Wednesday, December 19, 2012

No Thanx to Spanx

J and I went to an exclusive "Private Holiday Party" at Nordstroms last weekend that really just doubled as a way to liquor up customers and get them to spend more money. After my third glass of complimentary champagne, my trigger finger began to gingerly stroke my visa card and I knew exactly where our money had to be spent. Third Floor: Lingerie.

"I need this," I said, holding up a rose-gold-colored sausage sheath from the Spanx rack as though my life depended on it. Historically, J never thought I needed Spanx, but that night, the tides changed their course. Or maybe it was just the champagne talking.

"Okay, get whatever you like," he said benevolently, standing behind me with his glass in hand. Good husband. It seemed we had an unsaid understanding that this night was obviously all about me.

Since I'm a virgin when it comes to tummy shapers, I asked the sales lady about a particularly intriguing high-waisted "tummy tamer" and she recited the spiel that I'm sure all lingerie sales associates who shill Spanx are required to memorize. And it worked . . . until she told me she was wearing a pair. All of a sudden, I felt like I was at a cocktail party talking to someone who'd just gotten a giant piece of spinach stuck in their front teeth. I continued to listen to her espouse the merits of the Spanx she was wearing while I simultaneously tried my hardest to avoid looking directly at her body. See, I wanted a pair of Spanx so I could (somewhat poorly. . .okay, very poorly) resemble Adriana Lima. This sales girl, bless her heart, was far from Adriana Lima. Instead, with her short stature and full figure, she was more Delia Fisher from My So-Called Life -- you know, that girl that clearly missed the memo on the fact that Ricky Vasquez was gay after her brief stint with Brian Krakow. Yeah, this was a dead ringer for her. Or Natalie from The Facts of Life, depending on how dated you like your pop culture.

Anyhoo, I did best not to stare since let's face it: she was probably not the best poster child for the wonders of Spanx. But she was so nice that I not only bought my overpriced tummy shaper from her ($80, which I rationalized by comparing it to the cost of liposuction), I also bought a handful of overpriced panties from the nearest table. Just because.

When I got home that night, I was all eager beaver to try on my new Spanx. I'd heard so many great things about the product online and whispered over fitting room walls. Hell, Kim Kardashian was practically a spokesperson for the brand, as evidenced by all those terrible paparazzi shots of her dress accidentally hiked up over her thigh trimmers. Spanx was like the Bugatti of body sculpting. It had to work.

Well, after about 10 minutes of stuffing myself into the rose-gold sheathing by shimmying and hopping in place, I stood infront of my mirror, unable to breath yet victorious that I'd finally gotten the thing on. ....And my reflected image back was a huge disappointment. I didn't look sucked in at all. I mean, I guess I did a little, but I didn't pay eighty dollars for a little. I paid eighty dollars because this was supposed to be the miracle cure, but my reflection chided back at me that miracles do not come true. I was under the impression that I'd lose inches wearing Spanx, but all it did was smooth out my fat rolls. Big whoop. I didn't need my fat rolls smoothed out -- I needed them to disappear completely, Civil War corset-style, like Scarlett O'Hara's post-baby body in Gone With the Wind. Instead, I looked like a vacuum-packed tube of Pillsbury cinnamon rolls.

The first thing I wanted to do was peel them off and angrily tromp back to Nordstrom's to give Delia Fisher a piece of my mind. But a lack of oxygen made it hard to prioritize such a thing. Plus it wasn't Delia's fault that I was fat. I guess I was just mad at myself. I was so stupid to think that an undergarment would really be the cure for all my body problems. I'll admit, I'm notorious for spending more time going out of my way to find "easy" solutions to problems versus efficiently attacking my problems head on with the hard legwork generally involved. Translation: I can be lazy. It was clear I was going to need more than just Spanx. I was going to have to sweat these pounds off. Starvation, I've decided, will come after Christmas, when Trader Joe's Peppermint Joe Joe's are no longer offered on store shelves.

Since I have the attention span of a flea, I was going to need an exciting and "different" workout. After trolling online for answers, I came across an article that said Jenny McCarthy whittled away her mid-section after giving birth by hula hooping. (I'm sure she also ate one edamame bean per day, but such things need not be written.) So I googled "hula hooping after pregnancy" and quickly learned there was a whole subculture online around "hooping" (that's what they call it) that I didn't even know existed. These people call themselves "hoopers" and travel the world carrying collapsible hula hoops in their carry-ons, meeting up with one another to enter tournaments, attend classes or merely hoop together in various locales all over the globe. I'm not that interested in hula hooping other than to selfishly look fabulous in a bikini by next summer, but it was fascinating to discover this digital underworld through hooping message boards and websites.

So I decided to order a fitness hula hoop, a padded and weighted variation of the kind we had as kids. If it worked for Jenny McCarthy, then it would work for me.

Unfortunately, after some intense online shopping, it turned out the lowest priced hoop was offered through Gold's Gym and only sold at . . . Wal-Mart. I like to keep my trips to Wal-Mart to a bare minimum (read: usually once every decade), but this decade I'd already visited twice. Once, for a low-price, last-minute baby swing, and twice, for some Swiffer pad refills I picked up when visiting a nearby Home Depot. The hula hoop would constitute my third Wal-Mart visit of the decade. Since I was on a budget it seemed stupid not to choose the free "store pick-up" option for my purchase, as well as receive it faster this way, since shipping times looked like they could take up to two weeks. Clearly, two more weeks sans hula hoop now seemed unacceptable to me.

Once I got the message that my hula hoop was waiting to be picked up, I fumbled excitedly for about 10 minutes with a 20-lb baby carseat in hand hopped into my car and made my way over, eying the parking lot suspiciously as I pulled into my space. This was Wal-Mart, after all.

Once inside, a particularly haggard version of Hillary Clinton pointed me toward the back of the store. Let me say this: There is nothing more depressing than padding through the sticky aisles of Wal-Mart to get to the "special order" counter near the restrooms. Maybe it's the Eau de Urine in that general vicinity, or the self-actualizing fact that I now, by definition, "shopped" at this store.

Once back there, I pressed the "cashier" button to get some help since the area, with its flickering tube lights overhead and half-opened boxes strewn on the floor behind the counter, felt as abandoned as the opening scene in a zombie film. Then I waited. And waited (while silently praying that Ava would stay asleep in her stroller). After about 15 minutes of waiting, I felt like I had hit a new low as employees entered and exited the bathroom doors near me without so much as a second glance in my direction. That's right, let's all ignore the new mom. She's too fat to bother with anyway.

To fill time I marveled at a Midwestern company's lollipop display that had been set up by the empty register. I was impressed. Each lollipop was the size of my fist on a stick the size of my pinky. You know, if you're ever concerned that your lollipop might take less than 24 consistent hours to lick down. Seeing that my sole purpose in my third (and final!) trip to Wal-Mart for this decade was to pick up a piece of fitness equipment, I thought it best to stay out of the lollipop display.

Finally, after what felt like days standing there staring at over-sized lollipops in flavors like Bacon n' Caramel, an older store clerk with a gold front tooth came out through the back doors with part of her peanut-butter-and-jelly-sandwich from lunch still on the front of her shirt. I handed over my printout and she headed back to find my box.

"You know there's a slight problem with your purchase . . ." she said in all seriousness, returning with my package in her hands. The blood drained my face, and I suddenly wondered if God had a master plan to keep me fat forever.

"What's that?" I asked.

"You're going to have to test it out in the store!" she said, and burst out laughing.

Phew. This lady was only making a joke directly related to my love handles. Not funny.

"Maybe next time," I responded, and laughed along nervously. Between the concerningly large lollipops to my right and the Peter Lorre lookalike now standing in line behind me and laughing along with us, I just wanted to get the hell out of there.

Once home it took me a few days to get around to unpacking the ol' hula hoop. Maybe part of it was that I didn't want to admit I actually needed to hula hoop because not even Spanx could cut it for me anymore. Or maybe it was the commitment to the whole fitness thing that I was hesitant to undertake. (Me and sweating? We just don't mesh well). Whatever it was, I let the hula hoop fester for a while in our third bedroom that we use for such things as forgotten office stationery and tubes of unused wrapping paper. This room also serves as a graveyard for failed fitness attempts from our pasts, like small free weights, ab rollers and collapsible pull-up bars, all collecting dust. I promised myself my hula hoop would not join its predecessors in this gallery of good intentions.

The other day I finally got around to unpacking it. Since Ava has taken to staying awake throughout the entire day now, I laid her on her playmat so she could watch her crazy mother in action, clipped my iShuffle to my shoulder sleeve, and started hooping. I was a bit rusty at first, and looked more like a geriatric trying to dance the Lambada, but after a few minutes all those memories of hula hooping as a kid flooded back, and suddenly the hoop magically stayed up. It was kind of like remembering how to ride a bicycle all over again.

