new blog

Dear, dearest friends,
I’ve decided to launch a new blog, for reasons that are wide and various and I’ve described on said new blog. I don’t know yet what will happen to this space – I plan to keep it up for at least a couple of months. In my ideal world this will be where I practice my critical and review writing – so book reviews, travel writing, movie reviews, music reviews, etcetera – and I expect those reviews to launch in a couple of months. If for whatever reason I decide to shutter everything in between I will certainly let everyone know and leave contact information but that is truly not my intent at the moment.

If you would like to follow my new blog, shoot me an email at I realize that is a lot of work, actually, for a blog, so if you are already a blogger I read, rest assured I’ll be leaving the link in the comments section of your site at some point. If you are a friend shoot me a text and we’ll chat about whether or not you want to read the new blog (it might really not be in your interest area) and if you are a family member…well…I’m hoping most of you have quit reading by now anyway.

New post is up and the format is wonky but I’m working at it – if you are jonesing to read it certainly email me – otherwise I’ll see you around the blogosphere. Everything in between isn’t dead – just on sabbatical while I polish some non-naval gazing pieces.

Cheers and love and etc,

Posted in Uncategorized | 14 Comments

Last post for 2012

Oh, friends. Hello! Merry Christmas! I haven’t posted  nearly as much as I wanted to this year, which falls right in line with the theme of 2012 for me – I mean,  just check out my side bar! I didn’t read nearly as much as usual – I only watched two movies – didn’t step foot in a proper theater where plays are performed – I ignored virtually all the new albums that came out this year. As S. claimed a couple of months ago, the word for 2012 and our family? Triage.

The year began with ongoing illnesses for all three of us, courtesy of E’s first year in daycare and the fact that S. and I both work in hospitals. This time last year, in fact, we were cancelling our travel plans for the holidays and conserving all of our energy to take turns caring for E – for Christmas dinner, after putting E to bed, S. and I tried sharing a bowl of chicken noodle soup which ended up, I am not kidding, being “too rich” for our stomachs. Rotoviruses (which, oh my goodness, I’d never had one before and they deserve their own special ring in hell) followed by sinus infections with a dash of bronchitis here and there kept us in a constant state of sick until spring arrived which is just about the time our 100 year-old Victorian home started DEMANDING we pay more attention to her with all sorts of tactics, from exploding pipes to ceilings collapsing to full-on appliance failure. I am not even going to discuss the car repair work we needed to have done but if I were to really sit down and examine our finances for the last year I have little doubt that I would see we probably had to spend more than we earned for the first time in our lives.

From sprained ankles to hand, foot and mouth disease – from broken sinks to small flare ups of minor autoimmune issues – it felt like we never caught much of a break in 2012.  Through it all, though, S. and I were able for the most part to keep our focus on each other and our daughter and say a prayer of thanks, every day, that no matter what else happened we were lucky enough to bear witness to her toddler hood. This meant that more often than not, books went unread, movies went unwatched and yoga went unpracticed and we spent our time, instead, practicing the ABC’s and creating food out of play dough in Evangeline’s play kitchen and having spontaneous, post-dinner dance parties in the living room.

I also made a career move that I am not quite confident of yet and find myself questioning regularly.  As S. and I move away from 2012 and look forward to 2013, we know we will be tackling big, life-altering issues, like whether to remain in Pittsburgh or move closer to our aging parents once and for all, whether or not to have a second child (all of these articles on the problems of procreation after 35! And I’m only 35 for 4 more months!), and what make sense in terms of our careers. These are issues we are lucky to have, of course – this year we’ve seen tremendous tragedy and I am grateful every day that my worries are of such mundane, every-day life variety.

In terms of this blog, and my writing life in general, however, I’ve gone back and forth dozens of times. Do I keep blogging? Maybe I should quit this blog – maybe I should start blogging every day.  Maybe I should finally realize I’m never going to be a true writer’s writer and quit it entirely – NO! I SHOULD WRITE A PLAY – A SERIES OF PLAYS!  It is difficult, as time passes, to maintain the same level of creativity and artistic expression one enjoyed as a child, when faced with the responsibility of a job that is more like a career and a child that likes to leap off into space with no regard for danger whatsoever.

