The Perfect Person’s Guide to 2016

December 30, 2015 § Leave a comment

This is the year. I can feel it. This year you are going to set some goals, step up to the plate, and finally do that thing that we’ve all been listening to you talk about– but never do– for the last five or so years. This. Is. Your. Year. I’m sure of it.

On second thought, probably not. It’s not your year. And here’s why: people who actually do things, long-term, sustainable things, do them on every single day of the year EXCEPT January 1st. January 1st is international quitters day. It’s the one day when quitters around the world band together to make commitments that they really do intend to keep for one-to-three months. Depending.

And that’s okay. I come from quitters. I can quit with the best of them. I’ve lined up, signed up, read up, anted up– you name it, I’ve done it. I’ve joined the gym, the team, the group, all with the best of intentions. Because by December 29th, we’re all feeling the need for a change. Yes, you’ve actually been fat since May (of 2006), but in December, in the hard light of a dying Christmas tree, you feel it more acutely. You have overdone it. You must take this opportunity to reflect and make changes. But therein lies the rub. If you were committed, you would have started yesterday or last week. You would have done something about it the moment it became clear you were orca fat, not after you realized you were orca fat, ate your way through the holidays, and now have post-season guilt. (You know how I know? Your resolve is melted by three simple words: Super Bowl Party. The mere mention of this dip-laden, pigs-in-a-blanket festooned, beer guzzling football holiday makes your nacho molars quiver with anticipation.)

But all is not lost. Having been on the other side of this surge to purge and slide into inevitable failure, I have learned many things. Namely, I have learned  not to make resolutions or, if I do, I keep them to myself. My failures will be my own personal burden. I don’t need the whole family texting me under the guise of support.

I find that rather than focusing at this time of year on the myriad ways I can do the hard work of truly changing, it can be simpler and, in some ways, more rewarding to just create the illusion of perfection and accomplishment. In much the same way that some folks create a life of glitz and glamour by incurring incredible credit card debt and suffering in silence, it can be painfully easy to just fake your way into gilded perfection. It just takes practice. And some guidelines.

  1. Stop. Just stop. Whatever you’re doing that’s ridiculously over-the-top and completely unnecessary, stop. Quit making your own mole from scratch. Quit sewing your own stockings. Quit faking those orgasms. Not only are you making yourself crazy, you’ve completely missed the point. Why do something in 2 hours that can be completed in twenty minutes with a debit card and creativity? I’m not suggesting that you remove all love, attention, and personality from your life, but for fuck’s sake you could be getting three times the credit in half the time if you just bought some Rick Bayless mole (it’s better than yours), ordered the stockings from some nice old lady on Etsy, and acquired a vibrator and a few strategic migraines. Life does not have to be so complicated. The less time you spend complicating, more time you have to appear perfect. A mole wielding, perfect-holiday-mantel owning, one-woman show with a post-coital, self-induced glow. BAM.
  2. Put champagne in your fridge and tea in your cupboard. It’s pretty much guaranteed that 90% of the time that you ask an unexpected house guest if they would like anything, they decline. They usually don’t want to stay. They are only sitting in your living room for a few short moments as not to be rude or giveaway how horrified they are about your homemaking skills. By doing the above, you achieve two very important things. 1. By the very virtue of suggesting that you keep those two things on hand, they begin to question all of their assumptions about you. There is no way that someone with iced champagne and loose leaf tea on hand can be the hot mess that I have come to believe. 2. If they accept, and you are called upon to produce the aforementioned champagne or tea, their minds will immediately explode at the magnanimous gesture of opening a fresh bottle of bubbly for the mere task of supplying them with refreshment. You cannot lose. You have beaten your foe and they have been left confused and in awe. So all those resolutions about being more organized or better at keeping house are bullshit. Buy the refreshments.
  3. Buy an oversized cashmere sweater. Whether the issue is your orca fatness or your inability to remember to bathe, an oversized cashmere (or very nice merino) will solve all of your problems. (I believe this to be true for both men and women.) You do not need to jog, neither do you need to resolve to bathe more frequently. What you need to do is buy an expensive sweater that is appropriately baggy and then perch yourself on your couch with a warm mug of who the fuck cares and watch people marvel at your effortless grace. I for one have never, ever seen someone lounging in a cashmere sweater and thought “what a fucking failure.” I immediately self-note how comfortable and expensive they look. If possible, you can buy a book– a smart people book like a Pulitzer or Man Booker winner– and leave it dogeared on the table near you. No matter what time of day, it should always appear that you were startled out of a deep intellectual mating with a book. Your haphazard hair and barefeet are simply the price you’ve paid for your intellectual pursuits. Do not feel self conscious. Your shapelessness is the product of expensive wool. Your hygiene forgivable under the circumstances.
  4. Curate your goddamn social channels. If you keep posting what a selfie-taking, self-indulgent hot mess you are, it’s going to be an uphill battle to convince anyone you’re not. The first rule of any resolution is mystery and in order to maintain a sense of mystery you need to be MYSTERIOUS. No one cares what you ate for dinner. No one wants to read your veiled cries for attention. (If you want for me to pray for you/send good vibes/talk to my invisibles, do me a fucking solid and tell me what about. Your vague “today is going to be incredibly emotional, pray for me” makes me angry and spiteful.) Also, that mirror face you’ve perfected that you think makes you look jaunty and sexy actually makes you look like a frightened sloth, so unpucker your lips, quit giving your 786 friends– who include your mother and grandmother– the fuck me stare, and smile for the damn camera. The golden rule of selfies: if it’s a good picture because you’ve contorted yourself unrecognizable, it’s actually not a good picture.
  5. Buy good candles. Congrats on peeling the sticker off your Glade multiscent candles. Too bad it still smells like the bathroom of a Hobby Lobby in your living room. Nice candles are an indulgence, and likely not on the top of your budgeting priority list, but consider this: if you want people to think you’re successful, it makes sense that you’d be burning money. At at $80 a piece, there is no question but that a Baxter of California candle is the same as lighting a Benjamin on fire after doing a number two. Plus, to my knowledge, when someone asks where you got the amazing candle, the sexy response is almost never “Walgreens.” Just buy the damn candles. Hell, steal them.
  6. Go for a jog with just a enough frequency that you can reference it in casual conversation. “I was jogging by their house the other day…” “Whilst jogging on Thursday I thought I saw her…” “I wanted to go out but after my jog I realized I was too tired.” You are not resolving to be a jogger. You are resolving to appear like you have your shit together and that includes physical exercise. Plus you never know what those endorphins are going to do for you. You may actually lose weight.

