Goals

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I have a few goals for the summer.  I tried not to make too many, so as not to set myself up for failure.  My main goal this summer is to be more present.  Everyone seems to talk about the joy, peace, and fulfillment that comes from being present–my yoga teacher, the Dalai Lama, Oprah.  It sounded like a noble goal.  So I said to myself, “Self, let’s spend less time on the smartphone, and less with the obsessive email and Facebook checking.  Let us notice our surroundings.  Let us be in the moment.  Let us soak up this beautiful summer with our beautiful family.”  Apparently when I talk to myself it is in the first person plural.

Being present in the moment is not natural for me.  I live in this whole other world in my head.  Unfortunately it is not a lively, creative, inner world.  I am not like Anne of Green Gables.  I have heard the description of a woman’s mind being like a browser with  dozens of tabs open, and this is exactly how I would describe it.  An endless stream of consciousness that would bore the average person to tears.  A rushing river of pragmatic thoughts.  Picture with me, if you will, me in my pajamas this morning with a thought bubble reflecting my current inner dialogue:

My head hurts.  Why do I always get so many headaches?  Maybe it’s a brain tumor.  No, I had an MRI two years ago, they would have seen it.  I’ll just go grab some ibuprofen.  Do I have to take chicken out of the freezer for dinner?  Where’s Leah?  Has she gone over her screen time limit?  When was the last time she pooped?  Should I send that medicine to overnight camp with her so she doesn’t get backed up?  I would have to get the doctor to sign the stupid form–I don’t have time for that.  Why can’t I sign the form, for heaven’s sake?  Crap, we’re out of trash bags.  I was just at the store yesterday.  Why do I always forget one thing?  Wait–did we miss garbage day?  Oh, we’re ok, it’s delayed a day because of the holiday.  Maybe we should hire an exterminator to spray for bees.  There have been so many wasps around the pool this year.  I bet that’s not cheap.  We have to have the driveway sealed too.  Maybe I should go to yoga today to see if that helps my headache.  Wait, wasn’t I going to go grab some ibuprofen?   

You get the idea.

So being present means what, exactly?  That I flick some kind of inner switch that turns off the cacophony in my brain?   Where is that switch located?  My yoga teacher suggested that I take notice of each thought as it comes, without judgement, and just let it float away like a bubble.  So now I have this internal bubble machine cranking out rapid fire bubbles, which doesn’t really help me be to be present, but instead gives me the vague impression of a bathtub overflowing after your toddler empties out an entire bottle of Mr. Bubble.

So, here are a few real life examples of what being present looks like in my life. A few weeks ago I took the kids to church in the morning.  The hubby was out of town so it was just the three of us on a rainy, dreary Sunday morning.  When we were leaving the kids asked me to pull up the car, since it was raining and we only had one umbrella.  So I walked out to the car, plugged in my phone, quickly checked my email and messages, fired up the windshield wipers, and buckled my seat belt.  As I was pulling out of the parking lot onto the street, I thought, “Wow, the kids are pretty quiet this morning,” and stole a glance in the rearview mirror.  And…. I had forgotten my children.  Apparently I had driven right past them, while they watched in confusion as their mother abandoned them at a house of worship.  It’s OK though, because I turned around and got them.  They won’t need therapy for that, right?  It will probably help them to straighten up and fly right.

Then last week I went to yoga on the lake with my friend Mary.  She just finished yoga instructor school, so she is extremely present.  I felt the sunshine on my downward dog, and listened to the waves as they lapped gently against the dock.  I set my drishti on a beautiful, majestic tree as my bubble machine released all thoughts of trash bags and driveway sealing.  After we finished, Mary and I agreed to meet at a little cafe for an iced tea so we could catch up.  I got in my car and, lo and behold, my gas light was on.  Why don’t I ever notice that I’m low on gas until my gas light comes on?  I don’t know why.  Because I’m an oblivious airhead, apparently.  So my gas light is on, and I’m in an unfamiliar part of town, and, oh–look at that, I forgot my wallet.  Hmmm.  What a pickle I have gotten myself into, once again.  So I find a gas station nearby, hoping I can pay wth the app on my phone, but no, the gas station I found doesn’t do that.  There’s another gas station several miles away, but at this point the gas light has been on for a while and I don’t know how far I can make it.  So I drive toward the next gas station in a panicky state (which really killed my yoga buzz, by the way), praying that they will let me pay with my phone and that I won’t run out of gas on the way there.  (Don’t worry, mom, I made it and I was able to pay with my phone!). Mary sat in the cafe, patiently waiting for me, probably being extremely present as she received my anxious texts about my latest predicament.  She was not surprised, I am sure.  And after I got there, she bought me an iced tea.  Because I forgot my wallet.

