Saturday, February 25, 2012


I feel a little crazy writing about Whitney Houston, because I don't know her personally. Plus, it dates me and makes me feel like I'm glorifying big, eighties hair bows and neon pink and the pop music that was the soundtrack to my life back then. But her passing has pissed me off, and while I have never met her, I'm going to call her by her first name, and I'm going to take it a little personally that she died when and how she did.

I'm not gonna lie, I'm more than a little sad that Whitney's gone. It just feels wrong. I think there are many women like me who, when they first heard the news, felt instantly like, that's gotta be a typo, there's no way Whitney is gone. Seriously? With her fabulous life and gifts and money/fame/glory? How could it be? What about the whole, learning to love yourself thing? How. Could. It. Be?

I kept saying to my husband (who, shockingly, was in town), She's a dumb ass. How could she do that to herself? Knowing that she had friends who revered her. Knowing that she had a daughter who loved her. How?

Because she's a dumb ass, that's how. And my husband kept reminding me, don't hate. She was sick. She had a disease.

Maybe I'm angry because I've been through this before. So many people have, and shouldn't the rest of us learn from the fatal mistakes we see being made all around us? Don't people understand the devastation their passing causes? Couldn't Whitney see she had every resource available to help heal her, and that she didn't have to end up high and alone in a bathtub when she passed? No, she couldn't see that, because she was a dumb ass.

My sister may have been somewhat of a dumb ass too. (If you knew her, and ever heard her cackling laughter, you'd know she'd be agreeing with me and laughing right this second. So it's all good, I'm not pissing Jesus off or anything by writing it.) She wasn't in a bathtub when she died, but she was definitely alone and she was probably high. She was 45 when she passed. FORTY-FREAKING-FIVE. How many years away from or past 45 are you? I'm pretty close to that number today, and it feels a whole lot younger now than it did then.

But how about that sentence a few paragraphs back, the one in italics. How could she do that to herself? Is that a fair question? Let's consider for a moment that maybe she and Whitney weren't dumb asses after all. It's tough for those of us who aren't afflicted to recognize addiction as being a sickness sometimes. Cancer, that's a disease. Pneumonia, that's an illness. Alcoholism or drug use, from the outside, looks like a choice, doesn't it?

When I tell people my sister died, I get a very appropriate, sympathetic look. When it comes up why she died, and I explain that it's probably due to her abusing her own body for many, many years, combined with her last couple of weeks of life consisting primarily of drinking vodka...the look shifts slightly. I end up feeling like her death was HER fault. And on some level, I tap into that feeling, because if only she hadn't put the drink to her mouth all those times, maybe she would still be here. It was HER doing. On some level, I feel like her death was suicide, because she knew from a near death experience years ago, that if she drank heavily again, her body would no longer be able to survive it. That kind of abuse would surely kill her. And yet, that's exactly what she did. 

A tumor can't be helped, it just eats you alive. But alcoholism or drug abuse? That doesn't just eat you alive. Or does it?

Cancer cells are uninvited, but so is whatever IT is in somebody that drives them to drink too much or use drugs. Some of us can do it whenever we feel like it. We can take a hit or a drink, or we can leave it. We don't have that thing inside of us, whatever that thing is, that tells us we must use.

Or maybe we do, and we just also have something else inside of us that's stronger, that tells us when life gets tough, or we feel like we aren't good enough, or we want a 5th cocktail for the 5th night in a row, that hmm...maybe there's a better choice to make. Maybe there's another way to feel better.

So maybe there isn't a gene that exists in some people, telling them to overdo it, maybe something else is missing instead. For those of us who find ways to cope with stress or sadness or frustration, those feelings, when we have them, fall into our internal coping mechanism and the mechanism churns it up and spits out an answer. It's not always the right answer, but it's something. A process with which to manage ourselves in a way that won't, say, lead us to death. Like, take deep breaths. Go for a run. Call a friend. Take a Xanax. Write a blog. What have you.

