I Work Ouuuut

Since January, I’ve made it my mission to eat better, exercise regularly, and eat less sugar. I knew I had to make a change because I was in a funk. I had reached that uncomfortable stage where even your underwear feels tight…where Exercising You seems like such a foreign idea that you can’t fathom how you ever once ran five miles, let alone two…and the stage where you can’t wait to get home at night so you can change into your favorite sweat pants and curl up with your favorite men: Ben & Jerry.

retro sugar-ad

I tend to do this every year. When summer ends and the days start getting shorter, I hunker down like a little squirrel getting ready for winter—only instead of burying my nuts all over the backyard, I’m baking breads, sitting on my ass, and coming up with excuses to not leave the house. By Thanksgiving, I’m on the Atkins Opposite diet and my major food group is carbs.  By Christmas, I’m still all about the carbs plus sugar. I tell myself I am getting into the “holiday spirit” when I bake sugar cookies, banana breads, and drink my weight in eggnog. By New Years Day, I’m 10-15 pounds heavier, my wardrobe is big sweaters, and I’m depressed—not just because of the number on the scale, but because eating shit food makes you feel terrible.

So like millions of other Americans, on January 1st I started to make changes. I reinstalled MyFitnessPal to count calories and exercise, went for a run (and surprisingly didn’t die), threw out a bunch of crap food, stocked up on fruits and vegetables, and vowed to not eat sugar.

SUGAR IS THE DEVIL
Cutting out sugar was brrrutal. For one thing, sugar was a part of my every day routine, from adding sugar to my morning coffee, to eating chocolate at the office, to having dessert every night. It was so hard for me in the beginning to stop consuming sugar that I actually dreamed I was baking chocolate chip cookies and secretly eating them. I was addicted.

The other reason why it was so hard to give up sugar is because food manufacturers add sugar to literally everything. If you don’t believe me, look at the label of something random next time and I can almost guarantee you there is sugar, high fructose corn syrup, aspartame or some other sweetener in it. WHY oh WHY does sugar need to be in oatmeal, granola, yogurt, ketchup or spaghetti sauce? Simple: because it tastes good and will make you more likely to buy their product.

SMALL CHANGES
Because I knew it would be nearly impossible to stop eating any and all sugar, I just tried to make better choices where I could. I started to drink my coffee black, brought fruit and salads every day for lunch, and plucked the M&M’s out of my trail mix. I put the M&M’s I would have eaten into a plastic baggie and by the end of the week I was blown away by the amount of sugar and chocolate I would have had when eating a “healthy” snack. My chocolate drawer at work also accumulated quite the collection — Hershey kisses as gifts on Valentine’s Day, Andes mints from Christmas, assorted candy bars from a rep who dropped by…I threw them all into the drawer and forgot about them. Finally, I stopped eating dessert. This was hard because it was our routine to eat dessert several nights a week (hello, tight undies), but I found that having a cup of tea after dinner really helped. Eventually, I stopped craving dessert (and dreaming about it 😉 ).

The more you move, the more calories you burn, which is why having an exercise routine is so important. I set a goal that was doable for me – lift weights 2x/week; run 2x/week and try to move in some other way 1x/week, whether that meant taking the dog for a long walk, using the elliptical, snowboarding, whatever. But I also planned for rest days. I can’t stress the importance of them enough, not just to give your muscles a break but to give your mind a break. It was important to remind myself, “It’s OK, the world is not going to end if you don’t work out today.”

CHEAT DAYS 
I’ve had three cheat days since January 1st and I have to say they all made me sick. In January, we went out to celebrate Dan’s soberversary and split a piece of chocolate cake. The sugaryness of it was overwhelming. It felt like I was biting into sugar cubes and was shocked that I used to be able to tolerate that much sugar and chocolate.

candy!

The second cheat day was for the SuperBowl and we went balls to the wall. Chicken wings, chocolate chip cookies, potato chips-everything and anything we hadn’t been eating. A couple hours after eating all that junk, I felt like I was going to throw up. All I could compare it to was a night of binge drinking, where you curl up into a ball, replay everything you consumed and ask whyyyyy, and promise the gods you’ll never do this again. The next morning I had the same symptoms of a hang over — nausea, headache, feeling tired, feeling like crap, and promising you aren’t ever going to do that again. I literally had a junk food hangover.

The third day was for my birthday. We were on our way to a casino early in the morning and didn’t have time for breakfast so we stopped at a McDonald’s. I ordered what I had eaten hundreds of other times: Egg McMuffin and Hashbrowns. 30 minutes later we were pulling into a gas station because I thought I was going to be sick. It didn’t even occur to me that my body could no longer tolerate that  food.

SUGAR + ACNE
In December, aka The Month Where I Almost Got Diabetes, my skin was an absolute disaster. My face was breaking out non-stop and (TMI Alert) my back looked like a landmine. I would have Dan inspect my back and at one point he counted something like 20+ zits on my back, some of them the size of dimes. It was disgusting and pretty painful. But since cutting way back on sugar, I’ve noticed a huge improvement in my skin. It’s long been contested whether or not sugar is linked to acne…but I am a believer. Now that I’m eating a lot less of it, my face and back both look clear and healthy.

