Sunday, December 31, 2017

Tell me something good

A friend asked on FB this morning for people to tell her something good that had happened to them this year.

I love this. Tell me something good that happened to you in 2017.

In truth, 2017 felt calamitous in many ways. The news was relentlessly dark and exhausting. Conversations in DC are always political, and this year all the more so. I went to my dermatologist for my annual skin check and asked how he was, and he said, "Fine, thanks. I mean, considering."

That's how many conversations started this year. It felt inescapable.

But recently I read an article about gratefulness which said that basically, just thinking about what you are grateful for, even if you can't come up with anything, changes your brain for the better. Now at dinner we go around the table and say something we are grateful for.

I will say that one of the positive things about having 2009 be the absolute worst year of my life is that my benchmark for most terrible is very high.

But let me not bullshit you about being all zen and grateful because we all know I fret a whole lot and get sucked into depressive vortexes and the like.

Mostly I'm saying I try to be grateful, because it is a better way to life. I was delighted to learn that because of cell turnover, every seven years all of the cells in our bodies are new.  I think it was seven. In any case, you aren't exactly who you were, and you are constantly changing.

Kind of like Heraclitus and the moving river. I like this idea.

This was a pretty sporadic blogging year, and I'd love to tell you it's because I was working on my book, but it wasn't. It was just because of life, anxiety, depressive vortexes, the moving river, and more life.

We had some calamities--mainly my mom's cancer scare, and her being hospitalized thrice in the summer for anemia.

But we had some good, beautifully good things, for which I am extremely grateful.

In January Betty, the kids, my friend Leigh and I went to Cartagena, Colombia. This is possibly the best piece of 2017 for me. We rented a great house, and Cartagena is a magical place. All of us loved it. The kids ask when we can go back.

These are memories I will cherish forever, and such a gift.

We also attended some protests in January and February. (We missed the Women's March, as we were flying back that day, the trip having been planned and tickets bought well before the election.)

In April we lost our friend John. In May we lost our dear friend Pat. Both of these people I had known my entire life, and Pat was another mother to me. These continue to be tremendously hard losses.

In June I walked with my dear friend Laurie and Team SOLOS in my fourth Out of the Darkness Overnight walk.

As I am listing them this way, I realize it really was a year with big events and travel

In July the kids and I joined Wendy and her family in the Outer Banks. They invited us for the second year in a row, and kindly included us as family.

Beyond that, my kids call Wendy's mom and dad "Mimi" and "Papa," which is what Josie and Zeke call them. My kids don't have a grandfather, and her parents are so loving; I am extra grateful that my children get to have these grandparent relationships with them.

The end of July, I had the good fortune to visit Seattle for the first time, to a Peace Corps reunion at our friends' house on Whidbey Island. In blogworld and real world convergence, my Internet friend Laura picked me up at the airport, and we spent the day in Seattle together, before she dropped me at the ferry.

I got to see friends I saw at Rhonda's birthday in Austin, and others I hadn't seen in decades. I am so very grateful to have these people again in my life.

It was a quick three-day trip, and then I was home for a few days before loading up the car and driving to Toronto. I have an unfinished blog post on this adventure and I plan to post in the new year. We visited Sophie and Sean and their family; it was an extraordinary week.

We got home in time for my birthday, which was the same day as Australian Builder Kim's memorial service. (We realized at Christmas dinner that it was Kim's birthday, and we put candles on the cake and sang Happy Birthday to him.)

Just days after returning from Toronto, Betty went into the hospital for the second time for severe anemia. I had tremendous guilt, having dragged her all over creation or anyway multiple states and a bit of two countries.

And then, then we went to Family Camp in Maine.

This fall I went with great trepidation to a reunion of my Kappa sisters in Chapel Hill. And I left with a heart so full of amazing reconnections. It was a fun time, and for me, it was healing.

We gathered because two of our sisters have passed away, and Melanie, the amazing organizer, took the lead on getting us all together before too much more time passed.

We all took a photo in front of the house, and signed mattings to give to the famlies of the two women who died. I delivered one of the photos, and the parents weren't home when I stopped by, so I left a note with my number.

The mom called to tell me how grateful she was that we had gathered in memory of her daughter. She asked about her daughter's friends. We talked for a while, and she asked if I'd get in touch when we are out that way again. I said it would be my pleasure, and in truth, it would.

I didn't go to the reunion looking for that kind of connection, but I lucked into it nonetheless.

So I suppose that 2017 was not the kind of year that I might have anticipated, but it taught me a lot about myself and the world, and brought me a surprising number of gifts.

I'm thankful for all of them.

I wish you all a beautiful, bountiful, love filled 2018. I am grateful for you.

Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 24, 2017


The holidays are a time to be close to those we love, and to miss loved ones who are not with us. It's such a pretty, happy holiday.

But the overriding expectation is to be joyful--fa la la la la! There are parties! There are pretty, shiny lights and baubles!

And when you have young kids, they are SO EXCITED! This part is incredibly exhausting, and extremely fun.

But for many, even the joyful among us, the holidays are accompanied by private sadness and ache. You set the table and are aware of who you're not setting a place at the table for this year.

It's OK to be sad. It's an intense time and season.

This is my funniest Christmas memory. Christmas was always rough for my dad, and he didn't smile a whole lot, much less belly laugh at this time of year.

I cannot imagine why I bought my mom those terrible gold tights, which she never wore, but I am sure glad I did.

If you are struggling, know that you are not alone. You are never alone. If you need someone to reach out to, I am here. My email is in the side bar.

Big love and hugs to all of you.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Weaving time in a tapestry


December. December there's so much to do, and not enough time.

And not enough light.


Our tree is missing a whole section of lights.

This is exactly how I feel about myself.


Christmas is my favorite holiday. I love the tree, the lights, the treats, the songs, the wrapped packages.

Still. Winter is not my friend.

This morning, after yet another disagreement between us, Nick suggested that I've been sliding into a dark place. Sometimes when we fight I feel like he puts the onus on me, because I'm honest about depression and anxiety. Easy to blame.

But in this case, I think his feedback is fair. I've been exercising five days a week, eating well with barely any sugar, and rarely drinking. Even with all that, I am going to up my meds, at least until we have more daylight.

I don't feel hateful, but why wait until I do?


December is one of those months where I easily feel like everyone does everything better than I do.

I got holiday cards. But being me, and continually adding people I love to my list, I wound up in the position of having more people than cards. So I got more cards. I haven't yet addressed them all.

I wrote holiday cards for the teachers, bought gift cards, stuffed them. They'll all be delivered by this afternoon, the last day before the holiday. Cards for our tenants, who are terrific. A card for the mail carried, a lovely man.

There are dearly loved ones on my holiday card list who aren't with us anymore. Our traditional Christmas Eve plan...isn't anymore.

Loss. This was a year of significant loss. 

Life is letting go. I've had a life of goodbyes. I used to be good at them.


Gifts. Gifts. This year, I pushed for one gift per person. One toy. People could still get books and clothes. Nobody but me liked this idea. But with my hard line--which has made Nick treat me like the Grinch--this year we are more restrained.

Next year, my hope is to travel. We all have an experience, rather than giving each other more stuff.

This year, as in most recent years, I made photo books for both grandmothers. It took me no fewer than 100 hours. Hand to God.


In prior years, I've invited a million people for Christmas dinner. OK, not a million. But one year we had 40 people. Because every time someone said they'd be here for Christmas, not traveling to family, I said, "Oh, you should come to our house!"

Betty told me to stop inviting strangers at the bus stop. It was practically at that point.

This year, I've held my tongue. It isn't easy. I open my mouth and then I tell myself to shut it and I do.

