Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Everyone is the Avon Lady These Days

Let me start by saying I don't begrudge anyone wanting to supplement their income. I get the appeal of working on sales from home because it's flexible and a convenient way to make more money. But for the love of God please, friends, stop trying to sell me things. It's out of control.

Growing up my mom was pretty anti sales parties. She didn't go to Avon or Tupperware parties (those were the big things back then). I remember her being annoyed by them, and I inherited that aversion to sales parties. I decided years ago that I wouldn't go to these parties. Over the years I've felt guilted by good friends to buy something because they were having a party, but I have very rarely actually attended any kind of sales party. (I've bought from a catalog or online). I cringe at the idea of sitting in a room full of women feeling like I have to buy some makeup/jewelry/cookware that I don't actually need and won't ever use. I'll pass. 

Now with social media it's EVERYWHERE. I can't pull up Facebook without being bombarded to buy LulaRoe, Rodan & Fields, Yunique, Pampered Chef or Beach Body (which out of all of these Beach Body is the only one I'm seriously morally opposed to and would ask now to please stop trying to sell that ridiculous protein shake garbage to me). Now there's also some kid's book one I've been invited to 47 times. It's not so much the actual act of each individual friend selling but the proliferation of it. On our drive home from West Virginia yesterday I stopped counting at 40 (YES 40!) Facebook friends who are selling something from one of these companies. It's out of control. 

Here's some advice from those of us being bombarded with sales requests (or just advice from me...I don't speak for anyone else): do NOT add me to a Facebook group without asking. I will either 1) promptly remove myself or 2) feel guilty because it's a good friend, not remove myself and feel resentful every single time I receive a notification. Also if you add me without asking there is a 100 percent chance I will never buy what you're selling.

I had a friend who did a Facebook LipSense party a few months ago. I tried LipSense in Austin this spring because a friend had it, and I loved it. I had no idea where to get it. My awesome friend simply posted that she was having a party, and to message her if you wanted in the group. I did, and I have since purchased 5 or 6 tubes of LipSense. The approach - not constantly pushing it at me or making it feel like an obligation - totally worked. I have never seen this friend post about LipSense again except in the group to which I voluntarily added myself. That is the only time I've seen it done this way.

I know a lot of people I really love and admire who are selling things, but with dozens of friends selling the same things, it's constant. It's all day, every day. Also it's only something women do to one another.  A few months ago I was at dinner with friends (both male and female) and I was complaining to a female friend about how the selling is constant. The guys were baffled because men aren't constantly selling each other shit. My husband has never, ever received a request to attend a party for some random thing he doesn't need. My favorite quote was my husband's when he said, "It's like everybody is the Avon lady now." It really is. If I'm being honest I feel like Facebook has become a place for me to witness all the pyramid schemes I could imagine. I've hidden a lot of it, but it keeps popping up.These companies are sucking in more people to bombard my social media feeds.

If I want what you're selling, I'll find a way to get it. But for real it's everywhere, and it's making me even more averse to buying anything. If you're selling something I hope you're doing well. I really do. But I'd really like to stop having friends constantly post what they're selling. Can we go back to cute pictures of kids and dogs? Hell at this point I prefer political posts to sales ones. And that's saying something. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

I'll Keep This World from Draggin' me Down

I love the smell of fall: the way the cooler weather, crisp mornings and fallen leaves come together to make a beautiful potpourri. This year's heat has made the arrival of autumn later, but it's still there. As much as I love the warmth of summer, I love the crispness of fall even more. The last few years, however, this time of year reminds me of my dad. It reminds me of emerging from long days in the hospital, my eyes blinking to adjust from florescent light to the brilliant autumn sky. It reminds me of the impossible pain of standing in my closet picking out clothes for my father's funeral. It reminds me that two years ago my son was only 10 months old, barely pulling himself up at Grandma and Pap Pap's house. It reminds me that my dad didn't get to see that amazing little baby turn into a wonderful little boy.

I'm typing this at 3:32 a.m. You know...like you do. I've become a bit of an insomniac of late. My mind doesn't shut off like I need it to these days. And while I am tired during the day, it's actually not that bad. On mornings like this one when I can make myself get out of bed to do something instead of aimlessly tossing and turning I actually feel relatively productive.

