Looks like his warranty just expired.

My laptop screen started blanking out a mere three weeks before my AppleCare warranty expired, so we rushed it off to the good doctors at Apple. They gave the computer plenty of TLC while it was in their possession, and it came back eight days later not only with a repaired screen ribbon cable but also with a new motherboard, trackpad, screen, keyboard plate, and all new outsides. I’ve inspected it closely enough to determine that it’s as clean as it’s ever been, much less since Peter dumped an entire latte in it a year ago, and that the space bar is no longer sticky and I don’t have to blow into the headphone port like an old Nintendo cartridge to get sound out of my speakers; but Aaron, Aaron has been scrutinizing it, caressing it with the fervor of a mother for her newborn baby.

He was peering at the top of the screen housing when I said, mostly joking, “You never look at me like that, you know.”

“Like what?” he asked.

“With that sort of lustful intensity,” I said, all corny-seductive. “Like every one of its parts looks delicious. You never look at my parts that way.”

“Well,” he said drily, “maybe that’s because your parts aren’t all brand-new.”

Inspired.

With a semester and a half of my Big Back-to-School Adventure completed and the fall semester course schedule posted, I’ve been thinking more lately about what I want out of my college education — and, by extension, my future. Although I’ve been profoundly inspired by all Maggie‘s posts about her life list, I hadn’t been motivated to come up with a life list of my own. But this process of becoming happier and more at peace with myself (and let’s face it, the fact that I’m facing a milestone birthday this summer) has made me begin thinking of what fun things I want to plan to include in my life, and finding more intentional ways to accomplish these things.

So in no particular order, here are the first ten items on my life list, which I’ll be adding to for a while:

  1. Take my family camping.
  2. Learn tai chi.
  3. Earn my Bachelor’s degree.
  4. Get paid money for something I write.
  5. Sew an item of clothing and actually wear it.
  6. Post something on my blog every day (okay, weekday) for a year.
  7. Go to Boston with Aaron, just the two of us.
  8. Take a family vacation out West, car-trip style.
  9. Learn how to pair wine with food.
  10. Take ballroom dance classes. Preferably with Aaron.

So that’s a start. Do you have a life list? What’s on it?

Cleanliness is next to laziness

(IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: Before I write this post I’m going to go ahead and state for the record that I love my children and I think they’re all three beautiful special snowflakes and I consider myself very, very lucky to get to stay home with them at this stage in their lives. None of this negates that; I just like to complain.)

(Ahem.)

There are people in my life — childless people, mostly — who think that as a full-time mom, I have a cushy job. I suppose that’s true, empirically — it’s not coal-mining or brain surgery or high-seas piracy; but what it lacks in physical exertion it makes up in emotional fatigue. There is nothing physically demanding about meal-planning or dish-washing or fisticuff-interrupting or fishing coins out of the Wii. But what there is — especially since I’ve gone back to school — is the exhausting feeling of never finishing everything that needs to be done, that everything I do is a compromise, that nothing is getting my best work. I can never achieve Inbox Zero. And there are so many tasks that undo themselves as soon as I’ve done them — meals get eaten, dishes get dirtied, somebody pees on the toilet seat. (Whoever decided to put hinges on toilets obviously was unfamiliar with the urinary habits of little boys.) As soon as I’ve vacuumed, there are cheerios and play-doh crumbs in the carpet again.

And the laundry.

Laundry is my nemesis. I can get our dirty clothes washed and dried, but that’s where the process falls apart for me. After that, laundry ends up piled in the corner of the living room, waiting for me to fold it and put it away. Every morning, the boys can’t get ready for school because they don’t have any underwear or pants or socks or whatever in their dressers, and I have to dig through the mountain of clean laundry to find them some. And this usually occurs before I’ve had my coffee, so just imagine my pain.

So a few weeks ago I decided the laundry situation had become untenable. There was simply no way I was going to manage to fold everything and put it away, and because I was holding out on dealing with the pile until I had time to actually see the process through to completion, it was getting completely out of control. The giant mountain of clean clothes was growing past the point of being surmountable. It was littered with the frozen bodies of sherpas. I had to admit defeat.

I waved the white flag, which turned out to be a pair of briefs with Spider-Man on the butt.

So I bought a stack of laundry baskets. I designated one for each family member. And I sorted the pile of clothes into the baskets. Without folding. And then I put each basket in front of its corresponding dresser. And now when someone needs clothes, they can rummage through their very own laundry basket and find themselves something to wear.

It will probably be wrinkled. But I will not have to find it for them.

This new laundry method will not pass the Martha Test. In fact I suppose it’s less a “shortcut” than a “significant lowering of standards.” But with all the time I’ve saved myself, I can now sit on my couch and eat bon-bons and watch soap operas, because I am a queen of domestic efficiency.

Adding on

You may have noticed that lately I’ve become quite passionate about the notion that one doesn’t have to lose weight to be healthy, and that there is no “healthy body size” — rather, healthy bodies come in all different sizes. I’m learning a lot more about this, and about my progress with accepting myself for who I am instead of holding out for the thin person I wish I could be. Beginning to think this way feels like a new chapter for me, a complete turn away from the things I used to believe about my body and my size and my self-worth, and I’ve decided to give this topic its own home, where it can grow and spread out and not get in the way of the other things I have to say about school and my boys and what the cat threw up.

I also want to give myself some distance from some earlier things I’ve written here, body-shaming and self-loathing things I’ve written — posts that no longer reflect how I feel about myself, and which can trigger a lot of negativity when I re-read them now. So I’ve hidden those.

I’m leaving up the recent body-positive posts I’ve written here, but in the future I’ll try to say less about that over here — if you’d like to read those posts, please join me at my new blog: Adipose Rex.

