Monday, May 31, 2010

What I Learned from Carrie Bradshaw

When it came to "Sex and the City," I was a late bloomer.
At the time, I didn't have HBO...
...or a life.
I was married to an incredibly repressive and dull man. I wore beige a lot. I didn't go out and I owned a couple of "proper" heels.
My friends at the time were rabid SATC fans (as were most women). I finally got tired of sitting with them at lunch and trying to figure out who this "Big" was and why he was, depending on the week, either an incredible asshole or the man of their dreams.
So, eventually, when the show was probably on Season 3 or 4 in "real time," I borrowed Season 1. And here is where the old cliche comes in: and the rest, as they say, is history.
Carrie Bradshaw instantly became My Favorite TV Character Ever. I loved her quirkiness, her honesty, her flaws. I loved the way she'd muss up her already unapologetically frizzy hair when she was getting ready to walk into a place. I loved that she was a writer...that she sat down every day to write something that was honest, funny, poignant, and completely irreverant within its significance. I loved the way she strutted down the street in her stilettos, fur coat hanging open over a perfectly mismatched over-the-top outfit, a seeming powerhouse of self-confidence, yet floundered every day as she tried to figure out who she loved and what she wanted.
Shortly after meeting Ms. Bradshaw, I found myself standing in a dressing room with my mother, trying on dresses for a very close friend's upcoming wedding. Everyone I knew socially and professionally would be there. I was trying to choose between two dresses: a lovely and safe little black number and a red, sparkly show-stopper.
They both looked good, but the red one..? It was like no dress I'd ever seen before. It was delicate, unfinished layers of tulle and sequins and hand-beaded flowers. When I put it on, I felt like a cross between a ballerina and a princess.
"I love this dress," I sighed longingly, trying it on for the third time.
"Why don't you get that one, then?" my mother asked.
"Because people will notice me when I walk in."
People will notice me when I walk in.
I didn't even think about it before I said it. It just came out.
My truth.
I didn't even know I felt that way.
And I knew, instantly, that I had to have the dress. I had to wear the dress. I knew it was something Carrie would wear.
That dress, that moment, was a turning point for me. And although I can happily say it is now 3 sizes too big, it still hangs in my closet. It still sparkles. It still makes me smile. It still makes me feel strong and pretty and confident. It still makes me want to be noticed.
But Carrie Bradshaw didn't just teach me how to rediscover my old self, the one who liked colorful clothes, big hair, and stand-out outfits. Fashion was definitely an important cast member of "Sex and the City," but the show was really about friendship. Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha were four very different women. Whenever they sat down for breakfast at the diner or cocktails at the bar, they disagreed about a lot of things: Miranda's cynical practicality was a stark contrast to Charlotte's idealistic optimism, which went totally against Samantha's independent promiscuity. Yet, through every situation, they supported, understood, accepted, and embraced. Each woman was who she was, unapologetically and elegantly. And that, in turn, is how their friendships were: unapologetic and elegant.
"Sex and the City" never celebrated the too-often seen and accepted bitchiness among women. The four of them respected each other...even when they were disagreeing or fighting (remember when Miranda found out Carrie was leaving NY to move to Paris with Aleksandr?! or when Charlotte initially refused to offer Carrie money to help her with her apartment?!?). They were honest, though. It was not simply acceptance with silence. It was acceptance with attempts to understand (or sometimes persuade in a different direction).
Women everywhere have watched this show and wanted to be like these four women. But it's easy to charge in the three digits for a pair of designer shoes, or to make plans to go out for Cosmos with three fabulously dressed friends. It is not so easy to truly be those women: strong, independent, supportive, loyal, honest, and respectful towards each other.
And, of course, in addition to the fashion and the friendship, there were the men. Every one of us who watched the show had a favorite. Personally, I was always more of an Aidan-kinda-girl. I have never been into men with Armani suits and perfectly coiffed hair. But in the end, even I had to admit that Big was the man for Carrie. No matter how nice (Aidan) or wordly (that hateful Aleksandr) the men were, she needed to be--as all of us should--with the one who understood her, who let her be Carrie, and who loved her for it.
"...the most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. And if you find someone to love the you you love, well, that's just fabulous."
That man I used to be married to went out with the beige wardrobe. I am happy to say that I found my Big...although he owns one suit he'd rather not wear and his hair is more Aidan 1.0 than ever coiffed or cut, he loves the Me I love. And I know I could never have settled for less.
So yes, Carrie Bradshaw has been a fashion icon and a source of enormous entertainment for many of us. But for me, and I am sure for so many others, she (and the other characters on the show) taught us a lot about life, love, friendships, and ourselves. As I get ready to slip on my Jimmy Choos (still haven't managed to get a pair of Manolos...) and go have a Cosmopolitan before watching the SATC sequel, I think of all I have learned from this fictional character, and tonight, I will raise a toast to Carrie and her friends for having taught me about so much more than just great shoes.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

