Thursday, September 06, 2018

I'm not calling you a ghost. Just stop haunting me.

This is something that scares me to post.

Last month, Nick took this photo of me at camp.

Isn't Moose Pond spectacular?  I've taken a photo of this view myriad times with and without people in it.

So I wanted to be in a photo with that particular backdrop.

And still, when I saw the picture, my immediate response was to cringe and delete it.

I wear a bikini because it's easier to get in and out of. I learned this when I bought a shaper one-piece after I had Jordan. I got stuck in a bathroom with a wet bathing suit, struggling to pry it up or down. Two pieces are easier.

But I typically wear a sun shirt over it. For SPF rather than modesty. But I looked at this photo of me sitting down and I thought, why, why wasn't I wearing my sun shirt? Or a tee shirt or a towel? And makeup? Or better yet, my sunglasses?

Ugh. Delete.

Then I paused. Because I've recently seen some high school photos of myself. I was so young and fit, so fresh and pretty.

Do you know what I said about myself at the time? Same things I say now. Negative, critical and negative.

But look, look at me then. I was lovely.

And I do remember. I remember all my criticisms of myself at the time.

I was raised to seek external validation. But it didn't actually make me feel good about myself.

I know, looking at those photos of my youth, how bad I felt about myself then. I remember how inadequate I felt. If only I were taller. If only I were thinner. If only were prettier. If only...

The fact was, I could only starve myself so much. I could only run so many miles. I tried very hard to do more of both.

And just as with moving from place to place, you're still you with your same issues, until you deal with them. You can't run from them, you can't starve them out, and you can't move away from them.

As it turns out, you just have to work through them. And sucks for a while, and then it makes you feel better.

I can take a photo tour of myself across time. Sometimes I look pretty. Sometimes I don't. Sometimes I am beaming or laughing, genuinely delighted. And sometimes, despite a smile, I can see through the facade to profound misery.

And still, the person in those photos is never the gorgon she imagined herself to be.

My reaction to my high school photos was to wish I'd appreciated who I was and what I had when I had it.

From my current vantage point, my skin then--always too pale and freckled for my liking, and why was I so unfairly pale?--was unwrinkled, lush and beautiful. My thighs, my dread thighs, were strong and athletic, smaller than they are now, back when I imagined they were enormous.

I look at this picture of myself at camp, and my eyes go to my flaws. But let's be honest. I'll never be younger than I am now.

This body created and carried two babies, one of them almost nine pounds, to term. This body had its abdominal muscles cut, and recovered.

This body has done the Everest trek, and ridden camels, and slept on the roof of houses in the desert in Rajasthan.

This body can do push-ups, and climb, and lift an 86-pound kid, and walk over 16 miles overnight.

I work out at home regularly. My kids see me lift weights and do push-ups. I tell them how proud I am to be strong. How strength and fitness are what I'm working for.

I don't focus (out loud) on size. I shush that voice for them, and I try to quell it within myself.

I've had more and less toned abs. I've had larger and smaller thighs.Sometimes my butt is bigger and rounder and wider. Sometimes it's less so.

 Last year I ate a pint of ice cream every night and grew out of all my pants. Like, I literally could not squeeze them up past my thighs, or if I could, they weren't office-appropriate. My skirts were like sausage casings. So when I returned to the office last winter, I bought two pairs of black work pants, vowing to fit back into my wardrobe.

And I started working, really really hard, on fitting back into my clothes. It's more difficult than it used to be. Just eating well didn't do it. Just exercising hard didn't do it. I had to do both, and diligently.

Now I fit back in my clothes, and for the most part, I feel good.

As for my freckled Irish skin, well, I spent too much time without sunscreen in the Indian sun, and that's just a fact.

So back to this photo. I saw it and deleted it. And then I made myself stop and reevaluate. Not the photo. My response.

I decided I needed to change my internal narrative. Because the issue is not actually the size of this body part or that. The issue is my brain.

We swim often, and we wear bathing suits while we do so. And it's OK for me to post photos of myself in a bikini, no matter how old I might be now, no matter how much fitter I might have been back when.

My body has done some amazing things. My body is strong.

I do my best, most days. Regardless of how I look, or think I look, I am enough.

And this is my body.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Welcome to Hell*. It's time to set up your online account.

Welcome to Hell*. It's time to set up your online account.

Name:
Use your first and last name at time of death. If you're a celebrity, divorced, running from the law, a con artist, a grifter, etc., please include all aliases you used in life. (We will know; these behaviors are likely why you are here.)

Physical Characteristics:
You must list your weight, height, and hair color. Your real weight, height, and hair color.

Address:
Hell works, of course, but more creative types often use “the netherworld,” “Hades,” “H-E-double hockey-sticks,” etc. (We’re flexible, but judgmental, so choose whatever best suits you.)

