Archives for category: Blowing off steam

Lately, I’ve been trying to de-digitalize. See more art. Hear more live music. Read more books. Feed that spark in myself that connects me to the throb, the messiness of life.

Recently, hubby and I went to see the boychild’s guitar teacher give a small, classical guitar recital at Gore Place. It wowed me. Not only to think that this fabulous musician is teaching my son, but because watching him play made me think about the dedication musicians have to their craft — and how they are just so in the moment that the music literally seems to radiate from their bodies.

When our teacher, who is from Mexico City originally, arrived for the boychild’s lesson that week, I told him how much I enjoyed hearing him play.

“Thank you,” he replied, ever polite, adding, “It’s good for the soul.”

Too right, my man. Too right. Little did I tell him how hooked I feel, sometimes, to the screen. I mean, watch me now. Fingers tap-tap-tapping on the keyboard. Or that my latest late-night activity consists not of writing my memoirs or painting a woodland scene, but watching back-to-back episodes of Revenge on Netflix.

Oh, the horror.

Inspired by his words, however, I took the boychild to visit the Institute of Contemporary Art, my favorite museum in Boston. He loves making art, so I thought his six-year-old self would appreciate the surprising, sometimes silly, often provocative manifestations of contemporary art.

Here’s a sampling of the goodies we saw.

A cube made out of pins. Cool!

A floating sculpture by Josiah McElheny representing the universe’s magical make-up of planets, stars and black holes

An adorable painting in the Os Gemeos exhibit — Brazilian twins who mix street art with surrealism. In my mind, this painting is just plain cute!

Yes, I have officially outed myself as the Britney Spears of art critics. How cuuuuute!

But it’s not the critique of art that really counts, does it? It’s the experiencing of it. The process of standing or sitting in front of a piece of art, opening all the senses to its aesthetics, and ruminating on the artist’s intention. There’s something meditative about it all — a bit like the process of writing — but certainly different than interacting online. It’s sort of like an encounter with humanity and your best self. You know, the one that is capable of being real, and of creating, and of recognizing the struggle and sweat that goes into putting an authentic piece of yourself into the world and making something beautiful.

Do you ever feel the need to de-digitalize? What are some of the things you do to feed your soul?


I just returned from the BlogHer conference, a fabulous gathering of  about 5,000 strong, unique, entrepreneurial and creative women bloggers.

Whew! I’m fried. And yet all that estrogen has given me an appetite. Now that I’m home, I’m chilling in front of the Olympics, watching women with crazy bodies pump a ball across a net, while I snarf down a turkey sandwich.

Is it possible to feel energized and lobotomized at the same time? Because that’s my state of mind.

I met some wonderful women — not only mommy bloggers, but women who blog about issues that haven’t, I confess, entered my mind since I became a mother to 2. I met women who blog about: mid-life transitions; parenting kids who’ve flown the coup; life after divorce; how to live on a depression-era budget; and more!

I also learned that I must must — despite being a luddite at heart — TWEET. And set up a Facebook page for my blog. I have to admit that the idea of throwing a twitter party seems like the work of the devil to me. Call that a party, chained to a laptop and a bunch of hashtags? I’d rather be engaging in in-person chit-chat, and making my way slowly through a pitcher of sangria.

Ah, well. Sigh. These are the times we live in. I must adapt!

Martha Stewart spoke at lunch, and though I was prepared to give her the thumbs down (I’m sure I’ve just nixed my chances of ever blogging for her now…), I actually appreciated how herself she was. No pretense. Though she conveniently avoided discussing how her jail stint fits into her personal brand.

And I found myself wondering — just what has given her such drive to succeed? I know I’m not supposed to ask these questions — because we don’t ask them of successful men — but as a woman and a mother, I’m always curious. Part of me envies that kind of ambition, but a greater part of me knows I could never leave my children at home to be raised 100% by someone else. Which isn’t to say it’s wrong. No, not at all. I’m just curious about what it is that drives her. Fear of failure? Fear of poverty? A desire to rule the world?


