Letter to my daughters during an emotionally fraught election week

14925760_10154214115062632_9220519340659118834_n (1).jpgDear Lily and Neve:

I wanted to write you a letter about this past week, because although you’re sentient little humans now, not babies, you’re still young enough that you haven’t absorbed the full impact of what’s happened.

In some ways, of course, that’s a blessing. But it also makes me feel as though one day, you may approach me and ask, “What did you do? What did that election feel like?” Because you likely won’t remember much about it yourselves.

You won’t remember how you slept in last Tuesday, because your school was closed for election day.

Neve was first to rise. Wrapped in a blanket, I held your hand as we made our way downstairs. You sat at the kitchen table, eating Gogurts, and then we splayed ourselves across the living room floor, playing Sleeping Queens until Lily woke and appeared in the doorway. Once she’d had breakfast, too, you guys watched your allotted half hour of cartoons while I went upstairs to get ready for the day.

It was the first time in my life that I’ve ever dressed up to vote.

I was inspired.

I paired black pants with a black blazer. I felt a little giddy in that moment, feeling the starched fabric upon my arms, my legs. My body hummed with a quiet electricity like hope. Election day was finally, finally here, and a potential moment for change, and perhaps the shattering of a glass ceiling, had arrived. Continue reading

Open letter to Amy Schumer about her Detroit stand-up show

14449725_10154106669752632_5403396263249465478_nDear Amy:

Let me start by saying I’m a big fan. (I originally wrote “huge,” but that word feels like it’s been co-opted by a certain Presidential candidate lately.)

I love the unapologetic feminism that runs through your work; I admire the candor with which you revealed tough things about yourself and your life in your book, “The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo” (which I pre-ordered and read immediately); and there’s no small number of sketches from your Comedy Central show that I’ve watched and howled at repeatedly (“Football Town Nights,” “12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer,” “Lunch at O’Nutters,” “Last F**kable Day,” “Girl, You Don’t Need Makeup,” and “Compliments” – which actually helped alter my own reflexive, self-deprecating behavior).

So when your stand-up comedy tour stop in Detroit was announced several months ago, I got so antsy about getting tickets that I checked out on a big group of lady-friends who were figuring out what they could and were willing to pay in terms of ticket levels, how many would go, etc., in order to cash in on the pre-sale. I did not want to miss this show, and I wanted a good seat. Continue reading

“Your problems aren’t bad enough”: Privilege and the personal essay

eatpraylove.jpgBefore leaving home on an April Sunday to drive to an Elizabeth Gilbert lecture/workshop in Detroit, I got into a small argument with Joe about, well, Elizabeth Gilbert.

“I hope you have a good time. Personally, though, I can’t imagine ever wanting to read that book,” Joe said, referring to “Eat Pray Love.”

“This event isn’t about ‘Eat Pray Love.’ She’s got a new book out about creativity,” I said.

But then, like a scab you just can’t stop yourself from pulling off, I asked, “But why would you never read ‘Eat Pray Love’?”

“Because this woman basically took a year off of work to travel and go to all these amazing places, and it sounds like all she does is complain,” said Joe. “Nobody else can just take a year off on a whim. Other people with real problems have to just keep going in their lives.”

“That’s pretty reductive, and it’s not really fair,” I said. “You haven’t read the book. She was going through a divorce when she sold the idea for the book, so she got an advance and used that and her savings to travel for 9 months. But even if she had been rich, does that mean she has nothing meaningful to say about her experience? I mean, you’re right, most people aren’t able to do what she did. But that made me all the more curious to read about what it was like, and what insights she managed to take away from it.”

The debate continued, though the time when I’d have to choose between continuing this verbal cage match and being late for Gilbert’s talk was fast approaching.

But my face burned, and I was all in. And there was a reason for that. Continue reading

It’s just not in the cards for me: greeting card fatigue

IMG_0578Today’s confession: I’m that annoying person at a kid’s birthday party who calls out, “That’s from us!” when our gift is being unwrapped.

And a couple of years ago, when someone in my family suggested that we all stop buying birthday gifts for each other, and instead just send cards, my reflexive sadness/anger took me by surprise.

Why? Because I kind of hate greeting cards.

I know, I know – put down your pitchforks and hear me out on this. I’m not saying I never buy or send them (see family mandate mentioned above); and for some people, cards serve an important function and articulate things they may not otherwise be able to say face-to-face.

But waste of any kind drives me batty – particularly after living with kids for 8 years, and seeing how they suddenly, arbitrarily decide to reject the clothes or the kid’s meal you’ve purchased for them. These childish refusals strikes me as random and picky. But the apathy kids universally feel toward the envelope that’s standing between them and a gift (and that we adults urge kids to study politely before tearing into the package)? I totally get that.

And I think, if we’re honest we each other, most of us feel the same way. Continue reading

Singing my kids (and my neuroses) to sleep

IMG_0631.JPGAt bedtime a few nights ago, the girls were giggling and telling Joe, “Do it again, Daddy! Do it again!”

So Joe re-entered Neve’s room, stood at the foot of her bed, and starting crooning “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” like a jazz singer wannabe.

My brows hunched in full-puzzlement mode. This was what led Lily and Neve into hysterics?

But then Joe arrived at the song’s bridge, at which point he started jumping up and down, and his face, though still smiling, became more intense. It was as if Black Flag’s Henry Rollins suddenly appeared, pounding out iconic lyrics as angry thrash metal: “Someday I’ll wish upon a star and wake up where the clouds are far BEHIND MEEEEEEEEE!!!!!”

The girls both doubled over, laughing so hard their eyes watered.

And I thought, “Thank you, universe, for these crazy, crazy people.” Continue reading

13 things I’d never done before my layoff

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“Parks and Recreation”‘s Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) created a crazy-complicated game called The Cones of Dunshire while out of work. I’ve done nothing this ambitious.

Experiencing a layoff is, in many ways, like going through a brutally abrupt, heart-wrenching break-up, so it’s inevitably a time of change.

After all, this thing you’ve built your day-to-day life around is suddenly, bafflingly gone, leaving a Brachiosaurus-sized hole that you have no idea how to fill. (Sorry. My four year old is way into “Dinosaur Train,” so extinct giant lizards are my go-to point of comparison just now.) You do all the stuff people tell you to do: you update your resume; you overhaul your LinkedIn page; you schedule networking lunches and coffee dates; and you skim job listings, feeling hopeless and hopeful at the same time.

But doing these things only fills the earliest days of a layoff. After that, you find yourself staring into a terrifying, existential abyss. In this moment, people who aren’t on the verge of losing their house, etc. often dive into cross-fit or home improvement projects – both of which sound way, way more productive than anything I’ve done while trying to re-launch my career.

So as it stands, I’m in no better shape than I was before, and our house still looks like the world’s most poorly organized indoor estate sale. But I’m nonetheless having new adventures, whether I invited them into my life or not.

Here’s a partial list of things I’d never done before getting the ol’ heave-ho from my employer in January. (And my apologies to those who were hoping for more exciting fare, like hang-gliding or free climbing. Maybe next year?) Continue reading

You’re so vein, part deux: What the treatment’s really like

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One almost-healed leg next to one in the post-procedure stocking phase. (Pro tip: if you happen to share my painfully pale Irish skin tone, get the beige support stocking. No need to draw extra attention to your temporarily crazy leg situation, especially during shorts/skirt season.)

To follow up on my last post: last Thursday, I had the varicose veins in my right leg ablated, so I’m just going to tell you a bit about what the procedure is like, and what it involves. (Ablated = shut down. Arteries carry blood from the heart to the legs, while veins with “one-way” valves help the blood defy gravity and travel from the leg back up to the heart. When a valve leaks, the blood pools and enlarges the vein, causing varicose veins. Since the affected vein isn’t functioning properly anyway, the treatment involves using heat to cauterize/close the varicose vein. And that’s one to grow on.)

the more you know psa public service announcement the mo you know

First, after filling out even more paperwork, you’re led to a room with a few lockers, where you remove and lock up your super-valuable pants and pull on a big, stretchy pair of shorts and a robe. But don’t get too excited. It’s not a luxe spa or hotel robe; instead, it’s the fabric version of quilted paper.

2. You’re led into a patient room, where you read the same issue of Popular Science, with Obama on the cover, that you read at your last appointment until a nurse comes in, gives you a black Sharpie to write your initials on the leg they will be working on – to avoid any confusion, I guess?! – and asks you to stand with that leg extended in front of the other. With that same Sharpie, she marks up each varicose vein that they will be ablating on your leg. Which just feels odd.

I’d been through this before with my left leg, two weeks earlier, and because that leg had the lion’s share of visible varicose veins, I’d thought that the right would be a breeze. But then she kept marking. And marking. Crap. This might be slightly less intense then the first time, when they ablated 38 veins, but … not by as much as I’d expected. Shazbot. Continue reading