On a Wing & a Prayer

I exist in “wing-it” mode.

Both personally and professionally, I get by thanks to a canny mixture of knowing just enough about a lot of things, being a master of the multi-task, taking life one day at a time, faking it, a large dose of silliness plus the occasional lightning strike of serendipity. Lucky for me, it works most of the time. Being in my 40s helps too – apparently I project a sense of maturity and confidence that makes people think I know what I’m talking about.

And much of the time I do! I’m not full of BS. I have experience, credentials, some wisdom and common sense on my side. But existing in “wing-it” mode is not necessarily a comfortable place. One of these days, I’ll trip up, get caught out. It’s happened before.

Once, during my University years, I remember a small, French poetry class. Just as I took my seat, it dawned on me that I had completely forgotten to read the piece we were to be discussing. Worse, I was wearing a fuchsia-colored top! I don’t remember if I fessed up or if I kept my mouth shut or just was lucky enough not to be called on. Either way, I remember the gut-curdling feeling of exposure and vulnerability.

That was when it didn’t really matter that much. But today, I have kids to raise, a household to run with a husband as my co-pilot, and a career to maintain and thrive. It’s a fragile, complex and extremely important tower of cards.

How did I get to this “wing-it” state ? I blame a combination of “having it all,” the speed of life, being just a teeny bit smart and street-wise, and Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist.”

Being a working Mom means operating at warp speed, making judgment calls about which battles to pick, who to please first, figuring priority and productivity trade-offs, constantly planning and worrying about the details. This applies to both the home and the job. It’s a state of hyper-vigilance. Let one thing go and the whole precariously constructed tower of cards could come tumbling down.

But the truth is, I actually get a kick out of living in “wing-it” mode. It’s a little like stage fright. The adrenaline of knowing that I need to put on a good performance, precisely when it matters. Recognizing a signal (per Coelho’s writings) and seizing it. The thrill of discovering luck is on my side, buoying my wings.

Would I like to slow it down? You bet. But I’ve also a sneaking suspicion, I’d be bored.

What If?

What if I hadn’t been applied to a job posting for an au pair in Paris when I was 19?

What if my host family there didn’t have a friend from the USA who was visiting London?

What if I had never introduced that friend to my brother?

What if they hadn’t got along?

What if they didn’t move to the USA several years later with their kids?

What if I had stayed in France?

What if my brother hadn’t worked with someone who’s cousin lived in Boston?

What if I hadn’t bothered to contact him?

What if I’d hadn’t dared to meet him on a blind date?

What if I didn’t say yes to his marriage proposal?

What if we had decided to live somewhere other than our town?

What if it hadn’t been a struggle to have kids?

What if …….?

Life is so full of what ifs. They blow my mind, quite literally. If any of these questions had a different answer, I would be living a different life altogether. But I believe in serendipity as well as in creating your own destiny. Every decision we make shapes the next. We make things happen, they don’t happen to us. This is my credo. What ifs are about looking over to your shoulder and marveling at the path that has brought you to today. I march forward, savoring one moment at a time.

The Problem with Having it All: Mommy Hair

So many interesting articles and blog posts whirling around about women and our desire/challenge to “have it all.” Here’s the deal, there’s one slant to the issue that no-one has yet had the guts to touch. Ready? Here it is. If you want to have it all, the chances are that you’ll end up with Mommy Hair.

You know the look: chin or shoulder-length, relatively easy to “wash and go,” when we have no time to properly style it, a quick fluff with your fingers does the job.

Practical.

Blah.

As summer hits, and my mornings become abbreviated by the need to rush the kids early to their camp bus stop, I faced the reality of my need for Mommy hair. I need it to not require hours of attention and grooming. I need to not have to blow dry on humid mornings. I need for it not to look like something the dog dug up. I need for my daughter to not ask me if it’s “crazy hair” day!

