The meaning of motherhood


You are a mother, and that means something.

But it’s best, child, not to know all the gory details.  So you hide in the closet and pull at your own hair. Because it hurts and sometimes pain is the only thing that reaches deep down inside. You cry so much your eyes are encased with dark circles.  My god look at you.  You lost ten pounds but not the good kind where you look toned and tanned but the droopy, caved out hollow look. You put on makeup because you want to paint some color back into these worn-out cheeks.  You best take a shower and get up from that fetal position because time waits for no one. Is anyone feeling sorry for you? There is no one here to listen.

Because you are a mother, and that means something.

And there’s dinner, always dinner.  All the time these kids want to eat and there’s dishes and clothes on the floor and they hate asparagus.  Why do you kids need to eat so damn much? When we were little, you’d say, asparagus was a delicacy at Christmas.  Grandmother would pull it out of a can and serve it like gold yet here you are complaining about it when it’s freshly steamed with sea salt.  You have no idea how good you have it.  But they have no frame of reference so they look at you like you are speaking Italian and you let them eat macaroni because whatever.  You will not submit to the Zanax prescription hanging on your refrigerator door or drink too much wine.  You are better than this.  Pull your shit together, woman. If anything, do it for them.  They are becoming your singular focus these days, the reason you get up and keep on drinking coffee.

Because you are a mother, and that means something.

So you walk in and you get that job because you gotta work to pay for that school they are used to and clothes and legal bills and this mortgage that you need to refinance along with the lawn that needs to be mowed every two weeks.  Stupid weeds.  They cost $100 to handle. And when you get the job you cry in your car and ask God if you really have the strength to do all of these things.  He says yes and you just nod and haul your tear-streaked face back home through the traffic and through the recycled NPR stories and through the sinus headache. And then you see your kids and you just can’t wait to smell their hair and touch their faces and put them in your massive and empty bed to cuddle together because if you hold them really tight they won’t disappear.

You are their mother.  That’s what you tell yourself at night as the tears well up.

And it turns out all this pain permeates like clouds in the air so your kids grow sad and you think to yourself I’ve ruined them so you work so hard to create a happy home and do all the amazing things that mothers do to make children happy like ice cream nights and sand castles and building forts out of blankets.  You begin to wear makeup and start to puff your cheeks like a fish and make up stories about women in New Jersey who yell at imaginary taxi drivers. And they start to crack a smile so you breathe a little like Mary Tyler Moore thank you Jesus we’re going to make it after all.  And instead of macaroni you start to cook pork roast because you want to eat whatever the hell you want who cares that it’s only Tuesday you run this home.

You are a mother.  And by God that means something.

You start to move on and find a place again in life.  A wonderful unique place that you didn’t know was even there, that fits like a little glove over your fingers.   And this new place has new people and you end up with a partner who thinks you don’t even need under eye concealer because your eyes are more beautiful than diamonds and your heart is what he’s after and you ride this happy little train with your hair blowing out of the side window.

But you turn around and your kids are not having it because what is this life you are contemplating. There is a NOT APPROVED stamp. Not having any part in it. Sorry, return this life thanks but no thanks.  We want the old one, the one we thought was normal until it wasn’t, where they were the center of the universe and Daddy sometimes came home for dinner after work.  Because in the memory of a child things are always beautiful and sweet, as they should be. But oh my loves, there is no going back.  The old life is over can’t you see? Can’t you see how it’s fading away?

I am your mother, the one who loves you.  Doesn’t that mean something?

So you put a jacket on that strong back of yours and let them pounce upon it, attack it, claw at it.  You turn around and let them.  You watch in horror as they rip up the love notes and sabotage all you’ve build up inside this neat-fitted glove. But it’s a phase and it will pass and soon enough they will see you had to move on, because of your sanity and because of your dignity and because of that Zanax prescription you managed to fight off out of sheer will. Well you may deserve another chance at love but what you actually get is another fight about bedtime and getting out the door in the morning and there’s a spider in the bath and suddenly we’re back in pull-ups again. They cling and cry and cling and cry and you are a ping pong ball just being bounced around between emotions. They physically insert themselves in between you and the new life thinking they can be a human shield warding off the new. Yes I know you hate me but you have to take a shower and wash your hair and brush your teeth.

Because you remain a mother, and that means something.

And there are expectations, for special breakfasts and funny faces and singing random instructions and chess games, proving to them you’re still you, you’ve still got it, you’re not abandoning them, you’re rock of all things in this shifting sand.  Even when they glare and yell and cling and cry.  You just bounce back up. But who are we kidding you’re not God so you drag around sometimes and yell and feel guilty about the yelling. There’s school projects and homework and dinner and trying to get them to school on time and movie nights.  And then you get sick but mom can’t get sick so you push through and still do all the things but sometimes they eat Granola bars instead. And you get better but they don’t notice because they are children, just glad to have you back making French toast because granola bars get old, everyone knows this.

Sometimes you sit on a girlfriend’s couch and drink wine until all the words fall out until you apologize for always talking about your life and never theirs and you are filled with guilt for being so selfish.  They tell you it’s fine and they love you but you never quite believe them. Why or how is that possible after so much of your bitching. Your kid then says they don’t want a therapist because they’re fine and it’s you that’s the problem.

It’s hard being a mother.

You sit down one day and realize that you are a hair’s breath from giving up because your back is getting bruised and bloody from taking it all the time. But you don’t have the luxury of giving up so you stand up and shuffle down the hallway like an old lady with arthritis.  But seriously your muscles hurt. You listen to some jazz because that seems to loosen things up and you drink hot tea with lemon. And when your kid forgets their school project you drive it back up to the school.  They know this about you, because you’re YOU and this is what you are around for.

And at the end of every day you still look at them and your heart melts, the smell of their hair and the way it feels when they curl up to you at night when you read to them.  They are you, from you, born on earth a part of you.  Someday they will look back and think my mom made a decent dish of mashed potatoes and sometimes laughed and gave us gifts on Wednesdays.  And they will have odd memories of all this mixed together in a blender, some good and some sad and some flat-out weird. And they will know you’re always there and never left and sometimes had a droopy eye.  But if they wanted to talk you did and if they wanted to sing you did and if they wanted to take a long walk that was just fine too.

Because you were their mother, and that meant everything.




10 Ways to Infuse your Life with Humor


Me and Beyonce in Vegas. Remember that, B? SUPER FUN.

(1) Watch comedians live. It’s endearing to see someone be bold and share personal information about their toenails and ex-boyfriends in a way that makes you laugh.  I am always and exceedingly proud of people for getting up there.  I’m a wonderful audience member because I’ll always smile and laugh and I never give haughty looks unless the comedy turns ugly and hateful.  Because I’m forgiving of bad jokes and nervous energy and uncomfortable silence and forgotten bits. I’m like the mother at a basketball game who’s cheering and pumping her fist and saying “WRONG WAY, DEE DEE!” and after we all go out to celebrate with ice cream.  I’m the queen of supportive. Unless it gets flat-out mean.   I am not forgiving of hate speech disguised as comedy.

(2) Look at everyday things in a different way.  Today, I told myself I had to find something humorous on a road sign.  Because road signs are so naturally interesting.  Well LO AND BEHOLD there was a sign posted about not texting and driving, and the picture of the phone was an old blackberry with an antenna.  And I thought how funny that we are supposed to take the state seriously if they still believe we are talking on phones with antennas. I remember when people would slam that antenna down after a frustrating call, like “TAKE THAT, AOL CUSTOMER SERVICE.”  Those phones didn’t even have texting capabilities.  There were only three cell towers in America and women were still wearing shoulder pads.  Look around you.  Is there something about your house, your car, your hair, the way your dog pees?  Surely there is something routine that you can look at differently and find the humor in.

(3) Imagine pain itself, or a painful experience, as something you can put in a box. Then create funny or ironic or sarcastic things to say about this painful thing.  Name it.  Maybe your pain is Myrtle or Hairy.  Then say all the funny or sarcastic things to its face and realize that suddenly, you have power over it. This thing doesn’t rule you.  It’s in a box for heaven’s sakes.  It has an unfortunate name that rhymes with turtle.  Who can take that seriously?

(4) Read funny things. I can’t highlight this enough.  Don’t try to imitate these people, or wish you were like these people, or try to copycat these people.  That’s creepy and covetous and is a trail to nowhere.  Just enjoy reading their funny words.  Applaud their talent, and encourage them.  Buy their stuff and go to their shows or readings and seek out words that make you laugh.  David Sedaris, Anne Lamott, and Dave Barry got me through many hard days. Put these words in your life because it reminds you how to take life less seriously.

(5) Encourage and solicit friendships that truly make you laugh. I know this sounds obvious, or mean, like you need to weed out Stacey because all she does is talk about her work drama and she’s a drag. I mean who cares about the fact that she got scolded by her mid-level manager in the accounting firm. But it’s true. Funny friends are important. (And don’t actually unfriend Stacey, poor thing.  Just take her out drinking. She’s under a lot of stress).  If you have friends who make you laugh, you should schedule time with them.  It’s like a kale smoothie – being with friends who uplift you and make you smile is good for your body and doesn’t make you want to vomit.

(6) Turn anger into humor. This world is filled with a lot of things that make me angry. For example: Trump’s limited vocabulary, bad drivers, our lack of compassion as a nation for those unlike us, pushy girl scouts, crappy coffee, people who misrepresent faith as being an elite club only for the good people, Trump’s lips, when neighbors drive fast down my little country road, and when my car smells like rotten milk.  Okay maybe I’m overreacting about the Girl Scouts.  However, we must turn these things that infuriate us into something that makes us laugh. Why? Not because we are minimizing them, but because we have to find a way to cope with them. Humor is the only way I’ve found to deal with anger in a way that doesn’t lead to alcoholism or jail time.  Let’s hear it.  What makes you angry, and how can you make that funny?

(7) Only watch good-quality television. I realize this may sound like an oxymoron, but there is so much smart television out there right now.  Don’t let yourself fall for some cheap laugh-track crap that just fills your mind with junk.  Search out shows that play on words, use physical humor, have underlying themes that resonate, and fill your mind with joy.  That being said, if some stupid show makes you exceedingly happy, resulting in you humming all afternoon and baking scones, FINE.  Ignore this advice completely and keep watching.  Because what the hell do I know.

(8) Don’t attack people personally for their belief systems. Make fun of things, general issues, yourself (always fair game), Vanilla Ice, long catholic weddings, and any of the Kardashians. But don’t make it personal. We need to see humor as a connector amongst us.  It’s a great unifier between the redneck cowboy with the elitist city dweller. Let’s use it for good, not evil.

(9) Allow yourself to be serious. People who try to be funny all the time are annoying at worst, creepy at best.  You have to learn the ying and the yang, become familiar with the serious and the frivolous, so allow yourself to feel all the emotions of life.  The funniest people I know aren’t always wise-cracking.  They are introspective, creative, ambitious, invested in their communities, and wise.  There is a scene in Steel Magnolias where Sally Fields is crying after the death of her daughter, and when I say crying I mean sobbing because HELLO SALLY FIELDS I LOVE YOU and she says “I just want to hit someone! Something! Anything!” And then her dear friend Olympia Dukakis throws Shirley MacLaine in her face and says “HIT HER!”  And in the midst of great sadness and seriousness and tears streaming down Sally’s face, what do you see? Humor. And it’s brilliant.

(10) Spent time around children. They are truly wonderful little people without all the cynicism and baggage of adults.  If you don’t have children, you should borrow some.  Pay close attention to how they look at life, the questions they ask, and write down the funny things they say.  They will always put you in a better mood, unless they are three or ten or going through puberty.  Then you should avoid them at all costs, run quickly the other way, pretend you don’t know them, say you are just the pizza delivery person, and revert back to some other advice above.

Most of all, allow yourself to laugh.  Find joy in all things.  Proverbs says that a joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. 17:22 So go forth and make it a priority to infuse laughter and humor into your routines.  You owe it to yourself.  You owe it to humanity.  You owe your friend money and your mother a return telephone call too, but who’s counting.

Inside vs. Outside Voice

(1) Kid: Guess what! I woke up at 5 am all by myself and got dressed! Outside Voice: You did! Oh my goodness I’m so proud of you! Look how you picked out that shirt I didn’t know you still had! And that belt? Come here and give me a big hug.  What a big […]

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Clouded Visions


Our evening with Donald (credit NBC Universal) I met Trump and his wife Melania in New York City in 2005.  I thought it was fun, like “here we are with this Reality Star Donald Trump who owns lots of buildings!” He was shorter than I expected. His hair and skin were weird. I wanted to […]

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Revenge is Sweet


There’s scientific evidence that in our brain, we find enjoyment when punishment is invoked on people who do bad things. And when you think about it, it’s how society works.  On any other level of the animal kingdom, the choice is comprised of being eaten or defending oneself, and doing whatever you can do to protect your […]

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Stripped Cotton (and the bloom of a new year)


Earlier this holiday Mark came with me to Lubbock, Texas.  I went to school there.  In a past life I had family there, up the dusty roads north of town.  My son’s middle name he shares with a West Texas cotton farmer, who used to stare outside for hours looking at rain clouds, wondering if hail […]

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Joy for the Saturated Soul


I love making French toast.  I crack the eggs into a bowl, where the yolks stand up bright orange and tall. I whisk in the cream, slow and steady.  I use Saigon cinnamon because it has a stronger flavor.  I grate orange zest and watch it fall.  Then I push the bread into the mixture […]

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The Promise Land


It’s been on my mind lately, this notion of The Promise Land. No matter how ugly your marriage or drug addiction, your future can be washed clean.  You, too, can be happy.  You, too, can be beautiful. You, too, can live inside of a Pottery Barn catalog. It’s all waiting, right around that street, around the bend, […]

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10 Things to Do on a Rainy Day


(1) Gripe about the weather. This is always a winner, especially at the office.  “How about this rain, eh?” goes a long way to creating zero good will and developing pointless interactions.  Other favorites are “will it ever stop?” and “it’s sure coming down out there.” If you refer to cats and dogs, you’ve simply […]

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Living the American Dream


If you come from nothing, work hard, and manage to support yourself, maybe you are Living the American Dream. We’ve heard of this illusive dream.  This America. But somewhere between belching out our light beer and clicking on pop-up ads, we’ve forgotten it. People have almost died to get here.  They’ve puked and starved their […]

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