My Six Books

I was challenged by a friend – well, I begged her for a blog post idea and she came through like…someone who’s really dependable – to come up with three books that are “a snapshot of me.”

I already failed, since I came up with six and couldn’t whittle the list down any further.  They are listed in the order in which they were read…because that’s the order in which I grew.

  1. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – JK Rowling

This book captures my whimsical childhood imagination.  If I had three wishes, I’d wish to go to Hogwarts for a year.  I’d date Ron and be besties with Hermione and go on adventures with Harry.  And I would steal some lemon drops from Dumbledore.  Why this HP book specifically?  Because they form The Order!  The kids become more rebellious and independent and help each other out and fall in love…sigh.  Deep down, I really do believe in magic.

2. Letters to a Young Therapist – Mary Pipher


I read this book in my Master’s program when I had no idea how to help my clients and I had a shitty supervisor who wouldn’t help me.  This book became my virtual supervisor and gave me space me to begin to figure out what kind of therapist I wanted to be.

3. The Gift of Therapy – Irvin Yalom


Like the previous book, this one gently taught me to figure out what therapy was and how I could use time, space, and words to help people help themselves.  Most of all, Yalom urged me to use myself- that, through authentic relationships between therapist and client, meaningful change could happen.  Such a simple, powerful message that has stayed with me.

4. Quiet – Susan Cain


THIS.  I never fully understood my introvertism, or that all those weird things I do even had a name, until I read this book.  I am drained and exhausted after interviews.  In college, I avoided small talk with drunk dudes in bars by asking a real question, like When you die, what do you want to be remembered for?  I can be alone and happy, reading for hours.  One time in grad school, I wanted to go home and get in jammies but my friends wanted to stay out.  While we were discussing it, the last bus of the night drove by.  I left mid-sentence and RAN to that bus stop.  I didn’t look back.  Reading this book felt beyond validating.  Having the additional insight into my personality and disposition will prove invaluable as I navigate interpersonal relationships (including the one I have with myself).

5. All Joy and No Fun – Jennifer Senior


This non-fiction book is about how children affect their parents, and woo-boy, it describes my first year of being a parent like SHE’S IN MY HEAD.  I spend a good chunk of my days doing work, a lot of thankless work, to keep my child alive and healthy.  It’s no fun.  And every once in a while, I get a moment, one moment of sheer, complete divine JOY when my boy belly-laughs or snuggles with me.  Aaah, that’s why people birth small humans.

6. In the Body of the World – Eve Ensler

Eve is best known for writing The Vagina Monologues, and recently she fought and won her battle with uterine cancer and wrote about it in this book.  While no cancer story will ever be the same as my own, there were many times where her experiences mirrored mine, and her ability to eloquently wade through grief and words and symbolism brought out all my feels.  We’ve both worked to help women survive violence, we lost parts of our female reproductive systems, and struggled not to feel like less of a woman because of it.  I was honored to meet her in 2008.  This book spoke to me on a level that few books can.

nanopoblano2015lightNaBloPoMo Day 16

Wishing for Zombies

I often find myself wishing that a zombie apocalypse will happen for reals…kinda.

I am really drawn to disaster/apocalyptic/survival stories.  I like to guess what I would do in each situation, how I might act, how I might feel.

As I try to unpack what my fascination is about, I think I am intensely curious about how going through a crisis affects people (me), and how people (me) tend to fight, flight, or freeze, and how people (me) either grow or are torn apart or something in between.

A catastrophic disaster would strip away all the complexities of the modern world.  We wouldn’t have to deal with interest rates or insurance or deadlines or waiting in line or midterms or the Kardashians.  It would simplify life down to the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: food, shelter, clothing, safety.

In a way, wouldn’t it be nice if all you had to worry about today was getting enough food in your belly and making sure you weren’t bitten by a zombie?  It would be stressful, yes, but a different kind of stress.  It would be stress centered around what is really important, like being with the people you truly love (because who would want to waste precious post-apocalyptic time with someone who makes you want to eat your own face off?) and surviving together (like, really surviving).


Original source –

I fantasize about how a scenario like that would make my current relationships that much closer.  It would just be me, Brian, and Dylan.  And maybe the cat, if she’s fast enough and less whiny.  B and I would be together, working intensely to protect our son, and that’s all that would matter.  We wouldn’t be separated by full time jobs without paid family leave.  We wouldn’t have to worry about saving for Dylan’s college education.  We wouldn’t spend a Saturday arguing over how to furnish the house.  It would just be us in the present moment fighting to stay alive for each other.