But it seems to me that for people who are missing that coping mechanism, all those horrible feelings of stress and sadness and frustration fall into a little hole where the coping mechanism should be. And maybe that hole goes deep, and maybe it's dark and prickly and devoid of answers. And when they go into the hole, chasing after all that stress and sadness and frustration to see where it's going to go, they go too deep inside of themselves, and they start to feel really alone and afraid. And also, it's so dark they can't see their options anymore and they're just waiting for the answers to churn themselves out like they do for everyone else, but unbeknownst to them, that's not going to happen, because that mechanism they think they have, actually doesn't exist.

So in that dark, pokey place where they feel different and bewildered and alone, how good does a drink start to sound? How nice would it be to just tap out for a while. Get reeeally high and just say fuck it for 90 minutes (or however long a high lasts...this is not my personal area of expertise). And maybe it starts as a conscious thought, like, I think I'll get high and not deal for a while. For some of us, the next thought might be, Nah, getting high is probably not the best thing for my body/kid/husband/job/life. I'll call a friend and go for a walk, or I'll eat some ice cream and watch a sad movie and cry it out, or I'll clean the bejesus out of my house. 

Maybe for people like Whitney and my sister, that second thought doesn't come. That first thought, the one that tells them that the only option is to escape, gets all stirred up in their system like a dirty martini, except instead of olives, it's mixed in with that stress and sadness and frustration, and after some time, that's what makes them sick. And the longer it lives, the bigger it grows, until it turns into disease. And the disease then starts to eat them alive, just like cancer can. It starts to make all their decisions for them. It becomes their first thought, and their first instinct, and it manifests itself as need in their body. But the general public doesn't live like this, and so in order to keep functioning in the sickness, people with the disease learn that the disease's best friend is a good front. They have to pretend. They lie. A lot. So much of the time the lie is paper thin and vodka-scented, but they so desperately need to hold onto the life they lead, they believe we believe it with a whole (if broken) heart. But we can sniff it out, literally and figuratively. For the longest time when I was a kid I thought that scent was my sister's perfume (It kind of smelled like White Shoulders or Taboo...what can I say, it was the 70s.). When I got older, I realized it wasn't that at all. It was the smell of lies and sickness and the disease that would eventually take her from me.

My sister wasn't an international megastar like Whitney Houston was. But she had friends who loved her, just like Whitney. She had a daughter too. She had three siblings who had each spent nearly thirty years getting banged up along her rocky road and loved her in spite of it all. She had parents who gave with open hearts and minds and hands over and over and over and OVER again, and yet the well of love was still full to overflowing whenever she came back for more. She knew it too, because she reached out to all of us the week before she died.

I hold my last conversation with her in my heart, in a dark corner, right next to a large pile of regret. I can't recall the whole conversation because it was almost 10 years ago, and I was a new mom, in the throes of sleepless nights and foggy days, and honestly, this call sounded a lot like many other calls from her over the years. A bit twisty and nonsensical. I remember thinking though that I was happy to talk with her, because we finally had something in common. If you read "Seven" on this blog, you might recall me mentioning that we didn't have a very large common ground as I was growing up - she was clutching a bottle of alcohol not long after I stopped clutching my bottle of milk. But as adults, we were both moms. We both had daughters who would be 11 years old in our 45th year of life. There had to be something there now that we could connect over, and laugh about, and love each other through.

But instead, about a week later, I got another phone call. This one came in the middle of the night, and like most middle-of-the-night calls, it was a sharp ring followed by some very bad news. The call came as a shock, even given the history and the knowledge that it could happen, because it had almost happened before. But it felt surreal, as did the phone call I then had to make to my parents. As did gathering with my family for my first Mother's Day weekend, to say hello to everyone, but goodbye to her. As did standing on the boat, with my baby in the Bjorn and my husband next to me, while we each scattered a handful of her ashes into the Pacific Ocean. As it does now when she comes to me in my dreams, and I wake up thinking how real it felt when I talked to her.

