Sunday, October 17, 2010

Story Time

Ashley and I have been married for 8 years. And during that 8 years we have perfected our battle skills to that of the Gladiators. Passive Aggressiveness is our battle sport of choice and we have been known to go days dancing around an issue like contestants on Dancing with the Stars.

I tell you that to tell you this.

One of our favorite past times these days is to read stories to Rinks. He is naturally brilliant (and I say that with no bias whatsoever) and he enjoys it as much as we do. His new favorite books are those of the parent specific kind called "Mommies are for Counting Stars" and "Daddies are for Catching Fireflies". Each of these books tells of things that Mommy does (Mommy tucks you in at night) or what Daddy does (Daddy helps you fly a kite). However, this week as Ashley and I were having a mild disagreement over who was supposed to clean the bathrooms (clearly it was him), these books took on a whole new theme as we got creative with our passive aggressiveness. I walked in on story time as Ashley is gently reading the Mommy book to Rinks. I listen at the door in tender admiration, until I hear Ashley say "Mommy is for bossing Daddy around like he is 12 and doesn't know what he is doing" and "Mommy is for nagging Daddy about cleaning the toilet when he told her 3 times that he would do it on Sunday."
I got to give it to him, he is a clever bastard, that is why I love him. But two can play this game. So the next night during Story Time I gently reach for the "Daddy" book as Rinks coos in excitment. Ashley eyes me suspiciously. I begin, "Daddies are for Catching Fireflies. Daddies are for helping build forts on summer nights. And Daddies are for being sore losers when he can't admit to Mommy that he was wrong in the first place. The End." Ashley just smiles and shakes his head.

Rinks eyes us apprehensively as if to say, "Somebody needs to tell me who is going to pay for my therapist bill. Geez."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"The F Word"- My October Column for At Home Tennessee

The F Word
At Home Tennessee columnist, Mandi Gaskin, discovers that the key to unlock the door to permanent weight loss is through facing her biggest nemesis: Fear.

I have never been a skinny girl. As my grandmother often put it, “You are built strong” which always brought to mind disturbing images of an Ox. But I never thought about my weight until I went to the doctor for a checkup when I was 12 years old. The doctor looked down at me as he tapped the chart in his hand and proclaimed, “Your weight is off the charts.” I could still taste the remnants of the Snickers bar that I had eaten only an hour before while I stared at him in horror. Up until that point I had been enjoying a heavenly diet of sausage biscuits, French fries, and candy bars. My friends would come to my house and raid our cabinets like it was the 7-11 because my mother believed that Little Debbie was part of the food pyramid. But from that day at the doctor, one message registered with me for the next 15 years- Fat=Failure, Thin=success. And from that moment on food and I became Frenemies. We would go weeks loving each other in a blissful relationship of pasta and fried chicken to breaking up for days while I shamed myself into eating carrot sticks for a “cleanse.” By the time I reached my twenties I took on this obsessive behavior like it was a full time job. If there was a bandwagon, I was normally driving it and yelling from a bullhorn for people to hop on. Nothing excited me and tortured me more than a diet. I would plan for it like I was training for the Olympics, buying grapefruit juice by the case in order to gear up for my Grapefruit juice and soup diet. By the seventh day I was 5 pounds lighter and so irritable that I almost picked a fight with the sweet Wal-Mart greeter who didn’t hand me my shopping cart fast enough. And then I tried jumping rope- like, for hours- because I once heard Naomi Campbell say that it helped your cheeks have that “sunken in” look, or maybe it was from her steady diet of cocaine and cigarettes. But even when the numbers on the scale descended down thirty pounds, the fear and self pressure to maintain my new weight would feel like climbing Mt. Everest and cause me to dive into a cheesecake and avoid the gym like I was Howie Mendel at a Handshaking convention. The cycle grew stronger and stronger with each new diet plan that I committed to and inevitably failed. It wasn’t until I was almost 30 and took a step back to really look at my 10 years of losing and gaining the same thirty pounds that I saw the pattern that had evolved. And what I found had nothing to do with the food, or even my thighs (gasp!). I have always known I was an emotional eater-choosing food to fit my mood like many people pick a fine wine with their dinner. But what I didn’t realize was how I was using food as an escape door from something that I didn’t want to face. Whether it was stress from a job, or from feeling hopeless about my expanding waist, or from disappointment that I haven’t yet won the Nobel Peace Prize (did I mention that I have ridiculous standards?) Rather than sitting with my feelings of fear or disappointment, I would use the food to escape- even if it was just for 10 minutes- from a reality that I wasn’t happy with or felt like I couldn’t control. Now I would love to tell you I am as Zen as a Buddhist monk since learning this revelation but sadly I am a slow learner and am not very adept to change. And so I still have my days where I look at the lovely paunch that remains from childbirth with distain or feel hopeless and start looking for the nearest chocolate chip cookie; but I also have those times of awareness where I can stay present and really try to understand my fear or disappointment and listen to my body instead of bolting from reality. And that, my friends, is a step in the right direction.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Dear God: I get it, you've made your point.