PROGRESS
I’ve lost about seven pounds so far and 1-2 inches– except for my boobs, pretty sure I’ve lost a full cup size there. Thanks, Diet. Pants that I was popping out of in Nov/Dec are now baggy. I feel better and I feel stronger. I like seeing the definition and contours that are appearing on my muscles. I like seeing the progress I’m making – from being able to do 1 pushup, to now doing 10…to not being able to hold myself on a pull up bar at all, to now lasting 2-3 seconds, to being able to run faster and longer. It’s all progress and I’ll take it! I just hope I can keep it going all year long.

 

 

The Illusion of Celebrity Deaths

I do not understand the phenomenon of crying and grieving over a dead celebrity.

Inappropriately grieving celebrity deaths

Let me back up. I actually do understand this phenomenon quite well, but it’s probably more accurate to say I don’t participate in it.

My senior thesis in college was on the topic of Para-Social Interaction Theory (PSI) – the theory by Horton & Wohl (1956) that said one-sided relationships can develop between an audience member and performer in the media they are consuming, creating the illusion of a face-to-face relationship. In layman’s terms, you feel like you are friends with someone in the media and they meanwhile have absolutely no idea you exist.  A tame version of PSI may be tuning in to the same nightly news cast because you feel like you know the anchor and can trust the information they provide; An extreme version of PSI is the case of Robert John Bardo who stalked actress Rebecca Schaeffer for three years and shot her to death because she had filmed a sex scene.

When I was writing my paper in 2006, the web and social media were not the robust platforms they are today. Then, you’d be lucky if a celebrity had a MySpace page, let alone a website. But now, any media personality is easily accessible—or at least gives the illusion they’re accessible – making PSI and celebrity worship more rampant than ever. Whereas you may have previously written your favorite singer a letter or an email, and prayed to god they somehow saw it, now you can directly tweet at them. Instead of relying on People Magazine to snap two blurry pics of your favorite celeb on vacation, now you can visit their Instagram and see what they’re eating, wearing, or thinking, all in real time. Websites like Perez Hilton and TV shows like TMZ and Entertainment Tonight feed into our culture’s obsession with stars, and even local media personalities feel intense pressure to keep up an online persona.

Because we have access to celebrities through so many channels, it’s easy to feel like we “know” them on some level. That’s why you watched their wedding on TV, rooted for them when they went to rehab, and why you burst into tears when they died. At best this sort of thinking is delusional, at worst it’s dangerous.

Along with putting celebrities on a pedestal, our culture gives celebrities immortality and is then crushed when they die like the rest of us mere mortals. Grieving used to be appropriate for an untimely or tragic death. John Lennon, for example, dreamed of a world without hunger, possessions or violence and then was shot to death (by a fan who no doubt was experiencing PSI). That was tragic. But now whenever anyone remotely famous dies, regardless of the fact that they were a senior citizen with cancer or punished their bodies with drugs and alcohol for decades, it’s heartbreaking, it’s sad, it’s awful. You know what? It’s LIFE.

There’s no disagreeing David Bowie was a musical genius and a pioneer who broke barriers. I have mad respect for him and his extensive career. But his death still didn’t make me cry because I didn’t know him–none of us did. As his wife Iman said, “I am married to David Jones. David Bowie and David Jones are two different people.” Maybe you’d argue that his music was the soundtrack to your life—there for all of the bad and the good times. My question back to you would be, “Why does him dying change any of that?”

And as far as Alan Rickman is concerned—yes, he had a prolific, successful movie career, but you didn’t know him either. It seems so trivial to me that people are upset over his death when they’ll be able to see Rickman’s face or hear his voice anytime they wish by simply popping in a Blu-ray or adding Harry Potter to their Netflix queue. Can you say the same about a lost friend or family member?

If you’re still reading at this point, it’s likely you think I’m cold or emotionless. But you’ll be happy to hear there is something that makes me feel sad when a celebrity dies – it’s the fan who mourns the loss for days on Facebook, but cannot be bothered to attend a blood relative’s funeral. “No, I’m not going to attend the services,” they’ll say. “We just weren’t that close.”

 

That Night One Year Ago

It was the night of the college football championship and he was meeting the guys downtown to watch the game. And I just knew something bad was going to happen. I could feel it.

“Why don’t you let me drop you off downtown tonight and you can take a cab home,” I offered to him as he zipped up his winter jacket in the living room.

“No, baby! I don’t want to make you drive me down there. You’re watching your show and you’re already in your pjs.” Technically these things were true and being a girl who falls asleep on the couch at 9:00 pm wasn’t helping my case.

“Well maybe one of the guys could pick you up instead? Don’t they have to drive through here?”