Some people end up being able to fill that little hole inside them, so the despair has somewhere to go to turn into answers. I don't know how big that hole was inside my sister, or what shape, but I wish she had found a perfectly-sized piece of self-love to put there. In my mind it would soak up her despair and allow her to see her way into her 46th year and beyond. Both my sister and Whitney gave me memories, and taught me about myself in little ways, and then abruptly left. Nothing I could do about it and no song about learning to love yourself could keep them here.

So where's the silver lining, you might ask? Well. Maybe my sister has now met Whitney, and they're up in heaven reading this blog and having a good laugh. Maybe Whitney is helping my sister turn her cackle into a proper singing voice. Perhaps they are busy advising young angels on how to watch over people on earth who are dealing with their own disease, so they don't come up to heaven too soon and make the wait time for a table even longer at the Heavenly Starbucks, where my sister always gets her Egg Nog Latte and her Cafe Verona blend.

Whitney and my sister can keep my seat warm at the coffee shop for another 50 years or so. In the meantime, I'll continue to miss them both. (One more than the other, obviously. Who can resist an international megastar songbird?) 

Does anyone else hear a cackle in the distance...?


Tuesday, February 21, 2012


I know some of you are all, "I don't watch television." and if that statement describes you and your high horse, just skim this blog entry and go back to harvesting your wheat, or whatever people who "Don't watch television." do with all that free time.

I like television. Always have. Television is fun. Sure, some of it scares me, but everything that's big has a little scary to it. I think I mentioned before that the ocean is a lovely place. With gigantic, sticky beings who swallow things that are the size of a city bus. Big/scary. Also, cake is delicious, but if you consume one in it's entirety in a single sitting, you'll spend the rest of the day regretting it. See? Too much of anything can be scary.

Moderation, people. Also, choose wisely. You don't have to watch the channel that makes up news stories and reports them as qualified facts. Nobody is forcing you to buy Pajeans, or a 6-CD set of the grooviest hits from the 70s. Our family loves to watch Globetrekker, but that doesn't mean that PBS is the only channel with quality programming. (Again, don't get all "Blasphemy!" on me. PBS is great, but so is Bravo and I know that you know that I'm right.)

I love me some good, mindless smut. The kind of television that is so full of freak show people that it can't possibly be reality, but it is reality (just not mine, exactly). And then there's some "reality" that isn't at all, in any sense of the word, real, except for that there are actual people on the show. But even that's debatable because so many of the real people have fake parts and are missing important pieces, like for example, a functioning brain.

Here are my thoughts on a few choice shows. A couple of them are worth climbing down from your pedestal to watch, and a couple of them are, in my humble opinion, not any better than harvesting wheat.

1. Real Housewives of Orange County/Atlanta. These are my top two Real Housewives offerings. Each geographic has unique qualities, but these two are special.

I used to live in the O.C., and was acquaintances with one of the women formerly on the show, so it was fascinating to watch. Also, informative. I learned that one of the restaurants we went to in the neighborhood was a swinger's mecca on Tuesday nights (you were supposed to wear white to show your interest and availability). See? Valuable lesson. I also learned that our beautiful, two story town home on our tree-lined street, anchored by two lovely parks, was in fact, The Ghetto. Who doesn't love that wacked out mentality? The ladies are so blinded by the gold they're digging that they have completely lost touch with reality, and yet, they are on a reality show. See where I'm going with this?

Now the Atlanta crew is my favorite for other reasons. These ladies are each ghetto (fo' realz) in their own way, shape or form, but are trying reeeally hard to come across as super high society. Teenage mothers who have grown into women who don't work have personal assistants named "Sweetie", then they seduce young (somewhat unattractive) NFL players and accidentally get knocked up and promptly move into mansions. They always drink Chardonnay or champagne when they get together to talk about whichever Housewife isn't in the room at that time. They work the junk in their trunks in their long heeled, red bottomed shoes, and sling their Louis Vuitton bags while they start their high fashion/modeling/singing careers, and then they fight and claw and scream and pull wigs and spit sarcastic venom at each other, louder and louder, until I'm whipped into a jaw-dropped, giddy frenzy on my couch.


