The Parts of Your Body You DON’T Like

Why can’t we love our bodies as they are? Here’s a great poem for today, the final day of National Poetry Month – and also as follow-up to yesterday’s silly post about my imperfections:

buried in sand

Summer at the Beach by Louise Gluck

Before we started camp, we went to the beach.

Long days, before the sun was dangerous.

My sister lay on her stomach, reading mysteries.

I sat in the sand, watching the water.

You could use the sand to cover

parts of your body that you didn’t like.

I covered my feet, to make my legs longer;

the sand climbed over my ankles.

I looked down at my body, away from the water.

I was what the magazines told me to be:

coltish. I was a frozen colt

My sister didn’t bother with these adjustments.

When I told her to cover her feet, she tried a few times,

but she got bored; she didn’t have enough willpower

to sustain a deception.

I watched the sea; I listened to the other families.

Babies everywhere: what went on in their heads?

I couldn’t imagine myself as a baby;

I couldn’t picture myself not thinking.

I couldn’t imagine myself as an adult either.

They all had terrible bodies: lax, oily, completely

committed to being male and female.

The days were all the same.

When it rained, we stayed home.

When the sun shone, we went to the beach with my mother.

My sister lay on her stomach, reading her mysteries.

I sat with my legs arranged to resemble

what I saw in my head, what I believed was my true self.

Because it was true: when I didn’t move I was perfect.

really buried

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Bring on the Workweek

Marilyn takes stock

Took the weekend off. Did no work at all. Acted like a 12-year-old in that I pretty much just listened to my i-Pod, wrote in my diary and gave my feet the critical eye.

I also broke precedent and looked in the mirror for a full seven minutes, which made me stand appalled by what has become of me. I have wrinkles galore, a furrow deep enough to plant carrots in and this new weird thing where my spine snakes over to the left, then doubles back on itself and snakes over to the right. Most people don’t notice it until I mention it but then they see it all right. When I pointed it out to my friend Ahmad he said in his mild way, “Oh yeah! Your pants are here and your shirt is over here!”

Also I’m getting these dark things on my face, like Morgan Freeman has. They’re like pigmented freckles only I’ve never had freckles.

Plus my eyes, which were always too close together, seem now to be heading for opposite corners of the room.

My teeth look like kernels on the corncob you split open and then toss back in the bin. (WHY WASN’T I MADE TO WEAR BRACES EVER?) 

Also my bangs are too short – they make me look like Imogene Coca if anyone remembers her.

And my eyebrows are disappearing.

I was examining the Nike Swoosh of my spine when my man sauntered into the bathroom. I had this flannel shirt on that I found in our son’s high school bedroom.

“It’s a men’s small but it’s not quite makin’ it in the buttoning shut department.

“Get a breast reduction,” he quipped.

He was kidding of course. The real problem was about a foot further down, but maybe I should anyway. I mean, it’s too late for braces, right?

Maybe I can enter these years like a sort of sprightly un-busty Mary Lou Retton. Hey, it would take my mind off the rest of me. What does a thing like that cost anyway? And why go around looking like this sadsack..

the mirror doesn't lie

… When I could go around looking like this:

mary lou retton

Well. Such are the thoughts of a person with WAY too much time on her hands. Bring on the workweek!


Ah, Hotel Rooms!

All my talk of ironing yesterday  has me remembering the many hotels rooms in which I have stayed, wasting that great first hotel hour by ironing.

(How many other women find that the first thing they do is put on the hotel TV, heave their suitcase up onto the bed, crack it open like an oyster in its shell and proceed to drag out that in-room ironing board, all folded up and hanging like a bat in the closet? After a really long trip you can find yourself ironing even your bras.)

Some hotel rooms have irons free from gummy buildup, irons that actually keep  working without shutting off again after 90 seconds.

Those are the good ones, and they contrast sharply with the room I stayed in on a trip just last month with tiny aphids swarming around in the john.

Then there was the other room I took during that same trip whose microwave was knocked silly by the time change we had at 1am on that second Saturday in March. I don’t know how a microwave could know about the time change but this one seemed to. The morning before we ‘sprang forward’ it was just fine. The morning after it was blinking Clock! Clock! Clock ! – then when you tried to set the clock simply showed you what looked like a little snake thing doing a sort of wiggly Egyptian dance.

But the worst hotel room of all was the one I stayed at in Manhattan once, with a stream of black silt continually glugging up through the bathtub drain. I could only pray it was silt. Also, the bulbs in its lamps were so dim you couldn’t read your book – the bulbs that weren’t already burned out that is . Ah the memories!

The best hotel room was a tall narrow chamber on the banks of Italy’s Lake Como with a wardrobe instead of a closet and a window hung with silky golden curtains.

Its bathroom had all those weird European bathroom doodads like one of those steel towel racks that never seem to work. All over Italy I went that fall of ’08, staying in hotel rooms with these same heat-up-able towel racks but never did I find even one that actually worked. Maybe I was just being really stupid and they weren’t racks to heat up your towel at all but rather some contrivance utterly unimaginable to us Americans, like the bidet, which you see all over France.

But so what?  In this room the best feature wasn’t the bathroom anyway.

Nor was it the room’s ‘closet’, an armoire no wider than  a couple of coffins lashed together and then upended.

The best part of the room was those golden curtains which I can still close my eyes and see , a whole four-and-a-half years later.

Here’s a picture. May we all stay in a room with curtains like these , at least once in our lives! I live off this visual still. It looks almost like a painting doesn’t it?


Things Fall Apart

Broken FridgeThings go wrong around any house. Even the First Family’s. Even the Queen’s. But you sometimes you have to wonder: Why do they go wrong ALL AT ONCE?

The other day, with no notice at all, a steel rod suddenly shot up out of the mattress I share with my spouse, over on his side of the bed. It was like we were in an old prison movie and someone was trying to plant a shiv in his ribs.

HE says it’s just a stray end of inner spring that came unsprung and poked its way through the foam.

I say there’s more to it.

I say our mattresses get mad at us, as do our other household possessions, the way they suddenly malfunction.

Take our irons and ironing boards: they get mad at us too. I was pressing some pants the other day when my ironing board suddenly buckled at the knees and collapsed down onto the floor, taking the iron with it –not once but three times in a row.

Each time I pulled it back upright, checking to see that the latch was locked in place, and three times it went down – wham! – on the floor, the third time melting a big shiny patch into my cheapo rug with its artificial fibers made from recycled trash bags and soft drink cans.

It’s as if all our possessions are in cahoots – because there’s more:

Inside the house, a chair arm will, with no warning at all, detach itself from one of the dining room chairs when someone tries to rise from it.

Outside the house, lawn chairs will suddenly buckle under people, landing them flat on their keisters.

I got to thinking I knew what was going on: Our ‘things’ are jealous of us, because we last so much longer than they do.

I mean, aren’t the mattress merchants always telling us our bedding goes bad after a dozen or so years? And look at those irons. Any iron I buy goes stone cold after three seasons, tops. And those lawn chairs with their bendy aluminum legs? Try 12 months.

This was my theory anyway and it seemed like a pretty good one…Until last week when the weather suddenly moved in here with us and rain began coursing down the INSIDES of two windowpanes.

Could the house itself be jealous, because we’re going to live so much longer?

Negative. This house has been here since the 1890s.

Hmmmm. There was a fact worth pondering.

Come to think of it, the inner springs in my own spinal column have been known to sometimes go ‘sproing’.

And my own inner ‘iron’ often fails to heat up.

And as for all that collapsing and landing – wham! – on the floor, isn’t that in the future for all of us at some point?

Maybe our household goods aren’t jealous of us at all, and certainly not for our length of days.

Maybe what they’re really doing with all their wearing out and falling apart actually constitutes a cautionary tale and they’re offering us a lesson.

The lesson’s message? Strike now, while your iron is hot. Stand tall today, while your legs have strength to do so.

This is me on a typical morning (I’ve lost some weight lately.)

woman ironing

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Life With Young Children

the calm before the boy child

The fact that today is the birthday of my third and youngest child  who was not yet in the world until his sisters were five and seven, has me remembering back to the fun we had in the years raising our kids, and the sense of peace I still feel when I am among them… For In a family, you are known. You don’t have to pretend or explain. They take you as they find you – even if they do take frequent joy in mocking you

On certain nights, around the supper table, one of our kids would suddenly say, “OK, let’s switch roles. You be Mom, you be Dad,” etc.  Then a fast improv would follow.

Once, I drew the then-13-year-old; swung my hair over one eye and said, “I need money, need a ride, I need money, I need a ride…”

This youngest, the then-five-year-old whose birthday it is today, once acted out his father for us in this game. He puffed out his  tummy, lay down on the floor and began snoring with a newspaper over his face.

Our then ten-year-old then ‘did’ me. “Come to dinner, people!“, she shrieked. “Come eat your dinner before I throw it in the yard!”

It’s instructive to watch yourself thus parodied.

And there’s never a dull moment, just generally in a family, because in a family, everyone comes home with tales of pain and triumph – and with funny stories too.

That then-kindergartner, being new to the world, had the most stories: The story about the little girl in his class who squeezed her eyes shut and clasped her hands as if in prayer every day when she recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Or the tale of the older boy who told him he had his pants on backwards. “I can’t understand it,” I remember our little guy saying. ” I put them on this morning and they were frontwards! Sometimes I put one pair of underpants and find out later I have  two pairs on. One day I put on a pair and looked later and they were gone!”

“You talk a lot,” one of his older sisters observed to him mildly, after ten straight minutes of this monologue.

“I can’t help it,” he said earnestly. “School is a strong thing.”

School sure is a strong thing. And work is a strong thing too. We all go out each day to face strong things.

I remember how the morning would come and one alarm after another would go off in this house. The sound of five showers would drum in the bathroom. Coffee would be gulped, cereal smeared and sprinkled around. Then there’d be a mad scramble to find shoes.

Now too there are those same scenarios in households the over world.  Folks go out into their day and return for supper, glad to be back home.

Back in the years I am thinking of now, when the children were asleep at last, we two tired parents would make the rounds and collecting stray socks. We would kiss their sleeping faces and they smelled so good; like apples, and geraniums, and fresh-baked dough.

We knew that one day these children would be gone from us, and dinner would be a  far quieter affair.

We were right there for sure.

But today, on the birthday of our youngest who is up in his 20s by now,  I’m reminded again of how much their dad and I have loved them all; and how much they have made us smile.

mpm's 1st day of school

Stand Down

IMG_1584We were all in such a state Friday that when his mum texted me this picture of our five-year-old grandson asleep and ‘armed’  I felt a literal stab in my heart. The words accompanying the text: “He turned on his light and fell asleep on the floor with his stick. Protecting the house, he says.”

Last week had so much woe in it. The moments like the one I first had on seeing message make only a small example. At the same time though there was also joy in our house:

My husband came home  after four days away. And our daughter Carrie, the mother of this little boy, came home to her family. (She and my husband David were together on a business trip.)

And most iimportantly these two new parents, as much a part of our family as the children we ‘made,’ were at ast allowed to leave Brigham & Women’s Hospital here in Boston where they were held on lockdown on that awful Monday with their newly-arrived babe.

Here are some pictures of that joyful homecoming  (Oh! and I should probably  add that 30 minutes after I first got that text about this little boy sleeping with his weapon, his mom texted again to explain that he sleeps with a stick every night in his self-imposed role as ‘family protector’. He knew nothing of the events transpiring in Cambridge and Watertown.)

Below here are some images:

First, the note the brand-new parents wrote to the staff at Brigham & Women’s followed by images of them at their house, which was decorated by  two loving friends.

goodbye to brigham & women's

Here we see the first of thousands of ‘carseat extractions’ followed by the actual homecoming:

first time extraction for VHB

crossing the threshhold


“Papa’ seemed like an old hand at this already when Carrie and I went to visit them near week’s end.


and here finally is ‘Aunt’ Carrie, holding her new niece for the very first time..


Joy abounding!

We Bostonians

Boston candle for the victimsThis weekend the days spooled out like satin ribbon, and for once we all let it spool.

We watched the Red Sox.

We watched the Celtics.

We watched the Bruins.

There were some losses but that was all fine by us.

Things seemed almost back to normal, that is for us lucky ones with our health.

I lay on my back and read about books about the 19th century.

I made a shopping list, then never went to the store.

At last and hesitantly recorded the week’s events in my diary..

And, by this lake where we come some weekends, gratefully and prayerfully, I watched as the light billowed and faded and the holy night came on.

from the dock

You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere

All Day yesterday I was focused on just one thing: the plane that woud bring my husband and my daughter home to Boston from their lengthy business conference 1,000 miles away.

Here’s how I felt about David in particular, my feelings nicely expressed in this classic song about a soon-to-be-home lover. Substitute ‘bridegroom’ for bride and that’s me.

I give you three great singers from the dawn of their careers  Shawn Colvin, Roseanne Cash and Mary Chapin Carpenter singing Bob Dylan’s  “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.”

Gettin’ out that rockin’ char now!

The Anguish, Again

Back Bay MagnoliasMonday was so lovely here in that way so much like the weather on September 11th. I suppose that thought came back to us all as we looked on images of blood fountaining all around the Finish Line.

Within minutes we all discovered we couldn’t make phone calls, whether on cell phones or landlines. The site crashed so there was no news there. Thank God for Facebook and Twitter.

My firstborn child is in Florida this week along with her dad, my husband David, as well as another person from the company they both work for. She got through to me via text. “Is my family OK?” is all it said. (This is her family here.) She couldn’t get through to them.

That’s how it was for everyone with someone in Boston Monday as in anguish we looked on those images, wondering who were the poor unfortunates from whose bodies life and health both were so violently torn.

It was the same question we had on September 11th.

The planes all came out of Boston’s Logan Airport that day, you’ll remember. When I called David at work, he told me that three of their people flew out of Logan that very morning. The agonized question on everyone’s mind: were any of their plans the ones that hit the towers?

They learned the answer when the company’s travel agent called sobbing. He knew that the nicest man in the company was on Flight 175. His name was Bob Jalbert and anyone who knew him said the same. Here‘s his obituary.

September 11th happened on a Tuesday. The next day Bob’s son called David, and asked him to give the eulogy at the memorial Mass. American flags filled the funeral home. there and in the church the atmosphere was heavy with grief. We were still so in shock over the events of that awful day we reacted with surprise at the end of the service when the priest came down front and said, “Please. Take the flowers.” For there was no body and there was no grave.

What a thing it was for my David to be the one asked to stand and speak about his friend. He is a quiet man not given to public utterance. I imagine he might say that standing before that weeping assemblage to speak of his friend was the hardest thing he has ever had to do. What an impossible task to sum up the life of a person. What a burden. What a privilege.

Looking out at the signs of our slow New England spring I keep asking myself: Who are the people who will speak for these newly dead and wounded. And what can they say? What ever can they say?

This is Bob, glowing as he did all the days of his life.


Times Like These

On days like the one we saw yesterday it’s hard to know what to write, if, like me, you blog every day. Do you go for something light, to comfort people, or look it in the face? I mean the fear, the panic, the sudden loss of control you feel when all the phone lines go down as ours did within minutes after the explosion at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

‘Keep calm and do your work’ they say. That’s a challenge now for us all.

My personal moment of panic came when it suddenly hit me that our daughter Annie works right there on Newbury Street.

I tried to call her cell. No Answer.

I tried to call her office. No answer.

I could picture her wandering out onto the street to watch people come in; oh could picture her…..

But no. Her company takes the day off with all the thousands of people milling in there. She got lucky maybe.

But what would I do, what would I do if these pictures were the last I would ever take of her, as she smiled on Easter, as she sat on our bed with her sister’s baby?



Three families will wake to that anguishing thought again this morning : the realization that they have taken their last photo of that loved one.

May God bless those families. May God bless us all as we try to heal from this last event.