Ten minutes of hooping a day is all you need to "whittle your middle" down to a taut waist size, or so it says online. While ten minutes doesn't sound like a lot, I actually broke a little sweat since the hoop weighs the size of a small free weight. I definitely did not look like Jenny McCarthy after my first session (I even lifted my shirt and stood sideways in the mirror to inspect my still-non-existent abs), but Ava seemed delighted to watch the whole thing go down, so I was glad to burn some calories while simultaneously entertain her.

Still, I wonder if this whole hula hooping thing is going to give me the body I want. I keep looking at the calendar to count down to New Year's Eve. 12 more days, then I'm jumping on the calorie counting train. I'm not sure if I'm ready for the ride.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Moms and nightclubs: A bad mix

In an effort to be more of a hip mom (whatever that is), a couple weeks ago I agreed to go to a girl's night out with a couple moms from Mom Group #2 who were chomping at the bit for an evening of girl talk and booze. Little did I know that when you meet up for dinner and cocktails with other moms, it's not considered "girls night out." Instead, it's known as "moms night out," or MNO, which sounds horribly un-hip and therefore completely negates the whole point of the night...but pressing forward.

Leading up to the MNO, the moms were all excited and a chatter about the impending event. Texts and emails flew back and forth between our library storytimes: "Where should we make reservations?" "What are you going to wear?" "What if it rains, then what will you wear as a backup?" "How late do you think we should stay out?" "What drinks do you plan to order at dinner?" If I didn't know better I would have guessed they were caged Amish women on the precipice of tasting their first few hours of freedom during Rumspringa.

During all this heightened excitement, I felt rather blah. Blah because I knew I looked like crap and standing in front of my closet trying to figure out what to wear depresses me since I have to bypass 95% of what is currently hanging and take my pick from one of the last five hangers tucked at the end. Also blah because in all actuality I missed J and didn't look forward to leaving him for a night of drinks and dinner with other people. Maybe that sounds pathetic, but I don't care. He's my person and I like enjoying everything with him. In all honesty I would have preferred that he (and all the other husbands) come along, since I just don't see him that often and I get no real joy out of pretending I'm "free" for a night of sorority-esque fun. But my true feelings were beside the point, because watch out, world -- This was Mom's Night Out; no men allowed! The other moms seemed stoked to leave their husbands and babies behind for an evening, where they would have to worry about nothing more than the cocktail sitting in front of them. (Apparently I'm the only one that can achieve this even with a baby at my side. Bad mom.)

The night before MNO, one of the moms (let's call her Belinda) casually invited herself over to my house so we could go to the restaurant together (because God forbid one of us shows up early and has to wait for the others to show up. I guess that would just be too awkward.) "I'll just have my husband drop me off at your house, if that's okay," Belinda's email read. In a perfect world I would have said "no," thereby cementing my position as a bonafide curmudgeon. But in reality, what was I supposed to say? "Um, house is a pigsty and I wasn't expecting any guests till Thanksgiving, so just stick to the plan and meet me at the restaurant because I abhor cleaning, especially cleaning last-minute"? Yeah, I'm sure that would go over really well. By the next morning all the mothers in the tri-county area would hear about that one time I told a mom she wasn't allowed to come over to my house.

"Sure," I responded robotically. And for the next 12 hours or so I cleaned the hell out of my house to host Belinda for a ladies night out I didn't have my heart set on attending. After a full day of cleaning (I think I've reached Cinderella status now with my stupid mop), I squeezed into one of my killer "going out" outfits that didn't look particularly killer anymore on my post-baby body and waited, switching on Watch What Happens: Live! to kill some time. Belinda arrived part of the way through the episode, interrupting a fascinating argument between Joanna Krupa and Adriana De Moura about that one time Adriana punched Joanna in the face on national television. I tried to get Belinda to watch it with me, but she preferred to coo and play with Ava, so I reluctantly switched the TV off and followed suit.

J arrived shortly after, and once Belinda and I compared our shoe choices and I gave her the official house tour -- I didn't clean for nothing, God damn it -- I handed Ava to J, and we were off.

"I feel like I'm 23 again!" Belinda shrilled as we backed out of the driveway in my car and Too Short came on the radio. She paused, intrigued by my choice of radio station. "You listen to rap?" she asked

I know I'm about the WASP-iest person I know, but yes, I occasionally listen to rap. 

"That's awesome!" she said, and proceeded to do a seated dance in the passenger seat like Leslie Mann in the drunk driving scene of The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Maybe I was just tired or in a funk, but the last thing I felt like doing was busting a move with my seatbelt on. Nonetheless I laughed and let her fly her freak flag. After all, nothing about her struck me as someone who would enjoy rap, but then again, the same could probably be said about me.

An hour later we were just finishing dinner up with another mom, Mimi, that had joined us at the restaurant. Belinda and Mimi were on their way to getting tanked off a glass or two of red wine, but I was a good with my one gin martini since I had to drive home that night. Both moms had spent the large part of the hour gushing about how happy they were to be out at a real restaurant having real drinks, though both winced at the booze in my cocktail when I forced them to take a sip of it, so I assumed they were using the term "real drinks" loosely.

According to our original plan, we were supposed to just have dinner/drinks and then head home after, which I would have been more than happy to do. Instead, two hours later I found myself sitting in the VIP area of a terribly tacky nightclub, watching Belinda and Mimi drunkenly writhe across from one another on the dance floor while I staved off the cheesiest come-ons from a couple of Bacardi reps that could have doubled as Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson from Wedding Crashers.

How did we get here? Simple. The restaurant we started off our evening at had nothing chocolate on the dessert menu. Isn't this the way all good stories start?

I'm not picky about my processed sugars, but Belienda was. Naturally, she only wanted the one thing that wasn't on the menu: a chocolate dessert. So we paid our tab and strolled down the nearly empty street (this was a Thursday night in the suburbs, after all) to another restaurant that we knew would have something to satisfy her picky palate. After we were seated, the waitress asked what we we'd like and Mimi blurted out "a bottle of champagne." Um, what? Belinda, of course, asked for the chocolate-iest dessert they had for the three of us to share.

Of course when the bottle was popped at the table, I had to have a glass or two of champagne, or "bubbly," as Belinda and Mimi repeatedly referred to it as, making me feel like I was in some bad suburban parody of a Notorious B.I.G. video. During the course of our champagne and chocolate (the latter of which I mostly ate), Belinda cornered Mimi about whether or not she listened to rap, as though it was some rite of passage into the "cool" mom's club. Or something. I, for one, had pegged soft-spoken, doe-eyed Mimi as a classical music listener, but it turned out she was actually a huge George Michael fan. This didn't seem to impress Belinda, who began ticking off names of all rappers she loved, including 50 Cent.

Now I don't know why but sitting at a table listening to scrapbook-making, Subaru-driving housewives discuss 50 Cent like he's some tenuous lifeline to another time back when they were cool was utterly hilarious to me. Not knocking it at all, (I've found myself bringing up pop culture references lately that are so outdated they're just sad) but hearing other people do it out loud over a bottle of last-minute champagne just seemed...well, desperate. And made me felt older than I already felt before leaving my house that night.

So what came next? You guessed it. Belinda and Mimi were adamant about visiting a bar around the corner that had some Internet jukebox they kept talking about. Belinda, especially, was on a mission now to play "just one" 50 Cent song on said jukebox. When we got to the bar, Belinda and Mimi made a beeline to the jukebox against the far wall while I lingered near the bar, debating whether or not I should order something since we looked like idiots walking into a nearly empty establishment just to play a 50 Cent song. But I reminded myself I still needed to drive, so a drink was out for me.

"Are you guys going to order anything?" I asked, but they were too busy choosing 50 Cent's "Candy Shop" to hear me. When the synths came on for their song they shrieked in unison and proceeded to dance as seductively as two new moms could in a nearly empty bar with no drinks in hand. "Ooookay," was all I could think since the last time I did this was probably at 23. A booth full of young 20-something guys glanced over at our spectacle and looked highly uninterested, no matter how provocatively Belinda and Mimi danced. I felt like I was a mother out with her two teenagers and felt even older than I had just minutes earlier. The way this night was going I was going to feel of retirement age by the time I reached my car.

After the 50 Cent song was over (thank GOD) and Belinda was brutally rebuffed by the bouncer who picked out the next 40 songs on the jukebox, we left the bar and started to walk back to my car. But wait. We had to pass a nightclub on our way to the parking lot and naturally the two in my party really wanted to stop there "just for a little bit." Oh, joy.

At this point it was getting late, and I'd already told J I'd be home by then, but we dipped into the nightclub to see what it was all about. The moment we walked in the strobe lights and loud music dazzled Mimi and the 21-year-old version of herself officially surfaced. She grabbed both our arms and shrieked in a pitch I didn't know she was capable of. "This is real nightclub!!!!!" she screamed over the blasting music, her eyes wide with delight. Yes, it was a real clurb. This woman really needed to get out more.