That’s the other thing – the present moment.  There wouldn’t be smart phones and Facebook and millions of TV channels to distract us from what is really important.  We wouldn’t be able to communicate with anyone who isn’t directly in front of us.  (Of course, modern conveniences are wonderful and I like them as much as the next person, but for right now I’m focused on the upsides of not having them around.)  This would further intensify and hopefully deepen my relationships with those around me.

Having to rely on my partner and anyone lucky enough to find themselves in our zombie-killing troop would build trust – the kind that is fierce and all-encompassing where you know that person would lay down his life for you.  Having that kind of security feels so…comforting.  So safe and warm and gooey.  Plus, surviving day-to-day like that would quickly root out people you can’t trust or don’t like, and therefore shouldn’t be around (characters in The Walking Dead – take notice!!).  Plain and simple.

Would there be things that just plain suck about this scenario?  Of course.  I’d miss sunscreen and chapstick and modern medicine and higher education and hot showers and I’m sure the rampant shambling zoms would piss me off right quick.  But that’s beside my point for right now.

What I am realizing, as I fear I have already begun to ramble, is that I crave closeness in human relationships, and besides needing the basics, an apocalypse would wipe out everything else and bring those relationships front and center.

When I put it that way, doesn’t it sound nice?

…maybe just a little bit?


Not Bella Notte

Let me preface this to say that I hate doing the dishes.

I grew up having to do them, and I think I’ll forever hate doing them because of that.  And yet, I do them every single day because I hate cooking even more and we split those chores.

Soooo, when I’m doing dishes, I just wanna get shit done.  Get out of my way so I can sit down, watch the Kardashians, and yell at them through a mouthful of mint chip straight from the carton (because that saves me having to wash a bowl).

The scene is last night right after dinner and I’m doing my thing at the sink.

Brian comes up beside me and yanks the faucet away just as I am reaching for it and our hands mash together that can in no way be thought of as romantic.

Me: *glare*

B: Aww, look, how cute!  It’s just like in Lady and the Tramp!

Me: No, it’s not cute.  If lady were real, she’d have said to Tramp, Hey Tramp!  I’m fucking hungry!  Give me that spaghetti or I will cut you.  And then she does that guttural dog growl so show that she’s not messing with him.

B: …She seemed pretty nonchalant about it in the movie.

Me:  That’s because she was took one too many Xanax because she was on a first date with cameras around and it’s a lot of pressure to live up to a name like hers in today’s society.

B: I think you’re reading into things a little too-

Me: A little too what?  I’m washing knives right now and my hands are quite slippery.  Wouldn’t want anything unfortunate to happen.  *guttural dog growl*

B: *Backs away slowly while singing Bella Notte under his breath*

Me: Damnit, now I want spaghetti.

Things I’ve Learned Since Becoming a Mama

Now that I’ve been a mama for over a year now (!!), I know all the things practically nothing about parenting.

One thing I do know is that I can’t win.  You win, baby boy.  But please don’t read this until after you’re done being a teenager, because I never said that and you can’t prove that I did.

Here are a few other things I’ve learned in the past year, because sometimes I find something that works for me and those make for good days.

1. Nothing could’ve prepared me for the harsh realities of having a child.  Nothing.

There isn’t any advice anyone could’ve given me and there isn’t any book I could’ve read that would’ve made me feel prepared.  I think I intuitively knew this already, which is why I didn’t read any books.  I just went to doctors appointments and read how big my fetus was (and what piece of fruit he was being compared to…ooh, a grapefruit!) on my pregnancy app.

Yeah, I got some advice and I went to my birthing classes and those things prepared me to a point.  But I knew then, and it’s been confirmed many times over in the past year, that there isn’t anything out there that can fully prepare me for such a profound life change.  I knew I’d just have to wing it, and that’s cool.

2. Never underestimate the power of song.

I sing a lot normally, and I sang a lot while I was pregnant.  I sing in the shower, in the car, while doing the dishes.  So, my wee babe heard a lot of my voice singing Bruno Mars and Taylor Swift and Sara Bareilles.  During the past year, when Dylan has been freaking out over diaper changes or having his face wiped clean, we’ve found that he will dramatically calm down if we sing.  It doesn’t matter what song, and it doesn’t have to be me, either – my husband sings to him and Dylan pays attention.

The hardest part for me has been to remember to sing – especially when we’re having such a hard time that I am close to tears myself – and then to figure out what to sing, which leads me to the next thing I learned.

