Sunday, May 30, 2010

Story time + nursing =...

Another adventure in bookselling.

So it’s Saturday morning, and parents with kids are gathering for story time in the children’s department. I notice an attractive new couple with an infant and a toddler among the small crowd lining the stage. As I put stuff together to get started, I notice she is breastfeeding her daughter.

Now, this is not unusual. As those who know me or are regular readers of this space, are aware, I am a great proponent of the practice. I go out of my way to make sure my kid’s department is hospitable to moms looking for a place to feed their young.

Most go about nursing with a degree of modesty. Not this young mother, however. Her babe chowed down with gusto, her mom’s breast bare. And when the child was done, mom made no attempt to shield her nipple from public view. It wasn’t as if she was flouting it or anything. It was as if she—and her husband--didn’t notice. She suited up for story time, but later I saw her walking around the department, again seemingly without a clue.

I confess to almost laughing out loud. The sight of a totally bared breast in public didn’t so much shock, as surprise me. And the total comfort of this young mom astounded me. This is Florida, you understand, not New Jersey, where breastfeeding is protected by law.

Back in the early 1970s, when those of us in the La Leche league were rare indeed, I was considered a fanatic for not only breastfeeding, but for continuing until my children were each about a year old—almost unheard of in this country back then. Frankly, I was mad with happiness to find a use for the pair I’d been lugging around since the age of 11.

Mother-nature made has come back in vogue in years since, as science has discovered it’s advantages for both mother and child. Regardless, we in the USA have an uneasy relationship with public breastfeeding, with many viewing women’s mammary glands primarily as sex organs.

I refused to rush off and hide to feed my own children when at home, forcing even my own father to deal with his own issues. I also nursed in public, using clothing to maintain decorum.

What really pleased me was that I heard no obvious snickering or signs of discomfort from those at my story time, which included men and women of varying ages. No one complained to me or to the store’s management.

Rock on, mom!

Monday, May 24, 2010


That’s SICK. In capital letters.
A true 4-letter word.

I am finally up after 10 days of being so wretchedly ill that for the first time since this blog started, I failed to post in a timely manner. And for that, I apologize.

But this time, there was no choice. For days, I lay on the couch, coughing up stuff that made me gag.

The milk in the fridge soured, the food ran out, the garbage overflowed. I didn’t much care. I lived on green tea with honey and some protein shakes I happened to still have.

Me, who never loses an ounce when sick, dropped 7 pounds in a week. Sure, that would be a little good news, as I certainly could stand to drop even more—but I know it will hop back on these ol’ bones as soon as my appetite returns with a roar.

I was finally forced to venture out the day the cat food ran dry.

The weird part of this was that I lost my voice—and I mean TOTALLY. I couldn’t even call in sick and had to drag myself in one day to let them know I couldn’t work.

Yes, yes, I know it’s kinda funny for someone who talks as much as me to be silenced. But the truth is, it was incredible frightening. It lasted for almost 5 days, before I could croak out sounds. I felt completely isolated without use of the telephone and once found myself wondering if one could text 911—that is, if I could figure out HOW to text.

Yes, I fleetingly thought of reaching out for help via email. But I have no family here and just about everyone else is busy working etc. Also, I didn’t want to expose anyone to whatever was bouncing around my innards.

Each night, I was sure I’d feel better the next day, if I could just hang on. But I didn’t. I finally filled a prescription for antibiotics and now feel almost human. Either the virus had run it’s course or the drugs quashed the evil bacteria. I’ll never know which.

And at this moment, I don’t much care.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

lessons of motherhood

I received my first Mother’s Day card in a good many years this week, thanks to my son’s new wife. My off-spring, you see, do not believe in celebrating a day “invented by greeting card companies.”

I have made an uneasy peace with it. I know how they feel about me. Besides, I’ve never much hankered for that which is not freely given. In that spirit, I hereby take note of a few things my children have taught me.

CREATIVITY: I mean this in the most basic sense, as in: I can really build another human being; I can produce milk that will keep that child alive and well. It’s one thing to be told all your life that women in general can do these things. It’s quite different thing, however, to actually do it.

