Sunday, December 26, 2010

Whose House Is This, Anyway?

We took my son to a Protestant church for Christmas Eve mass. I'm a Buddhist and my son's father is a Catholic, so Cracky had never set foot in an Episcopalian church. I felt the need to explain to him that it might be different than the church he attends with his father.

Once we sat down beneath the cathedral ceiling and the beautiful stained glass windows, looking every bit the Catholic church so far as these Buddhist eyes could tell, my son turned and loudly asked:

"Is this for Jesus or the Buddha?"

My little Catholic-Buddhist hybrid revealed himself before mass even started. I couldn't help but think if I ever do manage to get him to the Buddhist temple, he's going to be sorely disappointed. The Catholics and the Episcopalians have the Zen Buddhists soundly beat on pageantry and architecture.

Then when it was time to take communion, the rector announced that anyone could partake, regardless of where they were on their spiritual path. My husband volunteered to take Cracky up to the altar with him.

"Can I go?" my son accepted my husband's suggestion with such zeal it gave me a moment's pause. I knew something was up.

"Wait. Are you even allowed to take communion at your dad's church?" I asked.

Cracky gave me the wide, altar-boy eyes that revealed that Something Was Definitely Up. "I don't know," he said softly, eyes wider.

"You're not supposed to take communion until you finish your catechism classes, are you?" I asked. He just looked at me as if he were utterly baffled at what I said.

The more I thought the more I could imagine a passionate protest from his father that I'd gone behind his back and offered up the host to the boy before he'd jumped through the requisite Catholic hoops.

"I don't know..." my son repeated, same saucer-like eyes full of lies.

"No, I think First Communion is some sort of big deal in the Catholic church. I think you get a party and everything. I think we'd better wait until your dad says it's cool," I said, thankful that I'd caught my religious gaffe before I'd committed it.

My son looked down at the floor with wide, wounded eyes. I'd denied him Christ's flesh and blood and Holy Communion with his god.

But I tell you, the Catholics have marketing down whereas my husband's church could learn a thing or two. The Catholics are the Tom Sawyer of religions. Tell them communion is a big whoop-de-do that they can't do, and brother they want it.

In contrast my husband's church hands the wafer out like candy, like no big deal. I didn't see any little six-year-old Protestants that night all bitter that they couldn't take communion. They were trudging down the aisle to get a bit of cracker before they got to go home and rip open gifts.

Supply and demand, baby. Keep it elusive and you'll have the whole world wanting it.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Brace Face

I am not a good candidate for Invisalign® braces.

Unfortunately, braces are no longer a matter of cosmetics, but a matter of health. So that means that I am going to have to look like a thirteen-year-old for the next eighteen months or so.

Don't get me wrong. I'm grateful to have the opportunity to get my teeth fixed. I'm just trying to get my head around the fact that I'm going to be wearing metal braces as a forty-year-old.

I can't help but think of the Sex in the City episode where Miranda wears braces for like a day or a week or something and then has them taken off because she looks so ridiculous.

Thanks, Miranda. That's very encouraging for those of us who actually have to wear them.

So looking on the upside, I do get to pick what color the braces will be. I was thinking of either getting glow-in-the-dark or pink glitter.

What do you think?

Friday, December 10, 2010

First Appointment With the New Dentist


I had my first appointment with the new dentist.

Though I had convinced myself that my phobia of dentists was all in my head, right before I left I came down with a sudden illness. I broke out in a cold sweat. I felt shaky and thought I might vomit.

I went ahead with the appointment, just in case I really was crazy and not infected with a purely coincidental case of malaria. On my way to there, I drove two miles past the dentist's street. I know the street well. It's only a mile from my house. I drive down that street all the time. I've even seen the medical building where the dentist practices, but there I was, happily driving past it and past all of the familiar landmarks telling me I was clearly going the wrong way.

You see, Phobia had taken the wheel and it kept heading north. I think Phobia would have continued on to the Mackinac Bridge if Reason hadn't taken over at that point. In addition to that, OCD-Lite doesn't like to be late, and everyone knows that OCD-Lite trumps both Phobia and Reason, so there was no way I was missing the appointment.

Phobia.

What struck me right off about this dentist was that he sat down and chatted with me first. We talked about my career. We got to know each other, real social-like. I found out that his granddaughter is the same age as my baby daughter. He asked me my opinion of businesses creating Facebook pages (I think it's a "Do") and told me about writing an article for a medical journal and working with an editor for the first time. We chatted about Things That Interest Mandy until I was soothed into a state of relaxitude. Then we got to the nitty gritty back story of How Mandy Because a Freaky Freak About Dentists.

Now it's true I had a lot of dental work done as a child. Every molar has a filing. I knocked out two thirds of my right front tooth and had to have that filed down, and then later on, had to have two steel posts inserted into the tooth. I've had two root canals. And then I had to have those two root canals re-done through the top of my gum in a procedure called an apicoectomy. Look it up. It's seriously gross. Add to that, my phobia may also have something to do with the fact that none of my childhood dentists used enough Novocaine. Did you know that you're not supposed to moan during dental procedures? Yeah, if that's happening, your dentist is supposed to take that as a cue that you are not sufficiently numbed.

Who knew?

