Ariana Grande and Growing Up

Sean is the playlist guy around here, followed quickly by Briar and then Ave. I enjoy the detail that I wouldn’t manage on my own, except it has started to hit me that music makes things more enjoyable. When I start the coffee pot I say to Alexa, “Alexa, play music for us,” more often than not she responds with, “Here’s a station you might like: Ariana Grande.” The first time she did it I laughed out loud. The girls weren’t with me and it seemed preposterous that she would be my music of choice, except the thing is I enjoy it. When the girls came down they start snaking between the counter and me to grab things, dancing along the way. They sing along and mornings became a lot more fun.

I read the news about the concert in real time on twitter just before bed, the next morning I wasn’t really thinking about it as I raced to get things done. Briar turned to me stricken, “Mom, what happened? Everyone is putting Ariana Grande things on Musical.ly. Did she die?” The light from the screen shone on the right side of her face and morning light streaming in the window to her right bathed the other side of her face.

“No, she is fine, but people—kids were killed at her concert,” I said simply. The death of children isn’t new to her.

“22, it says 22 people, mom. And 50 are injured,” she read and then turned to me, “Why? Why all of this death everywhere? And even just at a concert?”

I had no answers and the collision of fury and defeat inside me were deafening. “I think that people want to show their hate and the more innocent the people, the stronger they think their message gets.” She considered that, blinked, and went inward as she murmured, “Why…”

Yesterday she and I were driving home from the optometrist with her new glasses. I was asking her about an article I’d shared with her on Twitter, showing ways to talk to kids about crowds, separation, and communication.

“Did you read it?” I asked. She nodded and said, “No, but I hearted it.” I smiled, this is our new way, navigating communication through social media and understanding how each of us uses it. “I just saw it at lunch and was like, heart,” she smiled at me.

“Ok, well it talks about things to do to make sure you are safe,”

“I still can’t believe those kids were just killed at a concert.”

“Me either, sweets. I do want to talk about the article though, it talks about the idea of writing a phone number down in sharpie on your arm. If my phone died I wouldn’t know your number or Ave’s, and, in situations like the concert, if you were hurt, people would know who to call.”

She thought about what I’d said. I think this is where some of the disconnect between how I, as an adult not raised in a time of lock-down drills, and Briar, just weeks of a bomb threat at school see the world. “We have to think about things like keeping your phone charged so you can contact us. What would happen if it died at school and you needed me?”

She turned to me and said matter of factly, “Oh, that totally wouldn’t matter. We aren’t allowed to call or text during a lockdown.”

“Oh.”

“Yes, no contact outside of the school, because what if parents just showed up and we couldn’t get out? Also, if you guys knew and you came, more than just us students and the teachers would be killed. It could be parents and sisters too. Have to follow the rules so the least amount of people will die,” she looked unbothered.

I felt like I was going to be sick. I rolled down the window and made a sound I hoped sounded like “Uh huh.”

“Ok, well I think it still makes sense to think about battery charges,” which as I said it sounded so insignificant and futile. She looked at me, “Ok.” She looked like she was 18 months old and 18 years old in the same minute. Bubbles of hysteria made my arms start to prickle. How do we even get to 18 years? No movies? No concerts? Homeschool? No travel? One month from today she flies to Paris.

I am not in control.

I cannot fix everything.

Time doesn’t stop.

Me: “I love you.”

Her: “I love you too. Can we do face masks?”

Me: “That sounds perfect.”

Then it was home and on to voice lessons. Finley was singing My Favorite Things and the normalcy of it all broke me. We have to keep going. Loving, nuzzling puppies, and allowing childhood to happen with all its warts and wonder.

 

I Could Be Folding—Discovering ‘Nothing’ is a Legitimate Activity

I got home from Mom2.0 a week ago. Sean said, “You need to move quickly. Don’t let your Iris win fall to the wayside. Allow it to catapult you into whatever it is you want to do.”I nodded dutifully. I wasn’t going to rest on my laurels, I was going to charge ahead and let myself build upon the idea that my words have an impact and a purpose. I really was going to, but then the realities of the laundry situation hit home, the continued aftershocks of some things that happened at work, school concerts, texts about the dog, “Having a huge disgusting tick where his eyebrows would be if he had eyebrows,” and the whole feeding a family, and managing the rampant cases of poison ivy that three of us are suffering from in ways that are not diminishing.

