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.



The Day My Father Threw a Doll out the Window



Kids today are spoiled.  They are lacking good solid stories as they get older about how they had to walk home from school while vomiting or had to share one large yellow phone on the wall in the kitchen. They have it a lot better than we did when we were young, our own childhoods akin to a long and tortious drive through Nebraska.  I know this, because I’ve driven through Nebraska. The cornfields, I tell ya.

Once when I was little, I defied my father and hid strawberry shortcake dolls inside my travel bag on a long-distance trip to Kansas. Yes, they did smell like fruity chemicals. But so does lotion named “sun ripened raspberry” and you don’t see anyone complaining.  My favorite was the evil Purple pie man, who stole all of the berries from the innocent girls with a mischievous grin. Needless to say I loved these little dolls, which is why I thought I needed them on the 13 hour drive to nowhere (aka Kansas).

But you don’t know my father. He hated smells.  He could tell if we painted our nails two days prior.  He aired out the house at the whiff of burned toast.  One sniff of cute little Apple Dumplin’ and he was like the Jack and the Beanstalk giant, fo-fumming that he smelled the blood of something that did not actually smell like apples.

“HAND IT TO ME,” he bellowed.  You can imagine the horror on my face, my father’s looming hand reaching into the back seat of the station wagon.  Scared, timid, and feeling small, I handed him one with flaming orange hair.

To my shock, he hand-cranked down the glass, which could only mean one thing.  He wasn’t placing a to-go order.  He wasn’t spitting.  He was about to throw, with all his might, my dolls out the window, somewhere outside of Oklahoma.  There were no apologies.  There was no “daddy lost his temper, sweetheart” moment.  Nothing akin to “we’ll buy you a new one” or “let’s talk about how this makes you feel.” It was swift, painful, and effective. All the dolls. Flump, flump, flump. In a moment, they were gone. My mother sat still and stoic, like this is just what fathers do when daughters bring along dolls that are fragranced with perfumed asbestos.

So maybe I’m overly concerned about how my children are feeling, and whether their emotions are seen as valid and real.  I worry that I’m not providing enough creative opportunity. Scared that they aren’t talking about their feelings. They are watching television instead of making birdhouses from scrap wood and metal screws.

For heaven’s sakes.

When we were kids, we’d get up as early as we could, watch as many shows as we could cram into a five-hour period, and take turns making each other breakfast.  One time my sister just walked in with plates covered in icing and we’d sit shooting sprinkles from the plastic container directly into our mouths.

So when my daughter threw a fit and I took away her allowance, I stopped for a moment and thought.  This is my right as a parent to invoke this discipline.  To enact order.  To make sure she understands that rules are rules.  And when she continued to defy me, I took a toy that she got last year for Christmas and put it in the Goodwill pile. There were no second chances.  I laid down the parameters.  She went past them.

Judging by her screaming, I was the worst mother ever. And that guilt started to creep in – was this too much? But I remembered my childhood, and how completely unaffected or scarred I am from the memories. So I braced myself for her outrage.  I allowed her to get angry. But in the end the toy was gone, and so was the discussion.  The next day was a new day, fresh and clean and happy.

As twangy as this sounds, being that I’m from Texas and all, we need to calm the hell down and firm up our resolve.  Let’s be parents, and be bold, and say that lines that are crossed have real and meaningful consequences. After all, they do in real life, where there are no time-outs or apologies.  There are only cops with little pads writing tickets and accidents that can end in death and despair.

Sometimes I think back about that little doll with orange hair, somewhere on the roadside, smashed by a truck or pecked at by birds, dead now by contaminated plastic, smelling of something other than apples.  And it makes me smile.  My father and his aversion to smells.  The large red station wagon with hand-cranked windows. And the look of my mother.

This is life, kiddo, she said with her eyes.  Get over it.



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Odd and Curious Thoughts [about the New Year]


  • So the fudge consumption has ended. Also the spiced pecans and pie. My parents brought over a tub of animal crackers big enough to feed the state of Rhode Island, and those dagblasted little animals are the last remaining sugared items in my home. I have half a mind to throw them all out, despite starving people in the world. I can’t in good conscience wear my sweaters in public because they are clinging to my sides. So these little white floured elephants are going to the day care Monday, so I can push more sugar onto the little people.


  • My resolution this year is to be more positive. I’m already a fairly rose-colored-glasses girl, but I’m throwing it into hyper-drive and soon I’ll sound like Candide giggling despite my life’s circumstances. If I get cancer or have a horrific accident I plan on just putting on lipstick and bearing through with a grin. Because my life is very, very good, and I’m not planning on sweating any smallish stuff. Which means I probably will get cancer because I’m not great at wearing organic, all-natural deodorant.


  • I am starting off more organized. I cleaned out my closets and lined up all my boots, layers upon layers of them. My daughter stayed up late and helped me stuff plastic cleaner’s bags in the tall riding boots so they stood up high and proud on the shelves. I am not certain what prompted me to start this odd habit. “So this is what you do after I go to bed at night,” she says. To an 8-year-old this is truly fascinating stuff. To adults it just sounds weird and neurotic.


  • I also organized my shirts by color and texture (silks, knits, starched) and I highly anticipate this will last me at least three weeks before I’m yet again stepping over things and poking myself with hangers. However, this year’s a new start. Miracles can happen. Maybe there’s an organic deodorant that doesn’t actually make you smell like reheated broccoli. Only time will tell.


  • I got my septic system pumped out, which was its own adventure. A man with a long pony-tail, teeth that nary a dentist have seen, and tough work boots drove up with a big truck, looked into my various tanks, and said “Oh dear. We don’t usually see sludge in this one.” Whereby I kicked in my newly found optimism and said “Yippee! Good for me that I called you! Can I get you some coffee as you inhale sewage smell on this cold and rainy day and suck the sludge from my tanks? Nopers? Alrighty then. Let me know when you’re done so I can go inside and grieve for you that you have to do this every single day of your life.” Makes my little problems easier to endure. On a high note, there was no need for that man to wear deodorant. Who would notice.


  • Speaking of things that smell, our entire family walked around the house wondering what smelled like burned plastic the other day. Was a light so hot it was melting some sort of outer casing? Did a plastic spoon get caught in the bottom of the dishwater and melt to a puddle of carcinogens? It was a mystery that remained unsolved until later when I was putting away the rest of the ham and found a piece of the plastic the ham was wrapped in seared to the side of the meat. We are all so going to die. However, since we didn’t die, and it’s HAM for pete’s sake, I cut up the rest of it and cooked it inside a pot of black-eyed-peas the following day. SO POSITIVE! WINNING!


  • I was home for over a week with my children, and it was lovely to spend so much time with them without the distractions and burdens of work. We played legos, had the cousins over whereby there were lots of giggles and dress up, had hot chocolate nights, ate dessert first, prepared nice meals and some not so nice, and spent days in our pajamas. At one point I think I said “why bother getting new clothes on / we didn’t do anything but play board games today / take a bath and put these back on.” It was luxurious. I did so much laundry that I even matched socks and washed sheets.   My children went into my closets like they were a new addition to the home they had never seen. Woooooo. Ahhhhhh. It has a floooooooor. There is no need to be this dramatic. I swear it’s like you’ve never seen color-coordinated silk shirts before.  Geez.


  • I read Nancy Drew books to my daughter until 10 pm and when I was too sleepy she read to me, and we did this for hours during the days and evenings. Then she’d fade away in corners of her room reading some more. School books and mysteries and books on friends and princess diaries. She created Barbie playgrounds and put random things in envelopes and at one point said “I CAN’T POSSIBLY TAKE A BATH I AM WRITING.” So I simply shut her door and nodded my head like “well honey how can you possibly be expected to, naturally not. How silly of me to ask.” And she stared at me like how awesome: I didn’t know that line would get me any traction.


  • I am not sure I can survive without these little animal crackers. Have you tried them with spiced tea? Have you tried them with peanut butter? I have nothing in this house, people. GIVE ME THIS.


  • I am starting my second novel. This statement itself is totally nonsensical because I have a full time job as an executive and a boyfriend I like to spend time with and two smallish people living inside of my home. But here I went outlining the plot to my sister over the holidays and we are brainstorming about what awful condition one of my characters has and how it wrecks her life and her husband has to hide it to protect her and the family never knew exactly why she died until now. So let’s recap. Over the holidays I organized my shirts by color, ate excessive amounts of sugar, barely got out of pajamas, and made up a world of imaginary people. You can see why I have to be positive because I’m half-mad and if I get locked up at least I’ll have people in my mind to talk to.


  • It was a lucky year for me. I met a brilliant, kind, and loving man. We sat at the top of Mount Greylock this Fall and sipped hot cider. We held hands down 5th Avenue heading in the rain toward the St. Patrick’s Cathedral. We drank beer at Rumpy’s Tavern in Massachusetts. We strolled down the streets of Boston. We stayed up late in Dallas.  We sat in church and he reached for my hand. And we have talked more hours that I can remember. For Christmas, he made me a wall-sized word search of all the places we’ve been together and it made big fat tears roll down my cheeks. He’s a keeper, this one. For I am indeed the lucky one.


I hope ya’ll have a lovely new year, whether it’s eating clean or staying organized or being more positive. We all need each other. I’ll be around, smiling and grinning, traveling somewhere, wearing cancer-laden deodorant, thanking God for my wonderful life, and stuffing my face with sugared giraffes while wearing ill-fitted sweaters.

Farewell, Frog


The other morning, upon running late, shooing children out the door, and wearing a pencil skirt with leopard-print pumps of all things, my son makes a discovery.  A tiny little frog had hopped into the garage – fresh from the rain puddles I suppose, and had found himself juxtaposed between a corner and a large 4-year-old boy with beautiful eyes and a fascination for reptiles. He didn’t have a chance, really.

“Can we take him to school?” my son asked.  He was jumping and his eyes were smiling.  But we didn’t have time.  I was in heels.  There has been zero consumption of caffeine.  We have exactly eighteen seconds to get in the car and peel out of the driveway or both kids would be late.  “Please, mom? Can we can we can we?” I looked in his little eyes, those eyelashes batting up and down.

Damnit with the eyelashes.

So back in the house we go, the superman Tupperware shaped for sandwiches being brutally sacrificed for the love of frogs, so I stab air holes in the lid and hobble back out in my heels and ridiculously thin skirt and try to catch the slippery thing.  Finally with the help of a piece of paper and my transferring-frogs-into-tupperware-skillz that I learned in parenting school, I captured him, to the delight of my screeching son, who was happier than I saw him last Christmas morning.  Which means this Christmas I’m just going to fill the house with frogs.  Thanks a lot, gears-gears-gears. You were a waste of $60.

Off to school we go, after rounds of Taylor Swift for my daughter and having to endure the interior light so she can read her book on dogs who talk and save the earth, and I somehow get the children dropped off at their respective places with statements of love and happiness, through the Starbucks line, and I’m happily in rush-hour traffic toward my office.  Fast forward eight lovely hours, whereby I skipped lunch to review contracts and I’m back in my car, which is hot enough to roast marshmallows because it’s Texas and it never freaking gets cold despite it being October. And then I see it.  Right there next to his seat.

Death.  It permeates the Lexus.

The poor thing suffocated.  It had no hope.  We even put a leaf in the little container for it to eat, although let’s be honest small baby-like frogs don’t munch on leaves like potato chips, but to my son every living thing eats leaves so let’s not ruin the whole story over semantics.  I am forced to make a pit stop in suburbia one block away from my son’s preschool and pull over, opening the lid to throw the dead body out on the pavement below.  I can’t exactly explain to him that we simply “forgot the frog” or “it suffocated in the heat, dying a slow miserable death whilst plastered to a converse blue image of a superhero he will never become,” now can I.

I had to bang the Tupperware against my car for him to fall out because his little water-starved body was stuck to the side. I know, I know. It’s horrific.  I crossed myself although I’m not Catholic and said a little prayer as it lay there lifeless on the pavement below, soon to be run over by the wheels of my own car most likely, but what exactly do you do in this situation? Stupid Texas heat. If we lived in Chicago the sweet little frog might be fat and happy munching on that leaf all afternoon.

I hid the Tupperware in the front seat so my kid wouldn’t ask questions.  I said we could have mac-and-cheese for dinner.  I tried all my tactics to keep him upbeat and not be suspicious.  Until he saw it.  The Tupperware lid peering from underneath my blazer.  Oh, friends.  Let the tears roll.

I told him I let it out by his school, so he could frolic and play with his friends since we forgot to take him in, which at first blush may seem a wee bit untruthful but his froggy friends could so totally be frog zombies. He was mostly angry I didn’t let him out at home, so he could find him (until I offered oreos and then would forget), his long-lost friend (that he forgot) and wanted so badly to save (that he just met this morning it’s not like you guys are BFFs, geez.  Plus he’s a frog).

Needless to say it was a big ordeal, only to be healed by a television show and love from his dear mother (who committed frogslaughter and dumped the body).   The most important thing about all this is that I managed to kneel down in a pencil skirt.  If you see any frog remains in front of a brick house I don’t know what you are talking about.

You guys can judge all day, but just wait until this happens to you.  Let’s hope it’s just a beetle, who “overdid it on the leaf eating.”  They are less frightening when dead. Not that I know anything about that.

Let’s all have oreos. K?




A Morning’s Tale


This morning, I rose.  Groggy and heavy, I drug myself to the bathroom and tried to convince myself that it was a brilliant day. That I would find something elegant to wear.  That cereal piled high in bowls would suffice. I watched my son curled up next to the indention where my body formally lay.  He had snuck in sometime during the night when I didn’t notice and was soaking up my warmth, his face bearing a similar expression to the moment he was first born.  My heart pulled at the reminder of him rising from my body, shining and screaming.  I was and am ensconced with happiness.

I stepped over the dog and toward my daughter’s room. “Raise your arms, honey,” I whispered. “I’ll help you with your t-shirt.”  I hated to wake her.  This beautiful girl who is growing loves to lounge around on summer mornings reading and staring aimlessly out the window at rabbits and cardinals, poetry in her brain. But it was camp day, and she had just begun the evening before settling into this new experience, singing with wild abandon all the camp songs she’d been taught by happy college kids.  She slumped over and let me dress her, arms dangling with a mass of blond hair in her face.

There are layers of obligations before my day even begins.  Feed the dog, let him out.  Apply make-up, find childrens’ shoes.  I make lunch, look professional, curl hair, take vitamins.  Sometimes I just like to shake it up.  Shampoo last.  Kids eat on the couch.  My hair in a bun. The routine of daily life can drain a soul. But soon things are bagged and packed and the kids are out the door toward the car and I think to myself that I’ve got this. That somehow in the crack of morning I have balanced this precarious rhythm.

But the garage door sticks.  Some stupid light flashes and the button jams so I have to close it from the inside and go through the front.  My children begin bickering in the car so we have a car-time-out despite the fact that my daughter is old enough to know better.  And when I arrive at my son’s day care I remember that it’s water day, and his lunch box is sitting on the kitchen table, and he’s going to be the weird kid wearing a drippy t-shirt in the slip-and-slide.  I bite my lip.  Can’t everyone see that I have already remembered so much since yesterday?  Last night I dreamed of a business deal and contract revisions and woke up afraid I had agreed to a venue clause in Delaware.  We cannot escape our realities.

So I calmly kissed the boy and headed back to the car.  I aimed it back home for a lunch box and bathing suit.  Ten minutes later I loaded up again, but when I turned to talk to my daughter in the car the mug of coffee spilled, drenching my ice-blue pants in medium roast brown.  I had just gotten them out of the cleaner’s bag this morning. I bit my lip again.  I took deep breaths.  And I began the process of negotiating the garage door opener yet again.  Later on the way to work after dropping off my daughter wearing new pants I’m navigating child care for the next week.  Pick-ups and drop offs and swapping weekends and arrangements.  I am wondering what we’ll eat for dinner and breakfast and whether I will have the stamina to make more sandwiches.

I think of how horrible I’ve been as a friend and daughter myself, always taking, never giving. I think somehow this is my selfish season.  There are days I call my mom and just rattle off what’s happening in my life without even stopping to say hello, or wondering what’s happening in her own. And when I call my friends it’s often to just vent about something without reciprocation.  And I’m filled with shame for lacking an even greater capacity to love, until the dings of email remind me that I have more pressing obligations.

It rained on the way to work today, fat pelting drops that gave trucks permission to slow to a turtle crawl.  And I progressed forward in tiny lurches forward toward an office, and a meeting, and executives with agendas.  And when I arrived I made a comment about the traffic, rolled my eyes, and I sat down with a heavy sigh.

Today has finally begun.  It’s a hair past 8:30.  No one really knows the backdrop of a life.



A Guide to Storm Preparedness


When it rains, it pours. Literally. Into my freaking living room.

I had fallen asleep in my daughter’s bed the other night, and when I awoke, it took me a moment to get my bearings.  People had been calling to check in.  Texts were flying. There was strong language like Doppler and Warnings and Get Off The Roadways blaring through my television. Wind was screeching through the small crevices of our home and rain had begun to pellet the metal roof like it had some sort of vendetta. So I gave in to the hysteria of “tornado warnings” and statements to “take cover” by emptying out everything in the closet underneath the stairs and replacing it with pillows, bottled water, and rice krispie treats.  In case of a real (and not just perceived) emergency.

Normally, weathermen just drag themselves across the news station set at the 6 pm hour to point at maps we all know are backward with little annoying arrows as they pretend to care about another hot summer day in Texas.  Hundred Degrees.  Molds are high. But this – THIS!? Winds are parallel to the earth.  Trucks are overturning and trees are cast aside like after-dinner toothpicks at Golden Corral and THERE ARE REPORTS OF HAIL. It’s ninety miles per hour and funnels a-touchin and well, ya’ll better be hunkerin down and stocking them flashlights with batteries. They get so excited I wonder if the crash after this storm mania blows over might set them into suicide watch.

So out goes the vacuum cleaner.  The crock pot’s history.  Armloads of Costco toilet paper gets tossed aside like trash.  In go the blankets. Also the water bottles. And lastly, candles.  I’m not sure what I thought would happen in case of an actual tornado – would me and the kids be noshing on organic brown-rice treats and slurping bottled water while holding hands around candles as our house is crumbling down and landing upon our very heads?  I’m a firm believer in healthy treats and reverse osmosis, so we’d totally be set.

The electricity finally goes out and I’m all “oh crap I can’t see the Doppler” when my dog begins his Total Freakout Mode as the rain and wind bore down upon our metal roof like perhaps the earth was opening and we were the first travelers to the depths of hell.  That’s probably due to the trees slapping against the house and the screaming in my own mind but the dog was slobbering and panting and trying to haul his 14-year-old self into my lap.

I’m sitting there telling the dog it’s all gonna be okay, man, quit it with the slobbering when I feel real water dripping on my head. I look up and rain is coming out of the sheetrock above the coffee table in neat little rows, which means I sat for quite a long time staring because I can’t believe we are suddenly the Clampetts and I rush to get a pan and towels. And of course with my remaining 17% battery life I proceed to call my insurance company in the middle of a life-threatening storm at 11:30 pm with thrashing winds to report a claim.

Look at me.  Water is dripping.  I’ve got a puny little flashlight and an armload of matches. The closet is stocked with treats and pillows.  I’m all “can an appraiser come out this evening, maybe?” The lady responded with “Are you dying? Are you stranded with a child who is in need of medical attention or needs milk and has a diaper full of poo and there’s a log sticking into the front of your minivan so that you can’t operate the vehicle? No? You’re inside your comfortable home in your fuzzy slippers whereby water is slowly dripping into a pan? CHILL THE FREAK OUT, lady.” That might not have been her actual words but whatever.

Later that night both children crawled in bed with me, naturally, and at 4 am I woke with full-blown lights ablazing in my house because the electricity is – Ahem – back on.  So for three days I’ve have industrial fans and dehumidiers and workers traipsing about my attic tearing out wet insulation and my insurance rep finally appears to say it’s not covered and nothing’s reimbursable and I get a quote to remove downed trees in my yard which translates to “you’ll never ever buy another pair of boots in your ever-lovin days, woman.”

So that’s how awesome weekends are made, folks.  But on the bright side, I now realize I have enough toilet paper hidden away under the stairs to wipe the bottoms of all the children in Travis county, and in case of an emergency I can find the number to my insurance company in the pitch black dripping mess of my living room while whispering comforting and reassuring words to an aging retriever.

The kids woke up the next morning totally oblivious with fresh smiling faces.  “A new summer day! What’s for breakfast? Why is all this stuff in the kitchen? What’s with the toilet paper?”

Rice Krispies, kids. Look under the stairs.  And don’t ask so many questions. Momma’s tired.




Stitch by Stitch


I walked out of an OB/Gyn’s office today, thinking of lunch dates and meetings, deadlines and duties. I slid into a crammed elevator next to a woman clinging to a lab slip, trying so very hard to stifle her tears. I watched her struggle for breath.  Struggle to keep angst trapped inside the thin walls of her own self.  I wanted to reach out to her, past her messy ponytail and smudged mascara and trembling fingers.  Yet I stood still as stone as the lit-up numbers ticked down.  My heart was yearning to whisper in her ear that this shall pass.  Pain doesn’t linger.  After the band-aid is ripped, my sweet girl, numbness will settle. And yet the elevator door opened and we all filed out, us Busy People.  The woman turned left and I turned right, my high heels clicking along the floor like a woodpecker.

As I passed hallways I’d trod before, on carpet I’d worn down, I headed to my car praying hard.  My mind raced and my lip quivered as I saw those same lab slips before me, dripping with blood cell counts and cancer.  And yet despite that fact my soul was ripped and my own blood shared,  I bore children on this earth who will outlast me.  Fruits of my womb and outpourings of my own tender heart. As I climbed into my car balancing papers and bags and keys and all the luxuries of modern civility, I wept.  For the woman in the elevator. For my friend who lost her father.  For a life that is so rich and bountiful and for a God that is the only water who will satisfy my unquenched lack of worth.

Before a meeting began I remembered the fire that raged in my abdomen after my daughter was lifted.  I recalled the black nights of a marriage ending.  I remembered being on an elevator, stifling back my own tears and wondering if morning would come.  And yet like old photos in a box I saw my mother’s smile and the way she pulls at her shirt for no reason whatsoever.  I smelled my dog’s rotten bad breath.  I peered at onions shooting from the garden ground and the way oak limbs rub against my old metal roof.  My home, my books, my lover’s eyes that are piercing blue. They all blended together, the ugly and the good, the lab slips and valentine’s days, to form a quilt that enveloped me. Busy People showed up for the meeting and we began to talk about surveys and statistics, contract terms and deadlines.  But my mind was on the woman in the elevator.

Oh, my friends and enemies and dear sweet strangers  – I beg you to be kind to one other.  We are all part of this great journey, and this story, and this collection of people.  Some days are glorious and you dance atop clouds and other days you are sitting slumped by a dumpster wiping sweat and drool from your lips. I regret not reaching for her.  If I could take back time I’d lay my hand softly on her shoulder right there in front of everyone and say I’m sorry.  I’m so very sorry.  We are in this together.

Woven in this quilt of life is suffering and singing, weeping and guffawing, the death and the living and the love and the darkness all connected stitch by stitch.  Let’s envelop each other in the dark times, so we can remember the good, even when our own fingers are trembling.





Odd and Curious Thoughts


(1) I said “thank heavens” the other day and my daughter was all “I don’t understand why you say that – what’s heaven got to do with it?” She found that so clever that she began pointing out all kinds of things I say that don’t make sense and noting spelling errors in books and “why does this seed packet not say ‘seeds’ plural” and by the end of the week I was like “seriously honey, I love you but this is really turning into quite a nerd fest. Tone it down, Webster.”


(2) I went to the store the other night after dark and bought milk, dog food, a ton of organic frozen meals, and coffee creamer.  I was wearing a suit and heels and forgot my recycle bags so I was hoisting boxes of veggie lasagna under my arms and I’m pretty sure I was blowing a wisp of hair out of my face. I could have been the poster child for an overworked mom who needs some sort of juicer from an infomercial. Those always have someone with a broken heel juggling groceries blowing hair out of their face, so I felt proud I was living up to some form of stereotype.


(3) Do they still make Merle Norman cosmetics? It’s like make-up designed specifically for 80-year-olds wearing a large amount of fuchsia.


(4) Mary Kay’s all I got it going on, girl.  In comparison to Merle Norman, maybe.  But that’s like a fight between a Buick and a golf cart.


(5) I was in Target the other day and saw a t-shirt with snoopy laying on his house with the caption “Doesn’t care. Sleeps on roof.”  I thought it was so funny that I texted it to all my friends, but it’s like that moment when someone walks into the elevator and it smells bad and you’re the only one there.  Nobody thought it was funny.  But it’s snoopy, all “I don’t give a rip. I sleep on the freaking roof.” That’s funny, ya’ll.


(6) I swear I didn’t produce that smell.  There were like ten other people on the elevator.  It was that big guy from IT.


(7) I wore tight khakis and riding boots to work last Friday, and if one more person asked me if I was going to ride horses after work I was going to have to just say nothing clever because I had no good comeback. Preparation is key in these situations.


(8) I met a lovely physician the other day wearing a pretty scarf and she had a raspy voice and I thought that poor woman has such an awful cold so when I walked out I told her I hoped she felt better and then as the words were leaving my mouth I noticed she had a trach and she simply said “it’s permanent” with a smile and I wanted to sink into the linoleum.


(9) I bought new drinking glasses from Pottery Barn and they say the word “drink” on the glasses, which my daughter was about to comment upon when I stopped her and asked if she wanted a cookie. Don’t disparage my new drinking glasses, sarcastic seven-year-old.


(10)               I ordered a hot water bottle with flannel LL bean cover which is really code word for “I’m never going to date as long as I live.” Ain’t nobody want to be with a woman who has a hot water bottle, ticking duvet cover, likes to bake, and wears Merle Norman.  See also: piano in living room and my affinity for brown antique plates.  I’m going to change my name to Doris.


(11)               My son told me he wanted to be a space firefighter and put out the sun.  I told him that was a lofty and creative endeavor, but unfortunately that mission would kill off humanity and leave his sister and mom alone and freezing in subzero temperatures.  So he asked for a band aid instead and we called it a wash.


(12)                Today at work I was like “hello lady in the office next to me.  I know we’ve never spoken but I dig your boots, I’m divorced, and I like fortune cookies.” Then I felt all weirdly open and over-sharing and I’m sure she was like “my name is Alice, not Amber, and you just told me more about your personal life than I know about the Kardashians.” And now I have to see her on Monday. Awkward.


(13)               The aforementioned lady told me she lived on 85 acres of ranch land with cattle, and that’s speaking my language.  I’ll bring over the knitting and we can make homemade cinnamon rolls.  We can toast the sunset with hot tea with lemon and dish on men’s underpants.


(14)               I was at lunch with a CEO the other day and she asked what I did for personal wellness.  I wanted to tell her I’m not really thin as much as an excellent purchaser of larger pants that gave the impression of thinness and my current health program is mostly aimed at reducing my tator tot intake.


(15)               A trach.  That woman had a trach. You can’t take me anywhere.  Except apparently nursing homes, antique fairs, quilt shows, and bake-offs.


(16)             I might be single forever.  But that’s okay.  There’s just more love for my two kids to go around, with me buried in old blankets, laying in the middle of my king bed, with one child on my left and one on my right, all cuddled up.  If an astroid hit and we were covered in ten feet of ash, you’d find our bones buried there, with my arms fiercely protecting them, my eyelids aimed at heaven, with the former beating of my heart keeping us warm.  Well that and the water bottle with a red flannel cover.


Thank heavens.




Things I Tell My Six-Year-Old


(1) Yes, I realize that feeding the dog one scoop of food is something we have to do every single day, and this chore is extremely onerous.  But somehow, I know you’ll overcome.

(2) Yes, you have lovely teeth. No, they don’t at all look large, protruding like boulders out of your very small mouth.

(3) Please stop squirting room spray on your pillow to help you fall asleep.  Your hair will smell nothing like ocean breezes.  This stuff is swill.

(4) No, you can’t have a Chai tea.  What are you, like 27? Have I ever ordered you that at Starbucks?  You can have an apple juice and a healthy dose of normal childhood, thank-you-very-much.

(5) I’m sorry I ironed on the Daisy pedals in the wrong order but in like five minutes you go through a transition bridging ceremony and you’ll be an official Brownie and won’t need this Daisy vest anyway so please get up off the floor for heaven’s sakes.

(6) It’s not a cartwheel when you land on both feet.  Is that a round-off?  Oh sweetie – did you just fall over?  Oh I see.  It’s your made-up gymnastics move.  Clever.

(7) Please stop eating all the gruyere.  They make icky American cheese for you children of the world who don’t really give a rip.

(8) Yes, take your purse.  You never know when you might need sparkling lip gloss, a bar of soap, and an empty wallet with fake money in it when we go to the grocery store.

(9) Why is there a bar of soap in your purse?

(10)               It’s really just eggs and potatoes and onions with herbs but instead of all that let’s call it Fancy French Eggs.  Au Revoir!

(11)               You will play piano because I said so, and it will increase your skills in all areas of life, and will provide you a ticket into the “I used to play piano when I was little but I hated all that practice but I gave it up and now all I can play is chopsticks” world of adulthood.  You’re welcome.  It’s better than “we sang opera in our underwear.”  At least I’m giving you something you can actually use.

(12)               No, we cannot plant corn in the front flowerbed.  I know that would be “so awesome” but so is the Batmobile and you don’t see me rocking that in the carpool line.

(13)               It’s true that I love you more than the entire world combined.  Because God shines through your veins like a flashlight, illuminating the world with good.  Please don’t stop accepting my love, even when I’m old and stinky.



