Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mommypants is live, live, all the way live

Today is the day.

I've spent countless hours emailing my designer working on my new site, and I'm excited and thrilled to announce that Mommypants is now here!

I have been at SpecialSauce in the House since 2006, when I decided maybe I'd try this kind of virtual-scrapbooky type of thingy. And, since I'm a writer by profession, I wanted a place to feel creative again. Because really? Building mega block towers didn't really satisfy that itch.

I want to thank all of you who have been here since the beginning, and all of you who have joined in this place over the years.

I'd love love love it if you settle in with me at my new digs. It might take a little while to get used to it. You will have to re-follow me over there. Because I have no clue how bring you all with me.

So come on over - and don't forget YOUR mommypants!*

*unless you're a guy, which in that case? You can just look at our asses. Wear whatever you want.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Not Looking

The wives and girlfriends waited.

They were young and beautiful and they stood each night, outside the clubhouse, waiting for their men to exit in a cloud of sweet-smelling aftershave.

First, though, they got to see me come through the door.

This was 1993. Minor league ball in a minor league town in upstate New York. And those women? They were happy to see me. They smiled and came up to me in a little group and conspiratorially asked what certain players were like.


Truth is, I couldn't tell them. Because back then, when I first covered professional baseball full-time, I didn't know a lot, but I knew this: I didn't want to know what they looked like naked. Frankly, I was mortified by the whole thing. Yet it was the only way I could do my job.

So I learned how to Not Look.

Ironic, considering journalism is all about taking in all the details of a scene. But when it came to the clubhouse, it was my m.o.

I spent an entire career Not Looking. Once I started covering Major League Baseball I got to Not Look at players from the team I covered, their opponents if I had to venture into the visiting clubhouse, and, on really bad days, a very hairy coach (I'm talking shoulders, back and I don't want to even imagine where else).

There was the player in Florida who always wore a towel - over his shoulder - when strolling across the clubhouse. We referred to him as "Naked Boy."

There was the old guy outside a clubhouse in spring training who told me I couldn't go in because there were NAKED MEN inside there. Don't worry, I told him. I'm Not Looking.

There was the player on an opposing team who gyrated behind me as I interviewed one of his teammates. I'm pretty sure he had a teeny, tiny little penis. Not that I was looking. But some of those things you don't have to see to know.

The worst part was the waiting. Standing in the clubhouse and waiting. Because those players? They don't necessarily appear when you need them to. Maybe you need one pre-game quote from one guy. You've got about an hour before they go on the field for batting practice. You get there the second the clubhouse opens (which is 3 1/2 hours before game-time). The player is nowhere in sight. Or possibly you see your guy right away and he says, "I'll be back in a few. I just have to get taped/eat/work with an instructor/watch film/take a shit. I'll be back in a few."

Only, he doesn't come back. But you don't know that at the time. So you stand there. And you're not allowed to sit on the couches. You just stand. It's not as bad in the clubhouse of the team you cover. Because you can always find either another player or writer to talk to. But when you're in the visiting clubhouse? And you know nobody?

Yeah. A lot of Not Looking going on. But YOU are being looked at. Women are still somewhat of a novelty. And players? Dogs. Not all, but enough. So they will stare. They will elbow the guys sitting next to them so that they, too, will stare. They will make comments - out loud - about your personal appearance. They will speculate as to what you are doing in there (obviously, you are Not Looking but they think you are TOTALLY checking them out). They might even try to start a conversation with you. You smile, a little. But not too much. Because you are too busy Not Looking while at the same time, constantly scanning the room looking for the player you need.

Are you following all this?

Another problem, since I was one of two women in the country doing this job, was all my colleagues - and competition - were men. So if a player came out of the shower and went to his locker to dress, the male writer could just walk up and start interviewing him.

While I waited, fuming, for the player to put on his drawers.

The nice thing was, for the most part, the guys on the beat with me respected that. So no one would approach the player til it was "safe." Some players didn't mind wearing a towel while talking to reporters. Others preferred to be dressed.