At the end of the year, what really matters is not how you’ve decided to change for the world, but rather how you’ve decided to change for yourself. And the truth is that it’s okay to decide not to change. It’s okay to look at yourself in the mirror and think, “That’s a damn good looking work in progress.” Sure, you may need to lose some weight– and you should do that– and you could improve your organization or housekeeping skills, take up camping, buy a buy, go for a hike, but none of those things should be forced upon you in the darkest, coldest, saddest month of the year. I’d argue that what the world needs most is not change for changes sake, but rather true and meaningful reflection. Valuing the insight that comes with connecting to who you are and how your existence plays into the larger picture. Because when you stop and really think about it, how tiny and insignificant you are in the grand scheme of things, you start to realize that your resolve is of no consequence to the universe. The most and best that you can do is seek joy and kindness and try your best to contribute to the harmony of another year. So quit panicking, buy the cashmere sweater and get on with the business of being you…

The Before

September 9, 2015 § 3 Comments

First of all, and I try never to express gratitude on the blog, as it implies that I believe there are real people out there reading, but I was almost overwhelmed by the support and camaraderie that yesterday’s post inspired. If it takes a village to lose weight, it appears I am in luck. So many folks sharing their struggles and desires to follow my own journey as a way of motivating. As an aside, that is a TERRIBLE idea. I support you, but I am the last person to be motivating anyone.

Many people emailed/commented about Kayla Itsines’ Bikini Body Guide. I went ahead and sunk some money into buying the guide, not because I’m committed, but because at this point there’s no sense in NOT throwing money at the problem. I downloaded the workout guide and spent some time last night reading through the workouts carefully but not actually doing (or even considering doing) any of them. I need to wrap my head around all that jumping. (Side note: I also have to buy some Depends if I am serious about any workout that involves a jump rope. On the long list of things I never got back after having the baby, my ability to keep the liquid IN my bladder is there at the top. A rogue or ill-timed sneeze can be the end of a perfectly good pair of pants.)

Kayla (we’re on a first name basis now that I spent $75 on a collection of photos of her doing physical exercise) feels very strongly about progress photos. She even puts little notes throughout the book reminding me how much she wants to see my progress photos. Initially I didn’t even consider taking “before” photos, but after a couple of hours I reconsidered. I thought that maybe if the diet doesn’t work and the exercise is a flop, my self-inflicted last resort will be to get thin because I have to take a photo of myself every week. And let me tell you, that shit is terrible. Just awful.