About an hour ago my son woke up having peed through his bed. We let him drink too much milk at bed time. We know the culprit and haven't yet done anything to change it. I was almost back to sleep when I heard him laughing. I waited a minute and tiptoed back into his room to find him fast asleep. I do that too: laugh in my sleep. Sometimes I will wake myself up laughing. I'm reminded again that so much of parenting is nurture, and it helps alleviate the heaviness I feel this week.

I realize it's been a shit week on a much larger scale than my sadness. The nation's worst ever mass shooting, the death of a music legend. My dwelling on my sad anniversary and finding out I have a torn meniscus (I'll get back there in a second) is so small in the larger sense of the grief so many are feeling right now. I have so much for which I am thankful, but it's hard not to breathe in the autumn air and feel my chest constrict. 

I could've sworn at some point I wrote a blog titled "I Won't Back Down". Apparently I have not. Maybe it just rattled around in my head and I never actually wrote anything. I'm not a huge Tom Petty fan, but there are several songs of his that I love (that being one of them). Like my dad Petty was 66 when he died. I think of the way his family is feeling, and my heart hurts. I think of the more than 50 people who died in Las Vegas earlier this week. I hate that their families will associate the beautiful late autumn sun with the day their family members died. 

Through grief and loss my outlet has always been running. On this, the second anniversary of my father's death and a shitty week in America, I do not have my outlet. I got a call from my sports medicine doctor yesterday, and an MRI from last week shows I have a torn meniscus. Two months of PT did not do the trick, and I see an orthopedic surgeon next week. On one hand I'm happy to have an answer and ready to have a plan. On the other hand my body is full of pent up energy that is keeping me awake, pounding the keyboard at 3:44 a.m. The insomnia has definitely coincided with my inability to run. No form of low-impact exercise has been able to quiet the chaos in my mind.

I am so grateful for myriad blessings in this crazy life. I am grateful for the 38 years I got with my dad. I am grateful that in times of sadness my family deals with laughter. I am grateful to be so much like my father. I am grateful for perspective in sadness. 

This hurts my heart.
Sunday will be two years without my dad as the head of this family. In a week where so many families are wracked with grief, I hope they find laughter. I hope they find solace in the beauty of autumn. And in a world that keeps on pushing us around, I hope we all stand our ground. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

How to be One of the Boys

Earlier this week I read Amber Tamblyn's piece in the New York Times detailing her struggle in dealing with sexual harassment. It's brilliantly written and spoke to me. While I don't think of myself as a victim it's because dealing with harassment has become so commonplace that I sometimes don't even always notice it. And that is perhaps the saddest point of all.

Tamblyn's op-ed spoke to me. For the last few days I've been thinking of the myriad times in my career in which I've had to deal with inappropriate touching, comments, and uncomfortable situations. It's happened over and over again. I wish I had a manual for how to deal with it. I wish I could tell you I fought back with words every time. Neither of those things are true.

I waited tables and college and became friends with one of the male servers. Once he smacked me on the butt in the kitchen in full view of everyone else. I said, "Hey stop. Isn't that sexual harassment?" He laughed and said not if I liked it. I said I didn't, but everyone laughed. There were no consequences. 

In law school I worked at a law firm. I reported to two junior attorneys, but the managing partner loved me and would sometimes pull me aside to talk. On a regular basis as I was talking to him he would reach out and tuck my hair behind my ear. It still gives me a shudder to think of how intimate that move was. And it was done in the hallway in plain view. Should I have said something? Of course. But I was 23 years old and needed the job. Besides he hadn't really done anything, right? This is a question I would ask myself over and over and over again.

Early in my career I worked for a guy who said, "When men look at something there are three options: eat it, f*ck it, or kill it." I had a man in a position of authority who would discreetly pat me on the hip. When I reported it to someone (another man) who I trusted, I was told nobody would ever believe me.

