Trip or Vacation?

It’s almost the end of summer and we’re at the beach for our second week of the summer. Daniel starts first grade in two weeks, and I’m at a loss for where the summer went.

It’s been a good week…mostly. We’ve had good weather except for yesterday, allowing us to visit the aquarium. Awesome fish, yet Daniel was mostly interested in the gift shop. We’ve had good food although it has been takeout because we don’t feel like battling the crowds, waiting, noise etc.  I was bitten again by noseeums, and my left arm and feet look like I have some flesh-eating disease. And today we dealt with the surliest 6-year-old; you’d think it was torture being at the beach.

Have you read the HuffPo post on Vacation or Trip? That pretty much sums it up.

But the view isn’t bad and it could be worse: we could be at work!


The Memoir

I found out today that someone I met and befriended our freshman year of college and was friends with for several years later is publishing a memoir. A memoir that begins with her arrival at our college.

Uh oh.

Her story is realizing she was attending a college not right for her, meeting THE BOY, becoming pregnant, and marrying this boy. Some really bad things happened along the way, including a hysterectomy after the birth of her second child and that child’s death from surgery to correct a heart defect a year later. The point of the book is her descent into darkness, bitterness and despair and how she pulled herself out of it.

There is a lot more involved in that story as there always is. I’m curious how she tells her story. What – and who – she leaves out. There were some not-so-great things that she did to me during freshman year and especially the period before my wedding, which happened at a critical point in her story (she was a bridesmaid). She wasn’t in a good place then. She wasn’t a good person then. I was probably less sensitive and empathetic than I could have been.

She and I ended our friendship in 2001 but reconnected on Facebook (of course) a decade later. I forgave her. She forgave me. We apologized. We aren’t friends again, per se, but we share memories and friends.

I realize that she is telling her story, and in telling a story, you whittle and shape it into its tightest, most concise form. I can’t decide what bothers me more: will I be included? Did I make the cut? Did I matter at all in her story? Or will all of the peripheral details, people and ugliness be left out? Putting words to the page crafts a version of reality. Can my memories compete against her written story? Or are they defeated and negated?

It’s her memoir after all.

ETA: we downloaded the book, and I’m halfway through. Thankfully, this was a lot of sturm and drang for nothing. She spends about half a page on college and moves on. Other events were not mentioned at all, and it was fine.  It is a compelling story, and she is a good writer. 

Forgive me my freak out over it, but it is truly a weird feeling when someone you know pens a memoir!

Here’s the link: The Journey of the Black Heart

#MicroblogMondays: You Never Can Tell


Several years ago – I don’t even remember when exactly – I planted bulbs for spring. The following spring, a few came up, bloomed once or twice, and then died off thanks to the over-zealous squirrels who think our yard belongs to them.  In subsequent springs, we would often have one or two bulbs that would shoot up and tease us, but never bloom and finally wither.

That was the case this year too.  We had an impressive-looking shoot that was a lovely green but no hint of any flower to come just as the year before and the year before that. When we were packing the car for the beach two weeks ago, I commented that I wondered if it would ever bloom. Jimmy said he didn’t think so, and we shrugged and left for the beach.

And we returned from the beach to find this:

Blooming flowersWe were so surprised! And of course it had to bloom while we were gone, but we were still able to enjoy it for another week.  I don’t know what made the difference this year. I know sometimes bulbs can take a while to flower. We have received a lot of rain this year too, but I don’t know if that contributed. All I know is that I had written off this plant, and it proved me wrong.

Politics of the Swimsuit

This morning, a 2014 piece by Jessica Turner titled Moms, Put On that Swimsuit, came across my FB feed. 

Turner’s message to mothers is good and necessary: put away your vanity and body issues & play with your kids at the beach or pool.

No quibbles there. 

My issue with the piece came when Turner started to help women – mothers only – accept their less-than-perfect bodies because the “imperfections” like a soft, stretched belly and larger thighs are the leftover evidence of pregnancy and childbirth.

Ouch. I hate articles like that because they fail to acknowledge the experience of women who build their families without the physical acts of pregnancy or childbirth. So even though I am a mother, my extra pounds are just fat? I have no justification for it according to Turner.

I’m probably reading way too much into her piece and allowing my own history to influence my reaction, but it is difficult in a society in which conversations about motherhood are dominated by the physical parts.

And what about non-mothers? The child-free? Are they supposed to have perfect bodies since they weren’t ravaged by pregnancy and childbirth?

How about we change the piece to this:

Dear women, you are beautiful and wonderful the way you are. You wear whatever you want at the beach or pool because you are a human being with dignity and deserve to be at the beach or pool regardless of appearance, parental status, income, marital status, sexual orientation or gender identity. You are a human being and that is what matters.

We are much anticipating leaving for our first beach vacation of the summer next weekend. It’s been a long time since I was a size 6 18-year-old who prided herself on being close to model height and weight. I weigh more than I’d like and dread seeing family and friends who knew me when – and I have no excuse for it other than food and age. But I will be rocking my Land’s End tankini with the skirt bottom and I think I will look pretty damn cute! I’ll still be the palest person on the beach, but that’s OK. I’ll slather on copious amounts of sunscreen and build sandcastles with Daniel and play in the water.

A Mishmash of Thoughts Around Mama, Mommy, Motherhood and Blogging

Last Monday I stumbled across Elissa Strauss’ Longreads piece titled “The Rise of ‘Mama.'” An entire 4000-word piece on a term that is very common in the South? Sign me up! I call my mother “mama.”  Mommy is too childish and “mom” seemed too harsh to me. I called my father “daddy” too.

Strauss’ piece is about how many women on their blogs and other sites starting in the 90s prefer to use “mama” for lifestyle reasons and to reflect the kind of mother they plan to be:

…I noticed a number of alternative moms who referred to themselves as “mama.” This was the radical homemaking, attachment parenting, extended breastfeeding bunch, and “mama” was right at home with their folksy, back-to-the-earth approach to motherhood.

Mothers prefer “mama” over “mommy” because it connects them to the past and has connections with “mama bear.” It is also helps them avoid cliches around motherhood. How many times have you been referred to as Kid’s Mom or subtly condescended to with “Mommy ____,” insert your own hot button term. Mommy blogging. Mommy politics. Soccer mom. Mommy tracked. Helicoptor mom. Strauss points out that “mommy” has become a term that replaces a woman’s individual identity and name.

All of this is very interesting and true I suspect, but I thought the strongest part of Strauss’ piece was the last third when she delves into feminism and how it has influenced current mother practices and behavior.

Notes Strauss:

It’s not an understatement to say that feminists completely struck out when it comes to getting communal protections for mothers; we are one of three countries in the world without a universal maternity leave policy, and we also fall very short when it comes to making sure that all working families have access to safe and affordable childcare. Yet, this doesn’t mean we as a culture don’t place much emphasis parenting, because we do—it’s just all on the parents, and it’s driving them many of them nuts.


While our mothers juggled their role in the workplace and parenting, often favoring the workplace, we strive to do both and overcompensate with our children. I love that Strauss also ties the pressure to have a drug-free birth, breastfeed and practice attachment parenting to this.

There’s also a link between the stalled gender revolution—we’ve seen a rise of stay-at-home mothers in recent years, going from 23% of mothers in 1999 to 29% in 2012—and the idealization of motherhood. The bigger, and more important, a job we make motherhood, the harder it is going to be for those women who have the financial choice to go the office to do so. Especially as long as our work culture remains so inhospitable to parents with young children. If it is the “most important job in the world” (mothering) vs. some office job where one constantly feels both undervalued and a nuisance because she made the decision to have children, who, if money is not a factor, would choose the office job?

This is not meant to be a knock on anyone who believes in and practices attachment parenting, stays at home, or preferred to breastfeed.  It is about the increasing pressure to do all of this and I’ve felt that in some ways, the rise and promotion of many of these practices are meant to keep women divided so that workplace and societal changes never make progress.

But all the while we are still without real choices. So at what point does this mama pride become, consciously or not, a way to accommodate the fact that mothers still don’t have equal access to economic, political and cultural life?


Dooce announced a few weeks ago she was going to stop blogging which I thought was a nice footnote to Strauss’ piece.  Dooce was proclaimed “Queen of the Mommy Bloggers” and helped kick off moms sharing their lives online – the good, the bad and the ugly – what has been referred to as a radical act.

What does it mean that Dooce is shuttering her blog and moving on to other opportunities?  Is it the beginning of the end for “mommy blogging,” that hated pejorative? Just this week, two of my blog friends have announced they are going to quit blogging. They have both blogged for years. Are we facing a mass exodus?

i don’t think so. I think the allure of blogging, the sharing, is what will keep it going. Though derided my many, mothers blogging enables them to connect to a wider world and has provided so much companionship and recognition that you are not alone for mothers around the world. That “me too” epiphany is powerful and not easily done away with.

Maybe Dooce’s exit is for the best. Maybe it will end the “mommy blog” perception and allow a smaller spotlight on the practice so that the bloggers can return to the true point of blogging: catharsis and connection.

Dooce also pointed out that the increase in other social media channels – twitter and its ilk – had changed blogging.  Yes it has. It has increased the number of platforms involved to cultivate community. And that’s hard. We have all talked about how hard it is to have a conversation when some is on the blog, some on FB, and some on twitter. But that’s not going to change. Mommy blogging has reached the point in which its long-time practitioners can remember the “good ol’ days” and long for them wistfully. Change happens even in this sphere.


Yesterday I finished Selfish, Shallow and Self-Absorbed, a book of essays by prominent writers about their childless-by-choice lives.  Strange reading choice perhaps? Maybe I wanted to see how the other half lives. It was a good book, and I enjoyed all the essays. I was especially curious to read Lionel Shriver’s because I read We Need to Talk About Kevin late last year, and it disturbed me. It was supposed to disturb me, but I also felt like Shriver got a lot wrong because she does not have children. Perhaps that is presumptuous of me but when one is writing a book about a disturbed child and maternal affection, it might help to have experienced it. Something rang false in the book.