“I don’t want to inconvenience them, babe. I will be fine, I promise,” he told me.

But I didn’t believe him.

I stood up to kiss him goodbye and I found myself putting my hands on his shoulders, like a parent about to send their kids off to summer camp. I looked him in the eyes and said:

“Just promise me you won’t drive. If you end up having too much, please call me or promise me you’ll take a cab home.”

“Of course, baby! Of course I will take a cab, I promise. I don’t plan on drinking that much, so you really having nothing to worry about,” he told me. We kissed goodbye and I resumed watching my trashy reality television show, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that something terrible was going to happen.

**

My fears weren’t completely irrational. Almost all of the memories I had of him were steeped in alcohol. It was the glue that held our friend group together. Activities that weren’t supposed to be about drinking were made into ways to drink: Jack and Cokes and pitchers of beer during our Friday night bowling league; Beer pong, flip cup and shots at the Halloween party; “Sampling” dozens of high alcohol percentage beers, washed down with a mixed drink or lighter beer of your choice, as we hung out at someone’s house on a Thursday night; An entire keg, intended for ten people, tapped at 8:00 a.m. at our all-day softball tournament; Every wedding, every funeral, and every birthday – alcohol, alcohol, alcohol.

For a while, I thought this sort of thing was normal. I thought this was what people in their late twenties/early thirties did. When I spent the night vomiting, crying and praying to God to let me live, my friends laughed and said I couldn’t handle my liquor; When he got sick at a party, someone would be right there with a drink encouraging him to “puke and rally” so he could be the night’s hero; When someone else confessed the next morning they’d lost a big chunk of time and couldn’t remember much (called blacking out), someone else would conveniently have a photo or video clip to fill them in, along with a degrading story or five.

Drinking soon became a catalyst for a lot of really bad things; it fueled fights, injuries, drinking and driving, our friend group imploding and both of us getting divorced.

The great thing about losing a group of friends is that it gives you perspective. I had time to look back and realize just how much time was wasted getting wasted. I asked myself, “Do you miss that lifestyle, do you miss them?” and the honest answer was/is no. We had all grown apart years before and drinking was the only thing keeping us together. I knew I didn’t want to live my life that way anymore.  Alcohol had never been important to me—it was the social time it created that I valued—so it was really easy for me to change my habits.

It wasn’t so easy for him to change his habits though. He had been our group’s heaviest drinker—the life of the party who never wanted to leave and never wanted to stop. He was the person who couldn’t stop.

He had also recently started to reframe his obsession with craft beer as not a problem, but “a hobby.”  He told me he was an integral part of the craft beer community and that he loved his beer people. Whereas other people’s hobbies might be reading, his was following every brewer and brewery he could think of on Twitter. Instead of pictures of him, his family or his friends, his Instagram only contained carefully constructed photos of rare beers and brews in #properglassware (glassware that matched the beer they contained). Instead of a cute cat video or a photo album of a recent vacation on his Facebook, his updates were brags about waiting in line for the release of a popular beer and selfies of him consuming his victory. His restaurant choices, his vacations, and the ways he spent his weekends were centered around craft beer.  All of this was chronicled in a blog he appropriately named brewsandbooze. I slowly started to realize he had a problem.

When we talked about it for the first time, he agreed he had been drinking a lot lately, but assured me he was in control. To prove it, he quit drinking…for two months.

**

I woke up to the sound of the back door slamming and someone stumbling around the kitchen. I looked at my phone—2:30 a.m. From my bedroom, I could hear the dog get off the couch and make her way over to greet him. As soon as he saw her, he started weeping and said, “Sadie, I did a reallllly bad thing.”

I called out to him and he made his way into the bedroom, still crying, still stumbling and reeking of alcohol.

I asked him what bad thing he did. He told me he got a DUI.  I was livid. But as I listened and tried to make sense of his drunken tale, I realized he didn’t just get a DUI. He got into a car accident, he totaled his car, he was arrested, and he could have been killed or killed someone else.

I couldn’t listen to his story. All I could think about was how I offered to drive him downtown, how he promised to take a cab home, how he lied to me, and more than anything, how he was an alcoholic. I told him we were done and I meant it.

The next day, as he dealt with things like getting his totaled car out of the compound and calling a lawyer about the DUI, it became clear that he was starting to feel the weight of this accident. He looked like a scared child and just kept saying, “I could have killed someone. I could have killed someone.” He told me he was done drinking—forever—and that I had to give him another chance. I didn’t believe him. I told him, “Too bad.” It was my parents—the same ones who had been in love with my ex-husband—who convinced me I had to give him another chance.

Oddly enough, him not drinking took a toll on our relationship. His personality changed and we both had to learn who Sober Dan was. We had to find activities to do that weren’t centered around alcohol (try that for a week and you’ll see how hard it is). I also spent the first several months living in fear that he would drink again. It was terrible to feel so insecure in a relationship and to spend your time apart wondering if this was the time something would happen. After he’d come home from a concert, I’d quiz him about who he was with, what his NA options were, and if anyone pressured him to drink. When he had bad days at work, I expected to find him with a glass of whiskey in his hand. I mentally prepared for the moment when I would have to confess to friends and family that he was drinking again and I’d imagine the disappointment I would see on their faces.  I was 100% absolutely positively convinced he was going to fall off the wagon and that we were going to break up for good.

