Hey, Stacy Keibler – I Call Dibs on Your Brain

I’m in awe of Stacy Keibler. Rather than curl up in the time-honored, traditional post-breakup fetal position, George Clooney’s ex-girlfriend has been making the rounds of entertainment news shows, charming reporters with quotes like, “I’m someone that’s always lived the present moment. I always look at the positive on everything.”

Photo via flickr.com

Photo via flickr.com

Whaaaaat? Long legs, two years with George Clooney AND a brain that focuses on the positive? A genetic trifecta! So not fair.

Others can envy her long limbs and romantic conquests, I covet her positive brain. Where do I get one?

Who do I have to f* - I mean - What do I have to do to get a brain like Keibler's?

What do I have to do to get a brain like Keibler’s?

For nearly half my life I’ve worked to transform my negativity-seeking brain into a affirmation-infused positive one. Although I was dropped on my head a number of times as a child, I’m not convinced that accounts for the way my brain processes life, especially incoming information.

Perhaps something more sinister is at work. Undiagnosed brain tumor? Incompetent therapist? Not enough sex? You decide:

A recent conversation with my husband:

Me:  Honey, I’m not sure I like these white jeans on me. What do you think?

Him:  They look good, but, you know, they’re white jeans. I don’t think anyone looks great in white jeans. I like blue jeans better.

What a normal brain hears:  Don’t love them. Blue jeans are more my thing.

What my brain hears:  Whoa, when did you gain all that weight? Don’t you dare wear those jeans out of this house! 

A recent email exchange with a magazine editor:

Her:  Thanks for submitting.  Please review the attached editorial calendar and let me know where to place your essay for consideration.  

What a normal brain hears:   Your essay caught my eye, but I’m not sure where it fits in. Here’s our editorial calendar. Keep trying.

What My Brain Hears:  Listen, loser, get your head out of your a** and read our editorial calendar. Don’t bother me again til you do.

A recent interaction with my 21-year-old niece:

Her:  I love your blog, Auntie. I read everything you write. I’ve also been enjoying reading your friend’s blog. I read more parenting blogs than any other non-mom on the planet!

What a normal brain hears:  I love you Auntie, and I like keeping in touch with you through your blog!

What my brain hears:  Your writing is ok, Auntie, but your friend’s writing – wow! She’s amazingly talented!

If only negative thinking were a marketable skill. (Then I could afford the lobotomy that’s medically indicated.)

At times, I can laugh at how determined my brain is to find something negative in everyday interactions, no matter how neutral or innocuous. Other times, I need to be talked off the ledge by my über supportive friends (and one professional therapist who, thanks to my brain’s shenanigans, can afford long vacations in La Jolla. Maybe with Stacy Keibler).

Until brain transplants are perfected, I appear to be stuck with the one I have. But I’m ready for a change. Maybe Stacy Keibler can be my new therapist?

Thigh Master

I was good last week. I didn’t eat any bread, and I asked my mom to make me a salad with lemon juice instead of dressing, just like the book says. My face still squeezes up at the lemony taste, but the beauty book I found in our basement says I’ll get used to it soon.

As long as I keep doing everything the book says, I’ll have skinny thighs and be more beautiful in 21 days. Eileen Ford promises. She should know. She wrote the book.  And she has skinny thighs.

Photo via Amazon,com

Photo via Amazon,com

Only 15 more days to go.

If I stand on the bathroom counter and bend my knees, I can see my thighs in the mirror. When I looked yesterday, I stood up too fast and slammed my head on the ceiling. Good thing I “have a hard head” as my dad likes to say. He says our house has “low ceilings,” but all I want is to see if the leg lifts are doing any good.

I don’t see any difference yet.

The pictures in the book make the exercises look easy. I’m supposed to do 45 leg lifts on each side every night. I do 75 so my thighs will get extra skinny. I wish my thighs looked like the pictures in the book. Or like Alison’s, my best friend. She’s 11 years old like me and her legs are as long and skinny as a grasshopper’s. She thinks her legs look like string beans but I think they look perfect, exactly like the legs in my book. I wish my thighs looked like hers.