Username:
Your username is the first and last name of the person with whom you had your most embarrassing  sexual encounter. If you can't remember or never knew their name, make your best guess and name a defining characteristic and/or include location. Please note that in most cases you will need to add information or numbers. Steve’sTallFriend, for example, will not cut it. This is your login name; it must be unique.

Password:
Passwords must be at least 42 characters long and must contain profanity.

Fake curse words such as darn, dang, rats, cripes, and so forth are unacceptable. You're welcome to try and use them, but they will be rejected, and you'll have to start again from the top.

Strengthen your password by choosing a compound word or epithet. You can insert an underscore or hyphen between them, which may or may not count as one of your special characters. Examples: shit_head; rat-bastard. We enjoy creativity, so don’t be shy.

You must use at least 4 special characters.

You must use at least 6 capital letters. They cannot be consecutive.

You may not use the name of a pet, street on which you lived, or loved one. We will know.

You will be penalized for including “DivineComedy” or “JeanPaulSartre” in your password. We thought they were clever, too. The first million times.

You may not use any password or variation on a password that you ever used in life.

Note: Pounding on or faceplanting into the keyboard will result in having to fill out the form again, starting from the top.

Note also: In Hell there is no recovering a forgotten username or password. If you forget, you will enter yet a new level of, well, here.

Again, welcome to Hell.

*We know The Chicago Manual of Style and the AP do not capitalize Hell. We don't care. We make the rules here.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Today I am 49

On my birthday, I like to document myself with a photo. India just took this for me.

Last night I stayed up way too late drinking wine with my dear friend Sarah, and today I see it in my tired face and bleary eyes. But she lives far away, and our families are close, and if I have learned anything, ever, it is that the people you love are the most important parts of life, and you need to take the time when it is right in front of you.

So we carped the diem but really the evening which is a word I do not know in Latin, although I think the phrase is really about the moment or the opportunity. While I am tired today, I will tell you I don't regret it one bit.

I look at birthdays as my own personal New Year's, as a time to reflect and an opportunity to reset.

I've had a big year of returning to work, and a summer of work and fun travels in which I've barely been home. At this point my list of cities includes Cartagena, Bogota, Long Beach, Duluth, Minneapolis...I need to write about so many of these adventures in particular posts.

But on my birthday, I want to talk about roots.

A couple days ago I got an email from my cousin Patti Jo. She'd been out running errands with her son Dave, who I got to meet earlier this month. They'd run into a friend of his who had a large tree tattooed on his arm, starting with the base of the trunk at his elbow and going up to his shoulder.

And Patti Jo said, "Where are the roots?"

Later that day the friend messaged her son, showing him new ink with roots going down his forearm. I said, "You gave him roots!"

And as I said that, it struck me: in our time together, she gave me roots.

The first of this month, I took my mom and India to Duluth, Minnesota.

Duluth, if you're not familiar with it, is about 150 miles north of Minneapolis. It's on the shore of Lake Superior. You may know the Gordon Lightfoot song, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, about the sinking of a ship that carried iron ore from Duluth and Superior, twin ports a bridge apart in western Lake Superior.

My Aunt Jo documented it with a painting, included here. You can also see the painting of me, and on the far right, one of my brother. He was standing next to me looking down, as I sat on the beach letting rocks trickle through my fingers, looking across Lake Superior at Aunt Jo's island.
Though growing up we went every summer, we hadn't been 1984, when my paternal grandmother died.

My cousins were older than me and we always lived far apart, and so for decades we weren't in contact.

This summer, it was time.

I texted when we arrived, and Patti Jo asked what we wanted to do. My list included: visit Grandma and Grandpa's house; eat Bridgeman's ice cream; search for agates on the shore; see Aunt Jo's marina. We wanted her to come with us for any and all activities she was up for.

So we went on a nostalgia tour. We looked through photo albums and scrapbooks. And we talked. And talked.

For a long time I relied mainly on my friend family. Growing up overseas, we had all our holiday traditions with friends. And we were distant not just in miles from my dad's family.

As someone who didn't grow up with much family, it's struck me how powerful shared memory is. There's something about the way my cousin talks, her voice and her cadence, that are so much like her mom, my Aunt Jo.

In the summers, we'd stay with Aunt Jo and Uncle Howard, who lived on a big piece of beautiful land. We'd stay on Aunt Jo's houseboat. We'd cook out on the beach, and we spent hours and hours looking for agates.

We'd find rocks we thought were agates, and we'd ask, and Jo would say, "Oh, yah, that's a snot agate!"

"What's a snot agate?"

"Snot an agate."

I don't know if humor is genetic, but I feel it is, because the Jordans are all tickled by the same kinds of things.

