Today I need to escape my kids, my husband, my house, my routine, and the repetition of the life I’ve created.
My head tells me that it’s a good thing.
Sunday morning yoga class is always good.
A trip to the toy store for a birthday present without my four-year olds in tow is great.
I’ll pick up the wrapped end of year teacher gifts without having to rush.
I want to sit at Starbucks where I’ll drink an iced Venti unsweetened green tea and get some undisturbed work done.
I don’t know on what. Maybe I could make sense of the Adsense craziness that is a new blog issue? Maybe I’d finish up my yoga article? Maybe complete the cover letters to publishers?
My heart tells me to stay; that it’s selfish to leave.
I shouldn’t be this eager to leave.
Maybe it’s my own fault for the way it’s been set up?
I’ve never gone out for girls night.
I’ve never left my kids overnight.
I am the one in charge of the children and I don’t have control over whether or not they are stimulated and played with and loved while I am gone.
And upon my return will the house still be standing or am I setting myself up for an afternoon of double duty; double kitchen cleaning, double toy putting away, double the mess removal?
The directional pulls to go or to stay fight me as I type.
Time has ticked too long and I know if I don’t move now I won’t go.
I’m off to shower to get ready for this day.
Still, I can’t help but wonder, do free birds really feel free when they are let out of their cage or do they fly around in circles waiting to get locked back inside where they know that they’re safe in the familiarity of home?
A few years back I decided I’d try a maxi dress. I found a great one at Forever 21 that cost next to nothing. It was stretchy and comfortable and cool (in both style and temperature), slim to the knee and finished with a two foot gathered hem, which spoke loudly to my inner Mother Earth.
But as happens when I take fashion risks, I got it home, tried it on, and lost my nerve. The rules for an apple-shaped girl with boobs and skinny legs screamed, “NO!”
Fitted is what works. Tent like is tough, so back it went (and fast).
With the resurgence of warm weather the maxi dressed mammas have re-appeared. They are at pre-school and the grocery store, walking down the street and playing in the park. I eye them with a mix of envy for their ability to pull of the fashion risk and hope that I might find one (one day) for my frame that would allow me to play in the game.
There’s a bunch that I like that I’ve seen and so I’ll dip my toe into maxi-million territory by posting some of my favorites.
Who knows, though? With all of the evolving that’s been going on lately, a maxi dress just might act as the finishing piece to not only round out the warm weathered wardrobe, but be the catalyst for a summer of self acceptance (I will like myself in this tent, I will like myself in this tent).
My mother Peach went to a cocktail party the other night.
During our day after recap where I asked the pertinent questions (who was there, what did you wear, what did you eat, how were the littles, etc.), she added that she and our dear friend Robin discussed their particular pet peeves in regard to commonly made punctuation mistakes.
Being raised by Peach it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we love punctuation and grammar and share a loathing over the errors made with subjective versus objective pronouns (she and I, she and me, etc.). I’ve blogged about it here before.
The biggest offender for Robin (so it seemed) was the often improper usage of it’s versus its versus its’.
It’s for Robin that I write this post!
I’ve done some research and shamefully admit that I have allowed the computer to fix my itsisms without consistently checking their accuracy. I live a bloggers life, after all. Perfectionism gets trumped by time constraints. It’s sadly a part of the game.
This then shall also serve as today’s repentance. I love a good punctuation confession. I always feel relieved.
it’s – is a contraction. A contraction is the creation of a new word by combining two words to make one. The apostrophe takes the place of the missing letters. In it’s case, the two words could be it is or it was or it has. Contractions are fun and it takes no time to read a sentence back to yourself to know if you are using them properly.
its– is a possessive pronoun and unlike the contraction version, its is also little more confusing.
Possessive pronouns are usually created by adding apostrophes before an s to imply ownership.
Sophie’s friend C threw mulch down her jumper on Friday.
Grace’s friend K talked her into playing dead princesses on the playground today.
Mommy’s daughters are causing lines to appear on her face earlier than she had expected!
For its however, that sweet little floating hash mark disappears. It’s like a glitch in the rules. That poor apostrophe is all alone out there in the punctuation atmosphere (probably kicking itself, wishing it was a contraction).
Apparently some folks use its’, too, with the apostrophe at the end. This is just wrong so if you see it take note. Bad, bad, very bad and wrong.
For a writer or an educator bad punctuation and grammar are the stuff of nightmares. If mistakes have haunted your sleep, I do hope this little post helps.
For my Peach and our Robin, you two can sleep more soundly tonight knowing that I’m here on the case to remind the land of those rules so easily forgotten.
When I was fourteen, after a fun-filled day with my friends where we slathered ourselves in baby oil in an effort to get Ban De Soleil brown, I walked home and flattened my towel on the grass in our backyard. The sun had moved from its place high in the sky and I lay stomach down dozing in the warmth of the afternoon.
I still remember the prickle of the grass coming from underneath my towel. When I woke, my head was turned to the side and it took a few minutes to find my focus. Blinking lazily I watched my beach bag and listened to the sounds of the ocean waves in the distance. I was rested and warm even though the sun had moved over the house. Content, I stayed there for a while embraced by the end of a beautiful summer day.
I think about this often, because it’s one of those times where my pleasure filled every last cell of my being. How many times are we granted a memory like that? A memory attached to pure bliss that stays with us forever.
It seems ironic now that my memory was really truly being etched into my cells. Melanoma must have begun during those years and didn’t show its face until my pregnancy hormones (and maybe the infertility drugs, too) sent my body into cancer cell turnover overload.
As summer nears closer, as the weather warms, and as the Internet is inundated with (Oh my gosh I want everything) summer fashion, I am reminded of the importance of caring for one’s skin.
We should all be wearing sunscreen. Melanoma is a gene and you can have deep gorgeous African skin and you can still get the disease.
To all of the beautiful moms across the Earth, I implore you to teach your kids about the dangers of the sun. It’s not a lesson that they will hear, though if you spend your own summer getting cooked to a crisp. You can chase them down with Coppertone, but if I learned anything from my years teaching other people’s monsters, it’s that kids learn by what is modeled.
Wear a beautiful hat. Be chic in a gorgeous long caftan. Get sporty and adorable in an Athleta rashguard or J. Crew’s fab striped board shorts. Boden always does great tunics. Free People and Georgie make amazing beach pants and even Lululemon does UV running tops. The choices are endless and your skin (and dermatologist) will thank you.
As a result of my sun soaked adolescence, I now have a hideous scar (one of many, but the one most difficult to conceal) across my back, near my neck. I try to hide on a daily basis. I have hated it for the over four years I’ve had it and have endured steroid injections and laser treatments hoping to make it disappear.
It isn’t going anywhere.
A few nights ago after watching episode two of The Big C where Laura Linney’s character (in the last stages of her own melanoma fight) tattoos a large C over her scar, I’ve decided to do the same.
When you see it, please ask me about it. I’m not afraid to share. I want to feel proud and I think it will help.
Would I change that dreamy afternoon memory (or any of those delicious days cavorting in the sun) if it meant no cancer?
The only thing I would change is my insecurity about not knowing who I was and my inability to feel beautiful in my own….. skin.
My wish for the fourteen your old me and what I hope for all girls everywhere is that we can find the beauty within ourselves to not have to change what God has given us.
Oh yes, and I would have slathered my unblemished skin with sun cream.
When I first began yoga it was simply out of curiosity. I started slowly and only went to classes that were labeled as beginner.
After a few years and upon my move to Maine where I was back in college for an Elementary Teacher Certification I started to practice more on my own. With Coldplay and David Gray on constant rotation and a good amount of incense burned, yoga became as important to me as the other most loved parts of my life.
My knowledge base had grown enough to comfortably engage in a fulfilling home practice, but I continued to learn through the wonderful teachings of June at Nataraja Yoga, in the old building on Route 1.
I heard June’s voice come to me yesterday. I still hear her voice when I need to slow down in my life and on my mat. It’s funny, because I never made a connection with her outside of class. I’m not sure she’d recognize me if we bumped into each other on the street. Good teachers stay with you always. It’s a part of their gift.
I was asked recently by someone who has never tried the ancient practice where they should start. My advice is always the same.
Start slowly. Begin with teachers whose goal is non-judgement and never ever push into anything that doesn’t feel right. That’s how you end up getting hurt and I know plenty of people whose type A led them down that road. They quit without discovering the powerful centeredness that yoga creates within one’s being.
It’s a terrible shame.
As I embark on a weekend of Easter Bunny goodies and in an effort to locate the balance (missing as of late) I wanted to share one of the easiest yet often passed over poses; Mountain.
Often in yoga Mountain Pose is used as a resting point before venturing into the next flow. Its like hitting the pause button to catch ones breath before diving in to another round of sun salutations or triangles or any other sort of asana that the body is calling for.
Really, though, it is the beginning. The place where we should start.
With toes pressed evenly into the ground, heels cemented and teetering back and forth for a moment, find your balance.
Let the arms fall straight at your sides. Bend them a little, shake them out until they settle with fingers facing toward the ground. The hands should feel a charge. “Yoga hands,” they’re called, not wimpy or lax. Upper arms and shoulders can roll back and hands can open to the front of the room. I find more energy inhabits the arms when I open them, but I think it’s a personal preference.
Visualize the knee caps raised to the sky, the inner thighs rotate inward. Rock back and forth a little to check your feet. Really check them out. Are they solid? Are you grounded?
Gently tuck your pelvis and tighten the belly as you roll back your shoulders. Feel your chest raise and your neck lengthen. Legs and arms should still be strong.
Belly is still tightened, but soft. This can seem contradictory, but it’s not. You can feel the power deep in your belly, while thinking about softening it. It takes practice, but can be done.
The neck begins to straighten more, the shoulders drop, and by imagining a string being lifted straight from the crown of your head, the tip of your being is pulled to the sky.
Your face should be soft. Imagine the tongue resting in your mouth. Your cheeks are soft; your face looking straight ahead.
You can close your eyes.
In through the nose and out through nose.
In through the nose and out through the mouth if big energy needs to escape.
Continue to stand like a mountain and check in with your body for subtle adjustments to make yourself tall and strong. The challenge is to stay there. Still, yet strong. Fired up, yet calm.
The challenge is to see if you can find your mountain while off the mat; while standing in the grocery store or listening to the screaming of a four-year old whose every pair of pants are tickling her (OCD?).
As I mentioned earlier, my certification was in Elementary School teaching. It was never a certification in yoga. Since I’m not a certified teacher, please take this lesson with a grain of salt and most certainly don’t try this at home unless you are sure you won’t hurt yourself.
If you do think you’d hurt yourself in mountain pose, I would strongly suggest you get yourself to a class where you can be monitored by a professional.
You won’t regret it if you follow a plan that is similar to my own careful and richly rewarding beginning.
Before you know it you’ll be standing taller and breathing easier and singing “Om” without a giggle.
When that day comes you’ll understand all the fuss!
Om shanti shanti and namaste (with hands folded at heart center).
My sister converted to Islam less than four years ago.
I hadn’t seen her since my girls were a month old and our relationship has been tumultuous as she’s transitioned into her new life.
I was scared for her.
I didn’t understand why she would choose something that was so misunderstood in our country. I viewed the head covering as an adverse action toward the rights of women. I was confused and worried. I thought only the worst.
Her new life is simple and busy. Her children are happy and healthy.
She’s happy, which is all anyone wants for the people they love.
I asked lots of questions of her and her husband, a Bangladeshi Imam. Once I got past his dress I found him to be a genuinely lovely person. He’s a good father. His beliefs are not so different from some of my own.
So, what was I really scared of?
They left this morning and I got call from Peach as soon as they drove away.
When it was all said and done I sat in the car to post my facebook update with Brian driving and mom and the girls in the backseat ringing pink cowbells.
“Five hours and fourteen minutes! Elated and filthy! xoxoxxxx,” I wrote”
I was delirious and in pain, but mostly overwhelmed by what I’d managed to do. I recognized the same out of body happiness that I felt the moment my kids were born and the days following; an adrenaline rush to the brain energizing a tired body that had done its work.
It was as if I’d given birth again, this time to 26.2.
Marathons start early, long before the sun has time to rise in the sky. There’s something amazing about showing up in the dark to a couple thousand people wearing running clothes. Like any good party, there are always the wild ones who show up in kilts and tutus and viking hats. One marathoner who passed me at mile ten was wearing a Teenage Mutant Ninja costume, mask and all.
When Brian dropped me off, I surveyed the scene and located an empty table near the Pizza truck where I could get situated. I made sure that I had enough Gu and stuffed it into my FuelBelt. I then took two and a half packages of Shot Bloks and zipped them into my right jacket pocket. There were still forty-five minutes until the start, so I figured it was a good time to nibble on my bagel.
After waiting and chatting with a few other singleton runners, it was time to find the bag check before hitting the porta potties.
As usually happens as a race nears, the lines become so long that it’s a wonder any of those people ever get to go and still make the start. Many runners (including myself) take to the woods; it’s a little secret that really isn’t so.
The woods behind the potties were dotted with lunatic runners (mostly boys) relieving themselves out in the open.
Standing in line and looking back over at my shoulder I turned to the girl in front of me, motioned toward the trees and said, “Come on, it’ll be an adventure!”
It was still dark, but she understood and we hurried to find a spot that was covered enough to crouch down and go. It was prickly and I was seriously hoping not to get a tick.
I guarded my new friend, she guarded me, and we even added another girl to the group; all of us standing guard for each other. As we pulled up our pants I told them I needed a picture for the blog. They were good sports and we posed. I thanked them and even though the picture is too dark to see anything, it’s one of my favorites.
The next step was to figure out where I should place myself at the start. I found the pace runner with the five-hour sign, but decided to move up to the 4:45 guy. In retrospect, this was probably not the smartest move.
When the race began I hit my Garmin and we were off. I felt strong, but I knew I was going out too fast.
Oh no, I thought. Too fast. Too fast. But I feel good. I feel great!
The internal conversation kept up for a good nine miles until I decided I had to stop and assess a pain in my right shoe.
The Tobacco Trail is beautiful, lined with trees and streams and old barns and history; built where trains used to run their loads. It’s flat, because the trains didn’t do well on hills and like any good trail is covered in finely packed dirt and tiny rocks. Part of the path was paved, but more often than not the tiny rocks from the unpaved areas found their way into my shoes. I was concerned about each one and would wiggle my feet around to try to move the most irritating stones out of the way. Some would settle in places that I could manage, but my right toe seemed to have a good sized boulder pressed against it and I knew I needed to stop, so as not to cause more damage.
When I pulled back from the pace group I leaned against a tree and tried not to put my sock down on the damp and dirty ground. I let the pebble drop out of my shoe, but realized that my sock was the actual source of the pain. I readjusted the toe area so that the seam wasn’t falling right where a blister was surely forming and looked up to see my pace group running in the distance.
I stuck my toes back into my shoe, laced it up and set off again.
Despite the annoyance of having to stop every now and again to remove the rocks, I felt good about my pace and confident that I’d be able to finish around the five-hour mark.
I slowed a little at twelve and thirteen, and at eighteen when I kicked a root and lost my footing, decided I needed to stop and stretch. I walked toward the pole of an upcoming bridge overpass and lunged forward to stretch out my hamstrings. I shook out my shoes and bent into a deep forward fold.
It felt so wonderful when I stood up again that I crossed my fingers behind me, pulled them back and leaned over for a deeper stretch. I was momentarily shocked by the sound from inside my body. My spine crackled in succession from the base upward as it sets itself right. I hung there for a while, mostly because I felt a little dizzy, but also because the relief was so great. I hadn’t realized how out of alignment I had become and when I finally stood I was able to take a deep and cleansing breath.
Yoga. Always there when I need it.
I kept on.
Nineteen was strong.
Twenty was slow.
Twenty one was strong.
Twenty two was slow.
And then I watched as the five-hour pacer passed me by. My eyes were fixated on his red compression knee socks as his red balloons on a stick flew by. I felt a pang of disappointment, since I wouldn’t be finishing when I’d hoped. The odds weren’t good that I’d be able to catch him. I wanted to call out, “Come back! Don’t leave me!” But I was tired and not insane enough to actually do it. And anyway, I knew what his answer would be.
I settled into a run walk pattern, which is what felt right and seemed to be the method being used by the other runners around me.
The other runners:
There was the girl with the patterned shorts and the right shoulder tattoo, which I never could discern. The man in a burgundy shirt, shuffling and drenched in sweat, whose face was hard and visibly determined. An older woman in her sixties wearing a yellow tank was breathless and walking when she held up her thumbs at mile twenty-two and said, “The fun doesn’t even start until twenty!”
These strangers and I continuously passed each other like a dance. I felt proud of them, while at the same time wanted to make sure I came in ahead. It was still a race after all.
I knew the last six point two would be hard.
When people asked me how I felt that morning I repeated my misgivings about the final stretch. I knew I’d be fine with nineteen or twenty, but having never completed anything farther was frightening.
I didn’t realize how far down I’d have to reach to find the motivation to pick up my feet and run after walking for a bit. But my stubbornness made its appearance right when I needed it and became the force that lifted my legs to run when I really could have crawled. There was pain radiating throughout my body, but it was nothing I couldn’t manage by listening and forging forward. Walk. Run. Walk. Run.
Instead of feeling defeated, I looked at this last difficult part of the race as the impetus for the next one. Maybe going out too fast at the beginning caused my pace to be what it was now? Maybe next time I’ll move back at the starting line to be with the slower pace group? Maybe my second marathon will be even better than this one, since I now have a list of errors that could be remedied in training.
At mile twenty-five with the light at the end of the tunnel, I made the decision to mostly walk in an effort to finish strong.
My legs were like those tree trunks I’d leaned against, my feet were swollen and blistered, my skin was covered in sweat, but there was no choice.
My turnover picked up, I switched off my music and relied on my determination.
People starting clapping and yelling that I was almost there.
My Garmin hit twenty-six point two, but the finish line was not in sight. I kept on, while yelling out, “Where is it? Where is it?”
Just when I thought I’d never spot the end, I looked left and saw my mom with my girls. They were sitting on a bench and I screamed out, “Mom!” She didn’t hear me so I kept yelling. After their long wait to see me, I had appeared and a new surge of energy pushed me onward. Strangely, the pain subsided and I felt exuberant excitement. Happiness. Joy. Fun.
I didn’t see Brian until he yelled my name over my shoulder. He’d been running behind me for at least a half of a mile, catching the entire ending on Flip video.
I wanted to kill him and kiss him at the same time.
I had done what I’d set out to do and within a few minutes I’d crossed the finish line.
I walked for a while until my family came running. In that instant I felt so proud for what I had been able to do. There were no doubts or insecurities, just bliss and relief that what I had set out to accomplish had happened. The high from the endorphins was like a jolt to my brain as my body began to accept it could rest.
The day after the race was when the reality of what I’d completed hit me hard. My quadricepts were screaming, my head was fighting an ache, and my appetite was voracious. Brian took the girls to school and as much as I wanted to write, I needed a day to process the experience. I lay in my bed and watched Shameless on the DVR, pinned on Pinterest, surfed, shopped, and soaked in Epsom salt. I did a little laundry and tidied up the mess that is my house’s familiar state.
It was also the day after when I realized that I never cried at the end.
I remembered when the girls were born. I didn’t cry then either.
It wasn’t until two weeks later when it was time to take them home that I sat in the hospital waiting room and sobbed. I didn’t think I’d be able to do it, uncertain if I could do a good job. My body had done its work and kept them safe for thirty-two weeks; the last ten on bed rest. My brain had trouble absorbing the realities of what I’d done by bringing my sweet girls into the world.
In a way it feels similar now that the race is over. There’s a job to be done and new goals have been set. I have higher aspirations and know that some of my patterns that led to my problems on the trail were partly to blame for not meeting all of my expectations (Oreos ring a bell?). My next marathon is important, not so much because I need to say I “ran two,” but because the changes I make to my life during training are the ones that will make my entire life more meaningful.
I’m on a life quest for good health and happiness.
A few weeks ago Oprah tweeted to all of her followers a request to tune into her programming, especially if they had a Nielson box that affects the television ratings. The hoopla over her tweet was enormous. Her undeniable power to move the masses caused twitterers to both tune in and tune out. Many balked at the nature of her tweet. How dare she beg for watchers? With all of her power, was this unethical?
As I continue to dip my big toe into the great pool of social media I find myself on both sides of the fence. Blogging, tweeting, and pinning are great if your goal is to share and it’s purely out of a desire to express oneself. It’s pretty well-known that if you blog to make money, it is very unlikely to succeed. Or is it?
