Monday, November 28, 2011

Inspiration Monday - Zen and the art of raking leaves

The leaves came down late in the northeast this year.  Typically by Halloween the leaves are making their final stand, but by my birthday one week later, the trees are bare and the weather has shifted into a classic raw November.  (This is where you can cue the cheesy Axl Rose sway and start humming the chorus of November Rain.  I do every year.)  But this year, the weather has remained positively balmy and the leaves held on tight.  This is alright by me.

Over the weekend my parents were visiting for Thanksgiving – my favorite holiday.  I thoroughly enjoy this holiday because there is no pressure for presents or from the church I don’t belong to anymore.    All that is expected is to reflect on what goodness I have, to say thank you to the Universe, I love you and to eat and visit with family and friends. 
Sunday afternoon Sophie went to shoot hoops with Cliff and my dad.  My Mom and Katie were happily playing “Lost Kitty”, which involves my Mom “discovering’ Katie under the covers of the bed.  Katie then explains how her past owners threw her out a window and how she needs a home, and my mom adopts her.  They spend what seem to be hours chatting and grooming, and drinking endless bowls of pretend milk, ending with the two of them getting dressed for the day and Katie studiously watching my mom apply make-up, talking and chirping away. 

It was during this time, on an unseasonably warm Thanksgiving weekend, that I slipped into my backyard to quietly tackle the piles of leaves that were finally released from our grand oak trees.  I don’t mind yard work - especially when it is entered into on these rare and easy terms.  My nose wasn’t running from the cold weather, I wasn’t pressured to have-to rake because a snowstorm was on the way or I had a neighbor who was giving me the hairy eyeball from my mess of leaves.  My girls were both happy with Cliff and my parents. 
So I just raked.  I worked up a sweat.  I let my mind drift and float and wander and fly around.  I thought about past Thanksgivings, and being in high school and the tingling excitement of college friends coming back for homecoming and being together at a party – and that feeling of there being no past or future just the joy of the moment.  I thought of being in college myself and the magic of coming home and seeing friends that I sorely missed.  I thought about loved ones, who I will never see again, and the mischief we got into together and how good it feels to keep memories fresh.

As I thought about the past and allowed my thoughts to flow into the future, I found myself not worrying.   I have unfairly saddled myself with an endless list of worries and what-ifs since I have become a grown-up and a mother.  It is understandable, but a pointless use of my precious energy.  As I raked and thought about the future I had fun with the possibilities and the lofty goals I want to accomplish.  And instead of worrying that I wasn’t going to have time to do it all or the luck that I think I need, I just raked and dreamed.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Inspiration Monday - Run Sophie Run

Since September my oldest daughter Sophie has participated in an after school program called, Girls on the Run.  Their mission is “to inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experienced based curriculum which creatively integrates running.”    

 Each week, teachers led a group of fifteen third – fifth grade girls through discussions and activities designed to help build their self-esteem and connect them with a positive community of girls.  They talked about how to deal with gossiping, being left out, and ways to build self-confidence.  Along with this social piece they built in a running program -the end goal being a 5k event.  Every girl needed a partner to run with them.

 On Sunday, Sophie and I participated in the Girls on the Run 5k event together.   I followed Sophie’s lead in how to pace ourselves – and we walked most of it, with some running sprinkled in.  We listened to music, we talked a little bit, and held hands for most of the time.  Cliff and Katie were there to cheer us on, loud and proud with cowbells and a handmade sign.  For the last leg of the 5k, Katie joined Sophie and me and we crossed the finish line, all three Lazenby girls together.  It was really hard not blubbering with pride.
I am impressed by Sophie’s eight year old tenacity to be a part of a program that met twice a week for ten weeks, culminating in a 5k.  I am so grateful that my daughters have a program like this available to them.  I would have benefited from a program like Girls on the Run when I was eight. 

The other great boost the event provided was to get my butt out there again, running on a consistent, weekly basis.   I didn’t start running until last winter and when I tried it, I found it empowering to pound away, pushing myself and get sweaty and my heart pounding.   The fact is as long as I have music pumping away in my ears, I will run – and I love it.  It is simple and it makes me feel good.

So here’s to Girls on the Run, the teachers who made it happen and the girls who participated and completed this incredible program.   And here’s to pushing myself a little bit harder.

Katie looking up to her big sister.  Sophie showing off her medal.  And the sign made by Cliff, decorated by Katie.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Moms in the City - Beyond the Real Housewives of New Jersey

[This Moms in the City column was published in the Portsmouth Herald. The archive of past columns can be found here.]

When I began this column in July of 2008, I wrote about going away for the weekend. It was the first time in ages, maybe even since the girls were born, that I had actually left for days to be with friends. I came to the realization that I needed to fuse together who I was before motherhood and the woman I was becoming after the rush of toddlerhood. I knew I was putting myself back together differently than I was before — I had realistic expectations — there was no turning back into who I used to be.
I wanted to make sure I retained the essence of myself that I felt I had lost in the early years of baby raising. I felt so much more desperate then — desperate for time, space to myself, desperate to put the pieces of myself back.

At the time I first wrote the column, my girls were barely 3 and 5 and I was still potty training Katie. Sophie was just ending preschool, Katie, was just about to start. At the start of this column I had yet to shed my post-partum baby weight. This summer, I proudly rocked a bikini for the first time in years. And the truth is — it does not feel like yesterday. It does feel like two years have gone by. Think of all the mundane heaps of laundry, dishes and trips to the grocery store in two years.
Add onto that all of the triumphs and disappointments with children, a marriage, friends, family and everything in-between. A great deal happens in two years.