I wasn't raised with self-preservation skills. I was raised to carry your weight. Too heavy for you? I'm strong. Let me.

But it takes a toll. I can carry a lot, but I have a family of people who need me.

Sometimes I have nothing left to offer freely, because it's all been claimed already.


When I say I hate people, which I have exclaimed a plethora of times this past year, someone near and dear to me says, "Oh, bullshit. You love people. You have SO MANY people you love."

It is true. I have SO MANY people I love. I may have myriad weaknesses, but people are a strength; I have spectacular taste in people.

But when I spend a period of time all PEOPLE PEOPLE PEOPLE I stop functioning quite so well.

As it turns out, I'm a more delicate flower than I'd like to admit. I need a lot of sleep. I need a lot of time alone. My head is a busy place, and when there is too much outside commotion, I get exhausted.

It'd be easier, I am sure, if I were an extrovert. Or a misanthrope.

Apparently, I am neither.


I haven't yet made Christmas cookies with my kids.

I haven't finished my cards.

I have presents to wrap.

I don't even know what I'm going to make for dinner.


I'm doing my best.

It's December.

Monday, December 18, 2017

O Christmas tree

Eight years ago, my big boy was a small baby. I had just returned to work from maternity leave. And I had just started treatment for postpartum depression.

Our house had mostly new electric wiring by that point, I think. It didn't yet have all new pipes, and it certainly didn't have a new boiler to power the radiators; I know this because because the old one died for good a month later on the first day of Snowmageddon.

I think we got the new windows, the ones that the wind didn't whip through, in January or February. I can't remember anymore.

But at this point, Christmas was upon us.

Our ground floor was still under construction, but our kitchen was nearly complete, in that we had a functional sink and stove and counters. But the rest of the floor was ripped up, dusty, unusable. We were still walking on planks to get from front door to back.

The outer front doors were still missing, and the inner door had a good inch of air at the top and bottom. The basement door had a big piece of plywood as one corner, and I still feel lucky that noone broke in that way.

At that point, our alley was sketchy, and humans used to use our garage as a private bathroom.

All true.

So at this juncture in our lives, heading toward my first Christmas without my dad, the Christmas of the most painful, hardest, worst year of my entire life, Nick and I discussed a tree.

I say "discussed" when I actually mean "fought about". Just like we fought about where to put the washer and dryer, and numerous other things, when really each fight was a vehicle for screaming out pain and grief.

Christmas was fast approaching, and we weren't going to go to my parents' house to celebrate, because Dad had walked out the door one beautiful day that May and never returned, except as ashes, and Betty was at our house most of the time.

We needed to make Christmas. We needed to get a tree.

Nick wanted a fake one and I railed against the fakeness of fake. Even in Bangladesh, when we'd tied two sort-of-Christmasish trees together to make a Christmas tree, we'd had a real one. No way no how did I want a fake tree.

And he said, "Are you going to make sure it stays watered? Are you going to vacuum up the needles?"

In this period where he was working 12 hours a day and I was hanging on so barely by my fingernails, where it was all I could do to make sure I had all of my clothes on before heading to work, where I still cried every day, I knew that I could not add a tree to my list.

"Fine," I said. "Do whatever you want. You always do."

I don't, in fact, remember my exact wording. But I know I have the tone just right.

So Nick went to Home Depot and there were two trees left, both on sale. He brought one home and lugged it up to the third floor and took it out of the box.

It had lights. Already strung on it. It was big. It held all our ornaments. It was pretty.

It was perfect. I loved it.

Eight years later, we still have the same tree. It's still very pretty, and we get compliments. And every year I say, "Thank you! You'll see this exact same tree next year. With the same ornaments."

It lives in a box under the stairs, and the weekend after Thanksgiving, Nick pulls it out and assembles it, and Betty, the kids and I decorate with the same ornaments we've had my entire life. Plus a new one or two every year.

I still love it.

This year, a string of lights went out. Nick bought a gadget to find the problem lights. He fixed a number of them. (This love of tools and gadgets, and his propensity to fix things, are aspects of this man I absolutely love.)

And then two strings went out. Our tree is still perfect, just with a band or so of no-lights.

He said with all missing lights, next year it might be time to replace the tree. I suggested just buying lights.

Why add a great tree to landfill, when we can add lights? I vote for bulbous, milky, colored lights, just like my childhood. Those are my favorite kind.

Our tree is still lovely, just aging. It mostly works, just with a couple places that need some help. This all feels very familiar.

It's not what I'd have chosen eight years ago, when I didn't actually have the energy to chose anything.

But I don't get itchy welts on my arms while hanging ornaments, there are no needles to vacuum, and we can have the lights on as much as we want without worrying about fire.

This is the tree my kids have grown up with, and could well be the tree we still have when they head off to college.

As it turns out, it's perfect for us.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, which is such a better acronym than WFSAMMCAEATT

I was thinking about the acronym SAD, and how fitting it is, and how I couldn't come up with a better one that made a word.

I mean, Winter F$%&ing Sucks And Makes Me Cry And Eat All The Time doesn't work for a variety of reasons. One, it doesn't include the word disorder, and two, WFSAMMCAEATT is both cumbersome and doesn't make an actual word. (And three, but less importantly: you aren't supposed to capitalize the And, And, or The but acronyms with big and small letters are kind of weird.)


This is a sort of PSA but rooted in a personal story because I believe that if you're telling other people what you think they might ought to do, but you've never lived through it, then you're a jackass.

Which I try not to be, with varying degrees of success.

(Also, I firmly support double modals, in case you're wondering.) 

So. We are in November, which in the Northern hemisphere means it's fall, with short days that get progressively shorter until December 21. And when the sun is out, the light is thin.

This matters.

OK, now my story. And then I'll get back to what may or may not be about you.

Two weekends ago, at Carolina, a friend asked if I've basically been skinny since those 40 pounds I gained in college.

The answer is no, and yes. Depending on the season.

Prior to antidepressants, I gained 10-15 pounds every winter. This is a lot on someone with small bones who is only 5'3". I'd lose it by summer, to gain it again the following year. My size was always in flux. I thought about my weight all the time.

I was great at not eating in the spring and summer. I could not eat and not eat, and run and run. I had energy, I laughed, I got skinny, and it was great. The longer the days, the better I felt.

But as it turns out, I'm extremely sensitive to light. So I'd notice the shift of light in August, and fully start being affected in September, when it didn't (then) make sense, because it was still warm out.

As soon as the light strength and amount diminished, I'd start the downhill slide. 

This for me meant eating more. I always ate sugar, no matter what else I was or wasn't eating. Mostly wasn't. I eliminated a lot of food over the years. But candy was my thing.

And running.

But once the days were short and the amount of light I got was not sufficient, I couldn't starve myself. I lost control.

It didn't ever matter how much I ran, because I could out-eat all the running.

Really, until I started antidepressants consistently, that was how I lived. Weight gain all winter, weight loss all spring and summer. I'm talking about my weight here, but I cried all winter as well. The crying went along with the eating.

It's not that I didn't cry in the summer, just a lot less.

Now I'm on a much more even keel, both weight-wise and emotionally. Not an even keel like someone who doesn't struggle with depression. But an even keel for me.

And since I've been on antidepressants, that big chunk of dread doesn't lodge in my stomach in September, when the sun is still golden but the slant and quality are wrong. I still get nervous; I won't pretend I don't.

But not like before.

With this level of removal, and no longer being all wrapped up in my own struggles, I can actually see and hear other people. And this is what I've noticed: Quite a lot of people have a hard time. They want to eat all the sugar and all carbs, all the time. They hate winter. They want to sleep a lot more, to never leave the house.

