Monday, October 26, 2009

Dear Body,

I know I haven't always been kind to you...okay, I've been downright awful. And I think an apology is long overdue.

Our relationship started out okay, I think. I took you for granted, sure, but you were always true. Your strength allowed me to spend hours in the woods building forts or riding bikes or doing toe touches, cartwheels and splits. You were never particularly helpful when it came to sports involving a ball, but I didn't hold it against you. In fact, I never really thought much about you at all. No, it wasn't until that fateful day at the pediatrician, when I stepped on the scale to realize you had tipped into the triple digits...that's when I turned against you, and it's been a struggle ever since.

There's no denying the things I've done to you. I've called you names. I've made fun of you publicly. I've hated you. I've starved you. I've tried various diets and pills and drinks - all in an attempt to make you into something you shouldn't have to be.

But despite my best efforts, you have stayed true to me. You've stayed healthy and strong. Strong enough to jog up and down Peachtree Street each morning before the sun comes up. Strong enough to explore Atlanta, Nashville, Leeds, London, Scarsdale, Louisville, Los Angeles, Johannesburg, Salt Rock, Madikwe, Chapel Hill, Chicago, Montello, Charleston, Alexandria, Napa Valley, Linville, and Athens...all on foot. Strong enough to take me 26.2 miles around Washington DC on a beautiful Sunday morning.

It's taken a long time to get here, but I see you differently now. I see you for all that you've done for me - all that you are able to do. I no longer hold your imperfections against you. I won't lie...I still see them, but they won't stop me from giving you the respect you deserve. I'm just sorry it's taken so long.

So thank you, Body, for being good to me, even when I didn't deserve it. And thank you for coming through for me yesterday, when I put you through your greatest challenge to date. Thank you for proving how strong you are...how strong we are...and that despite all I've put you through, God willing, we have a long, bright future ahead.

Sincerely,


Robyn

Sunday, September 20, 2009

What's on your mind?

I'm this close to hiding your status update.

You didn’t know I could do that? Well, I can. I just have to hover the mouse in the top right corner of your most recent nonsense and yep, see that little “hide” option? I can hide you forever. And I’m gonna do it this time…really I am …

But what if the next one is really clever or funny or thought provoking? What if next time, you actually have something compelling to say? Or what if I actually want to know about whatever fun/hip/cool thing you’re doing/reading/watching? What if I want to do/read/watch it too? I mean, I can’t let you have all the fun, now can I? So no, maybe I won’t hide you…yet.

I don't quite know how it happens but I lose large chunks of my weekends just scanning my “home” page. I go in for a quick glance and end up clicking on the profile of some random person I haven’t seen in 10+ years just because she felt compelled to announce that she cooked shrimp and grits for dinner last night. Mmmm…shrimp and grits, huh? That sounds good…let’s see what else Susie has been up to. Or, wow, Mary’s kid is potty trained? That’s great. Let’s see if she has some pics of this baby genius.

And then there are the “cool kid” updates. You know the ones I mean. The updates designed to let you know how much fun the author is having and how great their life is. I try not to judge too harshly because we’ve all done it.
You’ve been to a fun concert or an awesome vacation, and your Facebook status allows you to brag about it without really bragging about it. And that’s okay. As long as you don’t do it 17 times a day. Seriously. You’re having fun. Life is good. We get it.

I shouldn’t get all worked up about it. I mean, I’m the one wasting my Sunday afternoon reading all the nonsense. But I can't help but think...is this is what I've abandoned my blog for? I'm no longer indulging my own narcissistic tendencies every Sunday, but I've fallen victim to the narcissism of others!

I know I could log out if I really wanted to. Or I could at least “hide” the more annoying "cool kids." But I don’t. Not yet anyway…but I’m warning you, I’m this close
.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The naked blogger

"What’s up with the blog?"

At first people kindly overlooked that I missed a week, then two…but lately a few loyal readers have begun to inquire about my intentions for the blog. But the thing is, I still don’t really know. I do enjoy having this outlet for my writing (and my neuroses), but all of a sudden I feel very exposed. Like I’ve been prancing around naked all this time and am only just noticing that everyone else is fully clothed. And accompanying this awareness of being naked is the nagging question of how and why I got naked in the first place (and I’m still speaking metaphorically, so get your mind out of the gutter!). Obviously, I started blogging to keep in touch while I was in South Africa, but then it became a kind of habit, a way to indulge my need to write (and apparently, my need to bare my soul). But I feel like a woman of nearly thirty (!!!) should be more sensible than that. I feel like I should have more of a focus with my writing. If I’m going to blog, I should be promoting something or teaching something. I should have a goal, a purpose…but what?

Even after taking a few weeks off, I haven’t exactly figured out what that is yet. I’ve got a few ideas…but I’m still not sure what it is I should be doing.

My high school English teacher (who fancied herself a bit of a therapist) used to say, “Don’t ‘should’ yourself.” The phrase has stuck with me, even if I'm usually incapable of taking the advice. I 'm perpetually telling myself I ‘should’ be more organized, I ‘should’ lose five pounds, I ‘should’ read more non-fiction, I ‘should’…well, you get my point. But in this case, for the moment anyway, I’m going to try and take Ms. Rich’s advice. I’m not going to worry about what I should do with the blog – I’m just going to write. But I’m also not going to ‘should myself’ into posting when I don’t really feel like writing.

But I’m sure I'll keep writing, and I’m sure I’ll continue to be 'naked' when I do it...because I just don’t know how to do it any other way.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Makeover Story

"Cher's main thrill in life is a makeover, it gives her a sense of control in a world full of chaos."
- Dion, in Clueless

Everyone loves a good makeover story. Not so much the Lifetime reality show (is that even still on?), but you know what I mean - Devil Wears Prada, Miss Congeniality, She's All That, Grease... those are just the first ones that come to mind, but you get the point. Everyone likes to watch someone else transform into a better version of themselves. I suspect this is true because it supports the theory that there's a better version of all of us hidden away, just waiting to be extracted in our own personal movie makeover montage.