2. The Bachelor/The Bachelorette. Listen friends. I want to give you a little tough love right here, right now. This show is what all the other reality shows are, which is a bunch of pretty people, with no actual, marketable talent, who think they are cute and cunning and special, and therefore that they should be famous. Obviously. 

So from The Bachelor perspective, all these women go on television and pretend to fall in love with the strange guy they just met. You know, the guy who is openly dating the 20 women she now lives with. These charming ladies aren't looking for love, they're looking to be on the cover of People magazine. They want it so bad, they are willing to humiliate themselves by trying to seduce the King of the season in front of millions of people. With sparkly, wide eyes, she pretends to be touched by the manufactured date the producers set up, and thanks the King for being creative and making her feel "special". Then she has to cry and act legitimately devastated when he says he really cares, but that he's sorry, he'd rather pose for the cover of People magazine with the girl living down the hall.

What? I don't know about you, but when I was dating, if I found out the guy I was seeing was also hooking up with my roommate, I wouldn't just smile and try harder. I'd punch him in his balls. Also, aren't both The Bachelor and The Bachelorette sort of high profile escorts? I'm pretty sure they're both getting paid to hook up with random people.

I'm also fairly certain that these beautiful people are perpetually single because they're crazy, and I think them acting like it's not crazy to be on this show, is exactly what makes them so C.R.A.Z.Y.

Maybe that's why I can't be on either one of those shows. I'm only a little crazy. That, and I'm married already, but come on, it's only a matter of time before that new reality show comes out. I can see the headlines now: Sexy Boys and Girls! Line Up To "Secretly" Date Someone Else's Wife/Husband! If You're Pretty, Devious, And A Little Stupid, You're Welcome To Audition! Disclaimer: You will get your ass kicked by a fame-seeking actor pretending to be the surprised spouse of the loser you're trying to sleep with. Good luck!

3. Survivor. Oh, Survivor. It goes without saying that this show is cast via the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs formula. There's always a mixed bag of tricks. Think about it...the show isn't complete without: Dopey (not the brightest tiki torch on the island), Grumpy (the gruff guy or butch girl), Doc (smarter than everyone), Happy (Yay! Hammocks and foraged berries!), Sleepy (or in this case, Lazy), Bashful (aka, I'm not trying to flirt with the cute, strong one, it's just that I'm reeeally pretty so he likes to build my boat for me) and Sneezy (always the weak link).

And please, PLEASE, tell me you fully understand that they aren't hunting for food, or spearing fish for their dinner, or that they are actually lost or alone, or in any way "surviving" a difficult situation. Somebody's gotta be holding the camera and the microphone, and you know who those guys are? Bill and Nick, who are staying at the nearby luxury hotel, just a couple of rooms down from the contestants, and they all take shooting breaks to dive into the Snickers bars and sodas they have in a cooler back at the campfire on set. I love that the contestants lose weight and appear to be dirty on the show, though. I think that's a nice touch. And the hotel room probably has a distressed wood headboard, but I'm afraid that's about as rustic - or as real - as this one gets.

4. Jersey Shore. Funny. Scary. Stupid. I refuse to say anything else about it.

If you know what I'm talking about, happy watching to you. If you love and believe deeply in Survivor and The Bachelor shows, and you're offended (you know who you are), my sincerest apologies. It's just my two cents (combined with fact, but whatever).

If you watch Jersey Shore like it's your job, then it might be the only job you have right now. (Drinking beer at 1:00pm on Wednesdays doesn't count as a job, no matter how consistent you are with it.)

And if you aren't familiar with any of the above, well, I won't judge you as you tend to your worm compost or read up on "How To Knit A Sustainable Yurt", as long as you don't judge me and my good friends Ben & Jerry, as we tuck in for some good productive outhaling.