Patti Jo has been going through photos, compiling albums and scrapooks. This is our great grandmother Olga. I see my face in hers. If she had a sense of humor, I'm going to be I'd have liked it. It's unclear from this photo, however.
All this to say, I've spent the last years in DC creating a home for my kids, and a "from" place for them to be from. And a "from" place for me to be from as well.

I left Duluth with a greater feeling of belonging, of understanding our generations of family, of being  connected.

I felt, after so many years, rooted. And that was a gift I didn't even know I was hoping for.

Much love to all of you. Thanks for joining me as I start this big year ahead.

Friday, July 06, 2018

Priorities and such

Let me start by saying that we are in Cartagena, and it is spectacular and we have been speaking Spanish and eating delicious food and delighting in the culture and all around reveling in the Caribbean.

So you don't think I'm an utter Philistine.

Because what I really want to show you is this fabulous outfit I bought.
My super fashionable friend Leigh once told me, "I always feel that if I don’t have a touch of cartoon character in my daily wardrobe, I’m doing it wrong." She said this and I was all, yes, yes, and more yes.

I saw this outfit, and I had to try it on, because look at the tigers loitering in the jungle! It's by a Colombian designer called tr3s. I'd link to their site but all that comes up is it's under construction.

Now, I don't know if the top is a little too much for me, but I adore the stitching and the details. I also don't know quite where I can wear a dressy shorts outfit. You know?

But I would very much like to wear this with platform heels.

I love everything about it. Everything.

As Colombians say, "Divino!"

Also, this the only place in our Airbnb to take a photo into a mirror that doesn't involve standing on a toilet. So, here I am, chair standing. And please ignore the terrible humidity hair because it is possibly twice as humid as DC here which I think means approximately 7 million percent.

---
India saw this top in a children's boutique on our walk home from camp.

She peered in the window and asked if we could go in. And then she spotted this top, and she wanted it.

It was expensive for a kid's top, and I said we had to think about it.

She talked about it the next day, and the next. Could we go back? Could we buy it? Finally I said she could buy it if she were willing to spend her own money, saved from allowance, birthdays, etc.

The third day she said she was willing to spend her own money, and we bought it.

She couldn't be more delighted.

Nick likes to say she's her mother's daughter. I love her fashion sense, and I love that she gets in my closet and tries on boots she loves and cannot wait to fit them.

One day she's going to wear all my favorite things better than I do.

---
We arrived and Jordan immediately became obsessed with World Cup stickers.He has a pretty amazing backdrop for hanging out with his sticker book.

(Also, we rooted for Colombia on Tuesday, and we were crushed, crushed at the very last minute.)

Anyway, if you've not done this, you buy a book that has pages for all the teams, with spaces for each player. And then you buy packets of stickers with the players in them.

When Jordan is feeling generous, or wants to engage his sister, he offers for India to open packets for him. They can and do spend a good deal of time doing this.

These stickers are expensive, and he was willing to spend his own money on a box of stickers.

One morning last week he woke me up sobbing at 6:20 am. "Mama! Nigeria isn't stapled!"

I understand there are people in this world who are their best selves at 6:20 am. I am not among them.

I walked him out of the room and said, "Tt's OK to cry about this, but you need to cry somewhere else so you don't wake up India. Also, in the future, do not wake me up before 7:00 in the morning unless you're bleeding or the house is on fire."

The next morning he woke me up at 6:40 and said, "I know I'm not supposed to wake you up, but..."

We've been rising early is what I'm saying.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Kind of an incredibly big huge deal to me

My dear friends,

I started this year with a personal goal of getting an essay published in a publication that pays.

I've gotten rejections, which don't feel good but are to be expected.

Sometimes I wonder if I should keep blogging, because I have so many friends who used to blog, but haven't for years. I wonder if I should be making myself write and submit more essays for publication, rather than spending the time on the blog. But I like LG and it keeps me writing, and there are so many stories I tell here that nobody would be interested in publishing.

So.

One night after work a couple months ago, I was waiting for the light to change at the corner of Connecticut and Q. I checked my email  and almost stepped out into traffic.

There was a message from an editor at the On Parenting blog of the Washington Post. She liked my blog. Would I be interested in writing a piece for them?

Would I?!?

It is up today, and you can find it here.

My essay is about talking to my kids about the fact that my dad died by suicide. It is, as you might expect, deeply personal, and I'm so proud to have this piece up at the Washington Post.

Truly incredible people were willing to talk to me. They so generously shared their time and their expertise. I learned a lot that I will use with my kids, and I hope I conveyed my story and the advice  in a manner that's accessible and helpful.

If it resonates, I'd love it if you'd share.

Hugs,

Lisa