At that moment, at the age of 25, I decided I'd deal with it differently. I'd face it with humor and laugh it off. I decided I would become one of the boys. Look - I'd be a hypocrite if I told you I didn't contribute to locker room cultures throughout the next 15 years. If I was one of the guys and tossed in the inappropriate humor and jokes it wouldn't be targeted at me. If I let it roll off my back nobody would see when things bothered me. I'm sure I offended others, and for that I'm sorry. I took the line of what was appropriate and sprinted past it all in an effort to not be part of the "problem". I didn't want to be one of these women who complain and are "too serious" and "can't take a joke".

Somewhere along the line, much more recently than I'd like to admit, I have gone in the other direction. I've hit the brakes long before the line of inappropriate, and I find myself cringing and more importantly speaking up when something is inappropriate. I've had young female friends come to me recently for advice in dealing with an inappropriate boss and asking whether to apply for a job working for someone about whom they had reservations. I had a city manager tell me last winter that I was doing a great job mentoring young female managers, and they were taking in everything I said and did. It was one of the best professional compliments I've ever received, and it's a responsibility I take seriously.

I'm nearly 40 years old, and I wish I had all the answers or the perfect response to each inappropriate quip. I told a young friend a few weeks ago that it's not something that will stop happening. Last week I was at a professional event. I had on a new dress that made me feel amazing. It wasn't revealing or inappropriate, but it was flattering. I felt good. Then I had a man shake my hand and kiss me on the cheek (something I still don't appreciate unless I know you well). Then he leaned in and whispered "God you look good. You know it too." It's not the first time this man has made inappropriate comments to me. And I'll sheepishly admit I didn't say anything because I honestly didn't know what to say. These kinds of comments throw me off my game and make me self-conscious and uncomfortable. I probably should have, as my husband suggested, told him to f*ck off. I regret that I didn't because he thinks it's okay. And I'm sure I'm not the only woman he says things like this to. Even a week later I still don't know the right response other than telling him to f*ck off. But like I told my husband I don't get to do that in a professional world where this man is someone I regularly see professionally. 

This is certainly not to say this is every man or even close to it. I hope it's a small minority, but that doesn't make the incidents less real. I have been lucky to work with so many men who respect women. They can have a woman disagree with them without it threatening their very sense of manhood. I've also surrounded myself both personally and professionally with strong women who are a resource for me. Every single one of them has an example of one of these things happening to them. It's not unique to me. And while there's no manual, we can help support one another and surround ourselves with both amazing men and women.

I've decided I no longer want to be one of the boys. I can hang for sure, and if I'm tailgating for a football game or out with friends I absolutely can throw out the most inappropriate comment. But I no longer have patience for it in the work place. Perhaps this makes me a hypocrite because I did for so long, but people are allowed to change. I've been accused of seeing the world only in black and white, and the people who see me this way have never understood me. I am well aware that the world is almost entirely grey (hence why I didn't punch a guy in the mouth last week), and it will continue to be. My grey, however, is broken up by the beautiful sunshine of the awesome women and men with whom I've surrounded myself. And that is how we will make a difference.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Am I a Hipster?

Recently I was complaining about something everyone else seems to like, and my husband said I was such a hipster. At first I was irritated, but then I wondered if he was right? I did a little research in what it means to be a hipster, and it was fascinating. Merriam-Webster defines a hipster as: "a person who is unusually aware of and interested in new and unconventional patterns". This definition does seem to oversimplify the hipster counter culture. While overall I don't think I'm really a hipster (although my sassy short haircut can be fashioned into a wicked man bun), I do often like to shun mainstream things even without necessarily understanding or having experienced them. Over the last week I've been making a list of things that are popular with the mainstream that I don't understand. 

A disclaimer: if you like these things, that's totally okay. This is not a slam on you. Reasonable people can agree to disagree. These are things that I don't understand, but it doesn't mean you can't like them. I had someone recently say that I made people mad with what I wrote in my blog because they didn't agree. I like to vehemently dislike things. It's what I do. I also love to passionately love things. We're all grown ups. We can disagree and like different things. It's okay.

