Friday, May 29, 2009

Pilates In Public

I had to work a Vendor Fair one night last week at a gym that I occasionally am called in to teach for. In the interest of keeping my job there, I'll keep the name to myself, suffice to say that it rhymes with the possessive version of cold. Or mold.

The gym is located in the Natomas area and if you are from Sacramento, I don't need to tell you that this area has definitely lots its luster in the last couple of years. It's quite possible that I am the oldest instructor at the gym and also possible that I am part of a very, very small group that has not had any augmentation. Nor do I wear the too tight, very colorful "hot pants" that seem to grace the bottom half of every single female there. Oh no, I am the older "hippy" girl, wearing a loose tank top, baggy pants and sporting a little braid across my forehead.

I am digressing. Again.

So anyway, this gym has more silicone than muscles, if you know what I mean and a Vendor Fair is just an excuse to bring the Hooters girls in, in full Hooters garb, and serve up some wings while everyone admires the scantily dressed gym members.

The gym management was kind enough to set me up with a table, some brochures and a Reformer, all of which were placed away from the Hooters action and directly in the center of the weight room floor. Lucky me.

But I didn't realize how screwed I was, in terms of where I would be "vending" Pilates services, until the gym manager came up to me and said, "We'd like you to get on the Reformer and actually demo the machine."

Now anyone familiar with the Pilates method of exercise on the Reformer knows that being on the machine is kinda like going to the OB GYN, sometimes worse. Your feet go in straps, your legs move around in circles and straddles, the pelvis goes up and down in a bridging movement...I think you get the point. There's a reason that the trainers call our version of exercise "Naughty Pilates."

Back to my story.

I reluctantly agree to demo something on the machine, while thinking, "I should have asked for double time for this gig, particularly since I'm taking orders from someone who, muscles aside, is half my age and certainly has half a brain."

I place my toes on the back of the Reformer and execute a G-rated lunge. Two male trainers are instantly at my side. "Wow, you are LIMBER!" the first says. Trainer 2 adds: "When are you gonna put your foot behind your head? We're all waiting for that." And he gestures toward an army of trainers, lurking near by.

To which I reply, "The Hooters girls are taking over the machine in an hour. You want limber? Those gals have got it goin' on! In the meantime, I hear they've stripped down to bikinis and are considering a wet t-shirt contest."

The trainers flee and I plop down on a chair and finish my shift, slightly nostalgic for the days of sitting in a board room with fully dressed and highly educated individuals.

Monday, May 25, 2009

How To Date A Single Mom

Recently, I was asked an interesting question by a single, mid-40s, childless guy:

“How do I get a copy of the manual for dating women with children?”

Ahhh, the elusive guidebook to (successfully and happily) dating a single mom. I don’t actually have a copy of the manual in question but, having had nearly three years of experience in the role of single mother and a couple of dating relationships under my belt, I do have a few ideas on the subject.

I’ve always believed that single mothers give heroic parts of themselves to give their children good homes. But it wasn’t until I became a single mom that I realized how genuinely difficult the task was and how draining it can be, every day and every hour. There are many, many times when I’ve thrown up my hands and said, quite emphatically, “I’m not dating until Ben is 10 years old! No, fifteen! It’s not worth it. I can’t do it!”

However. I do think that it is important for single parents and especially for single mothers, to date. Single mothers are notorious for giving, giving, giving and don’t take much in return. Dating allows a single mom to slip out of her everyday roles, even for a brief evening, and to cultivate an identity that does not involve racing out the door at 8am while barking orders and grabbing at backpacks, lunch boxes, and permission slips. In the company of an adult male, a single mom might momentarily forget the guilt she feels over working too much and the stresses of financial matters. For a few short hours she will not have to issue a time-out, she will (hopefully) not have to clean up poop and she can actually share a meal with another person who does not demand her to be a short-order cook, dishwasher and kitchen manager, all at the same time.

