"You can tell a woman's whole life story from the possessions in her jewelry box. Like reading a palm, you can trace the points where her life has intersected with memorable events, people, places, and loves. You can speculate on the essence of her personality, all from what she has accumulated in that box."--from Perfectly Imperfect
In her acclaimed first book, In an Instant, Lee Woodruff, along with her husband, ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff, wrote eloquently and honestly about the struggles they faced together as Bob recovered from a traumatic brain injury sustained in Iraq. Now, with the same candor and clarity, Lee Woodruff chronicles her life as wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend.
Woodruff's deeply personal and, at times, uproariously funny stories highlight such universal topics as family, marriage, friends, and how life never seems to go as planned. On raising teenagers: "Now with a boy and girl on the precipice of serious adolescence, the bathroom door is sealed tighter than a government nuclear testing ground." On her changing body: "Over the last ten years my own knees had begun to form those dreaded smiley faces, sagging underneath." How she copes with tragedy: "Swimming surrounds me in the velvet wet of a bluish green world where I can dive deep down and sob with no trace." Even her sense of style: "I've always been more Leave It to Beaver than Sex in the City."
In a voice that is fresh, irreverently funny, and irresistible, Lee Woodruff traces the quiet moments and memorable events that have shaped her life in progress. Perfectly Imperfect is the testimonial of a woman who embraces the chaos of her surroundings, discovers the splendor of life's flaws, and accepts that perfection is as impossible to achieve as a spotless kitchen floor.
Following her memoir of healing, coauthored with her husband, Bob Woodruff, an ABC journalist gravely wounded in a bomb attack in Iraq (In an Instant), Lee delivers a collection of 17 brief, plainspoken essays about being a busy mother to four kids and a loving wife, daughter and friend who doesn't always know the right answers. Navigating the adolescence of her two oldest kids, Mark and Cathryn, focuses much of her parenting effort, and where the whole clan was once comfortable with nonchalant nudity, once her son turned into Mr. Hyde and her daughter into an eye-rolling critic, "the bathroom door is sealed tighter than a government nuclear testing ground in New Mexico." In the essay "A Different Ability," Woodruff writes movingly of first learning about her younger daughter's deafness (Nora and her twin sister were born by surrogate) and how a personal tragedy has been transformed in time to a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. Similarly, Lee writes of the sustaining friendship with Melanie, whose own journalist husband died in Iraq, through the initial hours of grief when she learned of Bob's injuries. Lee moves fluently from deep to lighter subjects, such as worrying about her sagging knees or bemoaning her otherwise ideal husband's woeful gift-selecting ability. Self-deprecating and modest, Woodruff is certainly likable, and this collection will broaden her appeal. (Apr.)
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April 19, 2009
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Excerpt from Perfectly Imperfect: A Life in Progress by Lee Woodruff
Chapter 1 Amusement Park Mecca Do you want a margarita?” yelled the insipidly chirpy waitress in the Hawaiian shirt. We were in the Jimmy Buffett–themed restaurant at Universal Studios, Orlando, and she was trying to be heard over “Come Monday,” which was blaring from the speaker system. “No,” I said wearily. My feet throbbed, and, as the designated pack mule, I’d been lugging the twenty-pound backpack with the camera, extra batteries and chargers, water, fleeces, and enough snacks to outfit an Everest expedition. I’d been so distracted getting everyone else breakfast that morning that I hadn’t had more than a few bites of the kids’ cold toast. My blood sugar level was alarmingly low. I was ready to drink the ketchup right out of the crusty red bottle on the table. “Really...?” The waitress sounded genuinely surprised, almost disdainful. “You sure you don’t want a margarita?” What I said was “No thank you.” What I really wanted to do was to grab her by the front of her fluorescent shirt with one fist, like they did in spaghetti westerns, and snarl, “Listen, amiga, you see these four kids here? You think I can possibly deal with this theme park and all four of them if I start downing tequila? Do you want me to blow chunks on the Hulk? Would you like me to pass out here in Margaritaville and lose this brood somewhere between Seuss Landing and Fear Factor Live?” Instead, I kept my voice even, my countenance beaming, and an adoring look focused on my kids. I didn’t want them to suspect for a moment that I wasn’t as ecstatic as they were to be there. I’d shouldered the responsibility of continually making sure everyone was in tow, of keeping all four kids contented despite age gaps greater than the drop at Splash Mountain, determined that they view me as “Most Fun Mom.” I wanted them to remember that I’d cheerily gone on all the rides with them, from Jimmy Neutron’s Nicktoon Blast to the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. I wanted it seared in their brains that I’d let them order chocolate sundaes from room service and stay up late with in-room movies. I was focused on creating a fond memory so that, on my deathbed, they could all recall the time I’d loosened the purse strings and let them buy souvenirs and eat unlimited amounts of greasy park food. This was downright radical compared to our normal household rules. I knew enough to understand that it would be years before the day-to- day martyrdom of mothering would even hit their radar screens. The nutritious home-cooked dinners, the homework patrol, and the midnight snuggles when they had the flu that made up the real heroics of parenting didn’t earn medals. Those acts wouldn’t truly be appreciated until my kids had children of their own and were bleeding out of their ears from the decibel level on an elementary school field-trip bus ride. What they would remember, what would live in the collective film library of their childhood memories, was the highlight reel: the trips to Magic Kingdom, the ski weekends, and the beach vacations. The rest of it, the work in the trenches, would be like background noise; it was low-level radar, like the commercials in between the Oscar presentations. I needed to make this one big. ••• Our country’s theme parks are the proving ground for parental excellence. I’ve yet to meet a mom or dad who has been able to escape a pilgrimage to Disney, Universal, Six Flags, or any of the other überintense, megapacked square miles of finger-lickin’ Fun for the Whole Family. Folks will clip coupons, hunt for bargains, look fo