Why well-check appointments make me feel like a bad mother

I dread well-check appointments.  It’s not that anything is wrong with my kids, but those darn visits make me feel like an inadequate mother.  But this year, I was prepared.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has a list of questions that my doctor uses to judge the overall health and well-being of a child.  They are good questions.  Based on solid evidence of what’s harmful to kids.  I’m all over it. No, I don’t keep a loaded gun around.  No, I don’t feed my kids fast-food burgers three times a week.  No, my kids don’t watch hours of television.  I’m really quite an all-star.  Did you see that one answer I jotted down about the excellent reading skills and vocabulary? I hand the form over to the bubbly little nurse.  Here ya go!  Here’s to high percentiles and healthy habits!

I’m not sure why I worry.  It’s not like they take your motherhood pin away if your kid eats nothing but noodles with butter. But still. 

This year, I prepped my daughter in advance.  In the car ride over, I subtly reminded her that she does eat carrots, corn, and roasted broccoli.   And if anyone asks, just say yes to bike helmets.  Just random conversation on a Monday morning.  Nothing to worry about.  She just looked at me like I had marker on my face.

Our pediatrician, who is warm and lovely and not at all judgmental, walked into the room and happily started up a conversation about life.  My daughter started off by explaining that Kindergarten was hard.  She talked too much and didn’t feel like following the rules all the time.  Typical stuff.  Her tone was so matter-of-fact.  Then she smiled and wiggled her front tooth.  I wanted to crawl under the table at the honesty.  Kids are like that.  We should take more lessons from them.

After lifting up my daughter’s arms and legs and peering inside her nose, the doctor started squeezing in the tricky questions.

“Does an adult watch you at all times by the pool?” the doctor asks.

“Well there was this one party where mom was just hanging out inside with a friend and I pretended to be a mermaid.”

That is totally not true!  I watch her like a crazy vulture!  As a matter of fact, I was apologizing to another mom because I couldn’t keep my eyes away from my six-year-old, who was only in the shallow end, with one other girl, twirling her hair around and sitting on an underwater bench laughing while I sat ten feet away inside the glass-covered patio.  I mumbled something to the doctor about that being a bit of an exaggeration, and that I’m always looking, and by that point she had just moved on.

“Do you drink lots of water and milk?” the doctor asks.

“Not much,” she says.  “Hardly ever, really.  I do drink chocolate milk.” I felt like kicking her under the table, but there wasn’t an under because she was sitting on top of it.   The doctor then gave my six-year-old a very nice lecture about how it’s really hot, and how important it is in the Texas heat to be well hydrated, and to drink cold water whenever she can.  This is crazy.  Can’t I just answer these questions, for crying out loud?

Finally, the doctor asked about my daughter’s diet.  It’s decent, with the exception of our one splurge – a Wendy’s baked potato.  When this little jewel is revealed, my doctor suggests I put steamed broccoli on top.  So helpful.  In between my two-year-old having a meltdown and trying to assuage my pounding headache, I’ll steam some.  Just so it will be pushed aside because it’s not roasted until it’s dark and crispy with sea salt and parmesan.  Because that’s the way I make it where it tastes good.  I’ve ruined her for life.

I’m left with the lingering feeling that I’m a horrible mother, that my child needs to take more vitamins and eat more green things, and she must triple her fluid intake or she’s going to shrivel up like a raisin.

Afterward, we head to lunch.  My daughter wanted a lemonade (no), a smoothie (again, no), and a ham sandwich with absolutely nothing on it but ham and cheese.   She refused to eat the sandwich because she wasn’t hungry and only drank water when I allowed her to put three lemons in it.

Later, when she’s starving to death (her words), I point to a shriveled up sandwich.  She frowned and said it was stepped on in the car by her brother.  I finally gave in and let her eat a baked potato for supper, covered with spoonfuls of tomato basil soup.  She sighs, sips on soup, nibbles at the potato, and tells me that she wants to go back to the way it used to be, when she can have a potato with sour cream and a side of apple juice.   I told her to drink more water.

My daughter is a very smart girl.  Eventually, she’ll figure out that the better she answers the questions at the doctor’s office, the better I will feel as a parent, and when we get home, I’m likely to make everyone chocolate-banana smoothies.

My daughter wears her bike helmet. She loves carrots, roasted broccoli, and corn.  She runs to grab a paper towel when someone makes a mess and cuddles up next to her baby brother to help him sleep.  Despite the water, or the lack thereof, we’re all good.  We are getting what we need.  In spite of my insane need to look like the perfect mother at the doctor’s office, I realize that I’m not that horrible after all.

Here’s a chocolate milk, kiddo.  Drink up.