Partner Workout Day


I haven’t worked out in a while.  The last time I went to the gym my instructor was pregnant, and this time she was stressing about her kid’s college applications.

To be fair, I’ve had stuff going on.  I got married and moved and have been cooking for seven instead of three.  I am launching a new company, I’ve been running a law practice, and I’ve been doing lots of writing, sleeping, and eating snacks.  But mostly I’ve just been watching Netflix.  I hate working out.  The only thing worse than working out is working out the next time. That being said, it feels good AFTER you work out, similar to the feeling after you leave the hospital or after someone stops punches you repeatedly in the stomach while calling you Mandy.

Upon my epic return, all I wanted to do is hide in the corner, run on the treadmill, listen the instructor’s guidance in stoic silence (except for the necessary gasping of air), burn some calories, and complain about it later. I was proud of myself for showing up and fitting into my work-out bra, which was indeed a miracle of science.

The way this gym works is that they give you a little preview of the workout, which is like showing you a play-by-play of how you will die, then they turn on the music and give you a little peppy high-five as you walk in the work-out room. The instructor says “Welcome!” and “Glad you made it!” while I mutter “it’s better than dying from heart disease.”

I prefer Treadmill Number 8.  It’s right below the heart-rate monitor screen and I can see it without my glasses. So I give people a look that says “I will cut you” if they take my precious Number 8 or inch towards my Number 8 or act as if they are coveting Number 8 in any way.  But I realize I’m a stranger here and they simply don’t know.  Okay, I’ll give them this.

So here I am, waiting for class to begin.  Then, out of the blue, the instructor says something that I wasn’t expecting and rocked me to the core. The words slid out as if it was nothing.  Like we desire social interaction while wearing spandex.  “IT’S PARTNER DAY, EVERYONE!” she yelled.  Why she yelled it, I have no idea. Calm down. And what fresh hell is this partner-day nonsense.  I panicked.  I looked around and everyone is like “Whoop!” and giving each other big smiles on a Tuesday and I’m standing there in my ill-fitting sports bra like “this is the thanks I get for coming to the gym today?”

A short woman standing next to me named Stacey (could have been a fake name, hard to say) looked equally petrified so I just sorta shrugged and said “hey – wanna partner up?”  She nodded in despair and we trudged into the room together like sad little turtles.

The first order of business was to get on the treadmill and be the pacer, meaning you had to run half a mile and then tag your partner to switch with you.  You want to be fast and competent and show your partner that you’re not a lallygagging lazybones. Despite my unhealthy competitive spirit, my heart rate was raging against the machine.  I ran only a quarter of a mile and then said to Stacey “it’s cool – you really don’t have to listen to what they say.” I figured I’d give her permission to slack off. She said, to my great surprise, “I never listen and I’m actually more of a walker.”  I then realized we were kindred spirits, this other lazy person and me.  So the rest of the hour we’d walk past each other and say little things like “well this is ridiculous” and roll our eyes at each other.  After the class she said “I really don’t think I’m supposed to be in the red zone the whole time” and I was like “you’re just an overachiever” and we laughed and laughed like we were always meant to be pudgy and slightly terrified work-out partners.

I think the lesson of this story is that (a) maybe you should just stay home and (b) working out is awful; but (c) if you work out with a partner you should totally pick Stacey (or whatever her real name is).  But mostly it’s a lesson that people generally do a little too much high-fiving.  I would go into more detail but I’m late for my work-out class.  Today is “leave everyone the eff alone and just lift weights day,” which is my favorite class of the year.

Happy American Heart Prevention month, everyone!




On Comparisons


There is often a different persona we portray in public than the one we maintain on a daily basis. The you who takes the kids to school in dirty jeans and the you who cooks frozen vegetables and the you who picks up the house with a deep-throated sigh is the SAME YOU who does wonderful and meaningful things.  But sometimes, it doesn’t feel like the wonderful you is enough. You can map out your days by dumping kitty litter in the trash and washing off plates.