Corey asked if I needed him to take the photo for me, which I balked at because the whole point of these photos is to take them yourself because you have a selfie FREE PASS. I am not taking selfies because I’m a narcissistic asshole, I’m taking them because Kayla asked me to. She wants to see me. I also balked because there was no way in an unfrozen hell that I was going to let him be in the room while I figured out how to cheat on my before photo.

I was mindful that if I was successful losing this weight, the worse The Before, the more awesome The After. That was tempered, however, by the knowledge that if I don’t lose the weight, I’d like to be able to look at The Before and be like, “oh please. You don’t look that bad.” Turns out, the second scenario is completely impossible. It could have been my choice of horribly unflattering neon sports bra and striped shorts, but it’s more likely that when you put my tits and my gut into anything you’re going to get a bad photo. See below. (It looks like I’m in a halfway house. I’m not. Just my bathroom.)

Before_Front Before_Side

I’ll give you a second to regain your breathing and have a sip of water. For reference, I’ll share a few of the before and afters on my friend Kayla’s site:

before and after one before and after two

Not exactly a bunch of fatsos.  I agree that the girl in the wind shorts looks like she may have eaten a taco before her photo, but I’m also willing to bet the farm that her tiny little love handle isn’t muffining over a size XL. Those striped gems in my photo are an XL and I look like a ate a taco truck. But whatever, we all have our cross to bear.

So that’s pretty much it. The Before. It’s done. My next photo is supposed to be next week but that seems entirely too soon. Plus I think since I spent Day One reading the workout instead of actually doing it, I should probably delay the timeline by a smidge. I don’t want y’all to get bored.

Tonight I will attempt to NOT eat Aut’s dinner as an appetizer to mine and then I’m feeling really positively about spending 28 minutes with Kayla and a jump rope. After I get some incontinence panties.

How I got almost obese

September 8, 2015 § 2 Comments

There are a lot of things that I am really glad I don’t ever have to explain to my 15-year-old-self. Among them? My current figure. (A combination of the Venus on a Half Shell and a Mr. Potato Head.)

This morning I “weighed in” to get an official number for my now very necessary weight loss. I weighed 197.4 pounds. To give you some idea, the last time I hit 197.0 pounds I was about eight months pregnant. So the last time I was this size it was because I was carrying around another human life. Like a whole ‘nother person.

When I got pregnant, I was by no means at my fighting weight. I had started to creep up the scale after “retiring” from running because I hated it. I had meant to lose some weight, but because I was about to get knocked up, I didn’t really care THAT much. I can’t remember exactly, but I think I was nearing 170.0 pounds. (Oof.) Previous to that, I had enjoyed a few years of being about 150 pounds. Too thin by some folks standards, but man did I look great. Hungry, but great.

As many of you know, weight is a tough subject for me. Despite every reason to be a normal and well adjusted gal with no body image issues at all, I instead opted to go down the path of being a hugely fucked up gal with lots of issues. I started throwing up my food when I was in first grade. I was at a pool party and I was eight years old. I ate too much cake and I felt bad about myself and for some reason my eating-disorder-preconditioned-brain connected some super fucked up dots and I made myself throw up. That was the start of a 17-year battle with bulimia. (Though I’d argue that was just the first outward manifestation of a life-long battle with food and eating.) Having my cake and throwing it up too was easy. It made sense. There are times even today that it still makes sense.

For starters, I do not eat bon bons. I don’t scoop ice cream into my pie hole while bemoaning my existence. In the traditional sense, I don’t use food as comfort. I know cake doesn’t love me. I realize that BLTs don’t care about me as a person. For me, eating has always been about seeking stimulation. When I’m bored or restless I look forward to eating. Maybe it will be fun! Maybe that feta salata will be entertaining!

Another important thing to know is how healthy I eat. Kale, sprouted nuts, salads, cottage cheese, kombucha, no red meat, lots of herbs, olive oil…. We spend hundreds of dollars a week at Whole Foods on really good quality food. I’m living proof that you can get pretty fucking fat on large quantities (accidentally large quantities) of healthy food.

And I drink. Again, I’m not guzzling growlers and slinging White Russians. But I do drink beer and wine. Usually 3-4 days a week I have a glass or two of wine and then on the weekends maybe more. Depends. But I’m not taking out a bottle a night.

But because I don’t have these crazy swings of totally out of control behavior, losing weight is nothing short of just plain annoying. Because I’m not saddling up to the bar and ordering cheese fries and bacon cheese burgers, the thought of having to lose 40 or 50 pounds seems cruel. I don’t deserve to be punished when I didn’t do anything wrong. But that none of that changes the cold, hard facts. I am 4.5 pounds from OBESITY. Those tiny weights you grab at a step aerobics class are all that stand between me and obesity. And I’m not the kind of girl who was supposed to be obese. Seriously.

But it goes like this.

You stop running after four or five half marathons because you hate running. Running sucks. And then you start having a few more beers or don’t reduce your carb intake even though you’re not running 30 miles a week. Then you get pregnant and you finally find something YOU ARE REALLY GOOD AT. I excelled at being pregnant in a way few can. I was SO good at it. And you’re pregnant so no one is like “why is that chick eating two entrees?” They’re like, “you are so cute and pregnant!” (Wee!)

And then your baby comes and he doesn’t latch so you’re pumping all the time. You’re pumping in a unisex, single bathroom in the hallway of an industrial building at 9AM and 1PM. You’re rushing home to pump again before your boobs explode and your nipples take someone’s eye out. You can’t jog because you wear a 40EE and any sudden movement causes pain and leaking. And no one likes a leaky jogger. Fortunately, breast feeding takes a lot of the baby weight off. (Not all, but a lot.) And you’re feeling pretty okay.

And then after about a year you have to stop pumping. Because pumping is a prison. And breast feeding is making you nuts. And you’re crying a lot. And something is totally up with your hormones. So you stop and you gain a few lbs, but it’s not the end of the world because you’re going to start exercising again because your boobs are no longer weapons of mass destruction. But then you get a new job. And it’s terrible. And you have to buy a Prius and you’re driving to work in the morning, crying, and then driving home in traffic, cursing the clock and trying to make it in time to let the nanny off. And you’re tired as fuck when you get home and your baby hasn’t seen you all day and you have about an hour before he has to go to bed. So you eat some cheese and olives and crackers and wait for your husband to get home. And you stress about money and feel guilty about your baby and your terrible job. And so you open a bottle of wine and you try to just breathe and relax. And then he gets home and you look at your baby and he has some wine and then you talk about dinner and then OH FUCK YOU TOTALLY FORGOT THAT YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO GO JOGGING. Maybe you’ll wake up at 4:45 the next morning and exercise before going to your terrible job? Maybe? (Answer: no.)

So then you leave your job. And that’s a huge relief but it’s not a relief to be without a job, a primary breadwinner, and panicked as shit that you need to do something. So you start hustling. Because the nanny has to get paid and the rent doesn’t pay itself and you’re arguing with your husband and eating cheese and crackers because it’s easy and dinner is a distant memory when you’ve got a little guy who needs to take a bath and go to bed. Maybe you’ll cook some chicken later. Or order Chinese. Or both.

AND OH FUCK YOU FORGOT THAT YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO LOSE SOME WEIGHT. So you don’t.

And then you move. Because you and your husband finally decide that something’s gotta give. So you move. And it’s great. But now you commute three hours a day and the baby has daycare and once again working out is going to have to be before 6AM or after 8PM and while that’s not impossible, it’s just not motivating. And you’re happy in your new house and you’re starting to feel like maybe being fat isn’t that big of a deal. And you take on a persona. And you get a little less beautiful to yourself. And your underwear get HUGE.

And then you get on the scale one day and between what felt like yesterday and now you’ve put on more than twenty pounds. And you feel a lot of sadness and guilt. And no matter how many times you say to yourself, “I am more than this number.” It doesn’t make it less humiliating. It doesn’t change that you can’t buy new clothes and you don’t want to see old friends because you know what they’re thinking. They want to know how you got almost obese. And you want to be able to explain it, but you know that at the end of the day the real reason is that you chose this over losing weight. I’m almost obese because I chose to be. And I didn’t even realize that’s what I was choosing. I was just trying to get through another day or season or situation. And ten extra pounds seemed manageable. And then twenty was only ten away from ten. But now…

Now I’m 25 lbs from where I started, 40 lbs from where I “should” be, and 55 lbs from where I once was. And it sucks so bad.

So today I got on the scale and I got the number and I wrote it on my fridge. (Which isn’t symbolic, just centrally located.) And while I know it isn’t about a number, I also know that’s what motivational people say to fat people. It’s about a number. It shouldn’t be about an unrealistic number, but these numbers are a necessary guiding principle. Girl got fat and she’s got to get un-fat. Before I get obese.

Because that, friends, is how I got almost obese.

What two years feels like.

August 25, 2015 § 7 Comments

The passage of time isn’t remarkable just because you have kids. Regular, child-less folk are on the big time-passage journey too, only they don’t have to compulsively (and obnoxiously) post milestone photos on Facebook to remind us all that we’re getting older. But when you do have kids, time means something… different. It doesn’t mean something better or deeper, but different. It’s consistently profound. There is a constant reminder— second by second– that time is marching forward. As a parent, you have a front row seat to one of the most incredible time lapse videos of all time. And it blows your fucking mind. And makes you feel so tiny, so helpful, and, sometimes, so sad.

Having a puppy isn’t so different in theory, only the visible toll and mark of time is condensed in a way that makes the emotion of it easier to grasp. Imagine having a 16 week old puppy for a year. And then a 20 week puppy for a year. All that puppy goodness stretched out for an incredible amount of time. You exist in the puppydom so long that when it finally moves on, you have to sit down and mourn. You have to pack up all those puppy toys and puppy foods and say goodbye to that puppy. It wasn’t a few months of puppy, it was YEARS. (Are you really thinking about how profound it would be to have a puppy for a year? Go Google something stupid cute like a baby retriever and imagine having that for a year. GO! But then come back, obviously.) But when it’s a tiny human, there are so many more layers. Heart swelling, soul crushing layers.

Today is Aut’s second birthday. The small boy, the one who baked in my belly during a bombing and came into this world silently, is two. Two is so tiny. Two is so big. Two is not enough cupcakes. Two is too many vaginal diseases. Two seconds are useless. Two words are devastating. Two is complicated and transitional and frustrating and hilarious. And that’s just for me.

Last week he suddenly looked big. My first reaction was to panic that he was losing his cute. I scrutinized him for a few minutes and then decided that he was still cute, but definitely taller. Less baby, more opinion and sinew. He’s starting to understand words as more than indicators. They have meaning and gravity and tone. He knows when he’s done something terribly evil and then makes a choice to apologize or laugh like a menacing sociopath. He feels scared when something isn’t right and he feels real feels when we are careless with our words or ambivalent to his deep, soulful need to hear the.same.fucking.book every night before he sleeps. But he’s also just two. He is insignificant in so many ways to the world. He doesn’t produce letters or numbers. In most third world countries he’s not even old enough to contribute to the child labor force. He thinks the most important thing in the world is throwing rocks in the beach and the most devastating is finding out Fi and Katie aren’t coming over. He thinks the big boy potty is a chair for reading books in the bathroom. He has no idea what hunger is. He doesn’t know what loss is. He hasn’t even been here for 1,000 days.

But then there’s me. I know what two years is; I’ve experienced two years on the bright side and the dark side. I know, logically, that time passes at the same rate no matter how happy or sad you are, but it’s an argument that holds no weight in times of either. Two years ago I was rolling on a ball at Brigham and Women’s Hospital willing this baby boy to get the lead out and join us. At that moment I couldn’t see past the baby. The puppy. I couldn’t see past being a new parent. I didn’t see a reality on the other side of being a mom for the first time. If I knew then what I know now, here’s what I would know….

Babies are the beginning of people and while that makes a nice quote, what it really means is something so heavy and burdening that if any of us took the time to really think about it, we’d realize what an incredible honor and responsibility that is.

Two years of anything can give you the kind of perspective that makes you ashamed you ever opened your mouth to say something rude on a broad range of topics. Like Birkenstocks.

Time will march slowing and quickly forward and somedays it will grip you with so much happy that you think the world is perfect. Hold on to that.

Most of the things that matter don’t matter at all. And you won’t ever be able to keep that perspective, but you have to keep reminding yourself. Potato chips can be good for you. Watching Frozen can be educational. Bedtime isn’t immovable. Tiny human beings need to be tended to day-to-day and moment-to-moment. Sometimes that means kale, sometimes that means ice cream and popcorn for dinner.

Be as hard on yourself as you think your child should be on himself. You’re someone’s child too, you know.

You’re going to be fatter than you ever thought possible. (Maybe I’m glad I didn’t know that then, honestly.)

Saying “fuck” in front of your child may not be appropriate, and might make your mother insane, but it’s not the worst thing a parent has ever done to a child.

No amount of Xanax will ever lessen the full-body anxiety of watching your child try to make friends. It’s a physical, all over kind of pain.

Two years is such a long time when they are screaming, but such a short amount of time when they are telling you about their day.

You’re going to lose sight of what you thought mattered and then you’re going to realize it maybe didn’t matter. And then you’re going to become indignant. And then you’re going to mourn. And then you’re going to rally. And that cycles over and over.

Everything is finite and that is so comforting and so scary.

Becoming a parent is terrible, but it opens you up to a 4th dimension. It’s not a better path, it’s not a preferable path, but it’s a totally different one. It’s immersive and total. It sets you on a different track than the one you started on. And there are always times you want back on the other. You watch a train pass you going faster and looking fancier and you will always take a moment to wish you were on that train, but you’re not. And there are people looking out of that train window at you too.

****

This morning on my way to work I was behind a car with a bumper sticker that said, “Today someone is happy with less than what you have.”

Two year’s feels like training for the next two. And the two after that. Two years feels like a beautiful, fucked up, anxiety-ridden, laugher-filled, angst-y trial period for trying to understand what matters to me and how to balance what matters with what’s necessary. Like dishes. And exercise.

Two year’s didn’t fly by. It plodded along at a metered pace. Somedays I wanted to last forever, some days I wanted to start drinking at noon. (And some days I did.)

Two years feels like a good start to feeling happy with exactly what I have.

The ones you know.

June 23, 2015 § 3 Comments

I’ve had a tough time blogging recently for a few reasons. “Lack of inspiration” is the blanket term, but it’s actually more complicated than that. When social tensions spike, I find myself with so many thoughts– many of which haven’t been vetted by my brain. It may surprise you to know what a complicated filter I actually do have, it’s just not the traditional filter. The point is that I want to speak, but I often find it’s just to say “HUSH UP! QUIT BEING SO STUPID!” But that’s neither helpful nor entertaining.

Moreover, while I actually love to write serious things, they seriously dent my readership. Like a lot. Folks get a little, “what the fuck? Where’s my laugh?” and then I’m all, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’ll be funny next time, I swear!” But they don’t come back. And then I feel like I’ve lost someone because I really just wanted to rant on about racism and republicans and the chronic bullshit that’s inundating me every second. And what’s the fun in that? Nothing, apparently.

I also hate that all I have to talk about is mom stuff. Lame.

But recently I’ve seen so many “mom blog” pieces being passed around. Touching letters about a son with autism or a daughter with a skin condition. A kid who can’t eat anything but cotton candy and dryer sheets, or a little guy who’s different and both parent and child feel alone, sad, and overwhelmed. Like any human, I am touched by the stories of these people with serious hardship, but I also can’t help but feel like the desire to explain our own unique situations only deepens the gap between us. ADD, ADHD, Autism– these are very real and very tough things for parents, but at the end of the day it amounts to unceasing reminders that “my kid is different.” I fight the urge to remind many of my friends that if they didn’t keep reminding me, I’d likely forget and move on. In a good way.

Sometimes I lie on the bed naked and lament about all the parts of me that are depressing. I wiggle and jiggle and point at pockets of horrifying and shameless dimples. It enrages my husband. He recently told me that anything negative that’s ever occurred to him has been because I’ve insisted on pointing it out. To him, I’m a big delicious bowl of naked. It’s not exactly severe spectrum disorder, but there are some parallels. Sometimes we have to go out into the world as we are and just see what happens. Maybe we’ll be surprised.

I have a younger brother with one of the most obvious, obnoxious, and socially crippling syndromes around. You think your kid brother drove you nuts? I can hear a pen clicking six offices over and drive myself to insanity over it, and I was given a little brother who chirped, barked obscenities, and threw up the Nazi salute every second of every day. He blinks, he stutters, he trips, hops, yells, barks, and makes the stranges facial tics– and I stopped noticing about 20 years ago.

When I was in middle school, Oprah or Maury or someone else with a couple of couches and a microphone did a show on “freaks.” Four kids with Tourette’s were paraded on stage with their parents. Their parents then proceeded to speak for the kids, explaining to the audience (and the world) how their children would never be able to do the things every other kid could do: no movie nights, no school dances, no organized sports. They couldn’t take them to the grocery store or the mall. They worried their children would never find love or happiness.

My brother and I were both watching. The creeping sense of dread that came over me was too late. I realized that until that moment, we’d never really treated Charlie like a kid with a disability. (I don’t actually know if he knew it was….) As a family (and not because we had our shit together, or even a long-term plan), we simply held him to the same standard as we held ourselves. (Albeit low.) Tourette’s was never a reason for anything to be a non-starter.

He didn’t quit baseball because of Tourette’s. He quit because he’s a pansy and it was too hot outside.

He didn’t quit playing the bass because of Tourette’s. He still plays. We just told him he had to get a real job.

He didn’t quit archery because of Tourette’s. We just asked he not do it around… anyone.

He didn’t stop going to movies because of Tourette’s. He told people to shut the fuck up.

He didn’t shy away from social interaction because of Tourette’s. He made friends on the basis of his humor and alcoholism.

He didn’t avoid romance because of Tourette’s. He’s just not very good looking. (I kid. I kid.)

He didn’t quit law school because of Tourette’s. He bitched about it, took a few victory laps, and then passed the bar. To the surprise of even himself.

And while my parents did fight a lot of battles on his behalf, ultimately we all knew it was up to Charlie to fight the war. The greatest misfortune of being a kid with a disability is often not the disability; it’s cultivating the emotional and intellectual strength to be yourself and recognize that people are staring, people are judging, people are wondering, and simply not care.

I have stood at the ready many times over the years, waiting for someone to cast a stare I didn’t like or say something to him I could beat them for. But in all my years, I’ve never once had to pick a fight. There either wasn’t a fight to pick or Charlie was quicker to say, “get over it. I have Tourette’s.”

I realize that his battle is not my own. I realize (believe me) that the desire to clear a wide and painless path for your child is fierce, but I also know from my own experiences that we have to encourage them to accept themselves, not qualify themselves. Our children believe they are who we say they are and if we tell them they are disabled and different, they will believe it.

Aut could have Tourette’s. It’s too early to know, but we do watch him for signs. Do I think about how his life would be different? Of course. But I think more about how to cultivate in him a sense of pride and acceptance in himself no matter what he does or doesn’t have. After all, even if he doesn’t have Tourette’s, he’s got the Beaulieu legs and the Minton hairline. And those will take confidence to overcome.

And there are exceptions. But I encourage all parents to think long and hard about what you (we) do because we are scared of what other parents or kids will think and what we do because it’s actually best for the child. Bring your autistic kid to the birthday party. Bring your son with cerebral palsy to the pool. Kids will never stop staring, but your kid deserves a swim on a hot day. And they damn sure deserve cake and ice cream.

In case you’re sad…

May 12, 2015 § 6 Comments

Hey, kid.

Today was shitty. There was nothing particularly epic or eventful– no real moment that defined it, but there was a low, gray cloud that hung firmly over the whole thing. I worked out for the first time in <unspeakable period of time> yesterday and then you decided to grow some molars, so we were up at the crack of ass this morning. I was tired and work was boring and the FedEx lady was unspeakably awful (and had ankles like a pregnant elephant) and traffic was unreasonable and then dinner never happened. I just wanted the whole thing to be over from about 8AM on.

And then there was this article on my Facebook page. It was a beautiful young girl and she killed herself. And there was no amount of click-baiting that could get me to read it. Because I didn’t want to. I don’t ever want to. I don’t want to read about the ones who don’t make it, the ones whose sad becomes the only thing they know. Especially when they are young. So, so young.

And then your dad told me this story about an 18-month-old who survived a tornado because her parents laid their bodies on top of her. They both died. It was meant to be a sad story with a happy ending, but he trailed off from the telling because we’d both just started watching you and imagining a world where we saved you, but we’d never see you again.

So, like I was saying, today was shitty. Just because.

Today was also shitty because I was depressed. I hope that you see sunshine in every dark corner of the world, sweet boy, but I am also realistic. You come from a long line of world-class crazies, sads, and worriers, and the chances that you will emerge unscathed are not stoutly in your favor. I hope they are, but hope is a frivolity… But even if you do escape with a clear mind and a light heart, I still want for you to understand what it can be like. Because your compassion will fight the good fight. It might even save a friend one day.

For some of us, your Mups among them, the sun doesn’t always brighten the sky. We feel sad for reasons unknown or unseen, hopeless because we believe something the rest of the world cannot understand– maybe something that doesn’t even exist. There are days when–to me–there is no purpose, no reason, no motivation. My mind tells me things that I have no choice but to believe. I sometimes feel scared and sad. I sometimes forget which way is the sky. I forget that things pass, that the winds will shift the the seas will calm. In those moments, I am overwhelmed by the permanence of my darkness. I am convinced I have failed. I am nothing.

But I am always something. Though it may seem like a tiny pinprick of light, an illusion or trick of the mind, the belief that I am something– whether it be to me or someone– is enough to keep me walking forward. The feelings will pass. The darkness will subside. Nothing is permanent. Always remember, nothing is permanent.

If you every find yourself sad, remember that you are something. Visualize the tiniest point of light shining in the distant nothing and do not lose sight of it. Keep walking and waking until that tiny light becomes something– a new day, a friend, a hand, a doctor– something. Please, do not ever stop walking.

More importantly, remember that being sad is okay. Say something. Tell someone. There is no shame in being sad, scared, worried, or anxious. Always, always tell someone. And if someone tells you they are sad, make eye contact with them and then tell them how wonderful they are. Show them compassion and understanding. Imagine that you are their tiny pinprick of light. They are walking; walk with them.

