I had a blog post ready to go for tonight. It was about using social media (my obsession this summer, for some bizarre, inexplicable reason--my obsession should be writing, and it is...but also: status updates and posting exactly 1 million pointless instagram pictures) (sigh). But I checked my facebook news feed a few hours ago and saw this story. Which I've loosely been following since the three boys were kidnapped a few weeks ago; I know people with family in Israel and this has been heart-wrenching for them to watch.

I'm not right or left about the things that happen in Israel and Palestine; quite frankly, I have a hard time understanding what's going on right now. And I deeply want to understand, because I'd like to see a peaceful solution to what seems to be a very old problem that's been festering for a very long time, erupting pus every now and then. At some point, don't people just get tired of all the hatred, all the fighting? I know when I hate someone and fight and hate and fight, usually I get tired and end up taking a nap. Maybe everyone just needs a good, quiet nap. Ultimately, I want Palestinians and Israelis to be friends and sing Kumbayah together. All over the planet, I want Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Mormons, Hindus, Jehovah's Witnesses, Wiccans, pagans, theists, pantheists, atheists, agnostics, and everyone in between to live together in peace.

I want us to grow community gardens together, and make meals from them with our unique cultural tastes. I want us teach our children lullabies in each other's languages. I want us to listen to each other's stories and weep and laugh together. I want to help Muslim friends break their Ramadan fasts, to help Jewish friends prepare Passover seders. I want my Christian friends to do some meditations with my Buddhist friends, and I want Buddhist friends to help Wiccan friends light candles outside under a full moon and I want all of us--ALL of us--to dance naked together under it. Jehovah's Witnesses--well, if you friends will agree to stop lecturing everyone about why they shouldn't celebrate holidays and birthdays, we all promise to make the atheists stop being sarcastic with you.

We are ALL God's** children, we are all connected. When one of is sick, we are all sick. When one of our children is murdered, a tiny piece of each of our souls is murdered with them. Please stop hurting each other, humanity. Please, please stop.

This is a poem I keep in one of my journals, and I go to it every now and then because this is who I want to be, and defines the type of people I strive to surround myself with. I think if all of planet Earth could just...do THIS, we'd be okay. We'd be okay as a species.
by Orion Mountain Dreamer

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for,
And if you dare to dream of meeting 
Your heart's longing.

It doesn't interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
For love, for your dream, 
For the adventure of being alive.

It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon.
I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow,
If you have been opened by life's betrayals,
Or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain, 
Mine or your own,
Without moving 
To hide it or fade it or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, 
Mine or your own,
If you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes 
Without cautioning us to be careful, realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me is true.

I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself,
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. 
I want to know if you can be faithless and therefore be trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see beauty 
Even when it is not pretty every day,
And if you can source your own life 
From its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, 
Yours and mine,
And still stand on the edge of a lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, 

It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair,
Weary and bruised to the bone, 
And do what needs to be done for the children.

It doesn't interest me who you are, how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand 
In the center of the fire with me 
And not shrink back.

It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you 
From the inside 
When all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone 

With yourself,
And if you truly like the company you keep 
In the empty moments.

Please stop hurting each other, humans of Earth. Please love yourselves, so you can love everyone else.

**I use the term "God," as an all-encompassing word for a very difficult-for-humans-to-grasp incredibly gigantic concept. I also recognize not all humans feel that such a thing even exists, but I still use the term "God," because I think that even acknowledging the inner goodness of secular humanity is part of that...THING. Whatever that thing is. We are all in this together, we all need to hold one another's hearts gently, with non-judgmental love. When I say "God," that's pretty much what I mean.**


3 slightly connected things, one big theme.

This entry will be all over the place. I'm sorry about it, but there's nothing I can do. I've already written 2 other drafts trying to focus it and I can't. I cannot. If you have something important to do, go do that now and come back when you have more time.


I took Miss M to see this when it was first released. I remember sitting in the darkened theater with her, and (have you seen this movie?) you know the part where Elsa's giving in to her icy nature, singing LET IT GO? Yes, I looked over at Melissa and saw her sitting up ramrod straight at the edge of her seat, a fevered look about her, and she was mouthing the words and imitating Elsa's movements. At the part where Elsa loosens her hair and sticks a long leg from her coldly sensual ice princess gown? I knew this was going to be unstoppable.

Oh dear, I thought. Oh dear, oh dear. This is going to get SO expensive. Dammit, Disney! You are diabolical. Diabolical!

And here we are, months later. I've spent god knows how many dollars on Elsa and Ana dolls, said NO to spending god knows how many dollars on other merchandise, and I've had to listen to the songs from FROZEN 10 billion times, in all the different languages of this planet. And the parodies! Oh god, the parodies. All incredibly inappropriate for a 5 year old to watch, and it's exhausting to police.


I'm working on the story/script for friend Angie's and my TV show idea. The show is actually all Angie's idea; I was asked to write it because she knew I could write. I'm not sure Angie knew I couldn't write scripts, and I didn't tell her because I figured: I write all the time, how hard can that be?

Friends, it's hard. For this fiction writer, at least. I sat down a couple of weeks ago to begin the script and got as far as the title page. The End. My brain doesn't work in script format, not so far at least. So I started writing it as a story. Angie liked what I did, but suggested my dialogue parts worked great in story format but were a tad heavy for television, given its time constraints.

Then she got worried she offended me.

No, no! I live for criticism! Particularly if it comes from someone invested in you and/or your project, and you trust them. And as long as the person isn't, you know, Voldemort or Satan, they're probably just trying to be helpful. Is what I told Angie.

Creative trust is paramount to good story building and telling, I find. Sharing what you've written with people who are part of your tribe can only make you better, I say. I find this to be very true of teaching, as well. When collaboration is truly collaborative...my lord, what a magical thing it is. The problem is that some people's idea of the word "collaborative" actually means: do everything I say to do and act like I'm the most brilliant thinker ever. Usually these people are in charge and/or holding the purse strings, and so everybody does it. And then they wonder why their stuff is so crap. Because that. was. not. collaboration. yo. (sigh)

So I'm plodding on with the tv script as story and then will cut/slash dialogue and whatever else to fit television. Or what if we just did a movie script? I know at least 50 people who'd pay to sit in a theater to see that. (This would not be a good movie; 50 people would make for terrible, terrible Return On Investment.) (Although, I do think Shia Lebouf would make a most excellent crazy-teacher-from-across-the-hall.)


I saw BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR the other night. I streamed it on Netflix, which is a 21st century tech term I think sounds obscene: streaming. (Hey! Do you know how to find your porn name? Take the name of your childhood pet and the name of the street you grew up on and combine them. My name would be Sassy Streamland. See? Completely obscene.)

There's a lot of controversy around this film. First, the sex scene is one of the longest in cinematic history. Second, the things the director apparently did to get the most from his actors is now being criticized by said actors. They won a Palm d'Or award for the movie, and they were all lovely and friends with each other then, but since the actresses have said critical things about the director and his retorts back made one of them cry. And neither wants to work with him again.

That goes back to creative trust, I think. You have to be gentle with artists' hearts. But in a firm kind of way. It's a fine line, a balance.

At any rate, I liked it. It was a very long film, 3 hours I think. And if you don't like having to read English subtitles (this is a French movie) you won't enjoy this. I like the sound of French--it's sounds a little gutteral but in a really smooth kind of way, I don't know if that makes sense. I do think having to read subtitles is a lot like having to look at footnotes while reading Shakespeare, but I find it far preferable to dubbed over voices. They never do it right.

I don't actually think the long sex scene will necessarily freak you out, unless you've been raised by the Amish and the Pilgrims, and your grandpa is Pat Robertson. And maybe Anne Coulter is your aunt. I didn't find the sex in the movie to be all that titillating (or maybe I just wasn't in the mood that night), and it does add to the story--which is about a young girl who's struggling to figure herself out. In literature talk, we call that a bildungsroman (a coming of age story), and I liked that this one was focused on a female...so many coming of age stories in movies center on boys.

You know what freaked me out? The food/eating scenes. THAT'S what I'd have taken the director to task for: Holy masticated noodles, this put me off spaghetti for several days. Don't even get me started on the gyro eating scene. (shudder)

Okay, that's it. I'm done. Do you see how those 3 things are connected? Creative trust is important in art, and Disney uses art to steal billions of dollars from innocent parents. That's the theme of this blog post. I apologize if I interrupted a meeting or you were cleaning something intricate or trying to watch an important news story. It was just stuff I've had in my brain and I needed to share it.

Have a great day!


artistic creations and breaks.

Friends, I love my child. I love her more than my own life. But she's exhausting. Frankly, I have no idea how I do it August through May when working full time; I am sure this is what they mean when people use the term Survival Mode. You know how I know she's asleep? The house is finally still and quiet, and nobody is pulling on me demanding things of great ludicrosity (that may not be a real word).