A recent discussion with my Mom friends reinforced the reality of Mommy hair. Exacerbated by the story one Mom relayed about her daughter equating prettiness with women having long flowing locks. The next day I performed an unscientific poll of the women in my office. The conclusion? Ninety-nine percent of the Moms at work have practical (and stylish) Mommy hairdos; those without kids, lovely flowy locks.

Then I thought about celebrity Moms who still have their gorgeous hairstyles (and stylists galore, of course) – Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé to name two. Do you think they have days when they find dried spit-up in their hair, or resort to a headband or scrunchy to keep the frizzies at bay?

Do I have a point, you ask? It’s this.

Screw practical hair. I want my pre-Mommy hair back. In fact, I’d like my 1980’s long spiralled perm back. Or I’d settle for my year 2000-2001 Julia Roberts as Erin Brokovich tresses.

Of course I write all this just hours after returning from the hair salon, having requested a more practical cut for the summer …. Oh well.

P.s. The following are some excellent articles and blogs on the whole “having it all” issue which, hair bitching aside, is a serious topic.

Why Women Still Can’t Have it All

Men Can’t Have It All Either

Children or Career?

Having It All Is Not A Women’s Issue

10 Parenting Gratitudes

There’s nothing like a rainy Saturday for blogging. Especially when I am home alone with the kids all day. On days like this, I am usually challenged with figuring out what I am going to do to keep the little people occupied and entertained, rather than in front of the TV or computer. Sometime, if I am suitably motivated, I’ll research something going on locally or a museum trip and off we’ll go on an adventure. (However this requires a certain amount of energy and spontaneity that, in truth, I don’t always have on tap.)

Today is one of those days and I was fearful that we’d end up annoying each other with cries of “I’m bored” and bickering. However, much to my pleasure, the kids have been happily playing free-form imaginary games like “pretend I’m a Ninja and you’re a dinosaur and we’re stuck in a boat and there’s an evil witch on a sparkly rocket ship coming to get us ” or “pretend you’re Katy Perry and I’m Luke Skywalker and we’re on Tatouin and there’s a bunch of dwarf monsters after us but we have light sabers and the force is with us….”

And it struck me just how good I have it, especially at the ages that G & T are right now (7 & 5, respectively.) For this, I must remember to be eternally grateful. (I must also remember to revisit this post when the kids are in the throws of puberty and we all hate each other.) Like many others, I often find myself complaining, dishing out sarcasm or being wistful for life before kids but right now, I am the luckiest Mom on this planet and here’s why:

  1. I am grateful that G & T will happily play without me having to create/manage the game (or even participate, though I do of course from time to time.) They can occupy themselves for good chunks of time, either independently or playing together. Legos, puzzles, reading, board games, Pokemon, fort-building, dress-up, light saber fights, or torturing the cat. Long enough for me to take a shower or write a blog post without worrying about them killing each other, raiding the snack cupboard or getting up to other hi-jinx. If the result is a completely messed-up playroom with toys and legos distributed everywhere, then so be it – that’s a price for which I am also grateful!
  2. I am grateful that they are living in an society that is, for the most part, accepting of a broad spectrum of lifestyles and love choices. They do not question and are growing up without bias and prejudice.
  3. I am grateful that, in spite of the shocking cost of being a working parent, we can still provide well for them – but at the same time teach them that money doesn’t grow on trees; it must be earned and spent wisely. And that being charitable is just part of who we are.
  4. I am grateful that both my kids are learning to be open-minded (we have good days and bad days!) and that they are sociable, outgoing creatures who make friends and laugh easily.
  5. I am grateful, despite the fact that G won’t eat eggs and T won’t eat anything spherical-shaped or with a sauce, that they have good appetites, eat their vegetables, drink their milk and even enjoy fish.
  6. I am grateful that they are learning to be resourceful and self-reliant (which means they can not only do more for themselves but can also do more things for me!)
  7. I am grateful that they see their father as a man that contributes equally to the job of parenting and their mother as someone who follows a career.
  8. I am grateful that they know and love their extended family, despite that fact that we all live far apart. I am also grateful for the technology that lets us all be closer.
  9. I am grateful that, thanks to parenthood, I have met other parents and founded many wonderful friendships.
  10. I am grateful for their good health and active minds.