So in regard to my goal of being more present, it’s going pretty well, as you can see.  Today I said to myself, “Self, perhaps we should lower our expectations about being present, and work on just keeping the car filled with gas.”

My new summer goal is to keep the car filled with gas.

P.S.-I wrote this post this morning, and then this afternoon I went to the library, and instead of discarding my snack wrapper I threw my keys in the trash. Then of course I couldn’t find my keys, so my daughter and I, along with three concerned librarians, searched high and low until I remembered that there was a big garbage can at the entrance to the library and that sometimes I throw important things away by accident.

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Screaming Into My Pillow’s comprehensive guide to comfortable pants

I think we really need to talk about something.  It is a long overdue conversation.  We need to talk about pants.  There are more serious things going on in the world, I agree. But I have a lot of feelings and thoughts about pants, and I think we need to get some of these things out in the open.

Pants.  Ah, pants.  Those belly pinching leg prisons.  Pants are not my friend.  And yet, they are so necessary for warmth, coverage, and the health of our society.  I mean, I wouldn’t want to live in a world where people walked around with no pants.  Please do not make any such inference.

But, seriously–how many of us spend the better part of our days thinking about how uncomfortable and frustrating our pants are?  Most of the time they are tight in all the wrong places, even though you thought they fit perfectly when you tried them on in the store dressing room with the flattering lights and the mirrors that made you look two sizes smaller than you really are.  Sometimes they stretch out and sag in the butt or the knees by midday, and you spend the rest of the afternoon hiking them up to avoid a plumber-bummer situation. Quite commonly, they start out feeling fine in the morning, but then by the afternoon it becomes clear that your pants either have room for your body or your lunch, but not both.

Is it me, or have dress pants become so complicated?  Some of them have a zipper, a series of buttons, and then two or three hooks over top of the buttons.  And what’s up with that clear button that you have to fasten on the inside before you move on to the outside buttons?  Is it a modern day chastity belt? Is it some kind of backup plan to hold your pants up in case the three outer hooks and two outer buttons experience some kind of equipment failure? I personally have left that particular button undone many a time and I did not suffer any noticeable consequences.  In addition to the fact that it leaves a semi-permanent button imprint on my belly, it just seems superfluous.  And it’s very labor intensive, especially if you are striving to maintain proper hydration.  I went through this really embarrassing phase where I kept leaving my fly down at work, because by the time I fastened the inside button, two outside buttons, and three hooks, I had forgotten all about the zipper.  I just felt like I was done at that point.

My current job affords me the opportunity to wear scrubs every day if I want to.  If I want to?  Well, let me think about this for a second.  I can either wear dress pants that require hemming, dry cleaning, high heeled shoes, and a 4 minute re-fastening procedure every time I go to the bathroom, or I can wear pants that are basically work pajamas.  Not a hard decision.

On the positive side, I think one of the best things that has happened to pants is the mainstreaming of the legging.  Leggings are everywhere.  They are taking over!  You can get them in colors and patterns.  You can dress them up or down.  You can wear them with a dress or a sweater or a blouse, with flats or boots or slip-on sneakers.  When I was a kid, leggings were for dance class or worn as an extra layer under your “real” pants in frigid weather.  No more!  I know some would argue from various directions that leggings aren’t pants.  These are not my people.

