Mother Knows Best

If you know my mother at all, you know her favorite things in life are black coffee and anything chocolate, Home Goods and Lord & Taylor, oldies music and the Sunday funnies, her friends and family — especially her two daughters and five grandsons (her husband and sons-in-law pull a close second. Sorry, guys). She’s a devoted grandmother who drives three hours to Pennsylvania for 24-hour visits on the regular, always with cupcakes and some new kitchen gadget that she “thought [I] might like” in hand. She’s a supportive mother who lets me vent without judgement, complain without correction and brag without limitation. And she’s a faithful wife who has survived over 49 years of marriage and almost as many years of coaching with my dad. She’s not without her flaws, but I wouldn’t trade her anything — on most days, anyway.

She’d do anything for her grandsons — even don a turkey hat in public. I’m sure I’ll pay for using this photo, but how could I not?

I’ve written in the past about my mom and identified the traits I’ve inherited from her — everything from her hair color and big hips to the inability to tell a succinct story. I’ve also received sage advice and useful life skills from her, like how to pluck my eyebrows, make sauce (although I’ve since altered the recipe to accommodate food allergies/sensitivities) and where to find the best deals. But some teachings go deeper than basic hair removal and savvy shopping tips; They offer life lessons worth their weight in gold. Here are the five that resonate with me the most:

  1. Lick the spoon. When cooking, baking or making chocolate milk … It’s the best part. Translation: Treat yourself and do what makes you happy.
  2. Dress the part. Even if you’re not the best tennis player (runner, yogi, etc.), you can still look cute in the outfit. My interpretation: Be confident in who you are.
  3. Never arrive empty-handed. A small gesture goes a long way. Meaning, be kind and generous to others.
  4. Your house, your rules; My house, my rules. Decoded as setting and respecting boundaries, both your own and others.
  5. Try your best and know that you’re doing a better job than you think you are. No explanation needed, just words to live by. #believeinyourself

Is Grace Dewey the next Tony Robbins? Not exactly, but she is one smart cookie. I’m not gonna lie … She can also be a hot mess and a huge pain in my ass at times (thus the short, 24-hour visits), but her heart is usually in the right place. Today is her 75th birthday and Thursday is Thanksgiving — what better week to tell the blogosphere how wonderful my mom is and how grateful I am to have her?

Happy Birthday, Mom! Chocolate cake and Motown to celebrate tomorrow when I see you.

c. 1973. One of my favorite photos, but why am I dressed like a clown at the petting zoo? So much for dressing the part!

– LJDT

2017, Take 2 … or 12, But Who’s Counting?!

If you read my last blog post, then you know that at the beginning of the year I wasn’t exactly feeling the whole “New Year’s resolution/new year, new me” thing. Despite having just returned from a relaxing vacation in Jamaica, I was feeling stuck. While everyone else was posting inspirational quotes and memes on social media, I was whining and complaining about pretty much everything. I knew my negativity was spiraling out of control, so I gave myself a pass and claimed the first few days of the year to be a mental detox week. Then, after a week of outrageous bitchiness, I declared January 9 the new January 1. Finally ready to tackle the new year, I pushed the reset button and started over again … and then again … and then again. It was bad. I couldn’t string together more than two days at time when I didn’t lose my shit over something trivial. Pretty much, I was a hot mess most of January.

But 2017 is the year of the #nastywoman, as well as the year of the rooster (the most highly motivated animal in the Chinese zodiac), so I am not giving up.  I am resetting the 2017 button yet again and going to finally be that better version of myself. I know, I know … You’ve heard me say this before. But this time, I’m older and wiser. This time, I’m more dedicated and enlightened. This time, I have a plan because a goal without an action plan is just a wish.

Step one: Declutter my life. Get rid of whatever doesn’t bring happiness. For me, that’s everything from old files and outdated clothes to bad memories and toxic relationships. Score one for me and the local consignment shop.

Step two: Practice mindfulness. Slow down and breathe. Meditate every day. Listen better and react more rationally (less emotionally and selfishly, as per my usual M.O.), like a real adult.

Step three: Stay connected. I’m a better version of myself when I’m in synch with my husband and when I get time with my girlfriends. More of that in 2017!

Step four: Forgive quickly. Shit happens — Get over it and move on. Cut myself more slack when I mess up (daily) and give people the benefit of the doubt more often (hopefully, people really aren’t all assholes).