We are attracted to people whose online life is pleasing.  They make us laugh, they have a way with words or photos, they calm us somehow. We think “Good gracious, woman. You really do bake bread from scratch.” Like there is some imaginary point clicker and that lady just got a point. We scroll from morning until night.  Funny people.  Beautiful people.  Interesting people.  Pots of herbs sitting on a soapstone countertop. A laundry room with all those pretty little hooks for backpacks.  As for you? You’re off to the grocery store to buy chicken for dinner. There’s nothing photo-worthy in the mundane.

But here’s the deal.  We are all lovely people doing wonderful things, and living our best life, and kicking total ass, sometimes. If we are lucky, most of the time.  And yet other times we struggle, and we need to support each other through all the various seasons.  Sometimes we pick fights and have ugly under-eye circles.  We suck at organizing and leading and teaching.  We eat plain old bread from the grocery store. But you woke your children up with love.  You made a lunch.  You made it to work and are doing a job that needs to be done.

You have value.  Intrinsic, whole-hearted, deeply-rooted value in the world.

I invited a counselor to coffee a few months back, simply because I read online she uses humor in her approach to therapy and I was intrigued.  I didn’t know her at all but I emailed her out of the blue and she was gracious enough to meet me.  I use humor as a coping skill to get through all major life issues so I wanted to learn from her and hear her story.  She told me her client base was women, all of whom suffer from anxiety or comparison issues.  I was astounded that this therapist spends every day listening to women think they aren’t good enough, or can’t cope with the reality of life given their skillsets and talents.  “This is literally all your clients?” I asked.  She nodded.

I went for another cup of coffee at that point, because life is short and this news was depressing. Also I have a coffee problem, which I’ve determined is better than a wine problem, but not quite as great as a working-out problem. I don’t think that last one is a problem at all.  If you tell me you have a working-out problem we won’t be friends.

We talk a great deal about comparisons, but often but in that general way, like “life isn’t always like pinterest!”  But in reality we’re ripping labels off water bottles so that they have little red banners on them that look like bandanas for our kids’ western-themed birthday parties. And when the party goes well, we let out a sigh of relief.  Because we made it through another day.  We did what we are expected to do.  We are being the mother we are destined to be and/or some online world would be proud of.

To be fair, you didn’t set these standards.  Society has set these impossible standards.  Social media and advertising want you to be on the cusp of happy, but not quite.  They tell you that scratch-made food is better, pottery barn sheets are softer, kind gentle tones to your children is wiser, Instagram filters are magical, candy in tall apothecary jars is more beautiful, carrots straight from the garden is more nutritious, and having friends and parties and lots of events is a more desirable way of life. If you can’t do all these things, you’ve failed.  You’ve not reached MASTER LIFE STATUS.  You really need to just curl up and eat cocoa pebbles in a state of clinical depression.  You’ll never make it to ninja warrior life status at this rate, so why even try. Man –  just writing this makes me want to unfriend you.  You’re a disgrace.  You have a pudgy middle section.  Look at you, eating sugary cereal.

You get my drift.

The only thing above that really matters is the kind and gentle part, but it gets buried in the rubble of all the things and the rules and the flowers you can make out of paper and the shame we pile on top of ourselves like heavy blankets.

We are getting smothered by it all.

I believe fully that when Jesus walked the earth, his message was primarily that we are fully and completely loved, and a dependence upon God isn’t a negative submission but complete freedom, to be ourselves and be wildly loved for who we are.  And who we are is not the same as the person next to us on the bus or the best friend who always makes fresh tomato and basil sandwiches.   When it all boils down to it, no one at the last stages of life gives two shits that you had soapstone countertops.  When you’re about to leave this earth, you won’t be thinking fondly about the time you set out a cheese board with four different cheddars you flew in from England. You think about love, and connections with people, and family.  Okay you might be thinking about that cheese plate a smidge.  You really flew in cheese from Europe? That’s badass.