Herein was where a gaggle of Bacardi reps surrounded us, offering us drinks and VIP seating and all that stuff that comes with being PR whores. It was no surprise that Belinda and Mimi were not going to drink anything with Bacardi in it; instead, they wanted bubbly. Shocking. This was somewhat embarrassing to me since these 40-something-year-old frat boys were shilling the Boco, but to my surprise, the Bacardi guys ordered us bubbly anyway. Once the girls got their champagne fixes, their flirty sides completely fell away and they commenced to totally ignoring the guys. After Belinda and Mimi ran off to the dance floor, their tummies full of champagne, I then had to listen to the guys incessantly ask me over bass-thumping music "if my friends were lesbians" since they didn't seem interested at all.

"No," I finally yelled over the loud music, "they're just married with kids." By the looks on their faces, you'd think I'd just told them that Belinda and Mimi were trannies.

After putting up with these guys continuing to call Belinda and Mimi gay, while simultaneously hitting on me, I was so fed up. I had a super hot husband who was laying in bed waiting for me to come home, not to mention the rest of that Watch What Happens: Live! episode that was left half-watched on my DVR. And here I was drinking bad champagne in a sweaty nightclub with a group of over-the-hill Bacardi losers that wreaked of alcohol and desperation. I was officially too old for this. I just wanted to go home.

I thanked the men and stood up, grabbing our purses off the seat near me. They protested that I stay since I was "so hot" and all, but the whole situation was thisclose to turning into some sad scene from a Judd Apatow movie. You know, the kind of revelatory scene near the end of his films where the main character has a life-changing epiphany about their new place in the world as an adult. Well, I already knew my place in the adult world and it was not here at this venue pretending I was still childless and single. So I grabbed Mimi and Belinda and left.

Hopefully I will never, ever return to that nightclub, or that type of night, again. Girl's Night Out failed to make me feel young and free -- all it did was make me feel old and pathetic.

MNO fail.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Finding friends as an adult

Every day of the last three weeks has been above par for me. I've had fun, met new people, got to spend some quality time with J over each weekend and have generally been so busy every weekday that I felt my life with Ava was finally finding a balance where she and I were both satisfied. Her, with the stimulation of being on the go and around sights, sounds, colors and people; me, with building friendships, (finally) finding some time to write, and getting things done in and outside of the home.

Then yesterday happened.

If we're going black and white here, it wasn't the most terrible day of my life, but it was definitely a lighter shade of gray. For someone who's tried to paint every day white, it was a downer to say the least.

It started off fine. I woke up before Ava and got myself makeup-ed and ready, excited to meet up with some moms from a mother's group I attend once a week. A few of us planned to meet earlier than the group to have coffee and hang out. Caffeine? Prospective friends I can commiserate with about this whole baby thing? Count me in. I looked forward to getting to know these girls a little better since our meetup group was so big that it was hard to get to know anyone on an individual basis.

So Ava and I went, and it wasn't bad per se, but it wasn't that great either. Maybe I just have high expectations for forging close friendships relatively fast with people, I don't know. But sitting there at the Starbucks in Target with our pow-wow of strollers, I tried in vain to jump into the conversation whenever I could, being my perky self and asking questions with a genuine interest because I do want to get to know these women. But part of the way through I started to realize that no one was really including me in their conversations and no one was asking me any questions -- were they not interested in getting to know me? -- so I watched as they spoke with one other and suddenly I felt excluded and very alone. The last time I felt this way was during my freshman year of high school, when I was one of the last picked for phys. ed. dodgeball (the stereotype exists for a reason). Since that fateful day in Mr. Warmerdam's sixth period P.E. class, I've grown prettier, more confident and a hell of a lot more cool. Or so I thought. But then at Target yesterday that familiar feeling resurfaced.

That feeling, then, made me painfully aware that I was sitting at a Target Starbucks. I always wondered what type of person would ever spend time at a Target Starbucks, usually seen looking dejected and alone with a a coffee and personal pan pizza from the adjoining food counter, and now I knew -- that person was me. The one who doesn't really fit in to her surroundings, but still tries like mad to because having a baby is isolating enough and she just wants to find some like-minded friends, God damn it.

And maybe that's the problem. Maybe I'm trying too hard to force all of this. I so want to have best friends going through what I'm going through that the process isn't happening as organically as a Candace Bushnell novel.

I belong to two mom groups, both of which herald mommy members that couldn't be more different. Let's call these Mommy Group A and Mommy Group B.

Mommy Group A is all career-driven, first-time moms who are eager to return to the professional lives they had before baby. They love their new babies but are happy to complain about breastfeeding, the lack of adult conversation in their new lives, and how they can't wait to go back to work so that baby rearing is no longer their sole function. They unanimously hate cooking, cleaning and anything domestic that has to do with being June Cleaver 2.0. I have this in common with them, but within the group I'm the only stay-at-home mom -- a fact that makes me look like an outsider.

Mommy Group B, on the other hand, is made up of all stay-at-home moms, so of course there's not much talk in this group of "going back to work," nor is there any desire to work ever again. Mommy Group B heralds Martha Stewart-type living, and members keep recipe books, enjoy cooking and crafting, and like playing house. In this group, one mom's idea of living on the edge is wearing a lavender cardigan. I can say for certain that I'm no Martha Stewart, nor do I have any desire to be. Still, the moms in both groups are pleasant and nice, there's no competition (at least I don't feel any) between women. That usual cattiness that comes from female groups (a la Real Housewives) doesn't exist in either.

So these are my two groups and while I may have some things in common with members of both (I hate cooking and cleaning, but I am a stay-at-home mom), I don't quite fit in with either. I feel like I'm somewhere in between, which makes some days better than others.

One day I'll think that I've made headway with a mom or two and the next day I'll feel like I'm right back at square one. What gives? The worst thing of all is that I feel like I'm back in grade school trying to find my group of friends, and all the same rules of the play yard still apply. It's like that scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding when Toula, as a young girl, sits alone at the next table over from the popular girls. She happily opens her lunchbox and before she can take a bite of her mousaka, which she tells the popular girls it is, they shriek "Moose Caca!!!" and laugh at how weird she is. All right, so maybe my situation isn't this dire, but to a degree the exclusion I feel sometimes feels like this.

I'm sure the moms I hung out with yesterday have no idea I'm feeling any of this. I smile and nod and politely enter the conversation here and there, but on the inside I'm thinking "Why can't I just find my people?" I don't want to always be politically correct or bond over breastfeeding stories. I just want to click with a few first-time moms around my age that don't feel the need to discuss babies (or baby-related things) 24/7. Maybe this is just my attempt to feel normal again, back before I had Ava. I did have an identity and life before her, and while she's a great addition, I don't want to pretend that part of me before her never existed.

But, to find mom friends, I feel myself pretending to be someone else. I'm suppressing that perky, hyper part of me to come off as more subdued and collected. I normally have an unusual giddiness about certain things, but lately I've felt like I've tamped down my outward enthusiasm so as not to come off as overbearing and "too much."

And I hate it. It's like I've become some boring, monotonous version of myself just to try and get in good with some of these moms. It's not me and I'm sick of it. I don't want to pretend anymore that I enjoy receiving copies of Good Housekeeping and Parenting Magazine from other moms. I live with a baby; I don't need to read about what it's like. And I hate Good Housekeeping -- do I really look like the type of girl that reads Good Housekeeping?  I loathe how ugly some baby essentials are, like vibrating chairs, swings and "play mats" and I hate how these things make my house look. I abhor breastfeeding, and yes, maybe I like having a bottle of wine or two with my husband after we put Ava to bed. Shoot me.

Why should I feel like any of this is weird or irresponsible to admit just because other moms have sworn off wine and caffeine entirely because of breastfeeding? No, I don't want your copy of Good Housekeeping, but I'll take your copy of Vogue if you have one. Oh wait, you don't. Because you're busy reading about how to properly bake your own croutons while I just want to live vicariously through Kate Moss in Paris.

That's what I need to find: Non-PC moms who see the humor in all this stuff we're supposed to "love" about motherhood. Moms who are honest about everything we're all going through. I dropped the "D" word (depression) a few days ago, and my entire group got quiet and said that none of them experienced any of that after having their bundles of joy. I call bullshit. Maybe they aren't ready to be honest with themselves, let alone me, but I find it highly unlikely that in a group of five moms, only one (me) has experienced any postpartum depression.

I've found that finding new mom friends is a lot like blind dating -- so why should I treat this any differently? Not every man is a perfect fit and neither is every mom. This isn't commentary on me or the choices I've made as a woman, it's simply an issue of compatibility. At 30, if I was thrust back into the dating scene, I wouldn't waste my time with every man, trying desperately to find someone who I'd work with. So why am I doing that now with these new friend candidates? I like some more than others, so instead of trying to make it work with all of them, I'm going to spend time getting to know the good ones while keeping an eye out for new, outside prospects.

Friday, November 2, 2012

My body after baby

Confession: Today I bought a dress that totally didn't fit me. Unfortunately, it's not that it was too big (an easy fix with a cinched belt); it was too small. And I knew this, but it didn't stop me from bypassing the dressing rooms, taking said dress up to the front register and purchasing it. That's right, I bought it. All in the name of cute minimalist color-blocking and an exposed zipper down the back.