If you're someone who has said these things to me, yes, I'm talking about you, but absolutely not targeting you, because let me assure you: you're one of many. You are in great company.


There are a number of things I do daily that are helpful, although for me, they're not enough without medication. I know this; I've tried.

I don't always manage all of them, but the more I do, the better.

1. I use a light box. Here's a series of Mayo Clinic pages on light therapy.

2. I get sun exposure. I get outside when the sun is out. I either go for a walk or run.

3. I exercise. I do this almost daily, and whether or not I do it makes a big difference in my mood.

3. I eat protein and fats--two things I avoided for too many years. I've always loved veggies and fruit, and have always eat a lot of those (except, you know, when I mostly wasn't eating). Most significantly in my diet, I try to avoid sugar and fast carbohydrates. This is the hardest item for me.

I have drastically reduced my sugar consumption. I had no sugar, bread, pasta, rice, etc, for about five weeks straight. I was basically having a glass of wine once a week, and not every week. Once I quit sugar, my interest in wine went away.

Two weekends ago, I had a debaucherous reunion weekend, and I'm struggling to get back to completely eliminating sugar. I don't even know that this is reasonable for me over the holidays, and I am not going to beat myself up for it.

Stevia in my tea is not delicious the way sugar is. But I will tell you this: I'm sleeping better than I have in a decade. And sleep is more delicious than sugar.

Sleeping well is perhaps the part that has changed my life the most. It makes me feel way better and behave much more kindly toward every single human I encounter, my family being the humans I spend the most time with.

Now, I have a lot of mental health conversations with a lot of people. And lately people are complaining about winter. So many people hate winter.

I mention the fact that I'm on antidepressants in the same way I'd say, "The bus is late." I do this on purpose, because so many people don't talk about it.

And I often hear that people are having a hard time, but "It's not that bad."

I'm not in anyone else's head. I don't know how they actually feel, or what their threshold is.

I would never tell anyone that their bad is that bad, even if I sometimes think it. Sometimes I suggest it might be, gently and indirectly. If these suggestions are met with hostility, I back away.

Sometimes people get downright hostile when you suggest therapy or medication. I am not exaggerating.

But I hear what people are saying, and I see how people close down in this season in particular. I relate to their stated feelings. I know what happens to me, and I know what my threshold is.

Medication can help. Sunshine. Artificial light. Exercise. Talk therapy. Eating in a way that keeps blood sugar balanced.

There are lots of things that can help.

I'm not a doctor, and I don't even play one on TV. But I do know this: it doesn't have to be quite so hard.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Take my hand, take my whole life too

Ten years ago today I had a date lined up for tonight.

One decade, one wedding, two children, two moves, and too many funerals and memorial services ago, I had not yet met Nick.

So half a score ago, I got up alone and dressed for work in an outfit that was cute enough for a date, but still serious enough to have gone to work in.

Because, see, one evening in summer I'd changed into a sundress for a first date, and the guy said, "Did you go to work in THAT?"

Along these lines, I'd begun wearing my glasses on dates. Then a date asked if I'd worn them to deliberately look less attractive. Come to think of it, he was also the one who wanted to know what was wrong with me, being that I was apparently this pretty, funny, and smart.

What was not obviously wrong with me that I was still single?

What I'm saying is, I didn't get up that morning with the thought that I'd meet a man I might marry anytime soon or really ever.

In fact, I did go home to change after work, but mainly because it was one of those weird warmy-coldy DC November days, and my outfit was either too hot or too cold and I can't remember which.

And I did wear my glasses. Both of these things I remember, because changing meant I had to hurry, and because I was hurrying I was sweating. And because it was cold my glasses fogged up as soon as I walked into the bar at the Tabard and said hello to Nick.

He teased me about the glasses then and there. He didn't mention the sweating until we knew each other way better.

You've likely already read about this day at least once or maybe nine times. (Why isn't there a nince, like thrice? Have I written about this nince? I can't remember. But here's the first time and the second time.)

I was 38 and had been internet dating for about two and a half years at that point. I would say that I had no hope left, but that's not exactly true. I couldn't keep going on dates if I had no hope.

So I suppose it's more accurate to say that I had no positive expectations.

He could be someone who was funny on email and dry in person. Someone who didn't actually laugh at anything I said that I knew for damn sure was funny to me. Someone who grilled me on my resume, making the date more of a job interview. Someone who made sure I knew how important he was. Someone who was rude to the server.

There were many reasons, I had learned, that I might loathe whoever he turned out to be. I'm being melodramatic. I might not outright loathe him--that rarely happened--but the overwhelming odds were that I would never want to kiss him and that would be that.

I was tired of going on dates and wishing that instead, I were home doing laundry and watching Grey's Anatomy. I was tired of looking but afraid of not doing so.

I wanted to throat punch people who told me I was trying too hard, that they met their spouse when they weren't looking.

Mainly, I was so tired of balancing on that sharp and painful line between hopefulness and utter despair.

You give up hope and you're done for in this life. Or anyway, I would be. 

So I had to maintain a modicum of it, while still having no expectations. I didn't get excited for dates anymore, but I couldn't give in to dread, because then where would I be?

I should just sum this up by saying I was tired.

I was tired and five minutes late and it was warmy-coldy and I was rushing and sweating.

Nick was five minutes early and calmly sipping a beer by the time I hurried in and scanned the room.

He stood up and held out his big warm hand to introduce himself. I put my small cold hand in his. He smiled. He teased me about my glasses, but didn't compliment or denigrate them.

He didn't talk about his work or ask me about mine. We talked about travel, and books, and weird situations we'd gotten ourselves into and out of. He was warm and kind. He was funny, and he laughed at things I said that I knew for damn sure were funny.

Ten weeks later, when he asked me to marry him, we didn't actually know each other all that well. But he was absolutely certain, and I was confident enough to ride on his utter certainty.

This is who we are in life.

If we stop at a convenience store he chooses a beverage and doesn't give it a second thought. I stand in front of the frige and think, "Would I rather have lemonade? But tea has caffeine, and I'm kind of tired. But then I might have to pee. I should probably have water. But..."

And he's all, "Just pick a drink and let's go!"

Of course marriage is way bigger than picking a drink for the road. I wouldn't ever suggest that ten weeks is an amount of time that tells you everything you need to know about a person.

We all know that it could've gone very badly. I won't pretend that there haven't been some hard periods of time, and we all know I joke about stabbing my husband and that he never finds funny.

But as a human, he is good people. He's generous and smart and thougthtful. He is polite to everyone, and he makes sure our children are as well. He's kind. He laughs and he makes me laugh. He's a very decent, loving person and a terrific husband and father.

I didn't know any of these things when I headed into my last first date.

But I'm thankful every day that I did.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Mean girls, Kindergarten edition

Who's that girl?
This is something I haven't thought about for decades.

When I was in 2nd grade, I was part of a group of four friends.

The leader of our group was a Canadian girl named Kim, although I don't remember why. And every day she decided which of the four of us would be ignored.

It was typically the girl whose bus arrived last. I guess Kim's bus never arrived last.

At some point, it was my turn. They all ignored me every day, for a month. My three little girlfriends in my second grade class refused to speak to me for an entire month.

I cried every day.

We were in a tiny foreign community in newly-independent Bangladesh. Everyone knew each other. My mom spoke to her mom, who invited me over to play, in order to fix it. Kim refused to speak to me the entire time. I was stuck and it was brutal.

I don't remember the moment they started talking to me again, but at some point Kim decided they would, and they did.

Now I think, why the hell did Kim have that power over us? And I participated. Why did I participate?

I don't know. But she did. And I did.

So, yesterday, India's teacher Ms. M told me about an incident involving my daughter.