My name is Amanda.  I love to cook things, and laugh at things, and create things.  I am not shy about saying that I am good at a lot of things. I’m confident and have a good sense of who I am and where I belong.  I am a lawyer, which I’m proud of.  I am a mother, which I’m proud of as well.  I am a weaver of words, which brings me great joy.  And I am a hope-giver, which is even better still.

But I am also a stepmother, which is terrifying.  There are times I feel like I want to run out and grab a suitcase on the way out, because I don’t know how to navigate this world of teenagers that aren’t even mine.  I’m terribly disorganized and I use a cardboard box as a trash can in my office, and every once in a while my husband has to come in and gather up the seven coffee mugs that are in various stages of mold.  And almost every day I think things like “why can’t I be funnier and why can’t I find time to write more and why can’t I get this book published.”  I don’t discipline my children as well as I should and end up telling them to put on their shoes seven times. I am not a perfect person, despite the fact that I bake a damn good loaf of honey wheat bread.  Yes, from scratch.  I ain’t gonna lie.

And yet I know that tomorrow is a new day, and there is sun peeping over the horizon.  I know that I have talents that not everyone has, a voice that some need to hear, and hope that can be sprinkled into the world like snowflakes.  Upon every traumatic event, after every negative thought and every spot of the mundane.  After cancer and divorce and nearly dying, or just after a trip to the veterinarian.  I remain hopeful.

It takes all types of us in the world to function well, and to blend into a society that moves and breaths and lives.  Because the fact is, there is no real life and online life. There is only life.

And it’s so valuable.  Why? Because it’s yours. Go make a dent in the world, one trip to the grocery store at a time.



NPR Interview with Trump Staffer Larry Stewart Whereby He Simply Quotes Musical Lyrics


  NPR:  Today we have with us the head of environmental policy under President Trump, Larry Stewart. Larry: That’s me! NPR:  Yes, we know it’s you.  We invited you.  We see you here in the studio. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to speak with us about climate change. Larry:  […]

[Continue reading...]

New & Improved Slow Cooker User Guide

Click HERE to go to Belladonna Comedy and read my new humor post on how to properly use a slow cooker.  This is a very funny humor website written exclusively by women and it has some really funny stuff on there.  Check it out! And keep on being slow!

[Continue reading...]

Tales of a Spa Pedicure


I took my daughter to a spa for a pedicure.  It was one of those all-natural, all-organic, you go home smelling like cloves type of places. We sit down in our pedicure chairs and I tell the man who’s doing the pedicure to cut my nails short. He had platinum blond hair and was wearing […]

[Continue reading...]

Embracing the not-so-perfect life


An example of a cookie that no one should strive for. Who spends 20 minutes on one freaking cookie that looks like your grandmother’s quilt? Seriously it’s insane. Stop it. Volunteer at a homeless shelter or something. Watch a movie.  Stare aimlessly into space dreaming up new ice cream flavors. Anything. — Expectations.  I look at […]

[Continue reading...]

From Shootings to Starbucks: Overcoming Evil Starts with Us


Do not tell me it’s only a mental health problem when people shoot up churches and country music crowds like it is a video game series. Do not tell me you’re shocked at our current headlines when you see movies where people’s heads explode like fireworks and all the television on all the stations glorify […]

[Continue reading...]

An Open Letter to Humanity {about humor and prayer}


Dear Humanity, Have you heard the stories about how good friends or spouses can sit in silence and never say a word?  I say it’s because they are boring stiffs, but others say it’s because their peace and love for each other is so vast and their comfort with being still is so strong there […]

[Continue reading...]

Battle of the Sexes: A movie review

You guys know that I like to write funny things.  I like to write heartfelt things about love and God and butterflies. Okay maybe butterflies are a bit dull.  I rarely get on a soapbox.  But today, I feel like delving into something that I just can’t shake. Last night I watched “Battle of the […]

[Continue reading...]

Right now I am on a plane

Right now I am on a plane, headed to the rich crust of scenery that is Northern California, seated next to a handsome middle-aged man who is reading the paper. There is nothing abnormal about a nice-looking man reading the paper on an airplane. But I’m struck by the ring on his left hand, just […]

[Continue reading...]