Friday, September 18, 2020

A Relocation and a Reset

Holy shit, 2020.  

My last post was in April, and it was hopeful.  I take that back - not hopeful, but bittersweet.  Writing about the things that I miss and yearning for normalcy again.  Dreaming about a return to my gym and throwing a massive party and going to concerts.  At that point, in April, if you would have told me where I would be today, I never would have believed you.  

I don't yearn for those things so much anymore, I guess because they feel so out of reach.  Concerts?  Large parties?  Crowded indoor group fitness classes?  I don't even consider it, perhaps because its too painful.  I've learned in the past few months not to think too much beyond the short term, and those things are so far off that it seems futile to consider them.  So I don't.  

Instead, over the past months, I've been surviving on a week to week basis.  And in retrospect, my time in quarantine wasn't half bad.  In April, I formed a "quaranteam" with two other families, and we all saw each other multiple times a week.  We had a lot of fun, actually.  We played trivial pursuit and made cocktails and ended the night with dance fests.  In May, we rented a house on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and had what felt like a legitimate vacation.  

At the end of June, we relocated to our home in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, and it was a godsend.  The air was clean, the vistas were beautiful, and it felt as close to normal as possible for these times.  Absent constant mask wearing, the summer felt like many other summers - we had visitors and ate oysters and went to the beach and dined outdoors.  The covid numbers remained extreme low (there have only been 7 cases of covid in Wellfleet since the pandemic began).  It was a perfect escape, and escape it was.  Because looming in my mind all summer was a return to what - normal?  Who knew what we would be returning to?  I started the summer hopeful that the fall would look similar to our regular routine, with some adjustments of course.  Kids in school, with masks.  Zoom gym classes.  Socially distant get togethers.  Something, anything, better than the spring.  Because as much "fun" as I've managed to have since March, it wasn't all butterflies and rainbows. 

Home schooling could not have been worse.  I decided to retire my youngest from kindergarten in April, and he spent much of the rest of the school year on screens while I tended to my older ones.  My middle child ghosted school for a week, unbeknownst to me until I received an email from the teacher.  My oldest one had a series of meltdowns and panic attacks, and what was I to tell him?  Sitting on a computer for 6+ hours a day alone in your room in 5th grade is not okay.  And when he would demand to know when things would be normal again, I had no answer for him.  

In April, our dog Cous died.  Those that know me know that she was a constant thorn in my side, but I loved her all the same.  She had been declining for months, but it was still a shock when it became apparent that we had to put her down.  Because of covid, only one person could accompany her to the vet, and that person was me.  It was a surreal, spiritual, eye opening, devastating experience watching her die in my arms.  To be alive one second and dead the next - how does that happen?  I had a brief existential crisis, which was only partially saved by getting a puppy 10 days later, that we had reserved at the beginning of quarantine before Cous's health had declined.

Our last picture together - April 26, 2020.  (And yes I had pink hair)

In June, before we left for Cape Cod, the world started opening up a bit more.  And with that came some crippling anxiety.  What's okay to do?  What's not?  Where is the fine line between paranoia and appropriate caution?  I really grappled with how to live, and sometimes, my choices left me with regret and anxiety and the feeling that my throat was scratchy and I must have contracted covid.  My parents canceled their trips to the Cape, and still remain in isolation - we haven't seen them since December.  My best friend aborted her trip to visit us after her entire family actually contracted covid (they are all fine).  I broke my big toe mid-summer and stopped working out.  And then, in mid- August, our school made the announcement that they would not be going back for in person instruction in September.  

This was a gut punch, and a reminder that the world was still turned upside down, even if I was living in denial in the impervious enclave of Wellfleet.  And even though I had thought about it several times during the summer, that day I first said it out loud to my husband - that maybe we should relocate here, where the elementary school is going back full time in person - it seemed surreal.  For how long?  For the fall?  For the year?  Who knows.  Like I said, I think in short terms now.  

It seemed like a crazy proposal.  Because for a long time, my husband and I have been on a pretty predictable course of life.  He works, I pick the kids up from school, we take scheduled vacations according to the school calendar, we have a regular Saturday night babysitter - rinse and repeat.  A couple of years ago, if you would have asked me where I would be in a year, I could have told you with certainty, and I would have been right.  So to do something new again - enter an unknown, uncomfortable, uncertain scenario?  I haven't done that in a long, long time.  

But here we are.  In Wellfleet.  Two of my kids started at the local elementary school two days ago. My older one is in the room next to me as I type, doing distance learning.  And I'm still in a bit of shock.  

I tried to frame coming here as being an adventure, and in a way, it is.  Relocating to a small town where we know no one?  I mean, it's definitely different!  The Wellfleet off season is not the Wellfleet I know from the summer.  The K-5 elementary school has 86 students (and only one class per grade).  The restaurants are starting to close down.  The local population in the winter is approximately 3000 people.  It's going to get cold.  And dark.  And we are here alone - no family, no friends (as of yet).  

But I think I need this.  We need this.  

Over the past six months, even though we've been having our fair share of fun, it was mostly out of the need to distract from reality.  There was a lot of self medicating going on, and I will fully admit I've been drinking and eating way too much.  My kids have been on screens more hours than I'm willing to share, and we've eaten take out for almost every meal.  Bed times became non-existent.  My husband and I lost each other a bit.  My life became a series of diversions.  What can I do to forget what is really going on?  I became quite good at this, if I do say so myself.

But here in Wellfleet, in the off season, there are much fewer distractions.  No friends, no trips, very few take out options (and soon to be none).   I'm on day 5 of a Whole 30 and have cut out alcohol.  I'm back to exercising.  I've started cooking. Here I am writing another blog post!  And for the first time since March 13, we are getting into a routine.  I get to drop two of my kids off at school, and pick them up.  My older son follows a similar schedule, and around 3pm, when we all regroup, the kids get one hour to be on a screen and that's it.  We eat at home.  We go to bed.  And every night, I'm filled with gratitude that we are all healthy, that we are all together, and that we are so fortunate to have the options we have.  

I'm thankful for this reset.

When will we go back "home"?  When will things be "normal"?  I don't know.  Nobody does.  I've tried to embrace and lean into the uncertainty, because that's what 2020 is about.  Uncertainty, anxiety, angst, dread, and above all, perserverance.  Here's to rolling with the punches and facing it head on, for who knows how long.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

The Things I Miss

I miss the gym, especially the camaraderie of doing the group fitness classes.  Of sweating and seeing other people sweat and feeling like a rockstar for a brief moment when the class is done.  I miss running on a treadmill and people watching and seeing my "gym" friends - people that hadn't necessarily crossed over into social friends.  When this all ends, I'm going to make that happen.

I miss driving.  Obviously I can still drive, but there isn't really anywhere to go except the grocery store.  I miss driving downtown to do my mediations - with traffic, it was usually a 45 minute drive.  I would listen to music the whole time and sing loudly and zone out and think about things.  I miss waiting in the carpool line at school - that 25 minute forced solo time where I would play on my phone or call a friend or listen to more music.  If I got there early enough, I could position myself at the front of the line and spy on the kids playing on the playground, occasionally finding one of my own children.  I loved getting that brief secret view into their lives, when they didn't know I was watching.

I miss concerts.  A few weeks before lockdown, I went to a White Ford Bronco show - it's a DC based band that plays 90's music.  I went with a group of 6 or so, three of my best friends and two of my oldest friends and my sister.  I knew every single word to every song.  When they played "I Would Walk 500 Miles" by the Proclaimers, I jumped up and down and legit peed my pants.  It was a result of too much to drink and a lack of bladder control after birthing three children.  The next day we all laughed about it on a group text chain and made plans to go to another show in April, that wasn't to be.