But that bastard did what I hate more than anything—he proved me wrong.

Today is his one year sober-versary. The “me” from last year who doubted his commitment to never drinking again is still in shock about this milestone. But the other me is so proud of him. They say things happen for a reason and I’m a true believer. That night a year ago was exactly the wake up call he needed to change his life. The fact that he walked away unscathed and no one else was injured is a miracle. Not drinking hasn’t always been easy and it hasn’t always been hard, but it has always been the right choice for him.

 

Delirious thoughts while having the flu

funny-pictures-chipmunk-asks-you-to

  1. When you show up to the ER with a fever of 104.6, every part of your body aching, shaking from being so cold while simultaneously feeling so hot you think your eyeballs are melting…it is not helpful for the staff to shame you when they find out you didn’t get a flu shot. I get it. I’m a terrible, irresponsible person. But the strain of flu that is going around right now isn’t even covered in the vaccine, and I know people who got the shot and still got the flu. So why the hostility, Doc? Please just charge me so much money that I’ll be meeting my insurance deductible in the first month and send me on my not-so merry way.
  2. Tamiflu knocks you on your fucking ass. I think I might have actually paid $120 for sleeping pills. I’ve passed out at least three times writing this one paragraph. Enter some intelligent comment here that I’m too exhausted to come up with about how f-ed up our health care system to charge $120 for medicine.
  3. Night sweats are not only disgusting, but confusing. The first time I soaked through every piece of clothing I was wearing, I thought, “Weird. Ten minutes ago I was so cold that I thought I was standing outside naked. Better remove these fuzzy socks, sweatpants, and the 3 t-shirts I’m wearing.” The second time it happened,  my head now dripping with sweat as well as my entire body, I thought maybe the cat accidentally peed all over my head. He hadn’t. I shrugged it off and fell back to sleep. By the third time, the sheets beneath me were so wet that I legitimately thought I peed the bed. You know what’s really fun? Having to change the sheets at 4 AM when you don’t even have enough energy to blow your nose.
  4. I’ve been up for three hours and already need to go back to sleep. More to come later if I can stay awake.

8 Year Old Amy and the Case of the Cursive P

The most stressed out period of my life was the year I spent in Mrs. Lemieux’s third grade class. Yeah, you read that correctly, third grade. Like clockwork, I came home every day after school and cried. The crying caused full blown migraines, and I’d have no other choice but to lay down in a dark room with a wash cloth draped across my forehead so that I didn’t barf all over the place. My parents couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. My mom spent hours talking to my teacher and sent me a greeting card in the mail that promised, Everything is going to get better. Thinking the migraines were because I couldn’t see the chalkboard, they even took me to an optometrist to have my eyes checked out. The conclusion was, “There is nothing wrong with your daughter’s eyes. We think the headaches are stress related.”  Duh.

I had been duped! Second grade was a walk in the park! We studied dinosaurs, we watercolored, we learned the Star Spangled Banner and we played outside. The end.  I excelled at second grade. I was awesome at second grade. I even remember thinking second grade wasn’t challenging enough. I approached my teacher Ms. Saunders one day and demanded to know, “When are we going to learn cursive!?” Ms. Saunders was caught off guard, and probably wondered to herself, How can learning about the Palaeosaurus not be enough for you?  But instead sweetly laughed and said, “That happens in the third grade.”

“Excelllllent,” I evilly replied and rubbed my two hands together like Mr. Burns on the Simpsons. (Ok, that didn’t actually happen because I never saw the Simpsons until middle school, but for our purposes we are going to pretend I was a badass).

I was very excited between the summer of second and third grade. I had gelled bangs, I could sing our national anthem, and dammit, I was going to learn cursive. Nothing could stop me! photo

On a scale of one to ten, I’d say third grade was about two million times harder than I had expected. There was so much homework! There was so much reading! There was so much less recess time! I had it good the year before and didn’t even know it.

My desire to learn cursive turned out to be the biggest challenge of them all—a classic case of be careful what you wish for. It started off easy enough. Mrs. Lemieux would draw a letter on the board and in our little notebooks with predetermined dotted lines, we would do our best to copy it. “A” was a synch for me because, duh, my name started with that letter and I was obsessed with finding out how to write my name in cursive. “B” also didn’t give me much trouble because it meant I could learn how to write my brother’s name in cursive, too, and of course hold that over his head when necessary. But by the time we got to the middle of the alphabet, I was struggling.

There were so many letters that made no sense to my little brain. Why would anyone give a lowercase “m” three humps when it only has two in print?! And couldn’t giving “n” two humps be confused for “m,” especially for us people who barely can read our own handwriting?! And who the hell came up with the cursive “z”? That is some sort of hieroglyphic shenanigans right there.