Over the years, I've made several attempts to stage my metamorphis, most notably after my freshman year of college when I had my long locks chopped into a Meg Ryan circa City of Angels 'do. This attempt stands out, not because it resulted in shrieks of "omigod, is that you?" (though it did), but because it accompanied (or incited?) a definite shift in my personality. I went into my sophomore year feeling more care-free, more optimisitc, and more willing to embrace anything college life had to offer (most notably, alcohol, but let's not dwell on that).

I cut off the majority of my hair yet again this week, but instead of dramatically revealing a more care-free, confident version of myself...I'm still pretty much just me. It's not that I'm surprised. With the exception of my post freshman year transformation, I've never had a haircut change my life (and if I'm being honest, that transformation probably had more to do with recovering from a broken heart than my hair). But regardless of the facts, over the years, whenever I'm feeling sad or stressed or out of control, I become convinced that changing my appearance - my hair, my weight, my clothes - will surely change everything. But the truth is - brunette or blonde, long or short, curly or straight, size 4 or size 8 - I'm still pretty much just me.

And as much as I love a good makeover story, maybe "just me" is okay.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Confidence

There are several women in my life who radiate confidence, the
M-I-L for one. It’s a quality I admire in others, maybe even envy. The ability to feel completely comfortable with who you are and what you bring to the conversation. Truly confident women never question the appropriateness of their words, or worry about how they will be perceived. They simply are who they are. I find it fascinating. What must it be like to have an opinion or make a decision and never question that perhaps you might be wrong?

And yet, occasionally this cool confidence can give way to arrogance, or self-centeredness. Some of these women seem to forget that what’s happening in their lives might not be the only thing happening. Sometimes they forget to ask, “What’s going on with YOU?” And sometimes, in their complete satisfaction with who they are and what they do, you get the feeling that they’re not so impressed with who you are and what you do (if they even thought to ask who you are and what you do in the first place).

Look, I see the irony of a narcissistic blogger accusing someone else of being self-centered, but if my mother taught me anything, it was to consider the feelings of others. I'm not saying I always think of others, but I try. My mom, however, completely embodies this ideal – the woman loves others and gives of herself in a way that is borderline saintly. I say this simply to explain the way I was raised, the qualities I was taught to value – not only by my mom, but by my school too. “Think of Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last.” That was the motto of the all-girl “JOY club” led by my seventh grade Bible teacher – a club I refused to join, mind you, because even at 13, my inner-feminist sensed something wasn’t right with this motto. It’s a beautiful ideal, but teaching girls (and only girls) to put everyone else before themselves, well it doesn’t exactly send a message that values women, and it doesn’t really build confidence.

That being said, I do value the ideal. I look at my mother and pray that I can be even half as kind and sympathetic and selfless as she is…but here’s the thing…I wouldn’t describe my mother as particularly confident or self-assured. That certainly doesn’t mean the qualities can’t co-exist, but it’s a delicate balance to achieve.

I know. I’m getting awfully introspective for a girl contemplating switching gears on the blog altogether, but I spent part of the holiday weekend with the one and only Avery Jayne, and whenever I hold my baby niece in my arms, I can’t help but imagine the girl she will become. I don’t know if she will be brainy or sporty or artsy or all of the above, and honestly, I don’t care. I just want her to be happy, confident, and kind. Happy in her own life, without being complacent. Confident in who she is, without being self-centered or arrogant. Kind and sympathetic to the needs of others, without perpetually sacrificing her own needs.
I look at this beautiful creature and I see her inherent goodness. I know that she will be kind. And with so many people in her life to love her and challenge her, I’m certain that she will find happiness. But what of confidence? What is to stop her from falling into the same patterns of self-doubt and poor self-esteem that plague so many women and girls? And how can she learn to be confident when her mother and her aunt are all too quick to criticize themselves for every minor imperfection or mistake? It slowly occurs to me that if we are to teach her to value herself, we will have to show her that we value ourselves.
I don’t kid myself that I will be a primary role model for Avery as she grows up in Chicago, but I do hope to be someone she admires, someone her parents would be happy for her to emulate should she one day decide to flee the cold and come explore her Southern roots. So to that end, I want to be better. I resolve to be all the things I hope for her: Happy. Kind. Confident.
Crazy, huh? She’s not even five months old and she’s already challenging me to be a better person.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Not that kind of blog.

I had a mild panic attack today at work when someone I respect professionally asked me if I blog and then proceeded to ask for the url. He himself is a blogger and it only came up after I confessed to having checked up on him online (I was just trying to give him a compliment!). Anyway, I tried to avoid answering the question, mumbling something about it just being a silly personal blog (as opposed to his blogs about healthcare marketing and Christian literature), but despite my side-stepping, I’m certain he can easily find me if he is so inclined. (And if he did find me…um, well…Hi there!).

I don’t know why I’m so worked up about this. I mean I would certainly never post anything that could get me dooced, but still, thinking about this man reading my petty comments about the M-I-L, my hems and haws about motherhood, the silly stories about my impossibly charming husband…well, it’s hard to imagine him thinking of me as a Serious Professional after reading all the nonsense I post online. I mean, it’s not like my blog serves to teach anyone or promote anything. It’s just not that kind of blog.

But then again, in the age of Twitter when even CEOs are posting random thoughts about their personal lives online, maybe it’s not so bizarre to think about merging the personal with the professional. After all, one of the first rules of Social Media Marketing is to be personal. No one wants to read vanilla tweets from a generic corporate “handle.” They don’t want to know what Coke thinks; they want to know what Kelly the marketing girl at Coke thinks. And yet, to put yourself out there like that, well, it’s scary for Coke and it’s scary for Kelly.

That being said, I’m certainly not considering using this blog to promote the company that I work for, but I am trying to figure out how this blog might teach something of value or share something beyond stories about the M-I-L. I’m sure I have something of value I could add to cyberspace…if I can just figure out what it is…

I’m working on it.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

More fun with the in-laws

Wow. I skip one weekend of blogging and now I don’t know where to begin. Do I stick to the usual narcissistic themes and catch you up on the in-laws’ visit or do I join the gazillion other bloggers weighing in with their opinions on Neda, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, Mark Sanford, and John and Kate. While it’s tempting, I’m not sure I have anything different or more profound to say than what you’ve no doubt already read, so I think I’ll stick to something you certainly can’t find elsewhere on the web.

