Michelle Obama and Me: Our Strikingly Similar Lifestyles
Since well before her husband was sworn in, Michelle Obama has been an object of fascination, criticism, and respect. She is everywhere: from the cover of Oprah to an extensive interview with Brian Williams, her life has been over exposed and analyzed. Over the last few months, I have started to feel a kinship with Michelle, that there was something similar about our lives – she as First Lady of our country, me as first lady of the tiny kingdom of our summer camp.
Now, let me start by saying that there are some notable non-similarities. As my avatar will reflect, I am of the standard European mutt descent. Michelle is not. My six year old kindly told me I have those “wobbly arms that old people get, no offense, mom.” Michele does not. I have an MFA in painting. Michelle made a more practical choice in higher education. And, obviously, a few more people care about what she does than will ever even know I exist. But still, there seems to me to be more similarities than differences.
From the minute Michelle became the “First Lady in Waiting”, she put her personal stamp on fashion and caused all kinds of media scrutiny about her style choices. She unveiled her now-infamous JCrew outfit on the Tonight Show where she proudly told the audience that the whole ensemble cost $340.
I also have to think hard about my personal style. I need to project a “you can trust me with your child, you can hug me if you’re homesick and miss your mom, I am still cool enough to be fun” kind of style. After 3 years as the first lady of camp, I have come up with the following collection of acceptable outfits:
I found it funny that both Michelle and I decided to put in kitchen gardens the same year. I told you we had a lot in common! Breaking ground on the gardens is a big deal and so both Michelle and I documented the occasion.
Here is Michelle with the local school children at the White House Kitchen Garden ground breaking ceremony:
And this is my daughter and me at our Camp Kitchen Garden ground breaking ceremony. (We had to take turns in the photos because the other two kids decided playing dodge ball would be more fun):
Michelle and I are both lucky enough to have a staff that prepares our meals three times a day. We are both concerned with serving healthier foods and making sure our children are exposed to a variety of food choices.
The White House website posted this menu from the Governor's Dinner at the White House:
Chesapeake Crab Agnolottis with Roasted Sunchokes
Wine pairing: Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc 2007 (California)
Wagyu Beef and Nantucket Scallops with Glazed Red Carrots, Portobello Mushroom and Creamed Spinach
Wine pairing: Archery Summit Pinot Noir "Estate" 2004 (Oregon)
Winter Citrus Salad with Pistachios and Lemon Honey Vinaigrette
Huckleberry Cobbler with Caramel Ice Cream
Wine pairing: Black Star Famrs "A Capella" Riesling Ice Wine 2007 (Michigan)
The whiteboard outside the boy’s camp kitchen posted this menu from the State Championship Football Team’s training camp dinner:
With a pairing of ice-free tap water (ice is bad for the environment, the budget, and overheated youth)
Meatballs and Sauce
With a pairing of milk or water (notice we have eliminated the very unhealthy and toxic bug juice)
Brownies with swirl of whipped cream and fresh blueberry garnish (notice the inclusion of fresh fruit as a dessert)
We both have the option of eating our meals in expansive dining rooms.
This is one of Michelle’s options.
This is mine.
Michelle and I both live very public lives and look forward to retreating to our private residence at the end of a long day. There, we can kick off our heels/sandals and be parents and spouses out of the spotlight. The Obama’s private living quarters are located in this White House:
My family’s private summer residence is located in this white house (also known as the camp director’s house).
The Obama’s have Bo, the well-trained and sociable Portuguese Water Dog: a gift from Senator Ted Kennedy and his wife. Bo spends much of his day roaming the White House, sleeping at the feet of the President, exercising on the south lawn.
We have Frosty, the usually well-behaved but sometimes a little too jumpy Lab/Australian Cattle Dog: a gift from the Maple View Animal Rescue. For security reasons, Frosty has limited access to camp: basically, he isn’t allowed anywhere that there are campers. This means he spends his time roaming the white house grounds or eating dead fish on his private beach.
Really, I could go on and on, but honestly, I respond to Michelle because we are both role models for the children and young adults whose lives cross our paths. Other people watch the way we parent our children, the way we live our lives, the things we value, and sometimes they make personal choices based on those experiences. In the end, I think what connects me most to Michelle Obama, is that we are both mothers who care deeply about our own children but also feel passionate about the well-being of all children. Neither of us can be satisfied with a handshake for the quiet child who stands in the crowd when we know we can give so much more.