Just like that, seven years have passed. In the blink of an eye, my husband, Jason, and I got married, bought a house and had three kids (and a dog). I catch myself looking at the boys and feeling shock and admiration. (When they are misbehaving, I’m shocked that I haven’t lost my mind, yet.) I can’t help but wonder how we — two young, in-love and slightly irresponsible kids — were able to get married and create this family.

Our romantic love affair began in eighth grade (actually, it was a little romance and a lot of awkwardness). Through high school, college, breakups and makeups; not to mention different states and careers, we find ourselves right back in our hometown in Florida, where it all began. Today, on our seven-year anniversary, I sit back and wonder how best to celebrate our marriage.

I’m lucky to have married a man as laidback as Jason. He is almost always in a good mood (unlike me), and he is easy to get along with. Neither he nor I are big on romance. Homecoming in tenth grade was celebrated with a quick dinner at Taco Bell. We didn’t want the whole corsage and overly posed pictures routine, and we certainly didn’t want a long (and boring) four-course meal (especially dressed up as we were). At our wedding, we decided to forgo the traditional romantic lovey-dovey feel. We wanted the night to be a big celebration: lots of dancing, drinking and eating. We skipped right over the first dance and just as easily did away with all traditional wedding day details. Rest assured, I did get my big white wedding dress and a beautiful long veil. Our honeymoon was a quick trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina to visit my extended family. There were no rose petals or champagne upon arrival, which was fine by me because before check-in was even complete, I had kissed Jason good bye and was already shopping — and taking full advantage of the exchange rate. No need to feel badly for Jason. He too enjoys his independence and was happy enough to lounge around the hotel room and watch Argentine soccer on TV.

So, today on our seventh anniversary, I know I’d like to do something special for Jason, but I am out of good ideas. My friends joke that he and I both always wait until last minute, and they are right. Then again, it wouldn’t be our style to plan an elaborate dinner and romantic walk. In the past, we have always given each other gift certificates. He knows I have a weak spot for designer handbags and shoes, and I love a guilt-free shopping spree at Saks. Likewise, he is happy to buy a new suit or a watch—as long as he can purchase them with a gift card. So we have often exchanged gift cards to our favorite stores. Very unromantic, yes, but very practical.

I decided this year that I would try to do something different (I warned him that I was upping the ante). I spent some time at the computer, googling “perfect anniversary gifts for husband.” I was shocked to see so many references to traditional gifts. Who knew that to celebrate 15 years together one should expect crystal? Even silver, wood, lace and pearls have spots on the list. Thankfully, Jason knows I am not a traditional girl. I love a sentimental note (attached to my flowers), but I really don’t have any use for a wooden tree plaque, and on our 25th anniversary, you’d better believe that I will expect something much nicer than a silver windchime. Don’t get me wrong, I know anniversaries are not about the material gift exchange. But, in celebration of our years together, we also must stay true to ourselves and each other. Part of what makes our marriage work is how well we know each other. I’m happy to buy him a Dunkin Donuts gift certificate (not Starbucks)—because his morning drive includes a pit stop at Dunkin. He knows I am a picky eater. A romantic dinner at a classy restaurant, offering intricate French cuisine is not high on my list. Case in point: My 31st birthday plans resulted in a cancelled reservation and a comfy meal at Chipotle.

So today, I’m proud to say that our anniversary gifts were just perfect. The real gift, for us, is realizing just how well we know each other. I received two cards. Both written upside down and one that read “Happy Birthday Mommy.” Jason had taken the time to take our three boys to Hallmark and have them pick out special cards for me. He had them draw, scribble, and half-spell whatever they wanted. My middle son dictated a long, comical note to Jason. Along with the cards was a perfect small box which contained an emerald ring I had been admiring (there’s nothing like having your jeweler as your spy, friend and confidant). Jason had connected with the jeweler and asked what it was that I had been pining over lately. And, although Jason said he didn’t need or want to spend money on yet another watch, I know all too well that he can never turn down a nice timepiece. As we exchanged gifts — me, in my running clothes, and Jason in his after-work apparel — we both smiled and put on our new gifts right away. We are both impulsive too, and love instant gratification. We thanked each other, but quickly became part of a family chant. The boys wanted to celebrate with us and what better way to honor seven years of marriage than to sing, dance, and wrestle to … the Happy Birthday song?

