My family has been isolating here in DC since March 12th.

I’m grateful that we’re healthy and able to live our social-distance lives without some of the more serious stresses being experienced by the poor, the disenfranchised, the service workers, the health care workers and the first responders.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember it’s not a competition. We can all put our suffering in perspective on a scale from near death to absolute luxury, but it doesn’t change the fact that each of us are suffering.

Yeah, yeah, first world problems and all that, but shaming folks for feeling lousy about their own personal circumstances doesn’t actually DO anything productive. Except possibly let the shame-er (is that a word?) do a little virtue signaling and feel self-righteous about their social awareness.

In my privileged, bougie life during Week 1 of isolation I did the following:

  • Stared at the bedroom ceiling in paralyzing grief. I do not recommend this as an alternative to sleeping.
    • The grief was and is a combination of the empathy over the struggles my clients are experiencing, my own loss of clients & income from March – September 2020, and the anticipation of what this world event means to a whole generation of young people.
  • Had 1-2 glasses of wine every single evening while telling my husband this is an absolutely acceptable coping mechanism for both of us.
  • Took 4 naps. This may not be a big deal for others but I haven’t napped since the first trimester I was pregnant with my daughter 22 years ago. Since I am not pregnant I’m going to file the napping under depressed escapism.
  • Spent 68% more time reading news on my devices (yes multiple) according to those highly annoying reports they give you each week.
  • Read 7 magazines on the library app Libby.
  • Took a long walk every day with the kid to notice flowers, cute dogs, and interesting architecture.
  • Purchased Fellowship of the Ring movie (extended version)
  • Read good two novels, abandoned one mediocre book.
  • Took turns sharing my office with my husband so we could each make phone & video calls in privacy.
  • Baked bread.

Week 2 had a bit more structure

  • Decided to give away coaching to anyone who needs it (pay-what-you-can). Because being of use to others is more important than money right now.
  • Stared at the computer screen for several scheduled hours a day NOT writing the book I’m working on.
  • Flipped through 3 cooking magazines on the library app.
  • Reached out to clients, family & friends to see how everyone is doing.
  • Read one good novel and abandoned 4 more that the library recommended but were too uninspired to continue.
  • Baked some more bread.
  • Started to do yoga in the mornings with the kid (who is herself adapting to college online)
  • Downloaded three self-help books from the library and started plotting out my much needed self-improvement.
  • Purchased Two Towers movie (extended version)
  • Removed my essentials and gave my husband my office as he is on video calls nonstop at this point. The dining room table is now work-from-home central for both me and the college student.
  • Started converting my professional development workshops and trainings to Webinar format. I’ve resisted this for years for a variety of reasons but that’s another blog post.
  • Scheduled some video appointments with my therapist (Yay me!)

Now we are heading into Week 3 and I am setting my intentions in the hope it will keep me accountable. In week 3 I will:

  1. Write at least 250 words a day. A modest and therefore achievable goal.
  2. Bake the biscotti I have been craving and not judge myself for eating it with my mid-morning coffee.
  3. Create a daily schedule EVERY DAY! and then use it. Several days in the last few weeks are a complete blur which is disturbing.
  4. Do 30 minutes of yoga or other exercise.
  5. Finish the really good book I discovered so I can start the next book in the series.
  6. Resist the urge to check NYT, WaPo, BBC, Reuters, Twitter and FB every hour. Yes resist is a loose goal because I don’t know what my tolerance for this is yet.
  7. Practice using loving kindness when the urge to judge or give in to outrage overwhelms me. Especially when indulging in #5 above.
  8. Find one good thing every day to reflect on before I (hopefully) sleep.
  9. Take melatonin every night because the majority opinion is that its not addictive and what can possibly be bad about being addicted to getting full 6 hours of sleep anyway?
  10. And finally, – maybe I should make this #1? – I will forgive myself if I do not execute on any of my intentions for Week 3.

I hope you and yours are healthy and treating yourself with gentleness.

Hit me up if you want a video chat or need some coaching. That is a serious offer.

an isolated beach in Spain
A beautiful, isolated beach visited last year

 

 

 

 

There are some milestones in life where there is an expectation that we engage in a little self-reflection. Big moments like the birth of a child, or the death of a parent, and small moments that mark the passing of time like school graduations, the new year and birthdays.