The other reporters said they didn't really like talking to naked men, either. I mean, it's kind of weird. Imagine if you worked at, say, a bank, and all the customers were naked? AWKWARD! I mean, talk about giving a new meaning to withdrawal and deposits (hardee har har).

Even now, long after my Not Looking days ended as I left the clubhouse for the final time, people still ask me about it. They don't want to know about covering Mark McGwire's home run chase. Or about the 2002 Angels, who won the World Series. No. They want to know about what it was like - in the clubhouse. Was it embarrassing? Who had the biggest schlong? Did I secretly check out the players? Is that why I became a sportswriter in the first place?

The last one's easy. I love baseball. I love watching it, I love learning about it and I loved being around the best players in the world. I also loved the players' individual stories, where they grew up, what they overcame. I watched them do things at the plate or in the field that no one ever had before. I listened to them cry after the death of a father, a teammate, a child. I saw them come together as a family, at times dysfunctional, but other times, amazingly close. And then? I got to write about it.

It wasn't always great. Covering baseball is a grind. There's a lot of boring stuff. A lot of very unglamorous travel and bad press box food. There's pressure and deadlines and lying awake at night wondering what the competition has that you don't (at least, that's how it was, before reporters had to blog). There's putting up with assholes, asking tough questions, getting screamed at and, yes, harassed.

I learned a lot. About baseball. About myself.

One thing I never found out? Who, in fact, has the biggest schlong.

Because although my eyes were wide open, I was Not Looking.

Mama's Losin' It

This post is part of Mama Kat's writers workshop. The prompts I chose were "It happened at work" and "Who first told you that it’s not nice to stare? Write about a time you stared when you maybe shouldn’t have, or a time when sometime stared at you.”

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

We went to Palm Springs for a short getaway

Sawyer's job was to keep an eye on the temperature

He was pretty busy

From all the way in the very back seat

He yelled for me to take this last one..

Seeing that? Almost as fun for a 6 1/2 year-old as swimming in the pools. And getting to watch Spongebob on TV in the hotel room.

Monday, June 14, 2010

It moved me

So I'm sitting here, completely engrossed in this blog, when I suddenly feel a big jolt, and the house starts rocking.

(Okay, I admit, as I type this, I'm singing, "If the house starts a rockin' don't bother knockin'")

Let's just say my fight-or-flight system is in top form. Because right now? I'm still a little on edge.

Thing is, I grew up in Connecticut. We don't have earthquakes there. Sure, we have blizzards, hurricanes and even the rare tornado. But THE GROUND DOESN'T MOVE.

When I came out here 11 years ago (omfg is been eleven years already? That's not possible, because that would make me...ah yes, I am that old), I'd never felt an earthquake. And so it went. It seemed whenever one hit out here, I was out of state, traveling for work.

Then, after I became a full-time stay-at-home mom, there'd be an earthquake when I'd just stepped outside to get the mail - and I wouldn't feel it. This actually happened a few times, so the first time I felt one - when Sawyer was probably just over a year - I had to confirm with my friend that it had actually been an earthquake.

I finally felt a good one about a year ago, but since, others shook the earth - like on Easter - and it didn't move me. Just everybody else.

Tonight, thought? Freaked me out. I was so lost in the words of this amazing woman and her life with ALS, that when the earthquake hit, it was REALLY a shock.

Sawyer came bursting out of his room shouting, "An earthquake!"

My big fat lazy old dog? She actually GOT UP! I told you it was big!

Thankfully, Sawyer, who was literally shaking, didn't wake his brother or sister up. And soon after being hugged and reassured, he headed back to bed.

I, meanwhile, had goosebumps. I still have that icky feeling in my gut of too much adrenaline.

We're all fine, otherwise. It was a 5.7. A decent size.

You know what? I'm good now. I'm fine with missing all the earthquakes that everyone talks about.

Hold me?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Run Away

Well, there goes THAT excuse.

Bought me some new running shoes today. I had a gift card my friends gave me on my 40th birthday - yes, that would be when I was pregnant with X.

