Partner Workout Day

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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!

photo

(threew’s).flickr.com/photos/cumidanciki/5163310087/in/photolist-8SgjcH-8Sgjwn-owzvqk-S7j7De-5osALY-SSEfNX-canpFA-8SjqBd-SPahFb-FxngsX-cansiS-p5UJ57-c8x1YN-RCJp58-cant1q-pk8rah-4HjHun-ehzwCR-dPFfXw-9sdfhX-75XhJt-7N3fwq-g9giVA-canoC7-53LFKJ-pBCysV-edGF6R-c8wuVq-TrZbtD-auo7zn-s85Vbh-9QxFLR-4GXcBN-8sGSM1-SLzCrt-qpxq5b-Sd9hh4-cqsfHj-dhP33i-6K51KM-pnTWU6-8r4WEb-a2cjpo-drEG3-75mypy-7vcp2u-RK7LuQ-oo9uYA-bqFowP-bkXDA6

 

On Comparisons

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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.

Photo:

(threew’s).www.flickr.com/photos/87744089@N08/36300377805/in/photolist-XiJVCR-n6JFQ2-Wvtm1J-Usqj7V-dssJQx-u797e-V4LqSA-JmbbEa-yUpbQ-4qskK4-653TQi-6LbWZ8-9d8EhK-4qJFWS-5W1tdH-pHP8Jp-23Aejhd-PfhKkR-cXaXZ-9d8Azp-9d8Dmc-iR3aHN-qvruHd-23NeufC-9H8Sjr-9d8FDc-UPBhgU-pM6pzx-aCSf8F-6b6xwi-8gDnWk-cgcF7J-cXAiqw-HVyCrh-6adFEd-LuBcs-9d8B8c-4TrouX-pNbfk-3LyLx-9d8D9r-sUrLv-t5yn2-9dbL4C-an2fkP-oRRqok-5eDe53-8zsf8Z-V4LsH9-8KNWeL

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

 

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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:  I’m not sure what you’re talking about.

NPR:  With regard to climate change?  Do you not understand what that phrase means or are you just confused as to what’s going on generally?  It’s Studio 11B.  You’re at NPR.  Your name is Larry.   You used to be the lead singer of Restless Heart, a country band, but now you apparently run the nation’s top environmental agency.

Larry: Look, I’ll make this brief. The President has informed us to open up land and fields to oil companies for drilling.  It’s that simple. We are opening up our hearts and minds and welcoming in the money. Don’t try to stop me, the boy’s on a roll.

NPR:  This is a drastic shift in policy translating into a bill in Congress or is it just the whim of – wait what?  Who’s trying to stop who?  What boy?

Larry:  Just trying to make American great again.

NPR: Look. I realize this is tough but let’s try to focus on the fact that references to climate change appear to be scrubbed from government websites.  Can you comment on this?

Larry (laughing): Nobody scrubbed anything about this thing you reference that we should not talk about.

NPR: We know that minds may differ, Larry, but can we not all agree there is at least the existence of an environment on our planet?  That we have in the past had some studies in regard to this issue? Can you comment on this at all, Larry?

Larry:  I find that you are using my name quite a bit in your questions.  I’m not sure if this is meant to throw me off.  But I’m a hard-hitter and believe that big dreams can exist in a small town and I’m not sure why everything has to be right or wrong.

NPR:  Those are Restless Heart lyrics, Larry. Why are you quoting us music lyrics when we asked you why the government is eliminating any reference to climate change?

Larry: That rock won’t roll.

NPR: Is that some reference to our earth?  As in the earth is a rock and it won’t roll?  Because it does roll in the sense that it’s spinning.  You do know about this, right Larry? That the earth spins?

Larry: It’s a freedom that we all wanna know.  It’s an obsession to some, to keep the world in your rearview mirror while you try to run down the sun.

NPR: THAT IS ANOTHER SONG LYRIC.  We have google, Larry.  Did the President just pluck you from Kentucky and put you in the government overseeing all of our environmental policy when you know zero about the environment?

Larry:  I don’t like your tone.  We are defunding you.

NPR:  I apologize.  I let the sheer absurdity of the situation at hand get the better of me.  But the EPA doesn’t have any authority or jurisdiction over funding for public radio.  Why would you even say that?

Larry: We owned this town.

NPR:  WHY DO YOU CONTINUE TO QUOTE COUNTRY SONGS TO ME. YOUR GLORY DAYS ARE OVER.

Larry:  I run the EBA and I can do what I want. I’ll have you know I was a very big deal in 1986 and the mullet was a stylish haircut.

NPR:  It’s the Environmental Protection Agency, Larry. Not sure what the “B” is for.

Larry:  Say what’s in your heart.

NPR: Okay we’re done.

Recorded on January 11, 2018

photo:

(threew’s).flickr.com/photos/oddwick/4331187208/in/photolist-7AJt4w-3Ejxgk-UDftv-qt5a94-4MQFL9-qXg9DR-8n6ums-61hPpF-9pjSgM-61Lrk6-wJqQbQ-8n3n5r-cCkWjJ-VE9uX7-8LYJzp-adG2Kz-8SRc8J-cAN8Dm-8n6uH5-6H8uKf-8n3mY6-8PrKT8-8FCuNd-6H4sfa-cK6FGL-qx6GK8-2vVkpu-LRAkD-DoaptK-6H8uZN-8n6u2w-UGFUKN-akjJ21-V65ytG-UGFVdm-fZxxwX-VkKggF-6JjF23-dBQSFW-6JjFWC-6JjGes-ovy2mX-dBKsvx-uom7h-5CmVi4-6JfAhZ-4WrXBJ-TZmQXA-azE1Tg-9Syz5f

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!

Tales of a Spa Pedicure

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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 one necklace with a bright red tassel and another with a skull and crossbones.  Not a super relaxing look, but maybe the remains of heads without skin is comforting to some people.

“What did you say?” he asked.  You would have thought I asked him to cut the heads off babies.

“CAN YOU CUT THE NAILS SHORT,” I said louder.

We don’t ever cut the nails,” he says.

I dramatically looked around, as if to show him visually by the sweeping of my eyes that we are in a ROOM WHERE NAILS ARE TAKEN CARE OF.  Isn’t cutting the nails part of it, or do natural organic people walk around with curled up talons?

How exactly do you respond to this? It wasn’t said with hesitation, like “well we usually do, but right now all our nail cutting devices are in the vinegar wash.”  It was a solid no, like when my kids ask “do you like this Taylor Swift song” or “are we ever going to Disney world.”

The guy must have felt bad because I looked forlorn, so he raises a piece of aspen bark tinted by the Colorado sun and dyed from lingonberries that he called a “nail file” in the air and says he’ll use this to file them down.

I stare at my toenails and realize that he’ll have to rub that thing against my toes until he makes fire to make a dent in the actual length of my nails, that are currently long and luxurious and would win a beauty contest in some countries.

“Don’t bother,” I said.  “I’ll cut them at home.” He smiles at me, his platinum blond hair bobbing.  He mixes something green and something white, tells me he’s about to rub green tea extract and salt on my feet, and I lay back and try to relax.

I look down again when he gets to the painting. He tells me he’s from Dallas, which is boring so we stop talking.  The woman who is working on my daughter’s nails is from Palestine and has this beautiful face and I keep asking her about her country and her opinions on things and what she thinks about America and I kept apologizing how our President acts.  My guy from Dallas with the aspen bark file realized he was losing ground so he just said nothing, his skull necklace swaying back and forth as he wrapped hot towels around my calves.  Apparently natural organic spa people have nothing against towels being heated to a very high temperature, but honestly that seems cruel.  Towels have feelings too.

When I got back home, I cut my nails.  I didn’t save the remains in an urn. I didn’t hold a vigil to the lost.  I just chopped them off and gave them the respect they deserved, which is none.  Because they are toenails.

Next time, we are heading the nail place around the corner, where they just consider nails a virus that must be eliminated and you an annoying customer they want to get rid of. There, I feel like home.  There, things make sense.  They dig into your cuticles and chop off everything they can see.  Occasionally they apologize when they hurt you and you make a whelping sound.  There is no clay mask or extract.  They use cheap lotion and don’t talk to you.  You just get in, read trashy magazines, and get out.

That’s my kind of spa.

 

photo:

(threew’s).flickr.com/photos/155794369@N08/35295186882/in/photolist-VLV4oS-bGwsci-dJYyeb-9Jq9WX-dJT7oZ-9JthkA-dLLXyi-9JqrwT-rx7F1Y-9JsBFU-69mK11-YCCFQY-BJrFp-snYzWH-X6ei3z-Y4zVU3-5yqwJG-deEZ9v-FLuWoR-BJrM1-EWeSg-a21NZN-QzRyc8-YCCKrf-YFfWDF-NdN7h8-6iak9t-na63Q6-69mFHq-9Jq7cB-cAh6mC-deFhX2-9JpQR4-75x7kU-9Jq57P-9JtgAf-EX8YNb-5kZPCz-4HLFL1-5kZNMz-jD6wXa-f43rDG-BJrJU-9Jqg4t-66KQqL-9Jqoxx-8PMXdp-vJyKV-DcfKz-4rc9aX

Embracing the not-so-perfect life

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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 them.  I manage my life against them.  They are the bane of me.  The ruiner of things.  A destroyer of hope.  When we plan out our lives in accordance to some lofty expectations, we will not only likely be disappointed and regretful, it’s almost guaranteed to be so.  We will constantly look back and think what if and why me and the dreaded “but this is not the way I had it planned.”  Of course it’s not the way you had it planned.  Who plans disaster and divorce and cancer and death?  Who plans to make ugly sugar cookies or burn toast?