The letter I had the hardest time with, hands down, was the lowercase “p.” I always seemed to screw it up! I would tilt it too much, or forget to close the loopdy-doop thing below the line, or forget the squiggly piece that started it. I’d bring my booklet up to Mrs. Lemieux for approval and each time she would say, “You still don’t quite have the ‘p’ correct. Go back and try it again.”

What was this hellish prison I was stuck in?! Take me back to second graaaade! [cue headache].

My classmates at our four-corner desk quad would see me in tears, with my hands on my head, starring at my practice sheet and that goddamn “p.” A few of the girls were really nice and would show me how they drew it, hoping I would catch on. But I honestly don’t remember any eureka moment where I got it right and jumped for joy. I have to assume I did because I moved on to 4th grade – but it’s very possible that I should not have and that you are reading the work of a cursive criminal.

 

I do have to say there were a few redeeming qualities to third grade:

  1. We watched Voyage of the Mimi…a lot. Starring none other than Mr. Ben Afflick himself, VOTM “was a thirteen-episode American educational television program depicting the crew of the Mimi exploring the ocean and taking a census of humpback whales.” We learned everything from navigation, to drinkable water, to sea animals. VOTM even taught us that when someone gets hypothermia, you both need to get naked and get into a sleeping bag together. How our third grade jaws dropped during that one.
    (Note: I did NOT enjoy the Second Voyage of Mimi, because during Episode 1 they revealed one of the characters was an amputee and showed her putting on her fake leg. Terrifying.)
  2. We had pet crawfish. While other kids in neighboring classrooms got to snuggle up to fuzzy, adorable, baby ducks, my classmates and I were given crustaceans with pinching claws. Looking back, it does seem kind of weird that kids in land-locked VT had pet crawfish…but in 1993 at Flynn Elementary School, it was just another day in paradise.

    I picked out a female and gave her the most appropriate name I could think of: Francesca. Francesca only pinched me a couple of times, which was actually something to brag about considering how often the boys in my class had crawfish dangling from their hands as they screamed for help. I remember two things about Francesca: 1-she smelled really bad and 2-you could tell she was a female by flipping her over and studying her legs. 1694549_orig 

    I don’t know what happened to the crawfish in the end. I think we let them go down by the river, or maybe they were shipped to Louisiana where they belonged. I do remember that when our unit on VOTM and crawfish came to an end, Mrs. Lemieux threw us a big party and brought in cooked lobsters for us to try. It was the first time any of us had ever had something so expensive and delicious. She let us each take a piece of the lobster shell home as souvenirs. (Again, why she thought giving 8 year olds smelly fish parts in June was a good idea was beyond me…) I wrapped a lobster abdomen up in a paper towel, showed it to my mom, and begged her to let me keep it. I think it lasted a few hours before the smell of rot was enough to make me chuck it myself.

  3. I fell in love with writing. When we weren’t getting attacked by crawfish or cringing each time our teacher drew another new cursive letter on the blackboard, we wrote stories. We would work on our stories for what seemed like weeks and then we would hold “An Author’s Tea” and invite all of our family members to hear us read them. The majority of my stories were centered around my cat Midnight who had an affinity for chasing and eating bumblebees, and sleeping on my head and drooling into my ear. I also wrote about time travel and secret passages–an obsession I had that last well beyond third grade (thanks Babysitter Club books).

    But third grade was also my first and last bout with plagiarism! I guess the creative juices just weren’t flowing one day when I decided to copy Danielle Bombardier’s story about The Boy Who Didn’t Like Cake. The plot was simple: there was a boy, and he would eat almost anything, except he didn’t like cake, and how could anyone in the entire universe not like cake? Yeah, how could someone not like cake, I thought to myself. What would be even crazier is if he didn’t like ice cream! And so my story entitled The Girl (see what I did there) Who Didn’t like Ice Cream was born.

    When Danielle found out I was essentially stealing her story and changing a few parts, I remember her squeaky little voice protesting in anger and saying, “Heeey! That’s my story. You just changed a few parts.” And I pulled a Vanilla Ice and was like, “No, no. It’s different. See YOUR story is about a BOY who doesn’t like CAKE. MY story is about a GIRL who doesn’t like ICE CREAM. Completely different.” Maybe Mrs. Lemieux, thinking that I couldn’t handle another cursive “p” incident, took pity on me because she let me write my story anyway.

 
Though it was challenging, I think third grade taught me some valuable lessons: 1). Crustaceans make better meals than pets; 2). If at first (or second, or forty-third) you don’t succeed, try, try again; and 3). Cursive is some straight up useless bullshit and you will only use it in third grade.

The Return of Amy

A funny thing happened to me the other day: I had a moment where I felt like myself again.

