Letting it out

Posted on April 12, 2020

The world around me tumbles and crashes, the instinct I’ve been able to rely on for anticipating shifts is quiet. I can go back decades tracing the echoes of my complaints that I don’t have a skill. I’ve ached for an output capable of measurement. The voice in my ear has been relentless and unforgiving for so long. How strange that in this immersion into a life that is impenetrable for intuition, I am unexpectedly confident in my gift.
I’ve known things on a cellular level about relationships. My way through has been knowing things were going to happen with people before they occurred. I have given my heart and gut a steady voice, and they have never let me down. Sequestered at home with no boundaries or schedule for what I do, my signals are shorting out. Mom, wife, business owner, partner, tutor, cook, neighbor, daughter, sister, self. My extroversion has flipped, and I resist interaction beyond our home. I thought the boundaries of before were a struggle, lessons, schedules, assignments, deadlines, this watercolor reproduction of life is disorienting.

Yet I miss nothing from before. Maybe this is a death cycle, composting who and how I was before. I remember a professor introducing me to the word fecundity. Fecund. It has an almost profane sound about it. Spiteful, a bit of, “Oh yeah? Try me.” I love it. I never imagined that it could be about the spirit, but in these hours, that are days but feel like months, and sometimes more, there is a fecundity swelling. Amid loss and catastrophe, I feel the pangs of starting.

Seriously though, how are you?

Posted on March 31, 2020

We are in the third week of all five of us being home. The animals are bewildered, delighted, and exhausted. We’ve severely cramped their napping schedule. Sean and I are finding a rhythm. It’s inconsistent and unpredictable because we can’t forecast which of us will have an emotional dip. When we fall into the darkness, the other rallies and takes the lead on managing the schedule. The girls have been unbelievable. They tackle their school work, follow a loose daily plan, and actually hang out with one another.

They haven’t had a miraculous turn around on excitement about changing the cat litter or doing the dishes, but I think I was bracing for way more fighting and complaining. Ha! The fretting is way more likely to come from Sean and me as we binge-watch the what-ifs in our heads. All the things the experts say are right—set a routine, talk about the items you want to accomplish, don’t eat straight from the bag. Actually, maybe that’s just me.

It’s Tuesday, which means last night we watched The Voice as a family. The novelty of staying up late has worn off, and the girls peeled off to bed before the second hour of the show had ended. Hanging out with us has not become old, so we’ll be doing family game night. It’s pretty funny because we are right on the line—Briar is nearly sixteen, and Finley is on the very tail end of eleven. We have erred a bit on the side of mature games when certain cards come up; we decide to pass or we learn a new phrase. (awkward laugh)

Talking about the quarantine is fair game—will such and such get canceled? Probably. Do you think we’ll go back to school? I’m not sure. Are you guys scared? A little bit, yes.

I’ve stopped judging myself about what time we eat, how long I am at the computer, how energetic or lethargic I am feeling. I remember on What Not to Wear they used to say, “Dress the body that you have.” Right now I am focused on living the life that we have. It feels unfamiliar and oppressive, but also like a tremendous blessing.

We have electricity, the tools we need for work, and school, and we have one another. Hugs in the kitchen, Minecraft marathons on a big sister’s bed, animals to play hide and seek with, and this big online community to turn to for comfort advice, and friendship.

Here’s a piece of homework Finley did for her beloved chorus teacher. The assignment was to share a song that was helping students get through the quarantine.


Still Here

Posted on March 22, 2020

Everywhere you look there is information—how to homeschool, how to work, what to wear, what to eat, how the coronavirus is spreading, how many people are dying and where. I’ve spent hours scrolling through articles, tweets, links, sometimes I feel better for it, other times I don’t. Some of it is stuff I’ve written. It’s overwhelming because it feels like we should know as much as we can, stay up to date. Coming to terms with the persistent uncertainty is exhausting, but it’s our reality.

“Ok” looks different each day. I plug along feeling like I’ve got the hang of it but then something happens, might be a Clover fur, dust bunny floating along the floor or the way the underwire of my bra digs in and I just crack. I doubt my capacity to parent, to lead, and to, on the most basic level, even function.


I go to my usual tactics for self-care and grounding—being ceremonial with coffee, lighting candles, applying mascara till my lashes touch my brows. Some of it works, some of it doesn’t. I am beginning to comprehend that I need to accept where I am and that in many ways I’ve already been here. The control I felt a few weeks ago was false, I didn’t have control of the economy, my kids’ health, or the behavior of others.

The uncertainty is forcing me to take the days in smaller increments. Get through the next ten minutes. Send a family text and agree to make lunch together. Take a walk. pet the dog. Cry. Panic-surf the internet. Hop on the Peloton and disappear in physical activity. Shower. Stare out the window. Ask Sean for a hug. Cuddle up in Fin’s room. Flop on Avery’s bed. Take Briar a snack.


The view through my new office window helps. Chipmunks scamper over stones, squirrels shake their tails and climb the tree, Clover sprints to chase them, and the sunlight moves through the trees. Writing helps, articles, updates, texts to friends. Your pictures help on Instagram. Listening to Governor Cuomo helps. Washing my hands and organizing the canned goods helps.

I suppose I came here to say that I hope that you are ok.



Don’t buy the hate makeover

Posted on November 21, 2019

“You, you there. I have something just for you,” a slender man called to me as he skipped across the tradeshow floor and slipped two silver packets in my hand.

I laughed as he ushered me into his booth. “What’s your name?” he asked, smiling.

A smiling woman with a t-shirt wrapped around her head, preparing for a face mask.

Obviously, this is not taken from the trade show floor, but this was my general attitude as I sat down and this is the face he was seeing.

I said my name, and he repeated, “Amanda, that’s so lovely.”

I thought I’d listen to him and then excuse myself. “Here, sit. Sit,” he was gesturing to a chair. I sat down, and he immediately scooted his stool, which was slightly higher than my chair, forward. His legs were too close, tucked between my feet. I leaned back in my chair.

“Amanda, I tell you what I’m a gonna do,” he spoke fast and softly, his accent a mix of French and Italian. He was slight of build, but the way he leaned in, I felt small.

“I’m a-gonna put a special serum on your eyes. This serum is going to make you not see any lines, and the collagen will start building. You like that? You want those lines and dark circles to be less? Do you?”

He was holding a mirror in one hand and spreading a cold gel around my eyes with the other. His face was so close as he leaned in. He picked up a fan and held it about a foot from my face, the air moving my hair.

I was frozen. There were people on all sides of me. I didn’t want to be there anymore, but I felt like I couldn’t leave.

“I’m a-going to show you your face, do you want to see yourself looking more beautiful, Amanda? I’ll show you.” He moved the mirror in front of my face. He covered the side of my face that he hadn’t treated. “You see this skin beneath your eye, you see how much lighter and tighter?” I nodded. “Do you?” I said, “Yes.” He uncovered my other eye, “You are seeing the darkness, yes? The tired face?” I nodded.

It struck me that the fatigue on my face, the lines rooted between my eyebrows, the hollows in my cheeks are things that I struggle with, but I also cherish them. It’s an ongoing, unpredictable battle. Something clicked as he worked to pit me against my own face. I was laying bare everything I’ve lived, particularly the last 16 years. Pregnancy sticks, Lowe’s receipts, betrayals, IVs and sick tummies, make up sex, all the swells of joy and heartache that have thrashed and cradled me.

“Ok, I tell you what I gonna do, I fix the other eye. Then I’m going to give you a gift, this serum, which is for two years. Yes? It’s a two-year supply I give you a second, and then it’s four years, and it’s only $16 a month. Then you not gonna have to hate what you see.”

I cleared my throat, still leaning back because of his angle leaning in over me. “I just, thank you. But I need to think about it. I’ll go talk to my husband.”

His face tensed, and he began to sneer, before tipping his head in toward me. “Amanda, you know he’s just going to say no. You have to make this decision.” He put his hand near my face, “These lines on the sides of your mouth, you don’t like them, am I right, Amanda? You don’t like this. I can fix that too. So listen, how you going to do this? Let me see your ID.”

I shook my head. “No, I am not buying anything right now. I’ll talk to my husband.” He shook his head at me, angry. Another man walked over. I thought it was because he saw my discomfort. “Your other customer came back. She wants to buy things. I need you back.”

The guy turned back to me, still wedged between my feet. “What? What do you want? I’ll add another box. Right? You don’t want to look like old Amanda, do you?”

I swung my left leg high over his knee like a hurdle and turned on my right foot. I tossed the packets on the seat.

“No, thank you. I’m fine like this.”

His nostrils flared, and he turned away from me, consequently saying nothing but effectively communicating that he was discarding me. I sped through the crowded aisle of the tradeshow until I turned a corner, where I stopped and licked my fingers, angrily wiping the cream off of my face.

I was shaking. The exchange was echoing in my head, and I was angrier with each breath. I had used “talking to my husband” as a way to get out; in reality, Sean would never do anything but encourage me to do or not do whatever I feel I need.

A man and woman wear masks that make them appear very old.

Sean & me.


Do I imagine away my eleven lines sometimes? You bet!

Would I consider “treatment?” A solid, maybe!

Will I do it to be a different me? Nope.


Sitting in the chair I let that man reduce me to an empty shell. I’m sure this happens every day, and it makes for high sales. I just never imagined that I could fall into the trap. The truth is I thought I was stronger than that.


I’m looking at myself with more honesty. I care about my skin, and I have no shame about wanting to feel my best. However, skincare and self-love are not mutually exclusive. There is no place for hate or contempt in how we see ourselves or in how we talk to ourselves. I hadn’t truly understood that until someone tried to make me say that I hated myself.


Don’t be tricked; you are precious.





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.