I finally decided, on the two year anniversary of running my last marathon, it was time to get new shoes.

I hope they will propel me to new heights of motivation. Because right now? It's lacking. Sorely lacking. I can't seem to get on any schedule. X can't decide what time he wants to get up (anywhere from 5:45-6:50 a.m.). And then he wants to nurse.

That's right. He's not weaned yet. Judge away.

The lack of routine is killing me. I used to meet with a running group three times a week at 5:30 a.m. Then I'd do a spin class the other two days at 5:45. Saturdays, I'd do my long run with my running partners at 7.

I'm supposed to meet them next Saturday to run a little of their 12 miler. They wondered if I could join them for six. That would be a no. The most I've run since having X is four. I might be okay to squeeze out five miles before collapsing. We'll see.

Thing is, I'm in a bit of a slump. I'm having a tough time falling asleep at night, even though I feel exhausted during the day. I know exercise will make me feel better, and yet...

It's the old Funk conundrum: I know getting my ass out for a run would make me feel so much better, but I can't seem to do it.

I'm considering signing up for a half-marathon to force myself to train. But what if that isn't enough? I'd just beat myself up for not doing it and wasting the money. And that? That would suck.

I miss it. I miss being strong enough to run 10, 12, 16 miles. I miss being physically spent and exhilarated at the same time. I miss the feeling of pavement hard under my feet. Of a good sweat that leaves my skin caked with salt like the rim of a margarita glass.

I need to remember this. I need to want this enough again.

I need to run.

Friday, June 11, 2010

My soundtrack

I read Mama Kat's prompts for her writer's workshop this week and chose 30 things I vow to do this summer. But I also wanted to do her prompt about the soundtrack of my life.

We all have certain songs that transport us to specific moments. I mean, if I hear the Zoom theme song, suddenly I'm four and pretending I'm Edith and have a Boston accent. Or I hear Beyonce's All the Single Ladies and it's two years ago and I'm in a hotel room watching her video on TV - and Sage starts shaking it (in a CUTE way, I swear!).

Anybooty, these are the songs that stick me in a particular place in time. My soundtrack.

Top of the World, The Carpenters:  I am 5. I walk on a street near our house with my sister, who's 11, and her friends. I feel awesome because I'm hanging with the Big Kids. We walk, and sing, at a volume that belongs only to the young or the very drunk, "I'm on the top of the world looking, down on creation and the only explanation I can find, is the love, that I've found, every since you've been around, your love puts me at the top of the world." And that's exactly how happy I am. Until we see a dead bird in the gutter at the side of the street. I, for some reason, poke it with my finger. Everyone tells me how disgusting I am and that I probably now have rabies. I'm devastated and slink back home.

Day O, Harry Belafonte: I am 7 or 8. I am obsessed with Harry Belafonte. Obsessed! I find an old record of my parents and play it over and over again. "A beautiful bunch of ripe bananas!" Not sure if they do this at the new place, but when I used to go to the old Yankee Stadium, sometimes they'd play just the "DAY O" part and it would echo, right before the crowd yelled it. Always made me smile.

Hard to Say I'm Sorry, Chicago: I am 13. I put this 45 on repeat, turn off the lights and close the door of our family room. I lie on the couch and listened to this over and over and over. I loved it. Loved it, even though it did not at all apply to anything in my life. Finally my brother complains because really? No one should ever have to listen to this song. Especially 91 times in a row. My parents make me turn it off. What they must have thought..

Live from Hollywood Bowl, the Beatles; Doors Greatest Hits: All was not lost when I was 13. I discover both the Beatles and the Doors. In eighth grade my best friend Paula and I do a report on the Beatles. We make paper bag puppets for John, Paul, George and Ringo and dance them around to I Wanna Hold Your Hand from the Hollywood Bowl album. How fun was THAT? Let's just say the Doors fit in with my mood swings back in those days.