#271 on the list of "Things I Said I'd Never Do When I Was A Mother"

Photo courtesy of

I swore I'd never give my kids Lunchables. I mean, really, I scoffed, those things are chemicals in a box! Any half-decent parent would simply buy some quality turkey slices and good cheese, roll those suckers up, and place in a tupperware with some cut up fruit, right? I mean, really, how long could that take? 5 minutes? (Insert condescending eye-rolling here.)

We are salad eaters around here! We demand variety and quality! Lean protein! Whole wheat! Legumes! My kids will eat as we eat! We will be the role models!

Tonight: My kids had hot dogs and Cookie Crisp cereal for dinner.

And last week, when Ben begged for a Lunchable for school, I not only said "yes," I joyfully squealed: "Ben! Look! They are on sale! 4 for $5! You can have four Lunchables!"

Oh, yes...and Mickey Mouse chicken nuggets, Kraft mac and cheese, and pancakes are a regular dinner staple around here.

I've learned you're only a know-it-all until you actually become a parent.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


This post, on the topic of YES, is the last in a series for "Five for Ten Again."

I should've said yes to...

...pursuing a degree in journalism
...trapeze lessons on the beach
...the free tickets to the concert where my friend went backstage and met Jimmy Buffett
...every high school adventure that arose
...the colleges that wanted me but were "too far away" for my parents' comfort
...more outings with girlfriends (then and now)
...more outings with boys (only then, Hubs, only then)
...the full marathon distance when I still had good knees
...organized sports when I was a teenager
...karaoke (in the safety of my friend's house does NOT count)
...every piece of clothing that I wanted but thought was too "weird"

I thought of making a list of the times I should NOT have said "yes," but then I realized they all served their purpose: every "mistake" I made led me to grow, change, be braver, learn, come to the point where I am in my life.

Very often, when faced with an opportunity--to meet new people, go somewhere new, try something different--I instinctly think "No, because..." The "reasons" tend to be excuses. Truth is, I'm not so great at change, quite shy socially when I don't know too many people, and deathly afraid of embarrassing myself. I married someone whose approach to life is more along the lines of: "Why not?" I have to push myself every day to live my life that way, which is why I have a magnet on my fridge that says: "Do one thing that scares you every day." It has been those times I was scared but made myself do it anyway that have given me the most joy (Hey, guys, check it out: I am subconsciously combining 3 of the "Five for Ten" topics: courage, happy, and yes!). I've realized that there is a much greater risk of regret, for me, when saying "no" than when saying "yes."

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Lust, uninvited

He had a way
of walking into a room

that made her want to leave
everything she knew

his presence
made her ache


it hurt
to be around

a brushing of hands

the ache intensified

she wanted
nothing more

this man

The One
she could not have

The One
who wanted her

his scent
already familiar

his breath
on her

his fingers
long and lean on calloused hands


with her fingers
her hair

his words

his essence
already known
by her

to be herself
with him
to press herself
against him


this man

he was all she wanted

This post on LUST is part of the "Five for Ten Again" series. Click on the link or button to join in the discussion.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Afraid of the memories that are to be

I live in fear that I will look back on these memories--the ones I am building right now--and have regrets.
I worry that I will look back on my children as they are now...little, growing, almost babies...and love them more in my memory than I am, right now, in the present tense.
I worry that I will look back and have missed out on laughter and ease with my parents because I spend so much of the present tense annoyed by the idiosyncrasies of 2 old people who have never really understood me, but adore me and do more for me than probably anyone in the world ever could.
I try, so often, to check myself, give myself a psychological wake-up call, when I am in the midst of the chaos or annoyances of life.
When the kids are fighting, when the kitchen still needs cleaning, when I am so tired I can barely keep my eyes open, and yet little boys still need to be fed and bathed and dressed and tucked in at least 4 times...while my child-less friends go out every Friday to the local happy hour in their eclectic neighborhoods...when I see couples sitting at Starbucks, sipping and lounging and chatting because they have no pressing demands, to-dos, errands, grown-up stuff...
When I am with my parents and they say something silly, something typical and expected and frustrating, an exaggerated version of what I grew up with: sentences and questions and lectures that serve as evidence that I was never really understood, that I was always the odd one out, that in spite of their unconditional love and support, they still silently, subconsciously pass judgment, question, wonder...
When I find myself in these moments, I try to envision what it will be like when the years pass...when the boys no longer beg for my time, when my parents are no longer around, when the Memories Of Now will be actual memories.
And then I am able to realize and understand that it will be then that I will remember my parents' annoying behaviors as endearing...
...and I will wish I could swap a moment of parental independence for a sniff of Cheerios-baby-breath and a constant chorus of "Mama, Mama!"
But I can not always snap myself into gratitude with this little psychological game of mine.
More often than not, I silently long for the time to pass so that there will be no more diapers or baths.
More often than not, I snap inappropriately at a comment made at a family gathering or make an excuse to hang up the phone.
And so I live in fear that the Memories Of Now will make me sad one day...sad that I did not live more in the present, that I did not love enough, that I did not appreciate enough, that I missed out simply because I took for granted.