The good thing is — many things remain the same. Cliff and I are still the main planets that Sophie and Katie revolve around. We haven't moved or changed jobs — these are constants that I am grateful for.

I love being able to reflect on who I was struggling to be, while I was still in the throes of full-time stay-at-home parenting. It is great perspective to realize that the struggles that seemed so monumental at the time — like potty training or negotiating a Mommy and Me group are a distant memory. Maybe those early baby years were like being in high school — intense and brief where it is difficult to grasp the idea that one day soon they will be over. I don't glorify high school or taking care of babies. I wouldn't want to go back to either time in my life.

At 8 and 6, Sophie and Katie are real live people. They are smart and funny and amazingly they have the same personalities as when they were 3 and 5. Some days when I slow down I am awestruck that I have elementary school children with after-school activities, homework, and their own path of negotiating friends. It all feels so very grown-up. I go to PTA meetings , which is something my 20-something self never imagined doing. Two years later, getting away for a night out or a weekend with friends is much easier. I am back to working outside of the house for the first time in seven years, and happily I realize that I write more now than I did when I was that 20-something who couldn't imagine herself as a mother of two. Let's see what the next two years bring.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Inspiration Monday - AHS

When Lost was over last year, there was a gaping void in my television viewing landscape. I was  devoted to Lost – Cliff and I would spend hours discussing the episodes each week and I faithfully read this blog, Long Live Locke, which provided thought provoking, insightful and witty analysis of each episode  So, I have been a little down and nothing seemed to fill the space left by Sawyer, Kate and John Locke. And Desmond.  Mmmmm, Desmond… I believed in those characters - I respect the writing on Lost – it seemed as though the writers took the position that the audience was smart, and that we cared about what was happening. 

To fill the hole left by the smoke monster, Cliff and I took up watching, True Blood.   Perfectly entertaining.   I’ll keep watching it, but I am not obsessed or inspired. And then I came across…

American Horror Story.   Or more specifically, Jessica Lange as Constance on American Horror Story.   My, oh my.

I am hooked on this show – it has elements that I love in smart, escapism T.V. like great actors and dead, creepy twins, but I wait each episode just to see Jessica Lange.  She is the most brilliant, sadistic and sexy southern belle I have ever had the pleasure of watching.   I have loved her since Tootsie, but I sadly wrote her off years ago after viewing her new face in the movie, Big Fish.  I do judge great actresses when they get such obviously bad plastic surgery.  I assume that all actresses have some work done - but her face made me sad.  It was Bruce Jenner too much.   But now, with American Horror story – wow.  All is forgiven. 

Whoever writes for her is from the twisted school of Tennessee Williams meets Stephen King.  I am in love with every line that she delivers.  She steals the show – and that is saying a great deal when she is competing with the juicy likes of Dylan McDermott’s bare ass.  Have you seen?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bless this Mess

I know I run the risk that it is pathetic and potentially boring to post about the overwhelming mess that is my house.  Maybe even sadder is the fact that this domestic havoc is in the forefront of my brain and I cannot see anything else.  I feel like a domestic nincompoop because of my inadequacies in taming the papers that have mushroomed on every available surface and the grit that is pebbled all over my floors.  Everywhere I look I see visual chaos - stacks of books, clothes that need to be folded and put away, drawers that need to be emptied out and organized and pictures that need to be artfully hung.
I fear that I am one pile away from being a guest star on Hoarders.

I may be slightly exaggerating - It really isn’t that bad.  There aren’t vermin making habitrails out of piles of O magazine.  I am not clutching to cracked Christmas ornaments and baby clothes crying that someday my daughters will want that shit-stained onesie for her own child.
The party of summer is over, the mêlée of the girls successive birthdays in August and September is complete (except for Katie’s thank you notes – Arrrgh!) and the groove of school is upon us. My house is a mess.  A time-consuming, fixable mess that I resent having to clean.

I'll get to it later.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Inspiration Monday - Feelin' Fosse

Today is the debut of a weekly post for my blog - Inspiration Monday.  It will feature whatever is getting my juices flowing, or makes me dance or feel like myself.  It could be music, a book I am reading or maybe a pair of boots that make me feel like I can kick some ass.   I am inspired by the challenge of searching out and cultivating what inspires me.  Too often grown-up life can be filled with drudgery and an endless list of have-to-do's.  We all need to feel giddy and - inspired.

 Being my birthday, it is a time that I look back at where I've been and look forward to where I am going.    I have two pieces of music and performance that represent those feelings. 

The looking back is a clip of Liza Minnelli in the movie Cabaret.  There was a time that I was obsessed with all things Liza, Cabaret and anything by Bob Fosse.  Watching with song, I realized that this is still the case.  I love her dance, the song, and truth be told, I would wear that outfit everyday if I could.  We all have our comfort zone - and Liza's outfit hits it for me.  I get a zing watching it too, because I am still the girl who first discovered the magic of Liza and Fosse.

The second one comes from my friend Deb - she introduced me to this video and I cannot stop watching it.  I don't really know any other music by Bat for Lashes, but I cannot get enough of the song and the sinister vibe of this video.

What inspires you this week?