If you’re still reading, even after that last sentence, you must really want to make the relationship work with a single mother. So, here’s how to do it:

Don’t be fake

Don’t feign interest in a single mom, just so that you can have a fling. I can see through this ruse more clearly and quickly than you’ll ever imagine. Having a 5-year-old male means that my “BS meter” is constantly on high alert and I am perceptive enough to know when I am being duped. Be genuine and sincere, be yourself, and I will welcome the opportunity to spend time with you. A man who is sincere and shows genuine interest with no ulterior motive is any girl’s dream whether she is a single mom or not.

Don’t be fake, part two

You can’t just be genuine with the mom, you also have to be genuine with her child. If it does get to the point where you meet Ben, be yourself. Kids are almost always smarter than parents and will know when someone is being fake with them. Be nice, show genuine interest (anything involving Hot Wheels is a sure fire way to get my son’s attention), and soon you will find that your efforts are reciprocated in spades.

Honor thy single mother’s bedtime

I have a bedtime and so does every other single mother that I know. We have to: it’s called survival. On a good day, my son will sleep until 6:30am; on a normal day, it’s more like 6am. That doesn’t leave a lot of leeway for me to be up late. Not that I want to be. After 14 hours of parenting, working, and juggling the many other tasks in my daily life, I have no interest in seeing anything past 10:00pm on the face of the clock. There are very few events that will entice me to stay up late. I’ve found that, on a work night or a “Ben” night, it’s just not worth it. A rested version of me is much more happy, sane and even-keeled than the tired version. It’s okay if you’re a night owl; just don’t expect me to become one.

Romance her (a little)

You don’t need to be a single mom to appreciate a little bit of romance, but the single mom will definitely appreciate the romantic attention you provide. For me, this doesn’t mean flowers or jewelry. But a sweet text or an email saying that you are thinking of me, or even just checking in to see how the Ben’s doctor appointment went or how my work day is going, will go a long way.

Be flexible

Flexibility is key when dating a single mom because she is always juggling a lot at once and has no one to share her responsibilities with. I may be certain on one day that I can make plans with you, but then have to cancel at the last minute if my ex gets called to work, if Ben has a long and sleepless night (which happens way more than I’d like), or if my mother is too tired to babysit. Be understanding of these scenarios. Don’t sulk. Re-group and try again.

Consider your own plans for the future

Unless I specifically say that I’m looking for something open-ended or casual (which would be highly unlikely), carefully give some thought as to whether you want to have a stepchild. Or not. Daunting? Yes. Realistic? You bet. Consider whether you even like kids. Not everyone wants to be a parent and being childfree is a valid choice, but you can’t have your cake and eat it too. The single mom comes with kids. Obviously. You might be able to avoid interacting with them or even seeing them for several months but that won’t last forever.

Be open-minded

You may not have ever envisioned yourself becoming involved with a single mom, but the right situation (and woman) can change your perspective greatly. Single mothers bring the blessings that come with loving and being loved by a child, and that’s an amazing experience.

Understand that her priorities are very different from yours

A single mom battles daily with unending priorities. She may not even be sure which ones are at the top all of the time because they all seem mission critical to her. That doesn’t mean that you aren’t a priority, but her priorities may shift on different days just depending on how the day goes. Some days you may find yourself wondering where you fall on her priority list, and this is where flexibility and communication come in.

Here’s what I have to say on priorities: If I’m including you in my life, then I want you to be in my life. Simple as that. Be flexible and communicate often, and I will find many ways to show you just how big a priority you are to me.

Be considerate of her time

The single mom is generally torn between her kids, her work, her family obligations, her social life, and a million other responsibilities that she has no one to share with. Given this, it’s a good idea to be a little considerate of the time in which she has to do all of those things. Case in point: If you call me up on a Saturday afternoon for a date that night, it is very likely I will turn you down. This will be no reflection on you, but more likely a matter of me simply having a 5-year-old who is counting on dinner and bedtime with his Mommy. It’s always a good idea to find out when my ex and Ben have vacation plans (which is quite frequent, I might add) and you can be a step ahead planning anything with me.