Then, there was Katie Couric. I have to admit that I just adore her. And secretly covet her job. Apart from her filmed colonoscopy. Bless her. Driven by telling people’s stories, she just has this knack of creating and finding empathy and connection. Which is what I eventually hope to accomplish with my blog and the interviews I’ll be sharing with women who are looking back on raising children from an older, wiser perspective.

My personal icing on cake was being back in New York, which will always feel like home, congested and dirty and smelly and humid as it is in Summer. I even managed to pop across the street to the MoMA store to buy treats for the hordes at home, who apparently rather missed me 🙂

When I got home, the boychild gave me a unicorn he’d painted for me at Plaster Fun Time, decorated in rainbow hues of pink and purple. He used “girl” colors he said, “just for me.”

The boychild paints his unicorn, while Miss B paints creates a jolly green Dora.


Last week, I took Miss B to the dentist.

Her maiden voyage.

Yes, that’s her, looking adorable in her upside-down sunglasses, while I contort gracefully in the background.

And that’s her somewhat-dishy-minus-the-metrosexual-haircut dentist on the right.

Who insisted on calling me “mom” throughout the entire visit.

“Ok, mom, just make sure she’s not using the pacifier quite as much.”

“No cavities, mom. Great job.”


You’re going to call me “mom”?

Do I look like your mom?

Because you sure as hell don’t look like my son. I estimate you’re about 28, which means I would have had you at 13. Which is illegal in first world countries. And much though I imagined myself at 13 as a woman of the world, accompanying  Simon Le Bon around the world and serving as his muse, in reality, I was home, picking my spots and studying the timeline of the Normal Conquest.


Do I not have a name?

How about “Melissa”? Or even “Mrs. Woodman?” Hell, “Ma’am” would suffice and make me think you were raised by a nice Southern woman.

But “mom?”

And what kind of mom am I, pray tell? Betty Draper? June Cleaver? Peg Bundy? Joan Crawford?

Or are we all the same? So easily categorized? A Tiger mom? A Helicopter mom? Or a Soccer mom?

I suppose I’m grateful that you didn’t call me “Madam”, which though, in certain contexts has appeal (“Madam, you’ve been very naughty and how shall I spank you?), in most (“What size hosiery is Madam looking for?”) does not.

Dude, I know you’re but a dentist, but please get more creative next time.

You could try making me laugh, for instance, by greeting me as “Hey, the poop meister’s here!” Mature? No. But guaranteed to set me off guard, at least.

Or charm me. “Mi’Lady” could take you to places you never dreamed of.

But “mom?”

Not even my husband gets that one past me. I’m mom only to my kids, and very occasionally, to Viktor, our cat.

That’s it.

It is hot.

Weather advisories tell us there is a heatwave afoot.

Our plants are wilting (plant-killer that I am, I  blame our friendly star, the sun) and tempers are rising.

If we had access to air conditioning, our troubles would lessen.

Not for the plants. With me as a caretaker, they’re screwed whether they have access to cool breezes or not.

But for us humans. If only. If only.

Luckily, our apartment, being on the garden level, stays relatively cool, compared to those who foolishly inhabit penthouse suites.

And yet, limbs and bodily crevices still sweat, leaving a sheen matched only by the tiles in the shower.

The journey from home to car seems to transport us into the mindset of the ancients.

We trudge in sandals, swatting imaginary flies, carrying our chattel up the pathway and across the street to the Honda Civic chariot, which, in a cruel twist of fate, has a busted air conditioning system which its owners have not yet fixed, in the hopes of affording a bigger, newer vehicle.

We settle our chattel into their respective harnesses in the back seat, cringing while fastening the hot, black safety systems in place.

“Owwwwww!” the 2 year old screams, bangs plastered to her forehead.

“I can’t get the seatbelt in,” the 6 year old growls.

The heat in the Honda chariot, in our home, on the streets…has seeped into our consciousness like a serpent.