However, I do believe that one should follow certain guidelines in order to successfully wear LAP (leggings as pants).  If you are over the age of 13, wear a long top.  Please make sure it covers your crotch and preferably most of your booty.  I don’t have a problem with people who think they have a nice butt trying to show it off, but sometimes you just don’t really know what’s going on back there.  You can’t see what the rest of us see.  We don’t want to see your panty lines or the pattern on your underwear.  We most certainly do not want to see your camel toe.  These are relatively easy guidelines to follow, given the fact that tunics and long, flowy tops are all the rage.  Please follow them, for the sake of your fellow citizens who have to walk behind you in the grocery store.   If you are indeed going to the gym, you may disregard the guidelines about wearing a long top and covering your butt.  However, continue to avoid camel-toe at all costs.  P.S.–mom and dad, if you’re reading this, DO NOT GOOGLE camel toe.  Trust me.

While we are on the subject of the gym, let’s discuss the athleisure trend. Athleisure is a way that we can wear sweats around the town and still look presentable–super cute, even.  Your old ripped sweats with the hole in the butt from college say to the world “I just rolled out of bed because I was up all night with my vomiting child who now needs Pedialyte, so here I am in the grocery store at 6 AM.”  And by all means, if you were up with your vomiting child all night and have to go out for Pedialyte, wear those crappy sweats.  Or if you’re going to Walmart on a random Tuesday. Same/same.  In comparison, your sporty space-dye joggers and fun long sleeved hoodie with those thumbhole thingies that look adorable but are such a pain for people who wash their hands a lot say, “I can be cute AND comfortable, and now I’m going to Target.”

While athleisure is both comfortable and cute, and LAP are a huge leap forward for womankind, nothing beats pajama pants.  I like to go right from my scrubs/work pajamas to my sleep pajamas, while strategically avoiding any weeknight activities that may require me to wear anything nicer that a pair of sporty joggers.  I mean, after I have worked all day, there is no greater reward than changing into my jammies and some soft, fuzzy socks.  I get very grumpy when this reward gets delayed by things like band concerts, parent-teacher conferences, dance class, or any number of pajama pant delaying activities.

Alright, let’s talk about jeans.  Jeans have come a long way since the pair of Buffalo jeans I had in ninth grade with the leather button fly and pleats.  And thank the Lord that the low-rise trend appears to have mostly run its course.  It seems that the people who make denim have recently gotten the memo from women that we want to look like we’re wearing jeans, without feeling like we’re wearing jeans.  Because let’s face it, jeans are not very comfortable unless they’re doctored up with all kinds of stretchy fabrics.  I’m not talking about 98% cotton and 2% spandex.  If this is the best your jeans can do, they are underperforming in the comfort arena.  Especially once skinny jeans came on the scene, this sort of fabric scenario became completely inadequate.  You need to look for words on the label like elastane, modal, and sometimes even words that are completely made up but someone trademarked them to make them look legit.  A good pair of very stretchy jeggings can take you to many a social outing feeling stylish and relatively comfortable until such time that you can politely excuse yourself and sneak home to get in your pajamas.

I realize that I have just thrown a lot of information at you.   I am very invested in helping all of us be more comfortable and avoiding constrictive waistbands.  So for your convenience, I have summarized my thoughts into this helpful flowchart below.

CLICK HERE TO SEE ENLARGED IMAGE

Microsoft Word - pants infographic.docx

That is all for today.  Until next time:  Stay comfortable, my friends.

All Aboard the Hot Mess Express

I got the best mug for Christmas this year.

Normally I am staunchly opposed to the gifting of mugs, on account of the fact that my husband used to be a teacher, and the yearly influx of mugs was just overwhelming.  Mugs with snowmen on them, mugs filled with candy, insulated travel mugs, mugs reading “#1 teacher”, personalized mugs…. So. Many. Mugs. The first year when he was just starting out we happily accepted all of the mugs like the dirt-poor, just out of college, living in an apartment the size of a shoe box twenty two year olds we were.  But by his tenth year teaching?  Let’s just say, mugs made me cry.  (Just do the math—if you get an average of 6-8 mugs a year times 10 years teaching = WHERE DO I PUT ALL THE MUGS???)

But I digress.  I got this mug here from the white elephant gift exchange we had at work.

The mug reads “All Aboard the Hot Mess Express”

 

Isn’t it awesome?  I saw it and I just knew we were meant for each other.

This was one of those gift exchanges where you could either take a new present from the pile, or steal from someone else.  I stole this one from Eileen who, when I approached her and said “I will take that, thank you very much”, replied “Yeah, I figured”.