Time spent reflecting is never wasted in my book. Usually when I reflect, I write.  I write for my clients, for the “book-in-progress” that remains in-progress, and for this blog.

Since June 2017, for a variety of reasons, I have become increasing reluctant to push the publish button on my blog.

In honor of my birthday today I am giving myself permission to publicly reflect on my last trip (or two) around the sun.

13 Things I’ve Done (most with Mr. Man by my side):

  1. Sold a house
  2. Moved three times – in two years – to two different cities
  3. Downsized three times (So! Much! Stuff!)
  4. Sent a daughter off to college
  5. Changed jobs twice
  6. Lived apart from Mr. Man for extended stretches of time
  7. Put down one of our cats
  8. Gave away almost all of my house plants
  9. Buried my childhood friend
  10. Reconnected with some friends from the past
  11. Welcomed a new cat to our family
  12. Made some new pals
  13. Met a whole lot of people from other parts of the US

6 Things Learned while Reflecting on 13 Things I’ve Done:

  1. Needing people doesn’t make me needy, it makes me human. Wanting connection and community isn’t a flaw, or evidence of weakness, it’s part of who I am as an extrovert. Being upfront about asking for help & friendship falls into that “big learning” category, but without friends, family, acquaintances and even strangers I’m not sure I could have managed all the transitions.  So an extra thanks to all the folks who loved, helped and/or put up with me over the last few years.
  2. I discovered I have a unique set of skills that makes me good at what I do. I’ve always downplayed any “uniqueness” because I thought – wrongly it turns out – that a) if I could do it anyone can, and b) people doing my kind of work are a dime a dozen so nothing makes me particularly special. Let’s file that under “wrong-headed things I believed for the last 10 years” and leave it at that.
  3. Humidity makes me crabby. I think I knew this in theory but living in a sub-tropical climate really brought it home.
  4. I get depressed if I have to work in an office without a window. This is now officially a deal breaker for any future work offer. After 7 months of 8 – 10 hour days with no window, part of that during the short winter months,  I was flabbergasted at how quickly my mood improved with daily sunlight. Never again.
  5. While I still love phone calls, letters and cards, I discovered you can actually maintain long-distance friendships through text, messenger and SnapChat and still feel connected when you see each other in person.
  6. I can endure a lot of change and discomfort but it takes strenuous attention and determination to learn from it. A friend shared a meme recently that said “I just want some experiences that don’t make me stronger!” Yeah, I can get behind that.

So from a distance, looking back at my trips around the sun, I wouldn’t actually change much about the past two years because they got me here.

And I like here.

Here has my favorite things because when you winnow and winnow and downsize and donate you end up with just your favorite things.

Here has Mr. Man and being in the same city and time zone as your partner is a big perk.

Here has a great deal of potential for me to do even more of the work that I love and that is double plus good.

And finally, here is the place where I will commit to writing and sharing my thoughts during this next trip around the sun because I remembered that it helps me think and it makes me happy.

Many happy returns of the day to me!

birthday wishes

Today is my 20th wedding anniversary.

Mr. Man and I are apart this year because he’s attending a leadership program at Harvard Business School (yay!) and I’m preparing our house & life for our move to Montgomery, Alabama in one week (yikes!).

It’s actually better this way because I haven’t yet settled on an appropriate gift. For whatever reason I am bad at remembering dates and coming up with good gifts. It’s a flaw. Or maybe each relationship only has room for one person to be good at that stuff.

Anyway as I was trolling for gifts I came across some really idealized representations of love & marriage that got me to thinking.

Back in the 70’s there was a super popular comic strip call “Love is…” that featured naked, cherub-like adults and cute quotes like “Love is… giving him a lick of your ice cream.” There was no escaping the cuteness. They were in the newspaper, in books, on coffee mugs, t-shirts, posters, greeting cards, sheets and towels.  A modern version of the strip still runs with updated quotes like “Love is… not letting technology interrupt your leisure time.”

I have some quotes drawn from the last 14 months of my life that I’d like to see in a new “It’s gettin real up in here” series.

Love is…

  • ….taking the phone call even though you know it’s bad news.
  • ….living apart for 6 months so one of you can take their dream job.
  • … holding your friends hand in the ICU.
  • … putting your pet down when they can no longer enjoy their life.
  • … helping your child take a leap into adulthood.
  • … knowing a couple of bad days doesn’t make a bad life.
  • … when you keep on keepin’ on.