Thursday, February 16, 2012


Today I went to the home of a dear friend who just got back from an amazing trip to Rwanda, where an old friend of hers has taken a bunch of money and a lot of time and massive amounts of energy and put it to very, very good use: She has built a school. A school for girls. A place for them to learn and live, and a place in which to safely build their heart and character and in doing so, the future of their country.

I was among a bunch of wonderful women there today, listening and looking at the photos of the land, the children, the animals, the buildings, and the people involved in this enormous, admirable undertaking. As we sat, we asked questions. "Who is that woman there?" and "Where were you when you took that photo?". And what I heard so much of was "I didn't expect it to look that beautiful.". I heard "That woman is so pretty...look at the face of that baby...that hotel is so amazing...". And they were right. The people, the landscape, all of it was breathtaking. It was hard to believe we were looking at the same part of the world where incredible devastation took place not so very long ago.

I've been thinking of it all afternoon, and tonight I find myself contemplating how interesting it is - and how true - that looks can deceive. That beauty can so effectively belie devastation. That light can come from dark.

Though we haven't personally experienced it on the level Rwanda has, we have all seen it, generally speaking, right? I'm sure each and every friend at that lunch today has smiled through tears before. We know amazing adults who came from a not-so-amazing childhood. We have heard stories of (or lived to tell about) crushing infertility finally resulting in a beautiful baby, and a dream realized in the process.

So we shouldn't have been so surprised to see it happen on the other side of the world. Maybe beauty doesn't hide devastation as much as it is born from it. Sort of like when you've seen rock bottom, ain't nowhere to go but up, and once you're not at the bottom anymore, it all looks beautiful.


Sometimes beauty comes in the shape of a material lift, as in, My husband is an ass, I think I'll take his money and go buy the most expensive pair of shoes I can find because fuck him. Or, I've watched Sponge Bob every day for a year, let's go drink our lunch and buy some diamonds. Shoes and diamonds and Chardonnay for lunch are all beautiful things, and they can certainly be used to hide bad situations. (Although don't get me wrong, they can also be good in and of themselves.)

But isn't it human nature to "rise above"? Isn't it what we read about, see on television, hear in music? I know at least one whole song has been devoted to smiling even though your heart is breaking. Life hands you lemons - make lemonade. Suck it up. Pull yourself up by your boot straps and all that. Maybe it's been the American way, but now I feel like it's less American and more universal. A worldwide yank up on the collective boot strap. Maybe it's a woman's way. A global ovary tremble, if you will. We deal with some pretty heavy issues on a daily basis, multitask like octopuses, and still bring home the bacon (and/or fry it up in a pan).

I felt as I looked at the faces of the beautiful girls in the photos, that they had the perspective that only the hardest of times can bring. They are keenly aware of their country's sad history, and they know that right now, it's not as bad as it could be. It's better than it was. They realize the gifts they've been given - both internal and external - and are thankful. Their faces are shining with gratitude and joy.

Does yours? Does mine? Do my children's faces glow with the realization that they are filled with and surrounded by blessings, or do they think that because their friends have a Kindle Fire and real earrings that they are inferior and humiliated and it's ALL MY FAULT?

I'm pretty sure all of us have some funky shit in our lives. But we get up and get dressed and start the day. I know things are tough at times. Sometimes our job sucks, sometimes our partners make us crazy, sometimes what we hope and pray for never comes to pass. And sometimes we don't buy our kids an iPod Touch OR let them get their ears pierced.

And if those are the most devastating things ever to happen to my daughters, I will look up every night and thank my lucky stars. 

The same lucky stars that shine over that school in Rwanda, where those girls will continue to grow beauty from devastation, and create life from death, and God-willing, will live long enough to see their daughters do the same. And, I suppose, worry about them just like we worry about ours.

Global ovary tremble, indeed.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Interlude: Grammy edition

Dear Adele,

I know you don't know me (yet?) and I may (or may not) be old enough to be your Mother, and after reading this (who am I kidding, She's not reading this {and YES, She deserves a capital "S"}) you may be tempted to Google "restraining order", but rest assured, I'm not crazy, I'm just hopelessly devoted to you, gorgeous you. And your eyelashes, your brash humor, and the way you say "Fank you" wif such charm and Brit cockney lilt.