3. I can make a song out of anything or adapt any song to fit my needs.  Seriously.

I sang Katy Perry’s Firework as a lullaby and Dylan loved it.  I changed the lyrics of Madonna’s Express Yourself to go: “you’ve got to make him express your milk, hey hey hey hey!”  We’ve sung the classics to death – some favorites are the Wheels on the Bus (Brian added the vital missing verse that goes: “the drifters on the bus go stab, stab, stab…all day long!”), You Are My Sunshine, Black Socks, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Bingo (where we sing: “there was a family had a boy and Dylan was his name-o!”), etc.

But the best skill I’ve discovered is my ability to make a song out of any stimuli in front of me.  The best example is Crotch Food (the term we use for food that lands in Dylan’s crotch during the course of a meal).  I don’t think I’ve ever sung it the same way twice, so it’s the song that keeps on giving.

4. Formula makes a great substitute for coffee creamer.

It’s chock full of DHA – what every new-mom-brain needs!  It’s iron fortified!  I was out of milk and/or cream!  Need I say more?!

5. My mama bear instincts are fierce.

I’ve gradually learned how to advocate for myself, and now those skills just naturally spilled over onto my son, covering him with gooey, fierce, sticky mom love.  I’ve learned that if you threaten my ability to do my job as a mom, or judge me or undermine my authority as the mom that I will do whatever it takes to get Dylan and I out of that situation.  Because rawr.

6. The most challenging part of having a kid has been making sure caring for him doesn’t get in the way of my relationship with my husband.

This has been huge.  We’ve had to figure out how to divvy up household tasks and childcare, and it’s very easy to feel like the tasks aren’t equal or fair, even when we’re both working hard to keep our household running.  We have less time to connect and more stress and it’s been very hard not to build resentments and feel unsupported.

I’ve had to remind myself that my husband and I are on the same team.  We made Dylan together, we’re raising him together, we’re a family together, and we’re on the same team.

7. I’m still trying to figure out who I am now.

It’s like I am going through adolescence all over again.  I’ve been through several major life changes in the past two years – getting married, getting pregnant, moving out of state, transitioned from working outside the home to inside the home, and I’ve been home with my kid for the past year.  It’s been disorienting, depressing, isolating, challenging.  I’m having to make new friends, which is hard for me.  I’m having to get used to my new body and grieve my pre-baby one.  I’ve been grieving most of my old life, honestly.  It’s been so weird and surreal to embrace my new identity as a “mom,” and I’m still not used to it.

8. Dr. Seuss books make me feel stupid.

Seriously, you try and pronounce all them non-words in Oh Say Can You Say? on little sleep.

9. I need to keep trusting my intuition.

He’s my kid and I’ve been with him every day of his life.  I know this little guy pretty damn well.  I also trust my judgement a lot.  I need to keep reminding myself that I am good at caring for my little man, that mistakes are ok, and that at the end of the day we’re both going to be just fine.

10. Keep finding the humor in the small things.  The ridiculous things.

We laugh when Dylan farts.  He laughs at his own farts.  Farts are funny, you guys.  We just bought these new knock-off Cherrios for Dylan and some of them are brown and wrinkled and look like buttholes.  It’s hilarious!  It looks like my kid is eating buttholes!  And those are only a few examples; I could go on.

End of the Boob Train

My little boyman is now 6 months old.  Someone please tell me how the frick that happened.

In many ways, I feel like we won the baby lottery.  I got exactly the features I had hoped for (dad’s blue eyes, my strawberry blonde hair, overall cuteness). He’s always been a champion sleeper.  He’s never been picky about bottles, formula, or pacis.  Most of all, I am amazed at how happy his default disposition is.  He’s usually making eye contact, smiling, cooing, laughing, but what amazes me the most is that even when he’s crying or whining or just generally upset, we can usually still make him smile or laugh, even if it’s just for a moment.  He wants to be happy even when he’s so hungry or tired that he’s cranky.  I love this guy and he amazes me every day.

That said, our hardest struggle by far has been breastfeeding.

Dylan didn’t latch with any consistency until day 8, and up until then he would only latch in front of the lactation consultant.  She manhandled my boob and smashed Dylan’s face into it, and for some reason it worked…but the second we got home and I tried the same rough technique, he’d push and struggle and kick and scream at my boob for 20 minutes until I was crying and gave up.

My milk came in rather late, and even then I wasn’t making very much.  All this created a yucky feedback loop/catch 22: Dylan wasn’t latching, and so my production wouldn’t increase, but my production was already late and low, and so Dylan didn’t want to latch cuz he knew he wouldn’t get much.  Talk about frustrating.

I did everything I could to increase my supply and nothing helped very much.  Nevertheless, I kept at it and Dylan and I slowly worked our way into a routine that worked for us that included breastfeeding, pumping, and formula.