Confessions of a Yo-Yo Exerciser

I love exercise.

I could sit and watch it all day.

If I had all day, that is. And given the choice, I’d rather be eating or sleeping than exercising. Admit it, you feel the same.

Fact is, when you are a working Mom, time is a very precious commodity. Between working, commuting, rallying the troops, groceries, laundry, school drop off, school pick up and trying to stop your house from looking like it’s been invaded by little monsters, there’s barely time for anything. And quite frankly, I’d rather be eating, watching TV, reading Christian Grey or sleeping, than torturing my doughy tummy and dimpled thighs.

Before kids, well, that was different. While no-one could have called me an athletic or muscular type, I enjoyed exercising. Dance, step, Pilates, gym, running, weights. I went to the gym at least twice a week for decades. For many years, I even had a personal trainer come to my home. In fact, this was the key to my success. Given that I am a lazy so-and-so, the fact that I’d paid some to show up at an appointed time and put me through my paces was the best formula to make exercise actually happen.

Fast-forward to the last seven years of motherhood and I have turned into a yo-yo exerciser with sporadic bouts of commitment to various forms of exercise. Since having kids, I can no longer afford the luxury of a personal trainer (see ‘The Shocking Cost of Being a Working Parent.’) These days, the best time for me to squeeze in a”workout” is between 5.45-6.30am, i.e. before the kids wake up and the morning mayhem starts. There’s no time to really go anywhere so exercise, when it happens, is in my basement.

My random attempt at getting into an exercise regime have, at best, lasted 2-3 weeks and have usually been thwarted by sleep interruptions, vacations, business travel and injury – as well as defeatism, boredom and the overwhelming desire to go back to sleep after the alarm goes off so damn early. Here’s what I have tried:

  • I’ve walked on my treadmill, listening to my iPod, watching the morning news or, more recently, random movies from the 80s.
  • I’ve pedaled on my mini-elliptical machine. Ditto. But after 10 minutes I really want to quit.
  • I’ve done several videos taught by various annoying, lithe, energetic women. The last time I did one though, one of my kids surprised me and I turned around too quickly and wrenched my back.
  • I bought one of those infomercial kits with a DVD and resistance bands that promised me I’d burn 300 calories and tone my core in just 20 minutes. I did it twice and for some strange reason, could barely move my arms after (while my flabby middle never felt a thing!)
  • While I was out of work/working from home for three months, I had more time and was able to go to  Zumba classes 2-3 times a week. It kicked my butt. I loved it.
  • Most recently, I’ve been walking in the mornings – now that it’s light again – with a girlfriend and this has been a great success, as long as our schedules have meshed, our kids have slept, our husbands haven’t been travelling and it hasn’t been raining. It’s so nice to be chatting away with a friend and not even realizing you are exercising!

So what’s this Mom to do? I fully understand the benefits of exercising and, certainly, in my (ahem) 40s, I appreciate the imperative to exercise. But my excuses are many, my motivation is on-again-off-again, and my successes are hit or miss. The good news is that I eat a healthy diet and that my weight has stayed within the same range for the last four or five years. That’s not to say I could do with shedding five, maybe ten pounds.

I guess I should just get off my arse and do it.

Wish I could outsource it.

Now there’s an idea …..

The Secret to a Happy Marriage

This week, Devin and I celebrated our ten-year anniversary. Wow! Ten years.

When I said “I do,” to him back on April 25, 2002, it was with the conviction that I had found someone who matched me. I knew that being married to this guy would be fun. Of course, it would have its share of ups and downs, like any marriage. Naturally we’d bitch and moan at each other along the way. I knew there would be many things I’d do and say that would bug him – and that there would be many, many (did I say many ?) things he’d do that would seriously nark me. And then there would be all the other regular stuff that would interfere, sneak up, challenge, or freak us out. Like pets, work, no work, children, money, mortgage, fridges, religion, family, schedules and all that.