Glasses, check. Man bun, check. 
And now to the things I don't understand:

  • Pumpkin spice lattes, followed by pumpkin spice anything. First I should be honest and let you know I don't like the flavor of pumpkin. Pumpkin spice lattes were charming when they first became a thing. It's one of the first signs of fall. Now I'm bombarded in the grocery store by pumpkin flavored things. It's too much. Too much.
  • Cities everyone else loves. I'm looking at you specifically San Francisco and Austin. And here in Michigan? Grand Rapids. Too shiny. They seem to...finished. They bore me.
  • Musicals. I don't understand them, and with few exceptions I don't enjoy them. I don't even like movies like Mary Poppins. I've never seen The Sound of Music. I have zero interest in it. 
  • Hamilton. It's apparently a musical (which makes me already not like it) with rapping about Alexander Hamilton. The more hype it gets the less I want to see it. This is specifically what made my husband call me a hipster. No I haven't seen it, so I could totally be wrong. But given that 1) I don't like musicals and 2) I generally think if something has this much hype it'll never live up to expectations, I think I'm all set.
  • People wearing headphones everywhere. Why do you need to wear headphones in the grocery store or while you're walking the dog? Maybe just enjoy the world around you.
  • Disney World. I hate theme parks. I hate crowds. And I hate artificial places. I've never been to Disney, and I would be thrilled if that never changes. I may acquiese if Will really wants to go once he's old enough to ask.. But if I'm spending that kind of money on vacation I don't want to spend it surrounded by so much of...America.
  • Shirts with the shoulders cut out. These are a thing. Everywhere. I don't understand why they're so in. I'm kind of baffled by it. We were at a concert a few weeks ago and nearly every woman was wearing one. I asked my husband if they were selling them in the parking lot. And again if they're that popular even if I liked one I'd refuse to wear it.
  • The t-shirt from the vacation you're on while you're on it. I'm not big on vacation t-shirts anyway, but I specifically have never understood wearing a vacay shirt while still on vacation. This also goes for shirts like our senior class shirt in high school.There was zero chance I was going to wear it to school ever, but particularly not the day after they were issued.
  • LuLaRoe leggings. I kind of don't understand this phenomenon of your friends trying to sell you stuff in general, but that's another blog entirely. I have friends who wear the shirts, skirts and dresses, and they're pretty cute. But the leggings? Please, stop. We all know how I feel about leggings in general. Last winter my friend and I took our kids to the science museum. I'm pretty sure every mom there other than us was wearing some hideously patterned legging as pants, and it was shocking. I said to her, "LuLaRoe leggings are ruining America." It's the kind of thing I imagine I'd see at Disney World.
Clearly I am in the minority of not liking the above listed popular things, but it turns out I may be kind of a hipster. Although the internet tells me hipster women generally wear leggings. Now I'm just confused.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Mirrors (and Photos!) Don't Lie

I'll be honest - I've never struggled with my weight. I was 19 years old when I got sick with Crohn's, and this disease is its own weight loss program. Before that I was really active and never stopped moving. I was told once I had the metabolism of a hummingbird. For most of my life that's basically been true. So none of what I write in this blog should be taken as my thinking I have a weight problem or that I'm fat (I know that to be objectively untrue), but for the first time in my life it's gotten harder to take off. Let me rephrase: for the first time in my life I can't just eat and drink whatever I want and expect to not gain weight. It's an adjustment.

I've always loved exercise. I remember copying my older sister and doing workout videos from the time I was 11 years old. I was a cheerleader from third grade through high school. I took tumbling classes and added running to the repertoire once I was joined the track team in 9th grade. In college I joined a gym and went to the gym at 6 am five days a week...you know, like normal college kids do. I started running half marathons eleven years ago and I've never looked back. Given that level of activity I could eat a burger or drink lots of wine and never have issues. In 2014 I spent a month in the hospital and lost 30 pounds. It was a fun mission to gain weight. That is not the case today.

I've barely run for ten months. The abscess I had last year sidelined me, and I find other forms of exercise don't burn calories the same way. Add a persistent Crohn's flare to the abscess and exercise has been a challenge. At first I wasn't gaining weight, but I noticed my body changing. My clothes were fitting differently. Now that my Crohn's will support my running I have a pretty significant knee injury that has me in physical therapy and limits what exercise I can do. It's a pain. 

