Irreverent Mama

Monday, July 30, 2007

I have a confession. Few people know this of me - Matthew, my kids, Sophie. That's about it. Nothing I'm ashamed of, but I fear the reaction. But now I'm about to tell you all...

I joined Weight Watchers.

Almost three months ago.

I'm self-conscious about it because I am not fat. Never have been. I fear the ridicule. In fact, I got it, indirectly, when a neighbour heard from one of my kids (thanks, kiddo) that I'd joined. Then the neighbour told a friend. The friend, apparently, said,

"WHAT? She's a STICK!"

Which, given that I was, at 154 pounds on my 5'5" frame, juuust barely into the 'overweight' category, is simply not true. That I carry my weight well is not in question: I know how to dress and I have decent posture. But "stick"? When I'm a 34D (lately, 36D), and hips to match? Um, no...

(Said friend is gay. Perhaps he doesn't look at women overmuch?)

But I've never been heavily overweight. Most of my life I've been slim.

And that's just it. Most of my life I've been slim. Most of my life, without any effort at all, I have maintained an easy 120 - 123 pounds. Most of my life, I have had a body mass index of 20-ish. Without any effort, without any thought.

When, about 10 years ago, I noticed a few pounds sliding on, I didn't worry overmuch. I was in my late thirties, a little weight gain is to be expected, and I was far from overweight. Except that the weight just kept slipping on. And on. And on some more.

Until I kinda wanted it to stop, you know?

I may have mentioned my family before, but every last one of'em is fat. Not just fat, obese. Most of them are not just obese, they're morbidly obese.

Morbidly. As in, so overweight it's a serious threat to their health. My sister cannot walk across a room without wheezing, and, at only 45, has arthritis in her poor overburdened knees. My brother has to sleep with a CPAP machine lest he stop breathing entirely in the night, entirely due to excessive weight pressing on airways. My mother has had two heart attacks, my uncle has had one. My grandmother suffered high blood pressure for years before her death.

It's not pretty, this kind of obesity.

And the pounds kept sliding on to me, despite my efforts to prevent it. Until, at 154 pounds, a mere 3 or so pounds into the official 'overweight', I had to do something.

And just as I'd reached that decision, a neighbour told me she'd begun attending Weight Watchers - and that the meetings were held only three or four blocks from my house.

I recognize Destiny when it hits me on the head with a brick.

Off I went. In three months, I have lost close to 15 pounds. I want to lose another 10 or so. I'll be heavier than I was at 24, but that's okay. Because I'm not 24 any more. But neither will I be following the rest of my gene pool, submerged at the bottom of the deep end and wondering why they're having trouble breathing...

What this program has done is give me a liveable framework by which to evaluate and structure my eating. I want that glass of wine? Sure - but not those cookies, too. I don't wonder, I know how much is too much. It takes a little more thought than in my thoughtless youth, but not a whole lot. It takes a little self-discipline, and I'm discovering I had more than I thought.

I am, once again, just about the size and shape I like to be. And I know that in another couple of months, I'll be there. And I'll stay there.


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Monday, July 23, 2007

My best friend.

I have two. Matthew is my first and foremost best friend. I don't say that just because he's my husband (finally), and I have this misguided notion that just because he's my husband he is obliged to be my best friend.

I say it because he is. Matthew has loved me for longer than I've loved him. He's supported me through stuff that would send most men skittering for the hills faster than you can say "tampon". Which he also buys for me, without a second's squeamishness. (While he does the weekly grocery shopping. From the weekly menus he's created. Yes, indeed.)

Matthew listens. Really listens. Matthew shares. Really shares. We talk for hours. HOURS. Every summer weekend, we go for an hour's walk, have a coffee, walk an hour home. And we talk the.whole.way.

He is kind, but he's also honest. He's courageous, but not macho. He doesn't confuse manliness with vulgarity. Burps and farts are unfortunate physical realities, no more, not great accomplishments warranting admiration and attention.

There is nothing I can't tell him. I am never afraid of his response. He has a brilliant mind. A brilliant mind of great integrity. He doesn't shy from realities just because they're uncomfortable or put him in a bad light.

He thinks I'm beautiful, smart, kind, creative, sexy, a phenomenal mother, a terrific writer; he thinks that my mind is much quicker than his, and that any man of sense is jealous of him when we walk down the street hand-in-hand.