Step five: Try something new. Step out of my comfort zone and take a few risks (like zip lining in Jamaica). Push the limits and challenge myself, even if it’s scary.

Step six: Don’t back down. Say no without guilt. Fight for what I want and push back when needed, without being an asshole about it.

I’m going to attack this plan like I do my gym goals — with patience, practice, hard work and determination. Some days I’ll kill it and some days I won’t. But I’ll keep trying because where you focus your attention is where you focus your power. Hopefully, each day I’ll get a little closer to becoming that badass, zen chick I know I can be. I just have to take it one day at a time.

Okay, enough of this sappy, inspirational crap. Next post, it’s back to sass and sarcasm … You’ve been warned!

– LJDT

My Tuesday Truth

Sometimes, the universe is trying to tell you something.  Sometimes, you have to listen very closely to hear it. Sometimes, it smacks you in the face.

This morning, as I got the boys off to school and prepared for my day, I had the TV on.  I never have the TV on.  Really — Never.  It was tuned to Good Morning America and, while I was mostly ignoring it, my attention was grabbed when I heard Michael Strahan introduce a mommy blogger.  Intrigued — and frankly, a bit envious. How can I get on GMA as a mommy blogger? — I stopped to watch.  Ilana Wiles was talking about her new book and how she is embracing being just an average mom with an average life.  No labels, no judgement, no Pintrest-worthy family photos, crafts or meals.  Mediocrity at its best and not feeling bad about it.  Her trick is to maintain a selective memory, i.e., choosing to remember the positive and letting all the other crap fade away.  I feel ‘ya, sister!  I say it all the time to my girlfriends and I write about it in this blog, but I don’t always live it.  I compare, I judge, I complain, I bitch.  All too often, I focus on the negative instead of the positive.

Later in the day, I had a scheduled phone consultation with a holistic health and wellness coach.  She asked about my concerns, my goals and what’s holding me back … Um, where do I start?  We only have an hour, right?  So we talked about my autoimmune condition and my related food needs, my workout routines and writing schedule, my daily challenges and current coping mechanisms.  I told her how I start my day with a few yoga stretches and mindful meditation, but that zen feeling is gone as soon as the kids are up — Then it just snowballs from there.  When I confessed that I often feel burdened and overwhelmed, I was forced to face a few self-truths that I’m not especially proud of.  Like my unusually high standards for both myself and my family.  Add in the guilt I have for feeling unsatisfied, resentful or ungrateful at times, and it’s not a pretty picture.  Her advice was to release the guilt by changing my language and cutting myself some slack.  I need to practice using kinder, more positive words to frame my world so that I can begin to change my mindset.  Once I do that, I’ll feel the shift.

Wow!  It sounds corny, but when I hung up the phone, I felt lighter.  More at peace.  It was as if I was finally given permission to be nicer to myself.

The universe was sending me a message today and I heard it, loud and clear.  Hopefully, I remember to listen tomorrow.

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– LJDT

Calgon, Take Me Away!

Yesterday, I read in the February issue of Prevention magazine that washing dishes can lower your stress level by 27% (according to a recent Florida State University study).  If this is true, then I should be in a complete state of zen 24/7 … but I’m not.  Since I practically live at the kitchen sink and am still perpetually stressed, I’m calling bullshit on this study.

Apparently, the trick is to focus on the sensory details — the sound of the water, the smell of the soap, etc. — instead of the tedium of the chore itself.  Really?  I usually wash dishes for three basic reasons:

  1. They’re dirty.
  2. No one else is doing it.
  3. No one else does it well, or at least not the way I want it done (Okay, that’s not fair to my husband — it’s really just my kids who do a crappy job).

I do not wash dishes to relieve stress.  I do not wash dishes to feel good.  Washing dishes is a household chore, like folding laundry and taking out the trash, that just needs to get done.  That said, I will admit that some nights I relish the time it takes me to clean the pots and pans because it means I don’t have to supervise the kids’ nighttime routines.  Plus, the sound of the running water drowns out their voices so I can’t hear their bedtime protests or brotherly squabbles.  So maybe FSU is on to something … It’s really all about perspective.

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Unfortunately, as positive as this study may be, I doubt dish soap will be replacing wine any time soon for most moms I know.  But as someone who doesn’t drink, maybe I need to start viewing my sink time as “me” time.  Dawn dish soap can be the new Calgon … take me away!

– LJDT

2016 Will Be “Good Enough”

Happy New Year, everyone!

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Yes, I know I’m over a week late, but it beats last year when I posted 17 days late.  That’s progress, people.  The 2015 me would have been disappointed, resentful and even pissed that other obligations kept me from writing these past two weeks (thus my lack of postings).  But the 2016 me says, “Whatevs!” … Okay, “whatevs” is probably a stretch, but this year I am setting more realistic goals and cutting myself some slack when I slip up.  It’s all part of my new approach to life:  I am embracing my slacker side, letting go of the guilt and declaring 2016 the year of “good enough.”

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Don’t get me wrong — It’s not like I’m going to become a full-fledged slacker, throwing the color-coded family calendar/schedule in the trash and serving TV dinners every night.  However, my recent realization that I’m more of a Type A-minus personality than a Type A has allowed me to let go of some of the ridiculous standards that I held and the anxiety that it caused me.  It’s liberating, really.  I don’t have to be perfect.  I don’t have to do it all.  And I certainly don’t have to do it all perfectly.  It’s taken me 43 years to catch on, but I think I get it now.  Good enough is my new perfect.

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Despite my new slacker love, I still like to set personal goals for the new year.  Thanks to my new outlook, my goals will be more pragmatic and attainable this year.  For example, I know I won’t actually stop yelling, cursing and complaining (it’s in my DNA, like it or not), so instead I resolve to scream, swear and bitch less in 2016.  See?  Much more practical.  It’s all about balance.  Some days I’ll be good and some days I won’t, but whatever happens, it has to be good enough.

Case in point:  Tonight, I fed the kids pizza and salad for dinner so I could finish writing this post.  It wasn’t the usual healthy, clean meal I prepare from scratch most nights, but you know what?  It was good enough.

– LJDT

Rough and Tough and Moving On

This past week and a half has been rough.  Emotionally draining and exhausting … and unproductive to boot.  My floors are filthy, my refrigerator is empty and my blog has been stale all week as a result.  I’ve been so consumed by my own issues that I’ve neglected everything and everyone around me — except when I was a raving lunatic, screaming at someone for something trivial.  Can you say misplaced anger and anxiety?

It may not have been pretty, but I’m better for it.  The turbulence of the past 12+ days was the final step I needed to close an ugly chapter in my life.  It was tough, but necessary in order for me to move on.  What got me through was a lot of “me time” that included the following:

  • Mornings at the gym
  • The occasional afternoon nap
  • Dark chocolate covered almonds
  • Old school music played way too loud
  • Date night with my husband
  • Phone calls and texts with my besties
  • Open and honest communication with my family

Life isn’t always easy and bad things happen to good people.  Truth be told, everyone is dealing with something and sometimes we need to do what’s best for ourselves in order to survive.  Even if it seems selfish.  For me, writing this blog and going to the gym are what I need.  Sharing my thoughts makes me feel less alone, and being stronger physically makes me stronger emotionally.  I am a better person thanks to HPATC, Force Fitness and my computer.

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But I am also lucky to have a strong support system.  My husband is my rock.  He’s pragmatic and calm — the complete opposite of me.  He may not always verbalize what he’s feeling, but his actions speak volumes.  My girlfriends are my sisters.  They know when to make me laugh, when to let me talk and when to just let me be silent.  They each provide me with something different, and it’s always what I need.  My sister is my inspiration.  She knows how to let things go and she doesn’t dwell in the past.  I’m trying to be more like that, but it’s not always easy.  And my parents … They are simply amazing.  Their unconditional love and support was exactly what I needed to close this chapter and move forward.

So yes, it was a rough week, but I survived.  I’m back to being productive (I cleaned the house, bought groceries and wrote this post) and even upbeat.  In the words of Friedrich Nietzsche and Kanye West, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”  Word.

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– LJDT

Lauren and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Today sucked … until it didn’t.

I woke up 45 minutes late.  There was a huge pimple on the tip of my nose.  My protein shake splashed in my face.  I got indigestion from rushing through breakfast.  I backed my new car into the garage, damaging the side mirror.  I had no strength or  endurance at the gym (making it a horrible workout), and then I banged my previously jammed finger.

All this before 9AM.

I was so tired and so stressed that I couldn’t handle it.  I wanted to cry and scream.  I did cry and scream.  Then the song, “Bad Day” came on the radio, followed by Billy Joel’s “Pressure.”  It was as if the universe was talking to me — especially when Billy Joel sang, “… nowhere to look, but inside … ”  Wow!  Talk about a slap in the face.