Source: http://new.www.huffingtonpost.com/elizabeth-dosoretz/marriage-gift-card_b_1973981.html

In my family October 4th may as well be a national holiday. My dad impressed upon us from an early age that our mother’s birthday is a special day. When we were little we would spend hours on cards and drawings. My dad would complete the celebration with a cake, bouquet and always a small box containing a new bauble. Now we are older, and still, we try to find the way to be together to celebrate our mom. This is no longer an easy task, as two out of my three siblings live out of state. Lucky for me, I am responsible for the gifts. My father gives me free reign to use his credit card to buy my mom anything and everything she would like. I always joke and tell my dad that as a commission, I get to buy myself a few items too.

So this year, as I rush to call the florist, buy and wrap the gifts, and select the perfect cards, I find myself annoyed, rushed and frazzled. Not because of the shopping duties, but instead, with the reality that I find myself with so little time to do what I think is most important. We end up singing “Happy Birthday” at a local restaurant, over a large personalized dulce de leche cake. After blowing out the candles, my mom thanks each of us for orchestrating her “perfect birthday.” Thank goodness my mother is flexible, tolerant and loves her grandchildren, because today, her birthday celebration was a bit more chaotic and a lot more disorganized than my siblings and I would have liked. Between saying thank you, and passing her birthday cake around for all of us to enjoy, my mom turns the tables, and says that this year, she has a gift for her daughters and that she has arranged a spa day for the girls in the family. (We are from Argentina and the men in this family do NOT go to spas). My mom says that spending the day relaxing together is the perfect gift she has chosen to give to herself and us.

Everyone is grateful and excited to escape the everyday routine and head out to a spa day, except for me. I’m stressed. To be honest, I have never been a calm and relaxed person. Taking a time out to be massaged, polished, waxed and cleansed has never been high on my list. I am not a touchy-feely person and I am picky about which lotions (and hands) touch my face and body. (I was scarred by a past esthetician who chose to enjoy a cigarette right before my facial).

I am further put off by spa days by the fact that my three children rely mainly on me to orchestrate their days. In order to get away for a few hours, I have to get organized and make pickup, drop off, snack and bath plans for the boys. (I am usually most successful when I let go of my plan, and just offer my kids and husband a bribe, in exchange for some “me” time).

As we pack our spa day bags, load the car and get on our way, we are all plugged in to calling, texting and communicating with our kids, husbands and fiances. I barely greet my sister when I realize my son’s soccer bag was mistakenly left in my car and that he won’t have his special orange soccer ball for practice today (I feel sorry for whoever has to deal with that tantrum). I almost miss the check-in process, as I’m running late trying to find a way for the ball and water bottle to get back to my house before soccer practice. I am given a robe, a locker key and sandals, and my sisters, mom, grandmother and I rush to get comfortable. We laugh at and with each other, as we debate on whether or not we get fully naked versus not-fully naked (under our robes). We joke about how disheveled we look, take some pictures, get a pre-massage tea, and laugh some more as we wait for our names to be called.

Before I realize it, I am “connecting with the moon, earth and sky” as my masseuse explains the need to relax and disconnect from stress. Connecting with the moon, earth or sky, I must admit, is not a big priority for me. But I start relaxing as I realize just how tired and stressed I am. The soft music, coupled with the warm blanket and neck pillow, is set just perfectly, and I do begin to drift off. My mind goes blank, and I enjoy the quiet that fills my mind. I focus on enjoying the “here and now,” and don’t even realize that time is passing. Before I know it, I am rubbing my eyes and thanking my masseuse. I didn’t fall asleep, but thanks to the “no cell phone” policy, I was able to enjoy the art of doing nothing — which is a learned behavior, one that I still have not mastered.