Let's just get something straight from the start. You may not have my same dance background, but I think you'll concur. Chris Brown is the male Britney Spears. If he wants to be a dancer, he should dance. Dance his ever-loving ass off. I will sit back and enjoy. If he wants to be a singer, well then, by God, at some point he will have to actually sing. Live. Like in front of people. With his voice. And a microphone. One that turns on. Speaking of which, if he isn't going to sing, he shouldn't wear a mic. He shouldn't even pretend. It's not an accessory, it's actually used to amplify one's voice. Which he isn't currently using. So he shouldn't bother.

(Not to mention, Chris Brown, to use one of your homeland terms, is a wanker. You must think we're crazy in La-la land. And we might be. Because apparently you can sock your girlfriend, and then continue to enjoy success and glory because of a talent that you don't even have to actually employ in public. Amazing. And by "amazing", I mean debatable. At best.)

Next. Sir Paul McCartney is from your dojo. I get it. However. The very old and many times married man skipping around the stage wearing suspenders does not a finale make.

Miscellaneously (if it's not a word, it should be), why do the Foo Fighters get to be on stage (albeit the one outside) THREE times? I love me some Foo, but I would much rather have heard you sing two more times, and I'm not just saying that.

A few more musings:

• Why is Nikki Minaj trying to reenact Madonna's 'Like A Prayer' but with some sort of nouveau twist, inviting the Pope as her date? I didn't understand that one at all. If you spoke to her backstage and can break it down, write me back. 
• Why did Katy Perry come to the Grammys as Smurfette? Aren't we finished there?
• And WTF is Dead Mau5? Is that cool, or is it a digitized Jack in the Box head with ears?


Last, I'm a fan of Lady Gaga. I am. I think she sings the shit out of her acapella version of "Born This Way", and I'm not even going to front, I love "You and I". That said, what is the meaning of that face screen? Normally she looks like what would happen if Barbara Streisand and Amy Winehouse (R.I.P.) had a baby, but two nights ago, she looked like a dolphin who swam full speed into a glittery net. Sort of surprised and pulled back. Did she indulge in too much pre-party and end up trying to put her tights on face first? I felt uncomfortable with that decision, and I'm not even going into the scepter she was holding. She makes me nervous a little bit. Which is probably her goal. So in that case, well done YOU, Lady Gaga. At least when you open your mouth you actually sing.

That's my recap. Granted, I saw it from my couch, in America. I'd love your perspective, Adele. We should probably circle the wagons for a glass of red (or six) and really talk. We don't even have to talk, come to think of it. I'd settle for some time in your presence. It was supposed to happen at your Bay area concert, but then those dastardly polyps ruined everything, so...

Until we meet again. And by "meet", I mean, until another fabulous friend offers to buy me tickets to your next concert and takes me to watch you sing. For real. With your voice. Your fabulous, wonderful, amazing, God-given, angelfaced voice.


Crazy Amy

Friday, February 10, 2012


I can hear birds chirping out front and I can see bits of green and tiny flower buds on trees. Spring (you can call February "Spring" in California) is a time to feel fresh and aware and open to growth.

A time to be kind to struggling new flowers who are just learning what it means to find their place in the sun, so they can grow strong and steady and ready to stand up to the rains that eventually - inevitably - come upon them.

And if those flowers are our children, and we know that the storms will eventually come to rain down on them, much like they rained down on us as we grew up, then shouldn't we try to keep them in the sun as much as possible right now?

Nine is having a tough go. She's trying to navigate school, which has gotten much harder this year. She's trying to understand that as the school work gets harder, she needs to work harder. Success in school has come easily to date, so when it doesn't, it creates a valley of uncertainty and scaling the mountains to get back up to the top seems impossible. She needs to absorb my words when I tell her that things get harder for everyone. That as she grows, so will the challenges she faces. It doesn't mean she can't overcome them, it just means that she's going to have to dig deep for what she needs to help her do it. All the equipment is in there, she's just got to be able to find it.