Like an idiot I was all happy to get home and try on the damn dress so I could brag to everyone I knew about how at two months postpartum, I already fit into “those” kind of dresses – the kind with cinched waists, slim shoulders and tailored butts. You know, the skinny girl kind. Of course somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew full well I wouldn't fit into the thing. I still have 14 el bees of baby weight to lose (although I hide it very, very well) and once in a while I'll look at myself naked in the mirror and swear my ass has exploded to Kim Kardashian proportions. J insists this isn't the case but husbands can't always be trusted when their wife's weight is at issue. Anyway, irrational Crystal assured me that somehow it would fit, or at least I'd force it to fit. Well let's just say that if the dress were Cinderella's glass slipper it would be less like this:

And more like this:

It was much worse than a little snug. I felt like a sausage stuffed in to size zero casing. Curtains of armpit fat spilled out the arm holes. My thighs made the fabric across them pucker in a most unappealing fashion. And the waist. . .well, it looked like I'd slipped a small rubberband over my torso to use as some makeshift belt. This time last year this dress would have looked stunning on me, in fact it probably would have been loose on and I would have pretended I didn't love all the compliments I'd get for how great I looked in it. Now I looked like Jeana Keough from Real Housewives of Orange County, albeit with no Playboy Magazine past to attest to my former hotness.

Dejected, I tore the dress off and flung it over my shoulder into the baby's empty crib (I currently use Ava's nursery as my second closet). So, aside from collecting dust on its hanger, I guess this dress could serve one of two purposes:
  • It can serve as a reminder that I'm a fat cow now that I've had a baby. This can further remind me that not only has the baby sucked me dry of all energy (along with parts of my soul), she's also ruined my body in her wake. 
  • It can serve as a reminder that though I may be of fat cow status now, if I work hard at losing the weight I can one day fit into some version of this dress again.
Of those two purposes I think I'm better off attempting to be a little positive, so I'm going with option number 2. Like Stella, I need to get my groove back. The dress will now join my pre-pregnancy Hudson Jeans, Banana Republic little black dress and countless other garments that don't fit me to serve as overall motivation to get myself (and my butt) back into shape.

I'm not asking to look like a Victoria's Secret Angel, but I also don't want to keep going this way and wind up padding around my house in a leopard-print muumuu like Kirstie Alley with a bag of Cheetos. I want to feel good about my body again and not automatically hold a shirt or towel up over my midsection if J happens to walk in on me while I'm changing. I never used to be that girl who was insecure about her body. Before I was Samantha Jones about my body; now I'm Bridget Jones. Maybe it's karma for sunbathing topless once in my entire life because I wanted to know what all the fuss was about (turns out not much, other than sunburned boobs).

For a girl who hates working out I don't quite know what I'm going to do aside from count calories and starve myself back to skinny-ness...but that seems a bit unreasonable at the moment since I need every last ounce of my energy to make it through these days. Plus, the last time I counted calories -- 1,100 calories per day – I always felt like I was one step away from fainting like some character in a Jane Austen novel. Definitely not conducive to raising a baby.

I plan to keep walking and maybe I'll gradually cut my calories here and there. I suppose the occasional crunch wouldn't hurt either. I've been a good little witch and cut out my brownie batter habit a few weeks ago, so there's that. The next step is cutting out most of the junk food I eat (humongous sigh). I guess I'll have to say goodbye to Taco Bell, Panda Express, Red Vines licorice and basically anything else that comes packaged in a box, bag or jar. This is the best rule of thumb for a diet since anything packaged in one of these is generally high in sodium, preservatives and, well, all that stuff that tastes good. I once heard that the most healthy way to shop the grocery store was to cruise the perimeter, which makes sense. That's where all the produce, meats, dairy and freshly baked goods are. Everything else in the store's middle is just junk (no matter how good it tastes). So if it means I can get back into that dress and back into a better frame of mind about my body,  I'll make the sacrifice and shop the perimeter more.

After all, not only are there clothes in my closet waiting to hang out with me again, the holidays are just around the corner and that means. . . holiday dress season!!! (I type those exclamation points with heartfelt sarcasm.) Normally this time of year elicits quiet squeals from me since holiday dress shopping and wearing are some of my favorite things. This year, though, I'm meeting it with equal parts skepticism and remorse. No matter how much I cut calories there's no way in a healthy hell I'd ever be able to drop 14 pounds by Christmas. It's a crap situation all around. Nevertheless, I've got three events in December already lined up that I need to at least try and look good at:

1.) A white elephant Christmas party one of my new mom friends is throwing for a group of us mothers. Obviously a cocktail dress would be too dressy for this occasion, but I still need to be the hottest mother there. Naturally.

2.) J's office holiday party. It's being held at a steakhouse in downtown SF (fancy, fancy) and is a great excuse to rock a stunning cocktail dress. Lucky me? Again, I need to be the hottest wife there. It's a gold standard I constantly strive for.

3.) My cousin's wedding. It's going to be a black-tie, evening shindig, so a TKO dress is in order. I'm thinking something in a jewel tone that doesn't highlight the thin layer of fat I now carry around on my back. Not a big deal if I'm not the hottest person at this party since half my extended family are Persian Kardashian-lookalikes that make me look super vanilla in comparison.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I miss my husband

There. I said it. I miss my husband. No, he's not away on some weeks-long business trip or stuck in Manhattan due to any apocalypse-esque hurricane. Nope, he's only about 20 miles away and for some reason that 20 miles feels like 200.

I guess I should preface this with the good news: J got a new job! Mostly thanks to me, since I'm the one that forwarded him the listing online when I saw it (and was slightly obsessed with him moving up the ladder to a higher paying, more prestigious position). Okay, I suppose it also helped that he went to an ivy league school and gained great experience at the law firm he was currently with, but I like to think that my emailing him the posting kicked off all this good news (however delusional that may be). After an initial call to come interview and another month or so of interviews later, J was offered the job, which he promptly accepted. Score!

In a nutshell this job is everything we wished for while he was in law school. Tony street address in one of the best buildings in the city's financial district. Marble lobby with gilded sculptures leering down at all who enter. An office on one of the top floors. A view of Coit Tower and the Transamerica Pyramid from J's window. Big clients and complex legal work. More money than I ever dreamed of having at age 30. After years of uncertainty thanks to the effects of a terrible economy on the legal profession, we -- or I should say he -- had finally joined the big leagues.

For those who've followed my blog over the last few years, you'd think this is all I ever wanted. Frankly, it was. But as is the case with my rose-colored lenses, I tend to only look at "how cool" a situation can be without measuring the negatives as well. Stuck in the path of a historical hurricane? Color me jealous. Lost in the wilderness for three days? At least you lived to tell about it. You were there when Lincoln was shot? Not only would I envy you, I'd also quietly sign up for more theater ticket reminders just in case.

So of course when J got the formal job offer, I was beyond thrilled. We celebrated with cigars and a bottle of Blue Label and stayed up all night talking about how different our lives were going to be now that he had this job. What I didn't consider was that every positive difference also comes with a negative one. I was blind to the the yin and yang until he started work last Monday.

It's only been over a week and I already feel like he's had this job for ages. How could I have thought this was all I ever wanted? Stupid, stupid me. I'm lucky now if he gets home before 8pm, and even when he does it doesn't matter because he's so exhausted from waking up early that all he wants to do is eat dinner and go to bed. He loves his new job so much that he often loses track of time in the office and only notices it's late when I call him and remind him that the sun is coming up in a couple hours (okay, it hasn't gotten to that point yet, but you get the point).

Only having dinner together once in the last seven business days is not all I ever wanted. Watching Anderson Cooper 360 every evening with Ava as my conversational companion is not quite the tradeoff I'd envisioned once J had a Big Law job. Handing Ava over to J when he gets home so I can do some things for myself like, oh I don't know, take a shower, tends to quell any quality time we can spend together throughout the week. I just want my husband back, but I guess this is the tradeoff. If I really want the lifestyle I've always dreamed of, then I've got to give something matter how much it sucks.

So what's more worth it: time or money? I miss our time together but I can't complain about the money, so I don't argue about his long work hours because I know he's simply providing for his family. How else will we be able to do all the things we want to do, like eventually buy a bigger home, travel the world, make real estate investments, (hopefully) retire early, etc. etc.? Does that mean my silence has been bought? Slightly disturbing when thought about this way.

Of course J knows how I feel, but at the same time we're both realistic and know that it's better to work harder younger and enjoy money later than it is to work harder older and not have the time (or mobility) to enjoy it in your geriatric years. Over waffles on Sunday, I told J that I completely understand why he has to work so hard right now. I really do. I am, after all, the person who sparked all this off by emailing him that job posting. I wanted it so bad I could taste it. And as much as I miss him, I'm inspired by his work ethic and commitment to his craft. But at the same time I know myself and I know I can't do this forever. Thankfully he understood, and visions of me in my 70s waiting for him to retire while I lounge lakeside and alone on the banks of Como quickly dissipated.