Wait, what?  She figured that I would take the “hot mess” mug?  I don’t know what that means.

Maybe she knows about that time that I went to work wearing two different high heeled boots, one black and one brown.  I mean, they looked quite similar in style, and the heel was almost the same height.  I thought I was just a little off balance from fatigue, quite honestly.  I had a three month old baby and a two year old at the time that I had to drop off at the sitter before work, so I think maybe I get a pass on this one.  I decided to deal with the faux pas by just addressing the elephant in the room right at the outset.  The whole day, I just walked into each exam room and said, “Hi! I’m Tracy, one of the nurse practitioners.  I’m wearing two different shoes today because getting dressed is hard for me.  What brings you in today?”  Also during this very fragile and sleepless time in my life I showed up at the gym (multiple times) with my shirt on either inside out, backward, or both.  Add to that the time I worked about 4 hours–a half day!– with my sweater on inside out before a medical assistant kindly said, “Hey, I’m not sure if you know this, but your sweater is inside out”.  You’re not sure if I know?  Do people wear their sweaters inside out on purpose? 

There was also a period of time about a year ago when I spent at least two weeks mismatching my pants and tops.  I had two pairs of pants in the same style, one black and one navy.  Despite the fact that I have no history of color blindness, I would get to  work and notice that I had on the navy pants instead of the black pants with my black shoes, or vice versa.  This sort of thing went on for almost two weeks, despite my efforts to carefully check the color of my pants before heading out the door.  I finally gave up and declared, “THAT’S IT!  I WILL NO LONGER WEAR PANTS.”  I wore skirts and dresses exclusively for about a month after that.  Pants can suck it.

Then there was the time I was eating an apple in my car.  It was an Empire apple.  They are so yummy, aren’t they?  New York State’s finest.  Anyhow, after eating the apple in my car, I parked and went around to a few places to do some errands.  I went to at least three places–a few quick in-and-outs at some stores, the bank, etc.  At my last stop, I was chatting with this nice lady who was helping me out at the counter.  I conversed with her for at least 3 full minutes before she said, “I just need to tell you–you have a little sticker on your chin.”  I reached my hand up to my chin and, sure enough, there was the little oval produce sticker, stuck to my chin, from the apple I ate one hour and three errands ago.  I don’t eat apples anymore.

ALSO, there was this time at work when I had to do a trach tube change on one of our medically fragile kids.  Her mom was, legitimately, a real stickler about germs, because one of the easiest places for a medically fragile kid to get sick is in a doctor’s office or a hospital (unfortunate, but true!)  So she watched everyone wash their hands and made sure everything was tip-top.  We set up the drape and got the supplies all ready, and we were just about to change the trach tube when the mom said, “What’s that on the drape?”  Strangely, a large chocolate chip, one of those oversized ones, was sitting on the drape overlying the patient’s chest.  “It looks like a chocolate chip”, said my very wise and observant physician colleague.  “That is so weird,” I said, “how did that get there?”  We all looked at one another, completely confused and befuddled at this unexplainable phenomenon, as mysterious as a crop circle.  The chocolate chip didn’t seem to be too much of an infectious threat (since it was a clean procedure, not a sterile one) so we removed it and carried on.  When we got out of the room, I confessed to the doctor that my NP colleague kept a jar of chocolate chips in our office, and almost every day after lunch I grabbed a handful from the jar as a little treat.  Well, on this particular day, I was wearing an infinity scarf.  And….well, the chocolate chip kinda sorta fell out of my scarf while we were getting everything ready.  It must have dropped into my scarf when I tossed the chocolate into my mouth, and then fell out when I was getting the supplies ready.  We died.

There is more.  Oh, so much more.  But we will have to save some stories for another day.

So, yes Eileen, I stole the mug from you for a very good reason.  I have earned it.  I am the conductor of the Hot Mess Express.  All Aboard!  Choo choo!!

 

Cupcake shame

Let me tell you a little story about my childhood.

In order to fully appreciate this story, you have to understand a little about what six year-old Tracy was like.


