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.”


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.)


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.

Trailer-park temple

In my absence from this blog, I’ve been reading and thinking and learning. Were you aware of the Health at Every Size movement? That there’s a whole community of interneters working for fat acceptance? That there are people who are actually standing up and saying, Yes, I *am* overweight, and I am also healthy and I love my body, so what of it?

This boggles me. Blows my mind. It never even *occurred* to me that there would be fat people out there — people my own size — who are not ashamed to be who they are, who aren’t hiding their bodies under layers and layers of bulky clothes, who are not just accepting of their bodies but *proud* of them, who love themselves.

And slowly, I’m becoming one of those people, too.

I wear a size 24. I have dieted and dieted for months and years at a time, I have lost and gained, and inevitably, this is the size I keep coming back to. What’s that cliche about the definition of insanity? I’m beginning to make peace with the notion that I am never going to be physically perfect — not by some arbitrary, external definition, anyway — but I am going to stop making myself insane trying to measure up — or measure down — to someone else’s ideal me.

I’m going to love and nurture and celebrate my body, not abuse and deprive it. I would never withhold food or affection or sleep from one of my children — I give them healthy food, plenty of it, and treats every now and then in moderation. I give them plenty of opportunities for fun exercise. I make sure they get plenty of sleep. I defend them when other people say cruel things to them, and I do not allow them to say cruel things about others; I teach them to treat people with dignity. I love them and snuggle them and tell them how special and wonderful they are to me, how God made them to be perfectly them.

And I am going to love myself the same way. I am God’s child, and He expects me to treat my body with healthy love, not unhealthy abuse. So I’m going to love me, all of me.


Just because I can write all of this, of course, doesn’t mean I really believe it yet. But I’m getting there. I’m working on being more mindful of what I eat, of making sure I’m getting healthy fruits and vegetables and just the occasional bit of chocolate, of paying attention to how different foods make me feel. Not bingeing, and also not denying myself when I’m hungry and my body needs fuel. I’m exercising, going to the campus gym several times a week to walk the track and listen to my iPod. Once I overcame fear of being a fat old(er) woman in a university gym full of thin perky 18-year-olds (a serious exercise in systematic desensitization), I’ve actually been enjoying it. I feel better when I’ve exercised, stronger, more energetic. I sleep better. It’s a surprising feeling, this exercising-to-feel-better instead of exercising-to-get-thin.

So I’m getting there.

I’m working hard at remembering all of this, controlling what I’m putting in, seeking out writers who are uplifting and positive about body and size and self-esteem. There seems to be an absence of Christian voices on this topic, though; I’ve only found one so far, and what I’m missing is the company of other writers who are writing about body-love from a Christian perspective.


We’re not very good at love, we Christians. Most of the time, we’re better at judgment – towards others and towards ourselves. And when it comes to body image, we pretty much fall back on two verses: the bit about gluttony, and “Your body is a temple.” And we all know there are certain things that are off limits for our temples: drinking, smoking, premarital sex, and being fat.

I was hung up on the body-as-temple image for a while. If I’m remembering right from all my years of Bible classes and Sunday schools, Solomon built a pretty freaking amazing temple to honor God — all gold and jewels and fancy statues, opulent and expensive, a place worthy of communing with the Most High God. If that temple were a human body, it would be Angelina Jolie. Is that what God wants from me? Because I can never live up to that. My body-temple is more of a shack, with shag carpets and crummy wood paneling. My body-temple belongs in a trailer park, not a palace.

But then. It’s not saying I’m supposed to build this temple of my body — it’s already built. I had no control over the construction, the materials, the workmanship. I have to trust that God built this temple of mine exactly to the specifications He wanted, out of exactly the materials He wanted, fearfully and wonderfully. I’m not the architect here — it’s just my job to keep the carpets vacuumed and the furniture dusted, to light the incense and burn the candles, to make this temple welcoming and warm, a fitting place to honor God. To nurture and love and care for this temple, not take a sledgehammer to the walls and try to make it something else.


So that’s a very lengthy summary of what I’ve been thinking about lately. What about you?