For now I'll just have to take it day to day and hope it gets easier. At least he changed jobs at a time when caring for Ava on my own isn't as harrowing as it initially was (the thought of him making this transition when we first had her would have been mortifying, to say the least). And because he's in the city now, it gives me more of an excuse to head in and have lunch or dinner with him when I can.

But still, even after five years of marriage, I have this sense of urgency with him and our relationship. It's that butterflies-in-your-tummy, I-can't-get-enough-of-you urgency that makes you do crazy things when you're dating a boy you love, like stay up late talking all night on the phone, make out like teenagers in the rain, or drive for hours just to see him for a quick visit. It's a drug, that urgency, and for some reason I still feel it with J, which makes him working like this all the more harder for me to stomach. But paper covers rock and dollars cover wife, so again I shouldn't complain.

Regardless, I still (and always will) miss him.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The baby blues

Tuesday officially marked my baby's two-month birthday. By the way, her name is Ava.

Ava celebrated this momentous occasion by sleeping through most of the day, only opening her eyes and squeaking or crying when she wanted to be fed (right now she doesn't ask for much). For the first time in eight weeks, I finally -- finally! -- have time to sit down and write something, which I really should have been doing from Day 1, but all other excuses aside, I've been so busy with Ava that I often can't remember what day it is, much less how to even begin recording my thoughts on this whole process online or getting back to writing the book. While time, or the lack thereof, was a factor keeping me from blogging, I have to be honest and say that I was also scared to start writing about it all. Especially that first month of having her. Why? Because it wasn't the idyllic situation that I always envisioned having a baby would be like.

I felt that if I admitted this through words it would make me a bad person (and an equally bad mother). Something like Joan Crawford's character in Mommy Dearest, minus all that wire hanger business. By week 4 or 5, I literally felt like I was going insane. Of course I love Ava to death, but those first few weeks were so foreign to me. It felt like I was tossed into a maelstrom of transition that I wasn't prepared for, what with the sleepless nights, uncomfortable healing "down there," and the stress of hearing a tiny baby emit hours of bloodcurdling cries and an inability to understand what it is they actually want after diapers are changed and tummies are fed.

The frosting on the cake for me was my detachment from the situation. I felt like I wanted to turn in on myself and disappear. Sometimes I felt like she was a stranger when I'd hold her. Other times I felt like she didn't love me because she didn't recognize me as her mother (which is stupid, really, since at that age she couldn't recognize a zucchini, much less her own mother). Often I'd resent her -- for needing so much of me that I had nothing left over for myself. Terrible to say, right? And I feel guilty for even writing it now, although I've since come to grips with most of this. I'd cry for no reason, missing my "old" life even though I was happy to say goodbye to it up until the day we brought her home. I'd be so pissed at J, sometimes even resentful of him, for giving me this new life and being able to leave every day for work while I had to suffer through it alone. I hated how my post-baby body looked and missed the old times where I could actually feel my core and use it for good posture.

Every day was an up/down confluence of emotions, going from extremely sad to (once in a while) very happy. I felt like I was stuck in someone else's life, taking care of this baby that I had no connection with. I was scared that I felt any of this, even though I'd read about it in popular baby books and heard from endless television doctors that this was "normal." Well, it might be considered normal but it didn't feel normal to me. Normal moms were put together and organized, loved their new lives as mothers and got pure satisfaction from their babies. I felt sad and resentful, terribly absent-minded and mentally scattered, like my brain was in a fog. The worst part was that I didn't want to talk to anyone about it. J was the only one who knew what I was going through. I felt guilty for feeling the way I did and that I'd somehow be a failure if I admitted any of it out loud to close friends or family, which made me feel more isolated because I didn't feel I could be honest with anyone, sometimes not even myself. This would just feed into my sadness, which would make me feel even more isolated and...well, you get the cyclical point.

So at my six-week postpartum checkup with my doctor (you know, that awkward office visit where doctors pretend everyone alludes to sex as "intercourse" and they let you know whether you can or can't have it yet), they made me take a written postpartum test. On this test I had to circle answers in multiple choice form and apparently I couldn't hide my sadness enough because my doctor told me I had borderline postpartum depression.

My first thought was: "Great, I'm officially a statistic," because though I'd read about postpartum depression I didn't think I'd actually ever get it. It was one of those scary things you hear about and hope to never experience, like foreclosures or herpes. Other people might get those things, but those type of people serve as cautionary tales. My second thought was "Jesus, if I'm borderline, I cringe to think what full-blown postpartum depression is." After all, I was always a happy-go-lucky girl, easily finding humor in even the worst situations. That girl is still in me, but now I just need to work at maintaining her. My third thought was: "How the hell do I get better?" I didn't like feeling blue all the time.

My doctor's answer was simple. "Prozac," she said, suggesting it like taking Prozac was as common as chewing gum.

"I'd really rather not," I said. After all, she had just said I was borderline, not full-blown, and I refused to believe that medication was the only way to happiness again. At least not in my circumstance. 

"It would only be for a month or two. Three tops. Then you can stop taking it," she said.

I think the look on my face, a look made of two-parts confusion and one-part fear with just a dash of skepticism, said it all. "Okay, but is there anything else I could do besides take pills?" I asked. Visions of me losing my mind and moving to L.A. to be a failed actress with my anti-depressants instantly surfaced, because clearly -- to me, at least -- anything related to pills has to be lifted from the pages of a Jacqueline Susann novel. Yes, my limited knowledge of prescription drugs pretty much centers around Valley of the Dolls.

She asked if I used to work out, and through my haze I did actually find this funny since there's nothing I loathe more than working out, except maybe men who wear athletic sneakers. I told her I used to walk a lot, but this wasn't so much for working out as it was a good excuse to get out of the house and listen to my iShuffle. Nevertheless, it was still some form of physical activity that didn't include getting off and on the couch according to Bravo's TV show lineup.

"You could try walking again," she said, and then went on to tell me how endorphins play a part in us humans being happy. "...But when I see you at our next appointment, let me know how it's going and whether you want to start Prozac," she added (endorphins aside). Jesus, I thought, this lady was really pushing the meds. I thanked her and said I'd think it over between now and our next appointment, but the truth was I wanted no part in Prozac.

So I started walking. Even when Ava cried or acted fussy for hours on end and it probably would have been easier to stay at home in my PJs with her and zone out on some Real Housewives episode, I'd get dressed, pack her up in her stroller and we'd stroll the neighborhood together. She'd fall asleep while I (quietly) rocked out to Lady Gaga and miraculously I started to feel better. Just a little. At about week 6, I decided it was time for her and I to get out into the world more, past the confines of our neighborhood. I know this doesn't seem like much, especially since the old Crystal went out into the world every day, but with a baby, the world kind of feels like a new place. Taking your baby out into it for the first time is terrifying. What if she cries while I'm shopping? I'd think. How or where will I change her diaper if she needs to be changed? What if I can't get the carseat properly put in the car? What if I run of out of bottled milk while we're out and she has a fit? (I'm not one to whip out the boob in public. I just. Can't.)

Slowly we'd go out more, running an errand here and there. I got the hang of snapping her carseat in and out of its base in my car. I grew more sure of myself unpacking and packing her stroller into our trunk. If she'd start to cry in a store, I became more adept at understanding what she'd want. Pretty soon us going out became like second nature to me and the blues I had slowly began to fade.

Then one day she decided to smile for the first time and it was like sunshine peeking through my gray cloudy haze. All of a sudden something connected between us, with that smile of hers, and I couldn't help but smile back. That smile told me that she finally recognized who I was, that all this hard work was paying off. I smiled back at her and it was all over. Since then she smiles almost every time she sees me and in the last week or so she's started babbling and trying her hardest to mimic sounds I make. They're all nonsensical sounds, but it makes me so much happier to feel like we're somewhat communicating with one another. If you had told me this the first couple weeks of her being home I wouldn't have believed it -- how would a smile or babbling make me happy? But it just does. Maybe it's this instinctual thing hardwired into my mother gene. Who knows.

As much as I love the babbles, I also knew I needed to make friends with other moms in my area, which would motivate me to get out even more. So I did. Right now I'm part of two mom groups in my town and while I still routinely have out-of-body experiences when four or five of us walk down a street with our strollers (I never thought I'd be one of those women), it's nice spending time with people who are going through the same thing as me. I don't connect with all of them equally but unlike clubs for books or movies, babies seem like a true commonality you can bond over.