The top 5 subjects I try to avoid with my in-laws

  1. Babies. As I’ve mentioned before, when you’re nearly 30, happily married, and don’t have kids, people start to wonder what’s wrong with you. My in-laws are no different. And while they seem to make an effort to tread lightly on the subject, I’m hyper sensitive to their subtle comments. But I never know how to respond, because I’m not sure what’s worse – if they think there’s something physically wrong with me and I can’t have a baby or if they think I’m too selfish to want one.
  2. Food. My food, their food, your food. From their general disgust with the too-large portion sizes in this country to their shock that their daughter-in-law might actually want 3 meals a day, the in-laws have an opinion about every morsel consumed around them, and as you know, I consume a lot of morsels. The M-I-L never fails to comment on my healthy appetite, but of course, she does it under a veil of praise. Example: “Wow, you did really well with that meal; I feel I’ve wasted so much.” I never know what to say to this. Is ‘thanks’ appropriate? Or should I look her in the eye and say “Yes, whatever will you say to the starving children in Africa when you next see them?” Ah, if only…
  3. Fat People. Perhaps this stems from their obsession with how much everyone is eating, because the in-laws love talking about Fat People. They like to point them out to make sure you’ve seen them and then make (loud) comments about them. The M-I-L loves to tell you how Britain is no better than America these days – even the children are “piggish.” And the F-I-L will tell anyone who will listen that being fat doesn’t have anything to do with thyroid conditions or other health problems; Fat People just eat too much. And maybe he has a point, but I can’t help but feel indignant on behalf of every pudgy person I know. When I venture to ask them why a total stranger’s weight problem bothers them so much, the M-I-L insists that it makes no difference to her; she just feels sorry for them. The F-I-L barks that he doesn’t feel sorry for them at all, and he has every right to complain because he has to look at them and he does not like looking at Fat People. No, he just likes talking about them.
  4. Black People. Now, I want to be clear that my in-laws are not racists, but they’re obviously from an older generation and they do live in South Africa, which I suppose is why they just can’t seem to help themselves from sharing their general observations about “the blacks” in America. It’s not that what they have to say is all that hurtful (“The blacks in America are much prettier/jollier/fatter than the blacks in Africa.”); it’s just the ridiculous generalizing, the use of the term “the blacks,” and more than anything, the volume at which it’s all spoken.
  5. My hair. It looks awful at the moment. I can’t quite decide if I’m letting it grow into a wild Carrie Bradshaw-like mane or if I’m ready to cut it off again in an effort to channel a spunkier version of myself. And then there’s the color. It’s as close to natural as it’s been since I was 1o years old, and when your natural color involves the words “dirty” and “dishwater,” natural is to be avoided at all cost. Still, I’ve been avoiding the trip to the salon for awhile now, telling myself the recession made it okay to go natural. In so many words, the F-I-L told me it does not.* Thanks, Dad.

*In fairness, Roger witnessed this conversation and he insists that his father insinuated no such thing. But I’m sorry, when a 70 year old man comments that your hair looks “different” and follows up with “So, uh, how often do you have to go to the salon?” I think it’s safe to assume you’re looking pretty bad. But don’t worry, I’ve already booked my appointment.

Monday, June 15, 2009

No news?

Believe me, I'm as shocked as you are to report that after a week on the scene, I have no major M-I-L stories to report. Unless of course you want to hear how fabulous she's been...doing my laundry (and ironing things I didn't know required ironing), cleaning my apartment, grocery shopping for me, having filet mignon on the table upon my arrival home from work...it's a bit disgusting actually. And sure, I could write a scathing report about how I'm sure she's recording all of these "favors" in her little black book to cash in at a later date, but that would just seem petty.

In truth, her ability to be an awesome house guest validates me somewhat in the sense that maybe I wasn't so crazy as to think I could move to South Africa and live in her back yard and not go completely mad. This is why I thought it would be okay...because she's completely cool as a house guest. She's better than cool. She's freaking perfect! There's nothing to suggest that upon moving into her domain she might turn into a terrifying Cruella Deville-like antagonist!

Ah, the naivete of youth. Of course, now I see the error of my ways. She may appear to be an angel, but I'm no longer fooled by her eagerness to do my laundry and her enthusiasm for cheap wine and restaurants without tablecloths. I know the truth now. Now I recognize that she's only doing my laundry so she can brag to her friends about how much she's helped me (poor me who doesn't have a full time maid!). I know she's secretly gagging at the two-buck chuck. But now I'm just being catty. And maybe a little paranoid...

I think it's just my natural defenses kicking in. Because the M-I-L has this way of making me love her...but as you know, I've been burned before, and I'd hate to fall for it again. But maybe it's not an act...maybe this awesome character I've created isn't all that different from you and me after all?

Nah, she's nuts. But I love her anyway. And that's a good thing....as long as I'm not entertaining the idea of moving in with her again. (and I can assure you that I'm NOT!)

I mean, the M-I-L is completely crazy, but I do love her. For a thousand reasons I've yet to articulate...but one day I will...perhaps on a night when she hasn't gotten me slightly intoxicated on two-buck chuck!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The M-I-L in the ATL

This morning my horoscope said I should clean my house because you never know who might be watching. Funny that, because in just a few days, the M-I-L will be watching, and trust me - it won't be clean enough! But that knowledge doesn't stop me from scrambling around like a crazy person in an attempt to make my tiny apartment look and feel like a palace.

It's true, the M-I-L (with the F-I-L in tow) will be arriving in Atlanta on Sunday for a twelve night stay in our 2 bedroom 1 bathroom abode. But the fun actually begins tomorrow night - they're flying into D.C. and Roger and I will be joining them for a weekend of fun in the nation's capital.

I admit, I've been a less than enthusiastic about their lengthy "visit," but if I'm being honest with myself, some part of me is excited to see them. Sure, they drive me nuts, but they're certainly never boring! And I think they really do miss us (even if I could've used just a few more months to fully miss them!). So anyway, I may be otherwise occupied for the next couple weeks, but I can almost promise that I will have some good stories to tell upon my return.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Picture Perfect

Okay, so I've just returned from the best weekend ever with my beautiful niece and I feel completely inspired. I have so much to say...about my perfect niece, about my amazing sister, about motherhood in general...
But why should I spend my time gushing about it, when you can see for yourself in these pictures?

