Heather L. Barmore
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    Change In Action at Babble Voices

    Tuesday
    May062014

    Another Story About my Mother

    (Originally posted at TueNight.com)


    "A daughter is a mother’s gender partner, her closest ally in the family confederacy, an extension of her self. And mothers are their daughters’ role model, their biological and emotional road map, the arbiter of all their relationships." ~Victoria Secunda

    Four days prior to Christmas, I was the idiot running around Target with a cart full of decorations to put up around my home because apparently I need to invest in a calendar to tell me that a major holiday is fast approaching and perhaps I should think about, you know, participating in someway.

     

    This past holiday season was the first in which I had to take the lead. There was no mother around to purchase a tree and make sure the cat didn't try to use it as a jungle gym. She wasn't there to put out the photos my younger brother and I had taken with Santa or to tell me which ornaments should go where. I don't know about your mother but my mother always just made the spirit of Christmas and all that encompasses it happen. Like, one day I would come home and BOOM! JOY TO THE WORLD with an animatronic singing Santa and holly and gluten free sugar cookies. Not having Mom at Christmas is simply one moment of many where her presence was missed, often times painfully.

    The true miracle of it all was the way in which she was able to make magic while ensuring that my brother and I went to school, showered, ate and didn't murder each other on Jesus' birthday. And then she, like, went to work and took care of herself at some point

    It's the simple, selfless act of others — in particular when it comes to parents — that go unnoticed. After my mother's retirement in July, she opted not to retreat to a beach town but instead to New York City to pursue her longtime goal of getting her Master's in Journalism. A goal she had long put on hold because of the needs of her children. There was also her 20-plus year career at a teachers’ union where I was fortunate to work with her for six years.  She always had my back in the office and in the world of politics having someone to trust implicitly is a blessing.

    For 30 years she was just there whenever I needed her. I have not begrudged her for chasing her dreams, especially after a majority of her life has been spent taking care of others. But without her here an Albany ripped a hole in my heart as the dynamics of our relationship have changed. I miss her badly not just in the office, but the ability to call her everyday and receive a response back.

    Now I text on a Tuesday morning and receive a response late that evening with my mother lamenting about how much work she has to do or the all-nighter she just pulled. I find myself giving her advice about social media platforms and blogging. Her first several weeks at Columbia involved me painstakingly teaching her how to add HTML links to her documents. Then there was that day where she wanted the history of Twitter in 38 seconds and I was like, NO. I JUST CANNOT. NO.

    “I taught you!”, she said to my frustrated self. “I helped you with your homework!”

    It’s true, she did. But the dynamics had only just changed and I am far better at taking help than giving it.

    The role reversal we have discovered over the past nine months has been a growing experience for us both. I have yet to write about it and even this isn’t the entire story because right now it seems too personal and not only my story to tell.

    I hate how cliché it is to say that I am beaming with pride for a woman who at one point found herself at the end of her marriage with two young children. I am sure that in that moment of losing what she thought would be the rest of her life, she wanted to give up. I sure as hell would have. But she never did. She harnessed what I am sure was one of the most painful moments of her life and instead of curling up in the fetal position, she  kept moving.

    The biggest lesson here is not that I can be without my mommy or that it’s interesting to be the teacher instead of the student; the lesson here is what every parent wants to give their child is the ability to see that it will and can get better.  They say that motherhood is an endless loop of walking with your heart outside of your body and a burden of needing to know that the person (or people) you love most in this world are OK — even when they’re not physically with you. I have witnessed my mother go above and beyond, ensuring her children are happy while doing something for herself. Of course I think my mother is the definition of beauty and all other wonderful adjectives but also of the word ‘hustle’. She is everything I could ever hope to be.

    So, back to Christmas. When Mom arrived home from New York City, she was welcomed back with a tree and a colorful wreath on the door. Her favorite foods were in the fridge including the Diet Dr. Pepper I had to go to four stores to find. She immediately went into mother mode and wanted to know about the dishes in the sink and I admonished her for being an ungrateful teenager who didn’t appreciate my efforts to make Christmas perfect.

    “Making Christmas special is work! Appreciate ME!”, I said, exhausted. “Can’t you see what I did for you!”

    I yelled as I dragged a tree from the driveway into my living room.

    She laughed. “Yes, yes I can”, she said.

