Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The kid's gotta eat

I've been out of the breastfeeding business for five years now so I haven't read much about breastfeeding lately. I was really surprised when I read this article talking about problems that nursing mothers are having with breastfeeding in public. I find it so funny that people make a big deal out of mothers feeding their babies just because it involves boobs. As someone says in the article, people are so overly focused on breasts as sexual objects that they tend to forget their practical and very important use as a food supply unit.

I breastfed both girls - A Girl for well over a year and M Girl for a year - while working full time. I have such wonderful memories of that time with them - even though it was a hugely painful struggle at first and even though I had to lug a ridiculously large and heavy breast pump to and from work everyday. (Of course now they have these small yet powerful pumps that get stowed in a cute black backpack. They also have maternity clothes at The Gap when all I had was the mu mu crap from Motherhood Maternity that I could only find at sprawling suburbans malls. But that's a rant for another day.) I fed them in public many times without incident. Of course I didn't make a big deal out of what I was doing and I tried to be discreet.

One time I fed A Girl at the table while we had dinner with friends at a busy restaurant - and no one noticed. Our table was right next to the hostess table so there were people all around. A Girl was in her stroller, pulled up to the table. She got fussy so I picked her up and managed to get her latched on without lifting my shirt all while carrying on a conversation. When she was done, I put her back down and my husband (who is the most observant person I know) said "Don't you need to feed her?" Granted, it was fairly dark in the restaurant, which helped a lot. And to be fair - A Girl and I were a veteran nursing pair by then. I couldn't have done that within the first three or so months. The point of the story is that it's possible - in many situations - to be discreet about breastfeeding.

The article talks about a woman who was kicked off of a plane because she refused to cover up while she was breastfeeding. I always had a blanket or shirt or towel draped over my shoulder. It's not because I was ashamed of breastfeeding but because it's polite to at least try not to offend the people around you - even when you think they shouldn't be offended. You can't tell from the article but I wonder how exposed she was and why she didn't cover up when asked. Even if the flight attendant was being prudish and stupid, why make a big deal out of it? It's not like they were asking her to feed her baby in the plane's bathroom. Frankly, the stress on the mother (and the baby) of fighting about it was probably more of an issue than just putting a damn blanket over the offending boob and being done with it.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Food follies

While waiting in the cafeteria line, I glanced at the packets of condiments on the counter. I'm all for truth in labeling but I found it odd that the Hellman's mayo packet was announcing, with a big zero in a noticeable red circle, that it had zero grams of carbs. I don't know about you but I was never really worried about the carb content of my mayo. Fat content, you betcha. Carb content? Not so much.

Apparently the packaging design people think consumers are going to say "Wow! I'm worried about my diet so I'll choose this awesome mayo with NO CARBS! Slather it on!"

I can't really blame the food companies for packaging stupidity. People want to have their cake and eat it too (pun intended) when it comes to eating junk food. They'll grab on to anything to make themselves feel better about eating crap (myself included). I've said before that I think Snack Wells and their ilk have contributed to the obesity epidemic in this country. Somehow, people have gotten the idea that they can eat as much low-carb crap as they want without gaining weight. Trans fats are the new carbs - every snack food that can get away with it screams about having little or no trans fats. Guess what - if you fill up on junk (with or without trans fat, low carb or otherwise) - you're going to gain weight. There is no such thing as a free bag of chips.

On the subject of blaming everyone but ourselves (read: food manufacturers and fast food companies) for our obesity, I read an article this week about an interview with supermodel Gisele Bundchen. She was discussing the recent trend of fashion shows refusing to allow underweight models to participate in runway shows. There have been recent accusations that the use of too-skinny models is leading to anorexia. She said it's not the fashion industry that causes anorexia, it's screwed up families that cause anorexia. Although I'm not ready to let the fashion industry off the hook completely, she has a point. But the best point she made was that modeling is all about genetics. There are certain people (like herself) who have the right genes to be a model. If you have to starve yourself in order to have the "right" body, you don't have the right genes and maybe you should think twice about your choice of profession.

The same is true of professional sports. Although there are legions of young boys who want to play in the NBA, there's about a million to one chance that any one of them will get there. For the most part, they won't have the genetics. Regardless of talent and no matter how hard you work, if you aren't very tall, you aren't going to be a professional basketball player. Play the game for fun but make sure you do your homework - don't count on that multi-million dollar contract to support your family.

I guess the bottom line of this post is that people don't like facing the simple fact that you can't have everything you want and sometimes the things you want aren't good for you. You can't eat all the junk food you desire and be healthy (or thin) - even if the junk food you eat has no trans-fats or carbs. You can't be an NBA superstar unless you're born with the right combination of genes. If you need to starve yourself to death to be skinny enough, you shouldn't try to be a runway model.

And if you don't like the media images of too-skinny models, stop buying clothes from designers who promote that kind of body image. Stop buying the magazines that sell those clothes. Or do what I do, refuse to go clothes shopping until you have nothing to wear (except horrible 1980's era suits with shoulder pads). It doesn't help anything but it gives me something to bitch about.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Mouths of Babes

Every once in awhile M Girl (our six-year old) asks for a baby sibling, even though I've told her that it ain't gonna happen. This time she said she wanted me to have a baby so she could go to the hospital and see how the baby gets out. (This isn't unusual since she always wants to see for herself how everything works). I told her that even if I did have another baby she probably wouldn't be able to be in the room when the baby was born. To her indignant "Why not?!" I explained that it can be scary for kids to see that because as wonderful as it is, it can be painful and she might get upset seeing mommy in pain. We talked a little more about the birth process which fascinated her (especially the part about how the baby gets out through such a small opening).

Later as I was telling my husband about that conversation, she said "Daddy, I really want mommy to have another baby. Can you make that happen?"

Monday, January 15, 2007

Dear Diary

January 8, 2007 - Ok, Blogging for Books is on for January. Diary, I swear I'm going to stick with my resolution to write more. I'm definitely going to write a B4B post this month. The topic is great - you have to write about something having to do with "time". It's a nice, broad topic - I can just run with it. And I will. Right after I catch up on all the episodes of Without a Trace I have on TIVO. Can't let the TIVO get too full or it might not record all the episodes of American Idol. And besides, I have a whole week to do it. Plenty of time.

January 10, 2007 - Has it really been two days since I've written? What with work, catching up on my TIVO backlog, doing the dishes and spending quality time with my husband and kids, I haven't had time to write my B4B post. So - what should I write? Maybe I should do some fiction. Here's a thought - I'll write about this guy who's retired and has no family left so he's got all the time in the world but he always complains about not having enough time to do what he wants. That's great and I'll get to it as soon as I finish making blueberry muffins. Can anyone really write excellent fiction without good muffins? I didn't think so.

January 11, 2007 - Diary, I had another thought about that B4B story. What if the guy was always late to everything his whole life? I can hear his mother yelling "Sammy, you're late for school!" and then his wife yelling "Sam! You have to get up for work!" He never really learned the importance of being on time. I think I'll run with that. As soon as I get home from work. After all, I can't let blogging interfere with work can I?

January 12, 2007 - Damn. I can't believe it's the 12th already and I haven't really started on my B4B entry. Ok, getting down to work. Now. Hmmm. I don't think that idea about Sam who's always late is going to work unless I have some other conflict. Maybe he's late for work one day and he gets into an accident, killing someone. Now his being late isn't just an irritation to his family, it's impacted other people in a horrible and irreversible way. And then he gets depressed and stops going to work. His wife leaves him. His family won't speak to him. Man, this is depressing. I need a drink.

January 13, 2007 - Two days to go - I better get to work on that B4B entry. So, where was I? Ok, Sam has killed someone and lost everything. Has he learned his lesson? Let's say we meet up with Sam when he's a cranky old man. He yells at the bus driver because the bus is late. The bus driver guns it and make Sam spill all his shopping bags on the floor of the bus. What does Sam do? Think, think. Sigh. Oh, look - the shower curtain needs to be washed. If I don't get that done, I won't be able to concentrate on writing. I'll be right back.

January 15, 2007 - Whew! Cleaning that shower curtain was hard! Took lots longer than I thought it would. Shoot - I only have the rest of today to write my entry. Damn. I don't have enough time to do a really good post. I can't figure out how to end the story. I'll never get in the semi-finals. I'll never be a writer. I'm doomed to a life of mediocrity. What's that you say, diary? Maybe if I didn't procrastinate so much, I would have written a decent post? Well, I don't know about that. I mean, I have to work, right? And I couldn't possibly concentrate on writing without having a clean shower curtain. And unless I finished my daily Sudoku. And, of course, what kind of wife and mother would I be if I didn't spend time with my family? And who asked you anyway?