The 70’s also gave us the book & movie “Love Story” which sold everyone the nonsense that “Love means never having to say you’re sorry”.

Wrong.

Love means, among other things, saying you’re sorry, and trying harder, and knowing when to let it slide and when to call BS. And mostly, love means not giving up on love because love really is the raison d’etre.

“What would you say if I asked to have my boyfriend sleep over?”

My daughter and her friend asked for my reaction because the friend had just convinced her parents to allow her boyfriend of several years spend the night. The argument was two fold:  first that anything they were doing, they were already doing without spending the night and second, it would be nice to just fall asleep together after hanging out rather than one of them going home at 2:00 in the morning.

The request was actually to sleep rather than a euphemism for sex.

My first reaction was “Well that a perfectly logical request and I see your point.” Not allowing them to sleep together restricts a perfectly benign level of intimacy. My second thought was “Yeah, but do I want to be that parent?”

We are extremely permissive with our daughter and have been since she was about 12 and was clearly capable of making choices against our wishes and without our knowledge. It started because all her friends lied about their ages and got facebook pages before they were legally (or parentally) allowed. We told her (and continue to tell her) our perspective and wishes on her decisions, and said we know that we have zero ability to “make her” do anything.

So we trust.

She has no restrictions on where she goes, who she goes with or when she returns, but we ask her to be safe, make smart choices, and tell us where she is and who she is with. Trust but worry.

We lucked out. She isn’t a party girl, likes to go to bed before midnight and considers waking at 8 am sleeping in. She’s never violated our trust so why did I hesitate when she asked the “sleeping together” question?

As I discussed with her and her friend – she insisted it was a purely hypothetical question and she wasn’t really asking – it came down to my feeling of vague discomfort. What would condoning that level of intimacy say about me and my husband as parents?

I’m not sure either of the girls perceived it as the intimacy that “sleeping together” signals to me. Their interest was in the practical aspect of not having to drive or be driven home late at night after hanging out by the fire pit or watching movies.

Later when I relayed the conversation to my husband he had an immediate “Absolutely not” reaction, followed by his pointing out that it wasn’t just our decision the boyfriend’s parents would have a say as well.

It’s weird because my daughter and her friends are all 18 years old at this point and a legally “adultish.” Meaning they can buy cigarettes, enlist in the army, get a tattoo and a whole slew of previously age-restricted things, but we still feel funny about this mature concept of “sleeping together.”

There is no defined age for maturity that I can see. Some people are able to be on their own at 16 and others can’t be trusted to water the plants at 27. But whether or not my daughter or her friends are mature enough to have boyfriend/girlfriend sleep overs is only partially relevant.

What makes it such a tough question is a combination of societal expectations and our personal comfort level acknowledging our children as sexual beings.

I don’t know what the response would be if this wasn’t hypothetical and our daughter was really asking for our permission. I can’t imagine saying no to this request if/when she visits from college with a boyfriend in tow, so what’s different now?

Still thinking. Comments welcome.

I have a terrible weakness for good news. Other peoples success, accomplishments, and surprises are an instant empathy shot of endorphins and I’m genuinely happy and excited for them.

Unfortunately this doesn’t extend to my own surprises. I’m especially bad at surprises. I have a 7-second delay (like for profanity at the Oscars) that it takes for my brain communicate surprise = “good” so I can react properly.

This means I will never be a Woo Girl.

I’ve had friends over the years who were Woo girls. Woo girls are always fun, guys buy them drinks, and hang around them on the dance floor.

It’s rare that I’ve personally been moved to spontaneously “Woo” in public. I can distinctly remember the following: once at a Stones concert, my friend’s kids graduation from a stuffy private school that frowned on verbal displays, and the last Michael Franti concert I attended. There may have been others.

My lovely, super-upbeat Jazzercise instructor uses “Woos” as an energy feed back loop while she’s teaching and always says “Can I get a Woo?!”  I would love to help her out but I think I would need a six hour dance marathon with alcohol and no choreography before I could oblige.

