Previous month:
July 2008
Next month:
September 2008

Posts from August 2008

Midlife-Adolescence Crisis

I have this horrible feeling that instead of a mature mother rubbing off on and influencing my daughters, they are influencing me. Which has led me to the realization that I have become a midlife adolescent. Gone is the patience that surfaced on the first day that I needed to nurse my older daughter non-stop with twenty-minute intervals (meaning the day I brought her home from the hospital), until, well, the last few years (the patience, not the nursing). My lovely patience has been replaced by these words coming out of my mouth: “I don’t care.” Yes, a mother who accepted with grace poop seeping out of diapers onto her clothes can no longer stand to be pooped on.

Maybe a midlife crisis, or a woman’s version of it, or this woman’s version of it, is the parents pulling away from the child. It does seem odd, doesn’t it, that we have been in control for so long, and then suddenly the tides turn, and they now control everything. So maybe our losing patience, our no longer being ready willing and able to heed every request from our overly chauffeured kids, is us breaking out, and not them. It is our behavior that is enabling them to leave the people who catered to their every pizza and ice cream whim, and every logoed clothing, and frozen latte shmatte, and cd desire. Yes, I am causing the rift, otherwise, surely, they would never want to leave my nurturing side.

But why do we have this midlife-adolescence crisis? Could it be that after 13 years of servitude we decide that it’s time for freedom? Could it be that our very dedication is what brings on this midlife-adolescence crisis? Maybe we have a limited number of times that we can soothe a child without needing to be soothed ourselves. Perhaps at a certain point we need to be attended to (and I don’t mean when it’s time for the Senior Living Center) and not just attend to others. So this is our cry in the hallway for some obvious signs of love.

Yes, I am certain that it is all about us and not about them. We’re taking back our lives and our time; it is not that they spurn our every interaction and no longer need us to ferry them about, it is that we are showing that we don’t need to hang out with them any more. Yes, yes. We finally have the time to establish friendships and keep them going, and go on dates with our husbands or significant others or insignificant others, so why would we want to stay at home watching them watch tv or text friends or close the door--with a click--to their bedrooms? 

Ah, I am so relieved to realize that this midlife-adolescence crisis is about becoming a more mature woman, and not a clingy mother. Now I see that I am not losing patience, but I am gaining a more realistic attitude of how I need to interact with my daughters. It is me who needs to grow up, and grow past that need to be needed 24/7. I am so relieved that I have realized that my daughters are readjusting their behaviors according to mine. They are seeking independence because I am. Midlife-adolescence crisis: it’s not such a crisis after all.

* * * 

A Runaway


I have been sitting in this seat since 8 am and it is now 11 am. I finished my blueberry muffin about an hour ago. There are still a few sips of (by now) cold coffee in my large cup, and it is the lull between the morning crowd and the afternoon crowd. But I don’t want to go home. I can’t bear to go to that place now, but I need to. I need to go to sleep. I need to return to my love seat and curl up. Yes, I just woke up a few hours ago, but I don’t want to think any more today, and besides, I hardly slept last night.

I feel the need to do something adventurous. I would get another ear piecing, but I hardly wear two earrings. I would get a hair cut, but I like my hair style. I would go shopping, but I had $1,000 of car repairs last month and the girls are going to need back-to-school clothes. I would get a pedicure and manicure, but I don’t have the patience to sit for 45 minutes looking at my nails. Maybe I’ll go for a drive. Head towards the Blue Ridge Mountains with the radio blasting. Yes, that is what I am going to do. I can sleep when I un-runaway.


It's Hard to Keep It Up

It’s getting harder and harder to keep up my positive attitude. There comes a point when even the most bright-eyed and bushy-tailed among the cheery crowd needs to drop the pretense that willing it, visualizing it, focusing on it, breathing about it, and sending out positive vibes will not move Reality Mountain. That is where I am right now. The wall I have been trying to move appears to be immovable. Have I failed in correctly visualizing? Have I not breathed correctly to allow my positive thoughts to impact the universe? Is there a formulation that I didn’t get correctly? What is it? What have I missed? And why have I missed it?