    Christmas morning I found presents under the tree — presents that were more than adequate for an adult who should have a family of her own by now. And, just like every year before, my mother carefully picked out everything, not because I had asked but because she knew what I wanted and needed down to the Bikram yoga towel. Despite it all, she continues to be the mother who knows just what to do and say.“

    “Thankful” does not begin to cover how I feel about her right now. Fortunate beyond measure. Blessed. And, most importantly, loved.

    Thursday
    May012014

    This is 30

    "There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." ~Anaïs Nin

    (Read this post while enjoying my 30th birthday playlist. I think it speaks truth to adulthood and memories and that you’re never too old to dance around your living room.)

    This past October, with very little fanfare, I turned 30. I wish I could say that I entered into 30 gracefully, head held high, ready to take on this new decade. Instead I went in kicking and screaming and grabbing onto 29 for dear life. There was a relentless feeling of all of the things I *should* have done by getting to this point in life often based on what was ‘average’ by societal norms as opposed to the life I have had the pleasure of living. That “pleasure of living” line? That’s totally something a 30 year old would say because I turned 30 and suddenly I was all, would you like some life advice? I have plenty to spare. 30 makes you wise.

    I suppose I can blame much of my anxiety on the aspirational nature of sharing on Facebook. There were and continue to be all of these friends with their engagement photo shoots, creative baby announcements and weddings plucked straight from Pinterest. Of course I cannot help but compare myself to others though relatively speaking, I am successful. Relative success did not and has not stopped me from thinking that despite the things I have done, there are many, MANY more things that I’d still like to do. Plans started to form and I have since accepted and been open to the idea of change.

    Anyway, despite my internal grumblings about 30 a party was held. A small gathering of friends near and far who are very dear to me who came together for a full bar, delicious cheeses and cured meats. Surprisingly there are no photos, which I have heard is the sign of a good time. It was exactly what I wanted: togetherness. Laughter. Introducing friends who attended my 5th birthday party to my yoga teacher to other bloggers to my coworkers all while the perfect soundtrack led us into midnight. Midnight on my actual birthday where I was treated to a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday. Even Peg was there. I spent the following day watching Mob Wives and eating leftover spinach and artichoke dip. I could not have asked for a better day.

    Now that I am six months into my 30’s I can tell you that it’s fine. I don’t feel any different physically but - and this might sound crazy - I am more in tune with myself, my wants and, my needs. The struggle that kept me up at nights leading to 30 because why didn’t I have a house/husband/baby? That struggle was not real. So, here’s what I’ve learned:  

    1. Just because everyone has a baby/husband/house does not mean that I want a baby/husband/house. I do not want a house. Not at all.

    2. It is entirely possible for your baby making parts to freak out when you see a newborn.

    3. Men still suck but I feel like I’m on the cusp of finding a good one. There are currently no prospects but if you know of one, you know where to find me.

    4. Say I love you and mean it.

    5. It’s OK to go against the grain.

    6. Never go anywhere without red lipstick.

    7. Gray/Black/Navy business suits? No thank you. Bring on the fantastic brightly colored dress with the pockets.

    8. Enjoy karaoke. Enjoy it so much that you find a song to make your own. (Lauryn Hill’s ‘Killing Me Softly’). Rock it out.

    9. It’s OK to discuss mental illness. Encourage it. Put a name and a face to the struggle of millions.

    10. Don’t always expect the worst but do expect the unexpected.

    11. Loyalty is a funny thing both in act and in perception.

    12. It’s OK to cry and then cry again.

    13. Make time for yourself.

    14. Parents are human beings. Amazing, wonderful, generous, thoughtful human beings.

    15. How do you get a bikini body? Put a bikini on it.

    16. Don’t react first and think later. Think first, react later.

    17. You don’t have to like everyone and not everyone is going to like you.

    18. Watch C-SPAN during the day. Watch Marriage Bootcamp: Bridezillas by night.

    19. Know what you want. Think about how to get there.

    20. Patience really is a virtue.

    21. Time really does move faster as we age.

    22. Perspective is a wonderful thing but remember that it’s all relative.

    23. Don’t be afraid to flirt.

    24. It’s best to observe without speaking. It’s better than speaking without observing.

    25. Never regret doing the right thing.

    26. Saying goodbye will always ache but channel that energy into making those who have left proud.

    27. Take wisdom, advice and guidance from others. Even if it’s not used right away store it and don’t be afraid to share when the time is right.

    28. Even at my worst I am loved.

    29. It will always be easier to let go and let God.

    30. 30 is not the end of anything. It’s another beginning.

    and 31. Everything is better with your friends but don’t be afraid to spend a few moments alone.

     

    Thursday
    Apr172014

    Bikini Madness

    "It took me a long time not to judge myself through someone else's eyes." ~Sally Field

    Do you watch Girls? If so, do you remember the episode where the girls of Girls head to the North Fork for some R&R and Hannah spends the entire day in that green bikini? I have watched that episode from start to finish 19 times and it was around the 11th viewing when my friend Ali posted to Facebook: “I cannot stop thinking of Hannah’s green bikini” and I popped up out of my constant recline (what? Whenever I’m home I lose all ability to sit up straight) and said “YES” which deserved all caps because I realized that I had to watch that episode over and over not because of the writing or the storyline or empathy on the progression/regression of friendship as an adult but because homegirl wore a green bikini for an entire episode. Never mind my questions on comfort and chafing but a woman who is not a size two rocked that bikini all over Long Island and I wanted to give her a high five through my TV screen.


    Obviously, I’ve seen a woman in a bikini before. I’ve even seen a larger woman in a bikini before and you know what my thought is? Get it, girl. Will I be putting my ample ass into a bikini? NO. Because AMPLE. I tell myself that I shouldn’t be in a two piece bathing suit. I don’t have the body for it. I can do yoga every day for the rest of my life and while I will always be able to bend over and place two palms on the floor I will never be lithe and graceful. I look at photos of myself or take a peek in a full-length mirror and say that perhaps I should do all a favor and stay away from anything that shows my mid-section. My body is very apple shaped, everything goes straight to my stomach; no one needs to see all of that.  So, when Ali mentioned Lena Dunham in a green bikini my natural response was this: I AM BUYING ONE.

    And then I had an outer body moment where I was like, um, what? Who said that? And then I add exclamation points and went directly to the Forever 21 website and PURCHASED A BIKINI. And then it arrived and I was still like, this is not happening but we know F21’s return policy, or lack thereof, so I found myself the not-so-proud owner of the bombshell top in neon coral and the retro glam bottoms in black. And then I put that sucker in my bag and brought it to Miami because why waste a perfectly good bathing suit even when you are going to a place known for it’s supremely beautiful people. I don’t know what they put in the water there but no one’s thighs touch in Miami and all the men have muscles and a six pack. As I said; exactly as advertised.

    When you are a woman of plus size the idea of putting your body in a bikini is less than appealing. I had to take a klonopin before putting on my bathing suit because what would the others think. I, a woman who normally doesn’t give a damn as to the opinions of others suddenly found myself reverting to my 11 year old self. The 11 year old who deemed herself fat so she swam in a giant t-shirt. Always with the t-shirts in the pool and on the beach. People ask if I ever wore a two piece as a child and I honestly have no idea because every photo is of me in a giant tee but no pants. That’s how I spent my summers. Then there is the natural comparison to one’s stunning and hot friends. Somewhere, my traveling partner Jumana is reading this and she’s going to be embarrassed that I referred to her as hot but let’s all be real here: She’s like a size 2 and I am like a size 2X and there would be no way on God’s green earth that I would be wearing a bikini next to her.

    I’m sure you’re now wondering what I did with that bikini and all of my pent up fear and anxiety and the body issues that I thought I had long gotten over:

    I wore a bikini. That’s what I did.

     

    SPOILER ALERT: I survived the ordeal. Though it wasn’t the profound, liberating experience with other women admiring me from afar and giving me a thumb’s up while I strutted my stuff on the beach. I was a woman in a bathing suit on a beach with other women and men in their bathing suits on the beach and we were all trying to forget our daily lives and remember what the sun feels like. I had read and heard about all of these other plus size women - including dear friends - who put on a bikini and have this grand epiphany about their own body image and women and the human experience and so, I thought I’d put on a bikini and discover the meaning of life. Instead I discovered sun burns and that it’s far easier to go to the bathroom when wearing two separate pieces as opposed to a one piece.  I’ve had Tuesday afternoon’s more exciting than wearing a bikini. I wore it, it looked cute, I took it off, the end. And then I purchased another one.

    TL; DR I am fat, I wore a bikini. I went about my day. How mundane this story is of a plus size woman wearing a bikini is possibly the greatest discovery of all.

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