Thoughts while taking a shower: comparing, body image, Anorexia

It is so dumb.

I stood in the shower, and in that moment away from everything, what snuck into my relaxed brain space is the woman who always asks me how old I am. “Why does she do that?” I thought. “Why does it matter that every single time I see her she asks?” I am not kidding. She asks me every single time and then does this whole restate thing, “You are how old again?” I always answer to which she responds, “I am younger than you.” Why does it matter? And really, if I am going to point the finger at her, I had to wonder, “Why does it bother me?” Is it that she asks or, is it that whole incessant drilling-restate-comparing-each other bit? I do not like getting blindsided and sucked into the vortex where I am forced to compare, especially because before she reminded me that I was older than she is, our ages did not matter.

I stood there naked, my hair pulled back, hot water pounding my body, and in that moment of complete exposure and soothing relief, I could not stop thinking about her need to put me in a place juxtaposed to her.

Trying not to get my hair wet, yet thinking that this shower time was somehow therapeutic, my mind untethered, I let the ball roll.  It is not the big stuff that gets me. When I take a second to catch my breath, these trying-to-understand-why thoughts race into my quiet, years-of-therapy, and defenseless spaces. I promise. It is always worse with hormones [wink, wink].  Happy Day 1 to me! I am a rock when the world falls apart, but someone reminding, and reminding me how I stack up next to them is a conversation I hide from every single time. Fully immersed, I wondered, “why do women always seem so consumed with the exterior? Why do they base their worth on how they look next to another woman?” I thought about the other day in class. I pictured it. There I sat, and next to me sat the only other old lady [wink, wink] in class. She has six kids, which are her world. I know this because every single class period she looks at me and says, “my kids are very important to me. They are my world.” She also talks a lot about her hair. As I sat in class she up-and-down-glanced me, me, the one all-dressed-in-black-with-the-exception-of-my-very-bright-yellow-green-with-bright-pink-accents-tennis-shoes and said, “you don’t like to wear color, do you?” All I could think is, “why the hell does it matter, what a weird question, and why are you drawing attention to the color of my clothes?”  My response as I now noticed her black shoes, “maybe we are opposites.” Then and completely catching me off guard, she waited for me after class, “maybe she likes friends who feel less than, and if they don’t, she finds a way to get them there first,” I thought, and maybe women, women who seem to have it all, like six beautiful and very important children, really do not feel like they do, and how they find a moment of feeling better is to intentionally or unintentionally size us up.

Between rinsing off the soap and deciding if I should use the yummy-smelling shower gel (of course I did) these comparing-oneself-to-others thoughts were making me feel a little anxious so I did what these kind of thoughts make me do and jumped right into the obvious correlating issue: the female body image.

I remembered the extremely thin woman I saw at Starbucks the other day. She was so out-of-place frail that I cannot forget where I was when our paths crossed.  I thought about all the people I know who struggle with eating issues.  Society can be such a bitch to us women.  Then I thought about the one eating issue I have never quite understood: Anorexia.  Being a person who desperately wants to understand, I often stop here when it comes to food issues, body image, and why. I understand over eating. I understand looking in the mirror and hating what I see. I have never understood why women starve or exercise themselves into emaciated, slow death.  I remember the girl in high school. She wasn’t the most popular, but certainly not the least.  She was smart, kind and started at an acceptable and very average weight.  I remember watching the positive attention she initially received as the pounds came off, and also watched the positive attention fade right along with her size, until eventually she was hospitalized, nearly dying because she would not eat. Why? She was beautiful. Why was her brain making her do this?

It is crazy.  We all know the women, the women who have gone too far, and because Anorexia is a disease where body-image-perception is severely distorted, the diseased person cannot see how distorted they have become, and if they do, they cannot stop, and if they do, they replace weight loss with another thing they must control, at least, that is what I have been told.  I had a friend who struggled with Anorexia tell me something about the unhealthy relationship with food, and the power it had over her, and it is about letting go of that power. Because really thin people are obvious to our human eye, Anorexia is an easy way to see life off balance. We know the women with faces covered in the eating-disorder-indicative-downy-fur, baggy clothes, especially when you know they were exercising from sun up to sun down. I recently saw one of those women at the grocery store and all I wanted to do is offer her a granola bar. I knew it wouldn’t help.  I felt really sad and wanted to ask her, “why are you doing this to yourself?”

Oddly there are even moments I wish I had the competitive genetic, focus behaviors and drive that seems to accompany the Anorexic. Many Anorexics I know push themselves to the highest level of success.  The competitive insecurity that seems to walk hand in hand with that particular eating disorder is something that not only breaks my heart, is also an essential driving force, which can bring a person to the heights of great achievement. Even when “cured,” I have watched a severe eating disorder morph into some sort of other competition, comparing-one-self-to-another-disorder. I think it is harder to see the life off balance when someone being-too-thin is not the issue.

Maybe I sound super insensitive, or just super dumb.  In truth, and like I have mentioned, I have mountains of compassion for anyone who struggles with body image, addiction or any comparing-oneself-to-another issue.  I know the soul crushing pain of feeling less than and I would not wish that suffocating space on anyone.  And in the interest of full disclosure, it is true. When I was fifteen I binge ate and barfed for a time. Not often, but often enough for me to think it is worth mentioning here. Thank God for my ADD-ness, because I lost interest very quickly and moved on.  It took one person to say, “stop doing that,” and I was done. I feel lucky. Seriously.  I know I am. I am grateful that my own biological switch was not completely turned that way.

Even now I am not sure what to do when I watch loved binge eat a bag of Skittles, or watch others count every single calorie they consume, some going as far as to drink alcohol solely based on its calorie content, or walking around with a bag of carrots at-all-times just in case of the temptation to cheat.  It bothers me when friends ask me about the weight I want to lose when I have not thought about it myself, and it confounds me when I see a friend get their weight under control only to move to another competitive, obsessive issue. I want to remind them that they are good enough with their beautiful families, their beautiful parenting, their fame, their accomplishments, and every other awesome part of them. And this is where I think all that comparing stuff fits right back in, and if I sit back long enough, let the warm water calm me, I actually see it is not me, and really how self-centered to ever think it was? I do not know if it is even them? I think it is their biology, and the control that biology has over their soul.

Maybe that is it. The crazy part about that all-consuming body image issue, and the obsessive issues it can morph into (like competitions, excessive righteousness, being number one), is its power. The woman, who keeps asking, really does not care how old I am; she cares that she is getting old.  The woman in class does not mind that I wear a lot of black; she is worried that she is wearing too much color.  I have known many Anorexics, and simply people terribly off balance (which I have been myself – off balance, that is), and I think it is incredibly hard to see past the pain of them — what a shitty card to have been dealt.



Our Crazy Kind of Love

Dave & I at The Head & The Heart concert
Dave & I at The Head & The Heart concert


Dave’s full-time, every single week San Francisco commute is wearing thin on all of us. We are away more than together. The intimacy and nuance my best friend and I share becomes increasingly clumsy each time Dave takes flight. In an effort to keep us connected I have declared (awesome wife award) that we must have “mommy and daddy time” (wink wink) every time Dave is home, and in truth, we need to have “mommy and daddy time” at least twice while he is here. Dave and I get it. We got it last weekend.

We know that when he is gone, we reconfigure. We talk all the time. We text. We Skype. We connect.  We work on being a family. Dave knows how the boys are doing in school.  He knows Kyle loves Art, his friends, and is struggling to communicate his teenage boys plans. Dave nearly missed Monday’s outbound flight. He was delayed making Eli’s Halloween Costume Accessory, a (fake plastic) crow bar.  Eli was a Zombie Apocalypse Survivor. And like the owner of Thai Lotus Salt Lake City responded when asking what Eli was for Halloween, “Oh, he is Brad Pitt. Brad Pitt in World War Z.”  Exactly.

We didn’t make it to the store. We never went out on a date, and there I sat. Heaving sobs, I was heaving sobs. I choked. I coughed, and as the tears flooded my eyes, I could not catch my breath.  It was cold, dark, and with each earned tear, the windows fogged thicker and thicker. My heart feeling fractured as my head leaned toward the steering wheel.  I was lost, and from the passenger seat Dave reached over, gently putting his warm hand on my shoulder. Quietly, he listened.

I screamed.

A beating heart, his beating heart, sitting next to me is what I needed.  Dave understood. I know.  I know it sounds so Nicholas-Sparks-The-Notebook; a story of tragedy turned to triumph, a tale of a husband sitting quietly listening to his wife, all the while understanding exactly what she is saying, yes, understanding every single word.  Dave must be perfect. Our marriage must be painless.  What Dave’s weekly commute has made so clear is that marriage is not for the faint at heart. It’s not easy, and our marriage is no different.  Distance confounds. When we chose to check out, when we coast, when we put our love on autopilot, or when we point a finger away from our own responsibility, we struggle, we fade, and we always have to fight hard to get it back.

Our love is a house with additions, renovations, and remodels.  Like we are doing now, we dig deeper during those times when we need to pull it back to the place where we are a home.

Thank you Nicholas Sparks. I admit it. Your movies, even as low as they rate on Rotten Tomatoes, get me each and every time.  I cried when what’s-her-name, you know, that one actress, leapt into the incredibly handsome Ryan Gosling’s strong, manly, gorgeous, and most loving arms. If only that was us.  Please know I am only kidding.  In truth, what we are something that is not conveniently wrapped up and tied together in a two hour Romantic-Drama.  What we are is a song. Dave and I have always been a song. We are a tenacious, well-worn, and heartfelt melody. If you want to know, our groovy kind of love has always been songs like say the get-you-in-the-mood, college-student-classic, “A Case of You,” track nine of, Joni Mitchell’s, “Blue,” or Dave may say and I would have to agree that Crowded House’s, “Better Be Home Soon,” is a pretty good fit. In this very moment I would say we are Mumford and Sons, “Not With Haste.” Maybe it is our song, because it happens to be the song that is playing now. The lyrics are good and I am easy like that.

As I often do, I digress, and the more I think about it, once I introduce this what-is-the-song-of-us song dilemma to him, I know he, like me, will take pause, think, then we will together dissect and peel apart every single lyric we know from the beginning of time up until now. I know we will.  Eventually landing on, because that is where I touched down today, the Smiths, “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out,” and knowing us, I am sure you would agree (even if you have never heard it before) that this Morrissey-sung-classic fits us like a glove:

“And if a double-decker bus
Crashes into us
To die by your side
Is such a heavenly way to die
And if a ten ton truck
Kills the both of us
To die by your side
Well the pleasure, the privilege is mine…”

As we stood next to the waterfall after climbing down all of those steps, those steep, wet, steps, Dave grabbed me close, wrapping his arms around me tight like we were already there, like we were already what we would become, married, and in love.  I think we both knew then that we would find a way to be each other’s one and only.  I was crazy flattered that he understood and found my sense of humor delightful. “You are funny.” He would smile and say, as we hiked back, to which I would respond, “You mean funny looking.”  Back and forth we would laugh and tease, “No, not funny looking, funny.”  I knew Dave would be the man who would hold my heart.

Years later and I think I have mentioned this before, well, years later when Kyle was a toddler, and Eli was in my tummy, we went back to that place, the Grand Canyon of  the Yellowstone Lower Waterfall. We were visiting Yellowstone with Dave’s parents, sister, brother and their spouses. I think Dave and I were the only ones with kid (not kids) and that kid was Kyle. As much as we love Dave’s family and as awesome as it is to ponder, deconstruct and gaze at the intricate architectural details of the Old Faithful Lodge, when we needed a break, (and yes, we needed a break), using our love story in the very best of ways, Dave asked his Mom, “this is the place where we fell in love, would you mind if we take the day to ourselves,” and off we went.

Never voicing those feelings out loud, I took him at this word, or better, was grateful Dave devised a great excuse for us to take a break. We didn’t even make it down those wet steps. It was not until the summer of 2012 when we made it back. Kyle was too sick to walk down the stairs so Eli raced his friends Collin and Miles, and then raced them back up. Their father, Doug, spoke German to some Germans, and took our photo as Dave held me there. I like going there. I like being reminded.  I like the re-set this spot seems to offer.

In this year of commutes and being a part I remember these moments. I think of the times Dave holds me close. I know he gets me. I know he feels my heart.  I think of the hospital. I think of our terribly ill son.  Kyle had been in the hospital for a few days already. Dave had been out of town on business. It was hard to have him gone. He walked into Kyle’s dark, quiet, and scared hospital room. When I saw his face, my heart lifted.  He pulled a chair up to Kyle’s bedside. We sat together, Dave’s hand on my thigh. Silently and together our tears fell. Kyle was disfigured and in so much pain. We were in over our heads and completely confused. At that point we were not sure Kyle would live. Years before we had been in a bad car accident. Our car was two months old. We were broadside. I was hurt.  I was lying there in the ER and strapped to a board. Before they took x-rays a nurse asked me if I was pregnant. “Of course not.” I said. They insisted and oh Thank God they did.  When the doctor came in and announced, “guess what? You are having a baby!” We looked at each other and both burst into tears. “How on Earth?” And just like he did then, Dave sat by my side and held my hand as my fertility doctor teared up, pointing at the ultrasound monitor, and said, “there is no heartbeat.”  Each time I lost a baby. Each time I gave birth. Every time I am sad or broken hearted, Dave reaches out his hand. He is always there.

That is what I love about Dave. In these quiet, desperate moments his warm strength is loud, his tears are strong and he always, always reaches out. I am not alone.  And maybe that is what is hardest about having him gone. As often as I can see his face, or call him on the phone, I cannot hold his hand.

Last weekend when Dave was here, like I mentioned I cried.  Sitting in the car together, I cried a lot.  We are both tired, both stretched. This is the world most of us seem to be living in.  Last weekend, with our familiarity rusty we jumped to unnecessary conclusion after unnecessary conclusion. I was not mad. I was frustrated, yet there was something about having his hand on my shoulder. We were in this moment together, and he cried too.

Through My Fingers

We just finished listening to Lois Lowry’s, The Messenger, the third novel in her loosely woven book series. Many of you might know her as the author of The Giver, a brilliant, bleak, and hopeful dystopian novel, which explores the familiar oppressive, what-happens-after-societies-collapse themes of that genre.   I love thinker books like these. Eli’s class is currently reading it, and he is proudly one of four kids who has already read the book. “Mom, it is still interesting the second time around.” He tells me as we drive the long, straight road between his and Kyle’s schools. “I bet it is.” I say.