I started thinking about my friend Edie who’s undergoing chemotherapy and my friend Denise who just finished.  Then I thought about my friend Bev who just lost her dad and my young cousin who had surgery this morning.  What the hell was I complaining about?  A bad workout?  A jammed finger?  A pimple?  Pathetic.  I was being pathetic.  I was having a bad day, not a bad life.

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I am lucky.  Very lucky.  And I’m healthy, so I hit the heavy bag in my basement, worked up a good sweat, showered, ate and moved on.  Grateful.  Thankful.  Satisfied.

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Later, when I burned my hand taking dinner out of the oven, I cursed.  Loudly.  Of course.  But then I let it go.  Tomorrow will be better … Nothing  a little sleep and pimple cream can’t fix.

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– LJDT

New Year, New Me?

Happy New Year!  I’m back.  I know, I know … I am really late, but it is still January, so “Happy New Year” still works.

The old me would have freaked out about posting this piece 16 days after the start of the new year.  The old me would have been a stressed-out, mean-to-those-around-her, grumpy lunatic who stayed up way too late in order to post on January 1.  But this is the new me.  The 2015 me … Calmer, happier, better.  Meet Lauren Tarr, 2.0.

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I see you rolling your eyes.  Less than three weeks into the new year and I think I’m a reformed woman?  Hardly.  The old me — the grumpy, stressed, overreacting me — has made a few appearances, but you know what?  I didn’t beat myself up for it.  I caught myself.  I apologized and moved on.  See?  Calmer, happier, better.

Last year, I publicly resolved to start a blog, learn to sew and stop cursing, yelling, complaining and planning.  Putting my resolutions out for the world to see was supposed to make me accountable and therefore successful.  It did, sort of.  I started my blog and I was able to mend a few small things with the sewing machine.  But that last one — to live in the moment more, to stop swearing and screaming, to quit complaining — was tough and I think I now know why.  I wasn’t a very happy person.  I was frustrated, bitter and even sad much of the time.  I focused too much on the negative.  I let daily stresses get the better of me.  I made mountains out of mole hills and felt sorry for myself more often than I should have.  Ridiculous, I know.  The crazy thing is, it took a pile of dog crap for me to see this clearly.

While we were in California during the holidays, my oblivious 8-year-old son stepped in dog poop and dragged it throughout my friend, Caitlin’s, home.  I was embarrassed, angry and belligerent.  Caitlin was calm, sweet and understanding.  She said, “It was an accident.  As long as no one was hurt, everything else can be fixed, replaced or wasn’t necessary anyway.  Shit happens.  Literally, in this case.”

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All smiles before the dog poop episode

You know what?  She’s right.  (THANK YOU, CAITLIN!)  Crappy things happen, but it’s not the end of the world.  Let it go and move on.

So this year, I’m taking a different approach to my New Year’s Resolutions.  The only pledge I am making is to be happy and cut myself some slack when I mess up (wait, is that one resolution or two?!).  Yes, I have still some tangible goals (lose 10 pounds before the summer, revamp my blog, get published on a national site, stop swearing once and for all, et cetera, et cetera), but if they don’t happen in a year’s time, that’s okay.  I’ll keep trying.  For now, I am just going to focus on being happy … Whatever that means to me on any given day.

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– LJDT

Thankful on Thursday … and Every Day

Every night, before I go to bed, I write in a gratitude journal as a way to end my day on a positive note.  Nothing profound or poetic.  Not even in full sentences.  Just a quick list of things that made me smile or gave me pause.

Most nights, it’s easy to rattle off two or three things because I have a lot for which to be thankful.  But some days I struggle to remember how lucky I am and that even the bad days could be much worse.  Some days suck and some people suck, but every day there is something — or someone — for which to be grateful.

69e8675ec58aef14981a66d19f7bb20fSince tomorrow is Thanksgiving, I want to dedicate this post to the people in my life for whom I am most grateful.  Specifically, …

  • my husband, who supports me and loves me, despite all my idiosyncrasies, issues and insecurities (I love him despite his faults, too, so I guess we’re even)
  • my kids, who make me proud and melt my heart (they do drive me crazy on a daily basis and even piss me off sometimes, but I wouldn’t trade them for the world)
  • my parents, who are two of the most generous, supportive people I know (and equally as opinionated and stubborn)
  • my sister, whose easy-going attitude reminds me to be more flexible and not sweat the small stuff (she’s also as generous, opinionated and stubborn as my parents)
  • my girlfriends, who are more like my sisters, therapists and playmates rolled into one (I just wish they lived closer)
  • my trainer and my fellow boot campers, who motivate me and keep me accountable (they also don’t judge how many times I pee during class)
  • my blog readers, whose compliments and words of encouragement keep me writing

Of course, I am also grateful for my health and my home, and the fact that we have food in the fridge and money in the bank.  How could I not be thankful?  But in addition to the usual suspects of health, wealth and family, I am appreciative of a few less-important things that make my life a little bit happier (and easier) each day.  Notably, …

  • Carpools … every busy mom needs a reliable carpool or two (or five)
  • Friendly neighbors with kidsitting (that’s what we call babysitting for older kids) teenagers and helpful neighbors who sew better than me … thanks again, Tracy
  • Satellite radio … because sometimes a girl needs to kick it old school
  • Heated car seats … two words: warm buns
  • Under eye concealer … do I really need to explain this one?
  • Peppermint green tea and dark chocolate covered almonds … delish!
  • My tall, red Hunter rain boots … with calves finally small enough to wear these, I no longer dread rainy days
  • My food processor, NutriBullet 900, mandolin and zucchini noodler … four small appliances that see as much action as a college co-ed

My list may sound shallow, but if it makes me happy or makes me better, gives me strength or gives me peace — be it important or petty, big or small, tangible or intangible — I am thankful for it this Thanksgiving … and every day thereafter.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

– LJDT

Down and Dirty in PA

Five miles of hilly terrain.  Seven newly acquainted teammates.  Twelve unknown, muddy obstacles.  Hundreds of face-painted women dressed in matching outfits.  This does not describe my usual Saturday afternoon.  This is not my comfort zone.

I am not generally one to do something wild.  New experiences make me uneasy.  The unknown makes me anxious.  Throw in the fact that I don’t like crowds, mud or running long distances, and it’s a wonder that I entered Mudderella PA 2014 at all.  But I did.  I put on my big girl underpants, a pair of old running sneakers and did something crazy … I got down and dirty and had a blast at Mudderella.

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I have to admit, I had butterflies in my belly before we started.  I go to a kick-ass boot camp three days a week with an awesome trainer and I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, but I was still nervous.  I didn’t know my teammates well, I had no idea what the obstacles would be like and I stopped running distances almost two years ago.  Would I be able to handle this?  Was I tough enough?  Confident enough?

As the #mudderella #wave9 group of runners warmed up, I looked around and saw women of all shapes and sizes, ages and ethnicities.  Some of these women looked like they couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded, but they were hootin’ and hollerin’ and rearing to go.  If they could do it, I thought, so could I.  This was a fun run, after all.  You start and finish with your team.  No winners, no losers.  Just hundreds of women “owning their strong” as the Mudderella theme dictates.

So at 11:30 when the whistle blew (actually, I think it was just a woman yelling “GO!,” but you get the idea), I threw caution to the wind and went for it.

I climbed up nets and over walls.  I ran through mud and over hills.  I crawled under wires and even underground (into a dark hole like a groundhog!).  I carried a teammate on my back and let her carry me .  I cheered on fellow racers and pulled strangers out of mud pits.  I ran the entire course, all five hilly miles of it (thank you, 20-something tri-athlete Jenny, for keeping me motivated) and held hands with my new friends as we crossed the finish line together.

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a full-body dunk washed away much of the mud just moments before crossing the finish line

I got muddy and wet and I may have even peed myself a little (blame it on childbirth … damn kids!), but I did it.  I even handled the group rinse station and communal changing tent like a champ.  With boobies and bums abound, there was no room for modesty, just quick action.  I credit my many dressing room experiences at Loehmann’s and Century 21 for my prowess — you New Yorkers know what I’m talking about.

All in all, I rocked it.  No, I crushed it.  I stepped out of my comfort zone and owned my strong … and then some.  We all did.

Would I do another mud race?  I don’t know … It did take two showers to feel clean again (and three washes to get the mud off my clothes).  But I do know that the next time I’m faced with a new situation, if I believe I can handle it, I will.  I just have to own my (inner) strong.

A quote from the gym, but apropos for all of life's challenges

A quote from the gym, but apropos for all of life’s challenges

– LJDT