Just Another Day

Posted on August 5, 2019

Saturday I needed to run to the grocery store, news had just broken about the shooting at Walmart in El Paso. Sean wasn’t home, and I told the girls they could hang back if they helped me with the bags when I got home. I listened to reports on the radio as I drove.

I was upset that while this rocked me, I wasn’t numb like I’ve been after other shootings. I was sad, but my world didn’t stop. As I walked through the aisles at the grocery store, I wondered quietly about safety—my whiteness, not shopping at a WalMart, leaving the girls at home.

Walking back to my car and seeing bumper stickers intended to divide and incite, I knew that no amount of whiteness, store selection, or vigilance could keep any of us safe. I clicked the radio off and sat with my feelings. None of us are untouchable, but the thing the persistence of the shootings has done is help me understand that it doesn’t take my babies dying to be hurt.

I texted the girls from the traffic light that I’d be home in five with groceries. They were ready to help me when I got back. I felt bile in my throat about how seamless my shopping had been. No one died. I was going to unload the bags with the girls, make dinner, do bedtime, and sleep to meet the dawn with no one dead.

It was 3 am when I heard Ave run to the bathroom. I waited to listen to the familiar and loathsome sound of vomit, but it didn’t come. I felt a wave of relief and then a slap of shame. Some kids aren’t alive to wretch, some parents won’t tend to another sick little, and there are kids who will never again have mama fix it.

I was in her room within five minutes, stroking Vicks on her chest, cradling her back as she downed a dose of cough syrup, and kissing her brow and promising to come back if she needed me. She murmured a thank you as I kissed her and I felt tears on my cheek, uncertain whose they were.

Back in bed, I looked at the time on my phone and then opened twitter. “Between 16 and 20 dead.” I thought it was an update on El Paso, but it was a different shooting in a different state. I pored over my phone for the next 2 hours as if my concentration would somehow change reality.

Sleep disappeared, and I waited for the dawn to come. Avery finally slept, and I was thankful for it as I struggled with rage and heartbreak. Nearly thirty people gone, and despite my fury, the day was going to bring more obfuscation-politics, divisions, and protests that we can’t know the motive.

When Sean woke, I touched his arm and said, “I want to warn you, it happened again.” He didn’t say anything, still waking up. “Again?” he murmured.

“There was another shooting,” I said.

“Not El Paso,” he asked.

“No, Dayton.” He shuffled across the room, and I held my breath, unfairly wishing he could fix it.

We were silent, then he said, “Are we going to talk to the girls?”

“Talk to them?” I said.

“Yeah, are we going to talk about what they do if they hear something like fireworks in public?”

 

A young girl holds a cardboard sign at an anti-gun rally. It reads "School should be the start of my life, not the end."

I sucked in a ton of air, “What would we say? Tell them to play dead?” My words hung in the air, and I remembered at one time that I thought I needed to know what to do if I encountered a bear on a hike. This wasn’t the “What to do if a teacher comes on to you,” or “what to do if someone tried to get you to try drugs,” or “what to do if the father of a kid you babysit tries to touch you” talk. This was the, “What to do if you are in public and someone is shooting, and you don’t have a lockdown protocol to follow” talk.

“No, we tell them to get low. Stay low and try to move away from the sounds,” he said, nodding as he felt his way toward addressing their safety.

I don’t even know where to put my rage or horror at this point. I nod quietly and think about how to have another talk with them about how not to die. I try not to lose myself in the tremors of relief that they aren’t dead and the terror that I don’t know how to keep them alive.

It’s Monday and it’s just another day after shootings on Saturday and Sunday.

 

Seasons Are What You Make

Posted on May 6, 2019

This morning was the day we were putting our boat in the water. The timing wasn’t the most convenient, this month is chock full of travel for work. As I write this Sean is wrapping up a presentation/event with our business partners in the City of Oneonta. We had about a two-hour window to get it all done.

I love being in the water and on the water, but the boat aspect is Sean’s love. I was more swimming pools and tromping in rivers, while he worked at a marina and rowed in college. He grew up on Lake George, and for as long as I can remember, any chance he had to be out on a boat, he grabbed. After I relocated from the West Coast people used to say, “But don’t you miss it? The Pacific Northwest is so gorgeous!”

I always shake my head. “When a person loves a place as much as Sean does Lake George, you can’t help but love it too.”

We were together 8 years before we saved and researched enough to get a boat. The stars aligned and a family in Champlain was ready to let their boat go. Our having three daughters appealed to them and I think they made it easier than they had to. “I want the girls to experience what I did. I want them to explore islands, swim off a dock, campfires and rope swings.” That boat and the adventures we had on it are central to so many memories we have with the girls.

Three young girls sit on camp chairs eating s'mores at a campsite with pine trees and a view of the lake in the background.

We were on Black Mountain Point on my birthday one year, all three girls took their life jackets off and swam in the choppy water. I was nervous, Sean was proud. Later we hiked up the mountain a bit, and Briar marveled as she swung from a branch, “It’s like we’re on a playground, but not a school, just nature’s playground.”

Selling our place in Vermont was bittersweet as it had been another significant part of our family’s foundation, backed by a soundtrack of Hamilton, Lake Street Dive, and Frank Sinatra. This had been another thing that Sean wanted. “We’re not good at leaving work. I want a place for us.” He amazes me with how he sets his mind to something, usually based on something he feels in his heart. I used to think I lacked his conviction or determination, but that wasn’t it.

I struggle to say what I want, beyond that I am unlikely to speak up for what I want if it feels like it will inconvenience or make additional work for someone. I have come to understand that it isn’t a life sentence, we can learn to do this. We can find the voice to say what we want, to declare, “Oh, just you wait, this will happen.”

This morning as we were going through the morning routine I told him that I was hoping to swim. He told me it was probably too cold. Then he smiled at me because there is no too cold for me.

“Are you going to pack a towel?”

“Why?” He asked.

“Aren’t you going to jump in with me?” I asked.

“Absolutely not!”

I shrugged and packed a bag with several towels. We got to the marina. He was wearing a sweatshirt, Adam, the person who sold us our boat, was in long pants and a sweater. As we stepped on the boat, Sean said, “You want my sweatshirt?”

“No, I’m fine.” We spent thirty minutes learning about the boat before heading out for a cruise. I had goosebumps rising on my arms and legs. “You sure?” He asked.
“Yep.”

Swimming isn’t about the temperature or how clear the sky is. Swimming is like getting to go on the merry-go-round, it’s staying up past bedtime, it’s biting into an apple that’s crisp, tart, and juicy. Warm pool water, cold ocean waves, lake water with its pockets of cold, even lying in a river, I love swimming.

After we visited the dock space, Adam said, “Well, you want me to go through covering it up, and we can get a ride back?” Sean said, “I think it’s smart for us to take you up on that, thanks!”

Before I even realized I was doing it, I yelped, “No!”

They both looked at me in surprise. I was too sheepish to say to Adam that I wanted to swim, nervous he’d say it was too cold. Sean looked at me, I tilted my head and said, “I’m not ready for it to be over.” Adam laughed and said, “Fair enough, let’s go back to the marina, and I can go over the bow cover with you. Then you guys can go back out.”
Ten minutes later we were done, and Adam was walking back to his office. I looked at Sean, “I really want to swim. I realize it’s not convenient.” He grinned, “I get it. Let’s do it, and by that, I mean you.”

I had a sort of stutter step thought that maybe I should apologize and bag it. Staying was going to make him late, I didn’t really need to swim.

Not this time, Amanda.

I sat next to him and said, “Thank you.” It took a few minutes for my shoulders to drop. When he asked me where I wanted to go to do it, I was quiet. I thought about it and said, “Anywhere, right here, wherever,” I have been looking forward to this.

We motored north a bit and then killed the engine. He asked me if I was ready. I nodded. We both grinned, sharing a mutual love for water that manifests in different ways. We’d gotten each other here.

A woman wearing a bikini dives off the bat of a boat into a lake. The sky is blue with a few puffy clouds and to the right of the frame is a mountain.

 

A woman climbs out of a lake and onto a boat.

 

A woman leans over the stern end of a boat to grab a towel. She is in a bikini with a lake behind her.

Be Worthy of Your Own Advice

Posted on April 25, 2019

Before conferences like Mom2 there are often posts and online conversations about what to do to prep for an experience like this. I’ve had my share of being nervous and intimidated, so I tweeted something I believe:

 

An image of a tweet that reads: A10 Pack your self-kindness voice. You aren't less worthy. You aren't terrible at these things. You are at an amazing event designed to create connections and inspirational momentum. Everyone does it differently, just dare to participate.

 

Then wouldn’t you know it, not 24 hours after getting here I had a moment that made me shrink. I had booked a massage for myself at the spa, taking care of the reservation ahead of time, and double checking in the morning that they would be ready for me. When I walked into the spa, the woman behind the counter smiled at me. Across the room, a door opened and a petite, blonde woman in her late 50s walked through it.

I stepped toward the counter and the blonde walked in front of me, the woman at the counter looked between us.

“Do you have a list of spa services I can look at?” The spa employee looked at me and then back to the woman, “Sure, right here.” She handed her the brochure and turned to me.

“May I help you?” I smiled and told her I had an appointment. “Ok, great, there is just a short form to fill out ahead of the treatment.”

The blonde cut in, “I’d like to go ahead with a hot stone massage.”

“Sure, I can schedule that for you,” the clerk said as she turned to the computer.

“You don’t have anyone here now?”

At this point, I was feeling very crawl-out-of-my-skin uncomfortable. “Actually we are quite busy with today’s weather. I could fit you in around 4.” The woman huffed and tossed a glance my way. “Whatever, that will have to be fine I guess.”

I felt myself holding my breath. Should I offer her my slot? I mean, I really thought that. What happened to ‘you aren’t less worthy’? This woman wasn’t even being respectful of the spa, let alone acknowledging that I had any right to be there.

The truth is I’m not a spa person, massages are an extravagance in my life on rare occasions. When I come to these conferences I try to build in things I wouldn’t normally be able to do—a treat that I budget for and look forward to. I was angry that this woman had threatened my enjoyment, but more than that, I was frustrated with myself.

How can I fall off a solid track so easily? Why would I consider this woman anything more than an entitled, rude person?

I once heard a person say that “meditation is an exercise in keeping yourself on task.” It shocked me, I thought anyone who meditated had achieved a focus and level of zen that meant they were meditating, not working on meditating.

It all takes work.

Confidence is something you work at.

Reverence is something you commit to working on.

Relationships are living things that require time, energy, and light.

Our reaction to situations, people, and stress are not finite, we work and grow. It’s ok to falter and rethink.

When I walked into the room for the massage I left the blonde outside. Her behavior lasts seconds, my response to it is what I risk being forever.

If you are trying at something do yourself the favor of acknowledging that it doesn’t end, trying isn’t failing, trying is the doing and the living..

 

Maybe we can say it together, “We are worthy.”

 

 

The Contradiction of Leaving

Posted on April 23, 2019

My flight leaves in exactly four hours as I write this. The girls are still sleeping after back-to-back sleepovers and hours spent helping us build the fence that I declared I wanted. It is the kind of morning that makes me want to say aloud to the trees and sky, “I am so happy to be alive.” As the light filters through the tree and birds swoop into the feeders and then fly out, banking near the window and disappearing into the lacy limbs of the Hemlocks, my throat feels tight.

Little girl sits with her hand outstretched waiting for birds.

Finley patiently sitting with bird seed in her hand.

Leaving this moment feels like some sort of cheating. How can I possibly leave when the girls are on vacation, the yard is nearly done, and we are all so content? My feet are leaden before a trip; shame hovers as I also feel a fluttering. Travel, leaving the ordinary and testing my courage and even my imagination.

Last night, one of the last things Sean said to me was, “Don’t let guilt swallow you. Feeling guilty is like obsessing over something in the past. It doesn’t move you forward, and it doesn’t do anything for us. Go do this.” I kissed him and promised that I’d heed his advice, my fingers figuratively crossed behind my back.

Padding around the backyard with the dogs and my first cup of coffee I admired our work from the past three days. A fence to keep the dogs in, gates the girls can climb on, posts we dug together, and benches he made from the trees he felled. A whole world we’ve created on dreams and hard work. I’m leaving for a few days, but I’ll still be here, and the girls and Sean will discover new ways to be together. They’ll create memories that they can share with me.

Life is made up of countless arrivals and departures. I think the threat of tears and the promise of excitement are a part of the beauty of it all. And homecomings.

 

 

There You Are

Posted on April 2, 2019

A man and woman stand in front of a door, the woman is kissing the man's cheek.

Standing outside our second office.

Here comes a kind of post that I don’t usually do. I’m not big on birthdays and anniversaries and even less focused on lavish, public, I-love-my-spouse posts.

Today is different.

Sean is 43 today, nothing very remarkable about the birthday. Except that at our age, it now is remarkable to have a birthday. People get sick, men have heart attacks, breast cancer strikes moms. I woke this morning on day three of a nasty bug, he continued picking up the things I do, things I thought only I could do. Nope. He’s got them, the girls too. Life goes on, even when we fall out of our routine. I apologized for being sick, and he asked incredulously, “Why would you apologize?” I didn’t have an answer.

17 years ago I went to visit him in Framingham to try and confirm that we were a thing. We walked to a park, the whole thing had a very Zach Braff, melancholy feel. Except there was no great soundtrack, just the whiny screech of the chains of a swing as he said that he wasn’t sure about us. Everything felt colorless.

________________

Three years before everything was in full color. I could feel you in the room. Acknowledging that I had feelings for you was still weeks off, and that was just to myself, not you—that came much later, but you knew before I did.

You walked lightly and confidently, on your toes I came to notice. I also began to adore it, sometimes I’d watch you from across the lawn—there he is. There was, for me, an irresistibility of boyishness, cockiness, and where-did-you-come-from? about you. Still engulfed in my insecurities and bitterness, I didn’t really dare believe that you might actually be interested in me.

I began to notice you walking into the room more frequently. You started making small talk with me and then, maybe flirting. I wasn’t sure, I couldn’t believe it. Oh, but I was slow, and you were persistent. And gallant.

On this day 20 years ago I hadn’t yet met you. Seems impossible with the way we fit, the way you call me on my shit, and allow me to call you on yours. I had a different last name and defined myself as a smoker. You were on the other side of the country not finishing things.

The girls asked for photos of you with them today. “Do you have any from when we were toddlers to share on Insta?”

I spent an hour scrolling through images, falling more in love with you. I forgave myself for the memories that skirt the edges of the photos, the harsh words or frazzled struggles. I see through smiles and remember the worn hands, weak-from-plaster-dust lungs, and empty bank accounts.

Just last night we were pressing dandelions on Ave’s wall, and all I could think was how it all flutters away. Today the snaps from hikes and playground visits, road trips, and walks to the farmers’ market reminded me that it all flutters back.

The two of us in our twenties (me much farther along in mine), the girls in diapers, last night and ten years ago. We are forever moving in and out of focus, learning, and forgetting, and with any luck forgiving and finding the patience to be ready when one of us comes back.

A man and woman in ski gear smile at each other.

You tried for ten years to get me on the mountain.

I love you for more reasons than I could ever write down. Thank you for the impossible things we’ve done together.

%d bloggers like this: