Our family spent the weekend cloaked in white. As the first major snowfall touched down sometime between midnight and 7 a.m. on Saturday, I braced for the unpredictable — workouts would be missed, dinner would be centered on warmth and convenience, and cabin fever would set in. Fortunately, New England wasn’t clobbered with snow the way the mid-Atlantic was, but still: snow had fallen and everything in my routine had to be put on hold.
I must’ve become more laid back, in the past year. Over the course of my 20s and 30s, I’ve become a slave to routines and schedules. If I don’t work out 5 times a week, I get panicky about weight gain. If I have my kids all day, indoors, I get anxiety: How will I keep them entertained? What if we can’t go outside? What if they don’t give me a break? Somehow, this weekend I was able to let go of such concerns (for the most part).
Snow storms are beautiful for so many reasons. Like sickness, they stop the scheduling and planning, but you don’t have to be sick to enjoy their arresting beauty. They represent the best parts of winter, offering loads of opportunities for fun if you can just bear with the cold.
Last year’s constant barrage of snowstorms left me feeling spent and overwhelmed. While I appreciated how lovely they looked outside, I hated my spouse’s irritability over snow plowing and shoveling chores. I also hated driving in slippery conditions, and a lack of parking. And finally, I hated that some of my editors couldn’t lessen my work load just because it was snowing (I’ve since had to let go of certain editorial opportunities). Thankfully, I was able to teach most of my guitar lessons in a timely fashion, and write articles between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. when the house was quiet.
Today, I’m excited because I’m getting ready to take my 3.5-year-old out for his first time on a sleigh. Some of the hills I’ve been eyeing for our excursion are a bit worn down. I’m nervous as heck that I’ll do something wrong. But I’m going to give it my best shot anyway.
Like most people, I’m a sucker for goal-setting around this time of year. “I’ll do this” or “I’ll do that” frequently crosses my lips each January 1st. But like an estimated 92% of Americans, I usually fall short of said resolution/goal. So while I’ve set a few modest goals (setting the bar low is the way to go, I’ve learned in my 30+ years on this planet), I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the things I accomplished in 2015:
Stayed in shape. This one speaks for itself. I’m a mom of two toddlers. And while I have the benefit of working mostly in my own home, eating healthy meals and working out four times a week (when sometimes a ‘workout’ is limited to a 15-minute sprint around the block) isn’t easy. I did it!
Played 2 shows in Brooklyn: Having been out of the band scene for quite a long time, playing a show was one of my BIG goals of ’15 — and I exceeded it. I had two amazing nights playing shows at Branded Saloon in Brooklyn with my friends Rew, Sharissa, Michele, Gail, Morgan, and Nora (half of whom are in my band Marisa Mini and the Underage Hotties).
Finished my First novel, and started writing my second one. Yes!!! The novel I began writing in late 2009, The Year My Hair Was Red, is complete! Of course, there are major plot-revision/editing issues, so instead of putting my nose to the grind, I decided to start writing a new book. This book just popped into my head, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Before I knew it, I was writing and writing and …
Won NANOWRIMO. I started and finished my first #Nanowrimo!
Encouraged Nathan to try new foods. My older son is the pickiest eater on the planet. His diet consists of yogurt, hummus, and the occasional chicken nugget, piece of cucumber, or skinny fry. But three of those foods are now regulars. I also got him to eat shredded beets (by calling them red carrots). Next up: Pizza and grilled chicken.
Spent most every Tuesday with both dudes. Two-dude Tuesday, the new lifestyle choice that kicked off in mid-2014, went full swing in 2015. January and February brought tons of snow and ice, which made #Twodudetuesday super challenging (we really got to know Elsa last winter!), but then spring and summer brought so many fun play dates and little adventures. Fall was even more exciting, with regular play dates with new friends.
Got to the beach-beach 3 times. OK, technically I live at the beach, in a nice town just minutes away from slightly rough (but genuine) sand and the Long Island Sound. It looks like a beach, and almost feels like a beach. Still, going to the real beach that borders the Atlantic Ocean was a HUGE triumph for me (not to mention one of the trips was a real, actual family vacation with just the four of us). I love Montauk and I love Ocean City, different as they are.
Celebrated 5 years with Zack. I’ll put it bluntly: Marriage is no f*ckin’ picnic. This year was harder than most, as the hubs and I tried to balance work and family time, while keeping the kids healthy and happy. There were lots of meltdowns. But I can’t imagine being a co-parent and wife to anyone else. I’m grateful for the marriage and family I ended up with, as well as the new Gibson SG my husband got me for our five-year mark!
Ran 3 races. This represented another accomplishment in 2015! While I’ve done two Turkey trots since birthing two dudes, this year I completed my first overnight, 200-mile Ragnar Relay in Cape Cod with my buddies Heidi, Kat, Sean, Ke’Mani, Ryan & James. Then, I ran a very nostalgic Brooklyn Rock N’ Roll marathon with Kat.