I just came back from Friday night services in my synagogue. And, as usual, I was unable to stop the tearing up when the choir sang and the prayers were recited by the congregation. Maybe it’s the feeling that is felt without even being aware of it that I am in the midst of people who are reaching into themselves, who are reaching out of themselves, who are there for the sake of their own peace and reflection and who are invoking God to help them, to help others, to be there for them, in the sense that they are strengthened in the very act of thinking about a Being who has no ulterior motive, whose existence rests in their perception, whose existence enables their perception.

When I got up to leave, the friend who I was sitting next to asked if I had been remembering a loved one (hence the teariness); I replied that it is my life. She then said, “You are a treasure to all of us.” I barely made it out of the sanctuary before the real tears began. And there was a message from my parents on my cell phone.

But I came home to a full house: monster man and my two daughters. I turned off the AC (it’s 65 outside). He had, of course, closed my door. I opened it and turned on the radio and cranked it up. My hour and a half of praying and calmness did not make me want to turn any cheek (luckily I’m Jewish, so I don’t have to feel guilty about that) but STAND UP. And my daughters asked me to turn it down. I did, and then back up a little, and a little more. He came out, of course, to turn the AC back on. Oh, and he talked into his little tape recorder friend stating that I have purposely turned up the radio to ANNOY him. YES, you got it bud. Call the cops. Call someone to complain. Bring it on!

What are you going to tell them? Are you going to tell them that you cancelled another settlement meeting? Are you going to tell them that you have been playing with people’s lives for nothing other than your twisted sense that you deserve what you want but nobody else? Are you going to tell them that you are a morally-deficient creature who is torturing a woman, and her children, because you have lost all understanding of right and wrong, all RESPECT for others and their right to live unencumbered by your psychosis. TELL THEM!

Ah, the AC game is still on. There was an “Idiot” uttered as he left his room once again to turn the AC on.

He’s on his tape recorder friend again. Yes, it’s 10 and I am listening to Donna Summer at full volume. Is there any other way to listen to disco?

Yes, I am evil. Talk to your little machine. Tell your machine that I have annoyed my daughter with the music. Oh, did I mention that one daughter is wrapped in a blanket and the other is wearing a sweatshirt because it’s cold in here?

He’s getting tough. He has opened his door so I can hear that he is listening to what, CNN News?

Okay. “Loser” and he slams the door. And he opens it again. Oy, I need to go to sleep. I need a good night sleep, not the sleep that a loveseat brings.

I need to breathe and breathe and breathe and close my eyes and bring back the feeling of community that I felt just an hour ago. Just an hour ago I was surrounded by people who united for the common cause of praying together. Of wishing well for themselves, and their families, and their friends, and their community, and the world. And now I am home. And I have none of that.

Here comes Poops, my dog. He is here to be with me; he snuggles against me on the loveseat. And I know that there is a life outside of this place.

Anniversary Shocker

The meeting will not be. mr ex called my lawyer to say that some urgent has come up and he cannot attend the meeting. I have no words left, and, unfortunately, I still have tears left, in response. This is really tootootoo much.

* * *


Tomorrow would have been my 23rd anniversary. Instead of celebrating those years, I will be in a courthouse meeting with my lawyer who will be going between two tables; one where I will be sitting, because mr ex does not want to sit at the same table as me, and one where mr ex will be sitting. The intent of the bi-table meeting is to try to help me broker a deal that will end, to an even greater extent than the divorce decree itself, this marriage.

Yes, unbelievably, we are still living in the same house. Blame the mortgage crisis. Blame his stubbornness. Blame my persistence. Blame whatever you want, but I need to leave this house or sell this house and I need to leave with some money so that I will be able to purchase a place for me and my daughter(s?) to live. And he seems unwilling to do anything but stall the process or ignore the fact that this is not life and this cannot go on any longer. So more than a month after I presented an offer that he was apparently pleased with, and after two weeks of playing telephone tag with my lawyer, the date of our anniversary turned out to be the best date for all involved.

And you know what, I am pleased of the confluence. I am pleased that everything about the marriage is being tarnished, because at this point I am so tired of having to deal with this and this man that I don’t want to remember any happiness. I don’t want to focus on the good times. I want that to be blurred by the reality of what became of that beginning. I don’t want to remember standing in a botanical garden in Tel Aviv smiling in the 100 degree heat in my wedding dress taking pictures, I want to remember that he does not want to sit at the same table with me. Because this bitterness, this bile, brings me to a new level of separation.

Many people talk of forgiveness, and how important that is to move on. I don’t know if this is forgiveness I am feeling, maybe it is pity and maybe they are entwined. Yes, I have come to feel pity for slime man. All endearing qualities have lost their luster, and all questionable qualities have become pitiful.

And he will try to bargain hard tomorrow. He will insult me to my lawyer. Heck, he will insult my lawyer. I honestly don’t know what will be tomorrow, what his counter-offer will be and where the discussion, if any, will lead. All I care about is that it is one more step in stepping away, in never having to clench my heart in anguish over his words. I hope with all there is in me that still believes that something good can happen to me, that there will be a settlement tomorrow.


Why do men insist on wearing socks with sandals? Black trouser socks or white athletic socks, either way, it's an abomination. It's obvious that these men don’t care about their appearance, but can’t they respect our eyes and the sights we see?

It's Mammogram Time!

I had my annual mammogram the other day, and the absurdity of the test makes it ripe for mockery. How can you not try to find the humor when you are embracing a machine with your right shoulder down, your left arm up and wrapped around the machine holding onto a metal handle, with your chin up, leaning back slightly, your left breast crushed between plastic plates, and you’re told “don’t breathe”? It's Breast Twister!


Before I start I want to add a disclaimer: this reflection in no way discounts the importance of having an annual mammogram, nor does it take a lighthearted view of breast cancer, whose presence is felt when I read the obituaries because so often when a woman under 60 has died, it is from breast cancer, and within one year two teachers in the school where I teach died from breast cancer, one a mother of four high school-aged kids and the other a women in her seventies who was still teaching because she still loved it.


With that being said, onto the task at hand.


I actually did a little research here and found that “breast compression” is needed to:

  1. Even out the breast thickness so that all of the tissue can be visualized.
  2. Spread out the tissue so that small abnormalities won't be obscured by overlying breast tissue.
  3. Allow the use of a lower x-ray dose since a thinner amount of breast tissue is being imaged.
  4. Hold the breast still in order to eliminate blurring of the image caused by motion.
  5. Reduce x-ray scatter to increase sharpness of picture. 

Okay. The breasts need to be squished to get a more effective image. Does that mean that our breasts need to be hoisted, one at a time, onto a relic from the days of the Inquisitor? Once you are finally in place, thinking I can do this, the technician—in her gown—leans over and tightens the screw. OW OW OW! You are officially in uncalled for discomfort, and if she twists the screw just a bit more to ensure that she will get a good image—that you have been properly compressed—you are in pain.


I don’t care what the radiologists say, when any other part of the body needs to be x-rayed the body part under question is not flattened between two hard surfaces. Do penises ever need to get x-rayed? I wonder how they do that? Do they place it on cotton, like you find in jewelry boxes, and then just take a pic from above while the man is looking at Playboy, you know, to get the right angle?


Another discomforting aspect of the process is that by the time we are at the age of annual mammograms we have lost a modicum of perkiness in our breasts. We’re just not as proud of them as we used to be. If someone calls out to me to put a bra on (which happened in Israel in my bra-free days) it wouldn’t be because I was causing heart palpitations and thoughts not in accordance with propriety, but because it was just too sad to see a woman thinking that she looks like her daughter. So now it is that we have to expose them to an unknown woman who then handles them as if they are the slabs of muscle that they are. Oh, the humiliation. Is this how a flower feels (sorry vegans, I think plants have feelings) when it is plucked and then put in a dictionary which is slammed shut to ensure that the job gets done?


Would they have invented a different machine if women were properly respected? Yes, I understand that this is for us, for women. But seriously, can you imagine a researcher going home to his mother and describing to her the machine he is developing? At that point would she be proud of him or regret that she hadn’t lobbied for law school?


And why haven’t things changed? When an abnormality was discovered in my right breast a few years ago I was ushered into the ultrasound room. Oh, how I hate getting special treatment. There, my breast got the treatment my pregnant belly got a few times: a gob of cool lubricating fluid, and then a little hand-held scanner is moved back and forth to get an efficient picture. Why couldn’t they do that right away if it is more precise? It seems like less equipment and someone has got to realize that the mammogram is uncomfortable and humiliating. And there’s nothing like a little massage, even by a scanner.

Keeping Our Kids Safe

A few days ago I received an email from a former student that she is dropping playing ball because she doesn’t want to be yelled at any more by her coaches, or told that she is lazy when she is not feeling well.

Yesterday I spoke with a friend who told me that a boy, who should be starting eighth grade in two weeks, committed suicide a week ago. Over the past year, one boy in the high school where I teach committed suicide; one boy in my daughter’s middle school committed suicide; and the high school-aged son of a friend’s colleague committed suicide. All four of those boys hanged themselves. Over the past year I am aware of two girls who attempted suicide, and two others who were cutting themselves (as if there is a real distinction).

One boy had just broken up with his girlfriend. The other had a girlfriend, and a big—intact—family, and a drug problem. The parents of one of the girl’s were playing tug-of-war on her heart in their post-divorce world. Two of the girls did not fit the thin-girl standard.


I can’t connect one girl’s being fundamentally aggrieved because she was belittled and disrespected by her adult coaches and these suicides and attempted suicides, but they paint a grim picture of our youth and how they view our world. And perhaps, how they feel they are treated by us—the adults in their world.

But then there’s the boy who was partially paralyzed after he dove into the waves on a summer day at the beach with his family. Students in his school and other schools in the area have been holding drives to raise money for his care. I’m just wondering how it is that some kids find and sustain a purpose and others don’t.

With a new school year starting in one week, I’m hoping that I find it in me to shut my mouth unless something kind and helpful can be made to a student. And I am hoping that I don’t write comments on students’ papers that can be perceived as overly harsh. I know none of these devastating events were my fault, but we all need to take responsibility for our words and our actions and realize that kids are sensitive and they don’t have adult-mood filters. And they certainly aren’t proficient in analyzing my sarcasm. Yes, this year I need to be a kinder, gentler teacher. Maybe I am learning something from my students.

Strutting Her Stuff

I don't generally comment on the follies of the famous, but I can't help myself this time.

Would someone please tell Madonna to grow up. Explain to her that it’s time to stop strutting around naked in front of people. I mean hasn't she had enough adulteration to give her a good sense that she is valued, that she is loved, that she is accepted? Can't she just grow up now and put some clothes on? Okay, she doesn’t have to dress in tweed, but for goodness sakes, thigh-high black boots, mini-shorts and another bustier. Did she not learn that just because you can, doesn’t mean you should?

This is not out of jealousy for her body (I am jealous of her body, her ability to spend hours a day on her body, and, well, her enormous success and determination and self-confidence) but rather out of a friendly, yes, a friendly suggestion. Friend-to-friend, sweetie, the time has come to cover-up.

And just in case Madonna is reading this and is wondering what the other midlife women in the world are doing, we are not generally strutting around naked in front of anyone; we’re not even strutting naked in front of our mirrors. As a matter of fact, most of us are sagging, some of us are even starting to shrink. And, this might be hard to take, but we generally don’t put so much emphasis on our bodies any more, we have confidence (YES! We have confidence!) in our minds. We just don’t thrust our hips out any more. We thrust our ideas and plans and thoughts. We don’t project through costume changes. We project through passion and compassion. It’s time to reinvent yourself. No one says to act your age, because who the heck knows what that means, but the time has come to seek another way to express yourself. 