I miss shuffling my kids to all of their various activities.  I would often complain about our Saturdays, how my husband and I would have to divide and conquer and even at times get a babysitter to get the kids to where they needed to be - band performances and basketball games and soccer games and rock climbing.  The truth is though, I liked being busy.  I liked watching my kids have fun with their friends.  I liked catching up with the other parents.  I liked feeling like part of a community.

I miss childcare.  Specifically, I miss Michele - I call her a babysitter, but really she's a member of our family.  She has been watching my kids since Colin was born, six and a half years ago, and my kids ask for her daily.  I joke at times that they like her better than me, and perhaps they do - she engages with them in a way that I don't often do myself- playing board games with them, getting on the floor with them, really being present.  Way back when I started this blog, I wrote about Betty, my childhood nanny who I still love and adore.  I always wanted to find a "Betty" for my kids, and somehow, by some miracle, I did.  I know Michele will be in our lives for the long haul.  But in the meantime, the kids miss her desperately.  So do I.

I miss plans.  People that know me often joke that I'm always over scheduled - I have weekend plans filled up for months out.  But that's just how I roll - I love having things to look forward to and having game nights and making hard to get dinner reservations and planning trips.  Oh, how I love planning trips.  We were supposed to be in Japan at the end of March - a trip that had been in the works for years.  We were supposed to go to Cape Cod for the summer.  We were supposed to go to Spain (sans kids) in October.  Maybe some of these trips will happen?  I don't know.  I'm not counting on it.

I miss my innocence.  On March 11, three friends and I took an Amtrak up to Manhattan to see the taping of a podcast with Andy Borowitz and Alec Baldwin.  About two hours into the trip, the show was cancelled.  We were annoyed, but still determined to have a fun night, and we did.  We went to dinner and a piano bar and stayed up way too late, making for a painful early morning train back to DC the next day.  On the morning of March 13, I went to yoga.  A few hours later, I got an email that my kids' school would be closed the following two weeks.  The shit storm had begun.

I miss my kids' innocence.  For the first couple of weeks, I think the kids looked at this as spring break.  They sat on their iPads and watched a bunch of TV and seemed to be oblivious to the world collapsing outside of our house.  But then distance learning started, and they realized something was different.  And wrong.  And the tears started.  The questions.  The anxiety.  There is no doubt that this global event will have an impact on their lives, and there's not much I can do about that. And I hate that.  I hate it so much.

I miss my friends.  I miss them so much it hurts.  I know how lucky I am to be with my family right now, to have them here and healthy and be safe.  But it's not enough.  I never realized how much I rely on my friends for happiness until now.  And maybe that's not healthy?  Who knows. But I want to see my friends and embrace them so tight and run away somewhere for a weekend.  I want to get drunk and reminisce and cry happy tears that this is all over.  I've been a zoom slut as of late, jumping from zoom to zoom (and once again, over scheduling myself), and that helps.  But it's not enough.  There's something about physical presence - some energy that you get from others - that just doesn't translate through a computer screen.

When this is over, I want to throw a party.  A huge party.  In our backyard.  With a DJ and catering and the whole bit.  I want all of my favorite people to be there.  I want to fly people in.  I want to celebrate freedom of movement and people being together in the same space.  I want to grab everyone and hug them a little longer than would otherwise be socially acceptable.

I want to dance and pee my pants.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Two Rash Decisions

When this all went down a few weeks ago, there was only one thing I was looking forward to, and that was relocating to our home in Wellfleet, Cape Cod to ride this thing out.  If the kids didn't have school, and my husband and I didn't have to go into an office, why the hell not?  Sure, it's cold up there now, and pretty much everything is closed, but it's just so beautiful there that none of that would have mattered.  There are hikes to be had and beaches to walk and bike trails aplenty.  I have gone there my whole life, and as I wrote about four or so years ago, it truly is my "happy place."  Buying a home there a couple of years ago was a dream come true, and here we are, in this crazy, scary time, and we could make use of it.

But it wasn't to be.  As the news came flooding in each day, it became clear that relocating to a small town with limited resources two hours away from a major hospital might not be the best thing. And, I also didn't want to be met with neighbors carrying pitchforks.  For good reason, local residents in beach towns are urging second home owners, as well as tourists, to stay away.

This realization hit me Saturday morning, and a cloud of depression overtook me.  If we couldn't go to Cape Cod, what was there to look forward to?

Rash Decision #1- Get a Puppy

I know, I know.  Getting a new dog should not be a rash decision.  There should be extensive research on breed and breeders, and you should give it some time to really think it over.  You should have family meetings about it and perhaps even seek out some expert advice on how it would affect your existing dog.  (Yes, Cous Cous is still alive.  Can you believe it???)

Around 10am on Saturday morning I began researching dogs, and by 1pm that day we had sent in a deposit.  Our male labradoodle puppy, whom we hope to name Tater Tot (subject to the kids' approval), will come home with us on May 9 at the age of 8 weeks old.

I actually don't even know which one is ours.

My husband was somewhat onboard.  My kids were overall indifferent.  After I pled with all of them that I needed this for my sanity, they acquiesced.  And yes, I know how much work a puppy is, and yes I know he will be waking me up at night, and yes I know that this will just complicate my already (normally) hectic, chaotic life, BUT JUST LET ME MAKE A RASH DECISION AND BE EXCITED ABOUT IT.

I am so excited for this puppy.  And having something to be excited for in the short term is huge right now.  HUGE.  I've been in a better mood ever since.

Rash Decision #2 - Order an Inflatable Hot Tub

The excitement about the puppy definitely brought some joy, but I still have to wait a whole 40 days for him.  So yesterday, after receiving a picture from a college friend of mine of a similar purchase, I threw some money at the problem and ordered an inflatable hot tub.  It's going to look like this:

It's ugly.  SO SO ugly.  And God knows how it works and how many rashes or infections we will acquire from it.  BUT I DON'T CARE.  I actually really want to put it in the front yard.  Because how funny would that be?  With all these people taking walks every night, and they walk past our house and there is this trashy inflatable hot tub in the front?  And we can sit in it with cocktails and wave at the passerby and know that while they are quietly judging us, they are secretly jealous.  Wouldn't you be?

Then my sister in law reminded me that it would probably be a liability in that someone could fall in and drown, with it not being fenced in and all.  Damn.  It will go in our fenced in backyard.

I'm not sure this will bring as much joy as the puppy, but it will be lower maintenance and arrives much sooner - this Thursday.

In these trying times, I'm a firm believer in relaxing your internal rules and expectations.  Buy something ridiculous.  Drink what you want.  Eat all the brownies.  Watch all the screens.  Someday things will get back to normal.  Until then, I'll have my new puppy and unsightly hot tub to get me through.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

It's Not a Silver Lining - It's a Revolution

I have an acupuncturist that doubles as a therapist.  Let me explain.  

Her appointments are approximately 90 minutes.  For the first 45 minutes, you talk to her.  Like a therapist.  For the second 45 minutes, you lie on a bed with needles all over your body, the location of which I presume is based on your conversation with her.  I'm not sure, because I've never asked.  
One of my closest friends had been seeing her for years, and had been trying to convince me to go, but I was hesitant.  I've done therapy, and I wasn't particularly in need of more at the time (little did I know).  And I'd much rather get a massage than lie on a bed with needles in me for 45+ minutes. To me, that just sounded boring.  