I’ve learned something very valuable by writing things down here on this blog: all the people you think are sane, all the people you think are perfect, all the people you think have it all together– they are scared too. We’re all trying to figure it out– the optimists, the pessimists, the hopeful ones, and the depressed ones. Even the Republicans.

If you one day find yourself depressed, whether it’s for a moment, a few days, or a battle that you fight always, I hope you find the courage to open up. I hope you find a reason to find a person (or a pill) to help you. The path doesn’t always get easier and there are times that the sun stays hidden for longer than you think you can hold on, but if we are only here this one time, and we only have this one chance, you deserve your turn. The world should be so lucky as to have you for as long as possible.

Be kind. Be happy.

Because I love you and I will always be your light. Walk towards me.

Love,

Mups

The Book About Cousin Brothers and Brother Uncles

May 6, 2015 § 4 Comments

Even though I say I’ll never write a book, the truth is that I would write a book were it not for two things:

1. The only thing I have (content wise) to write about is my life and my family

2. Because of number one, I neither have advice nor license to warrant an entire book

It’s not that I am necessarily opposed to writing scathing or unflattering things about myself or those I love. Given, those things are not always well-received (just ask my mother), but they can net some great stuff. To my own credit (go me!) I’ve never used the blog as a weapon or to arbitrarily hurt someone. (Though let’s be honest with one another, in order for that to be a possibility we’d need a healthy following of people to read said “weapon.” Alas, that is not the case.) But the point I am not getting at is that I feel disingenuous writing about, or even thinking about writing, a book about a group of relatively ordinary and unremarkable people. (In the best way possible.) And in order to make us seem interesting and entertaining, a lot of pretty objective truth has to come out.  And no matter how true it is, it somehow manages to be hurtful. Funny how that works, right? The stated truth, emotionless and uncontextualized, makes people very upset. Layer humor onto that and I’ve basically waged war.

For example, here are a few of the Big Things that would make a book entertaining and worth writing:

My son has a three-year-old uncle.

I married a carbon copy of my father.

My step mother is four years older than I am.

My brother is a 28-year-old scotch-aholic with Tourette’s

I’m a hot mess.

My mother has her eyeliner tattooed on.

My sister-in-law got drunk and broke her neck.

I hate myself a lot of the time.

My step mother and I have twice been confused for my father’s “two daughters.”

My step-father sprays ag poison on your food– and makes a glorious living at it.

My step-mother-in-law is terribly bitchy and hates us all.

I’m currently 40lbs overweight.

These are all true and documented things, but try writing a whole chapter on any of them and still get an invite to the holidays. It gives me a huge respect for personal essayists and comedians. The choice to use your life as creative fodder is incredibly difficult. The “public” BEGS for you to make them laugh. They (you) love to hear the craziest stories and most unbelievable details, but what no one takes into consideration is how isolating it can be to be funny. What thick skin you have to have. What one personal considers hilarious, another person consider exploitative and hurtful. And being the one responsible for crafting stories that walk the fine line between the two puts you on a razor’s edge.

Be funny, but don’t be racist. Be funny, but don’t be hurtful. Be funny, but don’t generalize. Be funny, but don’t make it about me. Be funny, but don’t be too honest. Be funny, but don’t be rude. Be funny, but don’t be condescending. Be funny, but be compassionate. Be funny, but don’t use political sensitive monikers.

Making it harder is that I seem to have been born  giving zero fucks. Any filters and parameters in place are the product of many years of observing and pulling back. As the years have gone by, my enthusiasm for writing a book has dimmed considerably because I dread the outcome. Even worse, imagine writing a hilarious book about your family that no one buys. Poor and all alone. That would be terrible. If I’m going to be a girl without a family, I’d at least like to be a NYT best seller.

The other part of the fame monster is how much of my own perspective I have to include in order for the content to be meaningful. I have to put myself WAY out there in order for people to connect. And, truthfully, I am a-okay with that, but it can get tiresome to hear what a terrible or selfish person I am. Eventually you start to believe the bad things. Especially when they come from people close to you.

In the ten years since I started blogging, I’ve pissed off many people. I’ve hurt plenty of feelings. But I’ve also admitted to a 17-year-long eating disorder, confessed to hardships with marriage, parenting, and growing up. I’ve confided insecurities about my body, lifestyle, and intelligence. I’ve been transparent about my political and social views. I’ve been honest and vulnerable, but I realize that it’s my choice to do and be and say those things. And I don’t get to make that choice for my friends and family. And in order to write the only book I’d know how to write, I’d have to make that choice. Or choose to do it no matter the consequences.

So, for now, a book is just not in the cards. Or rather, it’s not in the family.

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