When moms need a playdate – and can’t ever coordinate their schedules

margaritasIf you ever want to get a sense for how busy women (particularly moms) are, try and plan a gathering.

Here’s a quick summary of what happened when I tried to launch a casual, monthly lunchtime book group in Ann Arbor: on the first day we were scheduled to meet, the city declared a snow day, so many of us suddenly found ourselves housebound with kiddos; the night before our second meeting, Lily was up vomiting all night, so I postponed in order to nurse her back to health the next day; and after re-scheduling, all except one woman had work meetings, a sick kid, or was sick herself.

So is it any wonder that – for many of us now in the throes of parenting young kids – close, fulfilling friendships feel like a luxury of youth that we can no longer afford?

This is why, when reading a New York Times article titled, “Friends of a Certain Age: Why is it Hard to Make Friends Over 30?” I was nodding my head a lot.

“As external conditions change,” wrote Alex Williams, “it becomes tougher to meet the three conditions that sociologists since the 1950s have considered crucial to making close friends: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other, said Rebecca G. Adams, a professor of sociology and gerontology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. This is why so many people meet their lifelong friends in college, she added.”

Indeed. So where does that leave us? Isolated and stressed.

And while I’d hardly describe myself as a “go getter,” I will say this: when I can’t find something I want – like, in this case, a regular gathering of smart, funny, empathetic women – I often do what I can to create it; and when others make this same kind of effort, I respond. Continue reading

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Making peace with the egg: Accepting my postpartum, post-40 body

rippedpantsA few weeks ago, I had a “wardrobe malfunction” – but it was way, WAY less sexy than the infamous Janet Jackson Super Bowl nip slip.

No, my clothing mishap involved a pair of body-hugging capri pants that pre-dated my first pregnancy.

You see where this is going, don’t you?

Yes, when flopping down into my chair at work one morning, I felt the pants’ seam strain – maybe even rip a little. But I happened to also be wearing a long, lightweight cardigan that day, so I thought, “Well, even if there’s a small tear, I’m covered. And maybe I can fix it.”

But then, later in the day, after going to get a carryout meal for a friend recovering from back surgery, I heard (and felt) a more decisive rip occur up my backside as I climbed into my Fiesta.

Oops. (Thank God for that cardigan, because I still had the meal to drop off, and I also wanted to chat a bit with my housebound friend. Which I did.)

Upon arriving home, I lifted the cardigan and looked over my shoulder at my dresser mirror, assessing the damage: my underwear was visible in a straight line down my backside.

So I took off the pants, wadded them up, and threw them in the trash.

And that was it.

No tears, no gnashing of teeth, no dark night of the soul, no impulsive pronouncements of dieting. Just acceptance that I no longer have exactly the same body I did before I had children, and before I turned 40. Continue reading

How this shlubby, un-athletic kid ended up being a runner

I earned this finishers' medal at the Dexter-Ann Arbor 10 K this past weekend. Yay!

I earned this finishers’ medal at the Dexter-Ann Arbor 10 K this past weekend. Yay!

The other day, I thought about why I run – while running, of course – and my thoughts splintered off in myriad directions.

Initially, this frustrated me. Why couldn’t I define running’s pull on me more definitively? There’s a good reason for this, though: my reasons for running, and what I get out of it, have evolved and changed in the same way that I have over the course of 42 years of life.

My first brush with running came in fifth grade – a hard year for me. I sprouted large breasts I didn’t want; began menstruating (and had no idea what the brown stain in my underwear was or meant); had acne on my back; stank from body odor; had no friends, and thus wandered the playground alone at recess; and while I my school shuttled me to a “gifted” program once a week, what I really wanted was to be athletic, despite being painfully uncoordinated and slow. Though everyone seems to remember being picked last for teams in gym class, I really was – and I couldn’t even blame my classmates. They didn’t want to lose.

Neither did I, of course. And I tried my hardest, whatever the sport. But whether the game of the moment was softball, kickball, relays, dodgeball or basketball, I sucked.

