Sunday, May 22, 2011

I'm not cut out to be a spy

While on our trip to France it become painfully obvious that I did not have a future in the intelligence community. If I were a spy and were captured by the enemy it would be very easy to break me. This wouldn't be done by depriving me of food, or water, or even through solitary confinement (okay, so I admit I haven't experienced any of those things to the degree they would be considered *torture* but work with me here). Physical pain and suffering also wouldn't suffice. I am a runner, and have given birth to two children. I have pain and suffering in spades. All they would have to do would subject me to sleep deprivation. And not even a number of days, just one night and I would be toast. Not only would I spill any national security secrets I might be privy to, I would also spill secrets about things they didn't even ask about. If there is anything I can't tolerate it is lack of sleep.

In a previous post I discussed how important sleep is to me. I am not talking about sleeping in. In fact, even on our vacation without the kids I still got up around 7am. And that was Paris time. At home I am actually chagrined if my children wake up before me, depriving me of that previous hour of peace and quiet at the beginning of the day. Oh no, I am referring to the minimum of six hours of sleep I need to function, although seven would be better and eight is optimum. But less than six and I am a disaster. So this is why the red-eye to Paris was a really bad call.

In theory it seemed like a good idea. Take the red-eye, fall asleep for the eight hour flight and wake up to have a croissant and some coffee in Paris. In reality I didn't fall asleep for more than 30 minutes at a time. I think all totaled I slept around 2 hours, probably less. Most of it with a slight cramp in my hamstring. For those of you wondering, Black Swan is not a good movie to watch when you become delirious from sleep deprivation. I was crazier than Natalie Portman. By the time we got off the plane I was a physical and mental disaster. I think part of the reason why the immigration official in Charles de Gaulle scrutinized me and my passport for at least 5 minutes longer than anyone else (my husband included) was because with my disheveled hair and clothes, pale withdrawn face and bloodshot eyes I looked suspiciously like a member of the Manson family. Or he suspected I was a zombie. I also was incapable of communicating coherently, and all I was required to do was greet the man and hand over my passport.

Things didn't get much better after that. Luckily my husband was there to guide me to baggage claim and to the driver who was taking us to our hotel. I don't think I said a word the entire time. I am sure the driver felt sorry for the poor American man and his catatonic spouse. How brave, how loving he must be to take care of such an incapacitated individual. This was further reinforced when I would fall asleep for brief periods of time during our drive. And I would drool. I was so tired I couldn't muster the energy or consciousness to care.

But the coup de grace came once we finally got to our hotel and check in wasn't for another 30 minutes. Luckily I was still in my catatonic state or I would have wept openly. Instead my husband led me to a cafe down the street where he ate lunch with gusto while I sipped water and stared glassy eyed into the distance.

Finally the time came where we could check in and he led me back to the hotel and up to our room. And at that point I just lost it. Uncontrolled sobbing as I proclaimed how exhausted and miserable I was. There may have been some writhing on the floor for emphasis. It was ugly. Eventually I calmed down enough to lay down and get some sleep and then a shower. And still I was a mess. It was early evening by this time and I was determined to get on Paris time so we went walking. Our goal was to visit Notre Dame, which was number one on my list of things to see. And when we got there it closed right as we were walking up. Although I was physically looking normal again I was still an exhausted mess and this was just enough to send me back over the edge despite the fact that my poor husband tried to point out it would reopen in the morning. And the morning after that. And the morning after that. At this point he couldn't help missing the catatonic me.

I am not proud of this whole *crying because Notre Dame was closed* incident but it did cause me to revaluate my plans to become a super spy in the next chapter of my life. Clearly I was no Sydney Bristow, which was truly unfortunate because she had some awesome outfits.

role model follow up

Thank you to everyone who wrote me with their suggestions for role models. Interestingly enough, with one exception, all the suggestions were women. But then again, all the respondents were women, so that may be a factor. Some people requested that I post a compilation so here it is.

Madeline Albright
Michelle Rhee
Cathy Lanier
Taylor Swift 
Barack Obama (I especially love this suggestion because it came from a die hard Republican)
Condi Rice
Suze Orman

Admittedly the list is short, and if I left anyone off I apologize. But it's a start. Thanks again for giving me hope!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

ISO: a role model

This morning I went to the gym and as I was running along on the treadmill I was staring up at the bank of televisions mounted from the ceiling. Each turned to a different station but all of them carrying the Arnold Schwarzenegger story on a endless loop. Occasionally they would take a break to report the latest on Dominique Strauss-Kahn. And suddenly despite my endorphin generating workout I felt depressed.

I realize that it is the job of the news media to provide us with entertaining and juicy stories. No one wants to watch a news clip about the man who gave the pregnant woman his seat on the metro. But I feel like every time you turn on the news it is stories about some public figure who has done something illegal. Or unethical. Or immoral. Or all three. So this is not a diatribe against the media. As far as I am concerned they are just doing their job and providing people with the content they want. I don't want to live in a nanny state where our media content is dictated by strict guidelines of someone's idea of what is appropriate and inappropriate. If you don't like it don't watch. No, instead this is me questioning public figures in general. And I am wondering, are there any role models left for our children? Or for us for that matter?

I am not saying that prior to this scandal I endeavored to be like Arnold. But regardless of your politics or how you judge his performance as the an actor, or the governor of California, he does have a certain appeal. He is (was?) the American Dream personified. Immigrant comes to this country, works hard, becomes successful, marries a beautiful and smart woman and raises an adorable family. But then he has to go and screw it all up. And while undoubtedly Maria is the biggest loser in this mess I can't help but feel a tiny bit betrayed myself.

The more I reflected on this the more I started to realize that my issue is not with those who make bad decisions per se. There are plenty of bad decisions that I make on a daily basis, some of them greater than others. We all make mistakes. Often times it is those mistakes that make us grow and mature. Become better people. So I am not wagging my finger at the dot com entrepreneur whose company went under and lots of people lost their jobs. An example of bad business judgement? Absolutely. But assuming there isn't any malfeasance he could still be considered a role model for following his dream.

My husband and I endeavor to the best of our abilities to act as strong and positive role models for our kids. They also have lots of wonderful role models in our families and in our community. But they are getting older and more easily influenced by what they see on television and read in the paper and on the internet. And despite our best efforts it is the images of our public figures that they will be bombarded with. Is it so wrong to expect that these people conduct their lives in a manner that justifies the adulation they receive?

So I took the rest of my workout to think really really really hard and finally came up with a name. Kara Goucher. So there is one.

I would love to hear from readers of this post - who are your public figure role models? People you aspire to emulate. I don't care if they are actors, politicians, captains of industry, philanthropists, authors, sports stars or talk show hosts. They just have to be in the public eye and have conducted themselves in a moral and ethical way. So please comment on this blog, or send me an email at I need to have my faith restored. And Kara, please don't let me down.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Every yin needs a yang

Recently my husband and I went on a vacation to France. This was our first trip away alone since our daughter was born. Eight years ago. Ok, so we had one overnight to St. Michael's a few years back, but I am not sure we were even gone 24 hours. Other than that I can literally count on one hand the number of nights I have not slept under the same roof as my children. And those nights were because I was in the hospital so I'm not sure that really counts. So a whole week of just me and the husband was either going to be a glorious opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with each other after not being able to complete a sentence for over eight years, or a total disaster where we realize that without the kids we are just two people who live in the same house.

What this week away taught me was that my husband is still the funniest man I know and how much our strengths compliment each other. I would be completely lost without him. Literally. As I have written about in this space before, he is (mostly) even-keeled and rational, whereas I am prone to the dramatic. He is a go-with-the-flow kind of guy, whereas I am...not. We have a lot of qualities that are the similar. For instance, we both think sleeping past 7:30am is for wimps, good coffee first thing in the morning is a requirement, not a suggestion, and humor can be found pretty much anywhere.

Many of the things I learned about my husband on this trip were things that have been there since the very beginning of our relationship. His warmth, his wit, his intelligence, his appreciation for a good pastry and his tolerance of my handbag addiction. He is not only the father of my children, but the love of my life and the man I would marry all over again. What I did discover on our trip is that he too has a secret superpower. And it is so powerful that it compensates for my fatal flaw. My kryptonite. As I have mentioned in the past, I am a directionless marvel. I cannot read a map. I cannot follow written directions. I struggle to follow my GPS lady despite her clear, deliberate and insistent instructions. If left to my own devices I would probably just travel in a circle like a grocery cart with only one wheel that works.

Lucky for me, my husband has the power to figure out how to get places. I know, you are thinking, *wow, he can read a map. big deal*. First of all, to me, that is a big deal. If you give me a map I will squint at it, turn it from side to side, then 180 degrees, more squinting and finally I will admit I have no clue. If pressed I would have to admit that I have no idea whether I am facing north-south-east or west unless the sun is rising or setting, and even then I may struggle a bit. I am the antithesis of a compass. I am the last person you want to ask for directions.

But my husband proved how amazing his powers really are during our trip to France. He got us from point A to point B and beyond without any backtracking. He could look at that map and determine the best routes to get where we wanted to go, even if I changed our destination mid-journey. It was like he lived in Paris his entire life. Contrast this with me, who not only still has no clue how to get to our hotel from the metro despite taking that trip at least a dozen times. I also have no clue about the name of the street where our hotel is located.

So if not for my husband and his super map reading powers I would have spent the entire week sitting in the brasserie across the street from our hotel because I couldn't figure out how to get anywhere else. And at least if I was across the street from the hotel I could figure out how to get back there. Maybe. And if I was so inclined I couldn't even ask for directions since I don't speak any french. I would instead have to rely on my limited vocabulary of *bonjour, merci, oui, non, cappuccino and pain au chocolat*. Hence my permanent residence at the brasserie.

So my husband can read a map. Really really well. Big deal. Is that a super power on par with my ability to find lost objects (obviously this doesn't include if I am the lost object)? That question was answered when we ventured into the french countryside. We took the train from Paris to the Loire valley where we rented a car. Having never been there before, and because he was driving, my husband needed a navigator. That was me. I navigated us in a complete circle back the train station three times before he realized he would have to be navigator and driver. Did I mention how even-keeled and patient he is?

Near as I can tell, the french countryside is made up of a series of rotaries. If I had been the driver we would have went round and round indefinitely not unlike going down a drain. There are not many signs to mark the roads, and in the case where there are it doesn't matter because the road changes names about six times over the course of one kilometer. And the arrow signs pointing you in the direction of various destinations don't help because arrows go straight whereas a rotary is round. But my husband got us to the chateaux and everywhere else we wanted to go. At one point, when he navigated us to an obscure wine cave using a map that seemed to be missing some roads he actually did a fist pump when we reached our destination. I suspect that not even the employees are 100% sure how to get there. It was nothing short of a miracle. The miracle of a super power. Is it any wonder why I love this man?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Where's the pause button?

I confess that for the past eight months I have been in a bit of a melancholy funk. I think it's a mid-life crisis of sorts. It started when my youngest went off to kindergarten and continued through the fall and winter until it snowballed with my 40th birthday in early spring. It's a wonder I'm able to get out of bed each morning.

When my oldest went off to kindergarten I didn't experience any feelings of remorse. It's not that I don't like her, or didn't miss her, but life was a lot easier with only one of them at home. Plus, she is a very independent child. I often joke that if she could drive and get a job at age 8 she would probably move out and live in her own apartment. Sometimes her independence makes me wistful, but mostly it makes me proud.

My youngest is of a different temperament. It could be because he is the youngest, it could be because he's a boy. It could be because that's just who he is. Whatever the reason he just seems more fragile, more vulnerable. And I miss him terribly now that he is gone all day. In fact just acknowledging that in writing brings tears to my eyes even though he is currently in the other room blowing things up with his Star Wars action figures.

My son has two stuffed dogs - Pup Pup and Pup Pup (he got my creative genes). Apparently he can tell them apart and one is *sad* Pup Pup and the other is *happy* Pup Pup. We have no idea why they are either sad nor happy. He has slept with one grasped in each hand, tucked under his sleeping body, since he was three months old. He has never slept a night without them. Now that he is six and desperately trying to grow up I know that the time is fast approaching when he will put them away in the closet. And that is when my heart will break. At this point I think I need Pup Pup and Pup Pup more than he does.

For some odd reason my oldest seems to represent growth and potential, whereas my youngest represents time passing too quickly. Things that will never come again, like dancing to the Wiggles or sitting on the curb of a construction site and spending countless hours watching and talking about all the trucks. I know it's not fair. With my daughter I have always been in such a rush to accomplish milestones. And while I wouldn't say that I actively thwart my son in his attempts to achieve independence I am not in a rush to move onto the next thing.

We have a garage that is chock full of stuff. There are boxes upon boxes in there, taking up valuable real estate that could be used to park a car. Since last summer I have been methodically going through the boxes of baby and toddler clothes trying to divest myself of this load. I open a box and start sorting, tossing the items that I didn't realize are stained or otherwise ruined when they were packed away. Then there is a pile to give away to friends or charity. And as I go through the boxes I am usually okay for the first or second, but at some point I get choked up by a memory that one of the outfits triggers and I need to stop.

I go back inside our house and see my beautiful, perfect children as they are right now and I am no longer sad. I realize that at some point I will look back at this point in their childhood and be wistful as well. But for now I need to revel in how they are in the present.

When I talk about how much I miss my children's baby and toddler years friends jokingly tell me I should have another baby. But the problem is I don't want another baby, I just miss the babies I already had.