My child is observant and smart, with an elephantine-sized memory. She has a kind heart and gives great foot rubs. She is also stubborn, indignant, loud, and eccentrically bizarre. Slightly hormonal, too, I suspect. In summary, Melissa is a force of nature, not to be reckoned with. So far this summer, I've had 10,000 doors slammed in my face, cleaned up countless spills/toys/books/random drawings of alien-like creatures that are representations of me, almost re-broken my foot due to strategically-placed dolls on stairs, and last night she did THIS:

Because she wanted to (I quote) "know what makes chairs squishy." So now she knows, I suppose. Hope she's also okay with us taking the contents of her piggy bank and using all of it to buy new breakfast table chairs.

Also: I plan to post photo evidence of the place we call "Melissa's Bedroom," that is actually--I think--an artistic representation of what the scary inside of a child's mind looks like. Every inch of its walls has been colored on, the carpet has been decorated numerous times with markers of all different colors, furniture pieces as well, the window has stickers strategically placed all over it...you know what's not been all marked up to hell? Her art easel. Ask me what irony is: I live it.

And when asked questions like, "Why? Why??" after we find new artistic creations in that place, she casually shrugs her shoulders and says flippantly, "Because, mommy, I'm an artist. I have to."

To which I reply, "When your "art" has its own gallery showings and people buy it for thousands of dollars, then you can color, paint, sculpt, calligraphy, stencil, cut whatever you want. Until then, give me the damn markers, pens, and crayons. And no, m'am, we are NOT finger painting the wood floors later."

Because life is so free when you don't have to worry about actually selling your art to make a living or, you know, trying to put a house on the market or something.

But I'm okay with art using chalk/concrete media
So, I don't know if you can tell it or not, but we are ready for a break, Melissa and I. And I got one! I got a BIG one! I have the entire day off to myself today and tomorrow. Miss M has been packed off to a day camp (bless these people for saving a mother's sanity), husband is out of town on business, and I am Home. A. Lone. It's a glorious feeling.

My plan today is to write, write, and write some more. I will develop the world that friend Angie and I are determined to share with television fanatics everywhere. I will finish up a short story I've been working on. I will be a writin' fool, y'all.

I'm also working on developing a writer's website, so I can look all authorish and stuff. And be taken very seriously. But first, to celebrate my alone-ness, I must do THIS:

Because I am a SERIOUS writer. I want to be taken SERIOUSLY.

I mean, I would NEVER dance and sing to, say, something like this all alone in my house:

Serious writers would never, ever do that. Never.


worshiping at the house of barry

When I was 7, I was in love with Barry Manilow. In LOVE. With Barry Manilow. It was fairly intense. Absolutely serious. Had I been born in a different decade, I could totally have been Amy Manilow.

For Christmas 1979, at the top of my Wish List was Barry Manilow's new album THIS ONE'S FOR YOU. It's really all I wanted, actually. Oh, the Donny & Marie dolls were fine. The Farrah Fawcett glamour center was okay. The Speak and Spell was nice. 

But had I not unwrapped THIS ONE'S FOR YOU that Christmas morning, I would have been crushed, I tell you. Crushed! My whole Christmas would have been crap; my world ruined. I am certain I would have known then, for sure: Santa Claus does not exist. (Thank god he got me the album! I went on to be Santa's biggest PR person another 4 years.) (Also, I would sit and stare--for hours--at Barry Manilow's eyes. I may have sliiiight inability to refuse men with light-colored eyes.)

To this day, sometimes I will Youtube "Barry Manilow" and sit, for the next 2 or 3 or 8 hours just sighing very big sighs over him. I've become a Barry connoisseur, actually. For example: 2014 Barry Manilow is lovely. He's older and wiser, an attractive man with amazing talents. But 1975 Barry Manilow? Good heavens, where are my smelling smalts? Friends, there is simply nothing quite as magnificent as Barry Manilow, circa 1975. Barry Manilow, 1975, was a stunning, fine wine. I was only 3 and he was...however old he was in 1975. But no matter! This is when Barry was at his most complete god-like perfection. I submit the following as evidence:

I mean, seriously. How can you argue with that? The white polyester pants suit with the flare at the bottom. The shiny, feathered hair. His jewel-like green eyes, with that sleepy, bedroom-look to them. Perfect specimen of a man. 

Better yet, I've successfully convinced Miss M that Barry Manilow is a musical deity. I hooked her via the song COULD IT BE MAGIC, because at the start of this song, Barry sings: "Sweet MELISSA, angel of my lifetime, answer to all answers I can find..." (I do swear to you I did NOT name my child after a Barry Manilow song--this is sheer coincidence.)

Then, I further her addiction by introducing her to I CAN'T SMILE WITHOUT YOU. Because it's a catchy tune and also: did you know that in every concert up to a certain point (which I suspect is the point Barry felt maybe he couldn't overpower an overzealous fan), Barry would pick a female audience member, bring her on stage, and sing this song with her? Yes! And not only that, but he'd also walk along the stage with her while singing, her arm through his, then he'd jump up on the piano and (deep, calming breath here) stick her between his legs and wrap his arms around her while finishing the song?? (Oh my god. Excuse me while I collect myself. Deep, deep calming breaths.)

Had I seen the video below at age 7, I know I'd have had a completely different childhood. I wouldn't even be the "me" you see right now. I'd be, like, I don't know. I can't even. Here--just watch this video. Skip to 1:55. You'll see why.

If I had only KNOWN about this at age 7, if I had only been aware of the fact Barry Manilow regularly plucked willing girls from his audiences to go on (good lord, breathe, Amy!)...pretend dates with him at concerts? Holy shit. Holy shit! I can't even. I just can't. I'm certain my 7 year old brain would have exploded, because when my 41 year old brain discovered it, it just about had an aneurysm.

And even better than all THAT (if all THAT isn't enough), this summer Miss M and I have been enjoying All Barry Manilow, All The Time! time on car rides around town. Our favorite is this song:
                          Car Concerts With Barry Manilow

We're going to find a karaoke bar and sing that as a duet. Like Gwyneth Paltrow and Huey Lewis, but mother/daughter. And no conscious uncoupling. And more sequins.


storytelling truths.

True confession: I was worried when I hit the PUBLISH button on my last entry, the one about why dads matter. I worried I was opening up a whole can of worms; I didn't know if the essay would upset anyone, or if they would think bad things about my dad, or bad things about me for revealing some of his darker demons and the effect they had on me as a child and, later, a grown up.

But (I thought as I clicked PUBLISH), screw it. Honesty matters to me. I find it important to be open and willing to share what is or was true for me. (This is why storytellers tell stories, you know...because they can't NOT do it, but also because they're consummate observers of Life and Humanity. It's a deep, dark need to understand and know and puke out some type of catharsis...I think.)

My dad was a lovely, wonderful, really good guy. He also struggled with some inner turmoil. I know a lot of people are really lovely, wonderful, good guys who maybe have some inner turmoils; I know a lot of people out there maybe know some lovely, wonderful people who they're watching struggle with inner turmoils right now. It's nice to read something, or hear someone speak a truth, and have your soul recognize theirs, experience a common affinity, an understanding. (I call this: Finding Tribe.) (You can't steal that--I'm working on the trademark.)

Also, please know: I couldn't have written that blog entry were he still alive today; his story was and is a lesson for me, but also for people who didn't know him at all, and that's all very true because his story happens to have an ending, and it was the kind of ending we can all walk away from in agreement about (i.e., the themes of: Don't Wait, Don't Build Walls). Also know that I'm an incredibly different person today simply because he's not here; I don't have to worry about pleasing him or disappointing him, two things I spent my entire childhood and young adulthood really really focused on. (In fact, still struggle with people pleasing and extreme conflict avoidance. Hurrah, Dad, thanks!) Here's the whole point to this blog entry (I do have one): Truth-telling in stories and essays and blogs and other places is important and it's important because:

1-People were touched by what I wrote. Homies (who HAVE to tell you things like this, if they're really your homies) told me I need to send that shit somewhere besides blogger and facebook. One person (a relative) is currently setting aside money to buy my first novel (because seriously, where would we be without supportive family members? They're our first fan club presidents).

2-More important than all of number 1? I had at least 2 people contact me privately after that blog entry to say thank you for writing it, that it really moved them, and they wanted to reach out with some of their own struggles, and--you know--basically connect with me. Connections were made.

And therein lies the power of Story.

It's really important to be honest--with and to yourself, with and to other people, and cling to Truth as much as you can. When you tell a story, be it an essay of a personal nature (like my dad's), or a work of fiction, it's important to be honest. I actually think it's harder to be honest in fiction, because you'll need to weave the truth into the story threads. I'll give an example: I've been re-reading a really wonderful story by a novelist friend of mine called THE LIGHTNING CHARMER (highly recommend! Kathryn Magendie writes incredibly rich, well-developed characters--she's a master) (also there's a lot of hot (tastefully hot) sex in this book and, uh, it's summer and summer's a good time for that soooo....wait, what? is that an OCTOPUS behind you?? Watch out!)