Incidentally, her teacher Ms. M is terrific. We had her last year, and she switched to teaching Kindergarten, and I'm so glad India's with her again. I feel like she really knows and gets my daughter.

So Ms. M gave me the details as she understood them and asked if I could get India to talk to me about what happened.

Apparently, during recess, India went in to use the bathroom. It's hard for the little kids to lock the stall doors, so often they don't. This was the case.

India was sitting on the toilet, and her stall door was open. Three girls from her class stood and watched her while she was using the toilet, even though she told them to leave her alone.

One of the teachers walked into the bathroom while this was going on, and put a stop to it.

India is very close to that teacher, and cried and cried to her. India was hugely upset. Afterwards, she  refused to talk about it.

My girl is bold and strong, and when she falls down, she typically gets up, brushes it off, and says she's fine.

But this isn't falling down. This is other kids being deliberately unkind. Staring and refusing to leave when you're not in the position to make them go away. When you're vulnerable.

One of them is a friend of hers, but the other two were names India has never mentioned.

Now, Ms. M explained that this is part of a larger climate of subtle bullying going on in her classroom. There are girls being mean to each other in sneaky ways. She said India isn't a target, and that the mean behavior isn't consistently directed at one person.

I asked if India is ever one of the mean girls, and Ms. M said she doesn't instigate but sometimes she will tag along at the tail end of the group.

I think about myself in 2nd grade. I think about Kim.

So, Ms. M has started assigning seats, deliberately separating girls who are tight. She's assigned them places in line, because they were clustering. The school counselor is going to come in and talk about kindness.

Ms. M said that kids don't hesitate to tell her if someone hits them. That's bad behavior; it's obvious. But she said that what's going on now is not necessarily obvious or clear-cut, and she thinks kids don't know whether they should tell or not.

She doesn't know if India would have said anything if the other teacher hadn't walked in.

She said she thinks it's due to the large number of girls with strong personalities in class this year. She's working to shift this mean girls dynamic that's begun.

I broached the topic while snuggling in bed with my little girl. She buried her head under the pillow and said, "Ms. M already told you about it. I don't want to talk about it."

I knew that my daughter would get her feelings hurt by her friends and classmates. That's inevitable. I knew that at some point there would be mean girls.

I guess I didn't think it would start in Kindergarten.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Reunion dinner outfit! Need help choosing!

I know that it doesn't actually matter what I wear to my reunion.

In fact, it rarely matters what I wear ever. I'm actually rather vain, although it's not always evident. Sometimes I leave the house for hours looking like I was dressed in the dark by a mean-spirited chimpanzee.

You should see what I wore to volunteer at school yesterday, which was culottes, because it very warm out, and then my new Sanita clogs which currently feel better with socks on. So.

My son was all, "Uh, do you like those pants?" He did not. I told them they'd look better without the black socks.

You wouldn't know it by some of the things I am willing to be seen in in public, but I love clothes. And shoes. And boots. It's no secret I have a boot problem.

So. With all that said, which outfit do you like for my reunion dinner? It's at a bar/restaurant on Franklin Street. The weather is going to be maybe 50s-ish. Or 75. Or down to 32. Because who actually knows anymore.

The suggested dress for dinner is something along the lines of jeans and a cute top. So I pulled out a couple sweaters I like and was thinking of black pants in lieu of blue jeans. I don't know. I really really don't know.

I  haven't yet put on an outfit that feels perfect. Maybe because I loathe the cold and none of these are sundresses. I don't know. Can I say that again? They all feel so dark and not cheerful and I don't knooooooow.

Option 1. Reddish sweater, black pleather pants, high wedges. Downside: they're actually jeggings and my sweater isn't that long. But I do kind of love them.
 Option 2. Same, except black jeans, and you can see the wedges. Jeans are comfy. Huge bonus is that I'm about 5'7" in these booties. Ha!
Option 3. Black jeans, black sweater, cowgirl boots. I could wear blue jeans instead of black. Can't decide how I feel about black jeans with the boots.
Option 4. Dress with cowgirl boots. Bonus: these boots kick ass. Also, I could wear a cool necklace. Downside, it may be cold cold cold. And my legs are kind of screamingly pale.
What I think it comes down to is: pants or dress; if pants, then pleather/jeans; all black or not; high wedges or cowgirl boots.

Or something completely different?

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Ha ha ha, hee hee hee I'm a laughing gnome and you can't catch me

I don't know if you've ever written an internet dating profile.

It's hard to describe yourself in a way that is sincere but not painfully so, and breezy but not contrived. Although maybe now they require less text. Does Tinder require any text?

Anyway, back in aught-five, when I had a flip phone and sody pop cost a nickle, I remember that it took me a long time to even put up a profile, because there were so many steps that required careful thought.

You had to pick a username (one that was not boring and not stupid). I chose Lemon Gloria, because I didn't have a better idea. If you're doing internet dating and have a blog that chronicles your dates, it is in fact plain stupid to use your blog name.

You also had to have a tagline (seriously?), and then write a couple paragraphs about yourself. It needed to be long enough to say something, but not too long because who wants to read paragraphs and paragraphs?

Anyway, I wrote it, and then I read a piece about phrases not to use. One was something about being equally comfortable in jeans or a black cocktail dress. Another was, "I love to laugh." I had to go and immediately delete that line from my profile.

Apparently, saying you love to laugh is stupid and trite, because everyone loves to laugh.

Now, I don't actually believe that everyone loves to laugh. Or maybe they love to, but don't actually do so very often. There are people who will remark that something is funny, but not actually laugh. (I am pretty sure this was on a Seinfeld episode.) There are other people who will smile politely and then you're just left amusing yourself.

When this happens I like to mutter "anal sphincter" and then move along.

Try this. You may be the only one laughing, but it works.

Although none of this happens to me that often anymore because: 1. I am not going on first dates with random people; 2. I'm not actually going on ANY dates with random people; 3. Nick thinks I'm funny. Usually.; and 4. My kids and my mom think I'm hilarious.

Oh! and 5! Maybe even most importantly! I don't work in an office anymore. So I don't have all those regular encounters with people outside my house.

Also: this is why I suck at outlines and figuring out the final points before you start the first ones and making all the things parallel.

So I'm just going to say it: I love to laugh. I do. And! I don't laugh all that often anymore.

Not in a mouth wide open, laugh till you're crying kind of way.

So, anyway, I recently heard a program on NPR on laughter yoga.

Laughter is good for us, both mentally and physically. It makes us feel good, and it actually helps with our health and well being.

And get this: your body does not differentiate between real and fake laughter.

That's the part I found the most interesting. In these laughter yoga classes, they have people fake laugh until hopefully they real laugh.

Since then, here's what I've been doing. I walk around the house fake laughing. I do this when nobody is around because frankly, it's weird.

Go ahead and try it. Ha ha ha ha ha! It feels weird, right?

But your body has no idea. So now I do this. And any opportunity I have to giggle--like if my kids say something emi-funny, I laugh. And then they laugh. And we laugh harder, till we're really laughing.

I'm on a mission.

So a couple weeks ago, I decided to solicit actual, make-you-laugh suggestions from friends. I saved the post so I could always refer back.

And because I love you, and want you to not have to walk around feeling weird about fake laughing, I'm sharing some, most of which I have not yet watched, because we are currently immersed in Stranger Things (which if you are not watching it, why not?).

Some funny suggestions:

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
My Drunk Kitchen
Eastbound and Down on HBO
Youtube video Can't Hug Every Cat (see above)
Tim Conway skits, especially the dentist one
The Office
Modern Family
Arrested Development (until the last season...which was definitely not as good)
Parks + Rec
Love Sick
The Good Place, Catastrophe, Atypical

Maybe you've seen some of these already. Maybe you have other suggestions. I'm all ears.

Also, I had to retitle because I totally forgot that I was going to use this lyric from David Bowie's weird little ditty "The Laughing Gnome." When I first listened to it in 7th grade I thought it was just kooky, but now I imagine this was during the period where he subsisted entirely on cocaine and milk. Seriously. He said that.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

And signs that might be omens say I'm going, I'm going I'm gone to Carolina in my mind

Have you gone to a high school or college reunion? Were you nervous?

I'm going to go ahead and say that this post is possibly me at my most vulnerable.

This past weekend, I overheard my friend Leigh saying that I am good at vulnerability. I don't know if this is the case, because it scares me to open myself up to criticism. But I do open myself up. The act of writing all of this down, recognizing the feelings, and releasing them into the universe somehow  lightens me.

So I do it.

Almost every other person I've ever met who went to Chapel Hill loved it, and waxes nostalgic. They go back for football games, root for the Tarheels, and post pictures of the Old Well. Their college years were among the best of their lives.

This is how I feel about high school.You've seen my Delhi high school reunions and my myriad of love letters to those friends.

I almost never talk about college.

In July, a friend sent me details about a Kappa Kappa Gamma reunion. I was a Kappa. Do you know this? Perhaps not. It doesn't really come up in conversation.

After we graduated from college, my boyfriend and I went back to visit once that fall. I can't remember why. Maybe a party at his fraternity house? I went once again looking at grad schools, and once after a dear friend's wedding in Raleigh.

That's it, in 26 years.

I don't talk about my college years because I don't think about them. In fact, I barely remember them. They're kind of a dark spot of time for me, with sparks of memories.

We moved to the US from India the summer before I started college. In September, my dad attempted suicide, though my mom didn't tell me until October.

This was back when we didn't talk about it, so I swore my roommate Lesley to secrecy, and I told her. I had to tell someone. I was already in crisis, so Dad didn't trigger it, but it wasn't, to say the least, helpful.

But this was also back when we all insisted we were fine. My parents had no idea why my brother was so angry. No explanation for why I cried so much.

I literally--and when I say literally, I do mean actually physically--spent hours a day sitting on the floor of my dorm room crying and eating chocolate covered peanuts. I gained 40 pounds that year, much of it by Christmas.

Lesley got really sick first semester and missed weeks of class. Years later she told me the only reason she came back was because she was so worried about me.

I knew I cried a lot, but I didn't understand that I was depressed. And nobody in my family recognized that I was depressed. Now I suppose this was because all the focus was on my dad. Who was, of course, fine.

If someone had handed me Prozac and told me to take one every day, I am absolutely certain those years would've been dramatically better.

But then, if you asked me, I'd say I was fine. This was how my family operated. We were always fine.

I did my best to blend. I kept gaining weight, so I kept having to buy new clothes. I bought Laura Ashley and bucks and rugby shirts. I cultivated a Southern accent that I later worked to get rid of. For years after, when I drank, the drawl would come out. I still slide into it very easily.

I would've gone home and never returned, but my parents were living in Virginia, so their house wasn't home. Because I spent so much time crying and not going to class, my grades were appalling. So I couldn't transfer anywhere comparable.

Anyway, I wouldn't have had the wherewithal to transfer. Most days, getting through the day was as much as I could manage.

This is not to say I didn't ever go out, and didn't have fun; I did. It's also not to say that I didn't make friends, because Lesley was one of my best friends, and one of my closest friends to this day, Ann, lived down the hall freshman year. We all laughed a lot together. Now I wonder if it was that verge of hysteria laughter. I genuinely don't know.

Anyway, I did have fun, and did have friends. I just spent a lot more time crying and pretending than actually being joyful.

Joining a sorority sophomore year, though, was terrific. Most of the friends I've made since college weren't in sororities, and raise an eyebrow when I say I was. And I say, "But it wasn't like you're thinking!" The Kappa House had the highest sorority GPA on campus. It was full of really smart, interesting women. Lots of campus leaders.

I chose Kappa after becoming friends with a couple amazing women freshman year. Fortunately, though I had a terrible GPA, and wasn't a campus leader, Kappa chose me as well.

Once I was on the sorority side of rush, I was astounded I'd made it.

My college experience improved dramatically once I joined. I wasn't quite so lost. I had a group that I belonged to, some wonderful friends, and a place to go that I felt comfortable. I went to mixers and events. I spent a lot of time at the house, and with my sorority sisters.

The summer after sophomore year, I lived with a high school friend's family in Rome. Her dad got us summer jobs at the embassy. In Italy, I finally felt like myself again. I worked it out to spend half of my junior year in Rome as well. I lost all the weight I'd gained. I loved Rome, loved my life there.

I returned to Carolina with just one year to get through, and lucked into living with dear friends in the sorority house. The first week of class I met a very cute, very southern guy who actually, shockingly,  wanted to be my boyfriend. Goal achieved.

By senior year, with the countdown to leave, I finally felt like I actually fit in. I remember, at graduation, being sad to leave.

This brings me to the Kappa reunion.

I got the information, and I was intrigued. What a great idea! How fun to see friends I haven't seen in decades! I should go!

I had some deep and very meaningful friendships, but lost touch with all my sorority sisters within a year of graduating.

But in the past several years, I've reconnected with a number of these friends over Facebook, and gotten to spend time with a few. My friend Eileen, creator of Super Sikh, among other things, came to visit when I was pregnant with Jordan. Being together after all those years fed my soul.

In fact, all of these reconnections have been wonderful. But a lot of those in-person reconnection friends aren't able to make the reunion.

So time passed, and I clicked on the invitation over and over. And every time I thought about it, I got anxious.

Two months went by. The organizers sent out a couple emails. I said I was going to go, but I didn't put money down. The deadline was approaching. One of the friends I saw in January said she and another friend had gotten a room and invited me to share.

Nick was all, "You should go. Just buy your ticket. Go."

I finally bought the ticket one night right before bedtime. I got in bed and he said, "Did you buy it?"

I said, "Yes. But I don't know if I can go."


"It makes me so nervous."

I didn't exactly know why. I had to think about it. Eventually I whispered, "Because...What if nobody actually liked me?"

I honest to god said this. Here I am, a grown woman, a mother, far, far from college years. And what popped out of my mouth, when I reached down into my feelings, was: what if nobody actually liked me?

I hate how lost and scared and trying-too-hard I was in college. I think about freshman year, and how inferior I felt to people who knew each other from high school, but didn't know where India was and weren't interested.

I didn't know about culture shock and being a third-culture kid. I just knew that I didn't want to be there and couldn't go home.

I'm embarrassed that in those years I just wanted to be skinny and pretty enough and have a boyfriend, and eventually a husband because that meant I was good enough. I didn't know that I was smart or could do great things, because nobody told me so.

I think about who I was, and how I really really didn't want to be that person, but didn't know how not to be.

I don't have a lot of memories from college, but I also avoid them because they're painful.

What it comes down to is this: I hated myself back then. So why would anyone else like me?

Sometimes Nick does the stereotypical male thing and tells me how to fix my problem, which makes me regret saying anything and also want to stab him. But other times he listens and he makes me feel heard and considered. Which is what he did in this case.

He said, "I've learned that people who go to reunions go because they want to see other people. They want to reconnect. Do you fear you'll be excluded?"

I said no, absolutely not. These were kind woman. Funny, smart, interesting, and extraordinary in such a variety of ways.

No, I don't have a fear of being excluded. I just...felt insecure.

And he said, "That's OK."

He talked about how, at both his high school and college reunions, he talked to people he hadn't really known before. About how nice it was to see everyone.

I realized that part of this is fear of returning to a place where I felt small and inferior. Where I felt very much on the outside, and thought everyone but me was on the inside.

I still feel like this in life sometimes, just not at much, and I recognize when it is happening.

I'm the same person, of course, but also so very different. And I haven't revisited those years.

As I've worked through it and named it, I'm still nervous, but mostly very excited. The list of attendees is amazing. 

Now it's only two weeks away.

I may solicit your opinions on outfits.

And there you have it.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Now I am 48. Also, I have a plan.

48 in my boots!
Usually I write a post on my birthday. I consider the events of the year leading up to it, and I treat it as my own personal New Year's Day.

This year, in August, I turned 48. I find it hard to believe, honestly, although I don't know why. Seriously.

When I'm with my high school friends, I forget we are no longer 16 or 17. Really. Here we are, some of us with kids in college, or "collegers" as my kids call them. And still, we're all teens to me. In the best possible way.

And this is how much we laugh. I don't laugh like this in my normal life. I end the weekends exhausted and fragile and wanting more, just a little more. I have never tried cocaine but maybe this is what it's like?
When you laugh so hard you fall off your chair
(I love this photo, desperately leaning against my dear friend Wendy's leg for support.)

I'm a better parent than I would've been in my 20s and 30s. I'm happier than I was at those ages.

But left to my own devices, sometimes I totally forget that I've lived this long.

I mean, when I was a kid in Bangladesh, we'd have to schedule a call on our enormous, chunky black dial telephone to my grandmother in North Dakota. We'd get a call back from the operator without warning. It could be 3:00AM.

My parents would rush to wake me up so I could shout over the terrible, crackly international line, I LOVE YOU SO MUCH GRAMMA LILLIAN! THANK YOU FOR THE BABY DOLL AND THE MARSHMALLOWS!

The first time she visited us in Dhaka, I had worms. You don't get worms in Minot, North Dakota. She rolled with all of it.
In a bicycle rickshaw
My grandmother regularly sent us packages, and she used to pad all them with marshmallows instead of Styrofoam. We had an endless and magical supply of marshmallows.

For a long time I thought everyone packed with marshmallows.

But can you even imagine using a heavy black plastic rotary phone now? Scheduling a call? Relying on the operator?

What I'm saying is: I've lived a while.

How I feel at this age is not upsetting. Here's what's throwing me for a loop: the OH MY HELL I'M ALMOST 50!

I'm firmly a middle aged woman.

Though I feel fine, though I have smart, beautiful, cool, similarly-midddle-aged friends, and friends who are older that I love and admire, I feel like aging is rough for women in today's society. The term "middle aged woman" does not conjure up positive images.

I believe it's easier to be an aging man. Let me fix that sentence. I believe it's easier to be an aging man.

I also think I wouldn't be in this crisis if the world didn't feel so calamitous. My baseline anxiety and agitation is very high. Add a dollop of anything, and I am easily pushed over the top.


On my birthday, I didn't take my "today I am this old" picture. The picture above is my "I am 48" picture.

I had Nick capture me in this outfit because I love everything about it. It was the first time I ever wore cowgirl boots with a dress. I love the look!

I'd been waiting until it was cold to wear my boots with jeans, but no longer! If I do this, I can wear them way more often! I'm trying to come up with other outfits for my boots. If I lived in Texas I'd have so many pairs.

I strongly suspect that a second pair of cowgirl boots would improve my life immeasurably.

Anyway, I didn't write a post, not because I was freaking out, but because we were just so busy. So I'm doing it now.

This year, I fell down on Jordan's, Betty's, and my birthday posts. I may write them and post in the coming month, for posterity.

On my birthday, I'd just driven the kids and my mom to and from Toronto in one week (yes, I did! I have an upcoming post and pictures, because it was amazing). We did many things, but sleep was not so much among them. I returned exhausted and with a sinus infection.

And the day before my birthday, we went to a memorial service for Australian Builder, our friend Kim, who passed away August 1. (You know him. He's in so many of my house construction stories over the last eight years.)

Kim's memorial service, which was really a big party at an American Legion hall, was where my children learned the drinking song they stayed up at night singing in this post.

When you went to the bar to order, the bartender said, "The first one is on Kim." I cried and drank a lot of beer. This didn't help my sinuses.

The following week, Betty went into the hospital for blood transfusions. The next day, on Jordan's birthday, Nick drove the kids up to camp while I tried to figure out care for Betty so I could join them.

Betty was back in the hospital for the third time. She got out on her birthday.

What I'm saying is, we had a hell of an August and September.

But now it's October, and I have something I want to put out in the universe.

I've been walloped by the number 48 and its proximity to 50, and my reaction is pissing me off.

I mean, at 25 I had a quarter-life freakout. And after 35 I was fretting about whether or not I'd ever get married and start a family. But a lot of that was driven by internet dating, and men whose age cutoffs were 35. There were men who mentioned that I would walk to get serious fast because, basically, I was running out of time. There was the guy who flat out asked me what was wrong with me.

Internet dating for me at ages 37 and 38 was fraught with little traumas. And then I met Nick, who just plain felt lucky that I was single.

So I wasn't so much upset about my age as my situation.

This fret is the number. And the fact that I'm bugged really annoys me. Am I that shallow? (Maybe.)

I feel like, oh, stop it! Celebrate the age you are, because you're lucky to alive and surrounded by loved ones. Appreciate what you have.

So this is what I've decided, and I'm putting it out into the universe for help making it happen.

In two years, I will turn 50, god willing. I am going to celebrate that birthday big.

I'm going back to India, to New Delhi, where I was born, half a century prior.

I started saving for the trip last month, when I decided, because it's a huge endeavor. Planning, which I am admittedly mediocre at, will come later.

My habit has always been read the guidebook on the plane, or maybe when I'm there, wherever there is. Or just look things up as I go. But in this case, traveling alone and with limited time, I will plan ahead. I have two years, after all.

If my family can manage without me for two weeks, that's how long I'll go for. It's such an expensive and long journey, and you have such jet lag when you arrive, that less than two weeks seems pointless.

Now that I have this plan, which at this point is no more detailed than what I've told you, I'm excited! It's something huge to look forward to.

I haven't been back in 22 years. I know Delhi has completely changed. There are fancy malls and a metro! Palika Bazaar, which used to be this claustrophobic underground warren of cigarette-smoke filled shops now looks all swank!

I was born in New Delhi, in Holy Family Hospital. After that we lived in Bangladesh, then Egypt, then Virginia for four years, and then Delhi again for my high school. All of those places were home, and none of them were.

My parents' house in Virginia was the longest stretch of home I ever had. But it wasn't where I was from, and it was only home in the sense that my parents lived there. I have zero emotional connection to it.

Third culture kids, I believe, can relate.

When we left Delhi, I lost touch with most of my friends. I was a terrible correspondent back in the mail-a-letter days. In college, I wanted to go back to Delhi, to go "home"--but by then, my parents had moved to Virginia.

Now I've put down roots in DC. We have this terrific house that we've poured all of our everything into. I love our house, and even more, I love that our kids have a fixed place they know is home.

And still, I could walk away tomorrow if we had to.

After high school, Delhi was never home again. But in a small piece of my heart, it will always be.

As the country of my birth, and a country in which I spent some of the best, most important years of my life, India is both foreign to and such a part of me.
Our house in Defense Colony
When I was small, and people asked me where I was from, I'd say, "India." And they'd say, "You don't look Indian."

 This was always true, no matter how much coconut oil I put in my jute-colored hair.

I learned Hindi and English at the same time, and to my ayah's voiced horror and dismay, my mom let me play with the street kids on the maidan, so I had a filthy mouth at age three. I wasn't allowed to go barefoot because, hookworm! But I could run around saying mother f***er in Hindi like nobody's business.

I will be an absolutely tourist. I barely remember any Hindi. In fact, there's a lot I don't remember.

But sometimes I step outside and catch a particular scent, and it is Delhi, or Kashmir. The smell of jet fuel brings pangs of longing for childhood.

I may have weird Proustian triggers, but I know I'm not alone.

And for my 50th, I'm going home.

Monday, October 09, 2017

A virtual stop on the metaphysical train

Last week I had a remote energy healing session with my friend Alexa.

I wrote about her in this post, which I worried would be too woo woo, and maybe it was for some, but not for everyone. At that point, Alexa hadn't yet officially opened her practice, and was mainly treating friends, family, and friends of friends.

But now I'm naming and linking her because she sees clients in a space in Friendship Heights, as well as in her home. But she also treats people remotely.

Meaning, you don't have to leave your house. Ha!

This is what we did: She called and asked what I wanted her to work on. I said I'd like help with my mood. Because since the election, I walk around so angry. My anger comes up to my throat on too many days.

And lately, with our government's response to Puerto Rico, with Las Vegas and no gun control, I feel enraged. Powerless. And sad. I have this huge, heavy sadness.

These were the things, I said, that I would like help with.

Alexa briefly walked me through what she was going to do. She said, "Honestly, you can be doing anything. If you want to focus on how you're feeling, I suggest taking a couple deep breaths and sitting calmly. But you could be asleep. It doesn't matter. It still works."

Now, that day we were supposed to get our lead pipes replaced. Because as it turns out, the pipes from the main in the middle of the street all the way into our house are made of lead.

Starting at 7:00 am, there were whole lot of construction guys outside. As Alexa and I spoke, I was waiting for the contractor to ring the bell so I could let him into the basement.

Alexa said, "If you can, just relax. Now, while you're doing that, what I do, is I go into a mental laboratory. And I talk to you about what's going on."

I remembered the construction. So I said, "OK, but what if one those people outside rings the bell and wants to come in?"

There was a pause.

She said, very gently, "Which...people outside, Lisa?"


When Alexa explained how she works, I pictured Eleven in Stranger Things, if you've seen it. (If not, oh my gosh, watch it!) When she's supposed to spy on the Russians, she's virtually in this dark empty space with a white floor, watching and hearing them speak.

So I figure Alexa was with me, and interacting with me, but on a different plane.

Oh, and did I tell you that I wore a tinfoil hat during the session? (I AM KIDDING, PEOPLE.)

So I sat relatively still for about half an hour, relaxing and drinking my coffee and my smoothie. I had my feet up, and when they started to tingle, I put them down. Buzzing, really, is a better word for it. They kept buzzing. Then the back of my ankles and calves got warm.

This was as much of the physical as I was aware of.

At some point I went to the bathroom, and then I was all, "Is Alexa going to know?" I then reminded myself this wasn't like a spy camera.

Afterwards, she called me to tell me what she'd seen. (And no, she had no idea I'd been in the bathroom.)

First she told me about the card she'd chosen for me. She chooses a card from a deck before the session, to set intentions. Last time, in person, she'd put my card aside to show me after. The deck is similar to Tarot.

My card was El Morya, with text,"As a sensitive person, you have absorbed some harsh and toxic energy from other people. This card asks you to stop and call on El Morya and Archangel Michael to clear yourself..."

I do this! I know I do this. I am an energy sponge. I take on your anger, your anguish, your agitation. Sometimes I wind up exhausted by all of it.

Alexa gave me a lot of personal information in her explanation of the session.

One of the most interesting things was that she asked if my dad had been in the CIA. I said no. For a while we wondered, but ultimately determined that he wasn't a spy.

And she said that she saw him with dark cloud over him. She got the sense that he'd done some things he considered unforgivable, things he could never move past.

I know this to be true.

My Dad was in Vietnam during the war, setting up hospitals with USAID. He never recovered from whatever happened there. I don't know what happened, but I know he lost friends, and that he lived with an immense and haunting weight.

I now suspect he had undiagnosed and untreated PTSD.

After the session, I told my mom what Alexa said, and asked if she knew what happened with Dad. She looked crushed, and said she knew some of it, and couldn't tell me. It's too terrible, she said, to pass on.


Alexa said, "You took in some of that darkness to help him, to make him happier. But it's weighed you down." She got me to release this burden. The visual she gave was me vomiting up a whole bunch of twisty, viscous darkness.

This was one example.

She kept telling me things that resonated. Things I know, but don't talk about. Not because I'm trying to hide them, but because I don't think about them.

She told me what she observed, and how she guided me to (virtually) physically let go.

I look at it kind of like talk therapy, where your therapist identifies problems and asks you the right questions or talks you through issues, and you start to see things in a different way.

Except in this case, I see it as Alexa doing the work, or getting me to do the work, but without hours of therapy.

I've been trying to figure out how I feel different, and the best way I can describe it is lighter. When I saw her the first time, I was sick, and my head congestion cleared. That's an easy, tangible result.

This really is more like therapy, where eventually whatever was hurting hurts less and less. Something within you shifts, and you heal. Anyway, that's what I think.

When Nick asked what I was doing that morning, I said I was having a remote healing session with Alexa.

He said, "Oh."

And when he called afterward and I told him a bit about it, I could hear him rolling his eyes. So I said, "I hear you rolling your eyes." He admitted he was. "So," I said, "my next post is probably not for you."

You can believe or not believe, and I'm OK with that.

Me, I believe.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

To Dad, on your birthday

Dear Dad,

Today is your birthday. You've been gone almost eight and a half years.

When I forget how long it's been, I think of Jordan's age, and add three months. I initially wrote subtract, but I think I mean add. Because you left three months before he was born.

He turned eight in August.

He's amazing. He has to read in Spanish every night, and do math in Spanish. I know you'd happily do both with him. You'd love it. You'd love him so much.

And India, my India. She's charming and fabulous and enraging. She'd captivate you.

One day we were driving, and in a hurry. I was complaining about the car ahead of us. From the back seat she said, "I hope that guy in front of us keeps driving really slow."

I said, "What?"

And she said, "Like when we're on your bike and you say, 'Oh, I'm so GLAD that car is parked in the bike lane in front of us,' and you don't mean glad."

Oooh. She's five! Imagine.

We sometimes talk about ghosts, and I hope you are here with us.

Time is both straightforward and confusing and time is weird and time is an artificial construct but time is helpful. Eight years hurts less than five or six or seven.

But it still hurt. It still hurts.

You know this year I joined a team for my Overnight walk. I'm in the  discussion group on Facebook. Facebook wasn't much of a thing when you were still alive.

Anyway. People ask for support on birthdays, and on anniversaries.

One can have time and distance and understanding, and these dates still knock the wind out of a person. It's not just me.

I've learned that you have to respect that these days are significant, and they will be hard, and give yourself permission to grieve.

Mama turned 80 in September.

She was in the hospital three times this summer. I wanted to say "thrice" but I always get teased for the word. I don't remember if you teased me about it. You were more focused on my grammar. And my use of profanity.

Anyway, she kept losing blood and getting extremely anemic, to the point that she was having transfusions. This happened right before her birthday.

Sarah was in the US, and came to stay with us for a few days, and she came to Sibley with me. We asked the doctor if he couldn't just keep pumping Betty full of blood, like you fill up a gas tank.

Apparently it doesn't work like that. They haven't solved the problem but she's doing better now.

Leading up to her birthday, I asked her if she'd like to have a big party, to celebrate this milestone of 80. And she looked so sad.

She said, "Most of my people are gone."

I knew it, because I know who we've lost. I just hadn't thought about it this way.

When you add everyone up, it could be a grand ghost party. You'd be playing piano, like you did throughout my childhood, no matter the country.

You know all of this. Maybe you're all even hanging out. I hope you are.

I'm just saying it out loud because it makes me feel better.

So we planned a little dinner. And Shannon gifted Phil a bushel of crabs for his birthday, so we had a double party and he brought them. Do you know how huge a bushel of crabs is?

I didn't, but now I do. Boy, were the kids impressed with the crabs.

Meg and her family came over to celebrate. You don't know them, but you'd love them. You'd all  swap Peace Corps stories.

Jack is still going strong, and so is Donna. Sometimes Donna sends me snippets of memories. I love it. 

Connie told me Grandpa John had a sauna in the basement. I don't remember that. I do know I got my sauna pronunciation from them.

One of these days I'll go back to Duluth. I want to see my cousins. I want to see that bridge that lifts up, the one we used to stand under, and I was afraid it would come down on our heads.

And I want to see if I can find some of Aunt Jo's art.

The world feels very dark and scary right now. I don't trust that our government is working to keep us safe.

My kids have lock down drills at school, in case there's a shooter. This idea makes me so sad and angry and powerless all at the same time.

So many bad things have happened since you died.

You were already gone, but there was a terrible tsunami and earthquake in Japan, and thousands of people died. It was heartbreaking.

The year before, a man in that community had bought a phone booth and set it out in his garden, so that he could talk to his cousin, who had died. He called it the Wind Phone.

So people go there to talk to their lost loved ones.

I suppose I use these letters like a wind phone.

Japan is rather far. I wish there were one nearby. I'd drive a long distance for it. I thought about getting one, but it's not like we have a large, rambling, beautiful garden.

Nick would never go for a phone booth in our 3x5 outdoor patch of rose bushes.

Plus, it's DC. We might wind up with someone living in it. I wouldn't begrudge a homeless person a wind phone conversation, but I can't have one living in my rose bushes.

You'd happily talk to them, though. I know you would. You talked to everyone.

I love you and I miss you. I always will.

Happy birthday.



Monday, October 02, 2017

And now I'm not sure what to think about this

We have this pillow thing.

OK, not we. I. I have a pillow thing.

It turns out that I'm particular about pillows. Maybe it's congenital. My dad used to take his pillow when he traveled, and he traveled a lot.

He packed his pillow on one side of his brown hard-side Sampsonite. It was very flat, so didn't take up much room. I didn't really understand why you'd even take it, because it was almost like not having a pillow at all.

Now, thought I don't travel with mine, I get it.

We have king size pillows on our bed because Nick is enormous, although apparently just average in Texas, and we have a king size bed. So he bought us king size pillows.

And I'm a pillow smoosher. And this is impossible with such long pillows. So I also have a regular size pillow, soft, just the right softness, without being too flat.

If I were a dog, I would be one who inexplicably turns around like 500 times in the same spot just to get comfortable.

OK, so now let me be honest: I have three pillows. Two big ones because we had them, and then my regular sized one. I don't need three, but I do like two. Because I need to prop my small pillow up against a larger pillow so that it sits just right. The headboard is too slippery, and then it moves. It has to be a pillow.

I'm telling you. I used to be able to sleep soundly anywhere. On an overnight bus through the Andes. Piled into a single bed with friends. In a sleeping bag on wood slats with mice in the thatch overhead.

High maintenance annoys me, and yet I'm a picky sleeper. And sleep is one of my top priorities. This didn't used to be the case either.

Reality being such, inconvenient as it may be, these things are all true.


Nick, who has his own two pillows, insists he doesn't need three. But when he reads in bed, he takes my perfect pillow to prop himself up. And then by the time I'm ready to use it, it's all warm from his head.

Part of the pleasure of a pillow is the cool against your cheek. Who, I ask, wants a pre-warmed pillow? We've exchanged words about this a variety of times. He's agreed to use one of my big pillows, which I offer happily.

Last night while arranging my pillow menagerie, I accidentally elbowed Nick in the head.

He said, "OW!"

Followed with, "You whacked me right where my horn would be if I were a unicorn."

I was all, "I am so sorry!" And then, "But actually, your horn would be further down towards your forehead."

He rubbed the top of his head and said, "No. This is exactly where my horn would be."

We spent some time debating that, both certain we were correct.

And then we kissed and said goodnight.

It wasn't until I was almost asleep that I thought, "If I were a unicorn?"

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

My gift is my song. And this one's for you.

Dear Nick,

Today, nine years ago, we stood up and said simple vows in front of loving friends and family.

Growing up, I always thought I'd get married and then I'd be happy. Then again, as a kid who cried over having pale skin and jute-colored hair, surrounded by people with dark skin, dark eyes, and gleaming black hair, I also assumed I'd grow up to look like Barbie.

Or at least Teen Skipper, whose boobs grew when you twisted her arm.

You could say I lacked realistic expectations.

By the time we met, I'd had enough therapy to understand that if I wasn't happy, it was my own doing. No boyfriend or husband was going to magically make me happy.

My therapist came to the ceremony, wearing the scarf I'd given her as a thank-you gift. It felt perfect having her there.

So many friends came to support us, to offer us their love. My only regret from our wedding is that we didn't record it. Not us. I'm not interested in watching us get married.

It's the other people I want. What I'd most like to have is the part where people stood up and spoke as they felt moved to.
Many of those loved ones are no longer with us. My dad. Your dad. Your grandpa Irv. Lou. Pat. John Cool. Bill, our sham internet minister, and his wife Gouri.

Sometimes I feel like photos and memories are not enough. I long for voices. Why didn't I save even one voicemail from my dad? I save yours, just in case. Perhaps this is morbid and weird.

But our wedding. The people who stood and spoke, and shared what was in their hearts.

My friend Ann was the first to tell you she hoped you knew how lucky you were. I was shocked. This hadn't occurred to me, honestly. I felt lucky.

But you felt it. One friend told me later that when I said my vows, you flushed, and it was so clear how much you loved me, and how lucky you felt.

My friend Jane, California Jane, who scandalized Maude's mom with her choice of skimpy bridesmaid dress, stood up and said, "I told her! Marry the man with the boat!"
Marry the man with the boat!
As you know, your sailboat was not an enticement. Really, I was always a sucker for a man who looks conservative but is anything but, and for kindness, generosity, intelligence and a terrific sense of humor.

The picture up top is one of my favorites. One of the big reasons I chose you is because we laugh so much together.

I was grateful for the friends who stood up there with me, and glad that they wore whatever they felt comfortable in. As I recall, it was Philadelphia Jane who took on the duty of keeping California Jane's boobs appropriately covered by her dress as the night progressed.

I was so delighted to have people I love meet other people I love.

We exchanged rings, yours an engraved gold band, and mine my grandmother's wedding ring, the pattern faint after six decades of loving wear.

I wore my mom's wedding dress. You wore a tuxedo, and then changed into the gold paisley jacket your dad had passed on to you. You wanted to wear the gold jacket, and I was horrified by the idea. Now, it seems so silly caring so much.

It's just a day.

It's just a day, but it's a lucky day where you amass your loved ones. People say this only happens for weddings and funerals, and I have been reminded too many times of the truth of this.

Weddings are a far preferable place for this to happen.

You know, I wanted to wear my mom's wedding dress, because she and my grandmother had made it, and growing up, my Grandma Lillian was my favorite person on the planet. I believed she loved me more than anyone else ever did. It felt amazing to be that loved.

It feels amazing to be this loved. I hope you feel it, too.

Happy anniversary, Nick. I love you more than sunshine.