A few weeks ago, I think my husband was hoping for “Woo” when he sprung on me a very lovely and incredibly thoughtful, romantic surprise. Instead of shrieks, screams, or woos, he got the 7-second delay Poker Face. Notice I didn’t say “Bitch Face” (see Bias, Gender.)

But, after twenty-two years together, he knows my reactions and didn’t seem fazed. He knowingly married this Poker Face.

So after the fact this is my version of a public Woo to my thoughtful, handsome, wicked smart husband who continues to surprise me with the depth of his love for me and our daughter.

Hey Mr. Man, my inner Woo Girl has her hands in the air.

amuse

When my husband and I decided to have a baby reactions to my pregnancy usually included a story or some bit of advice. A horrific three-day labor without drugs, a sister-in-law/cousin/friend who barely made it to the hospital in time, or how once I met the baby I would want to be a stay at home mom. And so on.

One reaction I never understood was the malicious and gleeful recounting of the many ways that “your life will never be the same”: no more going out to shows, no more hanging out with friends, no more fun of any kind. No more tablecloths – this was from my mother-in-law and I still don’t know why she said it.

I distinctly remember one of my sister-in-laws cackling while she said, “Now you’re gonna see what its like!” Why yes, yes I will.

I think people forget that “life as you know it” is over all the time. Yeah adding a human to your life is a big change but so is graduating HS, changing jobs, moving out, breaking up. Burying folks close to you. It’s just life.

The really secret part of parenting that no one tells you about because it would result in a rapid population decline, is that you actually have no control. Zero.

Once they leave your body you suspect – but it takes a while to believe – that you can’t actually protect your child or keep them safe.  Safety is an illusion perpetuated by parenting books and the advertising industry. Parents cling to this illusion as long as they can, sometimes through the pre-teen years.

Car seats and helmets, rules and regulations, pesticide-free organic foods are all ways to try to impact that which (you think) is under your control. Actions to help soothe the “am I a good enough parent” panic that gets you by the throat every now and again. Foundational actions that, like calcium for building strong bones, you hope will pay off in the long run.

The truth is, baring outright neglect and abuse, you can’t stop life from happening to your kid no matter how much you might try. You can’t cushion the blows, or keep your kid from being buffeted, or hurt. There is nothing you can do to prevent the fights with friends, the breakups, or the disappointments. The best you can do is patch them up when it’s over and toss them back in the game.

Maybe not literally. My daughter is still furious that I made her get back in the game after she got popped in the mouth with a softball. It was a chipped tooth and a little blood on the shirt I didn’t think it was that big of a deal but she clearly did.

My husband and I knew we didn’t have real control when the kid was 12 and wanted a FaceBook page. You’re supposed to be thirteen to have a FaceBook but “all her friends” lied about their age to get one. We told her we would prefer she not sign up until she was 13, but that we knew we couldn’t stop her from signing up without our permission. She didn’t.

The Honor System takes the place of outlet covers and baby gates.

On the opposite end it soon becomes clear that you can’t make them do anything once they are cognizant and mobile. We want the kid to get good grades, we expect the kid get good grades, but all the consequences in the world are not going to make the kid study or write a decent essay. And you just have to hope that when they leave the house in the morning they are not ducking into a friends house and changing into a burqa.

The honor system, trust and believing they are smart enough to make their own decisions are the meager tools left in our parenting box.

Intrinsic motivation is in the teenager driver seat. Parents are just along for the ride. Harder than 2 am feedings, toilet training or letting them walk without holding your hand, it is damn hard to not be a back seat driver.

No one tells you that part.

Parenting-styles-diagram

Over dinner the other night we had one of those twisty turny conversations that kept us at the table an hour longer than it took to eat our food. During a discussion at school a bunch of my daughters classmates argued that there is no such thing as depression. It’s all in your head.

My daughter and her friends were furious. They know people personally who suffer from depression and know its no joke. In re-playing the argument for us the kid started rattling off statistics and data about how we know that depression is genetic, and when you stigmatize people they wont get help and it all gets worse.

All true unfortunately.

I asked if the teacher corrected the students when they were expressing opinions that were false and she said no, the teacher said she doesn’t want to push her opinions on anyone during discussions.

I have a problem with this kind of thinking. Correcting a FACT that someone has wrong is not “pushing your opinion.” Facts are objective and verifiable, opinions often judge facts, therefore opinions can sometimes change.