And as I think about it now and thought about it then, my guess is that by the time your son or daughter reaches Middle School they have probably read The Giver too.  Kyle read it first, then Dave, followed by Eli with me picking it up and handing it over every time someone else wanted to read. I love this speculative story of a juxtaposed world where there is complete, controlled harmony, you do the specific job you were born to do, yet no one can see color, that is, until Jonas, the protagonist, sees the red of an apple. Eventually I finished, and the book left me wanting more.  For a few days I Googled and Wikipedia’d everything I could find.  I was obsessed. I was grateful Jonas was free of the oppression, and needed to know,  “where did Jonas go?”

Actually, we all loved The Giver, and as time passes, comparing our day-to-day to its worlds-forever-changed themes brings us back, deconstructing all of its creepy little bits. Ok. I swear I am not trying to write a book review, or better, a book report here.  And because The Giver is universally loved in this Adams Family, when we were at the library the other day, and because I knew we were hitting the road, I decided to check out another something I hoped we would all enjoy. Banking on our Dune-meets-Fablehaven love, I checked out the next two Lois Lowry books on c.d. Gathering Blue was almost as good, and The Messenger was way too short, seemed to be the darkest of the three, and made my throat swell with achy sadness as it ended. Spoiler Alert: Yes, someone dies at the end, and yes, we are all completely annoyed.

Ok so why am I mentioning this book today? It actually connects to an interview I was listening to on NPR this morning. Diane Rehm was interviewing the author of, The Great Santini, Pat Conroy.  His book (which was made into a movie starring Robert Duvall) is loosely based on Pat Conroy’s can’t-help-loving, successful, yet extremely strict and abusive Marine father. As I listened to him tell Diane Rehm about his flight into Washington DC that day, he said, “Diane, I remember it all. I remember where I was standing and how I protected my family from our father. As we flew over Alexandria, Fairfax, and all the places we lived, I remember exactly where I was.”

“I don’t.”

That is what I thought. I do not remember. I cannot see where I was standing. Sure, I can see very distinct bits and pieces.  Like me standing there,  freezing on a cold morning. I was standing outside my grandfather’s car, parked alongside Lake Mil Lacs in Northern Minnesota. I stood there firmly yelling at my grandpa, watching him move his little black and white television with a metal coat hanger shoved into the antenna spot from the back to the front seat.  Next I can see myself unwillingly hidden in a sea of hanging Persian Rugs. Why did I go with my stepsisters to the Minnesota Museum of Art? Why did I go with those crazy old people, strangers my sisters called their grandparents? I was lost and I wanted to go home.  I can see the nurse tell Dave, “You have to decide which of her organs to donate.” To her I was invisible. She did not know I could hear her every word.  I have blocked out a lot. That is what I do. What I haven’t blocked out I have been asked not to say. I totally get it.  I know my childhood was intense. I know my life has been nuts, and as Dave often says, “You do not have to make things up. You do not need to borrow, steal, misappropriate, or even exaggerate your own story. Your life is crazy, full of tragedy and heartache, interesting, and stands all by itself.” And then I think, “thank God I am still here. I am happy to be here. I kept getting back up.  How did I get back up?”  And I think, “Thank God my insides are filled with these truths and I do not have to reach outside, stealing or better, justifying, my use of “Creative License” to make you think more.”  I do not have to cheat my life to make you read, and for that, I am grateful!

As I pulled into our driveway, I continued to listen. I listened as Pat Conroy told the lovely and distinctive-voiced Diane Rehm how he was able to heal his relationship with his own father.  It took years, and it took telling his story out loud. He kept talking about his mom and how they had a plan. “We had shifts. We were always on the look out for my dad, protecting each other and my younger brothers and sisters.” He talked about the ability to tell his story.  I love the lack of shame in his words. This was simply his life. I thought about his freedom to tell the truth. And with my hands tied and PTSD-induced memory blocked, I thought, maybe I am more like Lois Lowry than Pat Conroy.  Meaning maybe I need to go more with obscure tales of distant worlds, painting scenes filled with obscure characters, characters created with fragments of my haunted and tender past.  Wait. I just do not buy it. Sure, Dystopian themes can safely teach us all to reflect and do better, and I actually think it would be easier and much less pain inflicting to write my own end-of-the-world tale rather than trying to un-puzzle this puzzle.

Clearly I can see the painted brown left side garage frame and the bright orange and yellow autumn leaves wrapped around the bushes.  This is where I was as I drove the car mid way between the driveway and  inside the garage. This is what I thought, “maybe the Dystopian Societies we think are bleak, scary, prophetic, safe to write about, and far in the future are actually my now.”

That is why I thought of Gathering Blue. See, in Gathering Blue and The Messenger there was a character named, Kira.  She was born with a deformed leg. Her father (supposedly) died and was then left in the field, a place where Kira’s society leaves the weak, disabled, and where the beasts will get you. Because of her mother’s strength, Kira was allowed to stay in the community. Sadly, however, when Kira was still quite young, her mother died of a sudden, terrible illness.  When Kira’s mother died, women of her community burned down her home, stole her belongings (I know. How crappy!) and wanted Kira sent to the field. Instead, and because of her gift, Kira was allowed to stay.

It may or may not help to know that all the main characters in the Lois Lowry books appear to have special gifts. Jonas, in The Giver, is able to see beyond, and Kira’s gift allows her to see the past and future through the weaving (needlepoint). Through her fingers, she is able to weave the future. She is allowed to stay in her community because the leaders of the society need her to mend and update the robe that shows the history and future of the society. Nearly done with this post I keep thinking that maybe these kinds of books are not your cup of tea. Bear with me. I promise a connection.  As a mother of two boys and a Post-Apocalyptic-Novel loving husband, however, these are the books we read. My hope is that somehow it is all making sense.  With my mouth protective and taped shut, like Kira, my memories also come through my fingers. Crazy and coincidentally-dramatic as it may sound, I swear it is true. I wonder if it is the same for Lois Lowry.

For a non-Dystopian-teenage-novel example, I will tell you that right this moment you could be sitting next to me at Starbucks. And as I type this post you could ask me, “Hey, Beth, what was the craziest thing that happened to you as a kid?” You could ask me, “Tell me about Kyle’s illness.” I promise you I would hesitate, I would falter. My face would read blank.  I would give you short answers like, “It sucked,” or, “there was the time my sister and brother let us melt color crayons onto glass pop bottles over the stove when my parents were gone. Guess what?  We almost burned the house down! You should have seen the flames coming off of the stove!” I promise I would tell you what may sound crazy, but was definitely safe.  As I tried to articulate Kyle’s story, I promise I would not want to impose the fear I felt as I watched him face death. It’s not that I am afraid of my words. I love my stories. I struggle to know how to write them without hurt or imposition. When you ask, it may seem weird, yet I really cannot speak them. I can ask you about yours. I love to hear yours.

And as I learned about Kira and her weaving gift, I did think of myself, every single time I sit myself in front of this computer screen, write down every deep, dark, hard and painful word. The words flow, bleeding out. They come as along as my fingers tap away on the keys. Moments forgotten catch their breath and leap through my hands. I often go back and read so I can remember too.  I am grateful. Seriously, I am grateful, I think my gift or my defect lets all of this stuff find its way out, especially when I do not feel like I have permission to say them out loud.
After writing this post Dave and I talked. Then I cried. I cried so hard my tears took my breath away.  He reminded me of something one of our favorite writers, Anne Lamott, once said. I looked it up, and here it is:

“You can’t find your true voice and peer behind the door and report honestly and clearly to us if your parents are reading over your shoulder. They are probably the ones who told you not to open that door in the first place. You can tell if you they’re there because a small voice will say, ‘Oh, whoops, don’t say that, that’s a secret,’ or ‘That’s a bad work,’ or ‘Don’t tell anyone you jack off. They’ll all start doing it.’ So you have to breathe or pray or do therapy to send them away. Write as if your parents are dead.”

–Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life



Dark Friday

Big Daddy & I
Big Daddy & I


Truth is I am not feeling dark, unless that is, you consider the acid-reflux-filled stomach monster that kept me tossing, turning and praying for an exorcism ALL NIGHT LONG, all night.  I think it was the chili. And now unable to stop my head bobbing and my toe tapping, I take my Dark Friday post the long way round (great Ewan-McGregor-Reality-Motorcycle-television-show, by the way, and yes, it is indeed called, “The Long Way Round”).  Well, as I digress, I sing, and in truth, I also imagine a sexy Ewan, and his lovely friend Charley Boorman, riding their motorcycles and singing with me. I cannot resist, and continue singing this beloved 1980’s Lionel Ritchie classic quietly (of course) while Dave and I sit in a Starbucks.  “Well, my friends, the time has come, to raise the roof and have some fun, throw away the work to be done, let the music play on….play on, play on, play on…all night long. All night.” Come on. Sing it. Sing with me.

Do you know it? I will not assume you do. If not, may I suggest you Google this lovely treat, and know as you do that I am singing it too.

Back on track, back in my acid-reflux-praying-for-an-exorcism haze, it was now 2:00 a.m. and as Dave made his way into our room, then the bathroom, and then onto the toilet, all I could think is, “Dave, come back! I can’t get up. I need you. I need you to go back down to the kitchen and get me a chewable Pepcid (best stomach settler ever, btw)!”

Instead finished his business, washed his hands, and then took the full, recommended time to brush his teeth, and I am certain he flossed too, damn it!  Writhing in pain, never have I wanted this man so badly and no, it did not occur to me that I could simply get the Pepcid myself. About and hour or so later (in truth, about five minutes) Dave made his way to our bed. “Please oh please Dave, before you climb in our warm and cozy bed, will you please go get me a Pepcid?”

And he did.

Dark Friday? As pukey, grumpy, shrill, and dark as I was this morning, dark is not where I am now. My guess is that even though he totally got on my nerves earlier, I feel light, because Dave is home. I am grateful. Not all of my moments are light, and I promise now that I will paint true. I promise I will not apply the Polyurethane on too generously or hide away my sorrow under a massive and glossy sheen. My guess is that when most of us chip away at our carefully crafted self-presentations, we are filled with both brilliant light and scary dark.  We are really duct tape together pieces of who we think we need to be and who we are.

I know when I write, people respond most often to the dark, and through my words I have been able to reach that place I have always been afraid to touch.  I am also glad that dark is not usually how I spend my boring day-to-day.  That being said, I love to write dark. I don’t mind the weepy melancholy. I don’t mind the bat-shit-crazy fear. I like the rush, and it probably makes me a little weird, right? Oh well.  I love that when I write the dark, hands break through, encouraging comments seep in, and somehow me through the tunnel.  Thank you for that.

I think about navigating our way through the dark, and finding the door, I think about all the stuff. I think about all the garbage, the scary tragedies, the suicides, thoughts of suicide, the abusive wives, the passive husbands, the mean stupid mean girls (yes, I intentionally used the word meant twice), the Botox, the bullies (who really do come in all shapes, ages and sizes), the I-am-better-than yous, the eating disorders, the drunk drivers who kill our babies, their meth addicted mothers, and alcoholic grandmothers. I think about the devastating and unexpected illnesses, the houses taking forever to sell, the husband who works far away, the caustic, selfish divorces, the job losses, and all the other things that make us grow stronger, or kill us, right?  Ouch!

And as I think I have spent a lot of time thinking about why our various veneers vary in thickness, a tongue twister indeed. Try saying Irish wristwatch ten times fast.  Irish wristwatch. Irish wristwatch…I think most of us are aware of the fact that we are currently living in a world where our insides do not always match our outsides; and my guess is that some of us think our insides are so horrible that we paint our outside walls into a fortress.  We make great effort to keep our walls secure, and because we do, I think a lot about transparency. And by this I mean the ability to find our way out of the dark while not hiding the fact that we were there.  Sure, I see the need for a strong foundation, yet wonder why we can’t install a few windows? Are our insides really that bad?  And maybe if we could let people see in, they would see that their insides are filled with a beating heart, lungs filled with air, and a healthy digestive system (nod to my achy stomach). Maybe we would all see that our own insides are not that ugly either, you know what I mean? I know you do. We don’t have to be a bitch about our bad day, do we have to always pretend everything is ok?

How can we be ourselves while not scaring the crap out of everyone around us? How do we wear our truth? How can we make our dark shine brighter than our light?




The Duct Tape That Holds My Mouth Shut



And being silenced by a particular culture… That’s the whole point of corporate religion. Get the people so compliant that they don’t even feel free to express opinions.”

 — Anonymous

There is a cost, and because I cannot keep my mouth shut much longer, it is bursting at the seams or better, frothing, ready to explode, I know the risk I take is that I will lose readers, and I am sure I will lose friends.

In 1972, United States Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall explained:

[A]bove all else, the First Amendment means that government has no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter, or its content.

(Unfortunately, other organizations we may belong to have no such constraints)

[Citation.] To permit the continued building of our politics and culture, and to assure self-fulfillment for each individual, our people are guaranteed the right to express any thought, free from government censorship. The essence of this forbidden censorship is content control. Any restriction on expressive activity because of its content would completely undercut the ‘profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.”

I see Dave. He is in a tiny Skype video box in the upper right hand corner of my laptop screen. The image super pixelated does not matter.  I tell him he looks handsome, well, first I said,  “hanFsome,” then immediately correct myself, “handsome.” As his mouth opens and closes, his hands move, waving fervently in the air.  Vigorously, he rubs his eyes.

He is in a meeting.

A few minutes ago I messaged him, “Sitting in Starbucks and wanted to see your face.”

Moments later a video screen pops open and I see the chat line below, “You can look at me while I talk to other people.”

That’s all I needed. I needed to see Dave.

In a world filled with “corporate religions”, scary government shut-downs, National Parks desperate to re-open, State Senators using the National Park shutdowns for their own political gain (publicity stunts), Mormon Apostles who edit (after the fact) their televised sermons, Mormon Progressives who speak, but not always for me, sons who ask if prisoners will run free, (because no one in the government is working, right?), Tea Parties, Republicans, Democrats, Organizations, depression, affairs, mental illness, and every other thing that I don’t feel safe discussing out loud, it is nice to see Dave.  Yes, Dave is my person, and even though I have a person, no one speaks for me. While I can, I need to use my voice.

This morning I stayed in town after dropping the boys off. I made some phone calls, wrote a few emails, and ended up getting a green tea at my favorite Starbucks. As I sit here with the sun warming me through the window, I think.  Then I realize that no matter who I am talking to or what I am doing I cannot not stop thinking about the paralyzing divide. No one agrees, yet anything anyone says does not seem to matter, is not articulated well, or better, no one wants to hear it. I am not just talking politics.

ThenI think about last night.

My lovely mother-in-law is visiting. She is smart, well-educated, well read, has lived on the East Coast since the beginning of time, she’s recently retired after teaching for forty years as a college English professor, (yes, forty years). She attends two monthly book clubs and attends church each week.

Dave is in San Francisco, like he always is during the week, so last night after the boys were in bed, it was just DeAnne and me, (yes, that is my mother-in-law’s name and yes, that is what she has asked me to call her).

As the words, “Obama ruined the economy,” left her lips, I firmly responded with the same imaginary-placement-of-duct tape-over-my-mouth, worked out and prepackaged response I give my own sweet mom, and really, anyone my differing opinions will hurt, “Let’s not talk politics or [insert any other hot button issue here, like religion]. I love you, and I think that nothing I have to say will contribute to a productive conversation. I’m sure any information I share will only prove to reinforce your strongly held beliefs. And really, do you think anything I have to say will change how you feel?”

Nevertheless, she persisted; I took the bait, and said something about the economy being a mess long before Obama. Her entire affect changed as I watched her wheels churn.  Her claws come out, subtly, but they were there.  Exactly what I did not want to happen. I was mad at myself. “Next time I will cover my mouth with two pieces of duct tape.” I thought.

I continued, “DeAnne, I respect what you believe. I want to defend my position and see that by doing that I will only reinforce your own, or worse, I will upset you, (come on, I was talking to my mother-in-law, the last person I want to upset). Both of us will feel unsatisfied, and I do not think it is not worth it. We believe what we believe. You feel good about your information and position.  I respect that. I feel solid in mine. I do not think we will change each other, and I do not want to fight.”

Like I said, she is smart and she is also gracious.  Still sensing her need to speak, I offered, “I am sure I have unintentionally hurt you more often than I would like to know, why would I knowingly hurt you now?” After a few more Obama-ruined-our-world questions, she stopped talking, probably because I would not budge. See, by then I had super glued my mouth shut.

And if we all think about it, you know my mother-in-law and I love and respect each other even if we do not see eye to eye. We both laughed as we talked about Dave and his brother: “how could they be so far apart?” We talked about their Facebook discussions, or, whatever you call them, and we laughed again as we remembered what one of our friends posted, “Remember that time when someone changed their political views because of what someone else said on Facebook? Oh right, me neither.”

Irony? Yes, an infinite amount. I will tell you why, or at least why I think it is.  In our world of Free Speech and no censorship, in a country where you can say what you want, these very seem freedoms are being used to control how we feel.

Forgive me for being didactic. It seems to be a world of the twenty-four hour news cycle, where news comes faster online making a newspaper and reading it over coffee and toast obsolete.  It is a world of fast mis-quotes, even faster retractions, and truth adjustments.  It is a world where we hide behind our computer screens filling websites and forums with our faceless cruel comments; comments we would never say to our mother-in-law’s face. And it is a world where we publicize our every waking breath, selfie-ing our way through the day, letting people know what we are eating, what we are doing, what we like, what we see, and it is the same world where we intentionally go to web sites, asking people what they think, only to weep alone as we read the answers that shatter our heart. “You are fat. Why don’t you kill yourself!”

I see a world that is completely off balance. No. I am not immune. The balance of communication and pure human connections has been defiled, perverted, and beaten away. Why on earth would we think our political leaders could stop long enough to think and work it out?

In this world where we seem to expose every single bit, we are more closed, more paranoid, and more steadfast. We  isolate and surround ourselves with people who think just like us.  We will not yield. We do not listen.  Freedom of Speech, what is that? Saying what I have to say, well, I don’t know how to muddle my way through all of this to even think my words will matter or possibly do some good.

And in this moment I have no idea how this country of ours will even begin to heal. In this moment we are so consumed with our speech that we have lost the ability to listen. In this moment, things like discussions of religion and politics are the pale to our self-consumed and self-inflicted broken hearts.



[Citations: Freedom of Speech Quote linked to and from, ^ Police Dept. of Chicago v. Mosley, 408 U.S. 92 (1972).

The Wonders of Mod Podge

Kyle's "injury"
Kyle’s “injury”

As Kyle covers his arm in “Stage Makeup”:  various colored Sharpies, Dollar Store watercolors, toilet paper, and Mod Podge, he begins to explain the wonders of this great glue.

“Mom, it is crazy! I cover my arm with Mod Podge, let it dry, then do all of this stuff to my arm using paint, tissue paper, Sharpies, and whatever else I can find (and by whatever else he can find Kyle literally means, “If I think a discarded Band-Aid, an apple slice or a single staple would add to the whole effect, I will incorporate all of them.”)

He continues, “Then, after it all dries, I apply another coat of Mod Podge.  See,” he says while pointing at the horrific wound he just created, resisting the urge to pull it off, “I can just pull it right off. Mom, this stuff is awesome!”

“Kyle it is!” I quickly exclaim as I study his amazing masterpiece, and I continue, not before letting him know how utterly fantastic his work of art really is. “Kyle, your arm rocks! It looks so real.”

“Right?” He answers followed by an, “I can’t wait to post a picture for my friends to see. I wonder how long it will take for them to figure out that it is not real. And Eli, please do not tell!”

Eli laughs, “When are you going to tell them?”

“Tomorrow. I will tell the tomorrow.” He did not tell them tomorrow. The next day a few of his friends figured it out. Go friends!

Before Kyle and now Eli run off to post an Instagram photo (ok, yes, my boys are on Instagram, yes, we insist both of their accounts are private, and yes, we have the password), well, before they can escape, I feel the need to give a little Mod Podge History, because who wouldn’t?

“Kyle, I cannot believe what you did with Mod Podge. Really.” I exclaim.

“Mom, I learned it in Art. We do it all the time.” Kyle responded as Eli snuck away.

And by,  “all the time,” I am not sure if he meant that he used Mod Podge to fill the dead spaces or that his teacher is actually teaching the class about stage make-up. I tried to find out, and what I inferred is that Mod Podge creations are something to do to kill time. Nevertheless, Kyle is using his Mod-Podge skills in art class, and I really cannot think of a better place or better way to create. Go Kyle!

We were engaged, in conversation that is, which was awesome considering that I have both a tween and a teen (kids these days [wink, wink]), and also considering what happened earlier this week. See, Eli had to be at school an hour and a half early for play practice. (I know. I think it is nuts too). Anyway, the first day after dropping Eli off, Kyle and I went to breakfast, were very tired, did not have a lot to say, and were eventually distracted by our phones (yes, both of my boys also have phones. Judge or don’t judge. Both boys go to schools far away, and I worry, or that is the answer I give myself).

The next day when Eli told us he had early play practice again, I jokingly said, “Eli, you are really going to do that to us?  We go to breakfast and have nothing to say to each other? Teenagers! Well, if you are going to go to play practice please, please prepare note cards filled with questions we can ask each other.

”Kyle joined in and said, “Yes, Eli. We need conversations starters. I do not have anything to say to Mom.”

“Well, what would I write?” Eli played along.

“You could make various cards with questions like what is your favorite color?” I said.

We couldn’t keep a straight face, and also realized that as the boys get older, and their friends and phones seem way more interesting, sometimes this mom has to dig deep to make a connection.

Back in the kitchen with Eli long gone, and Kyle appearing interested (at least entertaining his crazy mom) in the origins of this amazing glue I said,  “You see, Kyle, in my mind Mod Podge has always been used for lady-craft things, and in my mind Mod Podge has a long and glorious history starting with the lady at church; the lady who made what seemed like billions of plaster plaques, using her various plaster molds, to which she would affix an inspirational quote or family photo to with that same glorious Mod Podge.”

We both laughed as I explained, “She moved from plaster-molded-plaques to pre-cut wood plaques, and then everyone at church (like the Cake Pop or put-a-bird-on-it-and-call-it-art trends of today) seemed obsessed, making those same Mod-Podge-covered-Plaques, each plaque more glorious then the previous. It was a movement. And what I think is really interesting is that Mod Podge went from the stuff you use to affix and protect your Spiritual Plagues to being the main ingredient for your Monster Makeup.  Very cool.”

“Yes, it is.” Kyle concurred, and now more eager to take his crazy-scary-wound pictures, we both agreed that our Mod-Podge-History deserved a CrazyUs post, he was on his way only  after saying, “Mom, will you write about Mod Podge,” both laughing more, “I think you should.”

Kyle's "injury"
Kyle’s “injury”

So here I am, fulfilling a promise to my son.  I’ve already told you most of it.  Mod Podge is awesome. That is the most important thing. It has been around since 1967, and has roots in Decoupage, which is the of decorating an object by gluing colored paper cutouts onto it in combination with special paint effects, gold leaf and so on, (thank you Wikipedia), and the decoupage technique has been around for hundreds of years.  Don’t worry, I have no intentions of presenting you with a complete Mod Podge research paper, even though it could be quite interesting [wink wink]. What I will tell you that you probably already know is that basically Mod Podge is glue, yet not Elmer’s Glue. It has special properties because it is both a glue and a sealer, and apparently a key ingredient for stage make-up, at least Kyle’s brand. I could get all kitchy here end with a lovely glue metaphor, telling you how time, experience, love, creativity, family are what really stick us all together, but I will spare you that.

Instead, I am stuck. Literally, I cannot figure out how to end except to tell you that now all I can think about is Macramé. Thank you late 1970’s-early1980’s crafts. Etsy, you have no idea what you are missing, wait, or do you?

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