With all that wonderfulness, who needs a second best friend? But I have one. Because I'm lucky that way.

My other best friend is Sophie.

On the surface, you'd wonder why we work so well together. Sophie's idea of heavy reading is Cosmo. I read voraciously 10 or 20 books a month. Sophie's kids are...well... Her son is into vandalism and petty theft; her daughter seems to have "tart" as a life-goal. (And Sophie's response is to cover up for the son. I heartily disapprove.) My kids are decent citizens, all in all. Sophie's love life is a mess: she specializes in unattainable men. She's bounced from an alcoholic (a man whose first love is the booze) to a gay guy, (how's that for unattainable?), and a string of others along the way. Much of her men woes stem from the fact that 'brains' take a distant second place to 'buff' (and 'young') in Sophie's list of attractive male features. Me, I like men with a bit of gray at the temples and some physical and mental substance. Unlike Sophie, I would not see it as a compliment were my teens to invite me clubbing with them, "because you're so much like the rest of us!!"

So, with all those differences, why do we enjoy each other's company so? Well, for starters, I give Sophie the dignity of her own life and choices. I'll give input if she wants, but never unsolicited. I feel no need to burden her with my advice and opinions. She's a grown woman, been heading her own life for two or three decades now, and is largely happy with her life. I accept her for who she is, and I don't judge her for having different choices/attitudes/values from me.

What we share is a sense of mischief. We've listened to each other's woes about the various men in our lives (Sophie dates from pre-Matthew days), and suggest often savage retaliation for insults suffered. We never do them: the imagining is enough fun.

We empathize with each other. She's cried on my shoulder about her kids; I've cried on hers about my ex.

We both know what it's like to worry about money. We love being with someone who never complains of being 'broke', while somehow managing a family trip to the Carribbean in March.

We are both annoyed by prudery. We love being with someone with whom we can chat about anything without pulling our punches: vibrators, oral sex, good sex, bad sex, group sex. Sex, sex, sex.

Sophie is spontaneous. Sophie's a party girl. Sophie's a bit wicked. Sophie is a bit of a bitch, frankly, though never with me. She's not squeamish - about sex, about morality, about her own foibles.

Sophie brings some much-needed frivolity into my life.

Between the two of them, I get just about everything I need in the way of human interaction: deep, mind-stretching conversations; shrieking, wine-fuelled gigglefests, and with both I share reciprocal, unconditional acceptance.

I am a lucky woman.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

He roars with laughter. "That's great!"

"What's so funny?" his wife wanders across the yard, wine glass in hand, smile on face.

"Tell her the joke, Laura."

Twice in a row? Oh, why not? It's one of my favourites, and it seems he won't mind the repeat, so I launch into it again.

A Scotsman is being annoyed by an American tourist. The fellow is titillated by the tales and rumours he's heard about kilts and their contents, and keeps badgering the Scot, oblivious to the fellow's attempts to preserve some dignity.

"So, is it true? Huh, is it??"


"Oh, come on, now. What do you wear under your kilt?"

The Scot fixes him with a steely glare, and through tight, thin lips, spits out his answer. "Yer wife's lipstick."

"Isn't that great, honey? 'Yer wife's lipstick!'" Husband falls about laughing all over again. Wife purses her lips, gives a tight smile, turns away. Yes, well.

"Come and see the garden," she directs us. Obvious change of topic. "I've been doing a lot of work in it lately." She points to a small shrub with blue-ish foliage. "See my bush?"

Husband and I make brief eye contact, and break out into simultaneous coughing fits. With another wee smile, this one a bit puzzled, wife moves on to greet other, more comfortable, partiers.

Later, chatting with Matthew as we prepare for bed, he muses on my tale. "Some men love a woman with a it of bawdiness in her; others are scared to death of her." He gives me an affectionate squeeze. "I'm one of the former."

"He is too, no doubt about it."

We look at each other. "So what is he doing with her?"

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

My kids gave me this Wise Woman Starter Kit for Mother's Day. It contains a tub of "Regenerating Day Cream", one of "Regenerating Night Cream", and a spray bottle of "Vitality Serum".

Pretty, no?

Now, I've not been the type of woman to fuss much with my face. I like feeling pretty as much as the next woman, I shave my legs (and other bits), I love flowy skirts, plunging necklines, moderate amounts of perfume, and I keep my hair a burnished auburn, despite the steady encroachment of gray.

