Thursday, September 10, 2015

A not-done-with-the-book review

Kathy B suggested a few times that I read Expecting Adam by Martha Beck over the past several I finally bought it off of Amazon for $4 big ones and brought it with me on my trip to Florida.

I read a good chunk of it in a four hour flurry and only dog earred one page that has a Chinese Philosophy quote so I have no quotes to share. However, it would sound almost like quoting myself. Except, OK, I don't have a PhD from Harvard and several published, best-selling books. So we're not exactly alike in that she is a genius but the subject matter of her book, at the heart of what she is really getting at, well... I relate. The things she talks about I have said and I didn't even know I said them. It's a little freaky to read your thoughts about angels and kindness and magic and vulnerability in someone else's story. How they chose the same words even before you had your own.

 I read 200 pages of this book sitting in the middle seat of two Southwest flights on my trip to and from Tampa, mostly choking back either sobs or laughter depending on the story she was telling. Mostly tears. Not necessarily because every story is so absolutely sad, but because everything resonates so deeply. On the flight there it was two men I was between, both of them on their computers, one drinking beers and the other.... a diet coke? I don't know, I was trying not to crying, and they were trying not to notice.  They most certainly did. Obviously they weren't reading the same book I was that applauds getting past the shame we cast on public tears.

Departing the plane and anxiously waiting for my checked bag, I finally actually cried, hugged my friend who had arrived to pick me up, and thoroughly confused her since this was a trip to hang out and care for HER, not poor baby Emma. Sigh. Life is different now. Until I started falling down and waking up to concerned faces in public, though, I wasn't fully committed to that icky, icky word vulnerability. I hate that word. I really do. I would rather just use something more like weak. wounded. needy. I used to think, I get it. I get we all need some help, sometimes. We all need friends and family and community and, uh, to be real with people.

Completely reliant upon another is a state we are supposed to move past after being a baby. And right. We are. If we can, if we got all the "right" stuff. But sometimes....sometimes... we need each other that much still. But we all were most likely taught to think we were supposed to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps and just get over it already. That's what this book is about, her and her husband both with PhD's from Harvard. That's where they invented the phrase "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" among others, I'm pretty sure.

Since I haven't finished the book I don't know for sure, but I think she might be saying that she wants your world to be flipped upside down somehow. That the bad things can be good. That there is so much joy in what we once thought was terrible and scary.

I can't say for sure but I think I agree.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


All I can write about is being grateful. I'm going to keep hammering away at this topic until I am done with it, then I can move forward with something more interesting, I promise.  Right now, it is all that's in me, when I come here to speak, it is all that comes out. Snooooooooooooze fest. I know.

One of my favorite humans I do not know (YET), Stephen Colbert, just did an interview for GQ, and he wrote this:

"He lifted his arms as if to take in the office, the people working and laughing outside his door, the city and the sky, all of it. “And the world,” he said. “It's so…lovely. I'm very grateful to be alive, even though I know a lot of dead people.” The urge to be grateful, he said, is not a function of his faith. It's not “the Gospel tells us” and therefore we give thanks. It is what he has always felt: grateful to be alive."

One of the things we talk about in psychology is that it takes a while for us to process what happens to us. Things hit us later. Sometimes much, much later. Years later you're wondering why in the world did you react to a situation in such a bizarre way? Where did that come from? Some people never care to find out. On the other hand I am kind of obsessed with finding out. Right now every feeling I have has culminated into feeling so extremely joyful that even when I get pissed off it is in the proper way, I think.

I do make way too many jokes though. I read and watch and consume so much comedic material I believe I AM a writer on SNL. It's annoying to all of my friends. I am sorry.

Last night I was eating dinner at my neighbors' new apartment and she teared up over how, well, grateful, she is to have the friends she has. We've teared up around twenty times together in the past year, and straight up cried on several occasions. Mostly it has been me needing her. Somehow, somehow, through me needing her, I think that opened things up. Opened up some vulnerable line where she needs me too. Where we all need each other. Where shit got real. Because when you're in the midst of it, you do not feel grateful. You feel out of your mind. Thank God we feel grateful and not insane now.

If there is a better consistent feeling than gratefulness than I haven't felt it, yet. Except as I said, I tear up way too much. I am starting to appear as if I wear contacts or have a dry eye problem around my loved ones and it is an issue. There are other heights to feel, and lows that will be felt.... but grateful. It is a good place to be. Get here if you can.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Why Elle Woods is my Idol

Confession: I have watched Legally Blonde three times in the past month. Last night it was on an HD screen, and Reese Witherspoon looks like perfection even in high definition. I was in awe. After determining that Steel Magnolia's is no longer on Netflix, Legally Blonde was my other suggestion for a lighthearted film. For those that haven't seen Steel Magnolia's thirty-seven times it isn't as lighthearted, I suppose, so Legally Blonde was a good choice. Also, aside from Mindy Kaling there is no other woman I am obsessed with more at this current moment than Elle Woods. And Mindy is real. Elle is made up. Mindy might be the even more awesome Indian version of Elle in real life... If she ever read that someday I hope she would take it as a compliment. Because I have determined Elle Woods to be the kindest, most bad ass, and... yes... blondest law student out there. And I love her. Here's why:

She is kind. She treats everyone as her equal and doesn't talk about anyone behind their back. Elle is pre-judged for how she looks but does not do the same to others, ever. She gives people second, third, fourth chances. She stands up for the little guy. She holds strongly to her beliefs and values and doesn't give up. The girl is a vegetarian due to animal rights (props - I could only do it for nine months). Her kindness extends to all without agenda, like, totally and completely.

She is a bad ass. There are tons of moments in the movie when Elle is shown revealing how smart she really is, before and after she gets to Harvard.  Elle gets a 179 on the LSAT's. That is so hard. I know we're talking about a fictitious character but they made up the story and I'm saying I love this fictitious character. She uses logic constantly to prove her point and to help friends out, to express her opinion, to not get taken advantage of.  Ultimately, she realizes one or two pricks can not hold her back and applies herself even more. Which is a sad but often true realization of the culture we still live in. Thankfully instead of Grease - which is one of the WORST movie endings for feminism ever - Elle Woods doesn't change who she is - she becomes MORE herself throughout Legally Blonde. Yes, I'm taking this movie that seriously. So sue me. Ha, ha.

Elle Woods is a blonde bombshell. "You're breaking up with me because I'm too blonde? Because my boobs are too big?" Her application video to Harvard is 90% in a sparkling bikini and she wins her final cross examination by knowing the hair care rules of perms. Does this diminish all of the above? Uh, no. Why would it? Why do we think that? Can we stop? It should not be surprising when beautiful people are good, or kind, or bad asses. Obviously being beautiful is not the most important thing, I know we get that wrong. But we get so many things wrong at this point, why listen to anything anyone has to say - except for celebrities - they know everything - amiright. Maybe that is why we do not believe beautiful people when they are good - it is just too profoundly shocking. To be honest, to get through life and actually accomplish being Elle Woods is a out of this world, probably impossible. And that's why she is my Idol.

Elle Woods for President! She is kind and smart and beautiful and a leader and inspiring! And Mindy, you can be Vice President in this made up-fantasy-wonderful world of mine.
Cheers, I know you would be psyched.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

to my hobbits

"You can trust us to stick to you through thick and thin--to the bitter end.  And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours--closer than you keep it yourself.  But you cannot trust us to let you face your trouble alone, and go off without a word.  We are you friends, Frodo." - Peregrin Took

Those dear Hobbits, they are cutting straight to my heart this read through of The Fellowship. I'm still in the beginning, before meeting the Elves and Men and Dwarfs, really. But I know them. In my middle school years I read the books and coincidingly watched the movies in early high school--I was a Lord of the Rings Junkie. Some of my friends and I got together and we made our own versions of the movies. I played all the female roles, because, well, I was the only girl interested in doing this sort of thing at fourteen. Had my first love affair with a freshman in college, don't worry, it was pretty PG.

I also played an orc. We all played orcs. You know, we all had to be an extra. This was really the beginning and the end of my acting career. I was really just a fan girl. In love with Tolkein, in love with the story, in love with the genre of fantasy. That is entirely still true. I like make believe.

Rather than wander around the subject of fantasy and make believe, I wanted to talk about my friends. I wanted to be Pippin or Sam tonight, not Frodo. Ugh, Frodo. I don't know if anyone comes out of reading those books really liking Frodo much, but he isn't perfect and I love him for that. He carries a burden that is hard to bear, and some of us know that that weight damn near kills us each and every day. He has friends that understand that weight, and they are terrified! But they are with him.

Sometimes I feel like Frodo. But the good thing is, the amazing thing is, the best thing is. I have a Pippin, Merry and my Sam. There isn't any running away from my crowd, they won't go away. Despite what I do or say or believe they keep sticking with me. Holding my hand. Calling me up. They just won't leave, and they won't let me leave them. I guess I will keep them forever. Forever sounds good.

"You can trust us." Mr. Pippin says. And he sealed the deal. They all danced and sang songs together because they knew that it was done, they were together to the bitter end. We all need friends on our dangerous adventure. And at least two dinners, at least.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Old Habits Die Hard

My thoughts are blurred by sickness, I have been ill all week from kissing my nephews too much last week.  All of their beautiful baby germs absorbed into my healthy cells. As I cough away, sipping on black coffee and peanut butter honey oatmeal just stirred up in a pot, I can envision Winnie the Pooh thinking deep thoughts early in the morning, or not so deep thoughts, as it were.

Sick and tired the past several days, my mood has been short with all, and as me and my neighbors hosted friends in our yard last night I realized I had little to say and felt to be a very lacking hostess. Indeed, I was.  My most useful ability was to hold the sweet but energetic beagle all evening and keep her soothed in my loving arms, a business I am well aware I could make a lucrative living in.  Wrapped up by the comfort of a doe-eyed hound in my lap, my own swirling thoughts, and not a beer in sight as I sniffled away, I meagerly interjected or laughed away at others' conversation but started none and stayed safely in my comfort zone of what seemed like one made from centuries ago.  I have emerged from this cocoon in the past three years immensely, stretched myself to new dimensions, and I will never go back.  But old habits die hard.

Animals and children are on the short list of easy to love, comfortable, simple and quite frankly when I spend a brief amount of time with almost anyone's dog or child they start calling me the "baby" whisperer - insert dog, and I am called upon to dog sit, baby sit, bunny sit, etc. I love it all. I suppose I take a certain amount of pride in this but it has more than that been a matter-of-fact part of who I am. It has never been a desirable career path. Never once have I wanted to work with either children or animals forever, except for when I was very small and wanted to be a veterinarian, like 30% of children who loved animals.

I love easily and freely and children and animals love you back. Children will tell you they love you the day that you meet them. So would a dog if they could talk.  A cat would obviously not.  Perhaps I am saying here I have the maturity level relationally of a child or a golden retriever....Not false. I love kisses. And walks. I am not sure about the rest.

Here is what I have learned. I have learned to be at the party without the dog or the baby by being at the party, over and over and over.

You learn to host a party by hosting one.
You learn to cook a good meal by trying.
You learn to get a raise by asking.
You learn to walk more by taking the steps.
You learn to take a vacation by going.
You learn to fall in love by letting yourself.

Old habits die hard. New habits take work. Bring a friend, Piglet, Tigger. Don't forget to stop and visit Kanga, Roo and Owl. You'll need them. I know that. You'll need them all.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

"I knoooooooow, Mom"

Every time I get together with my mom I hear it escaping my lips "I know mom." Especially when I get together with my whole family I hear the phrase come out of my mouth over and over again - probably because we are barely listening to each other in the first place. And I hear my sister say it, and I hear my brothers say it. We know, mom.