Beliefs are different. No evidence required for a belief which makes it inarguable. And this is exactly what makes it inadmissible as any part of a logical argument or defense of an opinion.

And then there’s bullshit, which is just prejudice hiding behind beliefs put forth as “my opinion.” People arguing from belief often try to say the facts are false and usually close with “we’ll have to agree to disagree.”

If I could wave a magic wand I would make deductive logic part of every K-12 curriculum in the US. And part of teacher training while we’re at it. I blame the creationists and the Koch Bros., but that’s a whole other discussion.

Anyway. We started digging into various social stigmas from the past like having acne, left-handedness or being Irish. Unfortunately it takes a couple of generations to reduce stigmas in society at large. There are still lots of stigmas in US society: mental illness, poverty, disability, abortion, HIV-AIDS, and of course obesity. I’m sure I missed a few.

It’s somewhat less common now for people to use words like “retard” and “fag” as pejoratives but few would hesitate to call someone fat. Or “fat bitch” – those two seem to just go together don’t they? Like peanut butter and jelly.

When we finally had to stop the conversation because homework was waiting, the kid was quite impressive tying together depression, stigma, gender bias, body image and the evils of Reddit in her closing remarks. I’m sure that wasn’t the final word on these topics.

Our talk reminded me of a book from the 1970’s that I once owned and foolishly lent out “Fat is a Feminist Issue”. And one recommended by a very thin friend that I read recently “Two Whole Cakes.”

Unfortunately being fat is something you can’t hide like mental illness, your abortion or your HIV status. It’s all out there and its an easy target. Fat is one stigma we will not overcome anytime soon. That statement is both a fact and an opinion.

images

 

 

 

 

 

 

This weekend I had to tell my husband that I don’t like James Brown. We decided to go to a movie the other night and he proposed the bio-pic “Get On Up” and I said something along the lines of “You can go to that one by yourself!”

It’s not like I was hiding the fact that I didn’t like James Brown, the topic just hadn’t come up in the 20 years we’ve been together. He was shocked.

Funk is one constant in the fluid musical landscape of my life. A thread that connects everyone from Sly to P-Funk, to Gap Band to Cameo and Prince. But the Godfather of Soul never did it for me.

Usually my husband and I share many of the same eclectic musical tastes diverging around the likes of Kraftwerk (him) and The Roaches (me). And up to the James Brown reveal we only had one other serious musical bone of contention – I can’t stand to listen to Bob Dylan.

I love Bob Dylan songs as long as someone else is singing them, I just can’t listen to Dylan sing more than three songs in a row. After the third song his signature sing-song whine sounds absurd and I start to laugh.

My family very kindly listens to Dylan albums when I am out of the house, for which I am grateful. I don’t want to ruin their enjoyment just because I can’t appreciate the vocal stylings of “the poet laureate of rock and roll.”

After “Get On Up” was proposed the other night I countered with “The Hundred Foot Journey.” This got me a counter offer of “X-Men” or “Guardians of the Galaxy”.  All three of us want to see “Boyhood”, but since the kid had other plans we opted for the popcorn movie.

I’m usually a big fan of sci-fi, action hero, gratuitous, stylized violence in the name of conquering evil but this story was unnecessarily complex as well as trite and unbelievable even in the world of sci-fi fantasy, so it was a dud. My husband tolerates some sci-fi for me but isn’t a big fan, so by the end of the movie he was both bored and irritated.

I used the opportunity to equated his complaints about futuristic, gobbledygook (Nebula, tool of the evil Kree Ronan!) with my lack of appreciation for Dylan. It’s just a matter of taste.

Here’s a song (and a Band) we both agree on musically. And a great movie too.

images

 

Been thinking a lot about obligations lately. What you owe to colleagues, family, friends, society – why and how the calculations are made. Fortunately, when I get caught in a very sticky problem I have a hierarchy of defense mechanisms that kick in:

  • Invariably I start by talking it out. Haven’t met a problem yet I couldn’t talk to death.
  • If/when rigor mortis fails to set in (some problems are zombies),  I start researching. Surely someone somewhere has done a meta analysis of all the research and possible solutions. Which I can then adopt.
  • If the problem refuses to yield to the sheer weight of expert opinion, I then try to translate it into a formula in the hopes of discovering rules. The formula stage is usually evidence that the problem is either long-term or I truly have no clue.