Of course, while all of this has been happening much, much larger tragedies have been happening across the globe – hurricanes and mass shootings and war and poverty and global warming and honestly, sometimes I think the worst thing I do to myself is read the New York Times each morning.  I tend to dwell on bad news and internalize entirely too much of it -I’m like my father that way.  What I’ve realized recently, though, is part of the reason all of this news – and all of this life stuff – makes me feel so bad is because I no longer have any sort of creative outlet to take all this negativity and make sense of it. I stopped writing mid-way through my pregnancy when the extra-early mornings felt unbearable and never fully returned. I miss it, but I actually miss acting as well – the physicality of that art form seems more appealing, in many ways, than sitting at my desk lately. I feel on any given day there are dozens of stories inside me to tell and I lack any sort of outlet for that expression.

I guess what I am trying to say is – I don’t want to quit blogging, even though this blog has been pretty anemic this year.  Instead, I want to write more, do more of the things I love. I’ve had numerous people tell me to cut myself some slack…that it is okay, after Evangeline goes to bed, to simply watch television and relax. And I truly believe them – it is okay! Necessary some nights, even. But I think I grow all out of whack when I allow myself to do this too often – I need to find a bit more balance for the things I’m truly passionate about, like live theater, tennis, and writing.

Truly, I’m not sure what any of this means for the new year, or how I’ll implement it, but I do know I’m not giving up on this blog yet. I have some time, to think about what comes next, but first I am going to enjoy the rest of the holiday season as work slows to a near-halt, family floods our city and our home, and I take the next ten days to eat cheese and drink wine and just be thankful – thankful for blessings large and small. I look forward to talking with you all again in the new year!

Posted in Everything In Between | 11 Comments

Marriage Monday – Let’s Talk about Sleep

Do you and your partner sleep well together? This subject is on my mind, I think, since S and I have returned from the Thanksgiving holiday a little less rested than we would have been if we had stayed home. This time around our lack of rest is mostly due to extensive road travel and our toddler, who cut her last four teeth all at once, beginning the day after we hit the road. Some of my tiredness, however, stems from the fact that S is a very active sleeper and as often as not I become a prop he uses to act out his dreams. He remains sound asleep while gesturing wildly, sitting up, talking, playing the piano and what have you. For a couple of grinding weeks right after I brought E home from the hospital, he had dreams that I had brought her into bed with us and was about to drop her.  During these dreams he would clutch me (and the presumed baby) wildly, desperate to keep her from falling. Not once during these episodes did I have E in bed with us, and since I was already on edge from the sleep deprivation that comes with a frequently nursing baby, I kicked him to the spare room for the entirety of my maternity leave.

The truth of the matter is, we just don’t sleep particularly well together. I am a light sleeper – S is a heavy sleeper. S is also 6 feet, 6 inches tall and since we have yet to spring for a king-sized bed, he is often squished and uncomfortable which, in turn, makes me squished and uncomfortable.  S is also much more of a night owl and prefers sleeping in, where I am always in bed by ten o’clock but more than ready to get up early.

When we sleep well together, we sleep very very well – we can go weeks or even months sleeping side by side, and when our sleep patterns coalesce in this way there is nothing I like better – I do believe a sense of physicial and emotional intimacy is lost when we sleep in separate bedrooms, and some of our loudest and longest laughing sessions have occured at three in the morning. But when we don’t sleep well together, we sleep terribly, and someone ends up in the guest room for a few days or a week until we can reset ourselves enough to share bed space again.

Most of my friends act appalled if I even hint at sleeping separately from S – and so I often don’t mention it because it seems to come across as though our marriage is in trouble, when the truth of the matter is our marriage is at its most perilous when I haven’t slept for three nights because S has decided to form a band in his sleep and play Green Day’s greatest hits. I seethe while S., E and and even our dog sleep until I recognize the pure ridiculousness of the situation and march myself off to the spare room.

So, that’s our sleep status – we try to mostly sleep together and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. What about you? Do you think sleeping apart is just one step away from divorce town? Have you slept apart for years, and have the happiest marriage you know? Any tips on how to cope with different sleeping “styles?”

Posted in Marriage Monday | 10 Comments

Marriage Monday – Guest Post!

Grrr, I just had this whole post written out and wordpress ate it. Grr. ANYWAY. Today’s Marriage Monday post comes from the fabulous Smithereens! We’ve been reading each other’s blogs for years now, and when mentioned guest-blogging, I leapt at the opportunity for her to share her graciousness and insight here. I love what she came up with – a post that explores the struggles of feminism and marriage. Without further ado, here is her post – I will be commenting in the comment section.

During the early years of our relationship, learning from my husband, or recognizing him as the most influential person in my life seemed so far from my feminist aspirations and my education that the whole idea sounded foreign to my own ears.