Just when I am getting a little confidence, just when I feel a hint of self esteem coming back, the universe finds a way to punch me in the face like I am Tina Turner at a marriage retreat. I was doing so well today. I was feeling good, went to Zumba, danced my ass off, and decided to treat myself to a healthy lunch at Subway with my friend Melissa (which by the way Subway, I am waiting on my royalty checks from all this publicity I give you, don't be stingy). Coming straight from Zumba we are looking like a hot mess, still sweaty and not a stitch of makeup to be found but still feeling good from the endorphins. And just then while standing in line deciding if we should splurge on the cookies or not, we hear someone come up behind us. Suddenly we both turn around and what do our eyes behold? SuperModel Nikki Taylor.

My Subway Nightmare.


We both stared at her in disbelief just as a gentle breeze blew her hair away from her flawless face (which I now realize was the air conditioner, but still) and the sunlight coming through the window made a golden halo shimmering from behind. Melissa turned to me and said, "You have got to be kidding me right now." To which I just shook my head and replied, "God is a cruel and discriminative god. And he hates us."

Just then the Subway cashier looked at us and asked, "How many cookies did you girls want?"
And like two bitter, deflated fat kids; we both looked at her and said in unison, "All of them."

Monday, October 4, 2010

Anxious Annie

I went to the doctor last week for my yearly checkup. As I stripped down and put on that god-awful cloth they call a robe the Doctor began asking me questions. And that is when things went south. Literally and figuratively. As she starts feeling me up like I am in the backseat of a Ford Mustang in 1996 she casually makes conversations about motherhood and how its been going thus far. I start ranting on about teething and lumpy poo (the baby's, not mine- well, ok, except when I add spinach to my diet but that's another post) and my nightly sleeping patterns or lack thereof. And that is when she informed me that it is, in fact, not normal to stay up all hours of the night worrying about Dolphins in eastern Asia, or children in Rwanda that are wandering the desert lost and alone, or our landfills that are overloaded from mass consumerism, or a small piglet (Wilbur!) being inhumanely slaughtered as I lay my head on this pillow in order to enhance my burger which is probably contributing to Global Warming which is inevitably going to cause the end of the world- all by December of 2012 according to the Mayans. She looked at me with concern and vigorously started making notes. When I casually but assertively asked what she was writing, she told me that she thought I might have a touch of Anxiety. I am not sure which part tipped her off, the panic attack or the hyperventilation. She then started rattling off pills like we were at a County Auction. I hesitated, because I used to be a self righteous prick who sided with Tom Cruise when his suggestion for the "postpartum" debate was just to "run it off by exercising".
But then I had a baby and I lost my mind. And if Valium were offered in Pez dispensers, I would buy them by the case.
After she finished her pill spill she said, "Or you could just drink 2 glasses of wine a night and have the same effect."
"Can't I just chase my meds with my wine?" I asked. In case you are wondering, I delivered my shame along with my baby.
"No," she said, "Unless you want to start speaking Chinese by 9pm."

Māo shì zài gélóu shàng. Jiéshù.