Right then and there, as the women in my family sit down to laugh, talk, eat and laugh some more , I begin to realize just how generous my mom was in giving us this spa day gift. Learning to let go and take care of oneself is not only important, it is actually a necessity. It is a right, not a privilege. Luckily for me, when I arrive home, the kids are excited to show me a special surprise. They have prepared a home spa, all set with lotions, water and towels. They lay me down quickly and begin to lather the lotions, perfumes and hand soap on my feet, arms and legs. Their good intentions do not go unnoticed, on the contrary, I resist the urge to ask that the kids switch lotions as I realize my expensive face cream is now being used as pedicure soap. I don’t think of the mess they have probably made in the bathroom, or the towels they are now wrapping my feet in. I close my eyes and try to “connect with the moon, earth and sky.”

Source: http://new.www.huffingtonpost.com/elizabeth-dosoretz/massage-spa_b_2011050.html

As I launch into my usual complain-procrastinate-and-beg routine with my trainer at the gym, I can’t help but listen to the conversation two women are having on the radio. They are discussing, in depth, how “poised, grown up and stylish” the First Daughters, Malia and Sasha Obama, looked as they celebrated the 2012 presidential victory with their parents. I agree with them, in fact, I am constantly struck by how well Malia and Sasha handle the pressure, scrutiny and media attention. The hosts go on to say that Malia is especially radiant because her braces have been recently taken off. Malia’s white, perfect teeth become the center of conversation.

Later that night, while doing some of my own research, I flip through childhood pictures. I can’t help but seriously wonder what the hell I was thinking, when, for instance, I got that overly curly perm? Just as I thought it could get no worse, I came across the most offensive pictures yet. I look at my strange, uncomfortable mouth (and the too-dark lipstick), and stare at my awkward smile. At first, I wonder if it’s just my stained adolescent teeth. Then, I remember my clear-braces fiasco.

I was thirteen at the time and my mom described me as a “hormonal teenager.” I had recently discovered boys and I began to care (probably too much) about how I looked. I asked my mom why I didn’t look like every other friend in my class picture — why did I have these clear, unusual braces? My mom burst out laughing as she explained that I was so overly upset about getting braces that I had fought my parents, dentist and orthodontist. I cried for days, and even begged my dentist to give me a removable retainer (which I swore I would wear all the time). My mom vividly recalls being annoyed at my resistance and obvious obsession with my appearance. My dad was tired of seeing me cry, and took pity on me. He convinced my mom to investigate alterative choices.

Imagine the scene: Two tired, yet patient parents, an overly accommodating dentist and
orthodontist and a stubborn (and spoiled) teenaged girl. I lived in a small, suburban town and the demand for clear braces had not exactly peaked. My orthodontist called and researched, and was able to obtain clear brackets (ones he promised would not stain my teeth). As I look now at my pictures, I know I have no one to blame but myself. As I look at my 14-year-old self, in family photos and class pictures, I must admit that for as bad as I may have looked, at the time, I felt pretty good about myself. I’m smiling, hugging my friends and making funny faces in many of the pictures. My clear braces — which I now realize looked awful — somehow made me feel better about myself.

As a self-conscious adolescent, I had a very clear idea of what I wanted when it came to my appearance. I suppose beauty really is in the eye of the beholder, which brings me back to the First Daughters. Will Malia and Sasha look back in ten years and be satisfied with the clothes they wore, and the hairstyles they chose? I feel lucky that I didn’t suffer the indignities of being a teenager in the public spotlight. I am thankful that my teenaged, clear-braced face wasn’t documented or scrutinized (until now, that is). Malia and Sasha are lucky to be elegant, or at least, to have the best hairdressers and clothing stylists at close hand.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/elizabeth-dosoretz/malia-obama-teenager-style-clear-braces_b_2132133.html

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Recently, I agreed to accompany an old friend to her annual mammogram appointment. Elyse is only 33, but due to family history and a few scares, she now gets a yearly mammogram. She has been to this doctor’s office before and is not bothered, or even aware, of the cold atmosphere and rather uninviting tone of the waiting room. I, on the other hand, am unimpressed by the rough chairs and outdated reading material (the coffee table is full of tabloids proclaiming that Kate Middelton “might” be pregnant). I fumble through the magazines and look around the dimly-lit waiting room. The TV is blasting an infomercial about the new “turbo tummy” gadget. Before long, we realize that we have been waiting for over 45 minutes.

