Thursday, March 5, 2015

Winter gardening.

I’ve been thinking a lot about eyebrows lately. That’s what winter will do to you, allow you to think about details you have no time for the rest of the year.

A close friend suggested a few months ago that she’d love to see me do my eyebrows, that it makes “such a difference.” Later that week, a friend who does facials, and is one of the most impossibly fashionable women I know, said she knew EXACTLY who I should see, and that I would LOVE it.

Since I’ve never let another person near my eyebrows, I figured, why not? I don’t cut my own hair, after all. I made the appointment. I nestled into her beautiful chair and had to hide my shock when this extremely glamourous eyebrow person said she wanted me to grow them out.

Grow?

Images of my awkward middle-school years flew by me – bad haircuts, bad blue eyeshadow, badness on every level -- before I grew into my long-haired, freckled, Bonne Bell lip-smackered, Love’s Baby Soft self.

“You used to have a youthful, naturally full brow, and that’s what I’m going for. We can always make them more sleek, if you really want that. But first, let’s let them fill in and go a little wild and see what you have.”

It strikes me as being a lot like gardening, this brow stuff, and when I tell her this she laughs and confesses that it’s satisfying in exactly the same way. And after a few appointments, when I start to see the difference, I realize that her advice is a lot like writing advice.

First you have to go a little wild and see what you have.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Empty Nest January Activity Challenge: Holy Sh*$t.


Everyone talks about compromise in marriage. But there are limits. (If you doubt this, try to get your husband to take up knitting.) So for my husband, he would happily watch our kids break dance. But he would rather die than go see Alvin Ailey again.

He feels similarly about yoga; tried it, hated every minute. So it didn't matter how many hints I dropped about the Aerial Yoga class -- it combined two things he didn't want to do. 1) Yoga. 2) Being bested by a bunch of women.

So I went alone. I knew very very little about it, except I figured that a beginner class wouldn't be too difficult.

Cue maniacal laughter.

Part of the joy of doing anything, for me, is the joy of talking about it afterwards.So there is value in being able to come home and talk about something besides the weather, the kids, the dogs. To be able to say that I was the only person in the class who couldn't hop into their sling. The women who were much older than me could. The women who were much more overweight than me could. Everybody looked at me with pity. This was not starting off well.

But then a funny thing happened -- the first truly complicated pose -- a pose that made everyone gasp-- I did it readily, quickly, easily. Everyone else was still standing up, and I was suspended upside down, legs wrapped around silk, no hands. My pony tail swung against the ground. It was some honest to God Cirque du Soleil shit.

I felt the stunned hush in the room. I felt what everyone was thinking: Damn, if she can do it, I know I can.

And they did. We did. We did EVERYTHING.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

December. Maybe SUP is not meant to BE.


A quick trip to a Florida beach. Arriving at sunset, we ponder the posted rates for Stand Up Paddleboarding lessons and think, Do we need lessons? Don't we just Stand Up and Paddle The Board? Still, we decide to bite the bullet the next day.

However, on the beach the next morning, seeing no one swimming at 10:30 AM -- not one soul, not even the birds-- my husband decides maybe he should wade in before we rent anything.

His teeth chatter on the chaise lonque next to me. "Freezing," he says.
And when a Yankee man says freezing, I know he is not exaggerating. (If it was merely cold, he would have said "Brisk.")

No paddleboarding, I say. Absolutely not, he replies.

Still, beyond the beach, beyond the golf course, there is a beautiful pool complex. Swimming, however, is not a sport we can agree on either.

I am one of those weird people who actually likes to swim laps, alternating between crawl, breast stroke, and backstroke. My father was a championship high school swimmer, and we spent every day of every summer at a pool. My husband's idea of swimming is jumping in after sunbathing, then going back to sunbathing.

In the early days of our dating, I challenged him to a lap race and beat the shit out of him. I suspect he has never quite gotten over it.

When we arrive at the pool each day, I say, "want to swim some laps?" and he says, "want to drink some beer?"
We look for chairs where one of us can be in the shade and the other one can be in the sun. We continue my quest to taste every fish taco in the state of Florida.

On the last day, we realize that at the children's pool, there is a water slide.

As we walk by, I say, "I appreciate a good water slide."
"Me too," he says. "Me too."

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Empty Nest November Activity Challenge: Adopt a Team.


When the kids leave the nest, we miss the rituals, the traditions we built around them. For some, this is smiley face pancakes on Saturday mornings. Wednesday night pizza after band practice. Or maybe, for the clinically insane, helping with homework. What I feel most sharply is the loss of being a spectator, of cheering on a team.

Those brisk days spent on canvas chairs or rickety metal bleachers represent my favorite kind of parenting -- being present, being loud, having plenty of snacks available. Seriously, what's not to love about that?

Since none of my kids will be playing a sport in college, I'm starting to find myself with an abundance, a complete overflow, of freaking cheer. It pours out of me when I pass a little league ball field, the way breast milk used to rise up when I saw a baby. What will I do with this? Where are the over 40 cheerleading squads, people, and when are the tryouts?

Last week, a friend invited me and my husband to watch a women's college volleyball team play my eldest daughter's alma mater. "You can cheer on your daughter's behalf," she said, knowing she was spending the semester abroad.

I was under the weather, and we couldn't go, but I told my husband that's what we need to do. Find another amateur team, in another sport, and support them. There are dozens of colleges in the area -- we'll find one this year, and adopt them.

"I think it should be a men's team," I add. "Possibly soccer."

"But you miss watching our daughters," he replies.

"But the men are um, more, uh . . . faster, and more accomplished."

"But the women are underfunded and need more support."

"The men wear shorts."

He sighs. We are at a standstill. And in the meantime, I contemplate my friends with younger children still playing on teams. Which one do we feel like embarrassing? And who needs orange slices and Vitamin water?

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Nest Empties. The Phone Rings.


I realized yesterday how seldom the phone rings. How we jump now, just a little, when it does. Is this the urgency people felt when it was first invented? Perhaps.

For me, losing both of my parents in the last few years took the shrill edge off that ringing phone. The fear of it breaking the stillness of the night. The worst has already happened. The calls have already come. And the children were home or accounted for, tucked in.

But just when you feel that sense of relaxation and release -- someone leaves. Someone travels. There is always someone to worry over, now, again. And bad news never comes in a text. (Unless you're fifteen.)

People shake their heads and wonder over women who keep having more children. But this is why, I think. This is why. So they can stave off being alone with a ringing phone.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Empty Nest October Activity Challenge: Denied.


The next plan was for both of us to try a new sport that we both agreed upon. We settled for Stand Up Paddleboarding. I had already rejected Surfing and Ultimate Frisbee as Things He Would Be Good At That I Would Suck At. And the look on his face when I suggested Aerial Yoga was PRICELESS. So SUP it was, and serendipitously, his brother had bought a board and left it at the family vacation house for all to enjoy, thus eliminating Husband Obstacle Number One: Rental Rip-Offs.

But nature had other plans, and neither one of us could motivate to try this in the cold and rain.

So instead, I taught him to knit. Just kidding, haha! But he did drive me to the knitting store in the rain, and then helped me ball the yarn. As he patiently unwrapped
it around his wrists, he said, "This is just like untangling fishing line."

And you know what that means? That means some afternoon while the striped bass is marinating, I can help him untangle his fishing line.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Not-So-Empty Nest, September Challenge: Golf



To me, golf is not a sport. Golf is a divisive activity that separates families and empties wallets. Golf requires a lot of equipment, takes all damned day, and apparently requires drinking and eating a burger afterwards. Golf is an excuse for business trips that fall on the weekend and go to sunny places while your wife stays home and shovels snow and eats the leftover mac and cheese that sticks to the bottom of the pot. "A quick 18 holes" is not conducive to putting babies down for naps, to helping kids with homework, to grabbing a half-hour of exercise while your daughter is taking a dance lesson. NO. Golf is a SORE SUBJECT, and if I start playing golf to spend more time with my husband , well, then, the TERRORISTS WILL HAVE WON.

So, yes, I have a big chip on my shoulder (golf term). And yet -- many of my friends love to golf. We have access to nice courses around the area, my husband has clubs I can borrow, my brother-in-law is a golf pro, and my dad played a mean game his whole life. (Who knows, maybe I have his swing.)

So my friend Karen and I took our first lesson today. We both confessed to each other that we like to learn new things, and hate being bored. We were NOT BORED for one second.

I was outside in a beautiful place on a lovely day, laughing with my friend, bombing around in a cart, making things go thwack and whoosh and ping, SURROUNDED BY YOUNG MEN.

This did not suck.