And I’ll try to keep posting here with approximately the same frequency that I’ve posted here in the past, which is to say, sporadically; as I still need a space to write the occasional funny story about poop.

Self-acceptance, even in a bathing suit

I spent the last of my Christmas money buying the book Health at Every Size (and also a Tai Chi dvd; more about that later). The book is by the ironically-named Linda Bacon, Ph.D., and she writes about the myths surrounding our culture’s obsession with dieting and weight loss and our equation of thinness with healthiness. I’ve only barely started the book — midterms are this week and reading for fun is out of the question — but this bit from the introduction especially resonated with me:

Food is simple now. I appreciate the sensuality and pleasure of eating. When I am full, I typically lose interest in food. After a few magical bites of chocolate, I am satisfied and the drive to eat dissipates. When I finish eating, I rarely think about food until I am hungry again. I don’t feel guilty afterward.

And I take pleasure in my body. I move because it feels good. I enjoy being touched. I dress in clothes that I like and don’t consider whether or not they hide my fat.

As wonderful as food is, it is only one of many pleasures in my life. I am no longer waiting to lose weight before I live my life fully. Having freed up all the energy and time that I spent on dieting or obsessing about my weight or food and having let go of my shame about these, I have greater depth and fulfillment in my life, including deeper intimacy with others.

These few paragraphs have become an ideal for me, the goal I’m longing for but almost afraid to hope for. Not obsess about food? Not feel guilt and stress and shame about eating? That’s so completely outside my experience of food as to be in another zip code – no, on another continent. I almost cannot even imagine ever feeling that way.

And yet. The more I tell myself I’m abandoning dieting and efforts at weight-control, the more I practice listening to my body to know when and what and how much to eat, the more I try to focus on my beauty and okay-ness, right-ness as a creation of a perfect God instead of my wrongness according to the narrow social ideals of beauty —  the less foreign it gets. The more I choose to love and nurture my body instead of abusing and depriving it, the more natural it feels. The more I practice believing that it is okay to wear clothes I love, to dress up in ’50s pearls and liquid eyeliner and Bettie Page bangs (self-cut at 2am, after drinking — perhaps not the wisest method for hairstyling but I do love the result) instead of doing my best to disappear in boring neutral clothes and makeup, the more I find myself being honestly, truly happy with the me in the mirror. Or is it the other way around?

Maybe so. I don’t think I’m over my obsession with food. But it’s shrinking. And as food lessens its grip on my emotions, as I discover more and more that my body manages my eating choices quite well when left to its own devices, I’m becoming happier with my body — the wonderful biology of it, and its appearance too. It’s easier to love the way my body looks when I can trust the way it works.

Which is why, when I was trying on bathing suits this week (my old suit is hideous and saggy and worn through, so I ordered several different styles and sizes to try on, hoping to find one that I could live with) I ended up having difficulty choosing between two bathing suits, one to keep and one to return, and being frustrated because I love them both — the cut, the fit, the way they enhance my curves; they way they make me look at my body and think sexy, not dumpy.

In fact, given how staggeringly awful it used to feel to put on a bathing suit, and given how fully, couch-jumpingly in love I am with how these two bathing suits make me look, I think it’s not the bathing suit at all that’s making me feel beautiful. So maybe I’m already closer to my faraway goal than I thought.

Literary Ink

Somehow found myself looking at (and envying) this web site of literary tattoos this afternoon, which got me thinking: If I weren’t (a.) thoroughly indecisive and unable to commit to a decision as permanent as a tattoo, and (b.) terrified of pain, what sort of literary tattoos would I consider getting?

Here, in no particular order, are my choices:

  1. a muted post-horn (The Crying of Lot 49);
  2. “To the library, and step on it!” (Infinite Jest);
  3. “She had always suffered from a vague restlessness, a longing for adventure that she told herself severely was the result of reading too many novels when she was a small child.” (The Blue Sword)
  4. This thoroughly lovely Narnia quote

Or, if I were getting a lower-back tattoo, perhaps one of these:

  1. “The enemy’s gate is down” (Ender’s Game)
  2. “Oh, I am so embarrassed…” (The Monster at the End of This Book)
  3. “Let the Wild Rumpus start!” (Where the Wild Things Are)

In all seriousness, if I were to ever get a literary tattoo, it would probably be the line, “And then, something went BUMP!” from The Cat in the Hat – this line in the book happens when the Cat first arrives, just at the intersection between boring mundanity and fantastic absurdity – rather a lot like my life, I think.

Awkwardly allegorical

Yesterday for dinner I made potato soup – partly because it was so very very cold outside, but mostly because I somehow ended up with two big bags of potatoes in my pantry that I didn’t want to waste. And potato soup is one of those rare meals that all five of us will eat.

So: potatoes.

Mmm, potatoes. So versatile. My favorite vegetable. (Are potatoes even, technically, a vegetable?) So I dumped the potatoes out onto the kitchen counter, a few at a time, and I scrubbed and peeled and chopped and dumped them into my big soup pot, when suddenly –

– out of the bag rolled a Very. Large. Potato.

A Super-Sized Spud. A Tumescent Tuber. A Russet of Unusual Size.

It was not a conventionally attractive potato. It was so much larger than the rest of the potatoes in the bag. And it was lumpy and bulgy in places where the other potatoes weren’t lumpy and bulgy. I wondered if maybe I’d gotten a defective bag of potatoes. Maybe I’d been gypped. Maybe I should write the grocery store an angry letter.

Maybe I was getting ahead of myself.

So I started to peel the giant potato, experimentally.

And in fact, the potato didn’t look any different on the inside than all the other potatoes.

Even in the bulgy parts.

And when I tried cutting it up,

it worked just like all the other, smaller, more conventionally attractive potatoes.

So I chopped it up

and put it in my soup.

And it was delicious.


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