So in the end I am doing better (thank God) and this whole "being a mother" thing seems to get slightly easier every day. I still don't always have the time to eat breakfast or lunch, and there are days I want to bang my head a few times against my brick fireplace because I've been holding her for 4+ hours and I'm tired and hungry and my arm feels like it's going to fall off, yet I can't put her down or else she'll start wailing. But then there are days where I can see what people mean when they say it's "all worth it." Those are usually the days where she'll look up at me with those baby blues and give me a big toothless grin. Just a simple, silent grin. And on those days it feels like my heart smiles.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Peanut has arrived

My little bundle is finally here! My doctor induced me a week after my due date (on a Wednesday night). By Thursday morning my body was responding so well with contractions that I got to forgo the second round of induction drugs and by the early afternoon I was already pushing. Despite my worst fears, labor and delivery was actually a breeze. So much so that I won't be scared at all when we're ready to have Baby #2. The epidural was a Godsend and I was in such a good place during pushing that I laughed the whole time and made jokes with the doctor and nurse. J was amazed and relieved, since he kind of didn't know what to expect either, but according to him I didn't even break a sweat. And, after bébé made her grand entrance into the world, the doctor said I'd escaped my first pregnancy without one stretch mark. Victory was mine! Guess it paid to indulge in all those bottles of cocoa butter.

Bébé at one week old.
Anyway, my biggest victory was holding her for the first time in my arms. Yes, she was covered in slime and crying, but when you've got that little body laying across your chest for the first time all that blood and slime just seem to be insignificant. I cried; J cried. After we got her home and family and friend visitors started to dwindle after the first few days, we finally had our first moments of being alone with her. Everything about her is amazing. The way she opens her dark blue eyes and tries so hard to focus on things like the front door or a tree or some framed art we have up. The way she stubbornly keeps trying to hold her head up even though it's still much too heavy for her tiny neck. Even the way she throws up on my shoulder when I burp her -- always masterfully missing the burp rag and aiming it right on my clothing. It's all amazing. I can't imagine how fascinating it's going to be watching her consciousness form over the next few years and rediscovering the world through her untainted eyes.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Baby update

So yesterday was my official due date. . .and it came and went with no baby in sight. :(

I had an appointment with my doctor yesterday morning and she stripped my membranes, which I'll spare you the details of since it was equal parts uncomfortable and strange. Stripping membranes (sidenote: how cool of a band name is that?) is supposed to be a last-ditch effort to kick-start labor, but so far I've felt nothing since I've had it done. Which depresses me on two levels:

1.) I was really, really looking forward to meeting our baby girl already! I know it's pretty unrealistic to expect she'd come on her due date (especially since only 5% of babies make their grand entrance on the actual day), but still, I hoped she'd be in that 5%. Or even better, I had hoped we would have her early, like around J's 30th birthday on August 10th. That would have been the ULTIMATE birthday present. Unfortunately, I had no baby to give him. . . just a barbecue I picked up at Home Depot. While it's nice he finally has a grill, it's really no substitute for a baby.

2.) If labor doesn't start on its own, I'll have to be induced next week. It's a fairly routine procedure, but for some reason the prospect of being induced still scares the living crap out of me. Not like regular labor and delivery doesn't (you want me to push what out of where?!), but this is like icing on the cake. If, in the off-chance, induction doesn't work then they may need to do a C-section since I'll be in the hospital already and all hooked up to everything.

So for now I'm just sitting here, hoping (praying?) that labor starts on its own. Of course, now I've probably jinxed it and I'll have to wait till Wednesday for the induction, but the longer this whole process drags out, the more scared I get. I really want to avoid a c-section unless absolutely medically necessary. I have no idea how my body will react to the Pitocin drip they'll hook me up on to get my contractions started. I have no idea how the Pitocin may affect the baby. Thinking about these things and more just gets me doubly anxious, which I know isn't good for baby. I'm trying to keep myself preoccupied and calm -- I read, I write, I shop -- but now that I'm past the 11th hour it's so hard to focus on anything since my mind keeps wandering back to all this.

Friday, August 10, 2012

It could be a lot worse . . . or a lot better

I hate it when people say "Well, it could be a lot worse."

Yes, I admit, I used to be one of those people who would say that. More often than I realized. But if you think about it, it's such a trite, meaningless thing to say. All it does is temporarily make you feel better about whatever tragedy -- great or small -- you're currently going through. Kind of like religion.

Of course it could be a lot worse. Anything could be a lot worse. But most of us don't live a life of extremes where things are either catastrophic on a daily basis or so Technicolor that you need a pair of RayBans just to see through all the everyday joy. Most of us live somewhere in the middle -- a place where, in general, everything is usually copacetic (save for the occasional cancer scare or pet death).

Maybe my hatred of the whole "It could be a lot worse" platitude is that not only is it said just to make one's self feel better about whatever substandard state of affairs is happening, but it's also a way out. "It could be a lot worse" means "hey, my lot in life isn't so bad . . . I should be happy with this crap job/crap relationship/crap haircut." But why? Why should you be happy just because you're employed, just because you aren't alone, or just because you're not wearing a wig like Kim Zolciak? Maybe it's better being unemployed and exploring what it is you actually do best. Maybe you would be better off alone. Maybe you would even look better wearing a wig.

"It could be a lot worse" is like spoon-feeding yourself mediocrity. It demotivates you to do better, be better and live a better life. It's time to admit that sometimes circumstances just suck or don't go your way. Such is the way of life. But instead of climbing into a nice, comfortable pool of "it could be a lot worses", the kind of pool that makes it easier for you to settle your standards, why not say "it could be a lot better"? Maybe you could make more money, drive a better car, be in a better relationship or hang out with higher quality people -- people you actually consider "real" friends, not just ones you say are friends but secretly detest.

Perhaps a healthier way to think about it is somewhere out there, right now, someone is being born with a terrible birth defect that will affect the trajectory of the rest of their life. From their first breaths in this world they never had a chance like yours. Somewhere else out there someone is dying of starvation or terminal cancer or some degenerative disease with no cure. Do you think any of these people would want you using them as a reason for why you should feel better about yourself? Of course not. They'd kill to be in your position. One where you can actually change things because unlike them you have a chance at tomorrow. So forget about what's worse. Seize the way you can make it better.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Antiquing a French Provincial table on a budget

I've been on a Francophile kick lately for the baby girl's nursery theme: French Garden.

Over the past few months I've collected things here and there to try and make this nursery as calm and dreamlike as possible, but furniture was the one area that proved frustrating. I'd love more than anything to waltz into Pottery Barn and scoop up anything I want from their nursery collection, but money is a little tight with all our home remodels, and spending a grand here and there on nursery art and furniture just doesn't seem like the responsible thing to do. Luckily my parents bought us a beautiful new baby crib as a gift, so that was taken care of but I still needed a sidetable and a rocking chair.

After exhausting all searches on the Internet, I hit up my local consignment store looking for any type of table that I could modify. My only requirement? That it have French Provincial legs. Surprisingly these types of tables are more obscure than I thought, but just as I was about to leave the store empty-handed, I noticed this little hutch on provincial legs hiding under a rolled up rug:

(Ignore that goopy stuff on it. This was taken after we brought the thing home and slathered on some stripper compound to get rid of that awful Grandma patina walnut stain.) Grandma-furniture coloring aside, I saw major potential in this piece, especially with the adorable beveled detailing on the drawer and the steel mesh grids on the doors.

Since I'm conveniently pregnant at the moment, I had J work with all chemicals to antique this thing back to life so it would fit in a little girl's nursery. Like the diligent husband he is, J got to work stripping off the icky veneer. . .

This part took about two hours in 90-degree temps. Ugh.
Stripped and ready for painting. Much better already!
After perusing various design blogs, I decided to have J spray my little table with Rustoleum's "Heirloom White" paint in satin. I'm absolutely obsessed with this color -- it's a slight off-white with no yellow undertones like other off-whites. Two cans of spray paint and a sanding around all beveling and curves later, the final product was magnifique!:

Nice legs.
Love these curves.
The perfect nursery addition.

Materials Breakdown:

French table: $65
Stripper: $5
Mineral Spirits (to clean stripper off): $10
Two cans of spray paint: $8
Sandpaper: $4

Total Cost: $92

At just under a hundred dollars, I would say this project was a success! Especially considering that it was a solid wood piece and a hundred bucks barely gets you a heap of particle board at Target. We're currently at work antiquing a vintage rocker I found at another consignment store -- pics coming soon.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Boys: You can't go wrong with Kate Spade

So our five-year anniversary came and went and since we're on a bit of a budget with the bebe coming and all, we didn't do anything extravagant but had lots of fun regardless.

Earlier that day I'd been a bit irritated because my hair was not cooperating with me (first-world problems, I know) and no matter how much I curled it, it was so Goddamn hot here that the curls would just fall flat after a few minutes. And no, I will not use hairspray, this isn't the '80s and I'm not Sheila E. After a few more attempts I decided to put the curler down since I was afraid I was slowly burning my hair to death, and let's face it, my hair isn't really the first thing people notice anymore now that it looks like I shoved a volleyball up under my clothing where my flat tummy used to be. I continued primping and getting ready for J to come home from work and whisk me away on our date. And then I waited. And waited. And waited.

