP roller- ???

I am very lucky to be able to tackle this project and I am well aware that I am complaining about a frivolity but we all have our sticking points (hee hee, get it, STICKING…)  I cannot wait to go back to the seclusion of my own space, sink and smudges.  Fingers crossed it will be soon!!!

Ali Corton is Framingham Mom, Realtor, Blogger and Social Media addict. You can read her blog at www.liveinframinghamma.com

Photography: The Colors of Fall in New England

I love the colo(ur) orange. It’s vibrant, warm, spicy, alive. So it’s no surprise how much I love fall, especially here in New England where we are truly spoiled with a spectrum of fall colors so rich and spectacular that they truly take your breath away. It’s when Mother Earth is at her most generous, spoiling us with leaves of every imaginable shade of orange, gold, rust, ochre, yellow, red and cranberry. It’s a visual cornucopia.

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve been spontaneously snapping photos of the colors of fall, trying to not only capture the rash of colors but also the light that is unique to this season, against the backdrop of a sky that can blaze blue at certain times of the day. I’ve been posting my photos to Facebook and Instagram (mcgarrysam) one by one, but thought it’d be fun to create a slideshow here of my fall photos. Hope you enjoy!

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Insomnia Sucks

I love sleep. Almost as much as I love eating. I’ve never had much stamina or stay-up-late superpowers. When my brain says it’s time, I don’t simply drift off slowly to sleep, I crash into it. I plunge off the cliff of consciousness deep into the land of nod and usually stay there for at least seven hours of zzzzz. And now that my kids are older, their night time interruptions are few and far between, fortunately.

But the irony is now I am my own night time disruption and it is so, so annoying.

It started a few months back and happens roughly every five nights. I crash into sleep as per normal but awake about two hours later – and cannot fall back asleep. I usually lie there staring at the ceiling for about three hours until, somehow, sleep welcomes me back for what little remains of the night. It sucks big time.

Often what prompts my waking is my active digestive system or a cramp in my foot or calf (or the twitchy threat of it.) My heart starts to race as I stress about whether I’m getting sick. My mind plays cat and mouse with the cramp that’s threatening. It says “Don’t move a muscle.” But muscles ignore it and twitch.

Then my brain kicks in. And the opportunity to roll over back into slumber evaporates. Sometimes even there’s a tune running on repeat in my head and I can’t find the off button. Of course, like an idiot, I then turn to my iPhone, to Facebook and Twitter for distraction.

I’ve read many advice columns about insomnia and how to deal with it. I only drink one cup of caffeine a day, first thing. I try to eat dinner before 8pm. I know more exercise would probably help but I’m a yo-yo exerciser. I should probably snack on a banana and milk before bed time to boost potassium and calcium intake and ward off the cramps.

I don’t want to take any medications. On the rare occasion I’ve tried a Tylenol PM or similar, it has the opposite effect on me and makes my heart race. I’ll probably find a herbal remedy of sorts.

But seriously, this sucks. All I want to do is sleep and sleep well. I welcome any advice.