This post on MEMORY was part of "Five for Ten Again." Click on the link or button to join in the discussion.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Happy! Happy! Joy! Joy!

When I think of the word "happy" (today's topic for "Five for Ten Again"), there are a few things that come to mind. Yes, one's happiness can depend on The Big Stuff: your relationships, your job, your health. One's happiness, however, can also depend on The Little Things: the perfect cup of coffee, an afternoon nap, an outing with a friend. I thought long and hard about what I would write on this topic, but in the end, I decided to "cheat" a bit and recycle an old post.

There are many things that bring me joy. Some of that joy is deep and life-long and dependent upon The Big Stuff. Some of that joy is light and immediate and makes me want to skip a bit...The Little Things. Here are a few of the things--both Big and Little--that make me feel pure joy:

Cupcakes: I'm not sure what's up with my obsession with cupcakes, but they make me smile. They're just cute and girlie and yummy. And if they happen to be the red velvet cake kind, all the better.

Disney World: Yes, it's overpriced. Yes, it's exhausting. Yes, it's over the top. But I love it. Every bit of it. I'm a sucker for the magic.

Getting my hair colored: I know, I'm shallow, but nothing puts a spring in my step like a fresh set of golden highlights. And if there happens to be a pink streak in there, all the better.

Words: I'm a word nerd. I love words. Words are tangible, alive, powerful. Finding just the right one makes me happy.

Make-up: I'm not one of those women who refuses to leave her house without make up. I wear my naked face often and with pride. But make-up makes me happy. There's something fun and creative and whimsical about palettes of eye shadow and tubes of lipstick. And if there happens to be a hint of glitter in it, all the better.

Vacations: Planning them, going on them, remembering them...nothing better on which to spend my money.

The beach: There is no place on earth I'd rather be. There's something about the sand and the soothes my soul. And yes, even at 90+ degrees and the infamous South Florida humidity, I'm happy. Give me an umbrella, a cooler, and plenty of SPF...and I am a happy, happy girl.

Shoes: It doesn't matter if they hurt. If they are fabulous, they make me happy.

My kids: The irony of this one? If the "Five for Ten Again" topic was Stress, they'd be in that post, too!

And then of course, there's Hubby...the one who gives me the icing off his cupcakes, makes vacations and beach days all the more fun, understands my fascination with the Dumbo ride at Disney, and helps me get through the most stressful days with those 2 cute kids.
What things...big or little...make you happy?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The simplest things can sometimes require the most courage


It means a lot of different things to different people. What might be courageous for one person could be relatively painless to another. What one person might deem as terrifying, another might see as thrilling. Depending on the moment in your life, the challenge to be met, the obstacle to be overcome, courage could come easily or could require everything you've got.

Courage is the first topic of the Five for Ten Again, so I've been thinking a lot about courage and reading everyone else's thoughts. Many of the posts are incredibly deep and scary and courageous, about real life scary stuff. But for me, right now, courage is more personal, abstract, and internal. It's about living my life unapologetically. Being who I am, thinking what I think, saying what I need to say, and feeling how I do without apologizing for it.

No apologies to anyone, including myself.

I am usually very open, honest, loud: Here I am. Take me or leave me. But inside, often, I worry, I fret, I ponder. What did they think? Did I get my point across? Did I offend? Do they "get" me?

Who cares what people think?

I tell myself this all the time, but often, I care.

So no excuses, no explanations. This is Me. No apologies.

This is what requires the most courage from me right now...embracing my life, my choices, my thoughts, my words, my self bravely and unapologetically. It is a small thing in the grand scheme of life, but a big thing in my little world.

Join in the on the link or button to find out more about Five for Ten Again.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

For Mother's Day...I got my kid back

For this Mother's Day, all I wanted was to like my kid again.