After 6 months of hard work, I think we’re at the end of breastfeeding.  My supply recently dipped even more, and lately Dylan’s been getting frustrated.  The experience isn’t fun or cuddly anymore and I have done all I could to get him this far.

I’m pretty sad about stopping.  Before giving birth, I had assumed that I’d be breastfeeding as long as I was at home with Dylan during the day.  I’m currently fighting guilt and telling it to take a hike.  I’m frustrated with my body, for not doing what I expected or wanted.

There’s a part of me that feels some relief about the decision to stop.  Breastfeeding and pumping has been hard work and very time consuming, and I am looking forward to daily life being that much simpler.  But, I’m gonna miss the cuddles, the oxytocin rush, and the feeling of motherly pride that came with it.

I keep reminding myself that Dylan’s gonna be just fine.  Like I said above – he’s crazy happy.  He’s such a good kid.  We also just started solids and so far there isn’t a food he hasn’t not liked – that’s my boy.

And…now that I think about it, I’m gonna be just fine, too.  Just like everything else, we’re getting through this together, my little boy and I.

Was breastfeeding hard for you, too?  I’d love to hear your stories.  Thanks for reading!

My Happy Thought

Robin Williams died on my son’s due date.

I loved this guy.  I loved his work.  I went through the stages of grief when I found out – starting with disbelief, of course.  I was (and still am) so sad that depression took this very talented human being from us.

After Robin’s death, in watching all the memorials on the news and daytime TV, and in seeing all the clips strung together on Facebook, I started counting all of his movies that touched me, that I grew up with.  It’s a lot.  His movies were so emotional; I’ve long known that his were the ones I went to when I needed to tweak my mood – which usually meant inducing tears and reconfirming my faith in the human spirit.

In going through my movie collection, I realized I didn’t own one of my absolute favorite Robin Williams movies – Hook – so I bought it and ended up watching it soon after my son was born.

I absolutely adore the story of Peter Pan.  There isn’t a more fabulous story that captures the sheer joy and adventure it is to be young and to remind us that we can always go back to Neverland in our hearts (second star to the right and straight on til morning) whenever we want.

In re-watching Hook, I was prepared to feel that joy and excitement that comes with the story, and I was also prepared to feel sad that the person I was watching who was once so full of life and youthful glee was now gone.

What I wasn’t prepared for was my new reaction to the story now that I am a parent.

Remember the scene where Captain Hook starts teaching Pan’s kids about how parents hate their children?  He very eloquently describes how kids’ whining and demands (“He took my toy! She hit my bear! I want a potty! I want a cookie! I want to stay up! I want, I want, I want, me, me, me, me, mine, mine, mine, mine, now, now, now, now…”) drive their parents crazy.  Maggie (fun fact – it was her character I played on the playground with my friends when this movie first came out) points out that her parents read to her, “because they love me very much!”  And Hook retorts back that parents read to their children to shut them up.

In to end the lesson, Hook gave Maggie an F (to which she freaks out…probably why I was suited to play her character) and then declared that her parents were happier before she was born.

This scene struck a new chord, one that hadn’t been struck before.

Holy shit – Captain Hook was right.

There I was, hopelessly sleep deprived with a wee infant attached to my boob and tears running down my face because I got it – but not the it I was expecting to get.  This movie was supposed to remind me how joyful life was!  Instinctively I knew I wasn’t supposed to be listening to the words of this dark and sinister man, but for the first time in watching this film, my eyes were opened.  The guy had a point.  In my very short career as the parent of a newborn, I already knew I’d do things I previously said I’d never do if it meant my kid would sleep.  I wished for my old life back on a daily basis.  I fought with my husband about nothing and everything.  Some days, I was kind of miserable.

I considered growing a beard and joining the crew of the Jolly Roger.

Thankfully, the movie continued and we came to the scene in the Lost Boys’ tree house where Peter was desperately trying to find his happy thought.  He picked up his old teddy bear and had a flashback to a hospital room where his wife was handing him his brand new baby son, saying, “Peter, you’re a daddy!”

That was it.  This is why I wanted to watch the movie in the first place.  He was flying again, and so was I.

I was bedridden for the first 12 hours of Dylan’s life due to some minor complications, so when we were in the recovery room at the hospital, Brian started changing his first diapers and rocking and soothing and being a daddy.  It was amazing for me to watch, and it had reminded me of that same hospital scene in Hook.  Through tears in my eyes, I shared my thoughts with Brian and my heart was bursting.

Hook really got it right in more ways than I first realized.  It fascinates me how quickly and profoundly popping a baby out of me has changed my perspective on the whole world, let alone this movie.  Before, I had thought that the story was more about “always being a little boy and having fun,” and now I see this whole new layer about the love (“It’s the L-word, Captain!”) and struggle between parents and their children.  Yes, it’s about learning how to stay young, but it’s also about learning how to grow up.  And most importantly, it’s about finding (and keeping) that happy thought that keeps us all going.