VULNERABILITY: With the birth of my daughter more than four decades ago, I learned the true meaning of vulnerability – not hers, mine. I specifically remember the moment when I realized that any individual having control of that little bundle had me at his or her complete mercy; that there was NOTHING I would not do to keep her safe.

PARENTAL MATH: Children are originals, not reproductions. Regardless of how much they may resemble their parents, children are more than the sum of their genes.

RESILIENCY: My son is the true teacher here. Since he was a lad, he’s been impossible to permanently flatten. While it’s true that many of his troubles are of his own creation, so are his solutions. If faced with a wall too steep to climb, he will reassess and change direction; whatever it takes to get around it, under it or through it. He seems to know where he wants to go and willingly engages “creative” detours en route. I confess to a silent admiration for his ability to bob and weave through life.

ASSUMPTIONS: Don’t rest on them and life will be a lot more fun. Why can’t you eat ice cream for breakfast? Why not get dressed for school before you go to sleep? Who says underwear must be folded before it’s put away? Where is it written that hair must be the same length on both sides or a pair of earrings identical? Look for reasons to say yes. What can it hurt?

LABELS: They don’t mean squat. This I learned from my daughter, the thrift-store shopper. Forget sizes and categories. One person’s bedroom slippers are another’s party shoes. The odd thing is, once you start thinking this way, it tends to spill over into the rest of your life.

TRUST: And I don’t mean in “experts.” Because it was so important to me, I managed to shake off all those older and wiser souls who advised me that I couldn’t totally nurse for six months, care for two children while working and going to school etc., etc.

I will never forget the dingbat psychologist who insisted my grade school-age son was a potential serial killer because he drew human figures without necks. Since I knew that this was simply his chosen style of cartooning, I was in no danger of confusing and offbeat sense of humor with the profile of a young Ted Bundy. (Can you imagine what some art teacher might have said to Gary Larson’s folks?)

NORMAL IS AS NORMAL DOES: I have little idea what “normal” behavior is and neither does anyone else. I don’t care what degrees the person holds. Go with your gut. If you sense something is wrong with your child, don’t’ let anyone dissuade you. But the reverse also holds true. And if your kid crosses an authority figure, find out what really happened before you do anything rash.

BE A GROWN-UP: This is the biggie. I am all of 21 years older than my daughter and 23 years older than my son. If I had not had them, I fear I would have remained eternally in the “what’s-in-it-for-me” stage of human development, never suspecting that I have a considerable amount to offer. That’s no small insight.

All in all, I would say motherhood has given me more than it took. Thanks to my children, I know myself.

A happy greeting-card-holiday to all...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

times square terror

This is gonna sound weird, even for me.

But as I sit, sipping coffee from my ‘I (heart) NY” mug, watching the scene in Times Square unfold early Sunday, the story is fresh, the smoking car—as it were—recently towed.

The CNN reporter is doing a stand-up in the most famous spot in America’s most famous city.

And all I could do is peer behind the reporter to take in Times Square as folks go about their business, wishing like hell I was there.

Yup, even a car bomb couldn’t scare me off.

New York, New York, a helluva target.

With “apologies” to Sarah Palin, it’s where the heart of “Real America” beats.

It was also such a helluva New Yorkish story. Where else could a STREET VENDOR sporting an “I Love New York” t-shirt, flag down a MOUNTED POLICE OFFICER to report a suspiciously smokin’ SUV? The only thing missing was the cop chowin’ down on a bagel with a smear as he bends down to catch what the vendor was saying.

Where else would it take only 53 hours to pinpoint a suspect and flag down a jet about to take flight to Dubai to take him into custody? So CSI New York.

Call it: The miracle on the tarmac.

I caught Police Commiss Ray Kelly on Charlie Rose right after that and was only mildly surprised to learn that police had foiled seven such car bombs since Sept. 11.

And New Yorkers go about the business of being New Yorkers.

New York, New York.
It’s a helluva town.