But a "beauty regime"? Seems an oxymoron, really. Anything that calls itself a 'regime' lacks a certain, oh, gaity, joie de vivre, spontenaeity. More to do with drill sergeants, drudgery and drab than beauty.

But you know what? Time is pretty regimental. It marches inexorably on, taking pity on no woman.

So, though I didn't request this particular gift (are the kids trying to tell me something?), I was pleased enough with it. (And of course, I made out I was deee-lighted! Because, wrinkled crone though I may be, I am a Good Mother.) Besides, I've always been little Polly Perfect when it came to assignments. I actively enjoyed worksheets in school, liked lining up my facts in neat columns, liked ticking items off a list. There is a part of the discipline of a 'regime' that does appeal, I confess.

So I opened the package with interest, seeking the Instruction Sheet. (Because that's what we Polly Perfects do, you know: we RTFM*s. Religiously. Because we like to.)

And boy, did I hit paydirt with this one. A very long, accordian-folded leaflet on flimsy paper - in fourteen different languages! Fourteen! But all I learned as I scanned it was how wonderful this product was, and what wholesome ingredients were contained within its creamy essence.

So much for the insert. Where were the directions for use? Not on the tubs, not on the spray bottle, not on the box. There were no more bits of paper hiding within the box. Mystified, I returned to the leaflet.

Because the day and night cream I could pretty much figure. But "Vitality Serum"? What, exactly, does one do with a "Vitality Serum"? It was housed in a pump bottle, so I'm guessing it's not to be ingested. Undoubtedly it's to be smeared on the skin, but when? How? (Why?)

And a second, more thorough read of the insert, and there they are! Directions for Use!! (Not that they were identified as such, but they are there!)

See them? Two short sentences at the end of each paragraph of promotional sludge. Oh, come on. Surely you can find them! After all Wise Woman does want you to actually use its product.

Doesn't it?

I'm not entirely sure. That picture is life-size. That is how big the pages were, that is how big the font is. Teeny, isn't it? My real-life version is probably a little clearer than this scanned version, but the font is no bigger.

Now, I am 46 - probably smack in the middle of the target audience for this product. Like most people my age - that is, like most people in the product's TARGET AUDIENCE - my eyesight isn't what it once was. Nor, what with all this perimenopausal hormonal shit I have going on, am I as patient as I once was. Not with the flim-flam-flummery of self-congratulational sales puffing, certainly. And then to place useful information at the tale end of all that crap verbiage? In micro-font?

How much awareness of (and respect for) their TARGET AUDIENCE does this show?

And then? When you finally unearth the information? You get these little nuggets:

For the Day Cream: "Apply to face and neck. Use with Regenerating Night Cream."
For the Night Cream: "Apply to face and neck. Use with Regenerating Day Cream."
For the Vitality Serum: "Use AM and PM before applying your Wise Woman day and night moisturisers."

Useful, no?


Not particularly, huh...

So many questions left unanswered... Does one use Day and Night cream together, both products applied morning and evening? It sure seems to say as much! And, now that I've found the "instructions", how do I apply the Vitality Serum? Direct to my skin? To my hands, and then rub in? To a cotton ball? Do I cleanse my face first, or do the products do it all?

Okay, so I know better than to apply moisturizer without first cleaning - oops, I mean cleansing - my skin. I also know that Day Cream is for the daytime and Night Cream is for the nighttime. Not too tricky, that. An adherent of a Beauty Regime I may not be, but a complete feminine-culture idiot I am not. However, I didn't get any of this awareness from the insert, where one might reasonably expect to find it.

All is not lost! Being of that Certain Age, I am a resourceful woman. I now know how to use my Products, most notably the mysterious Vitality Serum. How, you ask? How, given the company clearly has no interest in giving me the goods once I own them?

Because I googled it. No kidding. I ended up googling, and found a very useful instructional video at Wise Woman dot net! Wise Woman dot net - imagine that!! There is one! But I had to hunt it out! The insert didn't include information about their very informative website, either. Imagine that...

So, I now have these Beauty Products, which I am using, oh, four times a week. (Not quite Perfect, but I'm trying!) And I'm enjoying them. I'm not sure if it's the feeling that I've joined the Woman Club at long last, or if it's because they're making a difference. I do like how they smell...

But if it were up to Wise Woman and the Beauty Shoppe, I'd still be squinting at the labels.

*RTFM: Read the Fucking Manual. What you should do before you call tech. support**.

**Not, I admit, that the manuals are generally any use to anyone who isn't technically inclined, which is to say, anyone who isn't tech. support...

*** Oooo, look! Footnotes in teeny, tiny font!!! Feel free to sneer at the inconsistency.****

**** But not this pre-menstrual, perimenopausal week. Could be bad for your health.

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Monday, July 09, 2007

"LAURA!!! Laura, Geek Boy spat on your bra!"

Damn. I should have known that would happen. As you know, the girls are substantial. The cheap bras from Zellers are just not up to the job. Nope, I need the expensive (and, such a happy coincidence, very pretty) ones from La Vie. (See that beige one? I own that one. I also have the same one in black.) One does not toss such confections into the laundry with the sweatsocks and blue jeans. One coddles them. One lavishes TLC and Forever New upon them, and soaks them delicately in the bathroom sink, prior to pressing the water out gently and hanging them to dry over the bathroom rail.

And then one's youngest stepson spits frothy toothpaste foam onto them. Guess he didn't notice that sinkful of bubbles and lace an inch in front of his navel. Guess it didn't occur to his empty head to launch that gobful of sputum into the toilet rather than onto a hundred and some odd dollars' worth of lingerie.


Welcome to my summer.

Five extra children pile into our home for four out of the first six weeks of summer. Lazy summer days are a dream.

It's getting better, year by year. My eldest lives on her own now, and the next two children - my son, and Matthew's eldest - have jobs and are very autonomous. Matthew's daughter, Drama Girl, has lived up to her cognomen very well this year, and in a passionate flurry of "I HATE having parents and I'm NOT a child" (a very childish flurry, I might add), she has, at the age of 17, pretty much flounced out of both her parents' lives, and lives mostly with her boyfriend. Gawd help him.

(I keep out of these things. But do I miss her? Does her absence leave a gaping hole in the fabric of our lives? Not so's you'd notice. Even at her best, her energy level is well-described by the DSM, under "manic". The house is much calmer without her.)

Still, that leaves four teens in full-time residence, with another two who live here officially and make regular appearances.

Six. Teens. (Nineteen, eighteen, sixteen, fourteen, fourteen, and thirteen.)

For the most part, they are cheerful, easy-going, biddable. They don't party, they don't play music at ear-shattering levels (thank GOD for MP-3 players; if any ears are being shattered, at least they're being shattered privately), they don't drink, they don't do anything more illicit. (Or if they do, they're very, very discreet.)

So, I have little to complain about, right? No petty crime, no horrific rebellion, and, apart from Drama Girl, no significant conflict.

Just six teens. Which means 27 pairs of ENORMOUS shoes cluttering the small entry way at every moment of every day. We have a shoe rack that would fit about 21 pair. The shoe rack currently holds three pairs: my sandals, my runners, and Matthew's runners.

It means socks littering the house. (Yes, they're still doing that.) This weekend, setting a new record in sock-strewing, we even managed to leave a balled-up pair of dirty sweat socks on the NEIGHBOUR'S lawn.

Thankfully, I spotted them before the neighbour (I hope), and sent the offender out to collect them.

But, Ugh.

It means enormous amounts of food consumed. Which means food, food containers, and food consumption mechanisms also litter much of the house. (I might add here that my children keep food consumption to the dining room.)

It means six people in the house who can and do stay up far, far later than Matthew or me.

Which meant that last night we were woken at sometime after 11 - a good hour and a half after I went to bed - by a tap at the door, and a teen telling us there were ants in his bedroom.

No! Ants?!? In your BEDROOM? Could this have anything to do, anything at all, do you think, with the plates still littered with crumbs under your bed? The plates that I have repeatedly asked you NOT to bring into your room - because you'll get bugs???

And now, at eleven-something, he wants someone to leap out of bed and fix it for him? NOW?


It means no space to sit. This is a small house. I wander the house with a book and a cup of tea, looking for a spot to have a quiet read... two teens fill the two love seats in the living room to capacity. Two more lounge at the dining table. One is on the front porch. One is in the (sole) bathroom. I find myself holed out in my room for much of July and August...


I do love summers, really, I do. And I'll love them even more five years from now.

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