Then my gym teacher announced a program with a hopelessly square title: Run for Fun and Fitness. With each mile you ran on your own, outside of school, she’d place a small sticker dot next to your name – which was on a long, green-and-white printout list of students, taped on the gym’s cinder block wall.

At that age, I loved visual symbols of achievement (I was that girl who earned 10 badges during my one year of Girl Scouts). They helped counter my lack of self-esteem in every area but academics. And besides, I told myself, unlike the gym class games that invited my classmates to despise me even more, because I failed to perform at a certain level, running was something I could do by myself. I wouldn’t let anyone down, no matter how slow I was.

So, at my request, my father measured out a half mile marker from our house that I could jog to, and then run back. Though my pace could be categorized as “plodding,” I ritualistically stopped at that halfway mark to catch my breath, and I even stopped once between that point and home, too. So I struggled. This was not something that was going to come easily. (It still doesn’t, after all these years and miles logged.)

But not being scrutinized by my peers, or even adults, while I clumsily ventured into running freed me. I got to experience an endorphin rush (though I couldn’t identify it), and feel kind of athletic and virtuous (albeit temporarily). Though all the other things happening to my body made me feel powerless, running made me feel strong. Continue reading

Run, Mommy, run! Exercising (and drawing stares) through pregnancy

Maintaining my regular running regimen – which ideally involves going on 2.5 to 4 mile runs a few times a week – since having Lily has been challenging enough; but since becoming pregnant, it’s become damn near impossible. (Shoving a bunch of doctor’s appointments and tests and screenings into already-overstuffed days? Please.) But I’m trying my best.

It was much easier the first time around, of course. While pregnant with Lily, I “ran” quite regularly until 10 days before my due date, adapting as my belly grew so that by the end, I alternated stretches of slow jogging with walking. 

And during that first running-while-pregnant experience, the responses of those around me varied widely. There was the woman who stood in her yard and drily asked me, “Are you trying to induce yourself?”

And there were naturally lots of double-takes and stares at the gym when I ran on the treadmill. (I got the distinct impression that the employees were secretly terrified that I’d spontaneously give birth during their shift.)

But then, there was also the woman who, while I stretched with Joe after a gym workout one evening, approached to say that she and her husband were thinking about having a child; but because she’d previously been quite heavy in the past, she was nervous about putting a lot of weight back on during and after pregnancy. Continue reading

Field notes and follow-ups

* Joe and I took Lily to see “Tangled” this past weekend at the nearby, second-run theater, and the basic premise, of course, involves a witch stealing Rapunzel as a baby from her parents (who are the land’s king and queen). In the movie version, the beloved king and queen, as well as their subjects, release glowing lanterns that float up into the sky each year on the girl’s birthday, in hopes that she will return. By Rapunzel’s 18th birthday, after being shut up in a high tower her whole life, she ventures out to see this ceremony in person; and simultaneously, we see the king and queen briefly behind-the-scenes, just before they step outside to release a lantern once again.

It’s probably about 30 seconds of film, and involves the father looking inconsolably sad, while the mother touches his cheek in comfort. And at this point, I completely fell apart, quietly crying while Lily sat attentively on my lap.

This throwaway little scene that would have passed me right by a few years ago. But the difference, I’m sure, is that while I would have empathy for these characters before, and would have vaguely imagined what the loss of a child might feel like, Lily makes these kind of scenes powerfully concrete rather than merely abstract. There’s not a blank, faceless child in my mind; it’s Lily’s face, and cry, and laugh, and smile, and voice. The thought of her, and the very specifics that make her who she is, being suddenly taken away is too devastating to even imagine. 

Hence my turning into a weepy mom during a Disney movie – despite the fact that in the past, I established a reputation for being pretty stony while watching movies and plays. (The phrase “dead inside” has surfaced more than once.) But apparently, my falling head over heels in love with this little girl has endowed me with a new Achille’s heel. Continue reading