No sign of J when he said he'd be here, and by 7pm I was starting to get a mixture of pissed and worried since he also wasn't answering his cell phone and I started to wonder if he'd gotten into some horrific car accident or something. Then, just after 7, he pulls up in his mini cooper and comes running in the front door.

"Hey can you grab some groceries I picked up out of the trunk? I need to pee badly." By his urgent tone I wasn't putting it past him that he had, in fact, had one too many sodas at work and did, actually, need to pee.

"Ummm....okay," I replied, still disgruntled that he'd come home so late.

I waddled down our driveway (yes, I waddle now, how endearing is that?) and popped open his trunk. Of course there were no groceries there (we always grocery shop together, after all), but there was a bouquet of flowers and a big Kate Spade box wrapped up with a big ribbon. At this point the flowers and box eclipsed the fact that he was so late and he was standing right behind me smiling as I spun around and threw my arms around his neck, giving him a big, Hollywood, Frank Capra-directed kiss.

Once we took the stuff inside he told me to open the gift and there weren't one but two gifts inside. I kept playfully chiding him that he "shouldn't have" because we'd already said no gifts this anniversary because of our budget, but he said he was always planning to get an anniversary present for me,no matter what we discussed and I had to try not to smile so hard because what can I say? I love prezzies more than most people and what girl wouldn't want something from Kate Spade? And let's just say the boy done good: He bought me the pair of Simon shoes I'd been lusting over for, oh, the past six months:

And a gold bangle with a cork inset, since cork was the closest thing he could find to wood (which is the 5-year wedding anniversary material). My earlier irritation with my hair suddenly took a backseat to all this pampering, and I slipped on the shoes before we made our way to this little tapas restaurant we love downtown. A couple ginger ales later (and two Bombay martinis later for him) we realized three hours had already passed in the restaurant. Time flies when you've got good food and good conversation.

After splitting a coconut blueberry bread pudding dish and downing a couple divine cappuccinos, he asked what I wanted to do. I said we should go on a long drive and howl at the moon out the car windows, which is always my stock answer to this type of question since it is, actually, what I've always wanted to do. But I compromised with J that a drive up a hill near us would suffice, so we could see the cityscape at night below. Unfortunately our little drive was cut short when on our way up the hill we were met with locked gates, thanks to a state park curfew-at-sunset on the place, but at least we tried. No howling at the moon commenced, but it was an excellent five-year anniversary anyway.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Five years ago today...

I married the one I was meant to spend the rest of my life with. I've appreciated every single day with him and I hope we grow very, very old together. Sometimes I just don't feel like one lifetime is enough.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Leave Marissa Mayer alone (said in a Chris Crocker voice)

So the world is all atwitter about the new Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer (who's name sounds more like that of a Victoria's Secret model's and not of an ex-Google engineer). It's beyond impressive that a woman will be heading such a huge company. . .even if that company hasn't had the best track record in the last few years, and that fact that she's only 37? Well, not only is that even more outstanding, but it also makes me feel wildly unsuccessful, though I can't hate since I jumped the corporate bandwagon by choice and will never -- mark my words -- go back. So major props to her for sticking with it.

But the biggest news isn't that Marissa is Yahoo's new CEO. Nope, it's that she's (gasp!) six months pregnant(!!). Um, what decade is it again?  Obviously this woman is more than capable of running with the big dogs of business, so why are her talents and capabilities suddenly called into question just because she's got a bun in the oven? Oh I forgot, because people are still saying women can't have it all. Now I know not every woman is cut out for high-stress, high-powered work (I'm looking at yours truly here), but some are, some even choose it and work hard for it, and I think Marissa has proven she can do it all. Yes, this is her first baby, but her career has obviously been a top priority in her life till now -- and if she accepted said job at this point in her life knowing she's going to be con baby in about three months, why should the media/analysts/we question if she's up to task? She's already stated that she won't be taking maternity leave.

Also, let's define "having it all" while we're at it. "All" doesn't necessarily mean a full-time job, kids, a husband and a white picket fence, does it? To one girl I know, her definition of "all" is working from home and spending time with her kids. This makes her very happy, and she used to be a pretty high-profile, in-the-newsroom reporter. To another girl I know, it's a life with no kids and a high-ranking title at work. "Having it all" is such an ambiguous way to put things since there is no one thing that makes the female masses happy. So maybe we need to stop defining women as whether they "have it all" or not. Maybe we should be asking whether today's women are happy, and why or why not. Happiness seems a better indicator than having it all.

Plus, let's not pretend that Marissa Mayer is not going to have the luxury of 24-hour private, in-office daycare, all-day access seeing her baby (if she feels like it) and the ability to take it (and her husband, if he's lucky) anywhere in the world she needs to be for a business meeting, along with her private 24-hour live-in nanny, if her baby needs one. So let's stop comparing Marissa Mayer to any other average career woman in this country. She is not the norm. The girl has choices, and with those choices come great flexibility when it comes to building her family and her career. She's earned it.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Putting things into perspective

So after I wrote my jealousy post on Friday, I went out for some much-needed retail therapy that ended up useless. (You know you're beyond being helped when all you can figure out to buy is double-sided scotch tape and it makes you feel a blend of frustrated and accomplished.)

I eventually gave up aimlessly wandering the aisles of Target and came back home to work on the book. I was buoyed by some good writing I got done (much more so than the scotch tape I bought), and I thought I was doing better overall when J called around 6 on his way home from work. The conversation was pretty much as follows:

J: "Hey Sugar Bug."

Me: "Hi, Love."

J: "I'm on my way home, how's everything been?"

Me (in a dejected tone): "It's been okay. . ."

J: "Why? What happened?"

Me (wanting to talk about it later): "I don't know. . ."

J: "Yeah you do. Out with it."

Me: "Well. . ."

And this is the point where I broke down and started to cry, which even surprised me. What the hell was wrong with me? I felt like such an idiot! I didn't know if it was all these pregnancy hormones or the fact that not only was I feeling this way, but I was actually admitting such a petty, stupid thing out loud, but I devolved into a blubbering mess. J was more than concerned because he had no idea what was going on, but I told him I'd tell him in person when he got home, then I said bye, trudged to our bedroom, and had a good 10-minute sob-fest alone in bed.

And as trivial as it all rationally felt, it was the best emotional cleansing. Sometimes a good cry has that effect. Did I still feel like crap after the sob-fest? Yeah, but not as much. And when J got home, he saw me sitting there all puffy and red-faced and gave me a big hug, which made me feel even better. Then I admitted everything to him about the jealousy and what this blogger had done and instead of making me feel like a piffling idiot, he smiled (later telling me he was relieved it wasn't something more More Serious) and told me he understood where I was coming from. Then we discussed professional jealousy and he said it sounded like I needed some Coldstone's ice cream, which we went and got after I touched up my tear-stricken makeup. Like I said, I don't know what I'd do without this man.

I feel much better now that I've had the weekend to sort things out. I guess I was just missing a healthy dose of perspective on Friday. Sometimes we need to reach out -- no matter how hard it is or how prideful we are -- and let those closest to us validate our feelings but also tell it like it is. Does that mean I shouldn't feel jealous sometimes? That it's wrong? Of course not. I'm only human. Sure, I could pretend to be all positive and confident 100-percent of the time, but that would be the biggest load of bullshit ever because I'm convinced no one is this way, even the people that pretend to be (and who generally annoy me since it's obviously an act.)

On a happier note, my sister threw a big baby shower for me on Saturday afternoon and it was wonderful. All my close friends and family were there (well, a few people out of state were missing, but I knew they would've come if they could have). It was perfect -- with good food, good conversation and good people. The theme was Parisian Bébé (obviously) with lots of cute little Eiffel Tower napkins and plates and other decor. As evidenced by this picture of pure glee, I had the best time and couldn't have asked for a better party:

Friday, July 13, 2012

Jealousy rears its ugly head

Sometimes it's so hard for me not to be consumed by jealousy.

Most of the time I'm not jealous at all. In fact, most of the time I'm genuinely happy when things work out for people close to me or for people I tangentially know through these interwebs. I like seeing people's lives work out for the best. Sure, it's a little hard to stomach when I hear someone's just married into a seven-figure relationship, bought a manor in an exclusive gated community (and they're my age) or become an overnight celebrity off some YouTube video or blog post. But most of the time, I'm pleased with other people's progress. Much of the time I even look up to these people, and want to be "just like them," which is awesome because then I have Real Life rolemodels, and not just ones on television shows or in the pages of People Magazine.

But last night, as I was casually browsing Twitter -- something I haven't done in the last six months -- I decided to check in with a handful of bloggers I used to follow and converse with through blogger comments and the like. So I clicked on each name like a fool, happy to see where they were now and how much they'd done in the last year or so. Some had Baby #2, others moved to bigger and better jobs, some had bought houses.