It might sound naive but in the early days of my marriage it never occurred to me that my husband might teach me something. Our (my?) idea of marriage was of a partnership between equal, responsible, consenting adults. We would share chores on an equal basis, not strictly 50-50 but based on skills and affinity, and we would resolutely avoid slipping into traditional gender bias. And to this day we mostly stick to this covenant: he does the laundry, I do the electrical maintenance. In my ideal conception of marriage, we would evolve together, build up a family and a life together and rely on each other, but nowhere in the traditional wedding speech at the City hall did we hear the word “teaching” or “learning”. Call me self-centered if you want, but I remember how worried I was about losing myself in becoming someone else’s wife: I only thought of this possible transformation in terms of becoming less of me, and never saw how I could gain from this transformation.

If you ever type “learn from my husband” in a search engine, the nearly 5 millions references you get are mostly testimonies from traditional, conservative Christian (or Jewish) home-makers who profess submission and acceptance of the God given role of help-meet to their husbands. I don’t have anything against each of these women, but as a French liberal woman raised in an intellectual atheist culture influenced by the 1968 revolts and feminism, this has  simply never been my world. I was taught in the 1980s by my mother and by a generation of like-minded female teachers, that as a girl I could become anything I wanted provided I worked hard. It was an ideal of independence, of self-reliance, and the subtext was that men couldn’t be trusted.

I didn’t feel comfortable with “teaching” and “learning” because it implied an imbalance between someone who knew and someone who depended on the other to get this knowledge. It had nothing to do with love. But I progressively learnt (yes, learnt) to think differently. I started to see that influence was not the same thing as power, that teaching may also be an expression of caring and loving and that learning is often about putting yourself in your spouse’s shoes, something that has saved me from many rotten arguments time after time.

 Now if I have to pinpoint what I’ve learnt from my husband, I don’t think of practical skills. Trying to learn a skill from him (say, how he does professional presentations for work) resembles too closely to a school context and is a recipe for disaster: I end up bickering and nagging and none of us is taking anything out of these painful moments. But he had taught me a lot in a more subtle way. Let me try a list:

 He has taught me:

– that I can actually wear red (and bright colors in general)

– that I can turn into a morning person and really, truly enjoy it

– that people can be trusted for many things (not to be confused with blind naivety) and that it’s a principle a lot more positive to live by than the opposite

– as a consequence, that I should trust myself a lot more and stop being hurtful to myself (when I’m on a self-loathing binge he says: “stop talking ill of my wife!”)

– that reading the small print of the mortgage papers is worth it and that paying off the whole mortgage is not “just a dream” if we get organized and stick to the plan

– that some people prefer ironing to cooking

– that all men aren’t really from Mars (that gender clichés aren’t necessarily true)

 Of course, I could have learnt these lessons sooner or later from other sources, from “life”. But I prefer to acknowledge how lucky I am to have someone next to me to open my eyes. And who knows what he learnt from me?


Now here’s the question: how can we combine our feminism with the acknowledgment of our husbands’ true influence over us?

Posted in Marriage Monday | 4 Comments

Why I am voting for President Obama (again)

There are two major issues on which republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and I agree. The first is that under no circumstances should we reduce or decrease our military (and as I type this all of my intensely liberal friends and my husband holler at me for this opinion) and the second is that we have to – we absolutely MUST – reduce our deficit, specifically our debt to China. This isn’t to say that I don’t believe in putting Americans back to work or advancing the middle class – rather, this is to point out that there are two important issues where I agree with him and yet I will still be voting to re-elect President Obama.

These are rather major issues, and in the grand scheme of our country today they should at least be factored into my decision making,  but they are quickly tempered by Romney’s pro-coal stance and refusal to distance himself from the incredibly archaic anti-woman speech his co-horts pollute the airwaves with.

But let’s look at this another way. Here is an approximation of a conversation S. and I had recently.

S: I voted Republican once. I probably won’t ever again, but I did once.

Me: When? When in all the world did you vote for a republican?

S: Dole versus Clinton. I mean, I just didn’t trust Clinton at the time. Would you trust him with our daughter, if she were sixteen and alone in a room with him?

Me: Of course not! But if she joined the Peace Corps and was kidnapped in some war-torn country and in danger I would inherently trust him to save her and bring her home through diplomacy. That is what I want from my President.

S: Well, that’s a good point (to be fair I’m not sure he realizes he conceded this argument – it was right before game 4 of the Tigers sweeping the Yankees to head to the World Series).

My truth is this: I have a deep and abiding faith in the Democratic party and what it is capable of achieving and I have tremendous hope and confidence that our country can get to a balanced budget and a growing economy without completely sacrificing programs that help the poor, art programs in schools or access to good health insurance.

No matter how hard they try (and let’s face it, they don’t try very hard), the Republican party is unable to convince me that it could be a party that represents my interests. I mean, yes, our national debt freaks me out and I want to see it addressed ASAP but I also have worries for this world – major and significant worries.

In no particular order, I am worried about climate change, gun violence, my right to make my own decisions about my body, equal pay for women in the work force, access to food stamps for those who need them, the number of children living in poverty, the number of people living in poverty, I am worried about acts of terror,de-regulation of the coal industry, the rising cost of food and how much college tuition will cost by the time E is ready for higher education.

As concerned as I am about these issues, though, I recognize what a luxury it is to even spend time thinking about these things.  S. and I are actually some of the few who can claim to be better off than they were four years ago – perhaps not substantially better but our housing value went up, as did our salaries. We aren’t in what I consider a position of comfort, yet – we’ve earned just enough to be able to cover the disasters we’ve been dealt but we haven’t been able to get ahead financially – but we are what I think of as ok. We will all be comfortably warm and well-fed this winter – not dripping jewels and European vacations or anything but we will be ok.

What a privilege, to be able to say that. What luck. So I don’t see it as my job to vote for the person who will improve my own personal socio-economic profile (because, frankly, that would probably be Romney) – it is my job to vote for the person who I believe cares for our country as a whole, and who believes that just because you are poor, or a woman, or God-forbid, a poor woman, or a child, or elderly, or sick – you still matter. You will not be left behind in the name of job creation or economic growth. You are a person, a person who matters, and you will be taken into account as we continue to fix the mess we find ourselves in.

There is so much talk of what terrible shape our country is in right now. Job and economic growth are slow, more women and children are living in poverty than in last couple of decades, we are an obese nation that can’t feed its poor…if you listen to the political pundits right now you wouldn’t be wrong to despair over the state of our nation.

And yet, through all of that negativity, I know there is good – so much good. And President Obama has us on a path that is improving.  Sure, it’s slow, and sure, he’s not addressing all of our pet issues all of the time (I personally really struggled with his willingness to sacrifice the Great Lakes for the good of the shipping industry). But he was handed a disaster of a country four years ago and he is slowly and steadily improving it. Oh, he may not be show-y like Romney – he might not promise jobs and money in your pocket right away but then again, President Bush did that. Look where it those tax breaks got us.

Those of us that can afford to pay signficant taxes, should. But we we should do so for a President who is going to utilize the money to help the country as a whole, and not just a privileged few.  That’s why I’m voting  for President Obama, and you should, too.

Posted in Barack2008, Everything In Between, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Falling into France, or Paris at the very least

When Bringing Up Bebe, by Pamela Druckerman (I would link to it but I’ve tried three times and for whatever reason that function isn’t working on wordpress today) was first published, her marketing people and the media presented it the way so many books on parenting must be promoted anymore – as an argument for a better way to raise children. It wasn’t published so terribly long after Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chau, whose excerpt/adapatation in the Washington Post led to outrage by countless American mothers, and suddenly it seemed like every nationality was claiming to parent better than we do. What with being super busy arguing with one another over issues like breast or bottle, stay at home or work, attachment parenting or free-range parenting, all we  really had time for was to take to twitter/facebook/tumblr and unleash a collective, defensive roar before returning to our own lives.

So reading Bringing Up Bebe wasn’t really on my agenda, even when I saw the author interviewed on various news programs and I found myself nodding in agreement with what she had to say.  Thus far in raising Evangeline I have remained true to only two parenting experts – Dr. Brazelton and It wasn’t until I read a post at one my new favorite blogs More Than a Weed (which I would link to but again…can’t…) praising the book that I decided to give it a read.

A recently sprained ankle and wanting to avoid asking S. to do anything more than he was already handling led to me finally breaking down and ordering the book for my ipad – and I’m so glad I did! What was positioned in the media as a “the French do it better” with an heavy emphasis on Druckerman’s observations of French kids’ eating habits is instead a thoughtful, compassionate combination of memoir, investigation, reportage and philosophy that has increased my confidence in some of the choices I’ve already made and given me the courage to try some new approaches with Evangeline.

Because we are completely and totally food obsessed here in America, a lot of the news coverage of this book  talked about her chapters on French eating, and how French kids eat everything, and how amazing this is, etc. etc. and while I did draw a lot of inspiration from her food discussion, what I found more subtantial and more impressive was her observations of French culture that bleed naturally over to French parenting.