I was at work on a sunny Friday and noticed my coworker come in with a dozen My Little Cupcakes. I thought to myself that either she was going to have to most awesome breakfast of all time, or I should be expecting an email alerting me of food up for grabs. You know the email—the type that sends polite office workers into fools stampeding toward the kitchen. Sure enough, an email appeared in my inbox with the promise of chocolate, sprinkles, and buttery whipped cream.

But ah-ha! There was a catch to cashing in on these sugary bundles of joy. The cupcakes were from her husband Steve’s birthday, and in order to take a cupcake, she asked we write him an email to say happy birthday. Interesting!

Now, have I ever met Steve?
No.

Did I even know she had a husband named Steve?
Again, no.

But was I going to let any of that get in the way of me and some perfectly adorable cupcakes?
FUCK NO.

I’m not entirely sure why I was amused by this situation. The “me” from a few months ago would have angrily received that email, made some comment to myself about how dumb and small those cupcakes are, and hit “delete” with enough gusto to break the backspace key on my keyboard. Then I probably would have popped on my “please-don’t-talk-to-me” headphones, listened to some more depressing Sarah McLachlan type music, and rushed to the ladies’ room 15 minutes later for a good cry when fill-in-the-blank thing happened.  Yeah…That was pretty much me at work from September to last week. Home life was even uglier.

But for whatever reason, I wasn’t annoyed by this email. In fact, I wanted to play along. If an email to Steve is what she wanted, an email to Steve she would get!

I carefully thought about what sort of message I’d like to craft to good old Steve and came up with the following:

Dear Steve,

You don’t know me, but I am writing to wish you a happy (belated) birthday and to say thanks. Because your parents got it on when they did, and because you married Eve, who then started working here, I’m reaping the benefits of a delicious mini cupcake! So thanks! Hope you had a fabulous day.

Your Fan,
Amy

OK, so it wasn’t exactly Pulitzer Prize material, but for the first time in a long time, it felt like the real Amy was back—the person who was creative, spontaneous, upbeat, and dare I say…a little bit funny!? What an awesome fucking feeling.

This past year or so has been incredibly hard and sad, but I think I am finally past the roughest patches. I’m fortunate to have an incredible group of people who stood by me when the bottom fell out and saw me through the most awful months of my life. Sure I still have my Sarah McLachlan days, but I’m regaining myself with every day that passes, returning to the person I was before. I’m crossing off items on my life’s to-do list, spending my time with people who bring me happiness, and I’m doing the things I love. The fact that I’m even blogging speaks volumes to this.

everythingisgoingtobeOK

Three people this week alone have commented on how nice it is to see me so happy again.

I couldn’t agree more.

What We’re Teaching Little Girls

I recently experienced the following at a grocery store…

In the check-out line behind me was a young girl who couldn’t have been older than seven or eight.  She had long hair, was wearing a floral print dress, and by all accounts seemed like a typical, innocent child. She was buying popsicles with her Dad, scoping out all of the magazines, and this is the conversation I overhead:

Girl: Dad, wow. Look how fat Kim Kardashian is…
Dad: Wow, yeah she is.

Girl: And oh my goddd, is that __? It doesn’t even look like her. You can totally tell she has had plastic surgery. I bet she has had a face lift, maybe more!
Dad: Yeah, I think you’re right. She’s barely recognizable.

Girl: Ugh, look how ugly Mylie Cyrus looks with short hair! Why would anyone want that haircut?
Dad: I don’t know, honey. It does look pretty bad. I prefer the long hair myself.
Girl: Me, too. I would never want to look like her!

!!!

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There are so many problems with this conversation that I don’t even know where to begin. I guess I’ll dive right in with the little girl.

Socialization 

This girl is seven years old and has already been socialized to believe the most important thing in life is beauty. And not just any type of beauty—beauty that’s defined by being blonde, white, and thin (with long hair, apparently). She thinks that anything that strays from this is bad, wrong, ugly, and undesirable.

What is arguably the saddest part of all of this is that the standard of beauty she so badly believes in and presumably wants to emulate doesn’t exist and no one has ever told her differently. Those aren’t real people she sees on the magazine covers. They’re airbrushed, photoshoppedliquefied, perfected versions of someone they used to be. And she probably won’t learn this until it’s too late.

Did you know half of girls between the ages of 3 and 6 worry about being fat?  Don’t even get me started on thinspiration or thigh gap.

Little girl's diet plan

One little girl’s “diyet” plan, found by her mom

Girl Hate

Another huge problem is that this little girl has already learned girl hate. She’s been taught all women are in competition with each other and that she should dislike any female that could potentially be prettier, smarter, or better than her at something… And if she suspects any of those things, she’s learned to pick them apart.

Wow, look how fat Kim Kardashian is.
Ew, why would Miley Cyrus do her hair like that?

You might be thinking, she is only talking about celebrities…does this really matter? YES, it absolutely matters because she I guarantee you she will do this with girls her own age, if she isn’t doing so already.