And how does one succeed in an area that is so saturated with like-minded individuals; most just as talented as the next? Should bloggers be more like Oprah or is it distasteful for mere mortals to ask to be liked?
My blog began with the most innocent of intentions. It was a way for me to practice my writing and tap into that part of my soul, which needs to share with words. I used marathon training as the driving force, but received feedback on so many of my posts that were non-running related that the personal importance of it grew.
Last week I entered Twitterland in an effort to see what was next on the horizon. I joined Pinterest, but have not yet pinned. What am I waiting for?
The truth is that I am nervous, because failure is not an option. I know what I have to offer. I know that I can do anything if I put my mind to it, this marathon has reinforced that fact. I know I need to write and must somehow find a way to parlay my love into an actual future where I have something to offer my family.
I am lucky to have a husband that provides for us, which allows me to have had this experience at all. But as our children grow I want them to see that their mothers’ work has value, too. And let’s be realistic, nice comments and higher daily bar graphs won’t pay for private schools and dream weddings.
But they can and there are plenty of bloggers who have made it happen.
What would Oprah say?
I am certain she would tell me to be authentic and to keep on working.
That little voice in the back of my head says the same thing, though without as much force and certainty.
There may never be more to my social media experiment than what it is right now. I might have to be okay with twenty-three people liking my facebook page and fifty-three followers on Twitter. I am grateful for each and every click.
I’ve never been the kind of girl to ask to be liked. It leaves too sour a taste in my mouth, so I’ll continue to let the work speak for itself.
The reality of the situation is that I’ve already taken the big leap by starting the blog at all. More than just my big toe is making circles in the social media pool.
In fact, social media is much bigger than a pool with heated water and a smooth tiled bottom. It’s more like an ocean full of unknown and undiscovered entities, fierce and angry sometimes, smooth and beautiful, too. I am currently immersed in the social media ocean and am carefully treading water (using all of my skills as a flotation device).
Now, it’s just sink or swim.
I suppose I needed to write this post as a reminder to myself of something I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned.
I can spot a written mistake a mile away. When I hear one, my toes curl. It’s a curse that follows me everyday and I tend to not correct the mishaps, because I don’t want to be rude. In my head I fix poor grammar, spelling, and usage all the time. I love the written word and like to see it used properly.
It is much to my dismay, then, that in the past two days my on staff grammar police have found three errors in my very own written work.
I could die.
Why am I missing them? What is happening?
It’s the very nature of blogging to write and publish often, in which case time is not on your side. Without an editor to red pen every piece, it is possible to miss the errant mistake in your written work.
Most of the time I write the first thing in the morning with coffee and children’s television. When it comes time to review, a piece can either be easy or a pain in the neck. The easy ones get a look-see (maybe) three or four times. The tough ones, the longer ones, get looked over more than that and there have been occasions where I’ve fixed so much that I need to delete the entire piece and walk away.
I don’t want to bore my dear readers with all of the mistakes that cause me sleepless nights, but there is just one that gets me every time; the near constant misuse of me versus I.
Sophie and I went to the park. I went to the park. Yes!
Sophie and me went to the park? Me went to the park? No!
Sometimes I stop myself to catch it, to work it out, but it’s easy once you think about it.
My main intention for this post is to issue an apology for my most recent grammar issues, should they have caused you any concern (or raised eyebrows).
For my to that should have been too, I apologize.
I feel terrible for the comma behind literally in yesterday’s post, since it made my mother questions it’s placement. She didn’t understand why I put it there, but I really did have a good reason. I wanted you to know that I was breathing in the actual morning and not just the air. It’s still a confusing sentence, alas it was posted and I’m trying to move on.
By far the worst and most unnerving problem, the one that will take time for me to recover from was the spelling of my heroine Katniss, whose name I’d begun with a C (more than once). I should have googled her. I should have checked. For this I sincerely apologize. It’s also is a pretty compelling reason to actually read books and not just listen to them.
From here on out I want you to know that I love being corrected despite the heart palpitations that occur when made aware of their existence. Please don’t hesitate to offer up a suggestion or simply send me a message saying, “Line 6, word 4, fix it!”
I get it!
I appreciate your time in doing it!
Red pen me!
p.s. Please note, I am also mindful that I am “comma crazy.” The first step to getting better is to acknowledge the problem. I promise I am working on it.