What's that? Nothing was behind you? Huh, weird. Wow, sorry. My bad. Where was I? Right. Truth. Story. At so many points, I'm being gut punched by a casual observation, or a memory, made by a character in Kat's book. A thought voiced by a character will resonate so powerfully in me, I have to stop and get a pen, underline that thought, because it crystallized something for me, or I identified so strongly with it...it spoke to me.

Stories are essentially all about connections. They bind people. They soften our hearts, heal our wounds, make us think, push us to change, or encourage us to start (or not give up). That's where stories connect us all, as a species. Doesn't that make you deliriously happy to be a human being? To know that our people brains have been given the magical power to do that with, to, and for one another? It makes me so happy. Kangaroos certainly don't WHUPOW! each other. I mean, they do. Just not via stories. ('Cause, uh, they...use...their feet. To WHUPOW! each other. And you too, if you get too close. ...............Never mind. Kangaroos are probably not good metaphors.)

In other Official News of a Personal Nature:

Miss M is now officially a REAL Mermaid ("Mommy! I'm learning to be like Ariel! Aren't you so happy?") Of course, my love! Who the hell doesn't want to be Ariel's mommy?? Just stop singing those frickin' songs from FROZEN, and we'll be copacetic.

Seriously, it's like some wonderful, weird fairy godmother wand waved over her, and she can't NOT be underwater now. She's like Rush Limbaugh swimming naked in a sea of Viagra and loose women. (I'm sorry. I so apologize about that. You weren't eating, were you? Just go back to the mermaid theme.)


fathers matter more than you'll ever know.

Tomorrow is Father's Day. Can we talk about Dads for a bit? (Of course we can! It's Father's Day!) Specifically, let's talk about MY dad, since that's a dad I know a lot about. Here's a picture of Mr. S when he graduated Pennsylvania Military College:
That's a sword in his right hand, NRA. Real men don't need guns.
My dad was a complicated man. He was funny and smart. He was an oral storyteller. He came from a long line of oral storytellers. He probably should have been a lawyer--he loved to research and lecture and argue. Once, I asked him what that thing on the side of our house was that went around and around. For the next hour, I got the answer (a water meter), the history of water meters, how they're read, how we're billed for how they're read, who reads them, how water gets treated and delivered to homes...I could go on. Please take a deep breath here and attempt to conjure up a picture of a ten year old girl with big, brown eyes and a bad Dorothy Hamill haircut who just wants to get back to watching The Love Boat. I casually asked a quick question; ten hours later...holy encyclopedia. Sheer torture.

My father and I also had a complicated relationship. My father was the sun, and the moon, and all the stars in all the galaxies. I loved my dad and trusted him with every fiber of me. He was my hero: he protected me, taught me lots of things, he modeled for me how to be a good and decent and loyal and kind human being. But he could also be scary. He could fly into unpredictable rages and yell, and he had a very loud, deep, booming voice when he did this. He was angry about a lot of things. I don't know what most of them were, but I often wonder if he was that angry before or after serving in Vietnam (which he didn't speak much about). And he drank. And when he drank, he really, really drank. He was never abusive when drinking--he just drank so much he'd get completely sick and stay in bed the next day and we just sort of tiptoed around, giving him space.

Fortunately, he didn't drink a lot when I was a kid. We lived in a dry county--meaning, you could have alcohol in your house, but you'd have to drive to a wet county for it because there was no way to buy it where we lived...no alcohol in restaurants, none in grocery stores, no bars, etc. Nada. Like Iran, but Pentecostal. In a way, living in a dry county sort of saved our family; I'm not sure we'd have ever seen my dad had we lived somewhere with a lot of bars.

My dad came from a long line of drinkers, many of whom never made it out of their 50's. In fact, my father died at the heartbreakingly young age of 51. Five years prior, he'd been diagnosed with congestive heart failure. And when they diagnosed him, the doctors told him two things: (1) he wasn't eligible for the only way to save his life (a heart transplant) due to his life style choices and apparent reluctance to change them, and (2) most people had, on average, about 5 years to live post-diagnosis. Some died immediately; some changed their lifestyles and lived another 20 years. Most died within 5, on average. My dad fit into the average category.

My father's heart was working at only 20% of its full capacity when he died in February of 2001. He was on tons of medicines to keep him alive, medicines that simply helped him function. Without them, he wouldn't have been able to walk from one end of a room to another. My father's dear heart was very, very sick.

The day he died, he came home from work and did his usual: checked email, went to bed, turned on the History Channel, fell asleep. Later that night, my mom asked me to wake him up so he wouldn't be late for work (he was a night shift manager for a fiber optics company). I begged to differ; waking up my dad was like poking a bear. I'd rather play with rattle snakes, yo. So my mom did it (you know where this is going, right?). And a few minutes later called, "Amy, something is wrong with your dad! He's dead. I think he's really dead!"

I was so irritated, because (have I mentioned this before?) my mom leans heavily toward the overly dramatic--to be honest, I've always had the sneaking suspicion I hail from a long line of undiscovered actors. So I sighed a (very dramatic) sigh and walked into the bedroom. The lights were on, the overhead fan was on, the TV was on...but something was very, very wrong. It was too still, too quiet. I stood at the foot of my dad's bed; I knew I could or should touch him, shake him to wake him up, but I didn't want to because I also sensed it would become far, far too real for me at that point.

And so I called to him: "Daddy. Daddy, wake up." I hadn't called him Daddy since I was 14 and shyly, in a terrified kind of way, told him I thought I was getting a tad too old to call him "Daddy," and didn't he think so too? (He did not; his feelings were totally hurt.)

Standing at the foot of his bed, looking at his unnaturally still, pale body, I called him Daddy over and over and over because I thought: If I call him Daddy, he'll hear me and think I'm his little girl again, and he'll know: oh, my little girl is calling for me, I need to go back. Please come back, Daddy. Please come back.

After a minute of this my brain said: Oh. Oh, he's gone. Things were suddenly set into motion and it was traumatic.

Two things about this night:

1-Paramedics showed up eventually to examine my dad. They sent two paramedics to our house: an older man and a younger man. I remember the younger man had a big moustache and glasses. One of the things that worried me most about the whole thing was that I'd been at the house from about 5:00 that afternoon. I sat in the living room in full view of his bedroom. The door was open, and I saw him lying in bed. Was I just sitting there, watching television, grading papers, while my dad was struggling to breathe? I know CPR; could I have saved him? When the two paramedics came out, this was the only question I asked: I know CPR, could I have done something to help when I got here at 5? The older paramedic said, No. No, judging from the way the blood has pooled, your dad died about 1 or 2. By the time you came home, there was nothing you could have done.

That's when shit got real. I remember my knees giving out, because my dad was totally, completely gone. He wasn't here anymore. Where did he go? Was he okay? I would never hear his voice again. I would never have to sit and listen to him talk and talk and talk and talk. It was over. It was over.

I could feel myself sort of sinking and the younger paramedic saw it, reached out and grabbed me, then pulled me to him and held me and just said over and over again, "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I'm so, so sorry." It's one of the kindest things another human being has ever done for me. I wish I'd gotten his name; I can see his face, I can feel his arms around me, I can even smell him. Isn't that weird? I can't remember anything I did or said that night, and only two things stick in my brain like they happened yesterday--I remember my dad's body, what that felt and looked like. Just chaotic blur after that...then this paramedic, and everything about him. Whoever he is, wherever he is, I am so thankful to him. Kindness is so very important in every single interaction you have with people. I simply can't stress this enough.

2-You have to tell people right now, TODAY, that you love them. When they go, there is a big, gigantic, invisible door that shuts. You know they're on the other side; they're somewhere, but you can't see or hear them. You can't talk to them, they can't talk to you. Any little or big things you wanted to fix or work on while they were here? That's all done. That's done. You have to do it now, while people are here. The people who go--they're fine. I don't know where we go when this life is done, but I suspect wherever you go, you are fine. Those of us who are left behind are often haunted by the things we didn't say or do, that we could have or should have when we had the chance. Please go do it right now, if there is something you want to say to or do for someone, do it now while it's in your brain. I am sad I didn't go to lunch with my dad three days before he died, when he asked. I was busy; his offer was annoying, I wasn't sure what we'd even talk about. He talked so much, and I had to sit and listen. Now? I'd give almost anything to sit across a table from him and listen to him prattle on.

Do it NOW.

My father had emotional walls around his heart. I'm not sure what childhood or life experiences taught him to build these walls, but I do know my father taught me to also build walls. It took me a long time (and some therapy) to realize what had happened, and why, and I struggle daily with trying to keep my bricks in check because once they go up, they're incredibly hard for me to take down.

One of the things I love and appreciate about my husband is that he's not afraid to hug or tell Melissa how much he loves her. Men reading this: Please (please!) tell your little girls you love them. Please tell them this, every day. Please hold them and hug them and tell them how smart and wonderful they are. When they grow up, they go looking for you. Please don't send them on love quests for emotionally distant men who don't say I love you or tell them how insanely amazing they are as is. Please don't do that to your little girls.