Next month. I swear, diary, next month I will submit a kick ass B4B post. It'll be the best post ever!. This time things will be different. I've changed. I mean it this time. Really.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Funny phishing

I got an email today (on my WORK email no less) that was supposedly from Bank of America. It was "About your accounts with us!" (Hyperbole theirs). In addition to a link that I wouldn't ever click without a gun pointed at my head, there was this amusing tidbit (word for word):

"Following these, the cycle would start again. administratrix congressional But oh, Mr Rancho Grande!

(PILINGS its PILINGS there are TWO okay there are two fine now just hush just you know hush shhhhhh) and made it seem gone for awhile. You'll mend faster when you're working, I'll bet! She turned and walked toward the pantry. "She hugged him. After he did, he grayed out again. "she screamed, her mouth yawning wide, and he was suddenly looking into the dank red-lined pit of the goddess. Her hands had begun to spring limberly open and then snatch closed again, catching air and squashing it. denature"

I think my new favorite phrase from now on with be "But oh, Mr. Rancho Grande!"

Monday, January 08, 2007

Decisions, decisions

I'm in a meeting (I spend the better part of my life in meetings) but I feel the pull to write. Maybe I should adopt a motto: Never let work interfere with blogging.

A Girl is in rehearsals for a theater production and I was able to watch them run through the second act yesterday. I doubt A Girl understands how lucky she is to be working with professional, experienced actors within an established theater company. There is so much "small" theater out there but there are few such established companies and very, very few good roles for children. She is one lucky kid.

As I was watching the actors yesterday, it struck me that several of them are supporting families while working as actors. (Well, most of them have "day" jobs - as teachers of theater or other theater-related activities. But they work pretty regularly as actors.) This particular ensemble has been around for 20 years - it started when the founders were in college together and many of the founding members are still regularly involved. That's some serious dedication.

As I watched them work I thought how lucky they are that they can pursue their passion. For the most part, they don't have to go to an office (and sit in unending and very boring meetings about the accounting treatment of various investment products). They get to do fun stuff like play different characters, learn a new dialect, and perform for an audience.

But the reality is that I don't have to sit in those meetings either. I'm free to pursue my passion, too. I'm also free to tell my family that we can't afford our mortgage or school tuition. Because for most actors (and people in the arts generally), that's what it means to pursue your passion. It means you give up what you can get from a more practical (but far less creative) job as a lawyer or accountant. Although I didn't think about it this way at the time, when I decided to leave the commercial production industry to go to law school, I made the decision to take a more practical road. I didn't do it because anyone was telling me I had to. My parents were as supportive as anyone could hope for. I just didn't have it in me to live in a studio apartment smaller than a postage stamp any longer. I was at the point where I would have needed to work freelance in order to move ahead and I couldn't see myself living job to job.

I'm sure my husband will agree (probably a little too whole-heartedly) that I often don't use a very good decision-making process. I'm a "wing it" person who makes emotional decisions which drives him nuts because he's a logical planner. (Before I continue, let me fully acknowledge for the record that going the "planner" route is generally far more successful than going the "wing it" route.) I bring this up because many of my life decisions - including leaving a creative job for law school - were not very well considered. It was an emotional decision brought on by fear and by the high level of comfort I thought I had with what it meant to be a lawyer. My dad was a lawyer. My mom was a legal secretary. All my friends' parents were lawyers (or doctors or accountants). I knew what to expect from going to an office every day. I knew that I would be able to afford the lifestyle I grew up with. I didn't know what to expect working freelance as a production coordinator except that if I didn't work regularly I would have a hard time paying rent.

I'm not saying I made the wrong decision. Maybe if I had thought about it a bit more and considered all my options, I still would have decided to go to law school. But I wouldn't then look back (as I sometimes do) and wonder what the hell I was thinking.

One thing that A Girl will have is an understanding of what it means financially to be an actor. And to give credit where credit is due - this was my husband's idea. He has explained to her that most actors (particularly those in theater) don't make enough money from acting to support themselves and that they have to do other things (wait tables, do TV commercials, have a regular day job) so they can pay the rent. She's learned that to be a successful actor it takes a combination of talent, hard work and luck. Too many people think that if they're talented, they'll be successful but the world is full of talented, but unemployed, actors. Even hard work doesn't get you very far if you aren't talented AND if you aren't lucky enough to get the right opportunities.

My husband and I believe that it's important to encourage our kids to follow their dreams but it's also important to help them understand the realities of certain career/life choices. I had unrealistic expectations of a career in the arts and when things didn't turn out as I thought they would, I cut and run. I'm not complaining - I have a really good life. But there is a part of me that wishes I would have had the guts to stick with a more creative career path. Whatever our girls decide about their careers, I hope their decisions are made based on a reasoned analysis of their numerous options and not based on illogical and hormone-driven emotion.

In other words, I hope they take after their father.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Picky, picky

In the two spare seconds that I have to post today I decided that I had to write about some coffee related topics.

First there was the woman in front of me at Starbucks who ordered a venti, no foam, soy latte at 140 degrees. Seriously - who orders a drink at a specific temperature? What would happen if your latte was only 135 degrees? Or - god forbid - 143 degrees! And who orders a "no foam" latte? The whole point of a latte is the foam. It's NOT a latte if it doesn't have foam. It's espresso with warm milk. Yes, I'm a Starbucks geek.

I'm sure there are people roll who their eyes at me when I order my 1/2 decaf grande non-fat latte. They probably think "What's the point of getting decaf? Isn't the whole point of coffee the caffeine?" They also probably say "Who puts non-fat milk in their latte?" Or something like that. People are so judgmental (she says without a hint of irony).

The other thing that made me go "Hmmm" today was an advertisement I saw on the bus for a coffee grinder/brewer that also gives you the weather. Why the weather? Why not the traffic report or headline news? The tag line for the ad is "I could have told you to wear snowshoes." Seriously - does anybody really need a coffee maker to tell them that it's snowing?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

It's the Best Post Ever!

I've really been struggling with this post (which means I've typed and erased about 100 lines of text - one at a time) because I feel like my first post of 2007 should contain profound wisdom, thought-provoking ideas and/or really funny stories. But the pressure is too much for me so we'll all have to settle for my usual ramblings.

It's all about expectations and mine have always done me in. I'm a dreamer; my imagination and hopes unconstrained by reality. But when fantasy collides with reality, reality almost always wins. That's why I stopped trying to have the "best holiday ever" every year. (For those of you who have Spongebob fans for children, you might now be hearing that catchy ditty Best Day Ever from a recent episode. It'll probably be stuck in your head for a week or two. You're welcome.)

When I was single, I was always worried about being alone on New Year's Eve. Or worse, being a third or fifth wheel with my hooked-up friends who pitied me and let me tag along. When I was living in New York the pressure was especially intense. Partly because everything in New York is especially intense. Partly because I was there in the late '80s when everything had to be bigger and better and more fabulous all the time. But mainly because I had reached an age where I expected to be married or at least on the road to being married. I hadn't yet met anyone I was remotely interested in marrying (unless you count this guy but since he was never interested in me I don't think he counts) but that didn't stop me from feeling like a failure at the tender age of 23. Each new year that came and went in my mid-20s was a harsh reminder that my reality wasn't matching my fantasy.

I read recently that if the map doesn't match the ground, the map is wrong. Like my favorite gender-difference example - if the clothes don't fit a man, he gets a tailor but if clothes don't fit a woman, she goes on a diet - I always figured that if my map didn't match the ground, I just wasn't reading it right. I thought I should be married by 25 and if I wasn't, it was my fault. It never occurred to me that the goal itself was screwy. Of course, once I stopped expecting to find my soul mate, I found him. And it was in a place and at a time that was totally unexpected. No pressure. Funny how things work.

So now I just try to take the holidays in stride and not expect too much. We try to keep things simple - we don't need grand plans and big parties to feel like we've celebrated. Since I learned to manage my expectations for the holidays, I've avoided putting pressure on my family to meet my unrealistic fantasy and everyone has a much better time.

Now if only I could manage my expectations about keeping my (unrealistic) New Year's resolutions . . .