So we now know that the New Dentist likes to play it fast and loose with the anesthesia. I for one think this could be the start of a beautiful dental relationship.

I also learned that I have an overbite. Funny, I always pictured overbites as obvious. And I never realized that the way I constantly clench my jaw is not normal. I figured it was the result of some sort of neurosis (one of many) but it turns out it's a mechanical problem. (Yay! One less freaky psychological quirk for Mandy! Success!)

This is what you get when you Google "Overbite."


And this is what you get when you Google "Animals with overbites."

Apparently all of the headaches, neck aches, shoulder pain and back pain I have could be related to the overbite. The New Dentist also pushed on my lower jaw and I said, "Ouch!" Apparently that's not supposed to happen either. This is almost as much of a revelation as when I discovered my pesky little thyroid condition.

It's amazing what you discover when you actually go to the doctor.

I have also never been to a cosmetic dentist, so I was curious about having a ceramic mirror inserted into my mouth while the doctor took pictures of my teeth from every possible angle.

Not actually me.

He also took a regular shot of me smiling at the camera. He prompted me to "Smile bigger!" and it struck me how unnatural it felt to smile that big.



I felt vulnerable and exposed. But I did it, because I kept imaging the "After" photo. I wonder if he'll loan me the files so I can use it my blog? If he's leery of creating a Facebook page, I wonder what he'll think of starring in my blog?

I go back in two weeks to find out what his recommendations are. I'm not sure how you fix an overbite and I'm not sure how bad all my chipped, broken and capped teeth are, but one thing I am sure of is that my husband and I are going to need to be fully sedated when we find out how much it's going to cost.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

My Love of Window Cleaner

Note the background a few weeks ago.



And note the background thirty years ago.


My love is real.

Monday, December 6, 2010

All I Want For Buddhakamas* Is My Two Front Teeth


When I was ten years old I ran into a wood chair and knocked out my front tooth.

I also cracked the other front tooth, but it didn't fall out or fall apart. The trauma of the impact also killed two of my teeth. As you can imagine, this one childhood accident has resulted in a lot of time in a dentist's chair. There have been lots of surgeries and procedures, and not enough Novocaine.

And now I'm going to a cosmetic dentist on Thursday to deal with an almost thirty-year-old injury.

To say I'm nervous about it is somewhat of an understatement. I know it's high time I do something about the damage that's been done and the dental work that needs replacing. But I've put it off for so long because my phobia is so strong. I don't know how sensitive dentists were to children's pain 30 years ago. Perhaps my dentist was a sadist? I don't know.

Whatever the case, I've preferred to try and hide my smile for years rather than get my teeth fixed. So strong is my phobia that I cover my mouth when I laugh rather than sit in a dentist's chair. But I'm tired of hating my smile and it's time I do something about it. Right?

Funny how this childhood accident has stayed with me for so long. Even when it happened I knew the seriousness of what I'd done. At ten years old, I was well aware that these were my adult teeth and that I could not grow new teeth. I knew I had ruined my smile for life.

Knew it.

At ten years old I learned regret.

I laid in bed and prayed to god to send me back in time so I could re-do that night. I prayed that I could have one more chance to opt out of playing tag or Ghost in the Graveyard or whatever game we were playing in my friend's basement that night.

I wished with my whole heart to go back and change something that I couldn't. The damage was irreversible and I knew it. Oh, how I struggled with it at ten, and how I have struggled with that self-same issue as an adult.

How many other permanent mistakes/changes/events would I experience as the years went by? Life lessons, all of them. I see my son's same heartache when he breaks a toy. He is quick to ask for the Superglue to fix it, and I so understand that desire — that urgent need to fix it.

And then the day will come when he realizes it can't be fixed.

Or maybe it can? Maybe some thirty years later you'll have an opportunity to fix it. If you're brave enough, that is. I guess I've been torn between accepting myself as I am versus fixing what can (and should be) fixed. I don't think fake teeth were meant to last 20 years or so, and if I want my teeth to last for more years, I need to do something about them. So I've been torn between fear of the dentist, the lofty goal of self-acceptance, and the desire to smile and laugh unselfconsciously.

We'll see how badly I want that smile back.

Although I do have some reservations about looking like Matt Dillon's character Healy in There's Something About Mary. You know, when he misunderstands that Mary likes guys with "big teeth" and he gets a bunch of enormous fake teeth installed?


I don't want to look like that.





*Buddhakamas is an entirely made-up holiday (of my own imagining) in order to satisfy my over-the-top love of Santa Claus, Christmas trees and presents.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Yoga Is Not Buddhist. But Both Are Evil.

What is it with this whole "Yoga is the exercise of the devil" business?

Are you even aware of this? Apparently amongst certain Christians yoga is a no-no and is a decidedly unchristian and "evil" activity in which to participate. Now before you start thinking I have some dog in this fight, let me point out that I do not do yoga.

Let me also point out that though I am Buddhist, I do not do yoga. This may surprise some folks, but yoga is not Buddhist. Buddhists meditate but we don't do yoga. Well, we can do yoga, just like some Christians can do yoga, but we're not doing downward dog at our Buddhist temples.

Yoga is Hindu, and while Buddhism is an offshoot of Hinduism just like Christianity is an offshoot of Judaism, it doesn't mean all Christians light menorahs or eat matzoh. My husband loves to joke that yoga is Buddhist and that all Buddhists do yoga. He knows it's a sore spot for me, and thus hilarity ensues anytime someone mentions yoga.