I hope I do lots of great things, and accomplish great feats in 2016. But the goals I’m setting are modest. I’d like to see one live show, play 2 live shows (including one with Grandma’s Mini), give $10 a month to charity, and start using my new coffee tumbler when I go to Starbucks (to help the environment). I’d also like to run one half-marathon OR full marathon. Most important, I want to continue to work on being a better mother and wife.
Halloween. Just saying the name of the holiday makes me realize how far we’ve come since last year, when my then-2-year-old Nathan cried and stomped when we tried to put him in his Super-Man outfit!
This Halloween, he decided to rotate between three costumes: Incredible Hulk, Superman (the same one he freaked out about the year before!), and Batman. He ended up being Batman for his school celebration (Logan was Robin), and Superman for our trick-or-treating day. But in spite of his indecisiveness, his excitement was such a shift from a year ago that I really need to pause and appreciate it.
Logan was neither overly excited nor immensely distressed at being put in a Robin costume. He sort of accepted his role as the little sidekick. And we got a cool family photo, too. I love dressing up, and have always wanted to be Wonder Woman, so I had lots of fun in my outfit (though I had to take in a bunch of fabric with safety pins).
I’ll be the first to admit the headline here is misleading. My two toddlers go to school four days a week, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. So I have ample time to train (just kidding!). Seriously, though, when my kids aren’t with me (which is pretty much anytime except for those four 9-hour blocks), I have other things to do — laundry, cleaning, wife chores, doctor visits, paperwork/billing, freelance writing, planning guitar lessons, etc.
Fitting in exercise is really challenging at times — especially when you try to plan a big workout and your kid gets sick so you have to stay home. And finding the hours required to follow a specific, intensive exercise program is 10 times harder.
With that in mind, here’s a list of the things I do now that I’m a mom of two, to ensure I’m ready for race days.
I make my workout plan (3 cardio, 2 strength per week) on Friday or Saturday (my week starts Sunday and ends Saturday), and plan to do the BULK of my workouts (3 or 4 of them) by Wednesday. This allows me to have three days as emergency back-up days if I have to stay home because of a sick kid.
I make the pessimistic assumption that my “long run” day will get cancelled, and I always plan two backup days, and block out an hour and a half for all three days (the first one, and the two spares). If I can do my planned run on its planned day, then great! I can use the backup days to do other things.
I always look at weather reports so I can plan the best days for outdoor runs.
I always have my workout clothes and day clothes (so I’m not in workout gear all day) ready to go, in my car. I did this when I was working off-site (not at home). Planning what to wear is critical if you want to get the most out of your run.
I use a running app, “Map my Run” to track my time and to motivate me to go faster. Thanks to this app, I’m now running 10 miles at 9:05 minutes per mile!
I make a rule to work out 5 days a week no matter what — even if my runs are 15 minutes long, or I have to jump rope for 20 minutes during my kids’ nap time.
When I’m training for a race, that’s my only “hobby” or priority. I don’t have time to train for a race while preparing to play a rock show. I only have so much time during the day for myself, and my kids come first.
So that’s pretty much it! I’m excited for the Brooklyn Half marathon but also feeling overwhelmed by the thought of leaving my little ones and getting up at 5 a.m. It’ll be great to run, finish the race, and see my kids again.
I can’t believe summer’s almost gone. Every year, just when I sink into the sun’s warmth and start to appreciate outdoor runs, days at the park with the kids, and wearing white shorts, I see an e-mail blast declaring it’s “back to school time” or some other autumn gibberish. My husband’s going to his NFL draft/fantasy thing (as he always does), so I have the mens tonight. And on Monday, for the first time since mid-September 2012, my little Nathan will be enrolled in a whole new school!
I wanted to take a moment to talk about some of my family’s summer highlights (and I don’t mean the ones in my hair, which, by the way, are amazing), because my family is awesome!!
We took our first five-day vacation to Montauk as a family of four!! So grateful for so many days with the guys, my guy (Zack), the beach, and sunshine.
… and we got to go to the ocean 3 times in 3 months (3 times!). In June, it was Montauk as a foursome, in July it was Ocean City (the nearest and dearest to my heart) with Nonna & Nonno, and in August we were back to Montauk with Granny & Bud.
I got to finally share Ocean City with Zack and my sons! It was so cool to see Nathan’s reactions to all the action — ice skating, carousel rides, beaches, pancake houses, the Boardwalk, and kitschy golf courses. Zack’s reactions to the city vibe of OC? Not so much.
Zack and I celebrated five years of marriage. I know it sounds cliche, but I am more in love with him every single day, in spite of some of the challenges that marriage brings.