The book says to eat grapefruit for breakfast, cottage cheese for lunch and broiled chicken with lemon for dinner. We don’t have any grapefruits but my mom drinks grapefruit juice every morning before breakfast to help her poop, and I’ve been drinking it too. I think it’s helping, but my mom keeps making stuff like pasta and fried eggplant for dinner and packs me ham and cheese sandwiches and cookies every day for lunch. I wish she would buy cottage cheese.

I throw my lunch out in the cafeteria garbage can every day and drink a bunch of water instead but sometimes I peek at the cookies before I throw them away. Sometimes my stomach growls during art class. I don’t mind feeling hungry as long as my thighs get skinny.

I don’t know what “thunder thighs” are but I know I have them. Mike Cherback says so. He laughs at me every day in gym. Mom says I have her genes. Not the kind of jeans like my favorite pair with the rainbow stitching up the leg, but the kind you’re born with in your blood that give you chubby, hairy legs like mine instead of “slim” legs like the models in my book.

Mom says my legs will grow soon, but I can’t wait. I want to be pretty now. I’m gonna do 100 leg lifts tonight. Just to be sure.

Linking up with Yeah Write this week. Click on the badge to read some wonderful writing from people who have made peace with their thighs. Come back on Thursday to vote for your favorites.

Basketball, B Teams & FGOs*

Photo by J. Smith via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by J. Smith via Wikimedia Commons

Every weekend for the past several months, I’ve sat on the sidelines of my daughter’s basketball games, cheering her 4th grade team to victory. I’ve enjoyed the social aspects of the game:  applauding the girls’ budding talent, getting to know the other parents and reveling in our shared experience. Who knew a custom-made FGO* lurked amid the air balls, sweat and horrible nylon uniforms? (*F–king Growth Opportunity)

For the first few games, I felt shame that my daughter wasn’t a better player; embarrassed that she wasn’t more coordinated, more talented and more willing to be within ten feet of the ball.

I implored my husband, himself a skilled basketball player, to work with her. “Please do drills with her and help her get better,” I said.

“If she wants me to work with her, I will,” Mike replied. “But I’m not going to pressure her. She’s fine exactly as she is.”

I hate it when my husband is right; his wisdom both inspires and infuriates me. We both know that pressuring is my specialty, my raison d’etre. “Better, faster, stronger” is ingrained in my DNA.

Doesn’t everyone want to be the best? Isn’t that the ultimate goal? While I want to believe life is more than a competition to be won, I come from a long line of perfectionists. In my playbook, if you can’t do something as well or better than others, you either must try harder or quit. Nothing is more humiliating than being on the “B” team in any aspect of life.

These outdated beliefs have never served me, yet eradicating old messages is harder than mastering a well-timed jump shot. As much as I want to teach my daughter that slow, steady progress is brave and worthwhile, I hate slow, steady progress. And if I don’t have something or someone to measure myself against, how will I know I’m okay? Or justify feeling less than?

Several of my writing friends are succeeding at a pace that far outshines my own. My writing endeavors have forced me to face my oh-so-flattering issues with comparison and competitiveness; issues that I thought were long healed. Or at least deeply buried. Hah! When I’m not competing, it’s easy to sidestep the muck that gets stirred up.

At times, I want to quit writing altogether and move on to something else, ideally something I’m naturally gifted at (I am soliciting ideas on what that something might be). Other times, blessed fleeting moments, I glimpse that my friends are simply leading the way, providing a beacon of inspiration.

Continuously showing up and striving to do my best while trusting that slow improvement is worthwhile and will actually lead somewhere positive is a frightening proposition. Believing there is enough success for all of us is a lesson I long to embrace. And teach my children.

On Sunday, her stomach in knots before a playoff game, my daughter announced she wanted to stay home.

“I’m scared, mom,” she confided, “It’s hard not to be the best. We all know who the best players are, and I’m not one of them.”

“I get it honey,” I said, kissing the frown lines creasing her forehead. “I compare myself to other people too. And it hurts. I don’t know how to stop comparing. Maybe just for today we can trust that we’re good enough exactly the way we are.”

“I suppose so,” she replied, doubt underlying every syllable. “Well, I am better at basketball than I used to be.”

“You’ve practiced hard and grown so much these past few months,” I said. “I don’t care how good you are at throwing a basket into a hoop. I care that you face your fears and try. Keep doing that and you’ll conquer anything.”

