A Mother’s Best Asset

She steps into the exam room, staring at the chart the nurse shoved into her hands and is quickly trying to assess my medical history in the 5 steps between the door and the exam table.

She looks up, squints at my forehead a wee bit too long, and then fixes her gaze just a bit lower.

“Your friends must be envious of your skin!” she proclaims, making me question either her eyesight or her medical credentials.

Possibly both.

Apparently she missed the reason for my appointment that clearly states “35-year acne sufferer” and “what the hell can I use for these wrinkles” as reasons for my dermatologist visit today.

“Um, NO,” I say, maybe a little bit too quickly. “My skin is nothing to brag about,” I add, instantly wishing I were sitting in the dental chair instead.

With nitrous oxide.

“Your neck!” she exclaims, “The skin on your neck is smooth and firm, beautiful,” she says, with a glint in her eyes that almost makes me believe her. If she wasn’t young enough to be my daughter.

Maybe she had wine with lunch.

At this point, I am forced to ponder my neck… a part of my body I have never considered as a separate entity, I guess. The biggest job my neck has is holding my head up and supporting a necklace now and then. And even then I have been known on many occasions to simply rest my head on my desk after a particularly strenuous bout of editing. So even my neck can be lazy.

My neck? Never a point of conversation until now.

My babies have nuzzled my neck after midnight feedings, when the lure of sleep called to me from the bedroom but motherhood won and I stayed just a few moments longer on the couch to drink in their sweet, milky scent. My neck has comforted a little girl with a broken arm, a boy who lost his grandfather, kids mourning the loss of their first family dog and a dear friend who lost her husband too early and too tragically. My neck snuggled my mother when she lost her husband too many years too soon and cradled my husband when he lost not one but both of his beloved grandfathers.

I have craned my neck ever-so-slightly to see if a teenager’s car has pulled up in the driveway yet… at half past 11. My neck has betrayed me with osteoarthritis and sent me to physical therapy on more than one occasion.

My neck? It may not be much to brag about, or a part of my body that my much-younger friends will envy. But this neck — my neck — has proven to be an incredibly valuable part of my anatomy that I simply take for granted most days.

“Yes,” I stammer. “My neck is amazing,” I finally say.

And I smile a little bit bigger…

In spite of the huge zit on my chin.

neck and necklacs

A Milestone Love

milestone loveThe restaurant is crowded, unusually so for a Tuesday night. The waitress lets the specials roll off her tongue as she does on any other night, and we pretend to listen even though we’ve all chosen our main courses already.

Table for four. While this happens with amazing regularity at home, we don’t often manage to sync our schedules and go out for dinner together. Old habits die hard, and I am usually just as happy making dinner and sharing it around our table.

But tonight is different.

My husband has a milestone birthday today. And while the other diners may think they are having a special meal with colleagues or friends, I feel as if there is a bubble around our table tonight.

A bubble that holds within its rounded edges the three people I hold the most dear in my heart.

A bottle of wine arrives, along with something tamer for the teens with bubbles and cherries. We raise our glasses in a toast to my husband and I catch his smile as he thanks us for spending this evening with him.

It’s magic… like all of the times I have seen this man smile, but deeper, almost. He’s in his happy place, with his family, and there is no place else he’d rather be right now.

I feel a lump form in my throat that I push aside. I don’t want to cry, don’t want to take away from his moment.

He wanted to be with us.

When people would ask, “Where are you going for the BIG birthday?” he never wavered, really. Offers of exotic beach vacations, ski lodges or weekends in Napa didn’t entice him. Sure, they all sound like fun… but he wanted more.

He wanted to be with us.

To start the second 50 years of his life with his family, to listen to our stories and laughter and bask in the glow of that kind of love that nobody else can give you.

And as I watched him raise his glass to us, to another 50 years, to our family I couldn’t help but be in awe of this man who has given me so very much. Family, unconditional love, laughter.

And he wanted to be with us.

Happy Birthday, babe… here’s to another 50.

Mirror Image

Who is this woman and what has she done with my youth?

It was just here a minute ago.

Or did I just set it down for a moment when I was at The Alibi? The Office on the Beach?

Maybe someone will turn it in to Lost and Found.

I may have taken a wrong turn at sunbathing in baby oil and spent too much time worrying and developing a scowl.

That’s the only explanation I can come up with.

I’ve tried to take good care of myself.

The younger me didn’t know how good she had it; knees that weren’t baggy, hair that didn’t require chemical intervention at six-week intervals, a jack-rabbit metabolism, and a face free of wrinkles and age spots.

This new woman? She follows me everywhere. Shows up in restaurant bathroom mirrors, reflections in the windows at Starbucks, all those fancy-schmancy mirrors in the Crate and Barrel store.

She looks a bit tired, takes longer to rise from a seated position, and her shoes may qualify as sensible.

It’s not my mother.

Because in those Crate and Barrel mirrors today? My mom was next to me on one side; my daughter beside me on the other.

