Friday, August 26, 2011

Dear Makenna: You are Beautiful

It was a conversation I had with P a couple weeks ago. It popped back up again when I was talking to a good friend of mine and her middle school-aged daughter. I see it all the time with various friends and family members who have teen or tween-aged daughters. It’s a memory I have myself. I grew up watching in with my mother and her constant diets and struggles.

How long have women had hate-hate relationships with themselves? Their self-image? The very body that does miraculous thing and proudly carries them through life?

Since…like, ever? I imagine cave-moms counting mammoth points or pinching the extra skin beneath their chins while bent over a running river and catching a glimpse of their reflections. Did cave teenagers freak out when the old sabre tooth skin didn’t fit the same as it used to? Probably.

It makes me sad. The hours I lost (and still lose, just ask my husband) hating myself. Hating the changes that came after each beautiful child was born. Lamenting a pair of size 6 jeans I can’t fit into as if those very Levi’s defined my very being.

I worry about Makenna. I was a self-loathing teenager in 1994. My friend’s daughter deals pressure in an amplified version in 2011. What will my beautiful girl contend with in 2026 when she’s 15?

I worry that when she’s 15, she won’t hear me anymore. Just like I tuned out my own mother for the most part between the years of 1993 and 2000, Makenna will flex her independence muscles and take whatever I say with a grain of salt.

So I’ll say it now. And I’ll pray she finds these words when she needs them. I pray she hears them.

August 26, 2026

Dear Makenna,

You are such a beautiful baby right now, and I know when you are reading this, you are a beautiful young woman. A light shines from you as I type this, and I have no doubt whatsoever that it is still shining, brighter than ever, now.

I wondered exactly how to put this. What was it that I wanted you to understand after you read this, fifteen years later?

More than anything, I want you to love yourself as much as we love you.

I want you to love yourself now, as you are, and not make ridiculous promises to yourself that you’ll be happy if…if you lose ten pounds…if you get yourself back into a size 6 or a size 12 or whatever ridiculous size robs you of your happiness. Love yourself as you are. Right now.

There’s a picture here of me when I was 15 years old. Like you are now. Look at me. Not too bad, right? Sure, the hair was a bit frizzy and unkempt and I was most likely rocking a uni-brow…but I was talented, bright, and had wonderful friends. I read a lot and smiled constantly. I got good grades. I had loyal friends who loved me. I was a good swimmer on the varsity team. I was on a fast track that would lead me to Texas A&M eventually. To graduate school beyond that… To your dad and brothers and you even beyond that…

And you know what? I hated myself at 15. I thought I was too chubby to be in a bathing suit. I ran from the locker room to the pool as fast as I could, lest some stupid boy catch a glimpse of me in a Speedo and gag. I cringed whenever teachers called on me in class because I thought the attention would eventually focus on how out of shape I was or how fat my thighs were. Isn’t that crazy? I hated pictures because I thought my face was too round.

(That’s a terrible habit I’m still trying to break. How many pictures of me do you really see? I have a few favorites that I keep on Facebook…but they are all highly screened and selected. There are NO random, casual shots of me. Anywhere.)

I spent so much time hating myself and worrying about what others thought of me, I let it rob me of joy. It made me uptight. It made me sad a lot, truth be told. I let stupid things, like a-hole ex-boyfriends who broke my heart, be my fault because I thought I wasn't pretty enough. Or small enough.

And I’ll be damned if you do that to yourself, my sweet girl.

You are beautiful.

I will tell you that thirty times a day for the rest of your life if that’s what it will take to break the cycle.

No size on the back of a pair of jeans will define you. No stupid boy in your algebra class will have the power to make you feel unworthy with a careless comment about “curves.” No fake, poisonous friends will ever pinch your cheeks and shatter your self-esteem by calling you Miss Piggy. You are too smart for that noise.

You are beautiful.

You will grow up and hold your head high. You'll do amazing things and make us proud, no matter who you become. You will shine your light--haters and naysayers be damned.

And the best part? You’ll have me, your dad, your brothers, and a whole army of family and friends behind you the whole way, cheering you on.

Shine on, baby girl…shine on.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Over? (A WTF?! Post)

I have this sick obsession with perfection.

Don’t misread that, though.

Notice I didn’t say, I have this sick obsession and I’m always perfect. I am pretty far from that noise.

But I beat myself up often. I have lists that I lose telling me all the things that I need to do to make my life easier. I have ideas in my head about what my kids should behave like, what my house should look like, and what size I should really be. (No muffin tops make it into my daily hallucinations.)

I tend to gloss my life over in my blog. I subscribe to the “positive thoughts bring positive outcomes” mantra and I generally try not to kvetch and moan in my posts.

But holy crap, BatCrazy.

I’m drowning here.

