eleven years (and a day) ago…

When you’re the second child, not only do you not have a baby book, but your mom posts your birthday tribute a day late.

Eleven years (and a day) ago, I was so very pregnant and ready to kick you out of my body. You teased me, sending me into labor in the middle of the night and then cooling your heels. But your hurry up and wait approach to birth gave time for Jaxon’s mom to drive down from Philadelphia to video your arrival, secret footage you may never want to watch.

I’m not sure how it came to be that eleven years (and a day) passed with the blink of an eye. I wish I had rocked you more and spent more time breathing in your baby scent. I wish I hadn’t been in such a working mom hurry for you to get “easier” to raise by joining your brother in meeting all the major milestones: eating solid foods, sleeping through the night, using the bathroom, playing by yourself, etc. etc. etc. I never considered that every age you’ve been was the last time I got to experience that age as a parent.

I was under the impression parenting got easier as your children grew older, but nothing could be farther from the truth. No, you can’t have a Twitter account. (Though I’m curious to read what you’d post, I’ll let you date before I grant you permission to get on social media, and that includes Instagram.) No, I can’t help with your math homework because they changed the math rules between the time I learned math and now. And I’m sorry, but the big kids get to sit in the back of the bus even if you get there first. It’s not fair now but it will be when you’re their age.

The good news is I won’t always make up the rules. When you have your own house, you can stock your shelves with Oreos, Lucky Charms, Cheetos and apple cider, which you can drink any time you want, day or night. You can stay up late and have sleepovers whenever your heart desires. I just fear that day will be upon us too fast. And before I know it, I’ll be sitting on the porch in my rocking chair, gin and tonic in hand, watching the video of your birth and wondering how that tiny, smart, funny, thoughtful baby grew up so very fast into the big, smart, funny, thoughtful man I know you’re going to be.

a match almost made in wegmans

He had me at his tagline: Internet dating: because I haven’t met the perfect woman at the grocery store. And then he proceeded to list Wegmans as one of his favorite things. Wegmans? I love Wegmans too! And not just that, but he read my favorite book of 2014. We were meant to be perfect for each other.

I reached out first, sending that bold initial message. “Oh, you’re cute and smart and funny,” he wrote back. “I’d totally make up an excuse to talk to you in the produce department if I saw you at my grocery store.” We spent a few days swapping messages through our online arbiter, moving to real life text over the weekend to arrange the plan. We had a small hiccup; our kid custody schedules are not aligned. He panicked. “Hey,” I wrote. “Let’s not put the cart before the horse. Let’s see if we like each other. Schedules can always be changed.” 

But apparently he’s the complicated type because tonight I got the text of doom. Not only did the kid schedule bother him, but the thirty miles of parkway separating his town and mine turned out to be a deal breaker. Date off.

I presume I dodged a bullet. A guy so worried about two relatively insignificant factors this early is probably not the grounded guy I’m looking for. Hell, maybe he’s married, and his wife found his online profile. That’s the thing about this whole online dating process. You don’t really know what motivates people, and not just WegmansLover (handle changed to protect the innocent) but SnugglePuppy3348, ClickHereToDate, RealMan345, WildPig10, Ready2LoveAgain too.

So back to combing through profiles I go, weeding out the guys who capitalize the word lady – make that, use the word lady. Full Stop.

true love at last

In the last 48 hours, I found my true love.

Just kidding… deep, meaningful love only happens that fast on the Bachelor.

I continue to be astonished with the so-called matches that come my way. ZipperRipper aside, let’s talk for a minute about usernames. I know it’s potentially perilous that I actually incorporated my first name in mine. But “your name + s + waiting” is not a good user name. Nor is anything paired with awesome, handsome, sexy, foxy or the number 69 (even if it is your birth year). TriGuy appears in many different iterations, leading me to believe that the majority of single men in the DC metro area are triathletes. If that’s true, when do they have time to date?

The profile photos people choose to post amuse me too. This is the first impression you’re making on someone. I guess maybe the pink cowboy hat says everything I need to know about you, as does the pirate costume. The dude wearing camo looked intense, to say the least. I made that assessment before I noticed the subsequent picture of him emerged in open water wielding an automatic weapon like he was storming a beach. To scuba_addict I ask, “why are all your pictures taken underwater?” (That’s internal dialogue. I didn’t really strike up communication.) And it’s worth repeating: if all your pictures are obviously selfies, my conclusion is you don’t have friends. At least get a tourist on the Mall to snap your shot. Or someone from the office. Your sister, perhaps? A waiter?

Abundance of dad jeans aside, I’m not totally cynical. I’ve read some interesting profiles and even reached out to a few men who caught my attention. It might sound odd that this process makes me feel vulnerable given I write a blog where I’m open about some intense experiences, but I’m trying not to take rejection personally. Just as I’m making knee jerk reactions about people, so are they about me. “I mean really, what’s with the Dr Zhivago hat?” I’m sure more than one man has said under his breath. “A Boston Red Sox fan? Pass.”

I press ahead. At worst, I have new material to write about and at best, I make a friend or two.

a match made in cyberspace

A few years ago, I tried the online dating thing for a very brief period of time. And by brief, I mean a few hours after signing up for Match, I called customer service, crying hysterically, and asked to get out of my six-month contract. I stuck with e-harmony a little longer because the limited ability to browse through profiles (or rather, have my profile browsed through) provided an added layer of protection, but I went on exactly zero dates, so I eventually canceled that contract too.

I’ve never been tempted to venture back into the cyber dating fold, but over Valentine’s dinner and the many glasses of wine that accompanied, I got talked into giving Match another try. “Come on,” my friend coaxed. “I just signed up and we can go through it together.”

I agreed to join her quest. I probably could have read a book in the amount of time I spent not only creating my own profile but going through those the love algorithms chose as my perfect pairs. And are they perfect. Perfectly wrong. For example, handle name Zipper Ripper (I’m NOT making this up) is a 94% match with me, but his profile picture looks like it belongs in the serial killer hall of fame. Pass. All sorts of photo-less guys have sent me chat requests. None of them live within a 200-mile radius. “Hey gorgeous. Let’s talk.” Um, no thanks. A self-processed “handsome catch” details he only dates women with a BMI of nineteen, max, and he’s hardcore about it because he mentions it twice, along with the caveat that “skinny girls need love.”

Hey, I get it. I’m judging too. If you wear sunglasses in every picture, I assume you’re hiding something. I don’t even click on you if your profile photo is a bathroom or car selfie. If you indicate you don’t have time to read, I don’t have time to get to know you. Good grammar is a must. Forget your thoughts on politics, kids or religion; use of emoticons is a deal-breaker. And I know it’s DC, but I’m not impressed when your photo gallery is filled with shots of you posing with famous people.

I have to admit I’m not well-versed on the etiquette of Match. Winking is too forward of an action for me to take. How do you favorite someone you’ve never met? Do people really respond to messages? I mean, I haven’t responded to any I’ve received in my eight hours of experience. How do you express interest without being creepy?

In spite of all this, I don’t yet feel the urge to call and cancel my subscription. There have to be single, wine-loving, age-appropriate book nerds out there who don’t want new babies. Now if only the cyber gods will match us up.

 

 

shop locally, make friends

I do my best to shop locally. Bookstores. Farmers Markets. Boutiques. Sure, I order some items online. Amazon does frequently save me time and money. But I like browsing. And I like people. (Mostly).

If I didn’t shop locally, I wouldn’t have met Sarah from Kiskadee or Christen from The Shoe Hive. These two wonderful women initially came into my life via outfit/shoe crises, then not long after became true friends. We share stories, laughter, and taste in footwear. And while I’m thinking of it, we are long overdue for dinner.

Last week, Sarah busted me leaving Mind the Mat (where I do my yoga teacher training) without coming in to say hi to her while she worked. I went into her store in my sweaty hot yoga gear. She sold me a pair of boots (on sale) and asked if she could profile me as one of her favorite people to dress.

I was honored.

who’s that girl: chelsea henderson

By the way, you don’t have to live in the DC Metro area to benefit from Alexandria Stylebook. This daily offering does highlight the wares of its consortium of members but also provides good style, life, and home advice.

Wherever you live and love, shop locally and make friends. It’s much more satisfying than getting a cardboard box from Amazon. And not only will some amazing people potentially come into your life, but you’ll support small business too.

old goals made new

The kids and I barely made it to midnight last night, leaving the warm house of dear friends before the ball dropped so we could get into our own pajamas and watch from the comfort of home.

“Okay, let’s go to bed now,” Jack said after the clock struck digital midnight.

“Where is the ball anyway?” Colin asked, eyes scanning images from Times Square.

I was all too happy to comply with the bedtime wish and as I tucked each boy in, I told them the same thing: I wish for us a new year filled with adventure, love and growth.

“Okay, me too,” Jack said, eyes drooping with the late hour.