There was no denying it today.

I am in that middle place.

In the middle where you can remember being your mommy’s little girl; going out shopping together or just hanging out.

Until that was no longer cool.

In the middle where you can still see the beginnings of your own motherhood journey; still remember holding those crying little ones and rocking them ever-so-gently.

In the middle where your kids become self-sufficient, busier with their own lives, less likely to need you for something.

In the middle where I can also see forward to my own mother’s life.

Kids grown, out on their own, no longer needing to worry about daily tasks of motherhood or trivial questions like peanut butter and jelly? or pink shirt or yellow?

This woman who stalks me? She’s not half bad.

She’s got a pretty good sense of humor, as long as you don’t ask her kids. She loves her family, likes a good pizza, a nice glass of wine, and plays a mean game of Scrabble.

And since she’s not going anywhere soon? I’ve come to like her.

But I still check the Lost and Found occasionally.

Ode to my Butt

We have been through so much together, you and me.

In my much younger days, you were perkier and less lumpy. A fitting end to my giraffe-like legs that were also free of lumps and bumps, veins and baggy parts.

In college, you were made for 501’s and not much else. I could eat and eat, once cramming in 11 pizza burgers in the college cafeteria, and you wouldn’t change a bit.

When babies came along, you and I spent hours sitting on the couch nursing, burping, and holding sleeping little angels. I appreciated your cushiness, while I may have cursed the lumps and bumps that were taking over.

Little ones love to be read to, which again necessitated hours of sitting. I was thankful that you weren’t bony and uncomfortable, even as I realized that you were also no longer firm or perky. Soft, even.

As I approach 50 in a few short years you and I aren’t as close as we once were. When I spend long hours sitting on you, you balk just a bit and send pain shooting out towards my hips. When I attempt to get up from sitting on the floor for more that 5 minutes, you send waves of pain down my right bun, and laugh at me for almost falling down.

The one pair of 501’s that I still own seem oddly baggy in the seat.

Dr. Oz says I need to do squats, eat more protein, and buy “butt pads” with special underwear to hold them in. He had a whole special on the other night geared towards the Over 40 Woman.

Ugh.

So all I ask of you, dear Gluteus Maximus, is that we enter this new phase of our lives together in some sort of harmony.

  • I will agree to stop dressing you up in low-rise jeans if you will promise to stop drooping.
  • I promise to skip the polyester pants if you will make an effort to remain somewhat shapely (at least in Spanx).
  • I promise to appreciate the fact that there are muscles under all those lumps and bumps, and will do my best to find them once in a while, either on a hiking trail, a bike, or a long walk. But not running.
  • I will try harder to watch what I eat if you will forgive the occasional Double-Double at In-N-Out.

Can we do it? Can we find peace with each other? Because the way I look at it, we are stuck with each other, you and me. And until medical science comes up with a proper way to transplant butts, that’s just the way it will be.

Well, that and the fact that Jennifer Aniston probably won’t be willing to give hers up.

 

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That Youthful Glow

When I was 15, my family took a vacation to Hawaii, which was a very big deal. It was one of the few vacations I remember that didn’t involve an epic cross-country road trip to visit relatives spread across the Midwest. Not that we didn’t enjoy those trips too.

But Hawaii.  H A W A I I. This was huge.

While we were on this much anticipated, memory-making trip, I acquired an unfortunate souvenir.

My very first case of pimples. Topped off with a very nasty sunburn, as a consolation prize.

So now when I tell people that I have the skin of a 15 year old, they think I’m kidding. I wish that were the case, but it’s not funny. Not at all.

See, now I have fought the good pimple fight for over 30 years. Even when I think I am winning the war, it’s only temporary. They get stronger, bring in their nasty in-laws, set up shop, and start their voodoo. Why they call it “adult acne” I have no idea, since this is the same acne I have had since way before adulthood. What, did it grow up with me or something?

I have tried so many pills/creams/potions/acne systems/witches brews over the years. Each time something works for a while, I relax and forget about my face.

And the zits get angry.

I think even my zits have zits. There is probably some dermatological term for that, but I’ll just call it zits on zits. When I spackle make up my face in the morning and attempt to cover them up, they wind up looking like small wasp nests on my chin, covered in mud. If they were on my forehead, I could go back to bangs and hide them, but I am NOT willing to grow a beard.

Since I work with elementary school kids, of course these trophies on my chin often become a source of discussion. Not in a polite way, either.

“Mrs. K, what is that thing on your chin? Does it hurt? Why do you have that? Eewwww!” It takes everything I have to keep from saying what I really want to say……. “Get ready kid, because by my calculations you are only about 7 years away from having a crop of your own!”

The last few prescriptions I had worked pretty well together if you did them in the right order. But now there’s a new catch. You could get these new prescriptions at a reduced price, using a special card, for three months.

And then they go up to $50 a month. Each.

Ouch.

I think the acne drug manufacturers must hire former drug dealers as their marketing and sales dudes. Think about it; the premise is almost the same. Lure you in with cheap promises of happiness and clear skin. String you along for a few months, as you keep coming back for more of that good-looking, zit-free skin.

And then…..BAM! Fifty bucks, please. Oh, times three.

You want it, you know you do. But there is that little voice inside your head speaking ever so softly “think of all the other things $150 could buy.” So maybe you do it once, but then you quit cold turkey. Swear you can do without them, those clear skin pushers.

It’s tough for a while; you try and go back to the basics of skin care and beat them at their own game. You feel victorious and proud; maybe buy yourself a few new jars of spackle makeup items to help. Things seem to be really going your way….maybe you are finally going to outgrow your teenage acne, after all these years!

And then they come back. With all their nastiness, bad karma, and voodoo. The Adult Zits.

Maybe they’ll give me some more free samples. You know, just to try them out for a while.

To an Old Friend

Dear Body,

I am writing to let you know that you are letting me down.  You are not holding up your end of this bargain we entered into almost 46 years ago.  I am not one to shame and to blame, but here are the facts as I see them.

The skin that miraculously stretched (and then stretched some more) to accommodate baby #1 and baby #2 has decided that it will stretch no more.  Now it has decided to sag, especially around my knees.  Not that knees are very beautiful in the first place, but they are especially eye-catching when they have saggy skin on top of them.  And not in a good way.

Fine print on the television screen no longer appears as letters or numbers, but rather a squiggly, white blob.  I can squint and maybe make out a few words, but squinting contributes to other problems (see below).  A bigger television set would mean completely replacing the entertainment center….$$$$$.  I guess I could just wear my glasses, but they make me look old.  OK, look older.

My face has started to resemble a road map.  Actually, I guess it’s more of a topographical map, complete with all of the waterways and valleys.  The area around my eyes has many little rivers and tributaries, which I am sure are made worse by the squinting to make out the fine print on the television set (see above).  The valleys that extend from my nose down towards my chin are referred to by dermatologists as “parentheses”, in an attempt to make them seem more benign.  Some mornings, when I look in the mirror I expect to see a word between them, like my face has turned into an English paper.

The latest curve you have thrown at me is unruly eyebrows.  My hair is naturally wavy, which can be a good thing on top of your head.  Not on your eyebrows.  If I trim them back, I risk bald spots that will need to be filled in with pencil or sharpie pen.  If I leave them alone, they resemble what my hubby calls “Senator eyebrows”.  Look at those old guys next time you watch CNN.  You’ll see what I mean.

I have chronic bursitis/tendonitis in my hips which prevents me from running a marathon.  OK, I didn’t really want to run one anyway, but it’s easier to blame you.

Was it something I did to cause you to rebel? 

I apologize for the brief addiction to Diet Pepsi in the early 80’s, for the late nights and greasy cafeteria food in college, and for the years when I didn’t exercise at all.  I’m sorry for the hours spent by the backyard pool, sizzling myself in baby oil.  Maybe I didn’t appreciate you enough when you weren’t causing me any problems.

Is it too late for us?  Can we move forward together in partnership?  Or will I be fighting you every step of the way going forward?

I would love to be partners again and make this work out.  Speaking of working out, maybe you and I can hit the treadmill this afternoon.  Or get an iced mocha at Starbucks……

Fountain of Youth?

As I have settled into my forties, I am finding that a simple trip to Target to replace any makeup item or face cream isn’t so simple anymore.  Throw in the body lotions and sunscreens and I can spend the better part of a morning making decisions!

My face is a mess anyway….I have been friendly with the dermatology community since I was 15, and the nasty pimples of my teens have been replaced with what they now call “adult acne”.  Not sure why we need a new name for it, since to me it’s the same old thing I have always had.  Should I be worried that my latest prescription for acne is also recommended for Anthrax exposure?

Park yourself in front of the facial creams for a moment and try to settle on the one cream that will solve all of your current complaints.  Anti-aging?  Deep wrinkle treatment?  Oh, it has to have sunscreen too…..but what SFP?  Do you want to be radiant, or glowing?  Do you want your skin tone to be even, because there’s a cream to help with that.  Now I wonder if my tone IS even, since this isn’t something I have ever worried about or noticed.  Now you also need a different cream for night, which apparently is the time when the DEEP wrinkles can be banished.  I think when I am sleeping is the only time I don’t have deep wrinkles, and nobody notices.

Then there are the eye creams.  Gel, for firming?  Or do you want to fade those dark circles and moisturize?  Do you want to soften lines and wrinkles?  Not really, I just want them gone.  When did those crows put their feet on my face, anyway?

By the time I have chosen one or two products, I am exhausted.  It feels like such a commitment, since I will most likely be using this same bottle of potion for months. How will I really know if it’s working?  So far, I haven’t had anyone come up and tell me I look radiant, youthful, or glowing.  The last time I think I was radiant, I had a fever.

Maybe once the hot flashes hit, I will look radiant every day….