God willing, finding that will be easier than finding her shoes when Seven and I are standing by the front door, toes tapping, keys jingling nervously because we're seconds away from being late to school (again).

Apart from school, which is partly cloudy this Spring, she's navigating the whipping social winds of third grade. I know from experience that girls can be mean. I'm pretty sure all of us girls know from experience that girls can be mean, otherwise Tina Fey wouldn't have written a movie called "Mean Girls" and it wouldn't have been as successful as it was, or as funny. It's easy now to laugh about it, but I remember my best friend suddenly and without warning, decidedly unfriending me in Junior High. I was DEVASTATED. Not to mention confused and embarrassed and racking my little hormonal brain trying to figure out what on earth I'd done to deserve it. Of course, I'd done nothing. It was her, not me. Even if I had seen it coming, I couldn't stop it any more than you can stop the rain from getting you wet when you try to run for cover in a barn with no roof.

I'm afraid this unfriending, uncomfortable, unwelcome storm is coming earlier now. The words that are said are cruel. The looks that these little girls give feel like a hailstorm, biting and sharp. I've seen it happen and I've heard the stories. I've also seen Nine's big brown eyes, with her long lashes that look like mink, well up with tears as she shares with me the fact that this is yet one more thing she can't understand.

We teach in our house that you look into someone's heart to find their beauty. That beautiful people have a happy heart and that heart can beat within bodies of all sizes, shapes and colors. When they are kind to one another or to friends, I say to them "I see such a beautiful, happy heart in what you just did.".

So it's tough to fathom mean, especially when it comes out of a seemingly clear, blue sky. We try to explain that people who act mean are unhappy, and that the nasty things they say have less to do with the person they say them to, and more to do with themselves and their own sadness. And when someone lashes out for no reason, the best thing to do is to remember first that it's not about you. The next best thing to do is to realize that whatever they are saying or doing is coming from a dark heart. Mean people aren't mean to you because you're doing it wrong, they're mean because they hurt. Maybe someone is mean to them. Maybe they watch Mom and Dad be mean to each other. I don't think an unhappy heart is necessarily born, I think it's learned through painful process. And that pain has to come out somehow.

Sometimes it comes out on a sweet, naive, unsuspecting third grader in the form of a turquoise post-it note with "I hate you" written on it. Sometimes the note says "You're stupid". Sometimes it's a sideways glance and a comment under the breath meant to intimidate. (And it does.)

I wonder if unleashing that storm feels good to a kid who is full of thunder and lightening. I wonder if it helps it move through them so they can find some sunshine too, or if it's just how they are and will be, with gray clouds in their eyes and hate in their mouths. Maybe instead of holding hands with their girlfriends, and feeling the shared joy of innocence, they will grip and twist and pull to ensure that someone else feels just as bad as they do.

My task as I see it is to teach a combination of compassion and confidence, because I can't (unfortunately) put my kids in a safety bubble for the next 80 years. It's okay to feel bad because of a mean girl, and it's okay to feel bad for a mean girl. But it's not okay to let the grip of one bring you to your knees. Hopefully Nine (and Seven) will grow so strong in the sunshine of our love that they will never be broken by wind or rain or hateful post-its from silly, sad girls. Hopefully they will grow so strong that their appreciation for self and others will protect them from what's to come, and what's already happened. 

Hopefully they will learn that they can also give sunshine to help someone else's seed of happiness grow, and they can do this without becoming cold themselves. I myself am learning how and when to let go just enough. It's scary for all of us and one more reason why my middle name is Worry. But I am grateful to be on this tireless journey of teaching and loving and protecting. Sometimes it makes me want to curl up around the puppy and sleep for hours. Other times I want to - work with me here - just stuff the kids back up into my womb and fight their fights for them again.

Instead, I will keep pointing out pretty clouds and beautiful hearts and reasons to laugh, and hope that this fortifies them enough to weather any storm.