Currently, I’m working on a formula for “Obligations”.

Everyone has some version of the “me & mine” mindset that would kick in during times of natural disaster, revolution, or Armageddon, but other assorted obligations shift and change over time.

Some of these obligations are steel cables from the past, subterranean and invisible until some event pulls them taut. And that is the formula I can’t quite work out. How much does the past obligate me in the present?

I have managed to climb very far from where I started in life. Some family & friends who were there with me have not. Calls from that past come more infrequently now but the steel cable of obligation reels me in so quickly its staggering.

Some twisted sense of survivors guilt, plus my mother’s catholic (guilt) training, makes saying no almost an impossibility.  Someone else always has it worse. Your success means you share and help.

Thankfully my long-suffering and understanding husband has a more realistic perspective that keeps me from going into debt to float people as I have in the past.

It’s hard to be on either end of that cable.

I usually have an image  or song at the end of my posts, and I was tempted to put a photo of Richard Harris from his famous scene in “A Man Called Horse”, but that’s a bit dark even for me. So instead I leave you with 3 minutes and 30 seconds bittersweet by an under appreciated and brilliant artist you should check out if this is the only song of his you are familiar with.

bittersweetpic2
As bittersweet vines grow, they will tend to strangle whatever they are climbing on. It is extremely aggressive, often growing sixty feet or more in a single season, and spreads rapidly from any bit of root or stem severed from the plant so removal by pulling is nearly impossible. All parts of the plant are considered poisonous.

 

Being  a homeowner is one of the most overrated experiences I can think of. Part of the great American Scam to buy buy buy. Because what else do you do once you’ve bought a home but start the Sisyphean task of fixing all the broken bits on what is now your former “dream house?” That means contractors if you have the money, or Home Depot if you are like the rest of us unfortunates.

My husband and I posses very few of the actual skills necessary for DIY other than the ability to read directions and the hubris to think “How hard can it be?

That “How hard can it be?” is the banana peel under the heel of good intentions. It’s why, even though I rail at the previous DIY owners of our house for their ineptitude and cheapness, I don’t curse them to a fiery hell.

I can’t remember why we fell in love with this house but we did and here we are. Nine years of fun – props to Mr. Man for figuring out the grout on YouTube last weekend – means endless blog fodder.

For instance, discovering that they didn’t bother to insulate the side porch turned into half-bath led to an amusing incident with burst pipes our first winter in the house. Trying to hang a fruit basket in the kitchen led to the entertaining discovery that plaster walls had been replaced with paneling! Over studs! Without insulation! Hahahahahah.

Our latest droll episode was discovering that the reason why we don’t have enough hot water for three people to shower comfortably is not that the water heater is worn-out, but that it’s actually apartment rather than house size.

In their defense the previous owners probably chose the cheapest water heater at Home Depot. Unfortunately, size does matter in this case. The water heater replacement will be a relatively easy, and cheap, fix that will improve our lives immediately.

Meanwhile, until we replace the water heater Mr. Lee “Scratch ” Perry will be playing in my head while I shower.

homeRepair_lead-thumb-290xauto-380601

I woke up humming the chorus from a song my Dad used to sing when he was happy – “Honeycomb won’t you be my baby, Honeycomb be my gal” – an old Jimmie Rogers tune. What I remember of my dad’s musical taste consists of Tennessee “Ernie” Ford, Boots Randolph, and a lot of Henry Mancini.

I inherited some of my parents albums when they got rid of the giant record player console that dominated their living room for years. Before everything was ironic, I saved from the scrap heap  a Reader’s Digest Montovani boxed set, John Phillips Sousa’s Collected Marches, and the classic 1970’s albums Hi God and Hi God II.

Currently, music in our house is dominated by vinyl. A full circle from the first generation iPod that sits like a white brick in the bag of “someday soon I will recycle all these broken electronics”.

Albums never left our living room even when the record player no longer worked. Since being replaced by a fancy new record player more than a year ago, the albums progressively took over the bookcases and the floor until my husband made some judicious choices about what could be rotated out and stored in his office.

Then my daughter started buying albums.