Offer to help

If I’m having an overwhelming day (which happens in my world more than I’d like to admit), it’s nice to have someone who steps up and offers to do something to lessen the load. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture of babysitting for hours on end while I take a spa day (although I would never say no to that) but can be as easy and as sweet as offering to read Ben a story before bed so that I can catch up on client calls.

Expect to have “The Talk” early on

Many men balk at The Talk in any relationship, even if they want the relationship to have some longevity. The Talk doesn’t mean that I want to push some guy to commit to a lifetime with me. Quite the contrary. I’ve found that The Talk is a great way to discover what page everyone is on. To be blunt, I don’t want to waste the time that I could spend with Ben on a guy who may or may not be into me for the long-term. It’s always okay if we want different things, and it’s okay to want something casual. Just be sure that I know that.

Understand that a single mom will be sad sometimes

When my son goes off to his dad’s, I’m always sad. The sadness is fleeting and it generally only lasts for a few moments each day but it’s something that I’ve learned to recognize as a normal part of a single mom’s attachment to her children. Very few of us single mothers got married and started a family with the idea that at some point, we would have to give up 50% of our time with our children. That’s a bitter pill to swallow and it’s a lot of time to miss out on. Expect a single mom to be a little blue now and then, especially around the holidays. It’s not “Prozac sad” but there’s definitely a sense of melancholy that can drift into and out of a single mom’s day without reason and certainly without notice.

You will, at some point, have to be involved with the children

Most single moms and single dads are hesitant to take this step until everyone is certain that the relationship has some staying power. Hesitancy is good in this case and should be honored. When the time is right, treat the occasion delicately, and treat it with the respect and appreciation it deserves. The first-time meeting WILL be nerve-wracking for you, and it will be for me as well, but I would not have you meet Ben if I didn’t want you to be part of our future.

It happens: The kids might not like you

Unlike dogs and kids, boyfriends, girlfriends and children don’t always mix well. Kids can be resistant, they can be jealous, they will be uncertain and they can be nasty. This has happened to me and it’s not fun. I always say that there is a window of time to capitalize on the innocence of children in this situation and it generally occurs between the age of two and six. In fact, it’s been my experience that you’re pretty much golden during these years because kids in this age bracket, by and large, welcome any new stranger into their lives with open arms and open hearts. Believe me, my son has been in love with every girl that my ex has dated and he has been equally accepting (if not less effusive) to the men that I’ve introduced him to (just two).

I think at some point, children realize that you are a threat to their mom’s time, you are a threat to their relationship with their dad, or you are just simply a threat that they don’t welcome. Let Mom handle this one. If this relationship has longevity, she will work on them. Keep being genuine, but most of all, have patience. With time, those kids will learn exactly why mom is so crazy about you. Hey, you got this far, didn’t you? Don’t back out now.

Know that you are likely getting a real prize

If you are considering a relationship with a single mom, it may seem at first like you are taking on more baggage than all the lost luggage claims that United processes in a day. It doesn’t have to be this way, and don’t go in thinking that. Single mothers are among the most mature, responsible, and loving people on the planet. They are always juggling something, but are adept and even good at slowing down the pace to sweep up a crying child and provide nurturing or to gather everyone together for a healthy meal and create some semblance of family and routine. Go in open-minded, patient, understanding, and most importantly, sincere. If this relationship is meant to be, the rest will fall into place.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Rules Of The Road

I just took a long weekend away, since Ben was with his dad in Maui (yes, again, I know...). I checked myself out of everyday life under the ruse of taking Pilates training courses and learning more about my trade. But that's not exactly what happened during my getaway. I thought I'd share some of the real lessons gleaned from my recent weekend adventure:

Rule #1: Driving twenty miles over the posted speed limit on Highway 80, in the middle of Truckee, will certainly get you a face-to-face meeting with a not-so-sympathetic CHP officer. He will definitely be good looking, but he will not fall prey to your sweet smile and overtures. He will show no mercy when writing up your ticket and you should not feel compelled to thank him when you are pulling away. You are, after all, the one making the big, fat donation to California.