But it was one of my 2020 resolutions to try new things, and so I made an appointment.  The appointments take place in her home, in one of two rooms she has set up with two chairs, and then the bed for the acupuncture.  The first session was standard and not particularly noteworthy.  The first 45 minute "talk" session was slightly awkward, and I wasn't quite sure what I was supposed to talk to her about.  I gave her a general overview of my life history, and when she asked why I was there, I was stumped.  I actually wasn't sure why I was there, or what it is I wanted to get out the whole thing.  I think I muttered something unauthentic and generic like "anxiety" and "trouble sleeping."  Which doesn't make me all that different than the rest of the population.  

She put the needles in and I laid there for 45 minutes and that was it.  I went on with my day.  And then something weird happened.  

I started getting anxious.  Super anxious.  And I hadn't even been anxious prior to the appointment! I had just said "anxiety" as a BS answer that seemed explanatory enough for why I showed up at this woman's home for therapy and acupuncture.  And over the next few days, it got worse.  This general feeling of unease and disorientation as to what the fuck was happening to me.  I would start crying at odd times.  My heart would start racing which was only exacerbated by the heart monitor on my Apple watch, which would actually provide evidence that it was doing just that.  And in a cruel twist of fate, I started having trouble sleeping.  Go figure.

By the time I ended up back in her home the following week for my second treatment, I was a blubbering mess.  A crying, blubbering mess.  The kind of cry where you are crying so hard you have to cover up your face with your hands because you're embarrassed about the ugly contortions your face is making.  

She didn't seem surprised.  Instead, she seemed pleased, and said something like:  This means the treatments are working.  Your heart is starting to open.  This is part of the process.  

I didn't take solace in that, and I couldn't even pinpoint what it was I was sobbing hysterically about. But in retrospect, I think I was just really scared.  Because something was shifting, or at least beginning to shift.  

She gave me a tissue to hold while I went through the second part of the session, the lying with the needles.  And I needed the tissue.  I cried for 45 minutes straight, by myself, on the heated table on the second floor of this stranger's home.  It sounds strange, but it was this weird, poignant moment. And it felt good.  Being in a room, by myself, lying down, and just letting the tears fall.  Even if I didn't know what they were about.  

After that I felt lighter.  Better.  Hopeful. The anxiety symptoms went away abruptly (though they would eventually return, intermittently).  I just felt at peace.  

This was in January, and I have gone back every week since.  

I don't know what it is this woman does, but it's something that taps into something deep.  I've had various groundbreaking revelations in my talks with her - more so than I've ever had with any therapist.  I'm not going to go into detail about those revelations at the moment, because I'm still processing them myself.  But suffice it to say that I always feel good after my appointments with her - ALWAYS. 

I think she came into my life at the exact perfect time.  I was ready.  

She isn't doing sessions at her house anymore, for obvious reasons coronavirus related.  And when the world basically shut down, not being able to see her was one of my biggest sources of sadness and disappointment.  I mean, how can you do acupuncture virtually?  

You can't, but you can talk virtually.  And since that was half of our time together anyway, I jumped at the chance to continue working with her doing phone appointments.  My first one was today.  

Suffice it to say, I feel lighter.  Better.  Hopeful.  

I was discussing with her some of the silver linings of this whole mess.  The fact that I'm spending more time outside.  That we are doing more family dinners together.  That I'm face timing people I haven't spoken to in years.  That I'm texting less and talking on the phone more.  That I'm feeling gratitude for small things - for pizza delivery and outdoor workouts and good music and the fact that my kids still like to cuddle with me.  That yesterday, while driving home from an outdoor workout, I had an overwhelming urge to write on this blog again and did just that.  

She listened to me for a while, and then she said:  It's not a silver lining - it's a revolution.  

What an absolutely perfect thing to say.  And how true.  

I truly believe that the ramifications of this weird world we are living in - this scary reality - will be long lasting.  And maybe they will be good ones.  Having your world turned upside down, and having everyone you know have a similar experience, changes you, and will change the way we operate.  Why do I text friends instead of talking on the phone?  Why don't I always schedule a couple of hours a day to enjoy the fresh air?  Why am I so afraid to reach out to people I haven't talked to in a while?  Why don't we do more family movie nights?  Why didn't I ever hike the Billy Goat trail, when it's only a couple of miles from my house?  Why don't we always eat dinner on our back deck, just the five of us, when it's nice out?  Why did I find the idea of spending just one entire day at home, without leaving, such an awful prospect? 

I, like many of us, have largely been "fed from the outside" (her words) in order to find contentment and satisfaction.  I thrived on being busy.  On going out.  On being out.  On consuming.  What do we do when that outside has been taken away? 

That is all of our challenge, I think.  And it truly is a revolution.  

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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

I Used to Write a Blog

For six years or so, I wrote a blog, on a pretty regular basis.  Over the years more and more people started reading it, and on occasion I would get recognized when I was out which was surreal and awesome.  I LOVED that people read it, not because I wanted to be famous or well known (I mean, not that many people read it), but because it made me feel connected to something at a time when I was feeling really alone - stuck at home, changing diapers, dealing with postpartum anxiety, raising three children, trying to find my identity.  Writing into the internet void, and knowing someone out there was reading what I wrote, and maybe related in some way, made me feel part of something bigger than myself.  I needed that then, so much.  It saved me really.

Then the children got older.  And Donald Trump was elected.  I'm not sure why these two scenarios resulted in my abandoning my blog altogether, but a day came when I was just done with it.  Where it felt like a duty and not a joy, and just another thing on my plate.  I felt somewhat empowered by my choice to stop writing, like I was really taking charge of my life and doing what it is I needed, as opposed to what others wanted from me.  I never wrote a "goodbye" post, because I wanted to keep the option open to return, once I had the urge to write again.  And then a couple years passed by, and I never had the urge.

For me, my desire to write goes in cycles, which tend to last a few years.  I've heard a lot of writers say this (and no, I don't consider myself a real "writer," yet).  When its there its strong and I can bang something out without even editing it.  It comes from somewhere deep and vulnerable and honest.

But the last couple years of this blog I wasn't really being honest anymore.  I was trying to be funny and witty and write about things I thought people wanted me to write about.  As my kids got older, I stopped being as vulnerable, worried that they would someday actually read the things I wrote.  And with the election, and the general state of the world, I didn't want to go deep anymore.  I just wanted to keep things surface level.  Maybe it was a survival tactic, or maybe it's just what I needed at that time in my life.

I have been skating along the past couple of years, and I've actually been really happy.  Having come up for air from the baby stages, I made a lot of friends and have had a really active social life. I turned 40.  I traveled a lot - to London, Italy, India, Costa Rica, and almost to Japan (where I am supposed to be right now - a topic for another post).  We built a house in Cape Cod and spend our summers there now.  I spent two years serving on the Executive Committee of our school's Parent Association. Marijuana was legalized and I took full advantage.  I got in the best shape of my life and continue to go to the gym daily.  I recently completed training in child custody mediation, and I've been working for the DC courts doing just that.

It's been all good.  But it's been surface.

Then, in 2020, things got deep.

Way before this global pandemic, by the way.  It got deep early in January.  I can't pinpoint why, and the term "midlife crisis" is so cliche, but I think that's what it was.  My anxiety came back.  I bought a pack of cigarettes (just one.  I promise).  I began questioning my place in the world and what my purpose was and what the hell I was going to do with my life.  I signed up for a novel writing class (which I quit, when I realized my novel sucked.  Absolutely sucked).  I started getting acupuncture and found a new therapist who I was seeing two times a week.  I started meditating daily (way harder than it sounds).  2020 was already a really weird year.

And now.... It's crazy fucked up.  For everyone.

Ironically, I find myself in similar situation to when I started this blog nine long years ago.  Lonely, stuck at home, dealing with anxiety, trying to find my identity, writing into the internet void searching for some kind of connection.  The things I have used to distract myself these past few years - friends, the gym, volunteering, work - those have all been taken away from me in the midst of this coronavirus pandemic.  Quarantines and social distancing and the dread of waking up in the morning to read the news.  It's a crazy time to be alive.

For better or worse, I'm ready to go deep again.  I'm ready to start writing again.  So if anyone out there is still reading, Hello! It's been a while.

Friday, February 3, 2017

A 72 Hour Case Study of How Bizarre it is to Live in DC These Days

Day 1 - Sunday, 1/29

It started last Saturday night.  The Muslim ban.  Or whatever you want to call it.  Unless your head has been completely buried in the sand (in which case, I wouldn't completely blame you), you know about it.  And if you agree with it, then you can stop reading.  Because I am not going to attempt to change your mind, and honestly, if that's where you're at, you probably shouldn't be reading my blog. We probably wouldn't be friends in real life.

Five year olds in handcuffs?  Green card holders stuck overseas?  Mothers separated from their nursing infants?  And an American immigration policy based completely on prejudice?

There really should be no debate here.

In any event, I was a tad distraught over this.  Freaked out.  Twilight zone kind of stuff.  When I woke up on Sunday morning, I wanted to do something.  So I went to the second march of my life (the first one being one week prior), organized on a day's notice in direct response to the Muslim Ban.  And this time, I brought the whole family.

I didn't bring my family to the women's march, and I'm glad I didn't.  It was crowded and hectic and I didn't want to have to worry about all of the things that young kids require - bathroom breaks, snacks, general entertainment.  But this march was more about solidarity than a day downtown.  I told my hesitant husband that it didn't matter how long we stayed - I just wanted the kids to go.  To see it.  And to understand what is happening, and why it is important that we take a stand.

And so the kids made signs.  I told them they could write whatever they wanted.

I couldn't have said it better myself.  

Most poignant sign of the day.

A proud mom.  

Casey on the shoulders of our dear friend - who happens to be an immigrant from Iran.
We made it about a half an hour before the kids started to get restless and ask to leave.  And so we did.  But for the half hour we were there, I never once felt unsafe or nervous for the safety of my children.  As with the women's march, the crowd was peaceful, kind, and supportive.  We chanted in solidarity and I left feeling a bit better than I had when I woke up that morning.

And then we returned to the Bethesda suburbs and continued on with our privileged Sunday evening, of swim meets and meals out and watching Homeland, while the world around us continued to unravel.

Day 2 - Monday, 1/30

I was still reeling from the day before, but I was very much looking forward to my Monday evening plans.  As part of the perks of being a blogger, I was invited to a screening of Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric, at the National Geographic Headquarters in DC.  The documentary looks at the complexities of gender, transgender issues, and gender identity.  It was to be followed by a Q&A panel with documentary participants, including Katie Couric herself.  I invited my dear friend, Valerie, who is a policy wonk when it comes to public policy and gender.

We clean up well.  
In an effort to escape the witching hour with my children get downtown with ample time, I met my friend Valerie beforehand at a fancy shmancy hotel bar at the Jefferson.  I had just ordered my first glass of bubbly, when I glanced over at the table next to me, and who was it?  None other than Katie Couric herself.

Us native Washingtonians know better than to approach a "celebrity" in public places, as politicians and the like are a dime a dozen in these parts.  So I played it cool and pretended I had way better things to do than try to eavesdrop or catch an extra glimpse.  But by the time I got to the reception at National Geographic and had gotten a little tipsy gained some confidence, I asked her for a selfie, and she obliged.

As cool as it was to meet Katie Couric, that was the superficial part of the evening.  The real depth came from the documentary itself, which explored the lives of transgendered individuals, and what they face.  I was inspired by stories of parents of transgendered children, who have embraced them wholeheartedly, of transgendered youth speaking out for their rights, and of the bravery exhibited by this marginalized and misunderstood segment of society.  The evening was about acceptance and love and having an open mind, and I think pretty much everyone in the audience was moved to tears at some point in the evening.

With the depression of the days that had passed since January 20th, it was refreshing.  If you need your faith in humanity restored a bit, I highly recommend watching it when it premieres on February 6, on NatGeo.

Day 3 - Tuesday, 1/31

My husband and I are notorious for going to random concerts.  Richard Marx, Lionel Ritchie, and Neil Diamond, are a few of the gems that my husband has dragged me to we have attended recently.  But we were both on board when we bought tickets to see Five For Fighting at the Birchmere, a small concert venue in Alexandria, VA, with no assigned seats and table service. Five For Fighting sings one of my favorite songs of all time -  World.

It was supposed to be a random, fun night, for my husband and I to drink wine and eat some nachos. Then, two things happened:

1)  In September of 2015, when I was just coming off of my this crazy, Whole 30 diet, I broke my sobriety with another Five For Fighting concert at the Birchmere.  And unfortunately, in my tipsy state at the end of the night, my arm knocked a glass of water and it spilled all over the lap of the woman sitting across from me.  It was one of those shameful, shameful moments that an apology would never suffice to fix, and you live with it and cringe at the memory, but are thankful for the anonymity of the world.


I locked eyes with the woman.  And just like that.  She remembered.  I remembered.  And the shame flushed over me again, 18 months later.

In addition to shame, I also found this to be absolutely hysterical.  I mean, who spills water over a random woman, and then sees them at the same place again, over a year later?  I proceeded to text all of my friends all over the world the story, thinking it was going to be the big story of the evening.


2) About 5 minutes before the concert started, a party of 6 sat at the table behind us that had been marked "Reserved."  I took a quick glance and then a double take, grabbed my husband's leg, and proclaimed:

That's Betsy DeVos at the table behind us.  

My husband smirked, assuming that it was yet another instance of false identification, which I am known for.  He took an unassuming glance.

Holy shit.  That is Betsy DeVos.  


I'm not going to go all crazy political on here.  But suffice it to say that I loathe Betsy DeVos. LOATHE.  I think she is the most unqualified person to ever be nominated for a cabinet position and would absolutely ruin the public school system in our country.  I feel so strongly about it that I had spent the bulk of my afternoon reading about her and getting all fired up about it.

And what are the odds, there she was.

Apologies for picture quality.  I was trying to be conspicuous.
I don't mean to be melodramatic, but this woman literally ruined my night.

I could feel her behind me.  And since I could feel her, I couldn't escape the nightmare that is reality right now.  Five For Fighting was singing about oceans and love and riddles and all I could think about was Donald Trump and the Muslim Ban and the transgender community from the documentary the night prior that he is going to screw over.  And I periodically would look back at her, wondering - Does she actually think this is normal? Is this really what she wants? Is she a rational human being?  

I was waiting for the band to play my favorite song, and they saved it for last.  I was looking forward to being lost in the music, and then it came.

John Ondrasik, the singer, dedicated the song - MY FAVORITE SONG OF ALL TIME - to his old friends "Betsy and Dick," and thanked them for their service.

The audience applauded.  I booed.

And then he sang the song.

Look, everyone is entitled to their opinion.  I have since found out that John Ondrasik is a die hard Republican, and that's cool and all.

But now my favorite song is tainted.  Forever.  I will never again hear the song "World" without thinking of Betsy DeVos.  And that just sucks.


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Monday, January 23, 2017

I Mourned, and Then I Marched

The last time I wrote a post on my blog it was three days after the election.  I was depressed and angry and in a general funk and it was rainy all damn week.  I stopped watching the news.  I drank too much wine.  And I broke down crying in a Whole Foods parking lot for no apparent reason other than the depressing state of the world.

And then life returned to normal, with school pick ups and swim practices and the holidays.  I subscribed to all sorts of Facebook pages that gave me numbers to call, movements to join, and checklists to go through to take a stand, send a message, and affect some kind of change.  And I did do some of those things, which made me feel better.  My depression lifted and turned to a solemn acceptance.  I still refused to watch the news, but would click on the occasional news clip on my Facebook feed, in between reading narratives from Pantsuit Nation.  Watching Saturday Night Live each week became a religious, cathartic experience (and it still is - did you see Aziz Ansari's monologue this week?).

I had heard about the Women's March from its inception, and I always had plans to attend.  It seemed like a simple thing to do to get more involved, and it happens to be in the city I call home. But as the march approached, and I started thinking about logistics, I have to say I had some second thoughts.  I worried about the crowds.  I worried about how I would get downtown, and how I would get home.  I worried about terrorism.  I wondered if it was worth any kind of risk to go, because after all, I am only one person.  What difference would it make if I went or not?

Ultimately I put those fears aside and on Saturday morning, I dressed up in my gear.  Maybe it was because of peer pressure, or of shame of not going.  Maybe it was because my father still glows with pride when he recalls when he participated in the March on Washington in 1963. But mostly, it's because I wanted my children to know that I went.  That there are things bigger than us, and that there are times in life where we have to take a stand.  They don't yet understand what is going on in our country right now, but when they do, I want them to remember that their mother knew that is was not okay.

I had made plans to meet up with a few friends as part of the Moms Demand Action Group, a group that advocates for gun sense and gun control.  We met at the Woodley Park Metro at 8:30 am, and I could tell already that this was going to be a big day.  There was a buzz, a sense of excitement, and I even got a cool hat that made me look a bit like Waldo.

There was also a crowd.  A huge crowd.  So huge, that by the time we got downstairs to get on the metro, it was closed.  It was at full capacity.  At that point, we started weighing our options.  Bus? Uber? Walk?  We did a combination, and ultimately made it downtown by around 10am when the speakers were scheduled to start.

I don't know what I expected.  I truly don't.  I guess I thought it would be similar to an outdoor concert venue?

It wasn't.

It. Was. Jam. Packed.

This was my view when we first joined the crowd, and it doesn't do it justice:

So let me poach from CNN for a much better photo:

It was so crowded it was hard to orient myself.  What street was I on (still not sure)?  Where was the stage (I never saw it)?  Where was the screen (I managed to see the smallest slice of one eventually, obstructed by a tree)?  Where were the porta potties (I never used one)?  Where was the exit, should I want to get out (good luck with that)?

I'm not going to lie - I had an internal fight with my mild claustrophobia for a few minutes there.

But then I relaxed into it, and took it all in.  And I started to get intermittent chills - not from the cold, but from the energy, the love, and the power of it all.

One thing that struck me almost immediately was how nice everyone was.  Everyone was so nice. If this was a concert or sports event or any other crowd, and people were trying to weave in and out, stepping on toes and rubbing elbows, you can bet that there would be curse words flying around. Or at least some dirty looks.  But not so - people were kind, helpful, and friendly.  We struck up conversations with people around us in each corner we ended up in, and learned that most people came from far away. We met people that flew in from California, from Ohio, from New York, from Florida.

There were old people and young people.  There were women and men.  There were black people and transgendered people and Muslims and people in wheelchairs and privileged white women like myself and we all just hung there together.  We all applauded for the same things - for acceptance, for Planned Parenthood, for immigrants, for our environment, for black lives, for health care, for religious freedom, for free speech, and for each other.

There was such a camaraderie, and it wasn't about anger.  Sure, there were some boo's when our current President, and his policy agenda, were mentioned.  But it was more about love.  About cheering.  About a movement of people who are going to look out for each other.  About peaceful protest - I never once felt unsafe, not once.  And how incredible that with all of those people - estimates are at over 500,000 people at the DC march- not a single person was arrested.

Saying that this is what democracy is all about is a cliche, but I felt it, especially at the most surreal moment of the day.  After not eating or drinking for about 6 hours (note to self, pack lunch next time), my friends and I stopped in the Willard Hotel hoping to get something to eat and a glass of bubbly.  Unfortunately it was packed to capacity and they weren't allowing anyone into the restaurant, so my friends and I found a couch to sit on in the lobby to rest for a brief moment. Sitting with us on the couch was an older man with a "Make America Great Again" hat.

Until that moment, I had forgotten that there had actually been an inauguration the day before, and that many people staying at the Willard Hotel were there for the event.  This particular man was waiting for a car to arrive to take him to the airport to go home.  We exchanged some niceties ("Do you mind if we sit here?"  "How is it outside?"), and then we were on our way.

I didn't feel any hostility towards that man, and I didn't feel any coming from him, notwithstanding how differently we felt about the state of our country.  He cared enough to fly into town for the inauguration.  And I cared enough to spend my day in a massive crowd on the National Mall.

But at the end of the day, don't we have more in common than not?  Don't we all just want to be happy, to be healthy, to be respected, to protect our families, and to live in peace?  We disagree on how to get there.  But I have to believe that if we can come together with an open mind, we can all march together with a unified goal.

One of best speakers of the day was Van Jones (can someone please convince him to run for office?).  When talking about reconciling our differences, he said:

When it gets harder to love, let's love harder.

And that's what the march left me with - a whole lot of love.  And hope.  I watched the news yesterday, albeit briefly.  And I didn't get angry.  I looked at the aerial views of the hundreds of cities around the world participating in the march, and I felt a solidarity with strangers, which is a pretty awesome feeling.

In the meantime, I return to my normal suburban life, but I'm spicing it up a bit and getting more involved.  The People's Climate March is on April 29th here in DC.  Who's with me?

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Friday, November 11, 2016

My Bubble Has Burst

It was going to be a magical night - literally, and figuratively.  Our last night in Disney World, we had plans to go to the "Very Merry Christmas Party" at the Magic Kingdom.  The lines were short and the mood was festive and we even caught the end of the Christmas parade.

A bottle of bubbly was chilling back in our hotel refrigerator, waiting to be uncorked when it was announced at some point that evening that Hillary Clinton would be the first female President of the United States.  It would be a historic event that I would share with my family, and with dear friends who were also on the trip with us.  

I was on the boat back to our hotel when I got the text from my best friend asking if I had seen the news.  What news?  I responded.  That Trump may take Michigan and Wisconsin.  It was then that I knew something was going very wrong.  I was educated during this election cycle, and I knew the swing states and what that meant.  If he had Michigan and Wisconsin, then there was a good chance he would take Pennsylvania and Ohio.  And a few others.  And I was right.  

The whole thing happened so fast.  I broke out the bubbly, but only because I needed a drink to watch the news unfold.  Hours earlier, the news media was so sure of her win.  By the time I turned on the TV back in my hotel room, you could see the writing on the wall from the way John King was talking. And when Vance Jones gave him impassioned, impromptu speech about what he termed the "Whitelash," I shed my first tear of the evening.  It wouldn't be my last.  


I'm the first to admit that I have a love affair with the Clintons.  It began back in 1992, when for the first time in my life, I become fascinated by politics.  I was from a liberal, Democrat family in the heart of suburban Cincinnati, and the majority of my friends' parents were voting Republican.  I was 13 and awkward and not the most popular girl in school, and in some ways it filled a void for me. I recorded the debates, and the inauguration, and I vowed to be President someday.  Or at least work in politics, for someone like Bill Clinton.

Seven years later I would follow that path straight to the White House as a summer intern, but by that point, it wasn't Bill Clinton that I wanted to work for.  It was his wife.  When I filled out my assignment preferences, my first pick was "Office of the First Lady."  I can't pinpoint why, but over the years, the subject of my admiration had moved from the President to her.  I respected her intellect, her passion, her tenacity, and the fact that she had withstood more public criticism and shame than any other public figure I had seen in my lifetime.  There was talk that she would run for Senate, and if she did, I wanted on the bandwagon.

I had hoped that my White House internship would be a life changing experience, but admittedly, it wasn't.  I felt like a fish out of water in Washington.  I didn't know anybody, and I didn't know how to respond to the namedropping and ladder climbing and manipulation that went on, even amongst the interns.  It scared me, frankly, and instead of rising to the occasion and getting back in there after my college graduation, I cowered.  I moved to England for two years.  And then I went to law school. And the rest is history.

During my days in law school, and even more so when I started my first big law job at Skadden Arps, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't constantly questioning my direction.  Why had I abandoned my political aspirations?  Why wasn't I in DC, working for something I felt passionately about?  Working for Senator Clinton?  Or at least trying to?  I don't know the answer.  Perhaps it was fear, risk aversion, a sense that that ship had sailed on without me, and that I was in too deep to a different career.  I felt lost.  In any event, once I had my children the decision was easy - I would be a stay at home mom and leave a job I was never passionate about in the first place.


In the aftermath of the election, there's been a lot of talk about bubbles.  And my God, do I live in one.  Half of the American people voted for Donald Trump, and I can honestly say that I only know two of them.  I live in Bethesda, Maryland, right on the outskirts of DC.  In DC proper, Hillary Clinton received 93% of the vote.  In my county in Maryland, she received 76% of the vote.  I don't know a single person in the DC or Maryland area that voted for Trump - at least, they wouldn't admit it if they did.  And I suppose I don't blame them - in my community, admitting such a fact would be shameful.  Myself, and those around me, viewed Trump as racist, sexist, ignorant, and dangerous.  If people disagreed, they didn't make it known.

In Bethesda I live amongst the 1%, and I am one of them myself.  I live in a new construction home in a nice neighborhood.  We send our three kids to private schools, and have access to excellent healthcare.  I was in the incredible position to be able to quit my job and stay at home with my kids when they were young.  Someone comes and cleans our house once a week.  There is an expectation that my kids will go to good colleges and get good jobs.

It's hard to remind myself of how lucky we are at times, because where I live, this is all normal.  Our friends are doctors and lawyers and government employees and professionals.  They are African American, gay, Muslim, and hail from various different countries.  We aren't extravagant, no one owns their own jet, and no one really views themselves as "rich," even though I am sure were are considered so by objective standards.  I drive a Honda minivan, will only buy retail if something is on sale, and have never owned a designer bag.  But we don't stress about money.  And I know that if a crisis occurred, whatever that would be, financially we could weather it.

I know this isn't the normal America.

I have read about the depressed parts of the country - where there are no jobs and factories are closing and heroin addiction is rampant.  I drive through these communities on occasion, when I drive through Pennsylvania or Ohio on the way to visit friends.  I shudder and think about how fortunate I am when all I have to do is pass through.  And I have to admit, I don't feel all that comfortable there.  A month ago, when en route to my 20th high school reunion in Ohio, I was aghast at the number of Trump signs in the yards.  Who are these people?  I thought to myself.


In the days since the election, I have been reading voraciously. And a few articles have answered that question I posed back in October - who are these people?

I've been comforted to realize that most of the people who voted for Trump aren't the racist, sexist, bigoted people that you see on the news at Trump rallies.  Instead, they are economically depressed, left behind, and desperate.

Today, in an Op-Ed for the Washington Post, Debbie Dingell, the House Representative for Michigan's 12th Congressional District, wrote the following:

The ordinary working man or woman in this country isn't asking for a lot.  They want to make a decent living.  They want to be able to provide for their family, buy a home in a safe neighborhood, put food on the table, go to the doctor when they need to, afford their medicines and educate their children.  What many don't understand is how these things are in danger of becoming unattainable for too many Americans.  

Reading this jogged my memory of something I read back in June by Michael Moore, about the Rust Belt and the "5 Reasons Why Trump Will Win":

From Green Bay to Pittsburgh, this, my friends, is the middle of England - broken, depressed, struggling, the smokestacks strewn across the countryside with the carcass of what we used to call the Middle Class.  Angry, embittered working (and nonworking) people who were lied to by the trickle-down of Reagan and abandoned by Democrats who still try to talk a good line but are really just looking forward to rub one out with a lobbyist from Goldman Sachs who'll write them [a] nice big check before leaving the room.  What happened in the UK with Brexit is going to happen here.  

It's easy for me to feel self righteous when I have the ability to.  When it comes to political issues, I focus on what I feel are social ones.  These are deal breakers for me.  Racism?  Sexism? LGBTQ rights?  Restricting access to abortion?  Restricting access to healthcare?  Gun control?  These are important to me, and I vote accordingly.  The fact that a Democrat in office may mean that we pay more taxes is irrelevant to me.  I feel that the amount of money we would lose out on is worth it for the greater good.  Economic considerations are the last on my list when it comes to politics.

I have the luxury of feeling this way.

But what I have realized in the past few days is that most people don't.

David Wong, in his article entitled Don't Panic, said it best:

That sick feeling some of you have right now?  [Trump supporters] had that for the last eight years. Call them racists if you want - some of them definitely are - but mostly they're regular people who want jobs, security, and safety.  Part of [the] bubble effect is that we're often shielded from "the other side" just enough that only the loudest, craziest assholes leak through.  Some of you never had a single polite conversation with a Trump supporter, but did hear about hate crimes and the baffling Reddit spammers and Breitbart bigots.  You didn't think Trump could win because you didn't think half the country could be crazy assholes.  Well I've got good news: You were right.  If you focus on the racism and ignore the economic anxiety, your intentionally blinding yourself to much of the problem. It doesn't matter how much you hate them; their concerns must be heard and addressed or else this will happen again.  

I have to believe that most people who voted for Donald Trump are decent people.  I don't understand how they could support such a candidate, but I want to.  I want to learn and listen.  


As a woman, I never experienced blatant workplace discrimination.  Law firms do a pretty good job of recruiting women, at least at the junior levels (becoming partner is a different story), and they walk the PC walk.  But they don't always talk the talk.  And when it came time for me to have children, and ask for a flexible work schedule, I was ashamed.  I was embarrassed.  I felt that asking for more of a balance was an admission of a lack of loyalty and passion for my job.  That I wasn't being a "team player."  Men didn't do that, that's for sure, and I didn't have any women mentors to look to who had paved the way.  Though my request for part time was eventually approved, it was met with resistance.  And in some ways, I never fully recovered from that.  It was easy to eventually quit.

Since leaving my job, I have become much more aware of struggles women face in the workplace, in raising their children, and in ultimately re-entering the workplace.  It's tough out there, and we women get little support.  Little support from employers, from fellow women, and from the government - the United States is the only developed country not to offer paid maternity leave, and the options for affordable childcare are deplorable.

And as a mother,  I also started noticing some other things.

I started noticing that there were "girl" sections and "boy" sections in the toy store, and what was marketed to each.  Girls are mothers, caregivers, and beauticians.  Boys are train engineers, builders, and mechanics.

I started noticing that in Disney movies, the women are always scantily dressed and pining after "Prince Charming."  I mean, have you really taken a look at Ariel lately?

I started noticing that terms like "throw like a girl" and "cry like a girl" are derogatory by their very nature.  I was shocked and appalled to realize that at a young age, my boys would balk at the color pink because it was a "girl color."

When I breastfed my three babies, I started noticing that there really wasn't a convenient place to do so in public.  I endured nasty stares from random strangers, and the insinuation that I was doing something vulgar or wrong.  I started noticing that I was the one that always had to change the baby's diapers when we were outside of the home, because men's public restrooms never have changing tables.

And as I started thinking about re-entering the workforce, I realized that this "break" of motherhood I had taken was really frowned upon.  I started thinking about "resume gaps" and salary reductions and a general notion that I had jumped ship and no one wanted me back on.

I started realizing that patriarchy is alive in well, in subtle and not so subtle ways.

When I initially started admiring Hillary Clinton back in the 90s, it wasn't because she was a woman. But when she received the Democratic nomination for President, the fact that she was a woman was especially thrilling.

I watched most of her speeches and every debate.  I watched her outfits get analyzed and her rare demonstrations of emotions be judged.  I watched her be criticized for the infidelities of her husband.  I watched her get threatened with imprisonment, be faced with her husband's mistresses at a live debate, and be called a "nasty woman" to her face, and her not even flinch.  She stuck to message, stuck to the issues, and handled it with grace and dignity in a way that I never could.  And what choice did she have?  Could she vehemently defend herself?  Get angry?  No, a woman can't do that.  A woman who did that would be a "bitch."  She would be "unstable."  Or, I suppose, a nasty woman.

Throughout the campaign, there was constant talk of how hated Hillary Clinton was by a large portion of Americans.  For the life of me, I don't understand why.  Because of emails?  Because of an attitude problem?  Because of allegations of corruption for which she has been cleared?  Because she was stoic and strong and rehearsed?  Because she's changed positions on issues, like every politician to ever run for office?  I'm not saying she doesn't have her flaws, but there is a hatred towards her that eclipses hatred for any other politician in our modern time.  Is her biggest flaw that she is a strong, independent woman?  Is that too hard to handle for men and women alike?

Here's how I view Hillary - This is a woman that has devoted her life to public service and endured scrutiny, abuse, and humiliation, and she kept on going.  She is smart, she is strong, she is experienced, and she is inspiring.

Hillary Clinton is a hero and I will make sure that my kids know it.

She would have made a great President.


On election day I woke up in a sleep deprived, hungover haze, and gathered the kids and luggage and went to the Orlando airport, to take our flight back to DC, and back to reality.  Once we had made it through baggage claim, my father called.  We spoke briefly, but it was enough.

The tears flowed, and I had to sit down and have a big, ugly cry.  And I couldn't stop them.  Walking to the gate, running to the bathroom, boarding the plane.  I looked around at everyone else and everyone seemed to be carrying on as normal.  Checking their phones, buying a coffee, pulling their luggage.  I wanted to scream out - DON'T YOU ALL REALIZE WHAT HAS HAPPENED?  DON'T YOU REALIZE THE WORLD HAS CHANGED?  HOW CAN YOU ALL BE ACTING SO NORMAL WHEN THE WORLD HAS BEEN TURNED UPSIDE DOWN? 

This isn't to say that people weren't reeling inside.  I'm sure many were.  But I was desperate to find someone else who looked distressed, who looked shell shocked.  I wanted to hug a stranger more than I ever have in my life.

Instead, I took out my phone and scrolled through my Facebook feed.  I found solidarity there.  I joined every Pantsuit Nation Facebook group I could find.  But there is something to be said for personal contact.  For not hiding behind our phones and computers.  For getting out there and comforting each other.  And so yesterday, I went out sporting my Hillary T-shirt, which had ironically arrived the day after the election.  Just in case someone else needed to know that they weren't alone.

In dealing with my sadness the past couple of days, my first reaction was to hide my tears from my children, who are too young to really understand the ramifications of the election.  I didn't want to scare them, and I didn't want them to see me being "weak."  But eventually, I changed my mind.  I want them to see this.  I want them to remember this.  I want them to say, when they are older, that they remember the day Donald Trump was elected president.  And that they remember their mother crying.

I come from a long line of political activists.  My paternal grandparents were both communists in the 1940s, and loved to brag that each of them had their own FBI file.  My Dad participated in the March on Washington when he was 19 years old, and went on to protest the Vietnam War and join the Peace Corps.  My great aunt and uncle were marching in protests until they got too old to march anymore.

My Great Aunt Evelyn
I've always felt strongly about political issues, but I've never taken it to that next step.  I've thought about it, and I've planned on it, but it just hasn't happened.  Part of it is the fact that I didn't feel there was a need to.  Civil rights, women's rights - that was already taken care of, right?  Gay marriage? Check.  Gun control?  I can't make a difference anyway.

I'm not proud of my complacency and my willingness to live happily ever after in the little bubble I've been residing in.

This week, my bubble has burst.

I don't wish failure upon Donald Trump's presidency.  I hope that he renounces the bigotry and racism some of his supporters have shown.  I hope he backs off on the various threats he has made during his candidacy, like banning Muslims, building a wall, punishing women for having an abortion, and prosecuting Hillary Clinton.

But if he doesn't, I am going to do what I can to fight.  I'm not sure what form that will take, but I vow to do it to the best of my ability, even if it involves time, money, and sacrifice.   I alone cannot change the world, but I can, as Gandhi so eloquently put it, be the change I wish to see in the world.

I start with this post.  Numerous times times during the past few months I considered writing about the election, but I hesitated because I didn't want to delve into politics on this forum, and didn't want anyone to feel ostracized.  Fuck that.  This is just a small blog with a small readership, but it's my space, and shame on me for being silent.

None of us can afford to be silent anymore.  Particularly in the next four years, we must make it our mission to understand each other, to speak up and defend those who are vulnerable, and to make personal sacrifices to fight for what is right.

To those who aren't in a bubble, and who have never been in one - I promise you that I will stand with you for the next four years, and as long as it takes.  You are not alone.

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Monday, October 24, 2016


In my 8 years of being a parent, I have endured my fair share of verbal abuse from my children. Most of it is generic - You're the worst mom ever; You're so mean; I'm never talking to you again; I hate you, etc.  Blah blah blah, been there done that; it's all white noise to me.

But some of it, particularly from my 8 year old, has been truly amazing.  I'm talking evil, well thought out, deep, authentic insults.  A few years ago, I started writing them down, and today, I am officially launching my new website Kidsults, where you can purchase said insults on t-shirts, onesies, and coffee mugs.

Here are a sampling of some of the invectives that appear on the products: 

Are these not the most fabulous insults ever?  

For years now, my husband and I have been saying we need to make a business out of this.  It started out as a joke, and then two weeks ago, I started playing on the internet and here we are. This is a fun whim, and if it turns out to amount to something, I'll have my kids to thank.  And you. Because the only real marketing I'm doing is on this blog.  So share, share, share, if you are so inclined.  :)

You can find the official website here (

You can like the Facebook page here.

You can follow us on Twitter here.

And on Instagram here.

Thanks for any and all of your support!  And if you do purchase something, send me a picture of you or your child sporting the kidsult (you can email me at or

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

One Foot in Front of the Other

Adulthood throws curveballs, that much I've learned.