More Than a Feeling, Boston: I am 16. I love me some Classic Rock. Still do. I wear out my Boston tape listening to it constantly in the car. We cruise around - I wasn't driving, I swear! - and drink ice cold Budweiser and play area guitar and blast this. So now when I hear this song I'm taken back...and then I burp.

Faithfully, Journey: I am 17, hanging out at the Homecoming dance. I wear a soft rose-pink Laura Ashley dress that was my most favorite dress ever. I feel pretty. I don't dance with anyone, just hang on the bleachers. And watch everyone else make out and wonder if it would ever be me.

Crazy on You, Heart: I'm 19. A guy friend who lives above me in my dorm blasts this on particular mornings. We know it's time to wake up and start drinkin'. I still remember exactly how it sounded, muted by the floor/ceiling separating us, but loud enough to make me bolt upright. It may or may not have actually been noon rather than the morning..

Diamond Girl, Stevie B.; Brown-eyed Girl, Van Morrison; Just a Friend, Biz Markie; U Can't Touch This, MC Hammer; You Dropped a Bomb on Me, Gap Band; All Around the World, Lisa Stansfield; Fascinated, Company B., Cecilia, Simon and Garfunkel; Red Red Wine, UB40; Add it Up, Violent Femmes: More college. Different friends, different bars, different music. I could tell you about each song, but that would be VERY boring. You're welcome. Let's just say they involved drinking and dancing and loud drunk singing. It was college, y'all!

These are the Days, 10,000 Maniacs; True Companion, Marc Cohn: I am 32. I wear a beautiful ivory dress, with beadwork on the bodice and a band a silk satin around the hem. I peer down from the balcony as the music starts. The setting sun reflects gold sparks on the ocean. The people seated below radiate love for us and are there, together, from all over the country to share our happiest day. "Never before and never since, I promise, has the whole word been one as this.." ... The sun has just set, and I hear the sound of the waves from the beach 20 yards away. It is still warm. In the high 70s, maybe, and I can't believe how gorgeous the orange-red-pink sunset was. How perfect the ceremony. And now I hear the words, "Baby I've been searching" and David and I are dancing, and crying, and dancing. We're married. Each to our true companion.

Hark the Herald Angels Sing: I am 34. Sawyer is born Dec. 13. The next day, I'm in the hospital room with a friend. David and her husband leave so my friend can help me with the whole nursing thing. A nurse comes in and mentions carolers are walking around, and did I want to keep my door open?  I soon hear them singing about glory to the newborn king. I'm not Christian or religious or anything, but I look at my beautiful, perfect newborn. MY newborn king, and the tears fall.

Beautiful Day, U2; Sexyback, Justin Timberlake; Chump, Green Day; Pump It, Black Eyed Peas; Alive, Pearl Jam: I am 38 and training for my first marathon. These are the songs that get me through another mile, another hill, another few feet. These songs are still on my shuffle today, and they motivate me to go faster, harder or, some days, just to finish.

Don't Stop Til You Get Enough, Michael Jackson: I'm 41. I'm hold X. Sage and Sawyer play. David starts the music, and just like that, it's a family dance party. We spin, we shimmy, we booty shake. We sing. X screams with delight. Or maybe it's with fear from my singing. The older kids want to be picked up and bounced and spun, too. The stress of the day melts away. We are laughing and singing and dancing til we're breathless. Then we do it again.

Thunder Road, Bruce Springsteen: I am 17. 21. 30. 37. 41. I am driving, and roll down my window to let the breeze blow back my hair at just the right moment. This is absolutely my all-time favorite song. Why? Because it has the best lyric ever written: "Show a little faith there's magic in the night, you ain't a beauty but hey you're alright." You may be all, "The eff?" at that, but it speaks to me. And that's what music's about, right? How it touches us and moves us and makes us feel.

I'd also like to take this moment to thank my husband for attending two shows with me, despite him not being a fan. Because he knows how much I love The Boss, and how his music makes me feel. That's what love is, people. That's what love is.