One of my favorite chapters discussed the importance not only of the words please and thank you in French culture, but stressed the value of children saying hello and goodbye as well…

Of course I’d been making Bean say the magic words, “please” and “thank you.” But it turns out that in French there are four magic words: s’il vous plait (please), merci (thank you), bonjour (hello) and au revoir (good-bye). Please and thank you are necessary but not nearly sufficient. Bonjour and au revoir – and bon jour in particular – are crucial…adults are supposed to say bonjour to each other too, of course…it’s crucial to say bonjour upon climbing into a tai, when a waitress first approaches your table in a restaurant, or before asking a salesperson if the pants come in your size. Saying bonjour acknowledges the other person’s humanity…it signals that you view her as a person, not just someone who’s supposed to serve you.”

I love this idea, and it is one I’m working to instill with Evangeline. I think the point that saying hello recognizes the other person’s humanity is incredibly powerful, and something not often required of children. S. and I have both heard the theory from friends that toddlers are practically sociopaths and it’s the parents’ job to bring them up and out of their own selfishness and make them aware of the world and how to behave in it. Evangeline has taken very naturally to “please” and “thank you” – I mean, let’s face it – those words help her get what she wants – and she delights in “bye bye” but she prefers a death stare instead of a greeting for anyone she doesn’t see regularly. We are nowhere near getting her to say hello to people, but this book has encouraged me to keep prodding her on this matter, every day.

More than once, Druckerman references French Women Don’t Get Fat, by Mireille Guiliano, and while I promised myself I’m no longer dieting (I’m not!) I couldn’t help myself, I had to download it too. I took a break from Druckerman’s book to soak up Guiliano’s lovely, rambling stories of the way French women live, eat, work and love and while at the end of the book when Guiliano summarizes all the things French women do and don’t do I came away thinking “Wow, French women don’t seem to have a lot of fun,” I found this book almost as wisdom-filled and helpful as Druckerman’s. Guiliano talks in  terms of “recasting” the body instead of losing weight, and gives solid, concrete, doable advice  that is the opposite of almost any “diet” I’ve ever seen, encouraging readers to truly examine their eating habits to determine what is absolutely necessary to keep for their overall happiness and what could be reduced or even eliminated without affecting the person’s lifestyle.  For instance, I am not French and know I couldn’t be happy without our beloved taco night once a month or so but I really could sacrifice the handful of crackers I occasionally stuff in my face out of desperation. She also recommends asking yourself “what will do?” – Will one glass of wine instead of two be sufficient? Could you replace your Oreo cookie habit with a piece of dark chocolate? Her approach is about balance, recalibration and a confidence in ones own body, and just like Druckerman’s book, I found several key ideas I could implement quickly.

I could write on and on about both of these books – each chapter of each text had something I either identified with or found helpful, and made me fervently hope S. and I can take advantage of Pittsburgh’s direct flights to Paris someday before the opportunity expires, but what I think I found so powerful in both books is the emphasis on having an enjoyable (even pleasurable!) lifestyle – a collection of days well-lived, as opposed to what I feel so many of us do now. I am attempting, for our family, the creation of a pleasurable lifestyle as opposed to day after day of rushing to work, rushing home, slamming something unsatisfactory on the table for dinner while letting Evangeline run wild,  and both books have helped me understand how to establish of a firm cadre (framework) that allows for organization and discipline but also a lot of freedom and joy.  I am very thankful both books came my way and I hope to update down the road as I implement some of the tactics from each!

Posted in On the Nightstand, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

writing for another project this week

I am terribly overdue with an article for the Estella Society, the awesome new book community launched by the amazing and passionate Heather and Andi, so I am writing that this week instead of blogging here. If you love books, and talking about books, and reading about books, and almost everything book related, I recommend you check out!

Posted in On the Nightstand | Leave a comment

Marriage Monday – mi familia es su familia edition

Early last evening found S. and me in the kitchen  – him preparing a rosemary and garlic stuffed pork loin while I played around on my ipad, trying to look like I was contributing to dinner in some fashion. “What do you think my marriage Monday blog post should be about tomorrow?” I asked him as he stirred the risotto and I flipped through my pins on pinterest.

“Best in-law visit ever,” he said without hesitation. My initial reaction was to reject his response but then I gave it a couple seconds of thought.

“That’s a good idea – great idea,” I said. “Although I’m not entirely certain it was the very best time we’ve had with my parents. We have had several great visits.”

“Best grandparents visit ever, then,” Sam amended, drizzling tomatoes from our garden with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

“Fair enough,” I said. “Fair enough.”