On July 31/August 1, Logan said his first three-word sentence: “I did it!” He says it regularly now after doing anything. Zack pointed out that Logan’s first sentence, said at the beginning of the summer, was actually “It’s dada” (or “that’s dada”). But still! Logan is so smart. Nathan’s first three-word sentence wasn’t uttered until he was at least 22 months old (I’m not saying Nathan isn’t super-smart, too, just that Logan’s feat seems ahead of the curve).
We switched Nathan to the toddler bed (finally!) on August 17. Got him superhero sheets and everything. He’s totally enamored with Batman, Superman, The Hulk, and pretty much every superhero these days. Trains? Well, after Uncle Al got him the Thomas table in mid-July (when he turned 3), he didn’t seem quite so into it.
There are so many more things I could write about, but I want to respect my sons’ privacy. When they’re older, they might not want every photo of every moment (or every dispatch of every challenge) blasted onto Facebook or this blog. But today I am one proud mama and happy wife!
You hear them on the radio, and see them gracing the covers of the most exclusive women’s magazines: Rocker moms. Articles about them are usually written in the vein of, “how P!nk is balancing diaper duty with recording” or “How mom-of-three Gwen Stefani makes time for cooking and going on tour!”
Marisa Mini & The Underage Hotties, 2015 version
The article you don’t read is the one offering advice on how to get back into fighting rocker shape (physically and musically) when you’ve got one or two little ones in tow — even though you’re not famous. Most of the moms in bands I know fall into this category: We may have made some money at one time, but we don’t have lucrative recording contracts. We don’t have songs featured on SiriusXM Hits 1.
If you don’t have Gwen Stefani’s salary or fan base, you have to think about the financial aspects of playing a show, such as rehearsal costs AS WELL AS babysitting tabs. Since my band is my baby (I am the writer for all songs as well as the band leader), I foot the bill for $30-an-hour rehearsals, plus gas and transportation fees.
Then, you have to think about the time commitment. Rehearsing in New York City — an hour and a half from my home base of Fairfield, CT — is a seven- to eight-hour excursion. To accommodate this time suck, I had to take on fewer assignments (rock and roll doesn’t pay my bills, Ms. Stefani!), slack on cleaning duties (the floor still has caked banana on it from Monday), and curb my workouts (my kids still have to eat, and the extra practice time has to come from somewhere).
Also, if you’ve been out of the game for a while, as I have, there’s also the promotional and equipment headaches of planning a show. For example: After spending eight hours with my two toddlers, one of whom is potty training, I barely have energy to post anything on Facebook except a selfie of my kids, let alone try to put together some cleverly worded invite to my show. I’ve had to bribe my graphic designer friends and beg my bandmates to pick up some slack in the promotional department!
Oh yeah, and I gave away my big guitar amp a long time ago (you would too, if you needed to squeeze into a Prospect Heights apartment), so I’ll have to borrow two of them (for me and my lead guitarist) for the show. This means I’ll have to leave my house earlier.
The worst part? My mommy friends in Connecticut won’t be able to come (traveling to the Big Apple might as well be traveling to Russia as far as they’re concerned), and most of my city friends I haven’t seen since I became a mom so … I’m not on anyone’s radar anymore. Maybe an ex or two will show up, maybe not. But that’s about all the audience I’m getting.
So after all this bitching about how much effort and money is required to do this show, is it all worth it?
As of now, my answer is yes, absolutely!
One week ago I rehearsed with three amazing musician friends who I hadn’t seen for at least a year each — Morgan, Nora, and Michele. I love each of them for different reasons. Morgan is my bestie and longtime bassist, Nora is my former guitar student turned friend, and Michele is my tour buddy with a shared affection for NYC hardcore. Just being in the same room with these girls made me giddy. And when we plugged in our instruments, magic happened (though Michele wouldn’t necessarily call it magic after being on a two-year drumming hiatus)! Afterwards, I felt a buzz I hadn’t felt in a long time as I savored the long, summer night walk between 251 30th Street and Grand Central. Singing is cathartic, and playing guitar is my passion. I’m feeling inspired and creative and amazing.
I’m definitely bummed that my husband won’t make the show. When we were dating and it was just us, he made the trek to Brooklyn all the time to see me. I’m sure if it were super important I could wrangle him there, but … I need a babysitter for my kids. He is their dad. Problem solved!
I do hope that after this show, I’ll get to do another one soon, and that it won’t be so damn expensive to play. For one thing, I refuse to do more than one rehearsal in Manhattan. I live in Connecticut, and have for five years, and I have two children. I have to make it work here.
In the meantime, I hope whoever reads this post can make it to Friday’s show at The Branded Saloon in Brooklyn. Here’s the address and info:
Friday, August 7, 2015
Marisa Mini & The Underage Hotties (w/ Milf & Dilf and The Rewd Onez)
It may come to a surprise to some of my fellow moms, but I was a HUGE fan of “Girls Next Door,” the reality TV show centered on the day-to-day lives of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner (aka “Hef”) and his three live-in girlfriends — Holly Madison, Bridget Marquardt, and Kendra Wilkinson.