So I'm dying to know: what's on YOUR soundtrack?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

16 and Lost at Sea


Remember when you were 16? I do. I do, and let me tell you, it wasn't pretty. Specifically, I wasn't pretty. That's what everyone told me, anyway.

Let's talk about my 16th birthday party. You may or may not know that my birthday is New Year's Eve. I decided to throw a party. I excavated our basement. I wrapped streamers around the bannister and support posts. I brought down the stereo, speakers and all my records. That's right, I said records.

I bought snacks and drinks. Well, my mother did, but I picked them out.

And then? The most popular guy in our class decided to have a party the same night, and most of my "friends" decided they would go there. And not to my house. With my streamers and records and peanut M&Ms. Actually, my best friend, her boyfriend, and one other (female) friend showed up. We had fun, mostly discussing the party that we WEREN'T at. Then the Popular Guy and another girl drove on over to see what was happening at my house.

Which was a whole lot of nothing.

Popular Guy might have felt bad.

I ate more peanut M&Ms.

Sixteen spanned the second half of my junior year and the first half of senior year. During that time I discovered I really liked beer. A lot. Pot? Liked it too. I was experimenting, and since I didn't have any candidates for, you know, sex, I had to confine my forays to alcohol and marijuana. Also, breaking curfew and daydreaming over unrequited crushes.

Basically, I didn't know who I was. I did some really stupid shit. Problems that seemed so big then were, of course, not really so big after all.

This is why it's tough for me to put myself in the place of Abby Sunderland. She is the 16 year-old who is trying to circumnavigate the globe, solo, on a sailboat. As I type, she's lost at sea. Her family believes she is still alive; she's equipped to handle many eventualities and the boat's alarm that is triggered if it goes below15 feet of water has not activated.

Her brother, Zac, made the trip a year ago.

I am not the parent of a 16 year-old. I was 16, though, and there's no way I could've done what she's doing. The vastness of the ocean, being so alone. Alone, with towering seas and howling winds.

I am now a parent, and though my kids are still little, I can't imagine allowing them to do this. Letting them drive a car some day is enough to put me in a panic. There has been a lot of debate - as there was when she embarked on this trip out of Los Angeles in January - over her parents' decision to let her take this journey. You can read an interview with her mom at the time here.

The mother basically argues that children should be allowed to pursue their passion. That they don't have to follow the traditional path. They are Christians and quote "G-d's will." The family - Abby is one of seven children, and the mother is pregnant - lived on a boat for three years. The father builds boats for a living. Abby is as experienced a sailor as a 16 year-old can be.

But she's 16. Sixteen.

There is something to be said for facing fear, for overcoming obstacles. But can't that be found elsewhere? Does it take a solo sailing trip around the world? And can we not encourage our children and nurture their passion without putting their lives at risk?

I'm sure Abby is mature for her age, and an amazing young woman. There comes a time, however, when it is the parents' responsibility to say, "No." She has a lifetime to push her limits. We complain about how kids are growing up too fast. Maybe sometimes we give them too much credit to handle things the way an adult would.

Because they can't. And they shouldn't.

We give our kids wings, but we also give them feet.

I hate judging other parents. I do. But seriously? I don't understand this. Abby wanted to set the record as the youngest person ever to do the solo trip. A thrilling goal, but really? Once engine trouble forced a stop in South Africa, she no longer had a shot at it. Disappointing, I'm sure, but in the scheme of things, she certainly moved forward.

At 16, we're invincible, aren't we? Invincible, and frankly, we have no sense of our own immortality. Parents know better. That's our job. Calculated risks. You want your kids to dream big, and then you get to figure out how to make them come true - while also keeping them safe.

I don't get why waiting a few years would change the unbelievable experience that she would have of a solo circumnavigation. She'd be a little older, a little more experienced, a little more ready.

Abby's parents will continue to be slammed for this. Maybe deservedly.

I keep going back to this, though: Abby is their baby. Their baby, lost at sea.

Update: Abby has been found ALIVE and well on her boat. She has made radio contact but the nearest vessel is still about a day away. I am SO thankful she is okay.
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