Reinforcement

Even though I truly believe our society is to blame for what this little girl knows, I still find myself angry with her father. He is her role model and did nothing but reinforce everything she said. Wow, you’re right. I think she did have plastic surgery. Yeah, I’m not a big fan of short hair either.

Was it possible that this dad had a really long day and was just absentmindedly saying anything to appease his kid? Sure. But something tells me he truly believed these things and may have even taught his daughter some of it.

There are so many teachable moments with kids. During this short time in the check-out line he could have easily talked to her about body image, worth, respect, the concept of beauty, or even some age appropriate sex-ed!

IE: Actually, honey, Kim Kardashian has gained some weight because she’s having a baby, and that’s the normal, right thing to happen.

The Dad happened to be an elected official. I don’t know why, but I expected and hoped for more from him.

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Change

I have a niece that’s three years old and is obsessed with weddings, fairy tales, and princesses. Her favorite color is pink and her favorite activity is putting on makeup, a crown, and prancing around the house. When anyone gives her a compliment, nine times out of ten it’s, “Oh, Maddie, you are so beautiful.” She always cocks her head to side and starts laughing, as if to say, “I know.” Her five year old brother Jack experiences the opposite. People seem to have a list a mile long of words to describe this boy: smart, inquisitive, caring, compassionate, strong, and, sure, cute. So why is it that Maddie, even at three years old, is constantly reduced to her looks? Why doesn’t anyone tell her how smart she is? How capable she is? How strong, or compassionate, or good she is? I try so much to relay these messages to her when I see her, to let her know she’s more than just a pretty face, but it disappointingly feels like an uphill battle I’ll never win.

Tonight made me realize more than ever that this isn’t the world I want my future daughter or son to grow up in. I don’t want them believing their worth is measured by the symmetry of their faces, or the number that appears on a scale. I don’t want them to hate other kids and people around them who aren’t blonde, thin and white. I want my future seven year old daughter to not know what the word diet means. To not know what plastic surgery is. To recognize the images she sees before her in grocery check-out lines aren’t real and don’t matter. To spend her summer nights chasing fireflies barefoot in the grass, or telling scary ghost stories around a campfire with her friends. To scrape her knees. To get dirty. To eat ice cream cones. To be a child. And to remain that way for as long as possible.

I just don’t know how to make this happen and that’s what saddens me the most.

My Dad vs. Modern Technology

Sooo Hotmail is officially dead. Sounds like everyone who was still holding out was migrated over to Outlook. I could really care less about this development, except it made me think of my dad and a funny story.

My pops is a hard-working, traditional kind of dude. He’s spent the better part of 40 years as a painting contractor and has worked on everything from local banks to doctor’s offices to residential homes and even some Vermont McMansions. He knows everything there is to know about painting – what kind of primer to use, how many coats a job will need, which areas will need patching, sanding, caulking etc…which is all great…but it means his knowledge on things you and I take for granted is basically non-existent.  Let me get right down to my point: the man knows absolutely nothing about modern technology and more importantly, doesn’t care to know.

Did you ever hear that joke about the person who was using a computer and received the prompt, Press any key to continue,  and his/her response was, Where the heck is the ‘any’ key???  Yeah, well I’m 99% sure that joke was based on my dad. With his coke-bottle glasses rested on his forehead and his eyes about two inches from the screen, he once spent a good 5 minutes searching the keyboard for it, only to throw his hands up in despair and say, “I can’t find the ‘any key,’ anywhere!”

business man with laptop over head - mad

Martin P. knows three things and three things only about computers: 1) how to turn them on; 2) how to get to the start menu and; 3) how to start a new game of Hearts. The end.

His hatred for technology dates as far back as I can remember and was especially strong for video games systems. For whatever reason, my dad just couldn’t remember the name of any of them, and always seemed to be a game console behind. He called the Nintendo, “The Atari,” called the Sega, “The Nintendo,” and then finally reached a point where he just referred to all video game systems as “THE MACHINE.”

“Bobby, it’s time to shut off THE MACHINE.”

“I’ve had enough with THE MACHINE, MACHINE, MACHINE! I mean it. It’s all you guys do!”

“Uh, Ricky, the red light is blinking on THE MACHINE…”

My dad also grouped the cable box, VCR, and of course all computers into THE MACHINE category. In fact, he was so “anti-machine” that we didn’t even purchase our first home computer until I was a sophomore in high school and my teachers stopped accepting hand-written essays (btw, we’re talking about 2001, folks.)

I think the reason he hates THE MACHINE is the same reason he hates THE MAN. He grew up in the 60’s, dodged the draft, believes all politicians are corrupt, and is 100% convinced Big Brother is always watching. THE MACHINE (whichever one he happens to be referring to—doesn’t matter) is just one more way for our government to keep tabs on us and he’s not gonna let that happen. Yup, no computers for my dad.

He does every estimate by hand. Gives out every bill by hand. And the only advertising he does is a Yellow Page listing. My dad’s business doesn’t even have a website, which is just mind-boggling to think about in our digital age. I guess it goes to show you the power of a good referral.

