what-makes-you-happy

Lessons from Spring Break 2017

SF Family Picture

It took me an hour to pack the mini van. And then another thirty minutes to get settled IN the mini van – directions on the phone, everybody on their device with headphones, chargers in place in case (when) we hit traffic, playlist ready, food in reachable places, blankets, pillows, drinks on ice in the cooler – I mean, God forbid any person be uncomfortable or bored for even three minutes and I have to endure the complaints.

I finally pull out of the driveway. A pool of sweat in each armpit, a racing heart running down all of the unknowns of traveling with three young children to a different city, a turning stomach that flips up and into peaks of adrenaline (let’s do this!) and falls down and sinks into valleys of expectation (this better be good).

Spring Break 2017. It’s not Jamaica. It’s not Hawaii. It’s not Mexico or a resort in Palm Desert.

I’m definitely not getting drunk with friends. I don’t even own a bikini anymore. Times have changed. It’s a family trip, but Boyd is staying home for work – and will meet us for the weekend. There will be no group photo at sunset. We’re not swimming with dolphins this year. It’s me and the kids – with a few bags of hot Cheetos on a trek to Northern California to visit the incredible San Francisco and see my best friends and their families on their home turf.

When the road opens up 45 minutes into our journey, and Continue reading Lessons from Spring Break 2017

Other People

 

Messy Hair

I like to surprise my children with sentences that start like this – “You know what I like about you…” It’s a powerful way to highlight their smallest acts of kindness, focus on the character traits I most want to grow in them. I’ve done it so much now that the kids often surprise me back. The other day, Ryan and I were walking around the block to a friend’s house and she says, without prompting, “You know what I like about you?”

“What?” I answer.

“I like how you don’t care what other people think.”

I don’t say anything because that is not completely accurate, but I let her focus on this character trait she finds in me – hopefully, it will grow.

“Why do you say that?” I ask her.

“Because you never fix your hair.”

I almost laugh – I almost explain myself – but I don’t do either because she has her ideas about me and she is entitled to every single one of them and while I wish I cared even less about what other people think, she isn’t completely wrong.

I don’t care what people think about my hair.

I pick my battles – the perfection of my outer appearance isn’t one of them. Ah, if only “outer appearance” were the sole territory laden with the invisible bombs of other people’s opinions. Maybe, I would be safe. Maybe this sweet young girl beside me sees me as safe, maybe even free – but actually, I am in danger.

I am in grave danger – most of us are – of living my life for other people.

And if I’m in danger in the middle of my adulthood, so much more sure about my own identity than I’ve ever been – where must this girl be, in the center of her childhood, just beginning to make sense of her own identity as she compares herself to the people around her?

I roll up onto a wave of empathy for her. Here she is heading into a phase of her life where what people think of her will be SO important – she has YEARS of this ahead. I have a wave of empathy for Continue reading Other People

To the Lovely

 

Star gazing picture

Amy Krouse Rosenthal died on Monday (March 13, 2017). Amy was 51 years old. She was a wife, a mother and a writer, filmmaker, storyteller, believer in magic. I didn’t know her personally. I only knew some of her work – the children’s books. Mainly, LITTLE PEA, which reigned as one of my children’s top five favorite books for a couple of years and a standout for creativity and originality. But Amy was also known for her memoirs and TED talks and most recently, a brilliant essay she wrote for the ‘Modern Love’ New York Times column entitled “You May Want to Marry My Husband,” which reads as an online dating profile for Amy’s husband who would be a widower only 10 days after the essay was published.

While Amy was busy dying on Monday, I was busy complaining about my life.

Mondays are hard for me. Boyd and I both work at home. This is a fairly new situation – one year – and while there are MANY perks to having my husband at home during the week (he cooks healthy lunches for us, he watches the kids if I want to go to 4 PM yoga, he can answer math homework questions), there is a certain level of TOGETHERNESS that robs me of that top-of-the-week-solitude I used to cherish when the kids AND the husband left for the day on Monday. This week was particularly challenging. Because I had been traveling back East the first few days of March, I felt it was important to stay home last weekend – log in the hours with my children, get rooted again. And we did that. Movies on the couch both nights – all day hanging out in the backyard, selling the last bit of Girl Scout cookies, going to Myles’ baseball game, having a beer with the neighbors, shooting basketballs in the driveway, walking the dogs, reading Nancy Drew books, cleaning out clothes to donate, baking cookies. It was awesome. Super fun. And also, you know, TOGETHERNESS – the part that is annoying, claustrophobic, DRAINING. It was all of it.

And by Monday, I wanted none of it.

I wanted to be alone. Free. But it’s tax season. And Boyd is organized and efficient and thank God but….you know, fuck off. But I don’t say that. I say, “I’m on it. I’ll get it. I will have it for you today.” He says, “That’s what you said last week.” I walk out of the room. It’s not his fault. It’s mine and it’s numbers and collecting data and it’s overwhelming because I should have been doing it all year and I wasn’t. So, in a nutshell, I am annoyed with myself (but it’s just way easier to be annoyed with the spouse, as you know). That’s where I was on Monday. And I call my friend Amy – not Amy who was dying, but My Amy – and I am venting and ranting and expressing all sorts of frustrations related to…well….marriage and family TOGETHERNESS. And My Amy is generous and compassionate and empathic, as she is – and she gets it and she understands and she makes me feel normal and a couple of hours later she emails me. She writes, “This is right up your alley” and it’s a link to Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s essay celebrating her husband. While the kids are brushing their teeth after dinner, I click on the link. I read the short essay.

And it’s beautiful. It’s heart-wrenching.

This dying woman wants Continue reading To the Lovely

Because You are a Badass

badass girl picture

 

I told them to wear red today. They asked me why and I said because it’s International Women’s Day. What kind of day is that, Ryan asks. It’s a day for you to be yourself – and celebrate your ideas and your abilities – and remember that people fought for your freedom to express yourself…so, you know, use it.  So what do I do? She wants to know.

You get to be extra proud to be a girl, I tell her.

There are girls all over the world who don’t have the freedom you do – it takes a lot of courage to be bold and be who you are and you can do that, WE can do that, but some people can’t – they’re not allowed to or they’re too scared to do it. If we are confident and brave and share who we are with the world, it gives other people permission to do the same. It’s like, what the world needs – just you being you. You know?

Yep, she stands taller, got it. And then she leaves the room – yelling to Mimi to wear red today.

One moment later: Myles barrels around the corner, arms flailing – I want to wear red, he says. Then go find something red to wear, I say. Wait, what day is it? It’s International Women’s Day. Oh right – he turns to leave and looks over his shoulder and says, what does it mean? It’s a day to remember…

That women are awesome, he interrupts. I lift my hand. He squares up and slaps it. Hard. Then turns on his heels and charges down the hall. Super speed. To find something red to wear.

Because he knows — women ARE awesome.

I’m not worried. I am not worried about the next generation. They are full of power and love and creativity and courage – they don’t even see the barriers that we see. They see wide-open terrain and it’s not a question of if they will run, it’s simply a matter of direction. If there is a closed door, they find the cracked window. Where we work with a fixed notion, they bring fluidity – so willing to change the course of things, so open to building a new way of being honest. For them, equality is not an ideal – equality is the reality of their mindset and as such, they will make it real in the world. I see the next generation and I am hopeful and relieved and inspired.

I see the next generation and I’m not worried – because I see the ones raising them.

I see you and I watch us and you know, it’s not easy but we ARE doing this.

In my work, I sit with mothers, and women mothering – not children but the world, and I listen and I lean in – not just to my calling in this career path, but to every single spoken and unspoken word. I get close to the phrasing of a woman’s heart, a human heart, so I can hear it loud and clear – the names of what she wants, the still pause in the silent not knowing of what she wants, that air she moves when she breathes deep and bravely whispers what she can hardly admit she wants.

I have been listening and learning and learning and learning and now, I’ve learned enough to know something about her and about you and about us.

It’s not something complicated, its not really profound or coming from the deepest part of who we are – it actually sits right there on the top, plain as day – so obvious that it shocks me when I notice it because that means that at some point, I had stopped seeing it. But then I land on it, right there, and it hits me in the gut, like an intuition – or it strikes me in the mind, like a remembering – or it washes over my whole body like the truth and it happens when she stops speaking and there is a slight quiet in the room – before anyone says anything, before I can say anything – this really obvious awareness lands smack down in the center of me: she is a badass.

It’s just that simple. She is BADASS.

You are a badass. Women are badass and I know it because I have listened and I have seen and I know we are willing to do all of the things that must be done:

She prays over a stillborn baby and still believes in god.

She picks up the pieces of a broken marriage and dares to love again.

She moves her family across town to be close to the special school where her daughter can thrive.

She shows up to her son’s bar mitzvah looking absolutely stunning in the midst of a full-on brawl with leukemia.

She sits on the edge of a bed and puts cream on her mother’s legs, and smiles when her mother calls her the wrong name.

She holds the dog that saved her life and just she when thinks she cannot bear to let him go she says it’s time now and he passes.

She quits that job, asks for a promotion, starts that business, cleans off her desk.

She intervenes to give him a shot at sobriety. She seeks her own sobriety.

She doesn’t leave. She leaves.

She picks up a paintbrush, takes a writing class, learns to sing. She creates art. She shares it with the world.

She has that fourth kid. She moves to the country. She becomes a Christian. She becomes a Jew. She learns how to meditate.

She devotes her life to her husband’s career, her children’s well-being – it’s not how she thought it would be, it is what it is and she finds a whole bunch of perfectly imperfect happiness in that.

She takes a shower and brushes her teeth the morning after she finds her husband dead.

She learns how to take care of herself, for the first time ever.

She finds out just how much she can do when she doesn’t know what the fuck she is doing – she does it anyway.

And it turns out all right. Because she is a badass. And so are you.

I am not worried about us. We can do these things – we can do all of the things and anything. And our children know it and respect us for it. And the only thing there is left to do is love each other more. Pick up the phone, write it in an email or a handwritten note – YOU ARE A BADASS – and send it to the women and men who give you every reason not to worry. And do it in the name of all of the women who came before you – badass women who didn’t even know the term ‘badass’ because they were too busy embodying it to sit around stating the obvious.