Maybe it starts in childhood.  If you have a good one, you want to repeat it.  If you have a bad one, you want to replace it.  You have a certain map in your mind that lays out the future of your life, and when it goes off course you can either learn to correct it or just sit and cry. Many times you course correct.  You think of yourself as brave and clever and keep going new directions.  Until one day you hit your limit of turns. So you sit and cry, for no other reason except you are so damn tired.  Changing things takes a lot of work, especially with a brain like mine that sees things in predictable chapters.

I was practically born in church. The comfort of hymns and carols and preachers saying things is strangely calming to me.  It brings back memories of my mother stroking my hair in the church pew.  It brings back nights of my youth running around the halls and playing games.  And it brings back the peace of Christ when all else failed. Some people don’t see this.  To them, God is the keeper of a far-away and elitist circle that has power and influence, and if you aren’t inside of it, you’re out of it. I suppose I am inside of this circle and can’t see it, how the collective people of believers may come across to those on the outside.  But when people close to me see my faith as foreign, it’s hard.

I was practically born a lawyer.  I knew from a young age I would plow forward to law school, form arguments, write things.  When I was in college people sometimes asked if I thought of music as a career and I’d say “oh no, not me.  I’m going to be a litigator and go to trial and #winthings and #beatpeople and #stealtheshow.”  Although I didn’t say it that way.  But power and winning is intoxicating.  Today, I’m a transactional lawyer and my goal now is not to win but to simply solve my client’s problems.  I’ve learned after all these years that stealing the show is simply living in the background sometimes, doing the right thing, consistently. A win for the client can be at your expense if necessary, and compromise really is the way life works.  If I could only see how the real world worked back then in law school, the way honor and ethics and being true to your word is the only win that matters.

And I was born a control freak.  As a child, I’d tell my sister what to do.  I’d tell my mother how I thought things should go. I actually told my piano teacher enough already with Beethoven and perhaps we could work on composition rather than just playing things other people composed.  That was the day my mother quit spending her hard-earned teacher salary on piano lessons. But the fact is, I do know the way to line a sugar cookie and flood the icing.  I do know how to write a brief to make it compelling and persuasive. I do know how to make a wonderful crock of split pea soup with ham.  And I know what is best for all the children of the world that belong to all people all of the time.  Or I don’t.  After living these years, I can say with certainty that my way isn’t the only valid way.  I can see how my controlling tendencies can be misunderstood and misinterpreted, and just flat-out wrong sometimes.  And for someone into #winning and #nailingit and #lawyering and #prettysugarcookies, it is hard to be wrong and to be flexible and to admit that I don’t have all the answers.  It’s not just hard, it’s exhausting.

So today I look at expectations and say to them, “I give in.”  I cannot keep up with you.  I don’t have the perfect situation and the perfect life and the perfect body and the perfect image of what I expected.  Because expectations mean that we feel we are in charge.  We are not.  We are one hundred percent without a shred of doubt not in charge of what happens around us in this crazy life. Thank heavens.  We’d probably screw it up even worse.

I have a very good life with so many wonderful things.  And so do you.  What I have learned is that out of the most barren fields, sprouts can grow. Out of the most unexpected of places, a child was born to save the world.  Out of the most confusing of pathways, Jesus came.  Out of a family that is different than I expected, a career that looks different now than it did back then, a life more adjustable than I ever imagined, and more life twists than a pretzel, here I am. Standing up.  Moving forward.  Living.

Sometimes you just have to let it all go, the image of things, and look at what’s in front of you.  Maybe it’s a huge turd or a diagnosis or crying that never seems to end.  Step over the turd.  Acknowledge that you have this sickness and get the best help you can.  Let go of the anger.  Tell people you are trying out for a new play and you are trying to get the crying scene down. You are #noquitter.  Embrace the turns, because it’s the only life you get.  If you don’t keep moving with the pathways, you run face-first into a tree.  And then, no one will be eating your beautiful sugar cookies because you’ll have oak-print on your face spitting acorns out of your mouth and can’t make it to the kitchen.

So cry until you’re done and then stop it already.  Get up, wipe your face, and stick a smile on it.  After all, ugly cookies are still cookies. They are from the heart.  Your kids gleefully dump sprinkles on them.  Nobody I know hates cookies.  Whether it’s grief or Lyme’s or cancer or divorce, you can do this.  One step, one left turn, one day at a time. Let go of your bullshit expectations.  To me, that’s really the definition of #nailingit. One cookie, one foot, one turn at a time.

photo:

(three w’s).flickr.com/photos/oldworldcookies/5485884188/in/photolist-9mLAf9-qdkyuu-XAP5qr-and7zN-isAK7Y-C6U6hE-8urFji-iosL9K-6dgoJj-8ykqC3-7tW4BA-ZabPij-6uCeXv-ZbmT62-h9uiv3-ecTZZJ-im6LPt-91wDUU-pWAko2-ph3vsC-91ty6i-91wC5d-91txqD-LJsk9-91tvxD-91wGHU-dQohcc-7eaH44-q552a9-7kjUcY-UHn7qz-6vFCv2-9hwXaX-91vikv-bo6Mvt-aTqWbK-91yADw-91vrgk-91vhwi-91vsrp-8sXLz8-dJp23u-91vktt-7ZqK2-91yzwJ-dTYLiQ-ziGgz-91vqZx-91vrtX-5RQ7vg

 

From Shootings to Starbucks: Overcoming Evil Starts with Us

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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 crime and violence and anger and greed and revenge. It’s funny when, in The Kingsman, all the people die. I mean, after all, it’s a cute guy who happens to be in the secret service, avoids the bullets, and has sex in the end.  Pass the popcorn.

But we are what we consume and what we eat and what we soak up like sponges.  We are not driven to madness, as these shooters are, but we are part of the problem.  To distance yourself, to put up a shield and do nothing about it, only exacerbates it.

We cannot continue to wring our hands and simply hope that love prevails. The fact is, we have to live out that love.  We have to be extravagant and diligent and roll up our sleeves and do the hard work to change our world.  After all, love is not just a feeling, but a verb. Even in the Biblical narrative, Jesus walked and healed and did actual things.  We have to stop just talking about it.

Yes, the Texas shooter was crazy.  The Vegas shooter was crazy.  They are crazy in that sane, normal people do not just shoot and kill innocent people. Insanity, after all, is when your illness is so severe that one cannot distinguish reality from fantasy, when someone can’t conduct themselves in accordance with their own will, when one lacks all impulse control or does not understand the consequences of their actions.

But if asked, I’m sure these two shooters actually were aware that the bullets they fired would, in fact, result in death.  They knew the year, and the name of the President, and the fact that they had breakfast, their birthday.  They were not the typical definition of crazy in that they were unaware of their surroundings.

More than crazy is the concept of evil, a sinister urge that runs through all of us.  Evil causes a man to beat his wife, beat a dog, hurt a child, rape a woman. Evil is the snake the slithers in the grass, that whispers to us in our darkest hours.  Go ahead and hit her.  Give in to the rage.  Show him who’s boss.  Get your guns and blow their fucking brains off. You know you want to.

And just perhaps, if we’re honest, to a lesser degree, we’ve all been there.  Perhaps it provides a moment of satisfaction when the act is done.  It’s the revenge that gives Clint Eastwood all the good lines.  Puts the high school cheerleader in her place.  But it is the classic double-edged sword, because when you make a deal with the devil you’re the one who loses.  It’s not Hollywood.  It’s someone’s grandmother that got shot, blood seeping out like tears.

This is not an urge that manifests overnight.  It’s a slow burn from off-white to grey to pitch black, born over years of abuse and torment and the feeling that one is utterly and hopelessly alone.

Enough.

This country has more gun violence than any other country.  And yet we are the richest, the most advanced, the most prosperous, dare I say the most beautiful.  And yet we’ve allowed this pulse of evil to grow stronger, richer, more desirable.  We underfund mental health care, and we make people feel stupid or weak if they need to be on medication or go to therapy.  We glorify violence, we endure molestation in the church, and men simply aren’t allowed to cry. We have grown to a place where our women must stand up stronger, bolder, fiercer.  We are no longer protected and we must learn to protect ourselves.

So do we have a mental health crisis in this country? Yes. Can angry fellows can simply obtain a semi-automatic rifle and shoot people if they get mad enough, which unnecessarily magnifies the damage from their rage? Apparently.  But make no mistake – we also have a crisis of evil.

We have to be the change. It’s not going to happen from the top down.  We can’t rely on our current administration or government or church hierarchy. It starts with us. We vote. We can be kind. We can ensure better lives for our children.  We can reach out to someone who is struggling and simply be extravagant with our kindness.  Love the unlovable.  The invisible. The untouchable. Be absolutely fearless in our generosity of heart.  And yes, we can take tangible steps to limit the access to weapons that can fire on multiple people simultaneously.  We can do this with our collective voices.

Would that help change the heart of an angry white guy in Texas? Would that reverse what happened? No.  Those lives are gone.  But future men and women, mothers and fathers, janitors and presidents and teachers and lawyers – they are just toddlers, full of heart and hope, full of smiles and jars of smashed peas.  We owe it to them to take the lever, the big one that is life that we have to hold with both hands that measures good and evil, and pull with all our might toward good.

Sit with your family and think of how you can send an anonymous package to someone in your neighborhood.  How you can help someone who is feeling lost.  Invite someone to eat with you that you wouldn’t normally talk to. Look around and think of how to be active in love.  Can you afford Starbucks? Then pay for the person behind you in line.  Can you carve out an hour of your week? Volunteer.

It starts with us.  All of our lives depend on it.  We as a nation, as a people, should accept nothing less.

 

photo:

(threew’s).flickr.com/photos/paradisefound/35018164003/in/photolist-Vmrf9k-aweR2a-9A98u9-QPpnKq-T2cNhq-8pX7jG-avZUVo-oSn1UX-Tcyush-7B213y-jEPN3b-eBWbNx-2Wfc83-Lt7jU-VKBGUs-9gRWNy-UfBbd6-bNv3Sx-6Sgmk9-cp9hFm-SKK2Fm-fU174V-rdQoo-qbyP7P-hgG1pH-iRbDRC-UERsUu-64qbTH-TiXckh-aTZSPn-7G4dQZ-n87su4-6zdJU5-Rk9Xjm-a2zSHW-8Phen2-e3oDqf-7geQyM-dHABeL-8c1scU-qbyNu6-73ae45-8xYEZi-bjBrT6-6Jr2Xm-7vzeGg-7vD3Sf-8AdWJo-qsQpHP-XAafvJ

An Open Letter to Humanity {about humor and prayer}

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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 is no need for words.

I’m not one of those people. 

I’m a person who fills up empty spaces.  I talk about the wild feelings of middle age and I comment on the way cars look as they whiz by on the highway.  I ask questions and I’m not one to just sit silently with my hands folded.  Being a writer means being a storyteller and one who notices little things.  And being a lawyer means you think of alternate arguments and put together thoughts in your mind in logical patterns.  My best friends may even motion to their spouse when they are on the phone with me something like “here she goes again” or write on a sticky note “it’s Amanda on the line so I’ll see you at Christmas.” There may be some eye rolling and “oh no! I’m late for the dentist!” when in fact they are just tired of hearing me talk.  I get this.  When I start, I really get going. But being creative means that I paint with words and phrases and sound. Basically, I’m not built for silence.

So it’s odd that lately, I’ve been silent.  Silent in this house, thinking. Silent about some true thoughts and silent about some opinions on things.  I’ve been drinking coffee and drinking wine and drinking in all the silence.  I use humor to mask things, to play with things, to connect with people while I’m doing the hard work of silence.  Sometimes, humor is the only thing that works to relieve the pressure, to laugh with each other, to find common ground.  It’s the only words that come out.  Please understand that it’s a lifeline for me, and an important part of who I am.

We desperately need common ground on which we can walk forward.  We are growing so polarized that I can only seem to find humor as a talking point.  It’s the light that seems to shine through the rubble, a brightness through the fog.  This is why humor, to me, is so powerful, and why I use it as a means to survive.  It’s why as the world grows dimmer the humor grows darker, but it still works.

I haven’t talked to God in a while.  I have assumed he’s cool with it, giving me space as one does with an unruly teenager.  I’ve been overwhelmed with all the tragedy and loss and sadness in our world.  Honestly, I don’t know what to say.  It feels so disingenuous to say “I’ll pray for you,” when what I really am thinking is simply “I’m sorry.”  I’m sorry you are facing this death, this fire, this flood, this loss.  I am so terribly sorry you have cancer. Sometimes I get the reference in the Bible, about how people fell to their knees and tore their clothes, a sign of being overwhelmed by all the sadness.  Although I am not going to tear at my Burberry coat, no matter how much you throw at me.  Even I have limits.  And yet despite this, I am concurrently very happy with my life.  I am married to an amazing man, I have strong and healthy children, I live in a wonderful community. It’s an odd dichotomy.

I’m in a few prayer groups.  I say the prayers that I have committed to saying, but my heart hasn’t been in it.  I care about people.  It’s just that I haven’t felt that these prayers are making any difference.   I’ve just been looking down onto my own world, doing my own thing, hiding. I think part of it is simply guilt.  Guilt that I have so much, have been blessed with abundance, guilt that I am happy while others are not. I don’t deserve this husband or these children or this home or this life.  And yet that is not what God wants for us, to throw away the blessings we have been given.  To feel guilty about happiness.

So my prayer life has also been silent.  Because I haven’t had the right words to say.  When our President says “my prayers are with you” my blood boils.  What do these words mean, from an unrighteous man? Go back to the tanning bed, 45.  Your prayers are empty and meaningless.

It’s not the words we say that make some great difference in the world. Whether it’s a set of lyrics or a Dr. Seuss poem or a Shakespeare play, they are all just letters strewn together. They can all be typed and burned with a match and tossed in the garbage. This very blog will be forgotten, lost in internet space, years from now failed to be maintained.  No one will read these words a generation from now.

Words themselves have little power. What is powerful is the interaction between us and God, the portal to God himself, whereby you can humbly submit yourself before God and boldly, bravely, confidently ask for direction, healing, hope, strength.  Using words is the means to this end, and is what we refer to as prayer. It’s really just about talking to God.  The Bible instructs us that God listens to our hearts, our words, our guttural cries.  He hears even the smallest, throatiest, dumbest sounding words.  As you hear the words of your children when they say “I love you” or “you’re the best” or “I farted.” Thanks a lot, kiddo.  At least you could have given me some advance warning.

This Weinstein story has made me abundantly sad. There are stories like this every day that should no longer surprise us. But for some reason this particular story of yet another predator against young girls broke my heart.  Because it brings up images of young women, my own daughters, injured and broken, scrubbing their skin until it’s raw in order to feel clean.  Images of girls feeling used and dirty, when they are instead wonderful and pure, filled my head.  You women are beautiful in all ways.  Can’t you see?  It’s a world of broken things, and I am standing in the rubble.  Mostly pissed off because no one seems to be cleaning it up.

But last night in the shower I allowed myself to form words to God.  To ask God to forgive me, to forgive our nation, to forgive all the terrible things.  Also, despite me being in the shower for a very long time, I didn’t shave, because I feel that being filled with the awesomeness of God is a solid excuse for the new husband so I should get a pass.

I did feel a bit strange praying for women en masse, without each of them being named, but I did it anyway.  I figured God could sort it out.  So I prayed for all the women who were violated, hurt, felt less than.  I prayed that they would rise up today and feel whole, healed, loved.  I prayed for our nation and its people.  I am just one person, talking to God about an entire group of other women.  How does this help?  And yet are these women, every single one of them, not worth fighting for? They are.  That is what I felt as I prayed.  That God holds them all in his precious hands.  As if he was saying “I hear you, girl.  I hear every word that you speak. Even the sarcastic ones.”

Humor as a connection between people is powerful.  Prayer as a means of connection to God is even more powerful.  Prayer allows us to put others ahead of ourselves and see ourselves as we are –  broken, dependent, and sinful.  People who need grace and forgiveness.  People who need to stop using social media to cut each other down, but find a way to building bridges between each other, in order to find peace.  If you need a release, find humor.  If you need a lifeline, find God.

Will you pray? For our nation, our women, our hearts?  And will you please stop saying “I’ll pray for you” as an empty platitude?  Because, like crop tops and hashtags and everything Taylor Swift, I’m kinda over it.

Most sincerely yours,

Amanda

 

photo:

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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 Sexes.”  I took my 14-year-old bonus daughter.  I am all about women’s empowerment, showcasing how a woman in a man’s world broke barriers and succeeded. I am a lawyer, and have had to face my own gender barriers working my way up the ladder.  I understand the frustration of being paid less, considered less, working harder and under-appreciated.  And I love tennis.  I was prepared to watch Billy Jean kick ass and take names.

And as an aside, although I am a heterosexual woman, I do understand that people are attracted to different people than I am, and in the era of the 1970’s it was not as understood or accepted to be gay.  I can understand and have sympathy for how hard it would be to live in an era where you feel misunderstood and unaccepted, ridiculed for being who you are.

But what I saw in this movie was not just a lesson in women’s empowerment, or how hard women before us worked for equal rights.  What I saw was an attempt by screenwriters/directors/producers to show that infidelity is sometimes, under the right circumstances, when someone is “living their truth,” – okay.  If it’s following your heart and if it’s simply because society won’t accept the person you truly love, we can all just wink and say that it’s fine.  Because love wins.  Our hearts want what they want.  It’s sexy to see illicit and almost irresistible love scenes.

I refuse to accept this narrative. 

The fact is, infidelity is never okay. Despite the excuses and circumstances. Despite the fluttering of the heart. The commitment of marriage is more than just paper. It means something.  There are times marriages end, and new relationships can blossom after that first joining of the flesh has healed.  They can start on solid footing, rooted in shared experience and commitment to each other.  But when a relationship starts in secrecy and lies, usually no good will come about as a result. Why is this lesson not revealed? Are people to experience the hard truth in real life but watch how different it turns out in an imaginary screenplay?

It pained me to see Billy Jean make feeble excuses of “this feels wrong” and “what would my husband think” and then give in to her own desires.  I get that affairs happen, and people make mistakes.  We are all sinful human beings and make some terrible mistakes. But instead of using this narrative, that we are all flawed and have to live with consequences of our own actions, or even showcasing the fallout due to these actions, it was almost glorified.  In real life, kids are hurt.  Hearts are damaged.  Trust is broken.  Baggage is created.  Drinking ensues.  The fact that Billy Jean was having feelings for a woman somehow made this action justified.  It’s not an affair if it’s a woman loving another woman.  Her clothing designer, clearly gay, was basically saying “hang on – someday we will be able to love who we want” and everyone seemed to cover for her as she carried on this extra-marital love affair with the person she was not married to.  And when her lover returned in the end after a short hiatus, it was a romantic gesture.

This is not about gender for me.  It was about how a story is portraying an affair to be acceptable.  How Billy Jean repeated that “her husband was a good man.” And yet she continued to make decisions that hurt him, over and over again. I would be equally as uncomfortable if she had an affair with a man.  Betrayal on any level is simply hard for me to watch.

At one point in the movie, her husband showed up unexpectedly.  The clothing designer gives her a heads up, but her husband discovered what was happening regardless.  This blond, nice-looking, affable man was almost a heroic, angelic figure that didn’t get upset, wasn’t heartbroken, wanted her to still be successful, and at the end smiled at Billy Jean’s lover as if it was all okay.  When Billy Jean was sick, he even offered to call the lover in to make her feel better. He was like an emotionless Ken doll that just smiled through it all as if it were nothing. He continued to stand by Billy’s side, believing in her, standing by her, as if this was just a minor distraction. Not once did he raise his voice, act hurt, scream or yell, act heartbroken.  Despite one scene where he hung his head as he walked out of the room, no major problems resulted.  And at the end of the movie before the credits rolled, it showcased how Billy Jean divorced her husband, married a woman, and everyone was happy. From what it seemed, especially because the movie-goers don’t know that much about Billy Jean in real life, you just assumed she married the woman she had an affair with. It indicated her husband remarried and had a family, Billy Jean was the godmother, and all ended up well.

Billy Jean won the match!  She found true love! Everyone cheered! And the bowl of popcorn was empty.

In real life, away from the allure of Hollywood, affairs rip apart families and marriages.  They tear at people’s egos and self-confidence. They can emasculate and wound.  There is therapy and tears and a complete re-building of the spirit.  This is not an action born from love, but born from selfishness. In real life, the woman that Billy Jean King was with filed a lawsuit over what she considered lost profits, and it publicly outed King as gay, which caused King to lose a massive amount of money in endorsements.  This woman who, in the movie was supportive and “only wanted the best for Billy Jean,” sued King to try and get half her estate, argued she devoted her life to King’s career and got nothing in return.  This was not the beautiful end that the movie displayed.  And the woman that Billy Jean ended up with permanently was not the woman she had an affair with, although that’s the way it appeared in the movie.

I firmly believe that a relationship rooted in secrecy and lies never has the foundation to create a life-giving and stable relationship long term.  It matters not to me if it’s a woman or man, what matters is that the choice was made over and over to ignore vows, eviscerate trust, and continue to disrespect the man she promised to love and honor and obey until death.

Sometimes people make hard decisions, like not walking down a path they might have chosen under different circumstances.  Because making good decisions is not always easy. But it’s necessary to teach our children to stay true to commitments, not believe the lies that Hollywood is telling us about blindly following what we feel at the time to be good.

Despite this, my 14-year-old bonus daughter loved the movie, found it empowering and uplifting, and left with a bounce in her step.

We were quiet as we walked to the car. But I couldn’t sit there and say nothing.  I expressed my pain for the infidelity, the secrets, the allure of what in the movie seems good but in real life can be horrific. I also expressed how being a feminist does not mean men are evil, or that all men are like the men in this movie, and how her father is an amazing feminist and supporter of equal rights and that’s one of many reasons I love him.  And there are times when in fact I defer to him as the head of the family, and this isn’t always wrong in a healthy supportive relationship.  She said nothing in return.  I don’t know if my words had any effect.  I felt like I was just babbling.