 

I have posts dancing in my head, emails that I want to write, and mileage that I want to achieve through the catharsis that I find in writing. No matter how many lists I make, incentives I create for myself, or other tricks, the end of the day feels like it’s kissing my tail before I’ve even finished my lunch. I am grateful that I haven’t retreated into my place of panic, where I lash out and take on an attitude of hopelessness. Because it’s a rut I know well, a forwarding address even, but no, I kept it at bay.

Actually, this whole post is to share with you a moment that I had. I was in my bedroom, a place that I have slowly done things to to make it feel more like an oasis, but is still very much a work in progress (<—-gentle disclaimer, but also read the subtext: no one has it all together.) Anyway, I had a bona fide Oprah–level, aha moment and I wanted to share it with you.

When you watch this video you might think, “Is she whispering? Is she drunk?” The answer would be yes and kind of. I was whispering, and that is because I genuinely believed if I said any of this stuff out loud I would get some sort of zap from the universe for sitting on my duff. As far as being drunk. I think that the sensation of doing nothing was legitimately intoxicating. Also, I think sometimes when you actually slow down you become aware of just how exhausted you really are. In any case, if I can do one thing for those other people out there trying to do more than they would ever believe another person could do, it’s to have you hear me say, “Doing nothing is important.”

 

 

 

Do you do nothing? Where is your favorite place to do nothing? If you have never done nothing, promise me right now you will do nothing and you will come back and tell me all about how amazing it was?

 

Deal?

I Was There All Along

Wednesday morning I kissed Briar goodbye, got Avery on the bus, and squeezed Finley and Sean before driving to Albany to fly to Orlando for the Mom2.0 Summit. I was nominated for an award in the category of Best Writing. Last year I was nominated in the category Break Out of the Year. I was souped up in a heady mix of anticipation, sheepishness, and desperation. I wanted it not to be a fluke, for me not to be a fluke.

I set my mind to enjoying the time and allowing myself to expand, spilling out of my “always” and “ought tos” and filling the cracks of places I’ve never allowed myself to go. I should note that the location made it much easier to throw my cares away. The Ritz Carlton is Orlando is a dreamy place. I wandered around, palm trees towering at every turn, making me feel as if it any moment they might start lumbering next to me and speaking like characters from a Where the Wild Things Are and Moana mash up. The moon was every bit as present in my days, making the three days feel like a walking dream.

Wednesday afternoon was a whirlwind of having women whose faces I’ve seen more online than in person come to life in vibrant, better-than-I-imagined ways. The electricity of purpose and focus was palpable. The other thing I felt everywhere I went was respect and interest, pockets of conversation and collaboration. Christine Koh pulled me into a session on Meningitis vaccinations, where I met Morra Aarons Mele in the flesh. Listening to a mother talk about watching her daughter spend 8 months in the hospital after contracting meningitis was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. I was riveted by the session and reminded of the power we each have to share with our peers. If you use Twitter I encourage you to check out the hashtag #Take5forMeningitis

Tangent—many of you may know that about 24 hours after I left town all 3 of my daughters were evacuated from their school after the “credible threat” of a bomb on campus. I watched from thousands of miles away as social media blew up. I had friends text and call, keeping me in the loop. Say what you will about Facebook, but as the day progressed I witnessed firsthand how much we rely on one another for guidance, insight, and support. These tools can be incredible forces for good.

One of my favorite moments was passing Meagan Francis and Sarah Powers in the lobby. Meagan turned spun toward me on her heel.

“I’m sorry. Have I ever, have we ever…I mean I’ve been friends with you online for years, have I ever stopped and actually said hello?” Her face was one huge smile and when Meagan smiles at you, it feels like a wink and a hug at the same time.

“No, you haven’t and neither have I,” I said smiling back.

She smiled wider and said, “Here, let’s fix that and touch bodies,” or something like that as she pulled me into a hug. Sarah was smiling and then leaned in and said, “I know you online too.” We all laughed and, at least for me, these tiny moments of recognition and connection are what it’s all about.

I woke up early Thursday morning and joined 50 other women in a morning yoga session in the “Citrus Garden.” Birds perched in the palm trees and along the balcony and sang to us. I spied a little lizard as it crawled past. I beamed even in the moment when I realized I was in front of the whole group doing a shaky warrior pose in the opposite direction from everyone else. I also had not yet found a ponytail band (eventually Deborah Cruz took pity on me and gave me one) and I was rocking a Paulie Shore meets Cynidi Lauper hairband-MacGuyver situation.

I participated in the Dove self-esteem workshops with Jess Weiner, which I’ll write about in a separate post. Dove has worked with 20 million young women on issues of self-esteem and they are on track to hit the 40 million mark by 2020. I am endlessly grateful for what they have done by committing to women’s health, because the truth is that they don’t have to, they could just sell product and make money. This work is critical and they do it really, really well.

I spoke with women about challenges, all of us struggling with different but similar things. I remembered to listen and ask questions instead of nervously filling the air with rambling. I had a moment when I realized that instead of hoping people will like me for me, the trick is to be willing to share my truest self with people without apology. Sitting with Natasha at the airport after sharing a 4am Uber together, I marveled at how improbable it is that a mom of 4 from Chicago who considers herself a “semi-homesteader” would be chatting with a mom of 3 from upstate new York, but there we were and it was amazing!

I won’t mince words, waiting for the awards ceremony to start and trying to reconcile my desperate wish to hear my name called and the deep respect I had for the other nominated women made me sick. I was shaking and trying to project a face that didn’t look like it needs a toilet and a wash cloth. Elaine sat beside me, rubbed my arm, and kept me laughing. My category was first and I felt like my ears were giant conch shells and the ocean was crashing inside my head. I watched our faces flash on the screen as they named each nominee. I reminded myself that being nominated with these women and recognized by my peers was plenty because it was.

I looked toward the stage and readied my “I’m ok” smile. “And the winner is… Lala Land.”

Silence. Thunderous applause and laughter.

I lost my a-ok smile and winced. “You can do it, Manda.”

They announced the winner and stumbled on the last name. I sat ready for the looks of, “You were really close, great job.”


 

“Amanda Magee, congratulations.”

Everything went silent in my head as I waited for another woman to walk up to the stage. I looked around and then I heard it again, “Amanda Magee.”

I shook and blinked my eyes. My name doesn’t get called. I couldn’t find the stairs, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t stop the montage of times I’ve sat at my keyboard. Nursing Briar, pumping for Ave, after work, in the pre-dawn hours during those years when Ave woke up at 3:45, the tears that have fallen on the keyboard as I’ve typed.

Then I was on the stage with different cheers and screams coming from the audience from people who have exchanged middle of the night emails with me or back channel facebook messages as one of us have wondered whether or not we can make it through a certain challenge.

I knew that I was up there not just for my writing, but because in writing, whether it’s comedy, advocacy, anger, education, or sentimentality (and we need it all), it is what is made possible that yields the demand and loyalty. It is knowing you can weep over dried flowers or rant over impossibly perfect cupcakes and gift bags that everyone but you can make—I believe it is in transforming the screen from a place where you read to being a mechanism for reaching through and clutching on to something or someone who makes you feel less alone.

Writing did that for me. I found a home and a purpose. I do believe I’m rambling now, which is also what I did as I stood up on that stage holding that impossibly heavy and wonderful statuette. I also told the MC, Andrew Shue, that I was grateful he came. No selfies with him, no “Hey let’s collaborate” as a matter of fact I don’t even know if I had the presence of mind to thank him for shaking my hand and congratulating me. I remember so little beyond the exquisite moment of realizing they had said my name.

Arnebya, Adrian, RachelJanelle being presented in your company, grouped with your writing and your beautiful selves was incredible. Mugging for the camera with Arnebya, chatting with Rachel, it felt otherworldly and I will never forget a second of it.

I have been watching Rebecca Woolf, who I so desperately wanted to meet in person last year, promote her Kickstarter campaign for the movie PANS. She is a writer who I actively admire. Her tenacity to pursue this movie, writing the screenplay over the years as she has been raising 4 children and conducting incredible campaigns that throw back the curtain on married parent sex and speaking honestly about watching our first borns come into themselves, awes me. I don’t want to stop.

I want to take the glow of this moment, preserve the feeling of it in the same way I can remember precisely how it felt as Briar came out of my body, inexplicably wondrous and natural. This dream and this life, I want to experience them open-ended, unlimited by my fear or assumptions, instead fueled by my desire to return to the keyboard and find new ways to take my heart and translate it to the page.

I hope you’ll keep me company as I move through these years of parenting older kids, working on my marriage and myself, and using my voice to talk about things like vaccines, social justice, bad hair, and hope.

 

Thank you from the bottom of my goofy heart.

Trips Around the Sun

Time reveals a lot, it shows us how where we thought we were going and where we end up can be blessedly out of synch, it tells us more about ourselves, and it also uncovers who really matters.

I’ve made plenty of mistakes with who I have chosen to trust, who I have doubted, and how much I’ve given. I wish I could say that it’s been an internal revelation or decision that has set me straight, that somehow I have had the instinct to ferret out the truth from the lies.  Nope. Good old fashioned before and after has done that, with a bit of help from forgotten texts and someone telling the truth.

There are things in my life I would take back—don’t walk out to that car, Amanda.

Don’t say yes to that request, Manda.

Sweet girl, don’t say what you are about to say.

Splinters.

I can’t go back. I can’t change the way things played out and I won’t change who I am. There are people I could track down and confront, there are apology letters that I could write. There are also people I’d like to spit in the face and kick in the shins.

 

 

I won’t spend my days worrying about what was and what isn’t. I won’t rehash another misconception, a group I don’t belong to, or a friendship that fell apart. There was a scene in the movie The Way Way Back when Sam Rockwell’s character sets a teenage boy straight about something cruel his mom’s boyfriend had said to him. It’s along the lines of, “That was never about you, that was about him.”

Somewhere between getting it all right and being completely wrong, there is an expanse where you let go of the people who were never true and you actively hold tight to who and what matters.

For me it is family, the traditional kind and the serendipitous, unpredictable band of kindreds we collect along the way.

A year ago.

As Good As We Let Ourselves Be

We were sitting in the wood stove room. He was sitting in a small leather chair we bought on a trip north. He saw it and fell immediately in love.

“It looks so small,” I said.

“I love it. I love the lines, I love the look of the leather, and those antique wheels on the legs are perfect,” I couldn’t remember him being that smitten by something in a long while.

It was a beautiful chair and it wasn’t so much that it was small as that it was not the oversized, over-stuffed, kid friendly thing we’d been drawn to for the last decade. It fit perfectly within the small, boxy rooms of our house. Across from his spot are the wildly patterned chairs he bought me for my birthday or Mother’s Day.

I remember a few weeks after we bought them the thin fabric on the seats had started to come apart at the seams. I had been furious, the chairs had been a splurge from a store I love but am not able to shop at very often. We called the store and they said they’d never heard of that happening. They showed me similar chairs I could get in exchange after paying the difference. There was a back and forth, but ultimately the difference of $2000 and the idea of driving two hours round trip made less and less sense. I made peace with the wear and, in fact, came to love the frayed edges and the rose colored fabric that showed through underneath.

“I bought you reading glasses,” he said. “Two pairs, one for here and one for camp.”

I was surprised. “You did? When? And why?” I asked. He smiled and said nothing for a minute. I found myself feeling two very clear emotions: gratitude and embarrassment. The former for the way this gesture let me know that he had heard me saying things like, “I can no longer read things like shampoo bottles or cooking directions. Poof, gone,” and the latter for needing reading glasses sooner than he does, for aging.

It’s so strange that we pursue more—being older, having more things, more freedom, more time, growing old together, but when it really comes down to growing old together we resist. I know with utter certainty that I do it for him, and yet, there are times when I feel shame for not being the youngest, the fittest, or the whateverest.

“It was a few weeks ago. I was out and I was thinking of you and wanting you to have them when you needed them.”

The most potent emotion became the sensation of being dear. I am dear to him, not a disappointment, not a burden, not a drag. All those abstract wishes for someone to love me and keep me safe, I am living them now. Sure, all of it comes with a greater demand for humility, patience, and effort than I could have ever imagined or read in a magazine, but the reality is also more than the dream.

There is also a legitimate need for self-love and self-care that can’t ever come from a partner, no matter how amazing or committed they might be. I find inspiration and cues from women around me and from my own thoughts when I am willing to hear them. The latest come from things that happened organically, of all places, on Facebook. The first a closed group for women in their forties, the second a hashtag ( #fit40whatever ) also for women in their 40s trying to manage fitness/health/self-confidence.

I found myself thinking about all of these things and how relationships, self, friendships, and aging are all kind of laced together. I decide to reveal myself in all my tentative, panting, and maybe slightly whiny ways on video. I was fascinated to find myself actually enjoying all the ways my face moves as I talk. When I’m not inspecting my face as I try to apply makeup, not measuring the elasticity or sallowness, but just looking at myself like I look at others, I’m happy with me. Content with the changes in pacing.

Take a look. Let me know where you are. I’d really love to know. (Also: I am not as scared or pissed as this cover shot would have you believe.)

 

Click to Watch