And I think I’ll take a minute and talk about it for once. My poor husband can’t take anymore of my preferred method of dealing (holding it in until I have an atomic meltdown and freakout).
In the past 24 hours I have really screwed the pooch a few times.

In addition to cheating on the chores and the daily to-dos, I’ve manage to piss of a supervisor at work, screw up meeting notes, and spill coffee all over my desk (and paperwork.)

I’ve gloriously screwed up a chance to teach a kid’s writing workshop at the local library by being a couple days late getting the proposal to the librarian. She wasn’t very nice when she emailed this afternoon and told me, essentially, “thanks, but you’re too much of a flake right now…try back in 2025 when you’re kids are grown and you’ve got yourself together.”

I mean, obviously, she didn’t say those exact words…but that’s what I gleaned from her two-line dismissal. And the truth of the whole thing is that I am crushed. I was really looking forward to that October even (Yes, she’s a bit of a driver, isn’t she? The damn event wasn’t for two months!)

The toughest part of this season of my life boils down to one thing: I’ve got a million “sparks” going of in my head that I want to chase down. I have a perfect version of myself that I want to be—that slimmed down, organized, spiritual, civic-minded SAINT that tortures me from the recesses of my brain.

But it seems I don’t exactly have the life to support it at the moment.

I have three beautiful children. (And one fantastic, supportive and busy husband.)

All three kids are at incredibly needy, demanding stages right now that just don’t encourage long jags at the computer, recycling, or really, any other productive activities during their waking hours. (I ran a vacuum over the carpet between unloading my work items and serving dinner…and you would have thought I’d neglected them for days on end with all the clamoring they did to be heard over the din of the vacuum’s engine).

I had a twenty minute conversation with one of my best friends via text last night. She had to text message me off al edge because I really couldn’t take my attention off the toddler at that particular moment—had I taken the time to call her, he would have stolen my keys and driven himself to Pizza Hut. I had to express my roiling emotions with a damned emoticon.

I know, I know. Cut everyone a little slack.

Me. The hubs. The second-grader who started school this week. The two-year old who is, well, two years old (poor guy!). The brand new baby in a house of crazies.

But it’s hard. And when I’m crying with my face stuffed in the stained sofa (what is that oblong blob, anyway?!), all I can think about is: rinse and repeat.

“Every day is the same. You’ll never get your laundry folded or your book written.” rolls on a repeating loop with sinister pipe organ music grinding away in the background and Vincent Price laughing that “Thriller” laugh at me. Creepy!

I know it’s not exactly true and that I have a flair for the dramatic, but in my dark moments, when I’m sniffling or texting my woes away, I feel like a hamster in a big ass wheel. An annoying squeaky one, too.

What’s the solution?

I’m not exactly sure, but I’ve realized that mom’s have an amazing superpower that I should embrace rather than fight. It’s called “goldfish brain” and it boils down to the ability to forget the tornado that today was and start anew. Sure, tomorrow’s probably going to be another crazy day full of hiccups and stubbed toes, but if I learn to forget today’s frustrations, there’s no compounding effect. New slate. Wiped clean. Ready, and, go.

Brilliant, right?

So for all the missteps I had this week—those meeting notes I botched, the workshop I lost, the weight watcher points I didn’t track, the jiu jitsu class I skipped yesterday…I forgive myself. I forgive myself and start over tomorrow.

Hellooo, goldfish brain. Goodbye bashing my head against the closest…wait…is that a new plastic castle?


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Hello, Second Grade!

I really do mean to update more. It's just that, well... I don't. True story. Ha!

Boy Wonder started second grade today. Can you believe that? It seems like just yesterday he was telling me he wanted to be a motorcycle when he grew up.

He was hiding in the closet when he didn't want to use the potty. He was dressing up in every piece of Halloween costume in a five-mile vicinity...wait, he still does that. Nevermind.

We got together this morning and assembled the team to walk him the block and a half to school. Like his own ticker-tape parade on his own very special day. Boo was thrilled to walk him to the big school until he realized we had to leave him there. Poor guy just got his big brother back and now he's got to do without him during the school day? The world's not always fair to a two year-old!

Boy Wonder is in a program where you stay with the same teacher for two years. This was supposed to be his second year with her, but she quit two days ago. The same second graders (his buddies from last year) were there waiting, but the room layout was different. The energy was different. He hesitated at the front of the room when he realized there were no more seats at the "boy table" and he had to sit with the girls.

I was worried for a split second that this may not be the most auspicious beginning to his second grade year.

And then, well, Boy Wonder relaxed. He sat next to the cute little girl who rode on the sled with him at the winter party last year (she jumped on his sled as it started down the hill at Kincaid and shocked all manner of on lookers...Boy Wonder's mama included!) and I realized all was right in Boy Wonder's world. The ladies loved him. The new teacher was young and just as excited to meet her new class as they were to meet their new teacher. And the boys were jealous that he had a table full of girls all to himself.

Crazy how life works out, isn't it?