(Yes, yes, I know, she is selling out concerts all over the world, and no one pays to see me. But you see, I have the confidence to speak my mind even if it clashes with the masses.)

A Woman and Her Body

I had my annual mammogram the other day. At sign-in time, they gave me a sheet to fill out about my breast history. I remembered that in 1988 I had a benign cyst removed from my left breast. I forgot that in 2004 I had a breast cyst aspiration in my right breast; but that was okay, since the surgeon, unbeknownst to me, left a small marker in the breast for future technicians to find, note and ask clueless patients about. Last year, when I went for another check-up, the doctor was looking around for my left ovary, but it wasn’t there. It took me a few minutes to remember that my left ovary had been removed [that same memorable summer when the breast cyst was aspired (?)].

I am relieved that I can be so unaware of my body, since, in general, I am in good health. But is it really good to be so un-in-tune with my body? Is that maybe a problem in the making or is it the reason why I have let myself gain weight and barely exercise? Why is it that I focus so intently on my thoughts, and, yes, my feelings, but not on my body? Why do I have this mind-body separation? I focus so intently on following the path of words on paper but not on the movement of my feet on pavement. I’m beginning to realize that it is unhealthy—to my mind and body—to think that my mind is more important than my body.

Is this some kind of superiority thing? Well, yes. You can either focus on your mind or on your body (and we know where the smart people fall). But is that really right? After all, when I’m not feeling well physically, my mind just isn’t there. So why do I think that my body doesn’t need to be there with my mind? Don’t I feel stronger mentally when I have tended to my physical self? After a shower it is not just my body that feels clean and smells like lavender, it is my whole essence: I am lavender. Isn’t that unified mind and body experience something I should try to recreate for more than ten minutes a day while I am draped in a towel?

And why do I think that body-time is wasted time? Wouldn’t it be better to view it as warm-up time? Or dust-the-mind time? Or even airing-out time? Why am I so stuck in perceiving my body as a shadow of my real self? What am I if not the curly-haired woman who calls out one-liners in the middle of meetings when everyone else is quiet. I am not one without the other, so why don’t I respect one as much as I respect the other?

Perhaps this hearkens back to school (I mean in the bad old days when I was the student and not now, when I am the bad, old teacher) and the fact that I was not competitive and not successful in sports. (Not that there was much to succeed in or fail in during the pre-Title IX days. In those days, the only sport for girls at my high school was tennis, and I was too hurt to stay on the team after I was assigned to be an alternate in doubles, never mind that my serve was non-existent.)

At this point in my life, maybe I should dust off my understanding of the division of the world between the jocks and the brains, and let myself sidle over to the other side, at least a little bit.


Oh, the nurse called from my gynecologist’s office to say that there was an abnormality in my pap smear. Somehow I remembered that last year some wrong cells had ended up in my cervix and had her refer back to the chart, and told her that it was double-checked and all was fine then. “Yes,” she said, “I see, but you still need to come in for an endometrial biopsy, it’s been a year.” So the breasts being smooshed turned out okay, but the q-tip inserted into my cervix was not. There’s always something to worry about. Maybe I should think about it during a vigorous walk.

* * *

Daughters on the Road

I'm not quite sure how hard my heart is beating, but it's pretty darn hard. My older daughter just took my younger daughter to the library. This is the first non-parentally supervised drive, and it has both of my precious daughters in the car at the same time. What am I thinking? Do I really have to trust my daughter? Thankfully the library is close. Why couldn't they just ride their bicycles?

They're back. On the way they also got gas, went to CVS and had lunch at Arby's. I'm glad to see that they see this as normal and not heart attack worthy.