“Yeah, I hope Jack hits his growth spurt,” Colin agreed as he rolled over. “I can’t wait for his voice to change.”

Adventure. Love. Growth.

Adventure. I’d like to take the boys some place that requires a passport. The Kerry Dark Sky Reserve? Safari? Greece? If going abroad doesn’t work out, there are adventures to be had domestically too. New York City awaits us in March. California and Maine always call. A big cousin reunion in Utah is long overdue. On the culinary side, maybe 2015 is the year I can get the kids to eat snails and frog legs. In the spirit of trying a new activity, I’d like to take them to the flying trapeze school for an afternoon.

Love. Love is tricky. How do I improve upon what I already have? I spent the last year feeling more present with my kids and doing the things that I love, both professionally and personally. I am fulfilled. But 2015 might be the year Jack has his first crush/girlfriend/heartbreak, and I’m going to have to figure out a way to help him through these angsty teen times without being interfering. Hopefully we make it through the year with him still wanting to hang out with me.

Growth. I have a long list. Defeat my fear of headstand. Add yoga teacher to my list of skills. Find jobs teaching yoga. Continue to write and get paid (more often) to do it. Go on a retreat, ideally writing and yoga themed. Listen more and talk less, but speak my truth when something is bothering me. I know I shouldn’t put learn a new language on the list because I’m setting myself up for failure but I’ve been feeling the draw to dust off my French books or pick up Spanish.

Some of these 2015 goals are repurposed from last year and some are intended to keep me on the path I’ve been traveling these last fifteen months. Less a set of resolutions and more a commitment to continue to take advantage of everything I hold in my hands and heart.

Happy New Year!

 

on 45

There’s nothing like Facebook to remind you it’s your birthday.

Who am I kidding? I never forget this day, nor do I let anyone else forget either. I blame my eagerness on being born in December and a lifetime of receiving Christmas cards (back when people used to do that sort of thing) that read “P.S. Happy Birthday.”

At a certain age, people dread turning older, but really, what’s the alternative? Gray hair I can handle, I mean, fix until it’s no longer graceful to do so. Fine lines add character (right?) and while my metabolism has slowed a little (okay, a lot) my energy levels haven’t. So I can’t look at food without gaining weight? I’m older, but stronger and hopefully wiser.

I started today off with a vinyasa flow class taught by one of my favorite teachers. It’s a warm day for December in the Mid Atlantic, and the sky is blue and clear. My friend Jane said I should ask for what I want today because who can say no on such a beautiful day. With that thought in mind, I’m going to make a few agent queries. The boys will be home from school soon, and we’ll eat celebratory ice cream sundaes before dinner because why not? I’ll cap off tonight with another yoga class from my other favorite teacher. After class, a nightcap with dear friends.

I plan to be up early tomorrow to embrace another day, another chance to do the things that bring me joy and surround myself with those I love.

Who needs presents?

the midlife crisis

Shifting gears, I have a story. Maybe more of a mission. But first the story.

The other day, I was catching up with a friend. He asked what I’d been up to lately, and I started to tick off my list of ventures: I started my own one-woman consulting firm, wrote two novels, and am in the middle of a yoga teacher training program.

“Oh, right,” he said. “Yoga teacher training. That’s like a respectable midlife crisis for professional women these days.”

I laughed, but then I started to think about his words. I guess when you look at it on paper, my life the last year does contain the classic symptoms of a midlife crisis. But I’ve been so happy, fulfilled and mostly grounded; I haven’t for one minute felt any sense of crisis. (Except the fives days between finding out my COBRA coverage had been terminated and when it was reinstated. But that was more emergency than crisis.)

I digress.

Hours after this coffee-yoga-midlife conversation, I started to wonder: why do we call a change in the direction of one’s life a crisis? I made a mental list of the actions I have been guilty of attributing to midlife angst and honestly, I think we have it all wrong. The man who buys a high performance sports car? Maybe he’s been driving a grocery getter for twenty years, a vehicle that fit his three kids plus all their requisite accoutrements. And now he has not only the freedom to buy a smaller car, but the income. Changing jobs? Why not explore a profession that ignites your passion instead of sticking doggedly to the one you chose in your (perhaps) misguided youth? Getting in shape? Seems like a pragmatic thing to do as one ages and the body needs more attention. Divorce? Okay, it’s sad when a couple breaks up, but maybe the marriage had been eroding for years. Maybe the couple was waiting for their children to finish college. Maybe they fell out of love.