Most babies giggle, but Miss Avery Jayne laughs. And it's the most incredible sound on the planet.
Unfortunately, my plan to smuggle her home with me was foiled!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Cyber-stalking

I love facebook. Admittedly, since my return to the US, I'm not on it as much as I used to be, but it can still suck me in. Of course, I'm obviously not alone in my love affair with facebook. With over 200 million users, facebook is clearly aiming to take over the world. And yet, somehow, there are still people who have not hopped on the bandwagon. It's shocking, I know. But now that I've gotten my mom on facebook, I figure no one is out of my reach. Why I feel it is my personal mission to get everyone I know on facebook, I'm not sure. But this is why I ended up spending most of last night cyber-stalking facebook friends in an effort to show my non-facebook friend everything she is missing out on.


She was clearly fascinated by the phenomenon, but I'm still not sure I won her over. She kept insisting that she didn’t have time to reply to personal emails, much less connect with (and cyber-stalk!) old friends on facebook. But she’s clearly missing the point. Because in my experience, beyond the initial “Hey there! So glad to reconnect! How’s life?” written on the occasional wall, there’s not that much reconnecting happening. It’s more about having the option to reconnect and the option to cyber-stalk.
And of course it’s also about giving other people the option to cyber-stalk you. Because some part of us likes the idea of pseudo-random people glimpsing into the Photoshopped version of our lives. Well, obviously some part of me likes it. If I didn’t I would activate the privacy option on my blog, but I don’t. Instead, I welcome blog-stalkers. I secretly hope for them. And because I still haven’t gotten around to installing Google Analytics (it’s a way to track a website’s traffic) on this blog, I can pretend I have a whole mass of blog stalkers out there.

It sounds kind of crazy when I put it like that. And maybe it is. I mean, as a child it would be the end of the world if someone read your diary, but as a grown-up blogger – you kind of hope for it. Bizarre, huh?

But that’s all I got for the moment (it is a three-day weekend after all). For more profound thoughts on the subject of blog-stalking check out this post by someone I recently blog-stalked. And if enough people click on the link, she will see from her Google Analytics reporting that robyninatlanta posted a link to her blog, thus outing myself as a blog-stalker!

And I apologize if all this talk of cyber/blog stalking was lost on you, but if you don’t know what it is, you’re clearly not taking advantage of all that Web 2.0 has to offer. But don’t worry...maybe I’ll host an intro to Web 2.0 webinar or create an instructional YouTube video or iTunes podcast…we’ll work something out. You’ll be cyber-stalking in no time.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Small talk?

Motherhood amazes me.
Hopefully, my last post conveyed how much I admire the mothers I know – especially my own amazing mom, and now of course, my beautiful sister. But as much as I’m in awe of motherhood, when I think of it in terms of myself, I’m completely apathetic. Well, maybe that's the wrong word. Because I do really want to be a mom...someday. I mean, when I imagine my future, I picture Roger and me with children, but it’s this blurry, distant vision of an unspecified place and time. It’s certainly not the here and now. I guess I still think of motherhood as a “when I grow up” thing to do. And despite the fact that I’m quickly approaching thirty, it rarely occurs to me that I’m possibly capable of being a mother now.

But I’m not completely oblivious. I realize that it’s probably time to start thinking about it more seriously. I guess I’ve been saying that for a few years though. It’s true; whenever Roger and I talk about it, we always agree that the best time to have a baby will be “this time next year.”

I realize that it’s a little weird for someone who has been happily married for over seven years to not have kids. I guess. I mean, people always seem shocked when they find out how long I’ve been married and then discover that I don't have a kid in kindergarten. They assume there's something wrong with me. And who knows - maybe there is - but what business is it of theirs anyway? Okay, that sentence probably suggests that I’m offended by their inappropriate interest, and I’m not really, I just find it – I don’t know – I guess I find it interesting. I think it’s funny that a random man in the cafeteria at work makes small talk with me with these three questions 1) Are you married? 2) Do you have kids? 3) Why not? Oh, and then he follows it up with “Well, you should. You definitely should. And you should hurry up.”

I know, right? But the thing is, the whole interaction isn’t unusual for me. For some reason, everyone from the girl giving me a manicure to the man at the dry cleaner’s wants to know when I’m having a baby and why I don’t have one already. It’s funny that something so deeply personal to one person is just a way to make small talk to another.

And then of course there are the more subtle questions and speculations by those closer to me, those who aren’t just making small talk. I find it ironic that the man in the cafeteria can come right out and ask me the question while the M-I-L – someone notorious for her outspokenness – dances around the subject, saying how she can’t wait for me to get pregnant but knowing better than to pressure me with direct questions about our plans.

So, what are our plans? I don’t know. And that’s exactly what I told the one person who has the right to be asking the question – my doctor. When he asked about my timeline for having a baby, I thought about it for a minute before asking him if it would be alright to train for a marathon while trying to get pregnant. He discouraged the idea, giving me yet another reason to delay motherhood. Because I think I’d like to run a marathon this year, and if I have to choose between having a baby and running a marathon, well the latter sounds a hell of a lot easier, don’t you think?

I know; I have issues. But now is not the moment to explore my psychosis. We can do that some other time...because if I'm willing to share it with the random man in the cafeteria, I figure I might as well share it with you guys too.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

No one likes to think of themselves as selfish. I certainly don’t. And I’m not – I don’t think. I mean, I try to consider other people’s feelings and I don’t insist on always getting my way. In my marriage, for example, I make an effort to do the things that Roger likes to do (like, go see Wolverine – though I drew the line with Star Trek), and I try to take an interest in the things that are important to him (which is how I got so good at Rock Band). But I wouldn't exactly call any of these things sacrifices. For the most part, I’m not really called upon to be selfless. So while I wouldn’t say I’m selfish, I’m not sure I know what it means to be truly selfless.

The more I think about it – I’m convinced that the only people on this planet who can really claim selflessness are Mothers. And while I’ve reaped the benefits of my own mother’s selflessness my whole life, it’s only now, as I witness the transformation in my sister that I can even begin to understand the significance of their sacrifices.