20 Ways to Spot a Mom in the Workplace

  1. She might arrive at 9.30am  and leave at 5pm – but is on email as early as 6am in the morning and also every evening after 8pm.
  2. Mommy hair.
  3. If you are struggling to explain something, she’ll gently remind you to “use your words.”
  4. She has peanut butter smears on her legs and unidentifiable crusty things on her shoulders. Don’t ask.
  5. When you crouch under the conference table to plug something in, she’ll cover the table corner with her hand and remind you to “watch your head” as you get up.
  6. She excels at negotiating (she gets a lot of practice at home.)
  7. She is always tired.
  8. She always brings (extra) snacks to meetings, just in case anyone gets peckish.
  9. She is wrought with self-doubt about her looks and clothing, especially when surrounded by gorgeous 20 somethings at the office.
  10. She bores/entertains you with stories of whatever her kid did/said. Just nod and smile, please.
  11. Her desk is littered with family photos and random kids’ artwork.
  12. She wears her heart on her sleeve.
  13. She’ll ask if anyone needs a potty break during a long meeting.
  14. She spells out swear words.
  15. The workplace is her sanctuary from the chaos of home. It’s her grown-up time.
  16. She is a multi-tasking ninja queen.
  17. If you look in her bag, you are sure to find the odd Lego piece, plastic jewelry and crumbled/sticky snack item. (She’s been known to accidentally present a Thomas the Tank or Pokemon card instead of a business card.)
  18. You can count on her having tissues, hand sanitizer and baby wipes on her. Often, band-aids and neosporin too. Cos you know, ouchies and spills happen.
  19. The glee with which she accepts the occasional after-work drink with work-mates is matched only by the speed with which she gulps, and the ferocity with which she clings to, her large glass of red wine.
  20. She embodies empathy and perspective.

(Thanks to my friend Gale for the inspiration for, and several additions, to this post!)

My Pumpkin Obsession

I am obsessed with pumpkins. Not the whole orange ones that people here in New England decorate their porches with come October, but pretty much any food item that is made with pumpkin. This will not be a big surprise to my family and friends. In fact, to quote a friend:

There is probably not a Brit alive who likes pumpkin as much as you do!

Fall is the favo(u)rite season of many a folk and especially here in New England when the leaves turn incredible shades of orange and red, the sun glows a little stronger in the sky, and the temperature starts to dip as the air turns crisp. The humidity in which we’ve drowned all summer disappears and with it, the challenges of frizzy hair. I too appreciate these things but for me fall promises one thing – PUMPKIN! – and I am always ridiculously thrilled when this time of year comes around again.

It’s rather ironic that my first encounter with anything pumpkin happened half a lifetime ago in 1986 when I was an au pair in Paris. Now, France is not the typical place for anyone to find pumpkin pie, I know. But I was actually working for an American family at the time and they were celebrating Thanksgiving. And so began my pumpkin love affair.

Fast forward to 2000 and the opportunity that I had to move stateside with my job. There were positions for me either in San Francisco or Boston. I had already been to, and very much liked, San Francisco but Boston – and the whole East Coast thing – beckoned. There were many reasons why I decided on Boston – a shorter flight back to London, proximity to my brother’s family in Pennsylvania. Not to mention Ally McBeal, because she was the only real reference point I had for how life in Boston would truly be and look like. Reeses Peanut Butter Cups were another very persuasive reason for moving here. But what won out was the knowledge that, come November, there would be pumpkin pie. And pumpkin bread. And pumpkin muffins.

Yum.

Then one bright and sunny late September day about eight years later, while the hubby and I were enjoying a rare weekend away from the kids in Newport, Rhode Island, we treated ourselves to a scoop or two of some Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Pumpkin cheesecake ice cream, to be precise. HOLY COW! Now, I’d always loved cheesecake. I’m ok with ice cream, not a huge fan. But, the trifecta of cheesecake, ice cream and pumpkin together and boy oh boy, sparks flew! Cupid had struck.

This experience kindled what has become a seasonal quest to taste as many different varieties of pumpkin ice cream in order to verify that Ben & Jerry’s flavo(u)r is, indeed, nirvana. I’ve tried several varieties that have come close, like Edy’s and a homegrown version which was totally delish from the Milky Way Farm somewhere in PA but alas too far away for regular consumption. Trade Joe’s brand disappointed, as did the pumpkin ice cream made by a local purveyor. I’ve yet to try Toscanini’s so have to take @eric_andersen‘s word that it’s good.

I also have to totally give kudos to Ben & Jerry’s social media responsiveness as I’ve been haranguing them regularly for updates as to when this season’s limited batch will be distributed and in stores. I may have to bulk purchase this year. Hey, if you can buy a case of wine, why not a case of ice cream?

Anyhoo, in the meantime, I’m making do with this.

And this.

Until I can get this!

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