Her eclectic taste in music is encouraged, expanded and indulged by her father who likes nothing better than spending an afternoon record shopping. Her taste for funk and 90’s club music she gets from me. The regrettable attachment to Bob Dylan is solely her fathers doing.

All joking aside, they share a passion for music in many forms and genres.  And they share equally strong opinions about the merits of various albums – “London Calling is better, obvi” – which makes for a very different definition of  “Dad music.” Which speaks to the truth of a tumblr I follow Dad’s Are The Original Hipsters.

Plus, I never have to change the album.

5917Check out the screaming girls in this Jimmie Rodgers clip.

My husband and I have a mixed marriage when it comes to our attitudes about our books.

I tend to only want to buy new books when I have already read it and want to own it, its a favorite author, or my daughter asks for it.

My husband will buy a new book at the drop of a hat. He takes risks on authors he’s heard of in passing, or based on reviews, or even browsing. I have a hard time buying a completely unknown book unless its used.  I don’t begrudge a penny spent on any book, new or used, I’m just pointing our the difference in our acquisition habits.

Now I’ve discovered we have differing views and habits about the library as well.

When I was a kid summer was all about riding my bike to the library and checking out the maximum number of books at once and reading until my vision went blurry. A particular childhood bliss impossible to recapture.

I racked up a lot of fines in those days with little money to pay them. I remember getting my sister to check out books for me when my card was blocked and then ultimately, I am ashamed to admit, posing as my twin and getting a second library card. My card used my childhood nickname, “Amy”, so I got a new one posing as my sister “Amanda”. I probably still owe on some of those books.

Even though our house is overflowing with books, both purchased and from the library, my husband and I rarely read the same ones. We recommend authors to each other which are regularly, if politely, ignored.

For example he will read biographies, which don’t hold my interest beyond the photos. I can only remember finishing two so far, “The Life of Johnson” (assigned) and Diane Rehm’s “Finding my Voice” (don’t remember why).

So while he can’t quite get into Octavia Butler or Plato, I have yet to enjoy Melville.

Currently, on his recommendation, I’m reading (and enjoying) the Nick Hornby book Ten Years in the Tub: A Decade of Soaking in Great Books. There is quote that nicely sums up the underpinnings of our booky household for all three of us –

“All the books we own, both read and unread, are the fullest expression of self we have at our disposal … With each passing year, and with each whimsical purchase, our libraries become more and more able to articulate who we are, whether we read the books or not.”

We are our books and our books are us. 17707873

What brought the mixed marriage of our “book personalities” into sharp focus for me was an argument we had recently about library books. The Hornby book I mentioned is from the library. He checked it out, finished reading it, and now I am reading it.

And then it came due before I was finished. I told him to renew it, but he wanted to return it in case someone else is waiting for it.

Now that I can renew with the click of my phone app, as opposed to the old in-person system of my misspent youth, I regularly renew books up to the five renewal limit if I am still using them. And then I pay the fee if they are late.

I think of it as rental. Five cents a day is worth every penny for me to finish a book I haven’t yet decided to buy.

Mr. Man’s attitude is that the due date is a social compact with the library, so you should return your materials. He thinks I’m wrong to see the fees as rental. I say I’m helping the library buy more books with my fines. I see no harm in my practice. Which makes him indignant.

I confess this may be a case for a higher moral authority. Does Judge John Hodgman make house calls? Can he be objective about this kind of mixed marriage? Maybe the Head Librarian of the Library of Congress can weigh in?

Meanwhile, I think I’ll pay my library fines before they freeze my card…

Old books

My daughter asked the other day if I thought that being a mom was a big sacrifice because you have to do everything for your kid. I said I didn’t because I never felt “selfless”  and didn’t considered having a child to be the ultimate accomplishment of my life.

She was a bit insulted by that information.

My daughter (along with my husband) is one of the most important and interesting parts of my life. But she is not my whole life. Nor am I hers.

I’ve never been comfortable with the idea of my identity being tied to being a Mom. Not because I have anything against my child or actual parenting, but because the tradition of dismissing other relevant information about a woman once her mother status is revealed is disturbing.

Membership in the Mom Club is automatic and accompanied by a million rules. It seems to be a Club full of clichés, assumptions and ideals designed to highlight my inadequacies. For instance, I am not a crafty Mom. I didn’t make my own baby food, knit things, or do kitchen science experiments.