Live every day as if it were your last.

I tell Miss M every night as she goes to sleep that she's my very best blessing. If something were to happen to me tomorrow, I want her to hear my voice in her head, as long as she can, telling her what a very good blessing she is. I do this because I once read a story by one of my heroes, Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, in which she wrote about a conversation she had as a middle-aged woman, with her very old mother. She asked if her mother had any regrets. Her mother said yes, she did; she wished she had told Naomi more what a blessing she was. It was her only regret in life. Please tell your children what a blessing they are, because they really are (even in temper tantrum mode).

I hope I'm not making my dad sound like a bad dad. He was great dad, and one of my life's greatest teachers. I was blessed with a really GOOD dad. He was troubled, but also full of goodness and humor and heart. I always tell people he was like this: if you went out into a 20 degree snowstorm and forgot your coat, my dad would spend 15 minutes yelling at you about how ridiculous you were for forgetting your coat...and then he'd give you the coat off his back and freeze. My father was a big lion with the heart of a kitten. He taught me to tie my shoes, he taught me about water meters, he tried to teach me how to drive a car but totally freaked me out so my mom had to finish it. He taught me why loyalty and morality and kindness and integrity are important.

My dad was funny and good, talkative and informed, magnanimous and fair. He also flew into unpredictable rages that scared us. He drank too much, and when he drank too much it was confusing. He told really good stories and had a huge, contagious laugh and a really hilarious sneeze. He worked hard, and sometimes we didn't see him a lot. He had a tremendously difficult time saying the words "I love you," but had our pictures plastered all over his office. My father was very, very human, and the ending to his story is that his sweet, sick heart stopped before he and I got to take down some of our bricks. He left before any of us got to tell him good-bye. I would give just about anything right now to tell him thank you--thank you for being my dad, my wildly imperfect and wonderful dad.

I was consumed with grief for an immensely long time. I still miss him, every day. My mother has remarried a lovely man who's a wood-working techno-geek. And almost every time I visit them, I find a reason to walk into the guest bedroom that has the furniture from the room my father died in. I let myself feel him in those moments. The ironic thing is that I feel so much closer to him now than I did when he was alive. I feel my father all around me, very often: all the love he bricked up so carefully so nobody would hurt him? I sometimes wonder if it just blew wide open when his soul left his body and now it's everywhere, all around us. All the time.

A prized possession of mine is a card he gave me when I graduated high school. It's something I would grab on my way out if my house burned down. In it, he wrote about what a hard worker and conscientious person I'd turned into, and how proud he was. He wrote about how he wished he and his generation had done better with the world they were given, and that his wish for me was that I and my generation would do even better. And then, at the end of the card, he wrote four words:

I love you, 


I often toy with the idea of getting a tattoo. If I do, I'll have a talented artist copy those words onto me in his handwriting: I love you, Dad. If I don't do, it's okay: I kind of already tattooed them onto my heart awhile ago--they are words that have become embedded pieces of my soul because my eyes have burned them there. I wish I had more memories of him actually saying them. Please go hug your dad today, if he's still around. If you're a dad, please go hug your children and say those words out loud to them. Say them, whisper them, dream them, feel them, stroke them into your children's hair as they sleep, write them on their hearts until they become embedded pieces burned into their souls.

If you have little girls, please tell them how smart and capable and how proud they make you, please let them know they are wonderful and perfect and magical, as is. If you have little boys, please tell them how proud they make you, how you couldn't have asked for anything better in a son, how wonderful and perfect and amazing they are, as is. If you're a mother reading this, please go do all of that, too. Right now.

When the door closes and they can't touch you or talk to you or hear your voice anymore, it will matter so much more than you will ever know.

Dance like no one is watching.


swim whispering.

Do you need a little magic in your life right now? Have you always wanted to witness a minor miracle? Then I present to you (drum roll.......)

Miss M, the Mermaid (who says she actually identifies as Dolphin, even though she doesn't have any letter d's in her name). 

(Click the pic to see the video...before you do, please envision in your mind this same small child one week ago: clinging to the sides of pools, hanging out on the steps where it's safest. Unable to walk into 3 feet of water which she towered above at 4 feet tall, because she lacked courage and conviction and the knowledge your body has floating powers. Screaming like someone (i.e., me, her mother) was trying to murder her if I even attempted to hold her out in 3 feet of water. This was a PHO. BEE. UH., my friends. I'm talking: the mother of all phobias. And now? Just click the link. Click it! Click it!!)

 Conquering fear.

In a total of 2 hours, Melissa's swim instructor taught her to stick her face in the water, jump off the side of a pool AND a diving board, and swim from one side of a pool to another. IN THE DEEP END. I have referred to her in the past as the Swim Nazi, but now, forevermore, she is simply The Swim Whisperer. (If you're in Georgia for a week and need someone to help you or a loved one get over YOUR swim phobia, get in touch with me. She doesn't advertise--you have to just KNOW some people. Like The Godfather, only no cement blocks tied to your feet.)


feminist dichotomy.

Tuesday, while driving Miss M to swim lessons, I got "WOOOOO!"ed at while sitting in traffic. I wish I could say I flipped that douche bag off, and high fived my inner Gloria Steinem. But I did not. I did not. I smiled to myself, is what I did. And I high fived my inner Paris Hilton, who's very needy and insecure and surrounds herself with people who tell her how stupendously more awesome she is than everyone else and omg! your new haircut is GAWEGEOUS. (What I am saying is, I do get off on male attention. I am married! I am married. But does being married mean a man wolf whistling at me is supposed make me angry and self-righteously indignant? No! Not in my book. In my book, a man wolf whistling at me in public means: Oh, thank god. I still got it.) (Two things about this: (1) What is "it"? I don't know, because different people have different definitions. I guess I mean I'm still on the menu? But you can't order me? I'm sorry. Vague euphemistic analogies are all I have right now...and (2) 99% of these men are missing many, many, many teeth and I'm suspicious they don't bathe. So I take all their lust with a grain of salt.)

I consider myself a feminist. I didn't change my last name when I got married, and I stand by it. (Why trade one man's surname for another? And why don't the MEN change their names? Or why don't we combine? These are the little tricky dick questions that irk me about traditional society.) Melissa and I were walking this morning, and she was raving about swimming lessons, and being able to jump off the diving board now and ended it all with a big, "Just like a boy can!" Where did THAT come from? I asked her. (She didn't know; I think she's inherited my socially awkward, blurt gene.) So we had a long walk-talk about how boys can do things girls can do--it's okay for boys to wear nail polish, it's just fine if a boy wants to be a nurse or a teacher; and it's okay if girls want to cut their hair very short, and it's just fine for girls to be car mechanics and truck drivers. Who cares? Yeah! (we said) Who cares?? Not THESE hip chicks.

And yet I seek out faaaabulous hair stylists and apply make up...yes, sometimes even before going to bed. God help me, I like the color pink--I think it softens skin tone and creates good lighting. Color me vain. (Vain is the color magenta, by the way.)

Which I think is totally a product of being raised in a male-dominated, youth-obsessed, gratification-oriented society. (I can't and won't really defend any of that; I just think it sounded pretty good all strung up there together.) This morning I was getting out of the shower and I realized with sinking knowledge: I am going to have to get plastic surgery. It's inevitable. Having a child completely wreaked havoc on my torso portion. I could lose 8,000 pounds and never get rid of some of this sag. I'll have to visit Google University this afternoon and find out what a tummy tuck involves. If only I'd listened to and followed the advice in all those Fit Pregnancy magazine aricles way back when! Instead, I just read it while eating tubs of ice cream. And cheese. Oh my god! There was so. much. CHEESE.

I am not proud to admit this about myself. I wish I was one of those people who could just go, "Hey, World! This is meeeee! You don't like it? Go! To! Hellllll!!" and then raise up my two flabby arms, high and proud. I wish I was the kind of person who could start blogs about body shape love, no matter what shape the body was. I wish I could get on blogs run by snotty people who like to fat shame others and leave snippy but erudite comments for them, comments for which they'd never have a pithy response. But I am not one of these people. I am one of these people who gets out of the shower and sucks in her gut and, frustrated, resolves to only eat 500 calories that day. And work out for 3 hours. That's who I am. (Ask me if I end up working out 3 hours and eating 500 calories on those days--no. No, I do not. I typically end up eating 3000 calories and working out for 5 minutes.)

This summer, I resolved to work on will power. I resolved to focus on personal goals and determination. So far, I've crossed 2 things off my list (one was more blog writing, the other was more social media. I'm 2 for 2 on those easy things). It's that sit-your-butt-down-and-just-do-it I need to tap into. It's in me; once upon a time, I ran 5 and 10Ks. I ran the Peachtree Road Race, twice. Once started and focused, I can do it. Where are my blinders? I've completely misplaced them (adding FIND MY BLINDERS to my To Do list).