There were some good moments in the movie about women being brave and standing up for equality.  Stick it to the man who think’s you’re a pig.  I’m a woman, after all.  But, the infidelity, in my mind, overshadowed this. And for this I was sad.  As a woman, as a professional, as a human being who has seen the pain of this issue.  We have to live in this world, but we don’t have to be hoodwinked by it.  We have an obligation to set the record straight when we see something as clearly off-based and off-kilter as this.

I’m glad women like Billy Jean King fought for equal rights for all of us.  And I think people love who they love, and can have very healthy and strong relationships with anyone they choose if they start off in truth and dignity.  But I’m not glad when films glorify relationships based upon secrecy.  What is in the dark will always at some point find the light, and when it does it can rip apart and ruin lives, souls, and relationships.  This is truth, not a movie script.  In real life, it doesn’t always have a happy ending.

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 wrapped around his finger like it’s nothing. He is nonchalantly reading an article about Britain’s gambling problem and there is a large photograph of a woman wearing a leather sport blazer from Saks Fifth Avenue. It is an odd blazer because it looks like it’s a letter jacket from our high school days, but it’s covered in fur and the woman looks like this is all perfectly natural. Like she needs to eat something and if she just casually models this jacket by a famous designer she’ll get thrown a crust of bread, so she does this one last thing to survive.

And now you think I’m just staring at the paper and this man’s ring and the advertisements from Saks Fifth Avenue, which may seem strange because that is what I’m doing, but not all at one time but instead in short little bursts. Because I am stealth like a spy or federal agent or a woman in love.

I am also watching a little girl, no more than 3 years old, a few rows ahead. She’s sitting on her father’s lap facing backward with little round puffy cheeks that make you want to squeeze them or nip at them or plant little wet kisses on them. There is something about children and puppies that makes us want to do this. She’s eating pretzels and looking around the cabin, because children have the unique ability to enjoy the moment, and right then she was likely tasting the salt in her mouth and watching things just for the sheer joy of doing it. She wasn’t at all worried about landing or what is for dinner or whether she needs to wash her hair. I love children for this sense of presence about them.

Sitting in a plane is an exercise in patience for me, since I don’t like to sit for long periods and I always wonder what people are thinking.   All these brains wrapped up in all these bodies with thoughts firing off in all directions. If I could only see the thoughts like lasers shooting from their minds, it would be like a spy novel where the hero navigates the maze of it all while descending down toward the coveted diamond. I could dodge the red lines all the way to the bathroom in front of the aircraft, maybe even doing a flip or turn in the process.  And yet it’s all trapped and locked up inside of people so they just sit and read and watch football games on their laptops like they are empty.

But people are not empty. It’s just that they must sit and wait until the ride is over.   They can’t exactly jump out the window or nuisance everyone by dying so we all just sit and wait, noshing on pretzels and sipping on sparkling water with lime.

I steal glances at this man beside me, casually wearing a band on his finger, and I am still caught up in a haze. The type of haze after surgery when they give you pain medication and it just washes through you and you think life is good again and you have a strong urge for chocolate pudding. Except I’ve not just had surgery which makes all things better because I can walk around and buy books in the airport and stretch my legs without searing pain. I still want chocolate pudding sometimes, even though that’s juvenile.

I may someday grow weary and my mind may drift and I will be demented, confused about lifting a spoon to my mouth. So I try and sear certain things into my mind so I will not forget them. Like the moment my daughter looked at me when she was six months old, in her pink pajamas with rabbits on them, and I thought “my God she’s talking to me without using any words.” I cried and cried and thought I could never be more happy. I sewed that fabric into a quilt and I touch it sometimes, because of the power it holds. And there’s the moment when my son chewed up a little book and his face was beaming with pride, his hair thick and blond and curly. And the day I first met Mark and we ate at ABC Kitchen in New York City, amidst the sparkling candles and love bubbles that form in one’s stomach upon meeting the person they will someday marry.

All of these scenes will likely pass by someday before I die in a montage of life moments, the pink pajamas and the chewed-up book and Mark’s face, lost in space and time, trapped in a brain full of lasers, boucing around.

Today is one of those moments, looking at this man on a plane reading the paper with a wedding ring on, the ring I slid onto his finger less than two days ago, clutching my mother’s antique lace handkerchief covered in snot.  And it is commonplace to see now, as if it were always meant to be there. And maybe it is, this love, this life, this everyday moment. It was meant to be like this, as I will remember it, one of many things sewn upon my heart.

Right now I am on a plane, off to my honeymoon, off to new adventures, off to anywhere, really.  It doesn’t matter.  I’m with him, the man reading the paper with a ring on his finger.  The life I joined.  The life that sits beside me and within me.  I am just sitting here with laser beams bouncing around in my brain, noshing on pretzels and sipping on sparkling water with lime.