Stay happy, baby girl.

Ten weeks into the semester, I’m mostly keeping up with my course load — all 6 credit hours of it — except when I’m not, which is this week. In desperation this evening I fled the house when Aaron got home from work and spent the next six hours reading Nathaniel Hawthorne and Fanny Fern and Herman Melville away from the inevitable distractions of home, first in a wobbly booth at a nearby Mexican restaurant (bottomless chips and salsa!) and then moving to Starbucks when I felt I’d overstayed the welcome afforded by a $6.75 burrito platter. I’ve been making the rounds of cheap eateries with free coffee refills lately, in an effort to find someplace nondistracting to study — I can tune out the white noise of nearby conversations and overhead music so much more easily than the blasting home-sounds of dirty laundry and piled dishes and boys demanding attention that I can’t afford to divide, not when the assigned readings are this dense — and ever since getting an extremely cold shoulder from a waitress at an Eat’n Park who apparently wasn’t happy that I was occupying a table and a coffee mug longer than she would’ve liked, I’ve been overly solicitous of servers, checking in frequently to make sure they don’t mind my staying and reading (and of course tipping accordingly).

Tonight my burrito platter was delivered by one of the restaurant’s dozen or so friendly Latino men of about forty, who punctuated each sentence by calling me “baby girl.” He spoke unaccented but oddly-syntaxed English and, when I gestured to my textbook and asked if it would be a problem if I sat and studied for a while longer, responded (in retrospect somewhat contradictorily), “You’re the boss, baby girl.” Later he brought me the bill, asked if I needed anything, refilled my coffee, and when I thanked him and told him I was fine he murmured, “Stay happy, baby girl.” It was oddly soothing, all his “baby girl”-ing; patronizing in a familiar, habitual, comforting way that felt more complimentary than offensive.

Later at Starbucks I had an engaging, if weary, conversation with the barista who rang up my tea about Hawthorne’s use of imagery — red and gold and forest-mythology  — in The Scarlet Letter, the secret handshake of one English major to another. His degree completed, he now works in a coffee house: behold the career path of the liberal arts major! And yet I’m undeterred, thrilled to be registering for spring classes (Development of the Arthurian Legend! Introduction to Linguistics!) — harboring secret dreams of becoming the exception who writes a bestselling novel, sure, but mostly just thrilled to be discussing literature with other intellectuals who will all someday brew espresso for $8 an hour, delighted at the prospect of another semester of mostly keeping up.


Yeah, I haven’t written in a while. I hope to do better; the Blogger’s Paradox is, the more interesting stuff you have going on in your life, the less time you have to write about it. And trust me when I say things have been very interesting around here, what with surviving summer vacation with two boys who can’t play together for more than 10 minutes without telling each other they’re not going to be each other’s friends anymore, and a two-year-old hellbent on escaping our house and hurling himself headlong into danger, and all with my therapist out on maternity leave. And of course, just when we got our summer under control, poof! it was back-to-school time — for two out of three boys, and for me: I’ve started back on the bachelor’s degree I abandoned ten years ago.

So: things are interesting around here, for sure. Air-quotes interesting, even: “interesting.” I’d even go so far as to say “interesting” like that, in italics. THAT’s the kind of fall it’s shaping up to be, and I hope to make writing a more regular part of my schedule now that kids are back in school — but you know me: don’t count on it.

The other reason I made it back here today, of all days, is because it’s a grim anniversary in my life: 19 years ago today, on Friday the 13th of September, 1991, my mom died of cancer. I miss her a lot — an inexpressibly huge amount — I wish she were still a part of my life, of my boys’ lives. It’s unbelievable that I’ve now lived nearly twice as many years without her as I lived with her. I wish I had more time with her, had a chance to know her better. I wish she were still here.

Here are some pictures, starting with Mom and me at the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville:

I love this next picture, from spring of 1983, because it’s such a great shot of my mom as a human being: I’m wearing one of those toddler leashes. Which I fully confess to having used on my own escapist children:

A family portrait from the fall of 1983:

And finally, here’s my mom from 1986. She was lovely:


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