And writing! I am working on writing. I've started to take the stories I've heard throughout my childhood--old family stories--and based fictional short stories on them. Hopefully at summer's end I'll have a collection of these. I've also begun the television script. (Angie, if you're reading this, please close your eyes.) It is not going well. There! I said it. I said it out loud. My brain doesn't grasp script format. Wait, no. Actually, it grasps the format. But I can't tell a story that way. So I've decided to step back a bit and head to story format form...THEN write the script. Base the script on a short story. Once I get the story flowing, I think I'm good. The story didn't want to flow via script. If that makes sense.

That's all that's on my mind today. Oh, wait! And peace. Peace and kindness is figuring big in my mind and my heart today. I think human beings can, and should, coexist together in harmony. I'm tired of people constantly fighting and hurting each other. Please stop being mean to each other, humanity. Please stop.

So I'm going now. To go smoke my peace pipe (I don't smoke), listen to Age of Aquarius, and look up tummy tuck plastic surgeons (but NO Botox--I absolutely draw the line at Botox) (I might get breast implants, though. But NO Botox!) (I'm kidding. Mostly). The End.


audience building.

Because I'm getting more serious about publishing (or, you know, pounding the pavement to prostrate myself and my writing in front of publishers to beg for their consideration), I've decided to utilize social media to (attempt) to build an audience. This could also be considered a dangerous flirtation with narcissism, but I'm going to bulldoze on and pretend it's all about building audience.

And so I created a Facebook Writer page. Here it is: Wherein I announce my arrival. Ta da!

I'm still trying to figure out how to add the Facebook badge/button/whatever for it. I'm good with technology--I know just enough to be dangerous. Also, I know enough to convince the older people I work with that I'm like Steve Jobs except no billions of dollars. I get tapped to do all kinds of technology things--for example, in July I have to go take a 2 day class on some new software our district is making all the teachers do. So I, Amy (aka Steve) will be trained in this software and then I will go train others to do it. Which is fine, because this is called teaching and I have two degrees in that. But you know what I have a hard time with? People who ask a lot of questions and don't listen to my answers. Or, when I give the answer and they listen to it, but then want to argue with me about it. Seriously? Who's the expert here? You're the one who can't find the DELETE button, I'm standing here pointing right at it. I have such a hard time finding my inner Dalai Lama with people like that. (Please note: I speak exclusively of adults here. Children get more of my Dalai Lama, because they have an excuse. Except after the 10th time I tell them the same thing and they don't listen or argue with me. Then I started composing Student Support Team notes and data because, obviously, someone needs a serious intervention...sadly, we don't have Adult Support Team intervention. Wouldn't the world run so much more smoothly if we did?)

At any rate, I'm also having a hard time figuring out the Facebook badge/button. I had it uploaded here for a bit, but I'm not sure it took you (whoever's reading this) to the correct page. When I clicked it, it took me to my administrator set up page. So I shall bulldoze on until I figure it out. I can usually figure out any software/technology once I play with it for awhile.

I have more followers on Twitter, too! They are all writerly-oriented. Most seem to be self-publishing warehouses, and I'm leery of those. I'd rather be published traditionally...there's nothing bad in self-publishing; it can be really lucrative and work out well if you know what you're doing. Here's a secret about me: I don't really know what I'm doing. Also, I have a day job, and I'm tired by 3 PM August-May, and I still have to go work out, cook and clean dinner, read a story and plunk a resistant child into a bathtub, then convince her it's in her best interest to go to sleep. Doesn't that sound exhausting? After spending all day teaching your heart out, social issue psychotherapy sessions, drama control, and crowd management? And publishers these days already expect you to be your own PR team, manager, etc. Can't imagine what that's like if you're completely on your own. While working a full-time day job.

That's when social media is a beautiful thing--you can sit in your pj's with no make up on, in your dorky girl glasses, maybe with a glass of wine or pint of beer next to you, and plug yourself until your ego explodes in stomach-churning, bloody tendrils all over the walls. I'm all for it. What did writers do before Facebook and Twitter? And Instagram! And Tumblr (which I totally don't get or see the point of)! Or blogs? Or texts, or emails, or computers or smart phones or tablets or push button start cars or just transportation in general?! I'm so surprised Shakespeare (or whoever wrote those plays I had to sit and look down at all the footnotes every other word until my eyes bled) was even able to get anything on paper. (Did they have paper in Shakespeare's time? Oh, wait, yes. But they didn't have ballpoint pens. Man! Life in the old days was insane!)

That's really all I have to add here today. It's not as exciting as yesterday, and I apologize if you were looking for real entertainment. I really just wanted to promote my new Facebook Writer page. And tell you a lot of writerly types are following me on Twitter now.

You know who really has no issue letting her ego fly proud and free? Miss M. Totally all about me, me, me. Loves herself in ways no one else ever will, and doesn't care if you do or not. She's into photo bombing lately, and I think that's a sure fire sign someone needs to check it. How the hell am I supposed to take a good selfie with THIS crap going on in the background??


m is for mermaid.

Mermaids. Do you believe in them? The scientist part of me says No, but the magic in my soul says GO! When I was six, my mother signed me up for swim lessons at the YMCA. I was so scared of water, I'd wear my bathing suit under my clothes and then tell the swim instructors I'd forgotten it. (How does one take swim lessons and just casually forget their bathing suit every single time? Six year olds are not known for their rapier-like logic, and the only thing I can think of to explain why none of the adults around me clued in on that by, say, Day 2, is that, well...it was the 70s. If you're in your 40s or older, certainly you know what I mean when I say that.) Eventually someone caught on and I remember a really nice instructor sitting in the ladies' changing room with me, asking me gentle questions that basically all said the same thing: We all know you're lying; why are you lying? After awhile, she got me to admit I was a being a big fibber, shimmy out of my patchwork flared jeans and Winnie the Pooh t-shirt, and reveal the (probably polyester since it was the 70s) bathing suit. And then we got in the pool.

I don't remember exactly what happened after that--I sort of remember clinging to the sides of the pool a lot, just watching the others do the lesson and refusing to participate. For some reason, after awhile (or a day or two? it was the 70s, when time was complicated), I took a risk and ventured beyond the walls of the pool. And then I put my head underwater. And it. was. MAGIC.

After that, I was practically a fish. Which is only as it should be, since I'm a Pisces and we happen to be fishes (two actually, joined at the tails, swimming opposite directions, which really sums me up nicely). And then I was in a pool, every day unless it was thundering and lightning, all summer long. In the deep end. Pretending I was a mermaid, falling in love with Australian spy Robert Scorpio from the soap opera General Hospital. (Even as a child, I had an inability to resist when it came to men with non-American accents.)

I don't know why it came as a big surprise to me that I'd give birth to a child who was also fearful of water. Fear of water is probably the most ironic phobia, being that we live on a water-covered planet, we gestate in fluid, and our bodies are mostly made up of water. (And dust from the cosmos, but that's another post.) Further, I find it really flippant of Mother Nature to have had the audacity to not put gills on us. So unfair, Mother Earth. A real evolutionary foul play.

So Miss M: always terrified of water. Not of water itself, but rather of putting her head beneath it. I've felt, for these last 5 years or so, this is partly genetic and also partly because one night during bath time when M was a mere wee sprite of one year, I turned to grab a washcloth for a split second...and when I turned back to her, she was under the water looking up at me with sort of calmly shocked gaze. And then I pulled her out and she started wailing; water probably went up her nose. (Don't turn your back on babies in water! Not even for a split second! Horrifying, horrifying.)

After that, it was almost impossible to get her under water. And she didn't like it in her face. Holy god forbid you get a drop of water on one of her cheeks--the entire bath process had to come to a screeching halt so we could carefully wipe off the offensive thing.

She got slightly better as she got older. Like, when I had to wash her hair, I could pull down the shower head and run it over her head...as long as her head was aaaall the way back and we had a towel at hand for any water-on-face mishaps. Just thinking about the process is making me want to take a nap. Kids are freaking exhausting. And really picky, yet so fickle. Honestly, some days it feels like I'm living with a tiny little despotic Norma Desmond.

At any rate, we've had quite the time trying to get Miss M over her fear of going underwater. Two years ago we did swim lessons at Lifetime Fitness, this past spring we took lessons through our county's park and rec services. Both experiences were less than satisfactory for us--they made the parents stay and watch, so M would run over to me a lot and beg to go home. To avoid law suits and red-faced parental hostility, they took the gentle approach: lovingly dump water on the head, soothingly try to cajole her scared ass out into 3 feet of water. Both times, I let the instructors know I was fine with just dumping her in the deep end and letting her figure it out. I wasn't going to be That Parent; they had my full support, do what you gotta do, ladies, you're the swimming experts. Both times, the instructors looked at me like I was the insanest parent they'd ever encountered. (No I wasn't: I once watched a mom change a poopy diaper right next to the pool at Lifetime Fitness. The lifeguards had a fit and she had a fit that they had a fit. While standing with a poopy diaper in her hand. People are nutty. And gross.)

And then we found Ms. Kim, who taught both my niece and nephew to swim. And my niece, let me tell you: my niece is a stubborn, tough cookie. Ms. K earned her money with G. So when I was at the end of my rope--Melissa HAS to learn how to swim; knowing how to swim will save your life and therefore is NOT optional--my sister in law gave us Ms. Kim's number. After we registered M, we got a 5 page email with all The Rules. Rule #1 being NO PARENTS ALLOWED. (And a suggestion to bring earphones and music to relax for 30 minutes while shit gets really real for your child.)

So we went today. Today was Day 1 of Really Real Swim Lessons. I wasn't nervous going in; I was nervous about what I was going to be hauling home with me in the backseat of the car afterwards. Would she just be very quiet and shell shocked? Or would I be taking home Wendy from THE SHINING, right after Jack chopped through a door with an axe screaming, "Here's Johnny!" determined to kill her. I didn't know.

But we went, and she went into the pool area willingly (like a lamb to a slaughter) (I did think it--I swear to you, I had that thought right inside my brain as I watched her little back retreat from me.)

Thirty minutes later, Melissa came out dripping wet from head to toe.

"Mommy," she screamed, "I DID IT! I put my head under the water! I used Ms. Kim's magic orange goggles and I did it! I did it! Are you SO proud of me?"

"Oh yes yes yes, sweet girl," I said, "I am so SO proud of you!"

And then Ms. Kim told me Miss M had swallowed a ton of pool water in the fight process, and not to be upset--there could be a lot of throwing up on the way home. And, on cue, Melissa vomited all over Ms. Kim's parents' porch. Nice. And then, on the way home, Melissa asked for a snack because her tummy hurt...and proceeded to vomit up two more tons of her stomach's contents.

Lovely, lovely. Sooooo...I just got done spending 40 minutes in the heat of the early Georgia evening mopping up vomit chunks from the back of my car. You know what you learn when you have to mop up vomit chunks in summer heat and humidity for 40 minutes? You learn that (1) stomachs, even tiny 5 year old ones, hold a freakishly enormous volume of food and water--I swear, why are we not in the camel family? surely we could traverse the desert with what our stomachs can hold; (2) the insides of human beings are absolutely disgusting--they look disgusting, they smell disgusting...we are all just walking/talking containers of revolting, repulsive ick; and (3) poop is way more desirable to clean up than vomit. I'm pretty sure I could walk through a sewer full of fecal matter for a whole day with very little reaction, but the second I smelled vomit floating with the feces, I'd be hurling up my own guts, creating multiple hernias and whatnot. (Note: tomorrow, there will be nooooo blueberry muffin plus chocolate milk snacks beforehand. Pure water until all pool vomit has cleared the area.)

So it was a slightly traumatic afternoon for both Miss M and I. Afterwards, I asked her if she had fun. "Yes," she said, "I had fun but not TOO much fun."

"Well, I was so so SO proud of you, my big girl. You were SO very brave!"

"But mommy," M said sadly, "You didn't see me."

"What do you mean," I asked.

"I MEAN," she sighed dramatically, " I WASN'T brave. I was SCARED!"

"What did Ms. Kim say when you were scared?"

"She said if I didn't get my hands off her neck she was going to dump me."

"But now you know how to put your head underwater and you can DO it, big girl! I am SO proud of you!"

That's when I was told I was talking too much and she didn't want to talk about it anymore. DOG WITH A BLOG was on and she only wanted to hear them talk.

And that, my friends, is how you train up child (in a swimming pool). I say this all the time, about how I do worry about the wussification of America. And today I realized I may have been a part of that wussification of America in my little teeny corner of this country. So thank god for strong people like Ms. Kim, thank god for them. America, put people like her in charge. You aren't going to like it, and you're probably going to blow chunks on Day 1 and probably Days 2 and 3, but by Day 5? You're swimming like a mermaid. Or merman. Mergirl. Boy. Whatever.

Pre-Life Changing Event.

Post-Life Changing Event (two mermaids in a car).


i can't think of a title for this.

I have my new laptop! I have my new laptop! Oh, happy day. I feel so much better typing on a keyboard than on a touchscreen phone (ask me how many swears I've shouted and muttered at auto correct over the last month or so...I can type 70+ words/minute on a keyboard. Typing 101: the most useful class to technology-driven humanity EVER).

So the writing can commence. Right now. Immediately.

First, I'm going to write this blog (because writers don't eeeever procrastinate).

I grew up in Kentucky, and so the Kentucky Derby is a Thing each year. I totally missed it this year--I usually try to pick a favorite and then pay attention, casually, to the race. California Chrome won the Derby this year. And then the Preakness! He's not your typical racehorse--just a regular old horse who's become a star. I love stories like that, and underdogs, and rooting for people and things that seem unlikely to make it. And then to win the Preakness and possibly the Belmont? That's so huge! (Affirmed was the last horse to do it, in 1978.) (I didn't know that off the top of my head--Google told me.) But, sadly, it was not to be. Sorry, Chrome. You are still loved.

It's been years since I've been on a horse, but I love them. Next to dolphins, I can't think of an animal I love more. I once knew how to bridle and saddle a horse. I could ride Western, English, side saddle, bareback (don't ride a horse totally bareback--put a blanket on those things. Their spines are...uncomfortable. In that region). And all the commands. If you're from Kentucky, you HAVE to--they take away your Kentucky card if you don't learn horses. (Kidding. Sort of.)

Trivia fact: Kentucky really does have bluegrass. If it gets long enough, the sun's out, and the wind is blowing? You can look at Kentucky bluegrass and go: That grass looks blue! (It actually looks greenish blue.) Here's why: Kentucky is full of massive cave systems underground (Mammoth Caves--go spelunking, it's fun!). Caves are formed by lime eroding into the soil. So the lime goes into the soil, and that's what turns the grass blue-ish. Lime happens to contain a lot of calcium. Horses come along and eat the bluegrass/calcium. And that's how Kentucky got to be so well-known for its amazing thoroughbreds--big big horses on stick-thin legs that run like the wind. Because of bluegrass/lime/calcium.  Thus concludes your useless trivia for today.

Speaking of bluegrass, the house I grew up in (which had a lot of bluegrass) backed up against a cow pasture. I can't tell you how many Saturday mornings I'd wake up to excited shouts of parents in the neighborhood trying to capture yet another cow that had jumped the fence.

As children, living with cows as neighbors was idyllic. We'd feed the cows grass clippings our dads had mowed, or pull down tree leaves for them to eat. Every spring, there'd be new babies and we'd name them after our favorite TV shows: Fantasy Island, Love Boat. Diff'rent Strokes, Punky Brewster, Dallas... I'm not sure we realized what would, one day, happen to these cows. But we loved them immensely, and sometimes, if you fed them long enough, they'd let you gently pet their soft, wet, velvety noses. Cows are gentle creatures. I hate that they make such tasty steaks. (For a very long time, from junior high all the way through college, I refused to eat them. I still have to really will myself not to think about it, don't think about Fantasy Island's sweet face back in 1982. Just grill the thing.)

We'd also jump the fence and walk around the pasture when the cows weren't there. We liked to stick sticks in the cow patties to see what they looked like on the inside (totally green. totally, totally green). We were odd children.

Speaking of odd children, I took Miss M to get her hair done at Miss Z's yesterday. I'm okay doing biracial hair now (thank you, google and youtube!), however my parts are always a mess and my braids just never quite smooth enough. And I lack patience. I lack a lot of patience. I once saw, on Thandie Newton's twitter page, a link to an article her sister (I think) wrote. In the article, her sister wrote about how their mother would spend hours and hours just gently detangling their hair and they never, ever cried. Not so at our house. I don't have hours and hours of patience for detangling. I do my best to keep it from hurting, but I have been given a melodramatic drama queen. Sometimes, I'll hold the comb over her head not even touching her hair and ask, "Does this hurt?" And she'll scream (with REAL tears, you all), "YEEEEEEES! YOU'RE HURTING ME! STOP HURTING ME!" And then she gets all mad when I tell her I'm not even touching her hair because that's tricking her.

So there are tears. A lot of tears...and that's from both the detanglee and detangler. I'm told this is supposed to be a bonding experience. I'm not seeing that yet. Melissa and I bond over nature walks and books and music and movies. Hair? No.

However, I refuse to feel bad about this. (1) I can barely do my own hair and (2) I didn't go to beauty school. Hair and make up are clearly not where my talents lie. I also know that, one day, she will grow and find a faaaaabulous hair person (as I have) who will know exactly how to make her hair do and be its most awesome. She and her fabulous hair person can bond over hair.

But it's a cultural thing, my husband tells me, and it's one of those little things--in every marriage, I think there are those little things--that are constant sources of contention. I couldn't give a flying crap about hair. It's just not something I spend a lot of time worrying about. But apparently, others do. And hair is a Thing.

We also disagree about the point of childhood, though. I think childhood, particularly summers, should be spent swimming, reading books under trees, eating ice cream, and just generally hanging out.  He thinks summers should be spent preparing for Harvard and a sports scholarship. (I'm being hyperbolic, but not really.) I have exactly zero interest in being a soccer mom--carting Melissa here and there to a million different things on her schedule. I had a lot of free time as a child, and I turned out okay (quirky, but okay). I loved my childhood--I can honestly say, other than some family dysfunctions and etc--I had a good, happy childhood. I spent a lot of time with my imagination or my nose in a book. And today? I don't rob gas stations, I pay my taxes, and I'm a thoughtful citizen of the world. And generally kind, if slightly judgmental occasionally. This is the kind of human being I'd like to raise--someone who's kind (if slightly judgmental), thoughtful, and happy. Melissa has a kind, thoughtful heart. And she's very judge-y. I think I'm doing an okay job so far.

I also think because I work in the public ed system, I want her to be a child as long as possible. They don't want children to be children anymore, you know. They want little PhD scholars running around, citing evidence to their thinking processes. It's ridiculous, and I won't have it. I think you should have a good 12 years to do nothing, BE nothing, exist completely in a world of pure imagination before you have to go fight in the arena. If she wants to spend all summer with wild woman wolf hair singing "Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?" and "Let It Go" 100 billion times (in all languages--holy god, you all, youtube has these songs in every human language imaginable), then I say: have at it. You don't have to explain to me what your thinking processes are about that. You're a kid, and so clearly you're crazy. Kids do crazy things that make sense only to them. Do they have to explain EVERYthing?? (According to Common Core, they do.)

I feel okay about all of this because I do try to balance. We're at the public library once a week. We read books together. I try to teach her, on the sly, how to sound out words/notice patterns (aka read). We talk; we talk a LOT. A friend of mine (Patresa, amazing musician/storyteller) wrote a blog piece about this with her son, about how she tries to balance TV and books and conversation, and I felt so much better about my mothering after reading it (that's the power of writing--that connection, that message that we're all in this together).

So I think we're good over here--Miss M knows her abc's and sounds, she knows rhymes and patterns, books figure prominently in her world...she's literacy-ready. And we talk. So many people just don't talk to their kids these days. Please talk to your children. Please talk to them and let them know what they think, how they feel, what they have to say is important. Please tell them how much they're loved, please let them know they are your very best blessing(s). Please do this, world, so we have less dysfunction. And please read to them once in awhile, because reading and writing will help them survive in life. Math will only take you so far (I'm sorry, Mathematicians, but it's true...proof: half of you can't spell).

How did I get from Kentucky Derby to cows to hair to kids? I can't even think of what to title this blog entry, it's so everywhere. Welcome to my brain. (Go get some ice cream and read a book under a tree somewhere.) (And don't hand feed cows--their sweet faces will just haunt you at every barbecue.)


summer fade.

June is the slippery slope month. Oh, it's all fun and games that last week of May--the whole summer is ahead of me, and it's not even June yet! And then June 1 hits. And then June 2. And 3rd and so on. And now we're getting close to June double-digits. This is just like how fast kids grow up! Stop this roller coaster and point me to the carousel.

I've ordered an HP Chromebook, which is supposed to be here tomorrow. SO excited! I researched them and people rave about them, so fingers crossed. Really, I just need internet access and a writing tool. A friend and I are starting a writing project this month--we have an idea for a television show (aka "a pipe dream"). We have a whole world to share with people, and we think it's fascinating (possibly because we live it) and funny and we have seasons and seasons worth of material. Seriously--I've researched television writing/production/etc, and it appears one of the problems with tv is that it eats plot. Not so for this, we think...first, the plot practically writes itself, and second, so do the characters. And, in my experience as a story writer, characters are what drive the vehicle. You can have a great plot, but without interesting characters, it just doesn't work.

So I've been doing a lot of research for many months--reading a lot of television scripts, lurking on the Writers board over at imdb.com (omg, friends, have you BEEN there?? I don't get involved; I stay out of the frequent dysfunctional frays..it's for the best--who has that kind of time? not me), and we've emailed/called each other with different pitches for episodes or things we'd like to include in the overall story arc. (I like to throw show business terms like "pitches" around, because I think it makes me sound very Hollywood) (Hollywood would chew me up and spit me out-I'm way too nice-but please not until I have cocktails with Clive Owen at the Roosevelt, okay, Hollywood? Thanks.).

At any rate, one of the things that's kept me procrastinating (aka "researching") this long, besides a laptop on the skids, is the fact that I'm a story writer, not a scriptologist. I can tell you exactly how to craft a short story, but trying to sit down and type in script format? My brain isn't sure right now.  But I've also been watching copiously DVR'd episodes of The Sundance Channel's THE WRITER'S ROOM, and I love these people they feature. I watch these shows and think: Why did I go into education? This is not my tribe--the people THE WRITER'S ROOM have featured: that's my tribe. I wish we could go out and drink coffee and talk storytelling shop and beat drums and crap. But no. Poop. I have to go talk about place value in a few weeks and talk about "she said she was my friend but now she's not and she told her not to play with me and she said I wanted to kiss Juan Carlos" and tell people to stop eating the crayons and no you can't go to the bathroom, you just got back from it 3 minutes ago. Dammit. Hanging out with this tribe all day is like...like...being zebra caged with chimpanzees. I'm sorry. It's after midnight here. That's the best analogy my brain can come up with.

I've never written a script. I've been told I'm good at writing dialogue. But I've only ever written dialogue in short story format. How do you tell a story via only or mostly dialogue? Thankfully, I see some scripts have a lot of stage direction, and that's helpful to this story writer. Anyway, I decided to stop over thinking it (like I'm doing right now) and, once the new laptop gets here, I'm just going to sit down and start typing. The first draft is always shitty (says my hero Anne Lamott), so fine. I'll do a shitty first draft and then friend A and I can put our heads together and make it a crappy 2nd draft. And go from there.

Really, it's just so I can put out a tweet and use the hashtag #amwriting. It seems to be popular.

Speaking of twitter! (I'm sorry--I did say last time I'd stop.)  THE WRITERS ROOM retweeted my mention of them today. And I've gotten favorited by a bonafide television script writer. That's exciting progress, right? Jason Isaacs continues to ignore me. I sent him a fabulous birthday message--I read a lot of birthday messages people sent him yesterday and, honestly, not a single one of them wished that he'd get an Oscar nomination this year for his birthday. And I meant it when I typed it--a WHOLE Oscar nomination. For him! Maybe I should have just said "an Oscar." sigh. Frickin' actors.

It's okay! It's okay, Isaacs. Don't feel bad. I wrote my mom a really fabulous Happy Mother's Day super long paragraph on Facebook last month and she totally didn't respond to it, either. I tweeted my brother the other night and he tweeted me back and then I tweeted him back and then he ignored me after that. I'm totally used to being ignored on social media. My own family does it.

At any rate, I'm getting braver! So, so brave. Is it weird that I feel like this tweet-a-total-stranger thing is like an online version of ring the doorbell and run away? (Oh, wait! That just reminded me of how, when I was 14, we'd order pizzas for neighbors and then giggle our ridiculous heads off, watching from the bushes, as the neighbor and the delivery guy got all confused.) (Teenagers. What can you do?)

Miss M starts Swim Nazi lessons on Monday. I'm nervous. She has no idea what's about to happen. Occasionally, she checks with me to make sure Ms. Kim isn't going to make her put her head underwater. I may need to take earphones/earplugs, because I'm certain now there will be screaming. Screaming like Medieval torture chamber screaming. But watching her at my sister in law's pool the other day? Phew. Girlfriend has GOT to girl up. (I keep telling myself I'm doing this to save her life--how can you not know how to swim?? You HAVE to know how to swim.) She loves the pool, she loves water...clinging to the sides, hanging out on the steps. Take her out into 3 feet of water and it's like we're waterboarding her.

Where was I? Swimming, twitter, scripts, writing. Yes--I'm starting a script on Sunday or Monday and I have never ever written one before. I feel like I'm about to jump out of an airplane, praying the parachute works.

It's 1:30 AM and my brain has officially stopped working, so I'm ending this very very abruptly. I don't know why I titled this entry "summer fade," since there's nothing really fade-y about it.... (...except these elipses...)


sensible rumi(nations)

I am better. Things have stabilized (for now). It's not often I make public announcements like the last post, so if (when) I do, you will always know: oh dear, it must be pretty bad over there with Amy. (No flowers or cards please, just send light and love, thanks.)

And Becky, thank you for listening over salads--can we call these lunch dates "Cobb Salad Confessions"? It sounds like something HBO might air. Oh, and thanks for letting me try out your fancy new Chromebook! I researched them a lot--they have no CD/DVD player, but I think I'm going to go with that because it seems to get the job done and I'm all about getting jobs done. And also people rave about them. And I'm all about getting jobs done with things people rave about.