Of course we love each other. That’s a given. But the secret to what has kept this union sound, light-hearted, reasonable and fun is ….. silliness.

Very early on, I realized that Devin is as silly as I am. What clicked between us – and which has endured through ten years of marriage – is our very natural way of not taking ourselves too seriously. Once when we were dating, he gave me a copy of Dr Seuss’ Cat in the Hat, with his own silly riddle hidden inside. Of late, I’ve taken to secretly doctoring his daily to-do list. Instead of saying goodbye when we speak on the phone, he’s started saying “f@*k off Frank.” No clue why, but it makes me chuckle.

Fortunately for us, our innate and combined silliness was a perfect foundation for raising children. Now we have an audience! Our kids get a huge kick out of us all being silly together – and an even bigger thrill when they watch mama and papa being silly with each other. It’s downright gleeful.

Other couples count on love, respect and teamwork to nurture their relationships. We have that too. But for us, being silly is the cherry on top!

(Post note: I looked up the definition of silly on dictionary.com and was displeased. I much prefer the definitions on Urban Dictionary, check them out!)

These Are a Few of My Favorite Pins

Like many of my fellow PR, social and Mom types, my latest addiction is Pinterest. Everyday I open up the app, eager with anticipation to take a spin through the newest colorful pins my fellow addicts have posted or repinned.

They say the demographic of Pinterest is mainly women. They also say that Pinterest is now the third most popular social network, driving large volumes of traffic to the sites and blogs marketing themselves through it.

They may be right …. but I say, for me, Pinterest is like a delicious distraction from reality to a land where I can look fantastic, have a the perfect home, whip up fabulous meals, be expertly crafty and travel to exotic places. Yes, to me, my daily (sometimes two or three times daily) dip into Pinterest  is like a concentrated dose of a good girlfriend catch-up combined with a speed read through the latest editions of Vogue, People, Parenting and Food & Wine magazines.

It turns out my boards are actually an intensely revealing portal to my life. Or the life I’ll get to one day when I’m not so busy being a working Mom, wife and blogger. Here’s a quick review of my favorite boards:

Recipes to try – my most populated and frequently refreshed board filled with images of recipes that are scrumptious, healthy, kid-approved, supposedly simple or otherwise, just plain mouth-watering. All of which I will make one of these days and which will never look like the beautiful images I pinned.

Style – If only I was taller, thinner, richer, less of a slob. This board exemplifies the wannabe in me with looks that I wish I could carry off. Plus a load of shoes I’d wear (if they didn’t hurt my back) and jewelry I’d like to own. If only ….

Cheese – it’s quite simple. I love cheese. Therefore I love pinning images of cheese so I can look at them and drool.

Men – hey, we’re allowed to look, right? So I created a board where several of my most “admired” guys can reside, so I can look at them and they can stare back at me …..

France – where I lived and had the time of my life. One day, I’ll be back, mes amis.

Inspiration – not the usual board of quotes that many people have, mine is filled with Dr Seuss-isms because, man, he just nails its.

As someone who works in social media, people often say to me, “I really must get on Twitter” to which I respond, “why?” Most of the time, they have no clue. My advice to them is not to bother, if they don’t have a specific goal. But with Pinterest, it’s very different. If you haven’t jumped in yet and you’re a woman (or man, I suppose) looking for inspiration, shoes, decor and craft ideas, or just something to make for dinner, c’mon in and join the rest of us in fantasy land!

10 Memories of Life Before Kids

Remember when ….

  • There was enough time.
  • You spent money mostly on you.
  • You had a waist.
  • Weekends were lazy.
  • The pre-party was a critical part of going out.
  • It was possible to drink more than two glasses of wine without embarrassing yourself.
  • You could stay awake later than 9pm.
  • You danced around your handbag.
  • 6am was sometimes the end of a great night.
  • Going to McDonalds was a hangover cure.