While I didn’t watch the show, which aired 2005-2009, regularly, when I did, I found it to be a fun, fluffy, wonderful guilty pleasure — an inside peek at a life I might’ve lived had I been just a shade blonder, gotten a boob job, and high tailed it to Los Angeles in my late teens.
As I watched each episode, I found myself increasingly drawn to Girlfriend #1 Holly Madison — formerly Holly Sue Cullen — who grew up in Oregon and Alaska. While the most serious-toned of the three blonde girlfriends, she was also the only one who seemed to aspire to having a family as well as a career. Beautiful and humble, Holly stood out from over-the-top bubbly Bridget and air-headed Kendra as someone I would enjoy spending time with over a cup of coffee.
There are two reasons the book sucked me in from the first page: one, it offered extraordinary insight into the inner workings of one of the most fascinating and salacious lifestyles. I found myself riveted by the descriptions of the rooms (“downscale” touches like Johnson’s baby oil in the poolside washrooms; puppy urine stains on the mansion’s staircases); the ladies who inhabited them (like the girlfriend who solicited other girlfriends for a high-end prostitution ring); and the conversations (such as Hef’s condescending way of explaining old movie plot lines or throwing a fit over Holly wearing red lipstick).
The other reason was that it struck a raw nerve in me. I’m no Playmate or pageant queen (though I was “Miss Nina” at the Baltimore Columbus Day Parade in 1992 and once runway-modeled Uzbekistani clothing for a festival in Washington, D.C.). Still, I know what it’s like to be valued for your looks, or to feel like your best asset is your beauty, a temporary gift.
Being a girlfriend to an old dude like Hef isn’t glamorous, and Holly’s memoir confirms that. Her descriptions of the post-nightclub sex orgies, in particular, are wince-worthy. And while Holly does acknowledge the perks of the Playboy girlfriend lifestyle — like a $1,000-a-week clothing budget — she spares Hef little mercy when she spotlights the ulterior motives behind his seemingly kind, friendly demeanor.
Among other things, the Playboy founder, who is now 89 to Holly’s 35, had a primary interest in keeping up an image that other men would envy. He couldn’t go without a girlfriend for even one day. In reality, says Holly, he threw immature temper tantrums and would play the girlfriends against each other (for example, by complimenting Kendra’s red lipstick just a few years after lambasting Holly for wearing it). The details are so rich and believable that I think it would be difficult for anyone to discredit her (though Kendra, perhaps out of jealousy, is trying).
One might wonder, then, how smart women like Holly or bestie Bridget (who apparently has a master’s degree) would put up with the Hef monster for years on end. Was the prospect of fame really that alluring? If we believe Holly, the answer is yes: Hef always dangled the possibility of better things — a monogamous relationship, a Playboy centerfold spread — just close enough to keep the girls loyal:
“I had to believe that there was a greater purpose for the choices I had made: whether it was to help advance my career or whether it was truly for love,” writes Madison. “And depending on the month, the week, and sometimes even the hour of the day, I would waffle back and forth between precisely why I was living a life as nothing more than ‘Girlfriend Number One’ to a man who was old enough to be my grandfather. I didn’t want to admit that I had sold a bit of my soul for the chance at fame.”
If Holly’s intent was to make me angrier at the double standards imposed on women, then she was successful. By the end of the 405-page read, I found myself almost teary-eyed, cheering on the new mom as a modern-day example of courage, strength, and beauty.
The only thing I’m still bothered by is that the tone of “Down the Rabbit Hole” is about 85% anger and 15% gratitude. Let’s not forget that being Hef’s main squeeze afforded Holly all kinds of opportunities, from celebrity status to the funds to pay off her $7,000 breast implants. Were it not for Hef and the lucky chance that reality TV would take off and make her a household name via “Girls Next Door,” Holly would have probably have left L.A. a long time ago, like most of her friends.
Unfortunately, for far too many women, fame and opportunity comes at great personal cost, whether it’s the woman who stalls childbearing to further her career (only to discover fertility challenges later on), or the woman who must pretend to be turned on by an 80-year-old man in order to have any chance at making more than a waitress’ wage.
And while Holly got her happy-ever-after ending, most women need more than a great pair of fake tits and blonde hair to elevate their careers.
I would love to see the day where a female magazine mogul were wealthy and powerful enough to afford and attract seven 20-something boyfriends. But would anyone watch a show about it? While many men are inspired by the idea of having a harem of young things to cater to their every whim, most women I know need their lady heroes to overcome major challenges and rise above, just like Holly did when she said “screw you” to mansion life.