My Summer Lecture Series


As new parents we all pledge never to utter a disparaging remark to the sweet child angelically sleeping in our arms, swaddled in their first baby blanket. You promise yourself that only encouraging words will flow from your lips to their ears. You will never scream, red-faced, “Because I said so!”

With less than seventy-two hours until the beginning of a new school year, I will put away my summer nagging-mom-lectures and pull out of moth balls my more academically oriented annoying-words-of-wisdom series.

Before I box up this year’s summer lectures, I’ll share my top five.

1. Do something other than sleep or look at a screen.

I first recount how when I was young, kids their age were expected to live outside in their free time and entertain themselves – and free time came after chores and a summer job. Parents gave their kids a bag of beef jerky and an apple, then pushed them out the door. If you were lucky they gave you a pack of matches. Look at what electronics have done to this generation. How will they survive the Zombie Apocalypse?

2. I’m old, please don’t waste my time.

Do the math, I say. If I’m lucky, I may have twenty-five to thirty good years left. I ask them, with my best disappointed parent face, if they think that I really have the time to hear the 367th raging debate about whose turn it is to sit in the front seat. I have found this to be my least effective lecture. Thinking like teenagers, several decades of mom lectures isn’t something they want to stretch out. They don’t mind if they shave off a few of my last good years with their constant arguing

3. I know I’m embarrassing, that’s my job!

I have come to embrace that I’m an embarrassment and everything is my fault. I mortify my teenagers several times a day, purposely, with the things I say, do, and wear. That is when I’m not cooking dinner, driving them somewhere, handing them my credit card, or helping with a problem.

4. You’re driving me crazy with all your meaningless teenage drama.

This lecture is almost always given using my outside voice. It usually takes place in the car, so technically I’m outside. Of course, I worry about scarring the kids with my outburst, so it’s followed by an apology, which also sounds a lot like a lecture. By the end of the apology no one in the car knows what I’m mad about anymore and the bickering stops. All is quiet but it’s not a victory, because now they think I’m crazy and embarrassing.

5. Do you think I’m your maid?

This is also an ineffective lecture because yes, they do think I’m their maid. Is it really that difficult to start the dishwasher, put more toilet paper in the bathroom, or close the cabinets without the sneer and the eye-rolling? Again, how will they ever survive the Zombie Apocalypse if the washing machine confuses them.


I took the picture at JuiceLand, Austin, TX



Look, I really don’t want to wax philosophic, but I will say that if you’re alive, you’ve got to flap your arms and legs, you got to jump around a lot, you got to make a lot of noise, because life is the very opposite of death. ― Mel Brooks

I was an only child for my first decade of life. It suited me well as a content introvert. I was the kid who preferred bike riding solo, stomping through the woods alone, or making forts for one in the dunes at my grandparents’ house in Maine.

Even though I was always in motion, I was not athletic, graceful, or team oriented. I ran cross-country but never pushed myself. I spent my teen years too self-conscious to truly commit to any sport and spent way too much time hating my body.

In my early thirties I became a jock, although still preferring solo sports like running, biking, and weight lifting. It was the first time since childhood that I listened to the voice that reminded me that movement is my preferred medium.

My twin daughters have always been physical. From their first tumbling class, they were both hooked and continued on to competitive gymnastics. A couple of years ago, after an injury, G switched to competitive dance.

The worlds of dance and gymnastics are often called out as breeding grounds for negative body issues. Fortunately, I’ve found the opposite at my daughters’ studio and gym where healthy body awareness is the norm.

Somehow my daughters and their teammates have managed to deflect much of the numbing photo-shopped perfectionism that screams at them from every screen, billboard, and magazine. I give a lot of the credit to their coaches who emphasize creativity, strength, and discipline over size and shape.

By my early teens, my body was an enemy to battle rather than a partner, beginning the unconscious unraveling of the natural mind-body connection. As I entered middle age, I believed that I had patched that relationship.

The co-owner of my home yoga studio has a welcoming smile, laughs easily, and wears her body effortlessly. She incorporates what she call a shaky meditation in ALL of her classes. About thirty minutes into a traditional practice, she switches gears and leads the class in enthusiastically dancing around the studio.

Yes, in the middle of practice.

The first time it happened, I thought it was a one time thing and awkwardly went along with the group. The second time, I was so annoyed that she interrupted class again – to dance – that I wanted to roll up my mat and go home.

I love her yoga instruction enough to begrudgingly tolerate the dancing. Eventually, I realized that I wasn’t mad but afraid.

Afraid of looking stupid; afraid of being too old to dance in front of strangers; afraid to come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t as comfortable with my body as I had thought.

Another reminder that life is about re-working the same issues over and over. I’m still not thrilled about the shaky break in practice but I’ve made it a tool of discovery.

I’ve learned four simple truths:

1) The relationship you have with your body will be the longest, most intimate relationship of your life. Treat your body like a trusted friend, even when it’s injured or ill – especially when injured or ill.

2) The thoughts that you feed your body are EQUALLY important as the food you choose. Self-loathing and body shaming are akin to living on Twinkies and Big Red.

3) When you find yourself holding your breath, or breathing shallowly, it’s like losing the internet connection between your mind and body. Most likely you’re checking out of the present moment. Explore why, with curiosity, not judgement.

4) Remember that for most things in life, we’re all just one inhale and exhale away from a new perspective.

There are no prerequisites needed to reclaim your body except for an appreciation for being alive. You do not have to wait to be thinner, stronger, or more flexible. You do not need special clothes, take a class, or find a guru. You do not need permission.