Should we find the nearest escape, and spend all day at the air conditioned Children’s Museum? Aquarium? TJ Maxx?

Or should we embrace the fact that in this relentless heat, we might as well be living in some long-forgotten civilization, 20 or 30 BC, before cellphones, televisions and air conditioning blighted our existence with distraction and relief.

The former would be a practical solution.

The latter, infinitely more fun.

I could don a white toga, gold sandals (Jimmy Choos, please) and braid my hair on top of my head like a Grecian goddess.

I could revel in the heat as hubby feeds me grapes and we feast on wild boar.

I could pretend I am an ancient queen, suffering in the desert as my troops build a gigantic monument in honor of mummies who mummy in the heat. A bad-tempered Sphinx in Spanx.

And then I could invoke a dramatic climax to the summer, clasping an asp to my chest in protest.

Wait. What am I thinking? An asp?

What is this? My life? Shakespeare? Myth? Or reality?

Time to drink a tall, cool glass of lemonade, reapply deodorant, and get dinner on the table.

Last Wednesday, I went to meditation class. It’s about my 6th or 7th class now, and though I haven’t been showing up mildly soused, as I did on night 1, I’ve been meeting extraordinary people, who’ve been the main reason for my return each week.

I miss my New York posse of close friends — women who’ve known me since college and with whom I can unburden my worries, laugh at my foibles and celebrate my strengths. Our wine-fueled outings kept me sane. Newish in town here in Brookline, I’ve been on the prowl, scoping out potential — for new friendships that may never reach the depths of my old ones — but will nonetheless hold their own meaning.

My second time at meditation, I met a lovely young girl (Granny Alert! I am now, at 41, calling women under the age of 30 “young girls”…) named Sarah — coincidentally, the name of a former co-worker, who was adorable and dressed like a young Jackie O. And this Sarah — my potential new buddy — had a cute Emma Stone  stone vibe.

We struck up a conversation, and just as I was imagining our future life together, dissecting the pros and cons of Vipassana versus Zen meditation while nursing shots of Don Julio, she told me that she was moving to Austin, Texas in a few days to join the man she had asked to marry.

Wow. Ballsy.

Masking my disappointment — “Hey, that’s greeeaat!” — we said our goodbyes. I returned the following week and sat next to a seasoned science journalist, a lovely woman with whom I exchanged Cliff Notes on our mutual love for writing, and our experience of meditation.

Truthfully, I find meditating excruciating. Sitting on a cushion, following my breath, is more mentally challenging that convincing the boychild to let me clip his toenails. I’m constantly fidgeting, annoyed with myself for thinking the ridiculous thoughts that crop up (just why do I need to be contemplating Jennifer Aniston’s relationship with Justin Theroux?), fighting the urge to fall asleep or surprised by the intensity of emotions that arise.

Several weeks ago, I was flooded with a wash of such intense rage, I had to forcefully stop myself from letting out a giant primal scream. Which, on reflection, would have been a great way to attract new friends. With men in white coats.

But after last night’s session, I finally started to understand what meditation can give me. Not friendship with others, but friendship with myself.

There’s a lot of self-flagellation that comes with being a mum (at least for me). The voices say things like:

“You’re not Betty Crocker enough!”

“You’re too Betty Draper!”

“Why isn’t your career more thriving?”

“Why can’t you just be with your kids more, instead of managing them so much?”

It can be downright exhausting, and really, a reflection of what goes on while sitting on the meditation cushion. But instead of yelling at these voices — “Stop!” — meditation harvests compassion for the barrage of inner judgement. With practice, the voice gently says, “I’m listening, sweetheart, but you’re talking too much. Let’s focus on the breath instead.”

In other words, let’s forget this nonsense, and live. Be present. Enjoy the moment.

I’ve met some lovely women in Brookline, and I’d still love to find my dream buddy — with Emma Stone style, Christiane Amanpour smarts and Kristen Wiig humor — to share weekly glasses of wine, giant plates of fries and trade stories from the trenches.

But for now, I’ll settle for me.