So yeah…keep all of the above in mind as I now (finally!) tell you the funny “Hotmail” story from a couple years ago.hotmail-logoThe year was 2005 and I was living in Gorham, ME, attending the University of Southern Maine. During one of my (ah, hem, DAILY) phone calls from home (MOM), I got to talking to my dad about some guy we both knew. Can’t remember his name, but for our purposes let’s just call him Ted. Here’s how the conversation went down:

DAD: Yeah, so I ran into Ted the other day.

ME: Oh yeah? What’s he up to now?

DAD:  I guess he’s looking for work. Said he might wanna do a couple of jobs for me this summer if I needed help. But I dunno…

ME: Oh, that’ll be good, Dad. Why are you hesitant?

DAD: ‘Cause the guy is…I don’t know how to describe it…WEIRD.

Let me just interrupt here to point out that my father is the most opinionated person in the ENTIRE universe and is never afraid to tell you how little he thinks of a person. So to hear my Dad struggling to come up with an insulting adjective for Ted was off-putting.

ME: What do you mean he’s “weird,” Dad?  Did something happen?

DAD: I don’t know. I just think the guy’s kind of…full of himself and I think he’s some sort of SICKO.

ME: (starts laughing when I hear the word ‘sicko’) Ok, so something obviously happened…SPILL…

DAD: Well, he called me up after I ran into him and we got to talking…and then at the end of the phone call he wanted to give me his “E-mail” address (my dad says “E-mail” address real slow, and I imagine him also using air quotes). I tried to tell him I don’t have “E-mail” but he started spelling it out anyway.

ME: Ok…so…

DAD: And well…he told me it was TEDVT1924 at HOTMAIL dot com.

ME: Ok…??

(long pause)

DAD: Yeah, HOTMAIL. Can you believe the nerve of that guy? I mean, who does he think he is?

ME: I mean Hotmail is kind of a shitty email service but I still don’t get why this makes him a sicko.

DAD: Well, I dunno. Not that there’s anything wrong with that (my dad’s favorite Seinfeld quote), but I don’t think I want any part of it.

ME: DAD, I still don’t understand what the hell you mean.

DAD: I think he’s pretty cocky. That’s what I mean. And a sicko to have HOTMAIL as his email.

And then it clicked. My father, the computer-illiterate, heard HOT MALE.

Benjamin Godfre - Hot Male Model-03_thumb[2]

Once my hysterical laughter subsided, I explained to dear-old-Dad what “HOTMALE” really was, and assured him Ted was still a good guy.

DAD: Well, I didn’t know! I don’t know anything about that sort of stuff. It’s not funny, Amy. Ugh, we’re getting another call. MARY LOOOU. How do I do this thing? Gotta go, Amy. Someone’s beeping in. I HATE THESE MACHINES.

*click*

Back-Trackin’ Ain’t Easy

He may or may not have been from the Jersey Shore

Today, while attempting to find a backing track to our new radio commercial…

DJ: So, what kind of music are you looking for?

ME: I’m thinking something happy and upbeat…something poppy…

DJ: Ok, what about this? (plays tribal, African drum loop).

ME: Um, (smiles politely), nope, I don’t think that’s quite it.

DJ: Ok, how ‘bout this? (plays some reggae, Bob Marley rip off)

ME: Very relaxing, but no… I think we need something more POP.

DJ: (plays intergalactic, dubstep medley)

ME: (laughs uncomfortably)…I think we need simpler than that. Have you ever listened to Spotify? They have really great music for their commercials.

DJ: Oh ok. Let’s see here… (Googles “Spotify commercial.” Finds it. Plays it.)

ME: Yeah! See, isn’t that great? I think that’s what we need.

DJ: Yeah, definitely. So it seems like there’s some guitar strumming in there and it’s really simple. I think I got it…

DJ: (plays theme-song to “Deliverance.”)

ME: Uhhhh…Maybe it would be helpful for me to tell you a little more about who we are and what we do…(cause you clearly didn’t listen to the ad you just recorded)…Our target audience is women between the ages of 18 and 24…

DJ: MMM, hmm. Right. How about…

DJ: (plays Enya)

ME: Yeah…again… we serve YOUNG WOMEN and I don’t think that’s really gonna speak to them. Can you sort these by mood?

DJ: HAHAHA, no! Wouldn’t that be great?

ME: It certainly would be.

ME: Feist! That’s the kind of music I want. As if Feist were our backing track.

DJ: Ohhhh, ok!

DJ: (plays sultry, SloJam. Clearly has never heard of Feist)

ME: BAAHAHA! Bow-chica-bow-bow! That would be great if we were a strip club. But that’s not gonna work either.

DJ: Are you sure?

ME: Yeah, I’m positive.

***

2 hours later…(ok, fine, it was only 20 minutes)

We landed on something. What it was, I really can’t remember now. But if you end up hearing it on the radio in the next week or two, please know I tried my best.