I remember my first day of second grade. I had to get on a bus and drive all across the city of Austin to a school that sat in the middle of the worst neighborhood in the city. I was terrified and wanted nothing more than to have everything the way it was before.

I wore a red and black plaid dress with too-tight capped sleeves. (I cut them with my safety scissors when I got to school). I had uber short hair that stuck out at my temples, despite eight gallons of hairspray and all the saliva my mom could muster. (Gross, right? Me and mom/hair issues go way back. I've mentioned my fourth grade "mullet" stage numerous times.)

Second grade was infinite possibilities. It was the beginning of multiplication and the awesomeness of chapter books. Second grade introduced me to Nancy Drew and the Babysitters Club. It was the beginning of me, my own separate, living, breathing person who had to face my own fears and make my own friends. Despite how scared I was on that bus, second grade was a fantastic adventure.

I wonder what's waiting for my Boy Wonder?


Monday, August 8, 2011

Summer of 100 Books Comes to a Close

Woo hoo! We've made it, and with not much more than a few days to spare...Boy Wonder lands back home on Friday morning. Woooooot! (Can you tell we're thrilled around here?!)

It's been a fantastic summer at the Anchorage Library and I'm really happy Boo and I were able to keep it up, and even included McK in the fun the past few weeks.

We met some new favorite authors this summer and even re-read some old favorites that I remembered from growing up. We can't wait to get a new goal with Boy Wonder going in the next month or so...

So without further ado, here's the wrap up of our summer reading adventure.

Summer of 100 Books: Week the Last

92. Never Tease a Weasel
93. A Friend Like Ed
94. My Father Knows the Names of Things
95. The Magic Porridge Pot
96. There's a Wolf at the Door
97. Dog Tales
98. Sleep, Black Bear, Sleep
99. Dog Donovan
100. The Little Red Fish
101. Lulu, Boo, and Art You Can Do
102. Harold at the North Pole
103. Harold's ABC

Are you familiar with Harold and the Purple Crayon? They're a series by Crockett Johnson written in the 1950s and recently turned in to an HBO series a few years ago (when Boy Wonder was a toddler.) He's a kid with a great imagination, a purple crayon, and a bit of insomnia. Check out the books and the videos if you get the chance.

Happy reading and happy back to school to all our friends!


Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Curious Case of Incoherent Babbling

I love being an adult...I really do.

While marathon "Bob the Builder" stints are de-facto around here and I don't really mind, the chance to actually run a brush through the ol' mane and wipe the crusted mascara from underneath my eyes every now and then is something that gets the ol' blood flowing.

I had a chance to go to a fancy restaurant this week and talk tech. No, really. I was contacted through my food blog to perchance cover a new wine application this great business had developed, and with P's blessing, I jumped at the chance. Nay, I threw myself head first at the opportunity to put on pants with no elastic and an unstained shirt.

The only problem was that I hadn't had much time to practice my "adult conversing" skills. Most of my daytime talk includes "No!" or "Get offa that!" or "I swear to God, Boo...". When P and I get the chance to get a few sentences in undisturbed, it's usually centered around jiu jitsu or MMA and contains more than one "F bomb" or off-color remark. Not exactly the sort of small talk one makes over the top of a fancy wine glass.

That night, I was talking to one of the place's managers and he asked the innocent enough leading question "so where else do you and your husband like to eat in Anchorage?"


Visions of the occasional Happy Meal flashed before my eyes.

No, that doesn't count, does it? What about the chinese take out we get from Panda? That's a real restaurant, right? Would I sound like a moron if I waxed poetic about the delicious zinfandel I drank last month with the greasy fried rice and hunks of mystery meat?

I was stumped for about three minutes, honest. I finally remembered a joint I'd covered for the newspaper (yeah, remember that job I had FIVE years ago??) and spit it out. Too bad, I learned, it had closed last summer.

I stood, slack jawed and staring into the left corner of the tiny room while my brain searched for an eating establishment P and I enjoyed that did not feature a color-on kids menu or waiters that 't sing birthday songs off key if requested. I had nothing.

My new friend mercifully guided the subject to the only thing I'm able to converse about lately: my kids. I regaled him with tales of wrestling tournaments, first "bad" words, and endless diapers.

But I drove home with that sinking feeling: when had I turned into uber mommy who only spoke the language of the sleep-deprived and developmental milestone obsessed?

And then I got home. And the husband was happy to see me and told me all about his night at MMA. And the baby was wiggly and smelled like that pink baby lotion. And the toddler had cried without me that night, and while that's not's always nice to know when you're missed. To the point of tears. Awwwwww, right?

Lucky for me, the tribe whose language I've adopted is an adorable one. Who can argue when you're fluent in cuddly baby and precocious two year old? When you can still enthrall a seven year old? When you're husband talks shop with you and you can keep up?

Not I, my friend.

Not I.