My life has been blessed with good people (like Becky) all over it; these more than make up for the Valdemorts who pop up now and then. (For those who don't know, Becky is like Hermione and Ron Weasley and whatever the name of that character is who Maggie Smith plays all rolled into one, except Becky is much younger and hipster) (I like to use Harry Potter references a lot even though I really have no freaking idea what I'm talking about--this makes me feel like I'm living on the edge. I'm dangerous like that. Come at me, Valdemort!) (I bet I spelled his name wrong.)

Tonight I have 1 story and then a Rumi quote to share with you. The story won't help you at all, but the Rumi quote might:

Story: Alice's Sensible Plan.

Alice stood in front of the judge. She could see her mother's worn out face (sad eyes) to the right, her two sisters staring solemnly at the floor to her left. She could feel Frank's mean blue eyes burning her back. She stared up into Henry's long, waxy face and focused on his pudgy nose. She felt that defeat again, knowing she shouldn't be here, and wouldn't if Frank hadn't said what he'd said. That day.

The judge asked Henry for the ring and Alice stared at her shoes as he placed it on her finger. White shoes. Comfortable white pumps. Nurses might wear sensible shoes like these. Sensible is important.

Alice decided five years ago, at 16, to become a nurse. She wanted to help others, maybe because she spent her whole life silently wishing someone would help her family--help her father, help her mother, help her sisters, and her. No one ever did, until Henry said he wanted to help her. But Henry also said he didn't want her to be a nurse. Henry didn't want to marry a working girl. He was off in a few weeks, and only God knew where the war and the US Navy would land him. Henry wanted a wife home, safe, not a girl out nursing the sick and wounded. He wanted to show off her picture to the boys, and tell them what a sensible, good woman he'd married, someone who was waiting at home for him right now, cooking and cleaning and getting ready for babies...and didn't she also look just like Zoe Mozert? He married his very own Zoe Mozert. Alice never saw the resemblance, but Henry insisted they could be twins, and that every sailor in the Navy would be green with envy over it.

Before all the Zoe Mozert talk, Alice had been at her parents' kitchen table a month ago, filling out the nursing school application when Frank walked in. He stood over her, smirking at the writing on the paper in front of her. "Women belong at home in the kitchen. Jobs are for sluts." Then, as quietly as he'd come in, he turned and left.

She looked at the paper for a long time. She felt tears, but refused to let them out. Slowly, so she could feel each minute inch of paper as it tore, she ripped the application. She'd placed the pieces in Frank's lunch box when she was done. He'd see them down in the coal mine the next day, and she prayed that would be the day there'd be a cave in.

Her mother had married Frank for security after their father died. But Frank had been the opposite of secure--though he never beat Alice or her little sisters, he was hurtful in other ways. Alice and her sisters were afraid of him, but the night little Betsy asked Alice if she thought maybe pushing the dresser against the door would help with the nightmares every night, Alice knew he was doing it to all of them. She knew it like she also knew how Frank's hands were callused and there was a large, disgusting wart on his right ring finger.

As she placed her ripped up paper into Frank's lunch box, Alice remembered Henry's face. He wasn't perfect, but he wanted her and he was the perfect escape from Frank. They weren't being beaten, so nobody would die--Betsy and Louise would eventually find their own escapes. Henry was going to be Alice's.

Last night, Alice let Henry have whatever was left of her virginity. "You'll keep 'obey' in, won't you, Alice?" asked Henry after he finished thrusting into her. Over milkshakes at the diner, she announced she was mulling a crazy notion to break tradition and ask the judge to take out the word. Alice suggested Rosie the Riveter wouldn't say it, and women could be strong now, too. Henry's face had gone blank, but his eyes darted side to side, making sure no one had overheard her.

Alice stared through the dark up at the ceiling, thinking about Henry's request. The whole act they'd just finished had repulsed her. Her insides felt weak and clammy, and the sharp sensation she'd gasped at when he entered her were only part of it. Henry's sweat dripping onto her nose, his onion-scented breath on her cheeks and in her ears, the way his mouth twitched like a beached fish as he came, the horrifying mewl-y groans he made, the scent of semen and something wet running between her legs. Alice took deep, slow breaths to keep the bile down.

"Alice?" said Henry. And then Alice nodded. With a weak, "Of course, darling," she agreed to love, cherish, honor, and obey Henry until death do them part. Henry patted her head, then got up to urinate in the motel's toilet. Alice grabbed the spoon she'd swiped from the diner and began scraping up Henry's insides from between her legs.

They'd checked in as Mr. & Mrs. Henry Grier even though they wouldn't officially both be Griers until tomorrow night, but Alice didn't worry about letting Henry have her a night early. She wanted it over, but she also needed him to do it. Tomorrow morning,  Henry was coming for breakfast. Alice planned to let Frank know what they'd done tonight. It was important, very important, Frank know how wrong he'd been that day: Sometimes, Frank, sluts DO belong in kitchens.

Alice carefully wrapped a napkin around the spoon, hoping none of its contents spilled on her way home. She had a kitchen to take it to, and a special breakfast to cook, and something sensible to prove to Frank. Henry climbed into bed and patted her head again, then turned his back to her and fell asleep, completely forgetting she needed a ride home. Alice lay in the dark listening to an amazing cacophony of snores begin. She got out of bed, pulled the spoon off the nightstand and tucked it carefully into the bottom of her pocketbook. She began pulling on underclothes, and as she pinned her stockings to her garters, she started to cry. The silent tears gave way to sobs hyperventilating from her chest, which felt as if something was crushing it. Defeat. Alice sensed that is what the crush of defeat feels like--defeat is a deep burning crush inside of your chest.  The color of red and purple and it's hard to breathe.

Henry sat up, annoyed, and told her to stop making so much noise. When he saw her dressing, he yelled, "Dammit!" and then told her to hold her horses, she was being stupid; he said he'd get her home and he would. Alice finished dressing and waited for him to dress. Something pricked at her as she sat at the end of the bed, some knowledge that, in spite of how carefully she'd planned this, Frank had still won. 

Frank always seemed to, even when there was a sensible dresser blocking the door.

This was (obviously) longer than the other two pieces, so I didn't post it to twitter. In addition, I'm becoming quickly disillusioned with that place. I feel like I'm shouting into a very large, crowded cave. I can't see anyone, but I know they're there. Maybe some of them hear me, but most of them are so busy shouting into the cave as well that they aren't listening and/or can't hear me. My brother told me tonight it's not for social networking, just for following people. But what's the point of following people if you can't be social? I am far too social, I fear, for Twitter. Hey Twitter followers and following: does anybody want to grab some coffee? I'll buy! (not if all 70 of you come--I'm a teacher, yo.)

So I'm back to: I don't get Twitter. I did try. And I do like to just blurt out random thoughts now and then. It's something I'd do offline, so why not? On the bright side! When I was 7ish? 8ish? I developed sort of a gentle crush on Henry Winkler (The Fonz on HAPPY DAYS) because he was cool and rode a motorcycle. And he said, "Aaaay!" a lot and made me giggle. I found him on Twitter and he is So. Freaking. NICE. you guys! I introduced Miss M to him via youtube, and she agreed, so we sent him a message and he replied to us. Who knew The Fonz was so awesome? AND he writes children's books. Gosh, I heart you, Henry Winkler. Sweet man.

That's my only positive thing about Twitter so far. Otherwise, I feel like a big old, creepy lurker. And I don't like being a big old, creepy lurker. Okay, fine. I actually do. I'm pretty sure that's why the entire Internet was invented, so we could all creepy lurk one another. (Well, and: porn.) But on Twitter, no one is creepy lurking me, and I wish someone would. On Twitter. Maybe? I have no idea where I'm going with this. I'll move on.

Okay, moving on: here's a quote by Rumi. I'm etching it onto my soul, and I want to share it with you in case you'd like to etch it onto your soul as well. Or maybe tattoo it on your ass. Whatever floats your boat:

"If God said, 'Rumi, pay homage to everything that has helped you enter my arms,' there would be not one experience of my life, not one thought, not one feeling, not any act, I would not bow to." 

 (Thank you, hero Elizabeth Gilbert, for sharing this with me.) Not personally--Elizabeth Gilbert, EAT PRAY LOVE author, did not email or call me and say, "Hey, Amy, here's a Rumi quote I think you need." She shared it on her facebook page, and I happen to get her facebook page in my facebook newsfeed (because I creepy lurk her there), and this is getting really, really weird. I have GOT to get a grip on the social media thing. And stop fricking talking about it here so much and fixate on something other than internet lurking. Good god, I apologize for this entire blog post. I hope you didn't have something really important to do.

Rumi would tell me every single bit of this are all things I need to bow to, to pay homage. Twitter, I honor you. Facebook, you too. And you, whoever is reading this, I bow to you. And I'll buy you whatever you'd like at Starbucks if you talk to me on Twitter. 

(I think I'm missing Rumi's point in that last sentence.)

Hey, look! Here's another really cool Rumi(nation):

Go seek (lurk, whatever) and be awesome. -Amy (not Rumi)