I may also steal all the post-its from the classroom, but you didn't hear it from me.

Friday, February 3, 2012


It's been longer than five minutes and my husband is still in town.

Granted, he leaves again Sunday, maybe Monday, but for the moment he is here, so he's finally cleared some mind space, and read the whole blog. His comments about it crystallized the differences between men and women. He liked it and was very complimentary. He even said he laughed out loud at one part, although he couldn't recall what it was. He said, You know, it was something about the four of us doing something. I was all, Super specific, thanks.

But he said something else that I thought was so interesting. And by "interesting" I mean I shared it with Chicago right away to get her perspective, because she's the kind of best friend where if something happens in my life or hers, it didn't really happen until we can share it with each other. So I wrote to her and she emailed back and instantly made me feel uncrazy, as she tends to do. 

So, he said, I don't know, it just sort of seems like you're sad. And I was like, Sad? I'm not sad. Well, sometimes I'm sad, but I'm not writing because I'm sad. He said that he's just not the type of person to throw his life out there for people to read or see. You know, he's a man. I explained to my sweet, unassuming, confused man that this is what women do. We feel something, and then we feel around to see if anyone else feels it too, and then when we discover they do indeed feel it too, we all feel better.

It's a lot of feelings for a man to wrap his man-brain around, I get it. But I've been thinking about what he said ever since, because I like to dwell.

What I've come up with is that women are just different from men. We love the feeling of feeling connected. Even as little girls we joyfully hold hands, and to catch a glimpse of little girls holding hands is to catch that sweet, innocent, burgeoning female connection in its infancy. Eventually, we hold the (clammy) hands of our first boyfriends, and our next. It makes us feel giddy and breathless. We hold the hands of our husbands or partners. It makes us feel adult and exclusive and publicly devoted. We hold the hands of our children. It makes us (and them) feel guided and safe and in control. We hold the hands of our parents when we are all adults. It makes us feel thankful and full of remembrance and less out of control.

Women need to hold hands with others, even if it's virtually. For me, reaching out and connecting helps keep the Good Ship Amy balanced as it creaks and sways and navigates through life.

Men like to stand solitary on the bow, feet spread, hands on their own hips, steady as they go. I think it makes them feel stronger to manage the course alone.

But women's hands are never just on our own hips (without grocery bags and infants and backpacks, I mean), and we learn early that steering alone doesn't make you stronger or braver or more capable. It just makes you alone. Women's hands are forever wringing, washing, carrying, clasping, patting, soothing, making, cradling. Our hands are exhausted. We feel less tired when we feel warmth. Solidarity. Support. We need to feel another woman saying, I've walked in your shoes, and my callouses are right where yours are - do you feel them? You aren't alone, I am with you - do you hear me? I will stand by you and walk with you and listen to you and feel for you. I will squeeze your hand to remind you that I am cradling your heart while you cradle that baby through another sleepless night. I will brush the hair off of your pretty forehead as you cry out of sheer exhaustion or frustration or anger or heartbreak. 

Or, I will read your musings and I will write you back and tell you that your journey is my journey. And that your kids sound like they act like my kids. And that your life seems wonderful and crazy and you're a lunatic (but I say that with love) and you made me laugh today and also? We. Are. One.

Women love that shit. Men, not so much. And that's okay. Because I can feel something, and throw it out there thinking, Man, am I the only one who feels like this? And someone writes back and says, Me too. And then I know it's not just me, because I have proof. Someone else said it out loud too, and that means it's not just in my head. See? Uncrazy.

But that's only part of why I'm writing. One side of it is that it gets all these ramblings out of my head. The other side is the side that connects me to you. So I will use the hands that I use to hold my babies, to make dinner, to love my husband and to care for the house-eating puppy, to do this too. To write away. And as I clickety-click it all out there, I will feel your hands holding mine. Just holding and squeezing and outhaling through it all, every time.

Sad? No. Exactly the opposite, actually.