Everything was roses and sunshine until I clicked on a certain blogger's name and noticed she'd changed her profile. Drastically. Like her resume had undergone some huge, made-for-TV makeover and now she was living in a completely different echelon of life, all thanks to some fateful things that happened to her within the last six months or so. The stars, it seemed, had more than aligned for her. And what was the first thing I felt? Complete and utter jealousy. So much jealousy, in fact, that in the middle of the night, while J slept next to me, the recent events in her life kept gnawing at my brain like a teething puppy, and so I took my smartphone to the bathroom and sat there on the toilet at 2am, googling her and and trying to figure out how this had all happened.

Why did I do this? Because what happened to her is EXACTLY what I've wanted for the past five years. (The details of which shall go unwritten since I don't want to disclose her identity.) I needed to wrap my brain around the fact that this type of thing did happen to normal people like her (and well, not me. . .yet). I know I should be happy for her even though I don't know her in "real life," but it's so hard to be happy for someone who now has what you've always wanted. Did she earn it? Of course she did. I'm not saying everything fell into her lap without (probably) a lot of hard work, but I can't help but think that she got what she got thanks to hitting a sweet spot on a current trend and cashing in. Her timing, most likely not planned, was flawless. Maybe that's just my jealousy talking.

I try to "rise above it" and "be an adult" and all those other things you hear when you're man (or woman) enough to admit that yes, something someone has or has recently experienced (like the stars aligning perfectly) makes you see green, but it's hard. How am I supposed to "rise above" something that I wish for every. single. day. of my life?

I woke up feeling totally blah today, thanks to fumes of my online discovery still fresh in my mind. I'll probably feel this way for the rest of the day. I don't know if even retail therapy can help. I wish I hadn't checked in with people's profiles last night because what did I expect? Someone was bound to have become a huge success during the last year. All the bloggers I followed were bright, inspirational women -- this one included. Her good news should come as no surprise to anyone, including me. My mother always taught me not to compare myself, but sometimes it's so hard not to. In situations like this it feels like the natural thing to do, even though rationally I know it isn't.

How do you rise above jealousy?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Always late but worth the wait

Wow. Has it really been three months since I last blogged? This is both highly unacceptable and highly unbelievable. Where has the time gone? The last three months have gone by so fast, and so much has happened since my last post. . .

First off, I turned 30 in April (insert giddy exclamation marks here). Overall the experience was a little underwhelming. I guess I assumed that turning 30 meant undergoing some giant epiphany about life and the future and all those "adult" things you see in movies. But let's be honest, I pretty much have life figured out so there were no new lessons learned. All I found out is that Swiss fondue really is my favorite dinner food (nom nom) and I can't get enough of fresh fruit tarts (another double nom). My parents surprised me with a nice Canon Rebel camera as a birthday present since I've been wanting one to take more professional-quality pics once the bébé arrives, and J bought me a little gold feather "freebird" necklace from Nordstroms that I've wanted. I was a little worried (read: ready to punch him in the face) that J wouldn't be spending my birthday with me since he had a trial set that week and had been staying up late every night leading up to April preparing his case, but luckily the case settled the week before my 30th so all was copacetic in our household. Thirtieth birthdays, after all, only come once in a lifetime.

Know what else comes once in a lifetime? (Well, once if you're lucky?) Five-year wedding anniversaries. . . which is what J and I will be celebrating on July 20th!! I can't believe it's already been five years since we tied the knot, but I guess you know you're in love when five years feels like five days. We don't have anything planned at the moment (although let's face it, a trip to Italy would be divine -- and also completely unrealistic), but we'll probably spend it picnicking in Napa for the day, maybe eat at a nice restaurant that night. I really have no clue and for the first time that I can remember, it doesn't bother me. Who am I? It's funny: The older I get, all I care about is just spending quality time with him. We don't need to do anything extravagant for me to be happy. Some of my favorite times with J are holding hands in the car on our way somewhere, or lying on a blanket together in a park. Sometimes it all feels too perfect, like I'll wake up one day without him and find out it never happened. But then I wonder why can't some love stories be nearly perfect? For right now it is and it has been and I hope it stays that way till we're into our 90s. For now just looking over at him reading before we fall asleep is all it takes to make me smile:

Aside from home remodeling, the past few months I've been busy writing and am happy to report that I've just hit about 100 pages into my newest book idea. I don't know whether it's all these extra hormones flying off me or maybe bébé is my new muse, but I feel a rush of creativity and I suddenly have the daily motivation to do something about it. Strange, right? When I'm not writing I want to be drawing or painting or doing something creative. It's a wonderful feeling, and I'm so appreciative that I have the freedom to do as much or as little as I want of all of this on an everyday basis. No excuses.

In other news, bébé is set to arrive in five and a half weeks! My hunt for Peter Rabbit-themed decor has petered out like a deflated fart over the last few months, so I decided to go with a French Garden theme for the nursery and it's coming along well. We put her crib together a couple weeks ago and bought her a little bassinet to sleep in by our bed after she's born. J also hung a crystal chandelier for me in the center of the nursery, giving the room a very French feel, and he was hard at work yesterday stripping a cute little French cabinet I found at a consignment store recently. The cabinet is an ugly walnut color now (think Grandma furniture on steroids), but we plan to antique it and give it a very Restoration Hardware feel. It'll go perfectly next to her crib. :D Once I'm done with the nursery I'll post pics.

And finally, (in case you're wondering what I look now) here's my burgeoning bump: 

So far this pregnancy has been beyond smooth in the sailing department. I've had no sickness, I'm not that exhausted, I have yet to waddle and so far I've gained just under 20 pounds. Pregnancy, it seems, really agrees with me.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Of Target and yellow rompers

Okay, so I know it's way too early to be baby clothes shopping, especially for clothes that'll probably fit her months after birth, but during our massive kitchen remodel this weekend (I'll post pics later) I popped over to Target to pick up some drawer pulls and ended up wandering by the baby clothes section (how does that always happen?). Of course I couldn't just walk by. Something about that section now has a magnetic pull on me and before I know it I'm wandering the jungle of onesie and dress racks, purring at all the adorable little footie pajamas and cardigans that look like they're made for tiny little garden gnomes.

Such was the case this weekend, and when I spotted this I knew I had to have it:

How adorable is this romper?!? When I brought it home to a paint-covered J who was knee-deep priming our kitchen cabinets, he thought it was too cute as well. So there it is: baby girl's first clothing purchase. My question is how is possible for people to be so small? Secondly, how does it take only nine months for a human this size to form? I'm fascinated.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What we did Easter weekend

While all of you lovelies were out painting eggs, catching bunny rabbits and eating noodle salad, J and I worked our tails off building a new 60-foot fence in our backyard. More out of necessity than choice. During the last storm we had here a few weeks ago, our rotting backyard fence (which was ugly anyway, seriously, the thing looked like it had been implanted from a Favela) blew down, allowing us to stare right into our neighbor's backyard. No privacy whatsoever (I felt so naked and exposed).

Unfortunately with the rains and J's work schedule, we had to wait till Easter weekend to build a brand new fence, but then we hadn't anticipated that most friends (read: men) that could have helped J would be out of town for the holiday. Sooo, it pretty much came down to J moving hundreds of pounds of wood by himself into a cart at Lowe's, moving the wood from cart to rented truck, from rented truck to our front yard, and from our front yard to our back yard. All as I watched and tried to give him moral support. Then he dug out eight 3-foot deep fence post holes across our fence line with a one-man manual auger (this part did not look fun), and poured gravel and concrete into each hole to set the posts. All just on Friday. Saturday and Sunday were spent putting up the backbone of the fence and nailing cedar planks, one by one, down the length of the fence with a hammer (no, we don't own a nail gun). Well, 145 planks and about 1,000 galvanized nails later, our fence was finished.

Measuring/setting fence posts

Putting up planks (ignore our neighbor's ugly in-law unit just over the fence line)

Lola, aka "The Supervisor"

J taking a little break

Finished fence! (above and below)

Oh yes, and on Saturday night we started putting up glass mosaic backsplash in our kitchen (we're currently in the middle of a kitchen remodel as well). A couple months ago J demo-ed the yucky ceramic tile countertops that were in the kitchen when we bought the house and installed granite countertops, but hadn't gotten around to doing backsplash till this weekend. I have to say, I LOVE how it's turning out!:

This next weekend will be completely devoted to the kitchen remodel. Those ugly honey walnut cabinets need to go, stat. We're planning to paint them white and install nice brushed nickel knobs and pulls on all the cabinet doors and drawers. Can't. Wait.

Anyway, back to the fence, the whole time J worked he didn't complain once, even though it was back-breaking and I could tell how bone tired he was. At one point he sawed through part of his finger skin, but kept on going, even though there was blood and I kept telling him he should really put a bandaid on. I feel so lucky to be married to such a great man who can work with both his brain and his hands and slog through even the hardest work without complaining because he knows it's what needs to be done for our family. To me that's the definition of a real man. So yesterday I stopped by a novelty store and bought this trophy for him, just as a funny little way of showing him how much I appreciate him. When I gave it to him last night over dinner he laughed and gave me a big hug, but I meant it. He really is the best husband ever.

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