Nor was I the fun Mom. I didn’t make blanket forts, pack the van full of kids for sledding or throw fabulous birthday parties. Ditto for Sports Mom and Classroom-Volunteer-Mom-that-all-the-teachers-adore. And I certainly didn’t qualify for Doing-whatever-it-takes-Mom, being lucky enough to enjoy a decent income and husband who co-parents.

I’m not sure what prompted my daughter’s question about the self-sacrifice involved in parenting.  To my mind, it’s not a sacrifice if it’s what you want to be doing. Anything I gave up I chose to give up. We chose to have a child and I chose to work full-time rather than stay home. I hope every member of this club enjoys the same choices.

Good days, better days and all the tough ones in between add up to living your life as a parent. Although I am now fifteen years in, I may never reach advanced membership in the Mom Club.

And I wouldn’t change a thing.

mom_club_pinback_buttons-r9a05bb2c67a04bb2a692439bcc5b0cfd_x7j3i_8byvr_324

We bought a couch the other day. My husband and I went to a furniture store and left after we had purchased a couch rather than before. It’s not as if we had never shopped for a couch before, this was just the first time we made it to the buying.

We had a marginally acceptable apartment size couch we got off Craigslist for $50 as a temporary fix when we found ourselves without a couch.  A stop-gap until we could buy a “real couch” by which I mean a couch that more than two people could sit on at one time.

That was nine years ago.

The couch was upholstered in an unfortunate shade of electric blue by someone with intermediate rather than expert skills, so the cushion didn’t fit properly and the upholstery tacks were the wrong size & style. No matter I am a wiz at slipcovers so I made it work. Then the slipcover started tearing because the material had worn thin. Yes it was the same slipcover for nine years. So I made do with a twin sheet over the cushion, and it was still serviceable.

Anyone who is or has been married knows compromise is the name of the game. For nine years my husband and I could not compromise and agree on a couch. Style, cost, color, size, fabric – there was no middle ground. When we went shopping this last time we had reached the same impasse when suddenly we found something that looked nice (my requirement), felt comfy (his requirement), had enough space for us both to read on, (mutual requirement), and it was on deep discount sale.

When we agreed this was the one, my husband grabbed the saleslady and purchased it immediately before either of us could change our minds. Magically, when it arrived we had not deceived ourselves and it was everything we had wanted. Most importantly the style fit the rest of the house so I didn’t have a domino of “now I have to upgrade the …”.

Like I said – A Very Big Deal.

Maybe now we are ready to pick out a china pattern. The stop-gap for that (17 years ago) was plain white plates…

couch

I was rummaging around in envelopes of old photos when I came across one of me ironing when I was a child. I am three or four years old, in the kitchen, happily ironing the quilt my grandmother made for my Mrs Beasley doll. I distinctly remember getting this ironing board and iron for Christmas.

Normally, a photo of me performing this gendered work would have only registered as cute and ironic given the fact that my husband now does this chore for both of us.

Instead I had an epiphany about value. Staring, and staring at the triptych of images I could see how the seeds of both my feminism and self-sabotage were planted with that child-size electric iron.

At a lecture I recently attended the presenter talked about how women are taught their value. As children girls are usually praised and complimented for learning tasks or completing chores, while boys are generally paid. This system is roughly Men work for money and Women work for love.

She gave examples of babysitters who when asked what their rate is, reply “pay me what ever you think is fair.” These examples where from her personal experience in the last several years, not the distant past. She went on to point out how leaving payment up to the client teaches them (and you) that you have no value.

This is something I carefully coached my daughter about when she started babysitting so she would state her rates upfront. I even helped her figure out how to inform clients that she had an increased rate now that she is in High School. I am helping her learn her value.

Unfortunately, as I stared at those pictures of me ironing I realized I had failed to do the same for myself in my coaching business.  I set my rate but immediately discounted it because of the need to rapidly accumulate hours for my accreditation. I finished my certification but have yet to enforce my rates. I was horrified to realize this.

I am now determined to not only set and keep to my rate because what I do has tremendous value to my clients, but I am also going to establish standing days and hours for appointments. Not that I won’t be accommodating, but I need to set clear boundaries. For myself.

Because I know what I am worth.

Amanda ironing 1968_1 Amanda ironing 1968_2 Amanda ironing 1968_3