Icing my knee at PT. At least I feel like an athlete.
My clothes don't fit. For real. I was preparing for a meeting this morning and tried on nearly every dress in my closet. Most of them do not fit right now. I know how to dress my body, and I've been able to creatively hide my weight gain. But I have gained about 13 pounds in the last year, and I'm at my heaviest weight. Thirteen pounds is a lot on a 5'4" frame. It's not the end of the world, but now my clothes don't fit. I love my clothes. This, my friends, is a situation.

I asked my husband for a juicer for my birthday. I've always struggled with nutrition, and my Crohn's limits the amount of fruits and vegetables I can eat. So I'm going to try to eat more healthily. Not in an annoying way, but I've got to do something if I can't work out like I want to. I've also discovered that meat has been upsetting my stomach, so I'm going to limit it a bit. I'm not giving it up entirely but just making better choices. I still want to be able to drink red wine and down pasta on the regular. Really I'm just making choices so I can still do those things.

There's seriously apple, celery and lime in this profane cup.
Running is my stress relief. Although I've been swimming and doing other forms of cross training it's just not the same, and I'm desperately rehabbing my knee in hopes that it will get better. I need to run. Not just so my pants fit but so I'm a sane person. And so I can eat more pasta.

Recently I saw someone on Facebook asking for advice on how to lose weight. I'm a smart woman. I get the formula: calories in versus calories out. It's not a secret. I'm not getting younger, and it's never going to be easier to be in shape. And while I know objectively that I'm not overweight, I'm not happy with myself. That's unacceptable. I love my curves, and I don't want to change them. But I'd like them to be a little less aggressive so I can wear my favorite pencil skirt. If that means having an apple, celery, lime juice instead of a different snack I'll do it. That pencil skirt is worth it. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Twilight

Today I turn 39 years old. According to lore (i.e. from my mom) I was born at 8:17 a.m. at the end of the hottest summer on record following months of practicing my cheerleading moves in Mom's belly. I made my debut nearly two decades ago, and I don't think I've stopped moving since.

Four years ago I wrote a blog on my 35th birthday. I didn't have all the answers then, and I sure as hell don't have them now. But in the four short years since I wrote that blog my life has been turned on its head and back again in all the best and worst ways.

I am a mom now. It's been nearly three years and I still feel the words "I'm Will's mom" gush out of my mouth like it just happened. It's the best job I've ever had. My husband and I are stronger than ever because that's what change and challenge will do to you. There has been so much joy the last few years with my family and friends. Our friend group has expanded and changed and is even more wonderful than it was four years ago. I am so grateful every day for my amazing friends. 

The last few years had a lot of change: parenthood, a new house, new jobs for both of us. It held a lot of sorrow in losing my dad and our pup Murphy. I've been hospitalized three times and had three surgeries and a blood clot. I've spent nearly two months of the last four years in the hospital, and that's crazy. When I look back at the photo I posted of myself four years ago I think wow, that woman had fewer wrinkles. She had much less to worry about. But I wouldn't change a single thing. I've earned every single one of these wrinkles.  

Wouldn't change a wrinkle.
I also ran so much and fell in love with so many new races and cities. And I got faster. I set PRs in every race distance including finally breaking two hours in the half marathon (a feat that I couldn't accomplish for years). According to my (very) quick research in four years I've run 2 marathons, 9 half marathons, 4 10ks, 19 5ks, 2 ten-milers, 1 8k and a sprint triathlon. 
Running the New York Marathon was a running dream, and the experience was made even sweeter by my awesome cheering section, my husband and two of our best friends. It inspires me to see this and know that I'll be back to running soon even if it's been a slow year.

My 2½ year old son has been to 22 states meaning that I have also been to 22 states in four years. We've been on on a cruise and spent a cold weekend in Toronto. I fell in love in Montreal, Quebec City, Portland, Oregon, Philadelphia, New York (again), Marquette, Michigan (in the winter!) and so many other places. I feel like I've lived a lifetime in four years, and what makes me so excited is knowing that while I'm in the twilight of my 30s, I'm just getting started. The extraordinary joy of this life outweighs any challenge. I have so much for which I am grateful, and I have to remind myself to express gratitude every day. Cheers to 39! May this year be even more fabulous than the 38 before it!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Parenting Post Pacifier

I love being a mom. Even in the hardest moments I find joy. I make myself find joy because I wanted this. Not only did I sign up for this, I wanted it more than anything in the world. I let Clomid ravage my body and my psyche. We went through an agonizing process of background checks, fingerprinting, classes, and waiting...the God awful waiting...to have a child (all the while teenagers can be parents without any of this. Amazing). I couldn't hear news of other pregnancies without a good cry. My heart's greatest desire was to be a mother, and it's glorious. Even in the most difficult moments on the toughest days I love it.