Well, Dylan is our happy thought.  Our poopy, screamy, cuddly little happy thought.

There are so many great lines to quote and parallels to make about this movie and life in general, but the best is at the very end, where I don’t feel like Robin Williams was really having to act much at all.

He said,  “To live would be an awfully big adventure.”

Thanks for sharing your talent with all of us, Robin.  I am so very glad that you’re not in pain anymore.




She was the runt of the litter, and she was the only one who actually let me hold them.  That’s when I knew – she was mine.  We were going to bring her home and love her.

She was kinda like me, actually.  Nervous, cautious, quiet, but also an observant wallflower, kind, playful, and very sweet.  And weird, because she really loved to lick human hair if we let her express her need for social grooming rituals.

We rescued her from the local animal shelter and she was in a cage with her two brothers Calvin and Hobbes.  She was a tuxedo cat: black, with a white chest, tummy, and feet.  Every other toe was alternately black and pink.  Her shelter name was Susy, but I renamed her Lucy on the car ride home.  That was 1998 and I was 15.

This past weekend, my family had to help her die because she had come to the end of her life and my mom could tell she didn’t feel well.  I’m so sad to have lost one of my very best friends.

We grew up together, Lucy and I.  She listened to my secrets and napped with me and kitty-massaged my calves and licked my hair.  We chased her in this game that always went the same way where she’d  lead us to her rug where she’d stop and fall over so we could rub her belly and brush her.  I clipped her nails, gave her treats, cleaned up her vomit.




We (everyone but my dad) fought for a while to get a pet.  I joked that we slowly worked our way up the food chain.  First we had three goldfish who, one by one, committed suicide by jumping out of the bowl.  I can only guess that the first one was depressed, and then the other two were overcome with grief.  Years later, we got a female rat.  She was really sweet, but didn’t live long.  Next, we tried two sister rats.  They lived a bit longer and were fairly fun, but cleaning the cage was a huge chore.  Finally getting Lucy was wonderful because she gave us a moderate amount of love (she was a cat, after all) with only a moderate level of cleanup and care.  My dad eventually warmed up to her, too, which was an added bonus.  I think she made it pretty easy to love her.

Lucy was the oddest, most well-behaved kitty I have ever met.  She didn’t like people food.  Seriously, we tried.  The only food she’d eat was ice cream, and even then we had to dab it onto her nose so she’d lick it off.  She had her claws and never destroyed anything.  She never bit or clawed – quite the opposite, actually – she’d allow herself to be manhandled by my brother and never fought back.  She was the most docile creature.

She came to us with a bunch of health issues.  Yes, she was the runt and was underweight, but apparently this stray from Oakland also had fleas and mites and had had a tough time.  My mom’s friend commented on how little Lucy was so lucky,  “She won the lottery, because now she has all of you to love her.”  She was right, but the feeling is mutual.

I won the lottery that day, too.

I want you to know, Lucy, that I really wish I could have been there for you during those last few days.  I desperately wanted to be there to comfort you, to hold you, to whisper my secrets to you again.  I am very thankful that the rest of my family was able to be there for you, and that my mom held you in her lap when the vet helped you die.  I just want you to know, that I wanted it to be me.  If I could’ve, I would’ve been the one to hold you.  I held you on that first day when you picked me and I wanted to hold you on the last day, too.

I love you and miss you, baby girl.  I’m so glad you’re not hurting anymore and I hope you’re licking ice cream off your nose right now.

Adventures in diaper-changing: a dialogue

The scene: I am changing yet another diaper while the babydaddy is preparing a lovely meal that the two of us will no doubt share under the din of high-pitched screams.

Me: Oh god!

Babydaddy: What?!

Me: …The baby just farted in my face.

BD: Ew, gross.

Me: I know.  And it was forceful, too.  A quick, hard puff of air to the face.  Kind of like a foul-smelling glaucoma test.

BD: Ha!  We should rent him out for that.

Me: We could sure use the extra meth candy bar money.  But who would pay for something like that?

BD: Maybe people without good health insurance?

Me: Let’s look into it.  (pause)  Hey, this would make a great blog post.  I’m really behind in my blogging.

BD: Phrasing, lady.

Me: But seriously. Help me flesh out this conversation we’re having so I can post it.

BD: Again, phrasing.

Me: What would be a good ending for this post of dialogue?

BD: Phrasing.

Me: I still got it.  Now start making flyers for our new mobile infant glaucoma test machine.