There’s so much stuff to be nostalgic about. But that was then and this is now.

Now is so much richer.

Pushing Buttons

Many years ago, in the Time Before Kids, I witnessed an argument between my husband and his mother. As they were just getting warmed up with the objections and counterpoints, my husband said something to my mother-in-law that I knew would send her off the charts. Which it did. They went at it with gusto. Went to bed furious with each other.

The next morning, it was as if nothing had happened.

Coming from a family where verbal fights very rarely happened, I found this very strange. I’ve since learned that, for many families, bickering and quarrelling is the norm. It’s just the way they converse, debate, process and eventually resolve things. Tempers may fly, accusations may be made but, in the end, everyone still loves each other. Sometimes all the more for the spa-ing.

That night, after he and his Mom went at each other, I asked my husband why on earth he said the very thing that propelled the argument into the stratosphere.

He replied, “Because I love her and I like pushing her buttons.”

Go figure. He was actually egging her on, seeking out a grand old fight. Because that’s how he and she got it done.

I was thinking about this incident today because my kids were pushing my buttons big time. Bickering with each other over everything and anything. Assuming I would schlep their multiple bags, coats and random art projects from school to car to house. Telling me they don’t like pasta today when they loved it yesterday. Demanding “I want this, I need that, I don’t like this, don’t give me that.” (Insert grating, whiny voice.) Objecting to my every request. Being. Generally. Annoying.

“Why do they push my buttons?!” I despaired to myself.

I’m sure all those child psychologists have a lot of theories on the subject. Stuff to do with boundaries, working through conflict, touch points and all that. However those same psychologists might not be taking into account the long day I just spent at work, the fact that I need a glass of wine (stat) or just that my threshold for kiddo nonsense is running low today.

But I’m choosing to go with my husband’s rationale. Evidently it’s because they love me. And just like my hubs and his mother, I may well yell at them when they push my buttons and they will probably yell back – but tomorrow is another day. It’s all good.

Life Before Kids & the Thrill of Getting “Checked Out”

Once upon a time, in the days before kids, I used to get checked out. At a bar. In a club. On the train.

I’m not talking about being chatted up or lusted after. I’m not talking about boyfriends or hook ups. What I am referring to is that moment when you notice a complete stranger noticing you with, let’s say, appreciation. Could be the mailman. Someone in the grocery store, the doctor’s office. A waiter at a restaurant. Somebody driving down the street. Usually no-one you know.

And it makes you feel good. It puts a swing in your hips, some pep in your step. Makes you toss your shiny hair over your shoulder and suck your tummy in. Blush a little. And then carry on your day, grateful for the reminder that you are a woman.

I’m sure at this point the feminists are aghast. We girls don’t need men to help us achieve self-worth and to feel actualized. Looks do not matter. It’s what’s inside that counts. Yes, yes I know.

But I’m not going to deny it – it feels damn good when you get checked out. I miss it.

I’m not at all surprised though, that in the first five or so years since having kids, it barely happened at all. I often went out without having looked in the mirror or put a comb through my hair. Clothes were baggy, at best. Unstained, if I was lucky. Makeup non-existent. My shiny nose was a beacon. (I did always brush my teeth, though.)

In time, however, the urge to put some effort back into my appearance and self-pride resurfaced. The urge to wear clothes that fit, even flatter, came back. Certainly, watching “What Not to Wear” helped. I saw myself in too many of those sorry souls that Stacy and Clint helped! I set my sights on becoming a yummy mummy.

And then it happened. Not once, but twice. Three times I got checked out. Woohoo, I’m back!!

Before we all get carried away, I have to set the record straight. There’s was something fishy going on. It soon dawned on me that each time it happened, I was driving my car. Huh?

Turns out, the men who I thought were checking *me* out, were actually checking out my new Ford Explorer, lusting after its new pay load, chassis, trim.

Hey, what about my chassis? My trim?

Oh how times have changed! But I’ll take it. Might as well enjoy the attention while I can get it.

%d bloggers like this: