Monthly Archives: April 2013

The gym, the f-word and the mama

For me as a mother, besides fighting against racism and sexism, besides homework, besides working with her school on issues large and small, besides cleaning and keeping food in the house–there is my own body.  I know a number of mothers who go to yoga and zumba classes and my sister gets up at a ridiculous hour to go to boot camp.  I do none of it so far.  I do know for many of us women/ mothers– there is a real battle to even get keeping our physical selves in good shape– onto the to-do list.  What I’m trying to say is women’s health is a feminist issue and I am slowly coming to realize that this is an important frontier in my busy, all-female household.

Over the Passover holiday I asked my sister, who was part of the out-of-town Pesach team, to go with me to the gym– where I’d gone exactly once since I started my job in February 2012.  My sister has been very into exercise in the past year or two.  She goes to boot camp and doesn’t do her thing at a gym– she doesn’t even like gyms, but for me, she obliged.  We made several trips to the gym.  That routine fell off the map after she left but will be back on again starting this weekend when I meet with my new trainer.  I am trying to bring some semblance of regular exercise, strength and flexibility back into my life.  I want to be in better shape, I really want to be stronger and much more flexible and I want to model being a woman who does this and who enjoys it– for my daughter and the other young girls in my life.  I want to take better care of my own female body.  For me.

So the other day, I called the male general manager of my gym to clear up something about a few personal training sessions that I bought but haven’t used.  He was very nice, much nicer than the last general manager I had dealt with at that gym.

After we got clarity about personal training sessions I said, “By the way, I’m a woman, I’ve been a gym member for two years now and I really want some of your regular groups and classes centered on people over 45– for strength and stretching and cardio.  I don’t need to be only with people in their 40s and 50s and 60s– but I’m tired of being the only one over 45 in a sea of 20’s and 30’s.”  He still sounded interested and courteous and he said ,  “There’s a class on Tuesdays and Fridays at 9:30 a.m. called, ‘Aging with Elegance'”.  We were on the phone so he didn’t see me wince and roll my eyes.  I think I also actually snorted a little.

In his defense, he sounded like he knew this wasn’t really going to fly when the sentence started out of his mouth but he didn’t have anything else.  I decided I would set aside sarcasm and try to educate him.  He seemed attentive and earnest and was being nice to me.  He had only just begun to seem to me the littlest bit condescending but maybe he didn’t make up the name of the ‘Aging with Elegance’ class.

I said, “Look–I am sort of out of shape, and I could use to shed some weight but I want to give you a picture of where I am in terms of my physical activity level.”  I wasn’t defensive– what do I have to defend?   I said– “I have an 11- year-old daughter and she weighs about 110 and I play-wrestle her often.”  I went on.  “Also, I live on the fourth floor of a walk-up with no elevator (really the 3rd floor, but we park and enter in the basement)– therefore, I carry ridiculous amounts of groceries and laundry; I carry small and not-so-small pieces of furniture of all kinds; cases of seltzer water, potting soil and other things up and down three flights of stairs about every day.  But I’m not a 28-year-old who pumps iron four days a week or runs marathons.”  With that I heard him wince a little and felt him listen with renewed respect.

I paused so he could digest all this.  I closed with, “And one other thing is this.  I work a very full-time job for our legislature and I am definitely not ever available at 9:30 a.m. on weekday mornings.”  I could tell he was embarrassed by the class he had offered and he said he’d think about it and talk to some of their early morning teachers.  He meant he would try to figure out something that might  work for laundry-grocery-trash-hauling-wrestling- moms like me.  Obviously I don’t know where this will go– so we’ll see.  In the meantime I’m heading off to see Trish, my new trainer, on Saturday.  She just had a baby I hear, so she will either be a little on the stiff, sore, exhausted side herself– or she’ll be a remarkable female specimen capable of having a baby and returning to spinning class that same afternoon.  Either way, I hope we’ll like each other and once in a while I’ll write about my progress on this– another feminist project.

laura writes comes home again

As it turns out you can’t work full-time, parent a school-aged daughter, keep in touch  (what really feels like occasional, too-infrequent, keeping in touch these days)  with friends and family and a college-going nephew nearby and put on a Passover Seder for 19 people in your respectably sized, but not-so-big apartment, followed by a very small and short and sweet visit and Seder with your daughter’s sister and her mom– and still write about any of it.  Or about anything, for that matter.  As it turns out you can’t even start writing about the Seders or the other things happening for weeks– you’re too tired.  Or too something.

I did do all that, those two Seders and more.  Then somehow I just fell off the planet– well not literally and not even figuratively, but some part of  me just disappeared.  Most of all I woke up nights and early mornings, worrying that I was inadvertently breaking up with my blog.  You, my little blog, are actually a piece of lifeline for me.  But whew, here I am.  Back.

As I tend to do, I start with lists–my lists are like the sherbet I’ve heard is served between courses in a multi-course meal– which, I am told, having never had such a meal, clear the palate to taste the next course fresh, clear of other tastes.  My list clears my mind.  Allows me to focus on one or two things.  I make lists on my iPhone and I still keep at all times a huge pile of unlined, white 4′”x6″ index cards around for all kinds of lists and big notes to myself.  So here is my mind-clearing list.  It covers only a fraction of where I went while away from the blogging planet.

1.  There is a still-unwritten post about racism, the kind very subtly aimed at my daughter and the kind she noticed and about which she said for the first time (of a teacher in her life) “I think he’s kind of racist, and A. (her friend at school) said she thought that too.”  I’d thought it about this teacher but not said anything much about it to her and I’ve talked about it a lot– the racism she encounters–some with her and some with my partner and trusted family and friends.  But this time she said it.

2.  As follow-up to that, I could publish the letter I wrote to school– not to the offending teacher, but to a counselor and an assistant principal both of whom I trust.  I wrote after careful thought–and long delay.  The letter doesn’t say race or racist– because I wanted them to be able to hear something.  So I talked about class and culture– the noisier kids vs. the meticulous rule-followers.  It may have been a mistake to not say racism directly; I will have to live and learn, but it seems to me that these days if you say “racist” white people think you are calling them Klan members.  We white people feel so crummy about ourselves and so crummy about racism and get so defensive about being kind of racist as we are (well not kind of).  I got an amazing short response from the (Latina) counselor– saying it was a wise letter and that she read it very, very carefully and we should talk more.

3.  There is a lot going on in my local legislative work world in the governance of the school system in my city that has me riled up and ready to write.

4.  I had a visit with a very special and really one of my two (or maybe three) only– remaining high school friends.  It was wonderful to see my friend– she was great then and is great now.  I am feeling age– time passing.  I said to her when we said good-bye–we can’t wait 20 years this time–we will be officially old women by then.

5.  There was a visit with my older daughter, former foster daughter, younger friend/family (don’t know what to call her) and F’s husband and two-year-old son, both of whom we all three really adore in addition to our love for F.– all those relations quite something and worthy of a nice blog post itself.  F. says I am permitted to tell one of my versions of our story.

6.  And I did get to go with daughter and partner to an Atlantic Ocean beach for four days of my daughter’s spring break after missing all that last year because of the budget season in my legislative world.  But we went and rented a decent sized one-room place, right out on the ocean and we loved it even though it was raining and was parka-weather cold much of the time.  I woke up in the middle of each night at some point, stumbled to the front window and listened to and looked at the vast ocean just about 100 yards or a bit more away.  Then back to sleep.  Ocean is ocean and not at work is not at work and all packed into one room is very, very good, even if you don’t get to write on your blog.