Six year-old Tracy was the new kid at St. Joseph’s Catholic School that year.  I had knee socks and pig-tails and really hairy legs because my dad is Indian, so I can’t help it, OK?  I was the kid whose hand would shoot up in the air immediately after the teacher asked a question, my fingers waving and twitching, my bottom halfway off the seat, levitating  from the energy of knowing the exact right answer before anyone else.  Often the teacher didn’t call on me, which was weird, because while I was waving my hand in the air I would say things like “ooh ooh ooohhh, meeeee” to let her know I would make it worth her while.  I don’t know what her problem was.  Anyhow, I also had a major sweet tooth, which has carried over into my adulthood and has also been genetically passed down to my daughter.** As an adult, I have been known to eat fudge for dinner. Being able to eat fudge for dinner has turned out to be one of the only good things about being an adult so far.

So when Jason Nelson stood up at the front of the classroom and said, “If anyone can tell me what this word spells, I will give you my cupcake”, my ears perked up.  Cupcake?  Spelling?  Two of my favorite things.  

Then he proceeded to spell the word:

A………..S…………S. *  

Never one to shy away from a challenge, I got to work sounding it out, just like the purple two-headed monster on Sesame Street taught me.  “A” made a sound like “apple”–I silently repeated the sound “a–a–a” in my head.  On to the next letter….I had to hurry!  I couldn’t let someone else win that cupcake!  It looked homemade too!  Luckily the letter “S” had recently been the letter of the day on Sesame Street, so I was well studied.  I silently made a hissing “s” sound in my head, and then quickly but efficiently started to scootch the two sounds together, sounding it out ever so carefully.

Aaaaaa………Ssssssss…….Sssssss

Aaa…..Sssss…..Ssssss

Aa….Ss….Ss

ASS!! ASS!! ASS!!  I jumped to my feet and exclaimed the word with great enthusiasm.  And the room went silent.  All eyes were on me, as I beamed from ear to ear and strutted up front to receive my cupcake.

But the temperature in the room had changed.  My classmates were staring at me, mouths agape, as I peeled the paper wrapper off the bottom of Jason Nelson’s cupcake.  It didn’t take too long to figure out that they were more shocked than awed, except I had no idea what I had done wrong.  All I knew was that I felt suddenly ashamed, which totally ruined the spontaneous spelling bee for me, not to mention putting a damper on my cupcake enjoyment.

I don’t remember how I learned the truth about my faux-pas.  And I’m sad to say it wasn’t my first experience with food shame, nor was it my last.  However, I have been able to do the psychological work necessary to push past this painful memory and boldly eat cupcakes without fear.  And sometimes I eat fudge for dinner.

 

*Where on earth were the teachers while this was happening, you ask?  It was 1981, we ate lunch in our classrooms because our school did not have a cafeteria, and there was one teacher who would make periodic rounds to all of the 1st-3rd grade classrooms while the other teachers smoked cigarettes in the teacher’s lounge, which meant that a bunch of 1st graders spent much of their 30 minute lunch unsupervised.  Ahhhh—the 80’s.  


**This is my daughter.  She inherited my sweet tooth but thankfully lives her life completely unencumbered, with ZERO cupcake shame.

Uterus on Wheels

I have a love-hate relationship with my minivan.

It’s mostly love.  Ninety percent love.  OK, eighty-five percent.  I remember being in my 20’s and scoffing at the 30- and 40-somethings around me who had embraced the minivan stage of life, and thinking, “I will NEVER be that person.  There is no way I will ever drive a minivan.  Ever”  And yet, here I am, rocking my 2011 Honda Odyssey.  Black, because that makes it look sexy.  Power doors, so that they can magically open with the light touch of a button on my key fob, fascinating and delighting my children time and time again.

My two work BFF’s and I used to have matching Honda minivans, parked side-by-side in our parking lot at work, announcing to the world our position in life without a word. My one friend coined the term “Uterus on Wheels” (UOW) when referring to her minivan, which is the most sad yet accurate description I have heard yet.  She once threatened to hang a set of truck nuts from her bumper to balance out the estrogen that seems to ooze from every crevice.  Instead she traded her UOW for a sporty little BMW.   Mid-life crisis if you ask me, and unwise at this time when storage and function simply must take precedence over vanity.

I was recently at my local Honda dealership for a service appointment, and while I was there one of the salesmen was trying to talk me into buying a new car.
“What are you driving now?”, he asked me.
“A Honda Odyssey”, I replied.
“You got kids?  Married?” he inquired, and this is where I gave him the side-eye.  I mean, does he know a lot of single gals without a partner and a gaggle of kids who drive around in minivans for giggles?

My husband was devastated when we first took the plunge into minivan-land.  We were both 32 at the time, with a 2 year-old and another on the way.  The day we picked it up and drove off the lot, he appeared humbled and ashamed, his manhood challenged.  Would he be strong enough to drive a UOW?  Could he withstand this assault on his testosterone levels?  He started calling it the “family mobile”, and I told my 2-year old that our new van was a “cool car”.  He repeated the phrase “cool car” in his cute little toddler voice which always intoned upward at the end of every phrase, so that each time he said it, it sounded like a question.  “Cool car?  Cool car?”  Allllll the way home, we rode in our cool car (?), our toddler repeating his mantra from the back seat as if to convince us both that if you say it enough, it must be true.

But my new van WAS cool, especially with my pregnant belly and a toddler in arms.   I no longer had to bend over and strain my back as I once did in my 4-door sedan to buckle my little one into his car seat.  Loading up the trunk after my weekly grocery haul was a breeze, and we had room for all the toddler and baby paraphernalia on our road trips to see family.

My kids are bigger now, but the UOW is still working overtime.  My husband has since bought a Toyota Tacoma for him to drive, likely an effort to recover his manhood.  He looks really cool in it, but guess what?  It still doesn’t haul as much stuff as my uterus.  Anytime he has to haul a big load, the uterus gets it done.  Road trips are always a job for the UOW, which easily accommodates all of the suitcases, coolers, bikes, toys, and people that we need to bring with us.  The man-mobile just can’t manage quite as much.  There may be a metaphor in there.

All that said, my UOW is not without its faults.  Her turning radius–not so good.  I had an angry man in a little compact sedan flip me off the other week when I underestimated the breadth of my turn while coming out of a school parking lot onto a narrow side street, causing him to have to hit the brakes.  Never mind that he was barreling down a side street adjacent to a school about 30 miles over the speed limit. Jerk. Move out of the way, dude–my uterus is coming at you!  Your compact sedan must yield in my wake!

Parking can be a challenge. It’s kind of like trying to wiggle into a pair of skinny jeans one size too small. On a good day if you come at it from the right angle, it’s possible.  But it’s uncomfortable, and sometimes once you get in, you can’t get out.  Then you have to open the door a tiny crack, suck in, and scootch out, praying that the person beside you won’t leave an angry note on your windshield.  And parallel parking?  Fuggeddaboutit.  Just don’t.

She’s looking a little beat up these days, my UOW.  She is bearing the scars of life with a young family.  In this way, I feel like we understand each other.  She has some exterior scratches, and the other day she had an unfortunate encounter with a deer.  She tries to be pretty, but it’s really an uphill battle for her, what with the constant stream of Goldfish crackers getting ground into her upholstery and the dead bugs freckling her front-side.  Her windows hide secret messages and pictures that can only be seen from the inside when the glass fogs up.  We could probably survive at least 2 days after an apocalypse in there between the snack remnants that have fallen between the seat cracks and the half-empty water bottles camping out in all of the cup-holders.   No one cares about washing the UOW consistently, though sometimes she is the recipient of a homespun car wash in the driveway, with kids in bathing suits who only manage to get her streaky-clean at best, and even with that her upper third goes completely untouched. I don’t think the UOW cares, nor do I, since we both know it is just a matter of time before the rain comes to wash away the soapy streaks.  She is the embodiment of functionality.  And I love her, streaks and all.

The other day, hubby said that we probably won’t need our UOW much longer, now that the kids are getting older.  He proposed getting a bigger truck for him, and downsizing my car.  “But, what about all the high-school friends I will have to shuttle to and fro?  And the family road trips?  What about college move-in days??”  He’s clearly not thinking this through all the way to the end.  We’re not ready for a vehicular hysterectomy quite yet, in my opinion.

So in the meantime, I shall drive my uterus proudly through town, racking up the miles and the memories, angering hurried men in compact sedans and inciting jeers from twenty year-olds who look upon my streaky, bug-speckled van and say, “I will never drive a minivan.”