on being polite

Spurred by my experience at the soccer game the other day, I got to thinking about what it means to be polite.

When the now infamous swinger soccer dad took our conversation down a particular path, I should have stopped him short: “Excuse me, sir, but I’m trying to focus on my son’s game.” I could have achieved the same result by relocating my seat. I could have told him to shut the fuck up. But I didn’t do any of those things, because I didn’t want to cause a scene.

Nor did I follow my instincts last month when a particular situation made me uncomfortable; I didn’t want to offend my friend and/or her significant other by changing course. And I’ve regretted that decision.

What does all this say about my disposition? I’m not a pushover, but I don’t like to create waves. In fact, I loathe confrontation. I like to keep the peace. And I’ve been doing just that my entire life, starting with my divorced parents, continuing with feuding roommates, and still now when the moment calls for diplomacy.

But there’s a balance to be struck. We teach our kids manners. We tell them to let us know when they seen an injustice being committed. But what if calling out that injustice requires us to temporarily shelve those manners? Frankly, being polite isn’t always the best, or safest, approach. It’s not impolite to protect yourself, be it from jerks sitting in the bleachers or worse.

Does anyone think Creepy Dad is sitting at home thinking, “gosh, I was really impolite to that soccer mom the other day.” Hell, no. He’s probably charting a new course of action to try out at the next game. And I will be prepared with a strongly worded response. If he thinks I’m being rude, then so be it.




30 days

Sunday marked the “end” of my Whole 30 eating challenge. But it’s just the beginning of a new way of thinking about food.

Over the last 30 days, I eliminated dairy, gluten, wheat, sugar (including wine, excluding a moderate amount of fresh fruit) and the so-called “bad fats”. I didn’t eat beans or grains (even quinoa) and only limited types of nuts. I learned to drink my coffee with coconut milk, and I didn’t even indulge in the s’more layer birthday cake I made from scratch for Jack’s birthday. I went to happy hours and out to dinner with relative ease, sticking to water, both flat and sparkling.

“How much weight did you lose?” a few friends have asked. The rules of Whole 30 included no hitting the scales, but I checked this morning, and the answer is two pounds. Weight loss was not the point though; the benefits have been much more extensive. I have more energy because I’m sleeping better. The inflammation around my gut has decreased. My skin looks amazing. The only time I found myself ravenously hungry was when I didn’t get enough protein at the previous meal. Oddly, I really haven’t craved anything and didn’t cheat. No one ever believes me, but it’s true. When you give your body what it needs, you lose the taste for the bad stuff.

I don’t intend to sound preachy, so skeptical readers, don’t take it that way. We all have our own particular relationship with food, and mine is reward driven. “I’ve had a bad day, so I deserve this” and “I worked out today so it’s okay to indulge” are phrases that frequently swirled around my head. But I was “rewarding” myself by ingesting foods/beverages that actually don’t make me feel better. What’s up with that?

Many people wondered what my first meal would be once I’m off the plan. But with the exception of indulging in a glass of wine or a nice piece of cheese now and then, I plan to remain compliant with the Whole 30 plan. So this morning, I had the breakfast I pictured on the first day: hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, avocado.

a funny thing happened at soccer

For the first time in his eight-year soccer career, Jack plays for a travel team. Making this big league move was just short of monumental; the time and financial commitment is greater than any activity either kid has pursued to date. But so far, three games into the season, the only real difference between the travel team and the town team seems to be longer drives to games, better uniforms, and new parents to get to know.

On that note…

Before yesterday’s game started, I staked out territory on the bleachers, book in hand to entertain me until kick off (or whatever you call it in soccer). Soon after I took my seat, a dad I didn’t know walked up and sat beside me.

Stranger Dad: “Hey, whatcha reading?”

Me: “The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing.”

Stranger Dad: “How is it?”

And I knew like you know when a chatty passenger sits next to you on an airplane that no matter how good I proclaimed my book to be, I would no longer be reading it for any duration of the game.

I marked my page. We talked. The game commenced. We did that eyes on the field multitasking conversation thing sports parents are good at.

Stranger Dad: “What do you do? Hey, he’s offsides!”

Me: “I’m an aspiring writer-slash-lobbyist. Go defense!”

Our conversation proceeded like this for the first half of the game. I abandoned hope of picking my book back up at half time. The second half got underway. And then there was a shift in conversation. I’m not sure what cued him, but on a warm pre-fall day, watching our kids run up and down the field, this happened:

Stranger Dad: “Do you have any friends in an open marriage?”

Me: “Um, yeah. I do know one couple in an open marriage.”

He proceeded to ask details about their arrangement, but I’m not deeply involved in my friends’ private lives, nor would I share them with a stranger even if I were up to speed. I stammered out an answer.

Stranger Dad: “My wife and I have an open marriage.”

I’m never sure what protocol is when a complete stranger over shares. In this case, I choked out a squeaky “oh really?” as my spidey senses kicked in: this was more than chitchat. It was a proposition. He mistook my silence for interest. He explained in great detail the terms of his arrangement with his wife. She prefers not to know what he does outside the marriage, but he wants to know everything. In fact, I got to hear all about a “date” she went on recently. He leaned in close and told me that while he’s a stay at home dad, he’s the aggressor in bed.

Me: “Run, Jack! Defend the ball! Get in there, Jack!”

The game ended in a 1-1 tie and a handshake. I’m pretty sure he expected more. I collected my kids and quickly herded them into the car. I immediately checked the game schedule to see how many more games I’m likely to run into this guy. Because while I turned it into a humorous story to share at a backyard BBQ later, honestly, he made me uncomfortable. I was happy to have a new parent to talk to when the topic of conversation bounced between living in New England, raising boys, and the unpredictable DC weather. But he pushed the bar, and I’m not exactly sure why. Was it how I was dressed? Because I was alone? Did he misinterpret my friendliness for flirtation? Or is he just an aggressive asshole? All I know is instead of being excited that my son is a starting defender who played all game, I’m focused on ways to deflect unwanted attention from this creepy dad.

And that really sucks.

the mother of the teen

Last night I went to bed as regular old me and this morning I woke up the mother of a teenage son.
It’s hard to believe that the little baby who cried his way into the world 13 years ago, the baby whose every move I fascinated over, chronicled, and photographed is now old enough to, well, pout alone in his room and know absolutely everything there is to know.
When Jack was an infant, I checked and double-checked Dr. Spock to see what skills, milestones, immunizations to expect. Then at some point, I stopped looking and just enjoyed each stage of his life for what it was.
Now is when I kind of want a manual. (When) will he get moody? (When) will he despise my presence? (When) will he argue with me just for the sake of having a different perspective? Acne? Body hair? Growth spurt? The voice change? Physical changes I can see and register but as he stretches his wings into adulthood, I have no basis for what to expect other than what I’ve heard from parents who have endured the same.
I guess he’s in that crazy stage of development where anything can happen at any time. For now I will relish every moment he doesn’t sulk at the dinner table, talk back or get embarrassed by being out in public with me. I mean really, the kid still has a few baby teeth, so hopefully we have time; he’s such an enjoyable kid. Funny, thoughtful, engaging, curious. And my challenge as a parent is to make sure he retains all those wonderful qualities for the period of time I have left to influence him. And of course to do that without his noticing.


bendy, stretchy, zen

I’m not the most flexible person I know. Not even close. I can touch my toes but can I do a split? Gimme a break. Too many years of running and not stretching before or after have left a legacy of tight hips and hamstrings. Not to mention the whole lower back problem.

I can’t do a handstand without the assistance of a wall. Forearm stand is not in my practice either. In fact, I don’t particularly like dolphin pose or any posture that requires me to be on my forearms because it causes pain in my outer wrists.

I’m getting better at arm balances, headstand, standing balance poses, etc. but my level of success really depends on the day. Some days I can float from one-legged pose to one-legged pose to one-legged pose without a bobble and others I’m a wildly swaying tree. I’ve taken my fair share of tumbles on the mat.

But yoga is not about how many hard poses you can do or not do. It’s not about getting it “right” each time, which is maybe why I love it so much. Living in a city and working in a profession that thrives on picking on the carcass of failure, it’s refreshing to have a sanctuary on the yoga mat, even if the physical aspect of yoga is really just a small part of the overall practice.

At the beginning of each yoga class, I set an intention and it’s usually a variation on a theme. Be playful, open-minded, graceful. Don’t be afraid. Just try. I don’t check these intentions at the door when class is over, but carry them with me long after the mat is rolled up and put away.
All of this is a long-winded way of telling you that this weekend I started a six-month, 200-hour yoga teacher training course at Mind the Mat. After two days I’m exhausted but also exhilarated and eager to get back to class today. I credit yoga with leading me to writing, my dharma, and while I don’t know where the next six months will take me, I feel a sense of purpose and fulfillment in setting off on this journey.


remembering 9-11

The anniversary of 9-11 snuck up on me this year. (“What? It’s September?”) For once, I did not spend the days leading up to today obsessively re-watching documentaries and/or raw footage taken from that day.

But the tears flow just the same.

They say time heals all wounds but nothing will ever lessen the imprint 9-11 left on me. I mean, I wrote a novel that ends in its aftermath as a way to channel the emotion I feel about this tragic day in our nation’s history.

Sadly, threats still loom, larger and scarier than ever. Infamous terrorist leaders fall, but each dethroning, capture or murder seems to multiple the number of ground troops hell bent on inflicting harm on our country and its people. I’m glad I don’t have any level of security clearance because honestly, I don’t want to know the extent to which I should be scared. All I know is, as I hugged my son in the kitchen this morning, muttering something about how he was with me that day, 9-11, four days before his birth, I remembered how thirteen years ago, amid the fear and confusion, he gave me hope. Just as he does today.