Rule #2: When suffering from bronchitis or any other infection of the chest and/or lung area, don't expect said illness/condition to become bearable at 7,000 feet of elevation. Do expect to feel like your head will explode for several days. Do have the number of the nearest hospital on hand, just in case.

Rule #3: Under no circumstances, should alcohol, antibiotics and altitude be combined.

Rule #4: See Rule #3.

Rule #5: See Rule #3 and #4.

Rule#6: Passing up an opportunity to be "The Cougar" for a night will not score you any points in the story telling department. If he's cute, 26 and he actually calls, (even despite the fact that you blow your nose at least 58 times while flirting with him) take a chance and press the green button on the cell phone instead of the red button. Honor thy online friend, L, for attempting and succeeding so well at "The Cougar" role.

Rule #7: Do not ask anyone in casino uniform where the exit doors are. Their sole purpose is to keep you trapped in the casino. Once you have wandered the non-stop maze of Silver Legacy, Circus Circus and El Dorado for 30 minutes, your only chance of escape is to go UP. A casino escalator is your good friend in these situations.

Rule #8: When planning to visit an international pilates center, do a teeny tiny bit of legwork before actually showing up, otherwise you'll find out that the classes are booked. For weeks.

Rule #9: Upon retreating to mountain condo, take a few DVDs or any kind of book that does not have the words "Spirituality" or "Self Help" in the title. Unless you want to crawl the walls with boredom and wonder how you ever thought that Mother's Day spent in solidarity could be wonderful.

Rule #10: Ask how much the massage will be BEFORE the massage is actually over.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Interview With A 13-Year-Old & A 5-Year-Old

The 13-year-old neighbor boy is going to take care of Molly, our dog, this weekend while my Mom and I go our respective ways. The boy, J, came over today to get the instructions from Mom on Dog Care 101, which, if you know anything about my mother, was an extensive blow-by-blow of Molly's every waking hour.

But I digress.

The conversation made an interesting turn from, "How often does she poop?" (that would be in reference to Molly, not my Mom) to "So, where is Ben's Grandpa?"

This is where I jump in: "Ben's Grandpa lives in Modesto. My mom and he are no longer married."

My mom adds: "We are divorced. Like Janeen is divorced. Do you remember her husband? The man who drove the fire truck to the house?"

The boy says: "Oh, yes! I remember him! Why isn't he your husband anymore?"

Mom: "He didn't want to be married anymore."

I'm not particularly enjoying this ride down memory lane so I make an excuse to check the laundry and move toward the house. The boy follows and once we're inside, he asks the million dollar question:

"Are you gonna get another husband?"

I stand there, with my mouth hanging open, struggling with how to tell this 13-year-old about countless dates, failed relationships, and the challenges of dating when you have to consider the co-mingling of families. I don't have to come up with an answer immediately because then he hits me with another zinger:

"Are you gonna have any more babies?"

I make another lame excuse about the laundry and then, finally, a normal question comes from the boy:

"Hey, can I use your computer while your gone?

Mom and I shared a good laugh after dinner, imagining the dinner time conversation at the neighbor's home this evening.

And on the subject of interviews, Ben came home from school with a Mother's Day card, which contained a cute little Q & A:

My mom: Janeen.
Thank God he didn't say 'Wicked Witch of the West!' or even worse: "I dunno."

My mom is: Fun!
Never in a million years would I assume that Ben thinks I am fun. Stable, compassionate, loving...yes, yes, yes. I almost always assume that "fun" is the adjective he reserves for his Dad.

My mom is: A good reader.
That I am, Ben. And I hope that you will be, too. You're well on your way and when you write that Pulitzer Prize winning masterpiece, remember that it was Mommy who insisted that we read for one full hour each night.

My mom is special because: She does so much stuff with me.
Really? Despite having a busy work schedule that doesn't allow as much time with Ben as I'd like, I'm happy beyond words to know that in his little mind, we actually do a lot of "stuff" together. And maybe, at least for a few days, I can let a little bit of the Mommy guilt go. I'm doing OK. I actually am.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Three Sleeps

Are there other parents out there who refer to nights as "sleeps?" As in, "only four sleeps left until the weekend!" Not unlike other nuances of parenting, I don't know how this "sleep" verbiage started and I don't refer to overnights as "sleeps" on a regular basis, but sometimes the reference just slips out of my mouth and makes Ben smile and then I think that it's a pretty darn cute way to refer to the transition from bedtime to morning.

My ex and I "swap" Ben every three days. Three days with me, three days with the ex and so it goes. Ben has the routine down and often reminds me that he still has remaining days with me, which of course warms my heart to no end.

But it seems like the schedule has been hitting us hard on the weekdays lately, which is always difficult for me because I work a few nights every week. I've shared the the disappointment before of leaving the family home in the late afternoon hours, only to return several hours later with Ben fast asleep and those early evening hours that I cherish so much, gone forever.
This last rotation, I found myself with Ben on a Saturday, Sunday and Monday night. No work for me on any of those nights! Three opportunities to transition my child from his busy day to a dreamy night.

It was very sweet to fall into a rhythm this week of enjoying dinner together, assembling Legos, reading a stack of books and lulling Ben off to sleep with a back rub.

I am reminded, yet again, of how fleeting these years are and of how much Ben craves and anticipates the steady and predictable nature of our nights together. And I have a new found appreciation for those blocks of time that come around every few weeks or so, when I have no nightly obligations except to be his mommy.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Thoughts on Mid-Day Spinning

I planned my make-up choices at 6:30am today based on two factors:

One, I have some sort of illness/disease/condition that has ravaged my lungs and is causing me to wheeze, rattle, and generally look like complete crap which was confirmed by my friend Kathie who left a message for me this morning, checking in, and stating the obvious: "You didn't look so good yesterday."

Two, I convinced myself that I needed to get my butt into Spinning class after my morning clients because, what better way to burn up a virus then to subject yourself to 60 minutes of endless sweat and muscle burn?

Cut to spin class. Twenty minutes in. My question to Loreal:
What is the point of waterproof mascara?

I was crying real tears of pain, not from the pain in my quads, but from the burning in my lungs, which, coupled with the sweat from the poorly ventilated room resulted in more black than one should ever place on one's face unless one is trying to cultivate an "Elvira meets very sad raccoon" look.

The black streaks on the white towel got me thinking about the feasibility of "squeezing in a little Spin session during lunch." And here's what I came up with:

Who, on a typical one-hour lunch break, has time to dedicate a full 60 minutes to the sweatiest cardio activity known to man?

And for those that do commit to the full 60 minutes, how is it possible to get a shower in before re-joining the office crowd or the after-school group or the population in general? Because, as any Spinner will tell you, skipping a shower post class is simply NOT an option. Unless you are planning to spend the afternoon at Loaves and Fishes.

What quicker way is there, other than Spin, than to ruin a perfectly good hair style, one that otherwise easily last 3 to 4 days with a quick sprinkle of dry shampoo and a spray of decent perfume?

When is there an opportunity to re-fuel? And let's be clear on this: Spinning makes you ravenous all day long so one little Zone Bar and a Gatoraide is just not gonna cut it.

Why is it, that after 60 minutes of mid-day spin, the promised endorphin "high" feels like the lowest of lows or, "I just got ran over by a really long train which also zapped every electrolyte from my body, leaving me completely susceptible to illness and disease and I can't imagine doing anything productive again for at least three days."

How can the gym whip up such delicious and balanced shake concoctions, which are, of course, perfect for the whole re-fueling challenge, and charge the sum of a mortgage payment?

I think I've convinced myself. Definitely sticking with Pilates. At least during lunch.