And you know who sings this song, don't you? And you know what movie they're in? And you know who they were married to?

I know, mom.

Did I ever tell you about the belly flops we did? And what I said to my sister that I'll never forget? And how you should never say anything at all if you can't say anything nice?

I knooooow, mom.

Diet Dr. Pepper with a Cobb Salad. You used to be my little waitress. You used to ask me what I wanted to order and that's what I'd order every time.

I knooooooooooooow, mom.

I just loved my babies, that's all I ever wanted was to be your mom.

We know, mom.

My mother might be one of the very best conversationalist that I have ever met. She doesn't talk too much or pry too deep, say anything awkward or unkind. She says just the right thing and asks just the right question. She has something to say to everyone about everything. Not only does she have something to say, she has something good to say. Quite a feat indeed. If I have picked up just a bit of her warmth I will consider myself a lucky and fortunate child. Her ability to put someone at ease is unmatched by anyone I have ever seen. Disarming. Genuine. Real. I like my mom.

And really, hearing her stories over and over isn't so bad. I have a terrible memory. I think I am starting to forget the stories as she retells them. It's working well for both of us. I want to hear more. I want to listen more and talk less as I get a little older. I'll always be a smart ass at heart, but I want to know what my mom has to say. It's getting through, still. It always has. It always will. Keep on talking mom, we're listening.

To steal one of your favorite quotes seems appropriate.

"We were together. I forget the rest." - Walt Whitman

Monday, February 2, 2015

I'm afraid of church.

I cried in church yesterday. Surprise, surprise. Not. However, it was for a brand-new-never-been-cried and broken over reason.  Before you think of me as the consistent church goer I was once, let me be clear, I have been to church roughly a dozen times in the past two years.  It is for a very specific reason I avoid it, well, it was at first. It's also true that at this point I am lazy and like having Sunday morning free. I lived 23 years without it.  The reason I stopped going to church stirred within me and weighed heavily yesterday, more than I have felt in a long time. Yesterday I visited a friend's Anglican church only because it meant I could see another friend who I haven't been able to see in a while. I trekked to Uptown at 9 in the snow, happy and alive, regretting the choice to wear mascara as it ran down my face.

Liturgy, liturgy. I look around. I see people that look like me. Most do. Some look different. Liturgy, song, prayer, song.

Then someone got up and said the prayers that we're supposed to repeat and say "Lord, hear our prayer" after.  I was vaguely paying attention at this point and feeling very little at all in the spiritual department. And I wasn't sure what to do with my hands. I was standing there, listening, feeling kind of awkward.  All of the sudden we were asked to pray for those who have "unbelief" and then I found myself praying Tears started to fall as I realized how long I had avoided this moment, how long I had kept silent.

I looked around and knew that even though I want to believe despite what my life experiences have taught me, everyone in this room must not be bad. There must be some good ones here, too. I'm scared. The truth is, my heart is very hard. I ran away from church people and Christians because God in someone seemed to mean nothing, seemed to reveal nothing about character and yet. Logically, I know there are people influenced by God and religion that are wonderful. Is it why they're wonderful? I don't know. I don't know if God makes someone wonderful sometimes, or if they did it themselves, or both, or what. All I know is two years ago my earnest heart couldn't take it anymore, and I ran away.

If I zoom out and look down at myself, standing in church yesterday morning. Unsure, disinterested. Crying. Barely believing. Still... I'm living out a life that makes no sense, I choose to love people over everything else, and try to do that every day. Why? It's not me. It's not just who I am. It's this gospel that has modified my heart, pushed me forward, changed me. To see myself in church and blame others for my unbelief is foolish. The only person to blame, is me.

I only need to be saved from myself. Over and over.

"All beings tremble before violence. All fear death, all love life. See yourself in others, then whom can you hurt? What harm can you do?" - Buddha

It's easy for me to love anyone except those who claim Christianity, I think. Guess I have some work to do.