Indeed, we are coming off a very successful parental visit, and I think part of its success was its brevity.  My parents drove to Pittsburgh to babysit Evangeline for an evening so S. and I could attend a fancy-dress up event.  They arrived the day before the event and left two days after, obstensibly because they didn’t want to interrupt our day-to-day routine but more likely because bird hunting season began this weekend and I know my dad heard the clarion call of the autumn woods in Northern Michigan. Another reason the visit was successful, I think, was because Evangeline immediately recognized my mom and dad this go-around and knew she could get them to take her for walks and play with her endlessly.

Perhaps what is most important here, though, is that the visit was enjoyable from S.’s point of view. Negotiating family politics is one of the trickiest problems we tackle together as a couple – in fact, I think it is possibly the most difficult since we tend to agree on our finances (a notoriously sore point with some couples, from my understanding). It’s not that we don’t get along well with each other’s family – quite the opposite, in fact. But even with solid and enjoyable family relations there are still disagreements, disgruntled moments, frustration at how very differently each other’s family behaves.

One of the hardest parts of being a newlywed, I think, is the expectation that you must immediately assume one another’s family as your own. Your mother-in-law wants you to call her mom, your father-in-law insists you sit for a family portrait the first year of your marriage. You are expected to feel for your new family the same way you feel for the one you were raised in, except, because the relationship is relatively newer it feels more precarious – as though it needs great care (and it does). You defer to your new mom on issues you would never keep quiet about in the home you were raised in – you choke down your father in law’sbeef stew even if cooked carrots give you the heebie-jeebies. 

I’ve been blessed when it comes to my in-laws, particularly when it comes to my sisters-in-law, whom I’ve loved fiercely and protectively since well before my marriage made us official relatives, but I get along tremendously well with S.’s parents, too. It hasn’t been until recently, though, that I’ve truly felt like a part of his family, in a way similar to how I feel about my own. I gain strength and confidence from S.’s family much in the same way I do my own, and witnessing the family’s growth and achievements is an incredible feeling. I tend to speak up more, now, than I ever did before but I do try to save my concerns or challenges for issues that *really* matter instead of arguing every point or decision. Year after year, my love for this extension of my family grows and strengthens, but the feelings of family weren’t immediate, and in many ways I resented the expectation (demand, really) of such immediate, intimate feelings.

When did the family you married into really begin to feel like your own?

Posted in Marriage Monday | 5 Comments

And in my 35th year, I give up dieting

My mom told me a story the other day about my grandmother (her mother). It came up in the context of Evangeline, as my mother remarked at how astounded her friends were with Evangeline’s eating habits.  From the day she was born, I haven’t  had to worry about my daughter eating – she nursed so voraciously that more than one nurse mentioned videotaping us to show other new, nursing mothers.  At three months, Evangeline tried stealing eggs off of our plates and now, and nineteen months, she gobbles up Greek yogurt, peas, grapefruit and pesto-slathered chicken with joy and gusto. I am prepared and indeed, expecting, a day where she will only eat orange food or noodles and cheese but so far, with the exception of green beans and red meat, Evangeline has shown a deep and abiding appreciation for all the food the world has to offer.

“You definitely want to maintain her enthusiasm,” my mom said. “You don’t want to do what we did to you, or what my mom did to us, and constantly try different things to lose weight.  I’ve read that the word diet shouldn’t even be brought up in a house with young children.”

“I didn’t realize grandma worried about her weight,” I said. My maternal grandmother certainly had some curves in her younger years but in all the pictures of her I’ve ever seen she had a beautiful, glamorous figure. I knew her as a great lover of food  – rare prime rib dripping with homemade horseradish cream, lemon merengue pie with the merengue piled “a mile” high, chicken wings smothered in blue cheese dressing were just a few of her favorite foods to eat.

“Oh, she constantly worried about it. One time she read in a magazine that banging your hips into the wall as you cooked made you slimmer. She did that for a year before realizing it didn’t work,” my mom said.

Can you imagine? Banging your hips into a WALL, over and over and over again? Really, sometimes there just are no words.

Even though it was said in passing, it helped me to hear my mom recognize the various and sundry diets she and my dad put my brother and me through as kids.  Sometimes we were vegetarian, and sometimes not – occasionally my dad had flings with lower-carb diets like Atkins or South Beach.  The diet that lasted the longest  was the low-fat craze so many people in the eighties grabbed on to when suddenly everyone started worrying about cholesterol. Open my parents’ refrigerator door and you will find evidence of all of these diets – boca burgers, fat-free cheese, sugar-free ice cream, fat-free half and half, salad dressings made up more from chemicals than from actual food. The food of my youth.