Anyway, the majority of the women did not want children because of terrible childhoods and also because they recognized it would be difficult to achieve their professional and personal goals if they had children.  To be fair, while these women loved children – dispelling the myth that child-free women hate children (duh) – none of them had ever longed to start a family and that is truly the primary reason they didn’t.

I come back to the economic motivations not to have children and how doing so can impact their professional lives. I know that writing isn’t your typical 9-5 profession and might be filled with more economic uncertainty than other professions – I wish she had included non-writers too. But that ties in so neatly to what Strauss wrote in her essay. Most of us know that when we become mothers, we are going to lose a lot of freedom. Most of our freedom. No more sleeping in. No more jetting off to an exotic vacation or any vacation at the drop of the hat. Sometimes, though, I think the professional sacrifices we end up having to make are unexpected. Sick children. School vacations and teacher workdays. Special needs and therapies. Appointments. Inability to stay for meetings after a certain hour. Trying to call in to a meeting with a needy child in the room. I’m not saying those things are impossible, but they are HARD.

You do find yourself making choices that aren’t really choices because they are the only option you have. And as Strauss pointed out, thanks to policies in this country, it is up to the parent to figure out all of this.

I admire these women for knowing what they didn’t want and sticking to their guns. Because being a working mom is hard.


As the title says, this post is a mishmash, my attempt to reconcile and connect a jumble of thoughts going through my head. Hopefully it makes a tiny bit of sense.

#MicroblogMondays: Listen to Your Mother


It is hard to believe, but this is show week for Listen to Your Mother: Raleigh-Durham. We have tech rehearsal on Wednesday and our shows are Thursday and Friday.

This is our third year producing it, and each year the time before the show seems to go faster and faster. I swear it seems like we were accepting submissions and scheduling auditions only yesterday.

We have a great cast and a diverse, incredibly moving set of essays. Watching the cast come together and bond is always one of my favorite parts of this process.  I talk a lot about what an honor it is to facilitate these wonderful women’s access to a stage and audience to share their stories, but it truly is. These are ordinary women, ordinary in the way we all are, but with stories to share, stories we all have.

I always find myself singing. “Another Op’nin’, Another Show'” this time of year. Listen to Your Mother isn’t exactly a show like what is meant in the song, but it feels right.

So cross your fingers and send us good wishes later this week. Our Thursday show is sold our and Friday close to it. And another Listen to Your Mother year will come to a close.

Then out o’ the hat it’s that big first night
The overture is about to start
You cross your fingers and hold your heart,
It’s curtain time and away we go!
Another op’nin’,
Just another Op’nin of another show

The Incident at the Grocery Store

I said (on Twitter) I would post about our Tuesday night incident at the grocery store, but then I changed my mine because of some of the issues involved. But I cannot stop thinking about it and with a whole 48-hours distance, I’ve decided to post what happened. 

Tuesday night, Daniel and I were walking into the grocery store to buy cookies for a class project they were doing the next day. 

Suddenly, a voice behind me said, “Why did you stick out your tongue at me? And why are you making such ugly faces?” I turned around to see a man behind us. I bent down to Daniel and asked him if he stuck out his tongue at the man because I was going to tell him to apologize and then Daniel, who is going through quite a rude phase, said, “You’re going to jail” to this African American man. Let us all cringe at this unfortunate, poorly-timed comment.

The man replied, “oh I see you have been watching TV. That’s right…start them early.” Then he shook his head and walked past us.

I was in shock and fuming because this man had just called my child racist when in truth, he was being an asshole.

We bought the cookies and Daniel was helpfully acting up in the cashier’s line and wanting all the candy. The man was by the customer service desk, observing all of this. I looked at him as we were leaving and he raised an eyebrow and shook his head at us.

I should have let it go. Maybe I should have walked over and apologized for my child sticking out his tongue and try to explain he was being an asshole.

Instead I walked over and asked him if he had anything else to say to me. He told me that what else could he think when my child said things like that other than it must come from the parents. I tried to explain that Daniel is 5 and loves his Lego police set and that he would tell anyone to go to jail. He said I didn’t even apologize to him. I said I didn’t have a chance and that he doesn’t know anything about me. He says all he knows is what he sees, a mid-30s white woman with a child who knows hate.

Our voices are rising as you can imagine and Daniel, who doesn’t know what is going on, starts flailing an arm at the man. I drag him away and the man shouts, “see? You have a horrible-ass kid with terrible parents.” 

I shake my head and leave. 

I was pretty devastated after that and Daniel was upset too. That night he kept saying he was going to put that man in jail forever and all I can think is how that exactly what that man has to fear. 

I’m sorry it happened. I’m sorry that 5-year-old kids being assholes can be an unfortunate trigger. I’m sorry that this incident has shocked me to my core when as a privileged white lady, this is rare for me while likely a common occurrence for many others. I’m sorry it is a challenge taking my child out right now when he is too often rude, sassy and defiant despite my best efforts.

Mostly, I’m just sorry.