A nurse finally calls Elyse’s name. I’m not sure if the nurse is pleased to see both Elyse and I stand up and head towards her, but I don’t care. I came to keep her company, and I don’t think twice about heading back into the weight and blood pressure area. The weigh-in room is small and feels crowded. I perch myself on the nearby bench as the nurse jots down Elyse’s weight and blood pressure. I find myself apologizing for standing and sitting in the too-close confines. My oversized handbag just about knocks the nurse and her files off of the desk.

We are taken to the “dressing room” space. Elyse is shown to her changing area and “lock box”
for her valuables. I look around and wonder what the hell happened to privacy? Elyse is separated from the other women by nothing but a flimsy curtain. Then, to add insult to injury, she is handed an ugly swath of floral material which turns out to be the gown that patients are expected to wear. The tiny button in the front is a weak attempt to hold the cape shut. The nurse jokingly refers to it as a “superhero cape.” What kind of superhero is she talking about?

My stylish, young friend looks like she borrowed my great aunt’s ugliest frock. Elyse sits down in yet another waiting room. Petite, large, old and young female patients awkwardly sit and attempt to hold the “superhero cape” shut. For once, Elyse feels lucky to have small breasts. The larger women have a tough time keeping themselves covered. I silently wonder why this clinic couldn’t provide better options for the patients. The one-size-fits-all approach is outdated, and one can’t help but sympathize with the women who struggle to keep their gowns closed. Elyse is then handed a cold baby wipe and instructed to wipe any remnants of deodorant or perfume off her body. Apparently, the chemicals in these fragrances can unintentionally show up on the mammogram.

It’s no mystery why the dressing room area smells bad. These women are faced with an anxiety-provoking situation, coupled with a small waiting area, little ventilation and no deodorant or perfume. Despite less-than-pleasant circumstances, the women engage in polite small talk. I, however, am not as graceful. I bitch to Elyse and tell her we should work on revamping the whole mammogram experience to make it more comfortable and welcoming. She jokes and asks me if I’d be happier with the waiting patients wearing a designer Gucci cape or a Burberry trench coat (duh, of course I would).

The rest of Elyse’s mammogram experience is just as depressing. The nurses are rushed and frazzled by the pressure to perform efficiently and quickly. I wonder where the female camaraderie has gone as I realize that the nurse avoids eye contact. The mammogram itself is quick and to the point: Elyse’s boob is handled like a floppy undercooked pancake.

Shortly after my visit with Elyse, I find myself in yet another waiting room and this time, the appointment is for me. It’s my turn to have an annual mammogram. I couldn’t help but document the experience. The office is impressive: nicely decorated, with violet and lavender accents against a mostly white leather couch and background. Small decorative vases and pillows adorn the waiting room. I am in awe of the office, but more so, at the serene atmosphere and how calm the patients seem as a result. As if the décor was not enough, I am ushered into a beautiful exam room and handed a full length, plush white robe that looks like it belongs in an expensive day spa. The robe had a real belt, and it closes fully to give patients the most privacy possible. The doctor knocks on the door, and slowly makes her way into the exam room. I smile as I realize the difference: The doctor is female, and clearly, she understands the anxiety that being in her office could cause, and she has taken pains to make the experience as comfortable as possible.

Getting a mammogram is a stressful, nerve-wracking experience. The extra details in my doctor’s office made my annual exam aesthetically pleasing, and physically comfortable (well, as comfortable as it really can be). The marked difference between my exam and Elyse’s begs the question: Why can’t more doctors spend the time and money to make such a vital appointment as pleasant as possible? After all, eye contact and a smile costs nothing.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/elizabeth-dosoretz/getting-a-mammogram_b_2631960.html