I can remember two different times in my life when I haven’t been on a diet, and looking back, I was either at my healthiest or slimmest during those periods of time.  The first time was during my junior year in high school when it seemed like all of my friends, including my best friend, were on some sort of extreme, potentially anorexia-inducing diet and I just couldn’t handle any more conversations about weight and waist size, deciding instead to eat whatever I wanted but just until I began to feel full. I hadn’t been heavy to begin with – at the time I was extremely involved in theater and dance – but the weight I lost just from listening to hunger cues was startling. I managed to maintain that particular relationship to food for years, until a period of crippling depression and anxiety, brought on in such a cliched way by the 9/11 attacks and exacerbated by months of unemployment and anti-depressent medication, caused me to turn to food in a way I never, ever had before.

If I start talking about that period in my life it’s possible I will get incredibly off-track so I’ll save our year in West Virginia for another day and time and simply say I lost *much* of the weight I gained during that period  but not all of it – a stubborn 15 – 20 pounds have remained despite constantly dieting.

The second (and last) time I wasn’t on a diet was during my pregnancy. I sort of feared pregnancy-induced heartburn since I heard so many wicked stories about it and thus ate very small portions throughout the day. I also followed every single pregnancy food rule you could imagine, from avoiding soft-serve ice cream and lunch meat (listeria!) to eliminating almost all fish (which made me sick, anyway) and the end result was a net gain of 24 pounds over the course of the pregnancy, while feeling like I could eat anything I wanted, really. That weight was easy to lose, but still leaves me between 15 -20 pounds above my ideal weight.

I’ve worked hard at losing this weight, to limited success.  I workout regularly, I chase my one and a half year old around the house for hours at a time, I never buy ice cream or make cake or huge lasagna dinners or anything, and yet the extra weight remains. I think this is due to several factors, including a somewhat, although not entirely, sedentary job, obviously not eating the right food all of the time, and the inability, or lack of desire, to make losing this weight my very top priority. There needs to be some ownership here, after all.

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve found myself facing overwhelming diet fatigue. I am tired of exercising in order to gain “activity” points and I’m tired of, on days when I am especially hungry, not having the ability to eat to satisfaction, and I’m tired of worrying about protein to carb ratios and thinking, if I want an apple, that I had better eat a “protein” with it or else it will just disolve into sugar that will throw a party on my pancreas. What I want to do, more than anything else, is eat like a normal person – like my most slender friends do.

The more and more I thought about this, I realized I could stop dieting. I mean, it is well within my power to do so – the only one who cares about my protein to carb ratio is me. I could, instead of berating myself every day for having flabbier abs than I would like, be proud of my body – of its incredible energy, flexibity and capabilities. Instead of cursing genetics for what I haven’t been blessed with, I could thank God for what He has given me. I could begin looking at yoga, swimming and dance classes as things I do because I love them (which is true) and not activity points to be translated into food points.  I could…see what happens.

And so – that is what I’ve decided to do. In the interest of full disclosure, I have decided I need to weigh myself every day, in defense against that one year in West Virginia – this is NOT permission to pound pepperoni pizzas and hamburgers and such, like that one year I did just  that. Instead, this is an attempt to see if I can break the chain of dieting and weight loss tricks that have been passed down to me through generations of white anglo-saxon women. It’s an attempt to free up some brain space to think less about calories taken in and calories burned and more about reading great books and finally submitting some writing. It’s an attempt to make the next 35 years of my life about something other than how much I weigh or whether I’m a size 8 10 or a size 12.

I make no promises that I am going to be able to achieve giving up dieting. I’ve been conditioned for decades at this point to worry about my weight, and to chronically try to lose some. But I’m going to give this a chance – I’ll let you know how it goes.


Posted in Do I Dare to Eat A Peach, Uncategorized | 12 Comments

Penn State, concussions and some confusion over football

A couple of summers ago when I was newly pregnant with Evangeline, our friends E & E moved to our neighborhood.  They moved to our Appalachian/sort-of Southern sort-of Northern Midwest/East Coast city from Colorado, and were used to microbreweries, clean air and easy access to vegan cuisine.  They struggled adjusting to Pittsburgh, with our lack of sunshine (although that doesn’t apply this summer!), adoration of Yeungling on draft and preferences for incredibly fattening food.

“Pittsburghers,” the female E said at one point, “Are incredibly proud of their city without necessarily having much reason to be.”  She said this as we walked our dogs through our admittedly pretty shitty neighborhood park – it’s the kind of park that looks constantly hungover from the night before – no matter how much lawn-mowing and flower planting happens, the odd syringe or used condom are bound to show up. And your kid or your dog are usually the ones to find them.

“Furthermore, this city is obsessed- OBSESSED – with football! I don’t get it – I wouldn’t waste one minute of my life watching a football game.”

“I actually like football,” I admitted, guiding Skylar away from a mound of peanut shells obviously collected by an enterprising neighborhood squirrel.  This comment just set her off further.

“What,” she demanded, “Is so great about football? If you can name five good things about football right now I will possibly accept your argument but if you can’t then, well, I will remain convinced football is the dumbest sport in America.”

Her directness took me aback. I have never been great when on the spot but defending football took me into a territory I was particularly uncomfortable in – I would be no more succesful convincing her tempeh-loving heart of the merits of a beautifully marbled steak than I would be convincing her football had any merit.

fall crisp air marching bands cheerleaders friday night lights dances after games football players team colors team chants the wave loyalty my dad, my brother, many of my boyfriends

I grew up in a football-loving household.  I remember my parents telling me how much fun it would be to enter highschool and attend Friday night games with my friends, and they were right. Within a couple weeks of my freshman year, I had “my” spot in the bleachers, high enough to see my friends in the marching band as well as the game and as far away as possible from where my parents and younger brother sat.  When I received early acceptance to Michigan State University, the same college my parents, aunts, uncles and eventually cousins (and my brother) attended, my parents wasted no time in purchasing  season tickets for me because, in their minds, Saturdays spent at Spartan stadium are nothing short of nirvana.  Again, they were right.

Ultimately, I think I find the whole atmosphere surrounding football more seductive than the game itself. Football season begins in the heat of summer and concludes during the deepest chill of winter and in between the leaves change and fall from the trees, children dress up and celebrate Halloween, the days grow shorter, meals grow richer and we all seek light in the darkness.  Footballs games, whether high school games played under celebratory Friday night lights or college games played on gleaming Saturday afternoons or  the raucus of professional football All.Day.Sunday, are certainly one of our national ways to pass time. And, if you grow up with it, the way I did, football can be a thread throughout the ongoing narrative of your life.

Lately, though, both S. and I have been struggling over the ethics of whether or not to watch football. The lies and cover ups Penn State officials were willing to commit in order to protect their football program hovers on the unbelievable while also shedding some “there but for the grace of God go I” light – anyone who thinks their university wouldn’t do the same thing to protect the prestige and money a successful football program brings in hasn’t learned a thing from Penn State. S. and I have talked frequently about whether or not we should continue to watch college football in light of the Penn State scandal.

Then there’s professional football, which I never really enjoyed until moving to Pittsburgh but now I consider myself a decent Steelers fan and while I don’t catch every game I do tend to watch them more often than not.  With the exception of college basketball, I’ve never been such a passionate sports fan that I would rearrange other plans to watch a game, but when given the opportunity I’ll watch – avidly, even. The news of all of the concussion cover-ups and concessions in professional football, though, has left S. and I questioning whether we should still in any way support the NFL.  Sure, on the one hand the players are paid handsomely and it certainly seems they assume the risk of concussion simply by playing the game, but on the other hand it does seem as though the NFL took extraordinary measures to hide just how frequent and damaging the concussions could be.

When this conversation segues into what kind of example we want to set for Evangeline and any other children we have, it gets particularly tricky. S. is adamant that our children will not play football because of the concussion risk, but as a friend of mine pointed out, where does that stop? Will you allow your child to swim, but not become a diver? Play soccer, but not use his or her head? Practice ballet as long as he or she isn’t lifted, play hockey until checking is allowed? It’s an exhausting discussion and unwinnable at that.  Some people will site the violence in football as a trump card, a reason not to watch or support the game, but they do not want to be reminded of the crush incidents that happen across the world at soccer matches, or reminded in any way about the existence of rugby.

A lot of this pondering is actually moot, anyway – last night I found S. in front of the living room television, completely ensconsed in a pre-season Steelers game.  For now we’ve agreed to keep watching football without allowing it to dominate our lives – no turning down plans or opportunities for Evangeline just because a certain game is on, but no quitting cold turkey, either.  I’m not sure if or when we’ll become a football-free house but for now, at least, the sounds of the Michigan State University fight song and the roar of the televised crowd at Heinz Field will again provide part of the sound track to our autumn, and I find myself breathing a deep, contented sigh with that decision.

Posted in Hopelessly Indulgent Reflection, I heart Americana, things I love about Pittsburgh, Uncategorized | 6 Comments