I have no idea how, but we've gone from "I'm selling my wait, I'll pay you to take him" to "I've got the cutest, sweetest kid ever" from one day to the next. It's like if the kid that's been hanging around here, disrespecting and defying and making me question my every parenting move, was replaced overnight with the one who is usually here...the one who says "Please" and "Thank you" without being prompted...the one who helps his little brother stop crying...the one who brushes his teeth immediately and happily when told...the one who makes me happy to be his Mama.

Just in time for Mother's Day.

Friday at his school's Mother's Day breakfast:

Today at the beach:

8 1/2 hours on the beach with the whooooole family:
I am a lucky, lucky girl.
Okay, maybe this Mommy business ain't so bad after all...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Sometimes I don't like my kid

It is very disconcerting when you look at your child and think: "I don't really like you right now."

It is even more disconcerting when you look at your child and think: "I'd like to slap you right now."



Right across the face.

No, I am not abusive. I am not even big on spanking. I've been a teacher for 13 years, love my children and my students, and consider myself a pretty kind individual.

But some days, I want to hit Ben.

Some days, I think what he needs is a good smack across the face...a wake up call. (Although, if I have to be completely honest--and why the heck not, at this point?--I often think the smack would be much more for my own benefit than his, which is probably the only thing that prevents me from doing it.)

I know.

I know what you're thinking.

Some of you who are reading this right now, aghast, shocked, indignant, are thinking: "I would never..."

Some of you who are reading this right now, shocked but relieved, are thinking: "I have so felt that way..."

A small few of you who are reading this might even be smirking knowingly and thinking: "Oh, I have done that..."

There are so many things you can't possibly understand until you are a parent. There are so many shocking realizations. The one that's killing me is the realization that I can only control my child's behavior to a certain point. I can mold, I can teach, I can explain, I can love, I can show through example, but I can not make this child be a particular way.

My four-year-old is, truly, a product of his parents. He is verbal, tenacious, silly, passionate, energetic, and bright. He is not afraid to stand up for himself when he feels he is being wronged. He is not afraid to ask why things have to be a certain way when he does not agree with them. He is a leader. He is outspoken and social. All wonderful qualities to inherit, I think.

But...also like his parents, he is obstinate, stubborn, strong-willed. He knows what he wants when he wants it, constantly questions authority, and thinks he's pretty damn smart. (The fact that he is, in fact, pretty damn smart is part of the problem.)

90% of the time his good qualities outshine his bad. Everyone who knows him, loves him.

The other 10% of the time?

I want to hit him.


I hate not liking my kid. I hate that his behavior and defiance make me short-tempered, snappy, and ugly. I hate that because I don't like him, I find that I don't like myself, either.

I am an "If-then" kinda person. As in: "If I do this, then this should happen." When something goes wrong, I need to know why. Then I need to correct it. I would preach this kind of thinking as a solution to the parents of my misbehaving students: "If Little Johnny does not do his home learning, then you should provide a consequence at home." "If Little Johnny has a good day, then he should be rewarded." If-then. You have a parenting issue? Here's the solution....all wrapped up nice and pretty with a bow. Be consistent. Be firm. Let your expectations be known. And always, always lead by example.

If Ben hits a kid during recess, then he will not attend his friend's birthday party.
If Ben does not listen to the teacher the first time, then he will not be allowed to play outside.
If Ben is nice to his little brother, then we oooh and aaaah and celebrate.
If Ben gets a happy face on his daily report, then we let him ride his bike outside.

Consistent. Firm. Expectations known. Good example.

If Ben continues to misbehave, then Mommy is going to have a breakdown.

It's no secret that I have control issues. I like to be able to control everything. I know. It's impossible. I'm starting to understand that. I'm learning to accept that I can not control the weather and I can not put my kids in a germ-free bubble just before a vacation, but I always thought I would be able to control my own kid.

Not most of the time...all of the time.

I know my kid is going to screw up. We all do. But there are certain behaviors I did not expect. Not listening to the teacher??? Hitting another kid??? Not acceptable.

Except...apparently, unacceptable is not enough because it keeps happening.

If I am this kind of parent...If my husband and I work as a team...If I provide consistent rewards and consequences...If we lead by example...If we make it clear that certain behaviors will absolutely not be tolerated...

...then your kid still screws up.
...then your kid still gets an "x" on his daily report.
...then your kid still bites his buddy on the shoulder.

So if you don't like your kid, then are you a bad mother?
Or worse, if your kid is misbehaving, then is it your own fault?