That doesn't mean it isn't challenging. We landed in Detroit a few weeks ago after our vacation (on a Tuesday), and I noticed my son had bitten through the end of his pacifier (or "mimi" as he calls it). This isn't the first mimi he's bitten through. My son had a collection of Wubbanub pacifiers from birth. (If you aren't familiar these are the pacifiers with a stuffed animal attached.)  The original five (elephant, dog, dinosaur, lion and monkey) lasted for two years. We lost the lion, but he bit through the others. He bit through the last of the original five, the elephant, in December. But he wasn't ready to be done with his mimi any more than we were ready, so I had a backup. His elephant also became a blankie of sorts. We cut off the actual pacifier, and he carries it around and snuggles with it. 

He bit through two more backups in the last eight months, and we were on number three on vacation. My son didn't know that I may have purchased another backup, but we didn't give it to him. On the drive home from the airport we talked about how his mimi was broken and how we weren't going to have it anymore. We cut off the end and placed it on the bookshelf in his room. 

It seemed to go almost too smoothly. The first few days were pretty easy. On Thursday my husband left for another trip, and I marveled at how easy those first few mimi-free days had been. And then came the weekend.

My son was slightly obsessed with his mimi. He had it all the time, and he used it to soothe himself incessently. If he was mad, sad, tired, etc, the mimi was his tool to calm down. With my husband out of town I quickly realized it was going to be a long weekend of learning to self soothe without his mimi. 

It was a weekend of tantrums like he'd never thrown. I quickly realized he didn't know what to do without his mimi. In his frustration he'd cry or hit me (or both). It was a trying weekend for both of us and tested my patience repeatedly.

On Monday morning I was getting my son dressed for school. He hates getting dressed, and it's a regular fight. I often have to chase him (a game he finds much more amusing than I) and then basically wrestle him into clothing. On this particular day he upped the ante, kicking and hitting me over and over as I tried unsuccessfully to put shorts on him. How are small humans so strong? I threw his shorts down and walked into the other room, taking deep breaths with tears in my eyes. I was the grown up in the room, and I had to calm down. He's a two year old.  It's not the first or last time he'd test my patience. It's kind of his job. 

We finally got dressed that morning, and when I dropped him off at school I burst into tears while talking to his teachers. The test of wills had drained me, but my overwhelming emotion was guilt. I was so frustrated and he knew it, but I should've kept my cool. It's only dressing a toddler, right? How can that drive me to tears even later in the day?

My husband returned home that night and confirmed that an alien was clearly inhabiting the body of our usually lovely child. Life after mimi was going to take some getting used to. He's a strong willed boy, and he doesn't like not having his way (I mean who does?) The difference is at two and a half he doesn't know how to express it and isn't sure how to calm himself either. Quite the conundrum.

The last week has gotten much better, and my son is finally figuring out how to manage life without his mimi. I know this is only one of so many challenges that we will face as parents, and I'm also fully aware that it's small in the scheme of things. I continually remind myself to seek joy in the face of frustration. 

I hate advice from other parents because I think so much of it is negative. When Will was a baby I was told I was "lucky" he was a good baby but that meant he'd be a "terrible" toddler. I don't know why someone would say that, but it's not true. Children aren't terrible. My son is stubborn and strong willed and cuddly and loving and hilarious. Being his mom is the greatest joy of my life, and I wouldn't change even the toughest moments. I think I'm sadder for the mimi phase to be over than my son. It's the end of a baby era, and I see him growing up. He's got his own opinions (so many!) and a fantastic personality. Getting rid of the mimi is only a step of growing up, and I look forward to every other step along the way...even the moments accompanied by tantrums. 

This face. This joy.