What I’m trying to say is that while in some cases, midlife can be scary and compel people to make bold moves, in a number of instances, the crisis is an exploration of one’s untapped talent or long-held dreams. The crisis is a realization you were meant for something else. The crisis is grounded in the wisdom of age and experience. Perhaps it’s a crisis because those on the outside are uncomfortable with change. Or they wish they had the guts to do the same.

Whatever the case, I propose the midlife crisis needs a rebrand. Maybe we call it a midlife awakening or midlife exploration. In fact, screw the “midlife” modifier all together. None of us knows how long we’ll live, thus it’s impossible to designate a midlife point accurately anyway.

Yes, I started a consulting firm, wrote two novels and am on a journey toward becoming a yoga teacher. These actions reflect who I am inside and out. If I add a convertible or a young boyfriend to the mix, don’t whisper about my crises but celebrate my ability to navigate life so that I’m on the right path for me in the present moment. And I will do the same for you, no matter the make and model of car you purchase.

on rape

I never thought I’d use the word ‘rape’ in a blog title, but all other attempts to name this post rang false.

Like others, I was horrified when I read the Rolling Stone article on sexual abuse allegations at the University of Virginia. I wanted to throw up. Instead, I cried. The next day I had a conversation with my thirteen-year old son about the importance of sexual consent even though in his esteem, girls just recently stopped having cooties.

I was dismayed when it was revealed last week that the “heart” of the Rolling Stone story, the very personal account of one woman who alleged to be gang raped by seven fraternity brothers, turned out to have discrepancies. My first thought was, “here society goes again, doubting the victim.” After all, it seems perfectly understandable that time stood still for her. She blacked out on certain details. Maybe she got the night of the party wrong. Or the fraternity in question tried to save its own skin by denying a party was registered for that night. Whether she was gang raped or not, the Rolling Stone fact checkers should be fired, and whether she was gang raped or not, now few will believe her story. Lost in the fallout of shoddy journalism is that the University of Virginia was already under investigation before the story ran for alleged violations of federal laws governing how the school receives and handles sexual violence and harassment charges. Lost in the fallout is that a young woman was most likely assaulted, though we may never know how, by whom and to what extent.

Sadly she doesn’t stand alone.

How many cases go unreported because no one wants the scrutiny of recounting a horrible story? When I was in college, I was date raped, though really, what does this term mean? Does knowing your attacker make it a lesser crime? Are those who are taken by force by someone they are “dating” less traumatized? Twenty-three years later, I still remember his saying to me after as his sweaty body collapsed on top of mine: “Thank God you didn’t mean it when you said no.” In the years that followed, I questioned myself. Had I sent the wrong signal? Did I not reject his advances forcefully enough? Was it my fault for having too much to drink? For making out with him? Flirting? Was my dress too short? I tortured myself with these questions; it took me years to accept that nothing I did gave him permission to take what he took.

The point is, crimes of a sexual nature are horrific, hard to prove and more widespread than we think. Only the victim can truly speak to what happened, and yet who wants to say anything when absent a rape kit, it’s her word against his? I didn’t bear the bruises of struggle. If the police had questioned my friends, they would have delivered a very different account of what happened because in the immediate aftermath, I was embarrassed to admit the truth. Even my best friend didn’t know the full story until years later.

Offenders walk among us, and it’s a helpless feeling. It’s too late for me to accuse my attacker, but I can teach my boys how to respect others and impart on them that sex should not only be consensual, but pleasurable for their future, long time from now partners. And journalists reporting on this sensitive subject can and must do a better job at reporting full and accurate stories.

 

 

blowing in the wind

A few of you have asked for the story behind my Dr. Zhivago inspired profile photos.

Well, it was a cold and blustery day on the Jersey Shore. I had arrived the afternoon before, hair looking good and perfect outfit packed. But torrential rains delayed the photo shoot, so Chris Meck and I opted instead to eat, drink and be merry, as two almost life long friends spending a night away from their kids are apt to do.

“Tomorrow will be clear,” she promised me, refilling my glass.

As you can see, it was indeed clear outside, but the part of the forecast lost on me in our planning was the wind chill of twenty degrees. So much for my new sweater and perfectly flat ironed hair.

Featured image
Photo by Chris Meck

With both form and function in mind, we added the fur headband to both keep my temples warm and hold my hair in place.

Featured image
Photo by Chris Meck

Part of my drive was to walk away with a book jacket author blurb photo, but Chris says we can try again later. In the meantime, enjoy these photos from the sandy tundra. You’re going to be seeing them until spring.

Featured image
Photo by Chris Meck