After the game, she told me how much she loves basketball, loves being on a team. I am incredibly proud of her. I’m learning from her, being reminded how scary and exhilarating it is to learn something new and not be the best, but try my hardest, and let go of the results.

Using those criteria, every time I sit down to write, certain I have nothing useful to say, and write anyway, I’m growing. Every time I navigate relationships with my writing friends and confront my envy and self-pity without giving up, I’m hero material. Every time I trust that I am exactly who and where I’m supposed to be, I’m a miracle.

FGOs? You bet. Bring ’em on.

Linking up with Yeah Write. Click on the badge to read some great writing, then come back on Thursday to vote for your five favorite posts.

Piggy, Piggy Redux

Not the banks in question.

In a recent post, Piggy Piggy, I exposed my illustrious criminal past. I’d like to tell you my early stealing experiences led me to become a cat burglar or international jewel thief or something equally dramatic and screenplay-worthy.

Unfortunately, I can’t yet report any prison time, foreign currency escapades or Swiss bank accounts. My only suspenseful international drama involved catching a train in Rome to evade the Italian authorities.

While I don’t have many strong memories of my childhood, the details of my four-year-old thievery (retold countless times over the years by my family members) are clear in my memory.

Some of my readers asked me to describe what happened next when my mom discovered me in the closet. This is for you…

As my mom slid the closet door open, I froze, terrified, and slowly dragged the two piggy banks deeper into the shadows between my pudgy legs.  “If I don’t look at her, she won’t see me,” I thought. And then I peaked. Slowly. When our eyes met, I knew. She saw me; she knew me.

“Mary Lynn, what the hell are you doing?” My mom never swears, but in my memory, she’s a bit wilder with her words.

“Nothing,” I said.

“Nothing? You’re taking your sister’s money! You’re being sneaky and naughty. Come out of there.”

Still clutching the piggy banks, I scooted my body through the closet door dragging coins under my fuzzy pink behind.

My mom explained that it was wrong to steal and helped me redistribute the money into our respective banks.

I don’t remember any spanking or yelling; I do remember feeling scared and ashamed. Even at that young age, I knew what I was doing was wrong and somehow had gotten the message that I had to be sneaky to get something I wanted. The sibling rivalry I felt went unnamed.

Writing about this incident started me thinking about how I would handle a similar situation with one of my daughters.  I asked some Facebook friends what they would do.

Advice from Facebook Friends

Jeanine Olson Chiappano I’d say she is going to make one strong business woman. Ha!

Joe Balice I would ask her if she was a democrat.

Xavier Christopher David FitzSimons I would ask her if she was a republican.

Alyson Probst Higgins I’m sure I would fly off the handle, rant & rave and judiciously hand out irrelevant punishments. And then take note of how much cash these kids have just in case the delivery guy shows up & I happen to be short. My kids used to pool their money to count it & then fight like mad trying to separate it again.

Debra Lynn I’d have the little pocket thief take some of her own money and donate it to charity, after the lecture of what is right to do in the world. As an elementary principal, I see lots of kids try this and I usually try to make the consequence a natural one that fits the crime. 😉

Brian Dietmeyer Natural consequences are great…pay it back with interest!!! We made our teenager volunteer at a soup kitchen as a result of some bad decisions.

Stephanie Jones In my book, it’s about creating a higher consciousness in helping the child to understand how her negative actions affect her sibling and in turn affect her in the end. We’re big on karma in my house. If you believe ‘what goes around comes around’, I believe it helps children to arrive at a higher state and to be more reflective on what outcome they want for themselves. Not altogether altruistic, but I’ve seen it work beautifully with my 13 and 14 year olds since they were small. It’s a simple concept that small children can grasp since they are ‘me’ oriented. As they grow older, it becomes less about self and more about kindness and care for others and the world around them.

Kathy Churay I would enroll her in a gifted math program. Clearly she’s destined for Wall Street.

Clearly, my friends are high keepers!

I also asked Ava, my eight year old, what she would say to her daughter in the same situation.

Advice from Ava

It looks like you want to make some money. Let’s think of some ways you could do that.

I love that kid.

Back to Me

When I spoke with my mom about this memory recently, she asked if I thought she had handled it okay all those years ago and if I thought there was a better way. Her willingness to learn, even after all her children are grown, is one of the things I admire most about my mom.

While I have no idea the best or “right” way to handle these situations, after some thought, I am clear of what I would like to tell my four-year-old self, a redo of sorts:

“Little one, what’s going on? Why are you hiding? Come on out of there, honey. You look like you feel scared and lonely. Let’s put the banks aside and cuddle for a minute. Would you like that? I know I would.

When I was your age I was jealous of my sister and felt like she got everything. I never believed there would be enough love or attention for me. I told myself my sister got everything and I didn’t think it was fair. I wanted what my sister had. Do you ever feel that way?

I was hurting inside and I needed a friend, someone I could talk to about how sad and lonely I was. Do you ever wish you had someone to talk with?

You don’t have to be ashamed of wanting more, honey. It’s okay to want more. It’s not okay to take things that aren’t yours. Next time you want more, come tell me and we’ll figure it out together. Ok?

Now, it seems to me you’d like to earn some more money. Am I right? Let’s think of some ways you could do that …

Is this an effective parenting strategy? I have no idea. I do know it is the amends I want to make to myself all these years later.

Thanks for reading.

I’m linking up with Things I Can’t Say‘s Pour Your Heart Out.

Are You Fully Utilizing Your Le Creuset Cookware?

Alternate Use for Your Le Creuset!

Today I learned that my indispensable Le Creuset stockpot has myriad uses beyond a batch of Cinco de Mayo-inspired chicken tortilla soup. I also learned that jealousy is as insidious and painful to an eight-year-old as to her middle-aged mom. Ava is struggling with jealousy of her little sister, Rhys. She’s jealous of the attention Rhys gets, jealous of my husband and my tendency to drop everything to minister to Rhys’ needs and whims, jealous of the free pass Rhys gets on some three-year-old behavior that Ava would never get away with at age eight and jealous of the “isn’t she adorable” comments showered on Rhys by nearly everyone, including my husband and me.

Ava has been letting us know that she is feeling angry, hurt and left out. Ugh! Why didn’t I read (or even open) that sibling rivalry book I borrowed from the library umpteen times over the past three years? I could be an expert by now. Instead, after an angry outburst from Ava tonight over the unfairness of having an “annoying” younger sister, I first chose to argue Ava’s reality. I was determined to convince her that she was wrong – Rhys does not get special treatment – what about all the attention Ava gets?! Life isn’t fair, my pretty! (Insert wicked cackle here).

Helpful, right? I love it when someone tries to talk me out of my feelings and denies my experience. It certainly makes me feel better and feel so much closer to the other person. Truly one of my more nuanced child-rearing strategies!

After more than a few deep breaths and a mommy time out, I realized it was time for an apology and a re-do.

I remembered how often my feelings mirror Ava’s (“mirror, mirror on the wall” …). Just tonight during a dinner party I felt jealous of a good friend who I experience lighting up every gathering she attends. Even little children (and squirrels and birds and the occasional singing mouse) flock to her side and call her name (interestingly enough, not Snow White). In comparison (always a death sentence for me), tonight I felt like a nobody, definitely down several notches on some imagined ladder of self-worth. Apparently, Ava and I have a lot in common. Sometimes this “like mother like daughter” stuff isn’t fair sucks!

I decided to come clean with Ava and tell her how much I relate to her experience. I explained how I feel jealous also and tell myself that everyone likes my friend better. Then I feel lousy about myself. Ava and I decided the little voices in our heads that tell us we are less than someone else are lying, at least for tonight. We decided we deserve kinder thoughts and would put those mean thoughts away for the night. Literally. Away. Ava decided our trusty Le Creuset stockpot would make a sturdy receptacle for our nasty thoughts.

Amidst giggles and hugs, we took turns crumpling up those soul-crushing “less than” thoughts and tossing them under the stockpot’s hefty lid. Ava agreed there was no way those buggers were getting out tonight! Ava enjoyed the show I made of struggling to keep our pernicious thoughts in the pot as they tried to gain sanctuary once again in our brains. I enjoyed her. Isn’t that what this parenting thing is all about?

And Le Creuset execs, perhaps you’ll want to promote your products’ uncanny ability to contain green-eyed monsters … and bring a mom and daughter closer.