In my twenties I was naive enough to think that I had it all planned out, how our life would go.  And why wouldn't I?  I was doing everything right, checking the boxes.  Kids and job and health and suburbs and nice vacations - smooth sailing.

At first, blips in my steady line would literally sweep me off my feet.  Family turmoil, peanut allergies, post partum depression, sudden deaths in relatively young relatives - it would all become overwhelming in a way that I could barely cope, for the short term.  The loss of control over my life trajectory, and the reminder that I really had no control, would send me into a tailspin, complete with insomnia, anxiety attacks, and a general malaise.  I like to think, thanks to therapy, medication, and just the wisdom of getting older, that I can now handle these blips better - that I am more accepting, more in the present moment, more at peace.

My husband had a seizure last October while he was on a jogging trail, and it came out of nowhere. He was discovered by fellow joggers and taken away on a stretcher, when he called me from the ambulance.  My first view of him at the hospital was jarring - he was out of it, bloody, and bruised.  No, no, no, I remember thinking, This is not our life.  This is not how it goes.   MRI's, CT scans, and EEGs followed, all coming out normal.  I impressed myself with my sense of calm throughout the whole ordeal, and had an odd sense of confidence that everything would be fine. And it was. After six months, we exhaled.  He started driving again.  Onward and upward.

My husband was drowsy and a bit detached on Sunday night, but after some marathon conference calls, I couldn't blame him.  He was stressed, and hadn't gotten much sleep the night before, thanks to a law firm cocktail party, where both of us had indulged in one too many.

Was that what did it?  The alcohol?  The lack of sleep?  The stress?  

We both got into bed at 9pm, and engaged in the bad habit of scrolling through our phones, eyes scanning the electronics.  The TV was also on - lights flashing, noises coming from all sides.

The flashes?  The sound?  

I showed him a political quote someone posted about Donald Trump - "If you ever wonder what you would have done in 1930s Germany well then my friend here is your fucking chance to find out."

I don't get it.  He said.

Annoyed, and convinced he just wasn't really paying attention to me, I tersely responded, What don't you get about it?  

And that's when he left.

He let out a loud groan and his eyes rolled into the back of his head.  His muscles tightened and he rolled into the fetal position, then quickly straightened out, and started shaking.

I think I called out for him.  I think I put my hands on him to try to rouse him.  I'm not sure.

But I know what I did next.  I ran out of the room.  It was a pure fight or flight response.

I wanted out.  I wanted to disappear, I wanted him to disappear.  I didn't want this to be happening.

I stood outside the room for 5 seconds, came to my senses, and ran back in.  There he was, still convulsing on the bed.  His face was beginning to turn white.  I picked up the phone and called 911, and clearly remember saying: My husband is having a seizure.  Send someone.  Please.  

Later, numerous doctors would ask me how long the seizure lasted.  I can honestly say I don't know. Two minutes?  Ten minutes?  Time stopped and then moved slowly and then quickly again.  I know I turned him on his side.  I know I went downstairs to unlock the door for the paramedics, put the dog in a closet so she wouldn't run out, and closed the children's bedroom doors so God willing, they wouldn't wake up when the ambulance got there.  I remember continually asking the 911 operator, Where are they? and then apologizing for my hysteria.  I remember crying.  I remember my heart racing out of my chest.  I remember feeling faint and willing myself to remain calm.  I remember the immense feeling of relief I felt when the paramedics arrived.  By then, he was starting to rouse.

What is your name?  What day of the week is it ? Who is President of the United States?  

He could not answer any of their questions.

They carried him downstairs on a stretcher.  I had the wherewithal to give one of the paramedics my husband's phone, knowing that when he came to he would want it, and it would be a way to communicate with him.  I closed the door, texted our babysitter, and then waited, in a quiet house, for her to arrive so I could go to the hospital.

I called my sister in law.  I paced.  I dry heaved in the bathroom.   I gathered some clothes for my husband to bring to the hospital, since he was carried out in his underwear.  I ordered an uber, because I didn't trust myself to drive, and thanked God that my children slept through the whole incident, and would be none the wiser in the morning.

When I arrived at the ER, I was directed to his room, and realized it was the same room he had been in 11 months prior, when he experienced his first seizure.

I was blissfully ignorant that first time around.  Convinced that this was a freak accident, a blip, something to get through and deal with and then put behind us.  I was stoic and calm then, having had the benefit of my own ignorance of what it exactly was that my husband had just gone through.

This time, I had seen it with my own eyes.  He was there, talking to me.  Then he wasn't.  His mind - the essence of who he is - was taken over by electrical impulses in his brain that went haywire, taking him away from consciousness, from reality, from me.  The fact that he came back from that, from the involuntary writhing body I saw lying on our bed, is a miracle in and of itself.

I wrote a post last year about my husband's first seizure, and in it, I quoted a non-fiction book I had just recently read, Do No Harm - Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery, authored by a neurosurgeon.  Having witnessed my husband literally lose his mind, it now takes on new meaning:

"In neuroscience it is called the 'binding problem' - the extraordinary fact, which nobody can even begin to explain, that mere brute matter can give rise to consciousness and sensation."  

As I sat in an uber on my way to the hospital, I couldn't get that sentiment out of my head.  All we are are our brains - and those brains are so vulnerable.  In an instant, it can be lost.  No matter how much we kid ourselves, we are not in the driver's seat.

I've been on zoloft for three years now, but there's no anti-anxiety medication that could have quelled my nerves that night.  And as I walked through the ER hallways and passed elderly people groaning, patients hooked up to machines, and heard the sirens wailing as another emergency patient was brought in on a stretcher, I don't think I had ever felt so unsafe in my own skin.

We're all going to die.  Someday.  When?  How will it happen?  Will these people die tonight?  Will I?  Will my husband?  What's to stop that from happening?  What's to stop anything bad from happening? Pain and death are inevitable, and I go through life pretending I'm invincible.  What a fool I have been.  Where can I go?  Where can I hide? How dare I bring my children into such a scary, ruthless, painful world? 

I've been through enough therapy to know that these thoughts were irrational, if not expected.  But as I watched my husband doze, passed out from the Ativan they had given him, my mind and heart raced in a well synchronized dance.  I willed myself to cry, knowing that crying helps release the anxiety, the pain, the fear.  I did a little.  Just a little.

The doctor put my husband on anti-seizure medication, and sent us home that night.  My sleep that night was fitful to say the least, and I was haunted by visions from the evening.  One vision in particular has been replaying through my head constantly - my husband looking at the computer. His blank stare.  His eyes rolling back into his head.  My slow motion realization that holy shit, I think he's having a seizure.  His muscles tensing up.  The moment I lost him.

I never, ever want he or I to go through this again.  But I am working on summoning the bravery to face the reality that more likely than not it will - statistics say that if someone has two seizures, they have an 80% chance of having another one.  

This reality has left my husband and I reeling over the past couple of days.  There are the practical implications - no more driving, and no more drinking.  But then there are the questions of how one lives a normal, predictable life, when in a moment's notice, it all can change.  My husband is at the whim of the electrical currents in his brain, threatening to go haywire and taking away his mind.  And so am I.

And so we embark on the quest of learning to live with uncertainty, knowing full well that in reality, life has never held any guarantees.  Coming to peace with that will be my work, and as a recovering control freak, it's work I need.  I know this.

But I'm not too proud to admit that I'm dejected.  I'm sad.  And I'm so, so scared.

For now, it's one foot in front of the other.   And finding grace, and peace, in each step.

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