It begins before the baby even arrives – not only do they have to watch their figures expand and stretch in ways that seem almost alien, but they have to surrender their emotions to hormones, avoid favorite foods, and give up all their vices – and that’s only the beginning. Never mind the pain and suffering they endure through the actual delivery, but once the baby arrives, they sacrifice their sleep, their sanity, their time… the sacrifices become so common that they almost lose their significance. We take for granted that a mother will stay up all night with a sick child, or get up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday to make pancakes and watch cartoons, or spend her entire weekend as a chauffeur, or take on a second job to pay for college, or give up her own life if it means saving her child. You tend to forget that not so long ago, this woman’s sole responsibility was herself. She was allowed to be selfish, just like the rest of us. But as a mother, she can barely comprehend what the word selfish means. She can hardly recall what it felt like to put herself before someone else. And she wouldn't have it any other way.

Today seems like a good time to acknowledge the awesomeness of a Mother’s selflessness. Because we do take it for granted; we assume it just comes naturally. And I don’t know; maybe it does – maybe motherhood magically erases our inherent selfishness, but somehow I’m not so sure. While good mothers make it look easy, there are enough not-so-good mothers out there for me to recognize that selflessness is a choice; it’s a decision. I think the love a mother feels for her child usually makes the decision inescapable, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Am I making any sense? I fear my words don’t adequately convey my admiration, but this is my vain attempt to wish all of the mothers in my life a Happy Mother’s Day.

I’m truly in awe.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Oh, Sheila

It’s hard to believe I’ve been back in Atlanta for over four months. And while I’m consistently surprised at how fast the time goes by, somehow I feel like we’ve been back longer than four months. In fact, whenever someone I haven’t seen in a while asks how we’re “settling in,” it takes me a minute to realize what they mean – because we’re definitely settled. We’ve been settled. I mean, the transition period was pretty much non-existent. I think because we fell into our new life with such ease, it’s almost hard to remember what life in South Africa was like…almost.

There’s a lot I miss about my life in South Africa. And a lot I don’t. And there were so many things that I missed about the US while I was there – things that I was so excited about upon my return but that I’ve already started to take for granted again.

My e-friend in New Zealand recently suggested I update everyone about those “things.” Of course, she’s probably only interested because she’s about to move back to the US, and she’s already thinking about her own “things.” Still, I fully intended to sit down this weekend and share my thoughts/feelings on the subject, but that somehow hasn’t happened. Why hasn’t it happened? Because for some reason, I decided it was time to do some spring cleaning this weekend. We’re not talking about your basic vacuum/dust – I mean cleaning out the fridge, organizing the closets, scouring the oven, etc. (insert heavy sigh here) These are not fun things to do. And they always take three times longer than I think they’re going to.

But fortunately, with my saintly husband’s help, the apartment is now sparkling.

And while I didn’t make time to compose my thoughts about all the things I miss and don’t miss about South Africa…one thing became blatantly clear:

Of everything I miss about South Africa*, I miss Sheila most of all. So much more than a maid, Sheila was an angel who came into my little cottage once a week and spent an entire day making everything spotless. And I do mean everything.
*excluding my South African family (I guess)

Actually, as much as I miss Sheila, I'm a little resentful too. I completely blame her for my obsession with cleaning the apartment. Trust me. I wasn’t always this uptight. (My old roommates can attest to the state of my room throughout college). But now, because of Sheila, I have a whole new level of expectations. Only now, if I expect it to be clean, I have to clean it myself (or trick – I mean, charm – my husband into doing it). So, it's really not that clean...now I'm just really aware of it. So, thanks for that, Sheila. Thanks a lot.


Anyway, sorry Cathleen, next time I promise to confess everything that I'm already taking for granted about being back in the US (and I'm afraid Sam Adams Light and Lean Cuisine are both on the list...aren't you jealous?).

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Running for a Reason

I spent this weekend in Nashville running the Country Music Half Marathon with Team in Training. With your help, I raised over $3,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and ran 13.1 miles in less than 2 hours…and if I’m being honest, I’m not sure which accomplishment I’m more proud of! But to tell you the truth, before this week, I hadn’t fully made the connection between the fundraising I was doing and the training. To be sure, I spent a lot of time thinking about Lynn and my dad and others who have lost their lives to cancer while I was logging the miles, but it was hard for me to wrap my head around how the actual training fit in with my fundraising. I suppose I could make more sense of it if I was raising money by promising to do something horrible like…I don’t know, give up ice cream for a month, but running…well, bizarre as it may be, I really like to run. Love it in fact. The way it makes my less than perfect body feel strong and powerful. The way it clears my crazy head. I mean, it’s not like I jump out of bed every morning just dying to lace up my running shoes, but for the most part, I really enjoy it. So asking people for donations by promising to do something I love, well, it didn’t seem quite fair.

But last weekend it started to make sense. On our last day of training as a team, my team member, Mallory, shared a story about her own battle with leukemia. She told us about an afternoon during the course of her chemo when she tried to climb the stairs in her house and discovered that she couldn’t. She was sixteen years old at the time and didn’t have the strength to climb a single flight of stairs. Her eyes filled with tears as she told the story but then quickly cleared as she looked at each of us and said, “I’m running this race because I can. Because there was a time when I couldn’t climb the stairs, and now I’m ready to run 13.1 miles with all of you. I’m running because I can.”

Suddenly it clicked for me. Running the half marathon wasn’t just a fundraising device, a reason to ask people for money, but the race itself was a way to honor those who have battled cancer. Those who have fought blood cancer and won like Mallory and those who have not been so lucky, like Lynn. I would run in celebration of the fact that Mallory is here to run with me today and in protest of the fact that Lynn – and so many others – are not here at all. I would also run with a renewed awareness and thankfulness that so far in this life, my greatest physical challenge has been the one I’ve imposed on myself.

I met that challenge Saturday morning. In 80 degree weather, I ran 13.1 miles in 1 hour and 57 minutes flat.

I spent a lot of that time thinking about Lynn. About the stories she told, the way she laughed, the way she could make my mom laugh so hard that I worried she might wet her pants. I thought about Lynn’s rules about double dipping and sharing ice cream cones; I thought about the way she’d matter of factly say “perk up" to pull you out of a bad mood. I thought about how much she loved teapots and Meg Ryan movies and McDonald's Diet Coke. I thought about the many holidays my family spent with hers, the countless plays and performances of both mine and my sister’s that she attended with her whole family in tow. I thought about the birthdays, the graduations, the weddings. No milestone went unmarked by Lynn (and the marking usually involved cake!). I thought about those last weeks, when the myeloma fully took over – how hard she fought, how much she suffered. I thought about the many friends and family she left behind - those who miss her, love her, need her still…

I won’t lie; I also spent much of that hour and fifty seven minutes checking my watch and wondering how much longer I could keep up my pace in the sweltering heat, but the time I spent thinking about Lynn…well, it made me finally realize what running for a reason means. And now, I can honestly say that running is no longer just about burning calories and fitting into my favorite jeans. It’s a celebration; it's a protest; it's a prayer of gratitude.

So thank you for supporting me on this journey…from your generous donations, to your questions about how my training was going, to your calls and text messages and emails of support. Thank you. Thank you for supporting me, and thank you for supporting the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

41 minutes

Okay, so I know that after neglecting you completely last week, I should be delivering something extra fantabulous this week, but let me just warn you right now: this is not going to be extra fantabulous. Why? Because even after taking the week off, I still don't really feel like writing. There it is. The honesty you've come to expect. Is this the first time I haven't felt like writing? Well, no…and it's not even about the writing so much as it is about the time.

It's not that I don't have time. I do have time. I have as much time as the next person, and despite all of our constant whining about it, we all have time. 24 hours a day. 168 hours a week. It's how we choose to spend the time that differs. And before you roll your eyes at my phrasing, let me stress that I use the word "choose" loosely. Because I'd say that for the most part, how we spend our time doesn't feel much like a choice. The 40+ hours at work, for instance. It's not really a choice for most of us. Of course, whether your 40+ is closer to 50 or closer to 90 largely depends on your choice of occupation (doctors/lawyers/bankers, I'm talking to you!). But once you’ve made the choice to be a brain surgeon, I’m guessing you’re kind of expected to put in the necessary hours. And as for the busy parents in the audience, well, while the child was probably (hopefully?) a choice, the hours spent breastfeeding or making PB&J sandwiches or driving to ballet class or soccer practice...well, as a (good) parent, you don't get much choice about that.

But we're talking about me here…and I’m certainly not saving lives at my job or hauling babies to soccer practice. And while I feel very "busy" lately, I recognize that I’m choosing to be busy. I'm choosing to spend my evenings/weekends at Braves' games and concerts and watching movies and drinking beer at Mellow Mushroom (and running it off with my team the next morning). And the nights I’m not out having fun I choose to spend vegged out in front of the TV watching Grey's Anatomy or American Idol or 30 Rock (or all 3 if they’re waiting for me on the DVR).

And when Sunday evening rolls around after a weekend packed full of time spent either being productive or having too much fun, sometimes I just want to veg out instead of write. And that’s okay, I guess, but I’ve come to feel about the blog the way I feel about running. I don’t always feel like doing it, but I know I’ll feel better if I do.

And you know what? I was right. I do feel better. And it only took 41 minutes. And it only took that long because I kept stopping to check my email and watch parts of the Gran Prix that Roger insisted I would find extremely exciting (um, yeah). But still, 41 minutes out of 10,080 minutes in a week, really isn’t that big of a deal.
Time well spent. (Well, depends who you ask, I guess!)

Extra fantabulous

Okay so before I spent my 41 minutes writing the above nonsense, I was on the phone with my sister - bugging her to send me a few pictures of my perfect niece so that I could post them on my blog (in lieu of writing something legitimate). Now D, forgive me, but I was skeptical that you would actually get around to it tonight, much less within the hour (because if you want to talk about not having time...well, talk to a new mom!) so I went ahead and wrote the aforementioned nonsense. But my sister pulled through and and now I can accompany the nonsense with something truly extra fantabulous...the latest pics of Miss Avery Jayne!
What's that? She's the cutest, happiest, smartest, most perfect and beautiful baby ever?
I totally agree.
In fact, the whole family is pretty perf if you ask me.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

My life would suck without you.

Because the song has been stuck in my head for at least seventy-two hours and because I haven’t resorted to a list in lieu of a legitimate post lately, this one goes out to my impossibly charming husband…


The top 10 (not-too-cheesy) reasons my life would suck without you.

1. Rock Band. Without Roger I wouldn’t know the pleasure of belting out Livin’ On a Prayer while my husband rocks the guitar (or drums) beside me.

2. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Alison insisted that I'd love it, but it was Roger who finally convinced me to give the monster slaying valley girl the chance she deserved.

3. The M-I-L and Co. I admit it, as much as I love to bitch about Roger’s parents – I wouldn’t trade his family for anything. Because of Roger, I’m a member of this crazy cast of characters who are completely certifiable, but never ever boring, and always, always entertaining.

4. Moose. How would I have ever found my miserable mongrel without Roger?

5. From the Power 90 to the peanut butter factory, Roger makes everything more fun.

6. Because he occasisonally reads my mind.

7. What other foreigner would so completely adopt the American pastime? Okay, maybe any sports-obsessed boy, but I love that my husband knows more about the Braves’ players than I do…even if he doesn’t know all the words to my Braves’ song…yet.

8. Because waking up to the words “You’re so beautiful” (even when you know you’ve been drooling and snoring all night) never gets old. (okay, that one is pretty cheesy...sorrry.)

9. South Africa. If I hadn’t married Roger, there’s definitely no way “Well, when I lived in Africa…” would have worked its way into my vocabulary.

10. The impossibly charming-ness. I use this phrase a lot and it’s hard to explain what I mean by it, but Roger just has this way of making it impossible to be mad at him…which should be infuriating, except that it’s hard to be infuriated when he’s making me laugh as hard as he does. I’m not sure if it’s what he says or how he says it, but the boy knows exactly what to do to get me right where he wants me…and I wouldn’t have it any other way.


So there you have it..the top 10 reasons my life would suck without Roger. (Well maybe not the top 10, but the first 10 that I could think of this late on a Sunday!)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Trial Run

I admit it; I can be impatient. I tend to be over-eager. I don’t like to wait around. And when there’s too much build up to something, it’s often a disappointment. So I’d rather just get it over with.


I say this to explain my rationale for deciding that the best way to practice for a half marathon would be to run a half marathon. Which is what I did. Today. Earlier this morning. In 2 hours and 14 seconds (damn those 14 seconds!). It was pretty cool though. The whole experience was completely surreal. Thousands of people moving in waves through the streets of Atlanta. And I was one of them.


I didn’t want to make a big deal of it. I mean, this isn’t the big event I’ve been working toward. This was just a trial run…literally. So when Roger asked if I wanted him there cheering on the sidelines or waiting for me at the finish line I said no – and I meant it. Why should my obsession interfere with his Sunday? I would however, need a lift downtown and he’d need to pick me up somewhere near the finish line, though far enough away that he wouldn’t have to deal with traffic and road closures.


In retrospect, I can see that this was not a good plan. I won’t bore you with the details, but I got completely turned around after the race and basically wandered in circles for an hour before finally flagging down a taxi to take me to the spot where Roger would pick me up. When I got in the car, still shivering in my sweaty clothes, medal around my neck, I immediately burst into tears – much to my husband’s horror and confusion. It was mostly exhaustion, I guess, and partly pitifulness. I so wanted to be mad at Roger for not being there at the finish line, waiting with a fleece and a bagel, ready to whisk me to the nearby car. But it was my fault he wasn’t there. I’m the one who told him – more than once I might add – that his presence was completely unnecessary. So when I couldn’t yell at Roger... I burst into tears instead. Apparently, when you can’t scream, sob. And I did. But only for a few minutes. Soon enough, I was happily ordering coffee and a bagel at Einstein’s.

Needless to say, Roger’s not in trouble. And I’m fine. But you can bet my husband will be waiting at the finish line in Nashville

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Robyn and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there’s gum in my hair…


Okay, so my morning wasn't quite as dramatic as Alexander's*, but it was pretty bad. I woke up feeling kinda cranky and not really wanting to work out – but come on - who really wants to work out when the alarm goes off at 5:30? Not me. But I get up anyway because I am, after all, training for a half-marathon.


Now, if you don’t usually get up at 5:30, you might not know that it’s very dark that time of day. In fact, for most sane people, it’s way too dark to go running outside. But I hate running on the treadmill, so I strap on my reflective gear and hit the sidewalks. It’s a little scary, I admit it. Especially since two weeks ago a runner was stabbed not too far from where I live. Yeah, that’s more than a little scary. It;s no problem though because I recently discovered a random can of pepper spray in a box in our apartment. So yeah, I look pretty cool – running down Peachtree St. wearing fluorescent orange and clutching pepper spray. And the irony does not escape me that I ran around Joburg for two years and never felt the need to carry a weapon but here I am back in Atlanta – packing pepper spray.


So I’ve been running with the pepper spray ever since the story broke about the stabbed runner, but for some reason, it occurs to me (on this Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day) that this old can of pepper spray might not even work. So I decide to test it as I’m running. My arm down by my side, I gently tap the button with my thumb and hear it spray behind me. Okay…cool.


I continue my run without much fanfare. I’m in the final stretch, running down the hill towards the apartment, when all of a sudden - I'm hugging the pavement. There I am - sprawled out across the sidewalk, certain I’m dying. Well, if not dying, at least a few broken bones. Oh, and I’m sure my face is permanently disfigured. I feel the sobs rising up in my chest. How long before Roger comes looking for me? Or will a random stranger find me lying here? Should I scream out into the darkness and hope someone hears? But wait…no…maybe I can…yes, I manage to slowly pick myself up off the pavement. The sobs are still coming but the tears are strangely absent. Funny that. And my legs seem to be working just fine. My hands float up to touch my face. It feels remarkably in tact. It suddenly occurs to me that I am the adult equivalent of a two year old who falls over and becomes hysterical at the mere shock of having fallen…and they’re not actually hurt at all. Oops.


Upon this embarrassing realization, I begin to put one foot in front of the other until I’m jogging again. It’s only a few hundred yards until I’m back at the apartment. I look myself over and apart from a tiny strawberry on my elbow, I’m fine (though I still take an Aleve just to validate the trauma). I get into the shower and start washing my face. I’m scrubbing rather vehemently when I start to experience a burning sensation in my right eye. In a matter of seconds, the whole right side of my face is on fire. What the hell? Oh yeah. The pepper spray. The "test." Well, mission accomplished. My weapon works just fine.


It’s not even seven o’clock when I step out of the shower, but I’m already officially having a Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day. Roger appears in the bathroom door, his eyes still bleary with sleep. I spill out the details of my morning drama and he immediately jumps to the conclusion that I should go to the ER and be checked for walk and die syndrome. I assure him that I did not hit my head, and any residual headache is probably a symptom of the pepper spray. He’s skeptical but I manage to convince him that we can skip the trip to the ER …


So at this rate my version of Robyn and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day could be a novella, and I won’t put you through that torture. Especially when the rest of the day, while not great, wasn’t particularly exciting. (Not that pepper spray and a close encounter with the pavement is particularly exciting either). It's just that people keep asking how my “training” is going, and I usually just say “Okay” or "Good," but I guess this answer is a bit more truthful. Some mornings, running is the very last thing I want to do. In fact, some days I’d probably be better off staying in bed. But I don’t. Because I’m training for something bigger than a half-marathon…I’m training for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society…I’m training for Lynn. And that makes it not quite so Terrible and Horrible after all.


Click here to donate to Team in Training


*If you've never read Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day you should. And even if you have, you should read it again.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Bragging

So, I don't mean to brag, but seriously...she's pretty much perfect, huh?

And her parents are pretty perfect too...And while I promise not to turn this into a wanna-be "Mommy Blog" (especially seeing as I'm not a mommy), I have to take this opportunity to tell you that my niece is the Coolest Baby Ever. Not only is she adorable (as proven by the photos), but the kid already has a sense of humor. Say what you will about her funny faces being the result of gas, but she's constantly cracking me up. Just look at how unimpressed she was with this crazy bow on her sweet head! Poor Avery...
And she can sleep through anything! In fact, she seems to be most content when there's loud music playing and lots of movement. Not that I'm surprised, Avery probably attended more rock concerts in utero than I have in my whole life. (Her parents are cool like that!) Check out this picture of my 3 week old niece hanging out in a trendy neighborhood music store.Yep, she's a pretty cool baby. But don't worry, we won't let Avery be too cool. See, while her parents are teaching her about all things interesting and artsy, her aunt will be teaching her about all things cheesy and embarassing. I'll be the one to make sure she's exposed to all three High School Musicals and Miley Cyrus and Annie and American Idol. Yes, I think between her hip parents and her dorky aunt and uncle (sorry Baby, you know it's true!), I think Miss Avery Jayne will be just fine.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Breaking up is hard to do.

Whoever said you can’t go home again was wrong. Roger and I are living proof. I couldn’t have asked for an easier transition back into life in Atlanta. In fact, sometimes – most of the time – it feels almost like I never left. Almost.


I say "almost" because, well, obviously not everything is the same. I’ve certainly changed a little over the last two years, and it would be unfair for me to think that the people I left behind wouldn’t have changed some too. But that’s okay. Life would be really boring if we all remained exactly the same.


However, there are a few people in my life where I’m struggling to deal with the changes. Actually, I’m starting to think maybe they’ve stayed the same, and I’m the only one who’s changed. I don’t know anymore. But I keep trying to make the relationship work and it’s only leaving me frustrated. You see, all they ever talk about is mindless, stupid, trivial crap! I keep telling myself that surely it wasn’t always this way…or did I really used to enjoy this useless drivel? I mean sure, I like to dish about the latest Hollywood gossip as much as the next girl, but do we really need to dissect why some guys will only sleep with “big boned” women or spend days trying to come up with a more grown-up term for the word “boyfriend”? And then there was the conversation about how to “break the news” to your husband that you’re making more money than him. Really? I mean, never mind that it’s 2009, but in this economy is anybody actually still worried about that kind of crap? Puh-lease.


Dammit. I sound like some kind of intellectual snob who's up on her high horse again, don’t I? And that’s not how I want to come across. It’s not that I think I’m smarter or better than them – I don’t. They seem like really cool people, which is probably why millions of Atlantans – including me – consider Bert, Jenn, Melissa and Jeff their personal friends. They keep our minds off our miserable commutes with their constant chatter. Melissa tells us the five things we need to know that day. Jenn reveals the Entertainment Buzz. Jeff riles things up with his off-the-wall statements. And Bert comes up with interesting topics and invites callers to comment. Only lately, the topics seem designed to suck the intelligence right out of my head. Why Bert, why? It’s not that I expect hard-hitting news or serious commentary on the “issues,” but you gotta give me something more than idiots on the voice disguiser complaining about their sister-in-law who insists on breastfeeding in public.


Hey, I know that if I’m looking for an intellectual discussion I should probably just tune into NPR. And if I want some good tunes I should flip over to Dave FM. It’s just that I hate to say goodbye to the Bert Show. It’s like ending a friendship. And whether or not they’ve changed or I’ve changed or we’ve both changed…I guess it’s kind of irrelevant. It doesn’t change the fact that the relationship is ending. But in typical Robyn form, I just can’t seem to rip off the band aid and give us a clean break. No, I have to whine and analyze and give them a second chance, and then a third and a fourth. But I’ve drawn it out long enough now. At least, my husband seems to think so. In typical Roger form, he has decided to “fix” the problem by installing satellite radio in my car. (Thanks, baby!)


So, goodbye Bert Show. Breaking up is hard to do, but maybe we can still be friends…at least for the Entertainment Buzz.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Avery Jayne






"Avery Jayne was born Tuesday, February 24th at 4:06 AM. 7 lbs 9 oz and 20 inches long. She was delivered after 22 hours of labor to the strains of Yo La Tengo's You Can Have It All."






That was the text message I received early Tuesday morning from my brother-in-law...the poor guy spent most of those 22 hours of labor comforting his rockstar wife with one hand and texting his annoying sister-in-law with the other.

And while I could be totally annoying and spend the next thousand words telling you how brave and amazing my sister was and gushing about my perfect niece, I won't. I'll just let you admire the photo and see for yourself that Avery Jayne is the most beautiful baby ever. Obviously.

Sadly, I still have to wait two weeks to officially introduce myself and hold her in my arms, but I'm coming, Avery! Just you wait...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Tomorrow

Tomorrow the world will change. And not just the world of one Chicago couple…but the whole world.


Your arrival will change everything.


You’ve taken nearly ten months to get to this point, and now your mother (impatient as always) is ready to get you out of her body and into her arms. By sheer force of your mom’s will (and maybe a little Pitocin), you should be with us sometime tomorrow.


It kind of blows my mind that you’ll be here so soon. I mean, I’ve known this day was coming for a while now, but the fact that sometime tomorrow I’ll get a call (followed promptly by a little picture of you on my cell phone), well it’s hard to wrap my head around. But it’s all I can think about. You. I don't even know your name yet, but all I can think about is how you’re gonna change the world.


No pressure or anything. I don’t mean you have to be president or join the peace corps or cure cancer. I just mean – well, 40 weeks ago the world was on one course, but now, upon your arrival, everything will be different.


Certainly things will be different for your parents. While I know they will go to great pains to not become that couple, I suspect their non-stop schedule will slow down slightly. And while I know their lives will change in all the obvious immediate ways, I wonder how you will change them for the long term. And what other lives will you change? Certainly mine. I already love you more than I would have thought possible, and you’re not even here yet. I’m desperate to meet you, to hold you, to look into the big brown eyes I know you will have and tell you that I will always, always be there for you. Always.


I know. I’m getting all sappy. But since your mom isn’t really the type to coo at her big belly, I figure you can suffer through a bit of cooing from your aunt.



You’ll change our lives, no doubt, but I wonder who else you’ll encounter and in what ways you will change them. Will you be kind and gentle with their feelings? Will you be open with your heart or slow to show your emotions? Will you be the leader of the group or more of a loner? What causes will you champion? What passions will you hold dear? And more importantly (to your dad at least), what music will you like?


I don’t know who you’ll be yet, but that’s kind of the magic of this whole thing, huh? You can be anything. Princess or punk rocker; superhero or school teacher. And no matter what choices you make or who you become, you’ll have a whole team of people behind you who love you unconditionally.


And I’ll be one of them.

I can't wait.