This stems from when I was on Match.com and if you check the "Buddhist" box you wind up getting a lot of emails from people who say, "I love yoga! Do you do yoga a lot? Yoga is cool. I think Buddhism is cool too." That sort of thing. Drove me bonkers.

And so now that yoga is evil, you know Buddhism is getting thrown in with the Devil's bath water too. I read an article about the evils of yoga, and there, out of the blue, while Buddhism wasn't bothering anyone and was minding its own business, the writer made a point to write: "Hinduism and Buddhism are evil."

Oh great.

Then the writer points out that Christians should have nothing to do with "evil" and hence, yoga, Hindus, and Buddhists are out.

This is where I start sighing. Heavily. And no, it's not some sort of Buddhist deep-breathing practice. Or yoga even.

It's so strange to think that I'm evil to an entire group of people. My husband and I used to joke about what a "selfish" religion Buddhism is because someone once said that as a way to slam me. I mean, it is kind of laughable since the whole religion is based on 1) cultivating compassion and 2) maintaining awareness. We practice these two things in order to do no harm, or to do as little harm as possible.

You know, selfish stuff like that.

So now in addition to being a "selfish" religion, I also find out that Buddhism is evil. While my mind tries to figure out how cultivating compassion and awareness in order to do no harm can possibly be construed as "evil," my husband points out that this is an opportunity to practice my beliefs.

Getting angry about it won't help and won't change the perception that Buddhists are evil. Ha. I just imagined myself going postal over it and the headlines that would follow: "Pissed Off Buddhist Goes Apeshit at Yoga Studio. News at 11:00."

So I'll have to think about it and try to understand why someone would say that we're evil. I guess it's harder to fathom when the source of this article came from one of my Facebook friends. Of course I immediately wondered, "Well, why are you friends with me if you're supposed to avoid me?"

Maybe this person is friends with me so they can have an opportunity to convert me and then save my soul? That's pretty compassionate, actually, if you think about it.

This person means well, right?

Right?

I guess the bottom line is that people are going to believe what they're going to believe. I can't really change any of that, especially not by getting mad about it. That's for sure. I can only control my own actions and thoughts. If I behave in a compassionate and patient manner, one would hope that I come off as less "evil" than the writer of that article would have you believe.

Or maybe not.

I can't do anything about what anybody is going to say or write about me or Buddhism. I'm completely helpless in those matters.

I can only do something about myself. I can't control what people are going to think of me. Hopefully most people will come to know that I am neither evil nor a practitioner of yoga. I suppose I could make t-shirts:

Front:

"Buddhist."

Back:

"I don't do yoga and I'm not evil."

Wait. That's too many "I" statements. Way too selfish. Skip the t-shirt. I'll just keep my mouth shut and meditate on it. But I will not stretch while doing so, okay?

Friday, November 19, 2010

My Experience With Levi's Curve ID



I've never thought of myself as a curvy woman.
I have curves, yes. But according to Levi's Curve ID, I'm a boldly curvaceous woman. Which is fine. I have been doing a lot of squats and lunges at the gym, so it's nice to know that I've got something to show for it. Just call me Beyonce. J.Lo, step aside, por favor.
You can take the Curve ID quiz at levis.com for yourself. You'll be identified as having one of three figure types:
1. Slight Curve: Straight waist, slim hips and thighs.
2. Demi Curve: Evenly proportioned from waist to thigh.
3. Bold Curve: Defined waist, fuller hips and thighs.
I took the Curve ID quiz on the Levi's site, and discovered that I was a "Bold Curve" woman. The idea that a pair of jeans could actually fit my waist and not gap in the back was enticing, as promised to wearers of Bold Curve jeans.
At the Levi’s store, I tried on the Bold Curve skinny jean in Liquid Black. I selected the size I usually wear and also one size larger. Sometimes you have to size up for skinny jeans, right?
I also tried on the Bold Curve straight jean in Pitch Black, also in two different sizes.


Let me tell you first and foremost, I had to heave and ho to get my regular size up and over my Bold Curve hips. Holy moly. I did get them over by leaping up and down in the dressing room. Thankfully all of those squats, lunges and frog jumps I've been doing have given me considerable athletic ability. I have no idea what the other patrons thought of the sounds coming from my dressing room. Perhaps they thought a kangaroo had gotten into the dressing room and was wrecking havoc with a pair of pants.
Let me be frank. The skinny jeans were brutal. They made my butt look not only big, but also unattractive — as though I'd never done a squat or a lunge in my life. The straight jeans were similarly cruel. You'd think they'd be a little more forgiving than the skinny jeans, but no.
Look, I've seen my butt naked. I know my butt and have worked with it for many years. The overstuffed derriere in those Levi's was not my butt. That ass was an impostor, wanna-be ass. It was the Dan Quayle of asses.
If I wanted to look like I have big hips, a big butt and big thighs I would shop in the juniors department. Maybe by "Bold Curve" Levi's really meant, "Will make you look fat even if you're not?"
My actual theory is that Levi's makes jeans for men and has no clue how to make clothes for women. I think the whole "Curve ID" fiction is about how to fit either a) teenagers or b) models. You've got your skinny models, your average models and then your Victoria's Secret models, and hence, those are the three Levi's body types.
Fortunately I walked out of the Levi's store and down to The Gap to try on a pair of the 1969 line. I was able to try on pair after pair of skinny jeans that slipped easily over my hips and made my butt look as though I have indeed woken up at 5:15 in the morning to go work out for the past four months.
Thank you for that, Gap.
The jeans I tried on included: Legging Jeans in True Black, Always Skinny Jean in Over-Dyed Black Wash and Forever Skinny. The Always Skinny Jean has a lower rise and the Forever Skinny has a higher rise. I like to think of the latter as "Skinny Mom Jeans."
I wound up purchasing the Always Skinny.
All in all, I found The Gap's skinny jeans to be much more forgiving of non stick-straight women's figures than Levi's. Though perhaps lean, slim-hipped women have trouble fitting into The Gap's jeans? I don't know. Levi's may be a dream-come-true for little pixie-shaped women who have a hard time finding jeans. I guess the reason I'm taking Levi's to task is because they came up with this whole "Curve ID" nonsense to attract women of all shapes and sizes to come into their stores, only to offer jeans that seem remarkably unkind to curves of any kind.
I'd be curious to hear of other women's experiences in the Levi's dressing room, and to find out what kind of denim beast they sounded like while trying on jeans.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Love Is Bella


"Mom, can I have two girlfriends?"

"No."

"I can't?"

"No."

"But what if I want to have two girlfriends?"

"Then you'll hurt their feelings."

That stopped my six-year-old Lothario short. I looked at him in the rear view mirror while he pondered what I'd just said.

"Well then I'll just have Bella as my girlfriend," he said.

"Does Kate know?"

"Does she have to?" he asked, looking pained.

"Yes! You have to end it with Kate before you start it up with Bella."

"I have to?"

"Yes! How do you think Kate would feel if she found out Bella was your girlfriend while she thought she was still your girlfriend?"

"Bad," he said and looked out the car window.

"Maybe we need to get rid of this whole 'Girlfriend" business. You're six."

Cracky gave me two saucer-like eyes, looking as though I'd just sentenced him to life in a monastery.

"Why can't they just be your 'friends' why do they have to be your 'girlfriends?" I continued.

"Can they be my 'friend-girlfriends?'"

I sighed.

"Bella rested her head on my shoulder while we watched a movie," he smiled a little smile to himself.

"Oh, really?"

"Yeah. It felt really good, actually." He repeated the pleased little smile.

He's six.

Six!

Six and he's staring out the car window, smiling to himself while he dreams of Bella with her blond head resting on his shoulder.


Monday, October 25, 2010

I've Been Pulling My Pants Down A Lot Lately



I went to see the doctor for a swollen eyebrow and ended up with my pants down.

How does that happen?

Sometime last weekend my eyebrow started swelling up. Each day I figured the swelling would subside, but instead it got worse. By Wednesday morning when I looked in the mirror, my eyelid was swollen too.

"Have a good day at work, Squinty!" My husband said.

"Quit staring at my eyebrow." We'd been having a conversation where he stared at my right eyebrow and not directly in my eyes the entire time.

"I'm not," he said, still staring at my eyebrow. "You look beautiful today."

"Shut up."

"You do!" he said and continued to stare at my eyebrow while trying to look earnest.

So I made an appointment with the dermatologist. Once there, she seemed rather perplexed by the swollen eyebrow.

"Are you sure you didn't use any new products or do anything different?"

"Yes, I'm sure," I said.

"Did you recently have your eyebrows waxed?"

"No, I'm growing them out."

"Have you used any new makeup?"

"No."

"Lotions, creams, soaps?"

"Nope."

"Did any sharp objects come in contact with your eye?"

"No!" I laughed. "I would have noticed that."

"Did you get bitten by a bug?"

"Not that I recall."

"Were you outside this weekend?"

"I was! I went to a corn maze!"

"Perhaps you were bitten by a bug in the cornfield?"

"Possibly!" I agreed.

She suggested cortisone, a topical antibiotic and an oral antibiotic. At the mention of cortisone I tried to raise my eyebrow (which I couldn't do, because of the swelling).

"Cortisone? How do you administer that?" I asked and then bugged my eyes out in an attempt to raise the eyebrow.

"In a shot."

"Where exactly would you administer this shot?" I began imagining a needle in my eye.

She pointed at her rear end.

"Ugh," I said.

"In fact, I recommend we do two. One in each cheek."

"Aw man!" I said.

"You've had children, you'll be fine."

Now that I've given birth to two screaming infants this has officially set the bar for my pain threshold. Actually, now that I think about it, the doctor's right. That is all you have to say to me and I'm on board. It's like an instant reality check.

So the nurse came in with two needles.

"How do we do this?" I asked. "I haven't had a shot in my rear end since I was five."

"Some people lay on their stomachs on the table, and some people just bend over and put their hands on the table like this," she said and demonstrated the position for me.

I weighed the comparable humiliation of laying on my stomach with my naked hindquarters facing the florescent lights versus just bending over and scooting my pants down.

"I guess I'll bend over," I said and sighed. "Should I pull my pants down now?"

It's moments like these that I'm glad I work out. In fact, I think having to pull your pants down is the motivation for all exercise on the planet. At least that's my theory and I'm sticking to it.

Fortunately the shots didn't hurt all that much going in. It is true that just having had a baby six months ago has set my pain threshold rather high. That and the fact that the epidural wore off before I had to push that baby out. Ha ha. I am woman, hear me roar.

What did surprise me was that by the time I walked out to the parking lot and had reached my car, both cheeks were already sore. Sitting at my desk was mildly uncomfortable all day and every time I got up out of my chair, I winced just a bit.

But if someone had told me on Wednesday morning that my swollen eyebrow would result in one shot to each cheek, I never would have believed them. Add to this the fact that just last Friday I had an IUD installed in my uterus.

It's a lot of public nakedness for such a private person.

Fortunately the IUD did inspire a great new haircut on Saturday. I told my hairdresser that I wanted "Sexy IUD hair" and I'll be damned if that didn't inspire her. I think I got the best haircut of my life.

Feel free to use that line as creative direction with your own hairstylist. It's very liberating. That and two shots of steroids to your butt and you'll be feeling pretty cheeky.

First attempt at Photoshop. Thanks to Steam Me Up, Kid for the mile-high technical advice.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Oh Snap, Dalai Lama!

I just read this:

"Sometimes, when we are discouraged by a difficult situation, anger does seem helpful, appearing to bring more energy, confidence and determination. And while it is true that anger brings extra energy, it eclipses the best part of our brain: its rationality. So the energy of anger is almost always unreliable. It can cause an immense amount of destructive, unfortunate behavior."

— The Dalai Lama

I have often been mislead by my own anger or my friends' anger and thought to myself: "Hey, it's better than depression!"

My bad.

It's always better to sit with something than to react. Always. But funny how when you're in reaction mode, it seems so brilliant and empowering...


Saturday, October 9, 2010

I'm Toast.

My baby girl held her arms up to me for the first time.

Good lord.

If that doesn't pull at your heart strings, I don't know what will. Maybe it means more coming from my independent little girl. She's autonomous this one, and not overly snuggly or cuddly. You can try and squish her and hug her but she leans back. Oh, she's full of lots of smiles and laughs for you, but she's just not a hugger.

She does like to be kissed. She smiles a little smile, and if you keep doing it enough, she'll laugh.

She does show affection. But she does it by thrusting her fists into my hair and pulling. Hard. With her brother she grabs his face with both of her hands and then tries to claw his skin off. She's a rather violent lover.

But today I paused before I swooped her out of her cradle. I held out my hands and yes, I waited.

Those two little arms popped up and that expectant little face peered up.

"Pick me up, Mama. Pick me up."

Okay, she can't talk yet, but her eyes are very expressive.

Those little arms popped up like two pieces of toast out of the toaster. Bing! Just like that.

And it was love.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Tall Girl in a Short Jacket

I love jackets.

I can recall a long stream of fabulous jackets going all the way back to a suede fringe number in high school. I think I wore it so much my friends started calling me "Fringes" instead of "Fish." I wish I'd kept it. (Not that I'd actually wear it, but it was such a piece of the era.)

Before this last move to my husband's house, I boldly got rid of some jackets I'd held on to for too long (or so I thought) and now my heart longs for the leopard print 3/4-length jacket that some homeless person is probably wearing now.

I thought you couldn't wear leopard after 40.

(I know I'm not 40 yet, but I like to be prepared.)

My friend Mary is a great jacket-wearer. You never see Mary without a jacket, so much so, that it's sort of her trademark. And as I am wont to do with most friends with trademarks I covet, I've proceeded to copy her over the years. This became particularly handy once I left teaching and started in the advertising world where jeans are de rigeur but one doesn't want to look slovenly.

Well, this one doesn't.

So jackets and jeans it is and has been.

I'm in a fit of conniptions over the military jackets right now. So much so that I've already purchased two and I would have bought three if the third hadn't been too short. This is the one shortcoming (ha!) of being a tall girl who loves jackets.

Forget about the jacket if it has some sort of waist detail or attached belt. Those features will likely come right under my armpits and indeed make me look like the comedy routine of "Tall Girl in a Short Jacket." This is particularly sad when the sleeves are super long and the waist is super high (as was the case with a particularly adorable khaki green camp jacket). Ah well.

Yesterday I went to return one adorable military jacket to NORDSTROM because the seam had split (I wore it twice!) and of course I couldn't return it without trying on a few more military jackets (this may be a full on-obsession and may require an intervention). The baby and I were in the large dressing room and I had Baby facing the mirror so she could watch me try on clothes (entertainment!).

As I tried on one too-short jacket after another, I watched Baby's face turn bright red. Then she grunted disapprovingly. In fact, Baby filled her pants and let me know that she thought the too-short jackets looked like shit.

Ha.

Now I know I can trust Baby to give me an honest opinion.





Military Tracksuit for Infants by Juicy Couture.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Last Baby



















The last baby is special in a way that the first baby is not.

The first baby is full of firsts. This first baby is full of surprise and wonder. The last baby, however, makes your heart ache because you know she is the last you'll hold in this way. She's the last baby you'll nestle in your arms in the middle of the night, with only her glossy eyes watching you — as if you are the moon and forever.

Her cheeks are so plump and full that when you kiss them, you think they might pop. Her smiles and laughs are the last of your babies' smiles and laughs. With your first baby you wondered how you would get through the sleepless nights and the around-the-clock feedings.

With the last, you wonder how you'll live without them. How will you live without these quiet midnights with a baby softly sucking, a small hand curling around your finger, and a sweet sighing with the kind of contentment that only stars and small deities can know.

The last baby is the last baby. And for that, she kind of breaks my heart.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Federally-Protected Boobs

I regularly go topless at work.

Yes, that's right. I'm back at work now that my daughter is 12-weeks old and I'm still breastfeeding. I was quite impressed when I emailed my HR person to ask if there was someplace other than the bathroom for me to pump and she immediately requested a locked office on my floor.

Wow!

I was so impressed, I told my husband, who then asked his own HR department at his law firm if they had a locked office available for nursing mothers. They did not then, but they do now. Go husband! If there's one thing he's passionate about, it's liberated titties.

Well now I find out that it's actually a federal law that an employer make a space available for an employee to pump milk that isn't the restroom:

"President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, H.R. 3590, on March 23rd and the Reconciliation Act of 2010, H.R. 4872, on March 30, 2010. Among many provisions, Section 4207 of the law amends the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to require an employer to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child's birth each time such employee has need to express milk. The employer must also provide a place, other than a bathroom, for the employee to express breast milk."

Read more about it here.

The only unfortunate part of all this is the fact that I actually have to go to this locked office and pump. My god. Is there anything more boring than pumping milk? I have a double-electric "Pump In Style®" (Yes, that is actually what it's called) so I don't have to hand-pump, but it's still tedious. There's no getting around the fact that you have to hold two plastic cones up to your breasts for fifteen minutes at a time. In a locked, windowless office with no TV or computer, it's like fifteen minutes of ADD torture twice a day.

I've tried reading the New York Times on my Blackberry®, but you try scrolling with a plastic pump suctioned to a nipple in each hand. It's not pretty and it's not easy, especially if you're trying not to break the seal and you don't want to wind up with spilt milk on your smart phone.

Liquids + Cell phones = Bad.

Yesterday I had the good idea to wear a Maxi dress to work. I totally forgot that a Fitted Dress + Electric Breast Pump = Bad Idea. For a moment I considered completely removing the dress and just sitting there at the desk in my underwear and heels while I pumped. But I've had enough anxiety over the "Is the door really locked or did I accidentally unlock it?" as it is, fully-clothed. So imagine a co-worker walking in on me not just pumping, but with me in nothing but a pair of underpants and high heels. You might as well quadruple the humiliation.

If that were to happen I'd immediately become the "Freaky chick who pumps breast milk in the nude at work." Not unlike George Costanza who removed all of this clothing to take a dump. That weird. And it's hard not to make milk coming out of your breasts any more freaky than it is all on its own, mammals or not.

Americans are freaked out by breasts, and even more so when they start leaking fluids, and about a gazillion times more freaky than that when you attach a little sucking baby to them. My god. We get our puritanical bonnets in a bee-tizzy.

I've read with interest over the past few months the stories of breastfeeding mothers being accosted by security guards and restaurant managers for nursing in public. I've read with disappointment as commenters on said articles express their disgust with breastfeeding.

Do you suppose they were weaned too soon from their own mothers and that's why they have such a disgust for something that is pretty darned sweet? I mean, seriously. You're offended by a nursing baby?

The fact of the matter is, while a baby is nursing, you really only see their little head cuddled up against mom. Sure if mom's struggling to latch the baby onto her breast you might get a good view of her nip. In which case, I recommend not looking.

Geez.

There's plenty I don't want to see in public. I don't like to see people's legs. Legs gross me out. But I can't make wearing shorts illegal. I don't want to see ill-fitting tops, panty lines, goatees, or baseball caps on backwards. There are a whole plethora of shoes I think should be illegal, but I still have to see people in Birkenstocks and Crocs every day of my life.

And what do I do about these things that offend my eye?

I look away.

Fortunately I've only had to breastfeed in public a few times since my daughter was born. I usually skulk off to a far away corner and make sure the latch-on is quick. Once she's in place and happily sucking away, you really can't see anything with my t-shirt bunched up over her head. Maybe I'll take a cloth diaper and lay it across my shoulder. Not that it actually covers anything, but I feel it says, "This is me showing you that I am currently breastfeeding this baby and you might want to look away." I can't cover her entire head because every time I've tried to do it in my own house when we have company, she immediately jerks her head back (with my nipple still in her mouth) as if to say, "What the hell?!?"

You don't eat in the dark with a blanket over your head, and neither does she.

So spare me the "put a blanket over her head" malarkey.

Just don't look.

Why is this so hard?

I promise not to wear any more Maxi dresses and I promise not to whip my entire dress over my head in public even though you could look away in that event too. Ha. Breastfeeding in nothing but your panties and heels.

I wonder when they'll make that a federally-protected status? Woo!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Everyone Knows You Shouldn't Blog When You're in Love

Don't the best creative endeavors come from suffering? Write when your heart aches, write when there's disaster. Your words will crackle like fire, your fingers will burn the keyboard. But if you write when you're in love, you'll never get it right no matter how you phrase it. It will always fall short, and your reader won't care.

Or maybe I'm wrong. I'm wrong about a lot, but that's my general feeling about my own writing.

So I'm in love with this little 10-week-old girl and while I do write the occasional blog, I don't post it. Do you really want to hear about how when she is just starting to fall asleep in my arms, if I smile at her, she will dreamily smile back at me as she fades to dark? Do you want to hear about how when she's sleeping next to me, if I push her on her back, she immediately rolls back on her side to press her face, arms and tiny feet against me?

Because that's the kind of stuff I've got. It's all coos and gurgles and sure, the occasional scream. But it's all love, no matter the decibel.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Afterlife: Babies vs. Angels


My six-year-old son Cracky was staring at his sister as she breastfed the other day.

"I wish I was a baby," he said.

"So you could breastfeed?" I asked, stating the obvious.

"Yeah. And so you could hold me like that. I wish me and Gracie were both babies."

"That would be a lot of work for me!"

"I wish when we died we could come back as babies," he added.

"There are actually some people who believe that's exactly what happens," I said, surprised that my son had come up with reincarnation all on his own.

"Really?"

"Sure. Some Buddhists believe in that. It's called 'reincarnation.'"

"Reincarnation? Jesus thinks when you die, you're dead."

"Um, I think he actually thinks you go to heaven when you die," I said, trying to stifle a laugh.

"What's heaven?"

"I think it's some place in the clouds where you get to go and live when you die."

"Do you get to be a baby?"

"I don't know. I don't think so." I cocked my head and thought it over. I half-considered telling him you get to be whatever you want when you go to heaven, or that you get 40 virgins, but I figured I shouldn't say too much about something I really didn't know for certain.

"I want to come back to earth and be a baby. And I want you to come back and be a baby too. Maybe we can both come back and be babies at the same time?"

"Maybe we can. The Buddha believed that we never die."

"Because we come back as babies?"

"Well, that's one way. Will you remember when I die, that I'm not really dead? That I'll live forever?"

"Yep. You'll be somebody's baby somewhere."

"Exactly."

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Cup Is Already Broken

I watched the PBS biography of The Buddha a few weeks before my daughter was born. (Yes, that's her in full-throated fury, pictured at left.) I was struck by the words of one of my favorite writers and Buddhist scholars, Mark Epstein, who spoke about the phrase, "The cup is already broken."

It's an approach to life, to the things we own, to the people we love, to the life we have, to everything in this world. The things that we love and cherish, such as the beloved cup you use every day and can't imagine a day without, are all temporary. The cup will not last forever, so in many respects, it is already broken. So too with our deaths. These things are inevitable, so we might as well enjoy the interim.

It's all impermanent, you see. And this is not a tragedy. The blessing is that we ever lived at all, that we ever had a cup, that we ever had a moment of grace. The best approach is to recognize impermanence from the get-go. If we realize that everything is temporary, it lessens the sting of loss. It doesn't eliminate it, and it certainly doesn't eliminate the necessity of grief, but it puts future loss in its place. Rather than fret, "Will I break this cup? Will I lose this love? Will I die soon?", we recognize that the answer is "Yes" to all of the above. We are now free to set those worries aside for the present moment. In the future, we lose all things. What matters now is that we enjoy what we have, while we have it.

I had a lesson in "The cup is already broken" early on in life, thanks to my older brother, Charlie. My mother had taken me to a sidewalk sale at the strip mall that was located behind our house. Yes, my bedroom view was of the Dammon Hardware Store. I spotted a pair of Foster Grant sunglasses on sale, and they were grown-up glasses. They were made of real glass and had metal frames. My mom said I could have them if I was very careful.

Later that afternoon, I rode around on my orange ten-speed bike wearing my new sunglasses. I was circling our driveway and feeling cool and sophisticated, as only a pair of grown-up shades can make you feel. As I took the corner around the street and turned back onto our circle driveway, the glasses flew off my face and skidded onto the pavement. I leapt off my bike and retrieved the glasses, only to find the frames bent and the sides scratched. I immediately started crying and went into the house where I walked into my teenage brother.

He patiently took the glasses from me and re-bent them to their proper shape. He showed me that they worked just fine and they fit back on my face.

"But they're scratched!" I wailed. "They're ruined!"

"No, they're actually better now," he told me. "Now you don't have to worry about scratching them, they're already scratched. You can wear them on your bike, and if they fall again, you won't be upset by a few more scratches. They have character now. They're your glasses."

I stopped crying and stared at the glasses. What he said made a lot of sense. The glasses were no longer a burden of perfection, something I had to preserve in fear. They were already scratched. Now I could just wear them and not worry about them. They were better!

So my own version of "The Cup Is Already Broken" would be "The Sunglasses Are Already Scratched." And I learned this bit of dharma at the age of ten. Ever since I watched the PBS special on the Buddha and heard Mark Epstein use the phrase, I find myself repeating it in my head. On the morning my daughter was born, my husband learned that a good friend of his had died, and I couldn't help think of "The cup is already broken" as a way to soothe myself over the death of a 50-year-old man. Later that night as I approached giving birth and the flitting fears of pain or of something going wrong in childbirth, I again thought of "The cup is already broken" to soothe myself.

What will be, will be. I cannot prevent death. I cannot prevent pain. I cannot prevent whatever tragedy might happen. The only thing I can do is deal with the present and bear it as best I can. That same week, after having given birth on a Monday, I found out I would be losing my job on a Friday. The advertising agency I work for lost the account I write for. So you see, at some point, I will lose my job. Although I knew "The cup is already broken" when it came to my employment, here was the news that the cup had indeed fallen on the ceramic floor and smashed.

We'd had the account for 90 years, so it would have been easy to assume the cup was indestructible, so far as advertising accounts go. But even 90-year accounts will eventually end. Everything is impermanent and in the past few years we've all been acutely aware of that during a recession in the hardest-hit city in the nation.

In fact, some of you may remember I lost my job a year and a half ago, only to be re-hired six weeks later. So for me, the cup had indeed already broken, only to be glued back together again. The thing is, I've known ever since then that the glue would give at some point.

I read the news as I held my newborn daughter last Friday. This second-time-around I did not feel the white hot fear of how would I support my children, or how would I find another job in this town, during these times? No, I looked at my daughter and I knew that all cups break. This was just another cup and there are other cups out there too.

So I don't know when exactly I'll be unemployed. I don't know if my employment will end before my maternity leave is up. I don't know if it will end in the fall, in the winter or come December. No idea. But the cup is broken, that much I know.

But the cup is not my life.

This cup can be replaced. This baby in my arms, cannot.





* * *




To learn more about the story of "The Cup is Already Broken":

"This reminds me of a famous saying of Achaan Cha, the great Thai monk. He would hold up a tea cup and say, 'To me this cup is already broken.' Everything is like this, already broken. Why does this upset us? When we think something is not broken, we think it is intact, that it is ours, so we have to protect it. And then when it turns out we cannot protect it, that we lose it, that it breaks, that it is taken from us — as everything always is — we go to pieces. We feel as if the world is not a safe place. We become paranoid and stressed out. But if we knew, with Achaan Cha, that things were already broken, that the nature of things — and of ourselves, especially and most importantly ourselves — is brokenness, and we could learn how to embrace and accept that, then I think we can live a happy life, appreciating the preciousness of what comes to us and goes from us."

From the site, Everyday Zen.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Yes

I watched a Jim Carey movie this weekend, Yes Man. I didn't see it when it was in theaters and I thought I recalled that the reviews weren't terribly flattering so I never managed to rent it on DVD either. But there it was on HBO and nothing else was on, so I watched it.

I'm not saying it was a particularly good movie, but I will say it got me to thinking. The main character, Carl, attends a self-help seminar where he is challenged to say "Yes'" to everything. Yes to every invitation, yes to every opportunity, yes to everyone.

Of course he misunderstands the "everything" and takes it literally, saying yes to things one obviously shouldn't (endangering your health, allowing the elderly, dentured next door lady to, well, uh, nevermind...) but you get the idea. The general lesson is that by saying yes to life, and saying yes to people, Carl's life goes from being somewhat lonely and meaningless, to being full and engaged.

I say yes to a lot, but I also say no to a lot. My excuses are the usual litany of: I'm tired, it's late or I'm too busy. The trouble is, when you look back on your life, it's not the times you said "no" that you'll remember, but all the times you said "yes."

I lost an old friend last week. I've written a blog or two about it but I haven't been able to get the words quite right. Even writing about it right now feels wrong because these words are all about me, and not about my friend. But the overwhelming feeling I've been having is one of regret. Regret for not making time for my friend. Regret for not staying in touch. Regret for not being there.

All the times we said "no" are the times we regret. Do we ever regret "yes?" Yes if it comes from a friend, an opportunity, a charity? The words "Make Time" keep running through my head. Make time for friends. Make time to catch up. Make time for the park. Make time for volunteerism. Make time for coffee. Make time for your child's classroom parties. Make time for life.

It will all be gone before I know it. My friend had just turned 40. My friend was teaching and coaching up until three weeks ago. I did not make time for my friend. There is no way I can make that up to her. The only thing I am left with is the rest of my life, and the friends who are still here.

In her honor, in her memory, I vow to make time. I will say yes. I will reach out. I write these words and realize they may sound hollow. Perhaps for people who've dealt with death more than I have, they will recognize the folly in thinking I can change because of the immediate pain of loss. But I think for those of us who've managed to overcome a whole helluva a lot in life, we have a sort of faith in ourselves and know that we are capable of amazing growth and change. I don't think it's ever too late. I believe in the redemption of souls and in second chances.

I think my friend is whispering those words to me. I can hear her telling me it's not too late.

I've been in survival mode for so long now, it seems I'd forgotten how to live. Sure I've managed happiness, I've managed to find love again, I've managed to not only raise a child on my own but I've watched him thrive. But life is more than just our immediate demands and our immediate family. It's time to say "yes" to a much broader range of people and experiences. Yes to all life has to offer. Yes to friends. Yes to work. Yes to risk. Yes to inconvenience. Yes to strangers. Yes to things I think I won't like but maybe I will, if I give it a chance.

Perhaps that's all life is in the end: a long list of opportunities you can either embrace or reject. Those opportunities are attached to people. Those people are the relationships that make up your life and fill it with meaning. Saying yes is really about saying yes to the people you love or the people you may grow to love.

So yes.

Yes, yes, yes.

It's never too late to say yes.