This might be rambly but it’s been a while

Today was a pretty sucky day. It’s been a couple of sucky weeks.

And I haven’t posted or written anything in a long time.

And there’s a reason for that.

My last post… just sucked. Really sucked. It’s ok, I knew it when I was writing it and I knew it when I posted it, but I did it anyway because, let’s face it, last year this time was an incredibly huge black hole for me, but then I crawled out with the help of a shit ton of support and work and felt like I owed people something humorous after being in the dark for so long.

And yeah, there were a few things I liked, but most of it was totally over the top and it rang hollow.



So I stopped writing for a while. Because if I have to be a fake me while writing this, then I shouldn’t be writing at all.

So why am I writing now?

After I scratched my way back from the brink, I really, really thrived. And there were a lot of factors that helped with that.

Work was the best it had been in a while. There were, again, a lot of reasons for that, but overall I felt respected and relished connecting with my students. Even when a curveball was thrown during second semester and I was given two new classes to teach, it was invigorating to design units and lessons that I thought the kids would enjoy and learn from. I had an excellent group of kids overall.

I didn’t even go into the May panic (well, not too much) that comes with art shows, awards nights, field days, field trips and spring sports. I truly felt that I was handling things as well as I could.

And then the last two weeks.

Our summer slowed way down. I had a lot of time to work on summer projects, read, relax, and get ready for our big family vacation.

It should be great, right?

But it hasn’t been. And that scares the shit out of me.

The thing with depression and anxiety is that there is no diagnostic test to let you know if it’s coming back.

There’s no blood test, no CT scan, no MRI. Just a random check list of symptoms that could apply to so many situations.

Fatigue? Hell yes. It’s summer vacation, right? Eating more or less? Uh yeah. Can anyone say, ice cream?

Last week I had anxiety over our vacation. Bill and I work really hard and his vacation time is sacred. Usually we head to a beach and just re-energize and re-connect with each other and the kids. But this year, I planned a trip out west— the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Vegas– with lots of hikes and car rides to get from place to place.

And then anxiety walked into my ear.

No WiFi the kids are going to hate this it’s just not exciting enough they are going to be so mad that they’re spending this much time gone from home they are going to miss the dogs and cats and their beds and Bill hates long car rides and he can’t sleep well in hotels and you NEVER sleep in hotel rooms and they better be air conditioned and what if it rains and it sucks and it will be all your fault…

It followed into viewing social media.

They didn’t even ask you to come you’re a downer you’re always negative and have nothing to add to the conversation no one wants to be around you you’re awkward and an idiot.

It decided to stick around and get into my head about a neighborhood directory I worked on.

And these thoughts can only be countered, not controlled. Even though I was really happy with the way it turned out and I felt like I had done the best I could to make things accurate, imposter syndrome prevailed.

For every thank you, like or word of appreciation, my brain countered it.

Well, of course he’s going to be nice, he’s such a nice guy. And she’s going to say she likes it because she’s your friend.

And that made every criticism (real or imagined) pierce my soul, because those felt like the truth.

It sucks, you suck, it could have been so much better, I would have done it this way, it’s hard to read, I hate the font, it’s not centered, and on and on.

For the first time in a long time, I wanted to make myself hurt physically in order to drown out the emotional hurt.

I think I channeled it well though.

I rage-weeded the front yard. And there were made up conversations going. Trying to plan what criticism would be next and how to respond. And if this, then that, but if THIS, then THAT. And when I caught myself, I re-grouped and stopped the voices anew.

By the time I was done, the sweat, the back pain, the skin irritation, the cuts on my fingers felt… satisfying. My head was oddly clear and I felt a sense of accomplishment.

Plus, now it will look presentable for those who are taking care of the animals so they won’t gossip about how shitty our yard looks… Kidding!

(That was really a thought I had, but have since talked myself out of the reality of it, and by the way, who cares, right? Right?!?!?)

I really hope this will pass.

But I’m fearful after the experience of last summer.

Is this a blip? Is it the start of something more serious? Where is the line? When do I worry for real?

I could be exposing a lot of ignorance, but I feel like it’s akin to a cancer survivor going in for a follow up. Or even just every day after being told she’s in full remission.

Is the weight loss from diet or cancer? Is the fatigue from stress or cancer? is the pain due to a muscle strain or cancer? Is the lump a benign cyst or cancer?

Fear, fear, fear, fear, worry, worry, worry, no sleep, no sleep, dreams, nightmares, wake, fear, fear, fear…

I’m going to keep on with summer and do my best to enjoy what’s left of it. I’m going back to my toolbox of strategies. I’m going on vacation with my family and it will be fine, and if it isn’t, there isn’t much I can control. I’m going to read fluffy novels and watch The Office from episode 1 to the end. I’m going to hug kids and husband and dogs and cats.

And try to stay grounded.

I can’t make this shit up

About six weeks ago, the week before Christmas vacation, a potential new student showed his face in my classroom. He was small and shy, but had a clever air about him. He didn’t tell me his name, so in the spirit of the holiday, I christened him Dasher.

Now, mice don’t really bother me, but I’m also a realist that understand that this is how epidemics of the plague start, so I reported him to the proper authorities, “Hey, Megan, I have one in my room,” made a meme, added some jokes and I never saw him again.

Fast forward to last Friday.

The weather was temperate, the sun was shining, it was the end of the first week of the new semester, and I was all set to proceed through my lessons and have a nice ease into the weekend.

I was so fucking wrong.

Being in my awesome mood, I thought, I haven’t filled my mint basket in a while. So I opened the bottom drawer of my desk grabbed the mints and some leftover suckers I had.

And then I made the most audible gasp ever that interrupted my class while they took a quiz.

Is that… MOUSE SHIT?!?!

Oh, but that’s not all. I pulled the drawer all the way open.

This fucker, who I had NAMED and deemed HARMLESS had unrolled the plastic bag, pulled the candy out, unwrapped it with his little paws, ate it, and then MADE A NEST OF THE WRAPPERS.

Forget Bear Grylls. This kid’s a real survivalist.

The bell rang, and even though I was nauseous, I went to lunch to decompress and plan my next move.

The next hour started, and I explained to my students what was going on. I had some gloves, so while they started working, I began emptying everything from the drawer into the trash. All was tolerable, but then I decided to check the drawer above it.

And that’s where I lost it.

I was done, it was over, I needed to go home, I needed a Silkwood shower.

I grabbed a huge trash can and dumped everything. I lost boxes of pens and pencils, clipboards, student work, surveys, speakers, and even a pair of gloves I kept in there for days when my classroom is 64 degrees. All of it eaten and shredded.

The best I could do was borrow a vacuum and suck up the dried pellets.

I apologized to my class for not being a teacher that day, and I hope they understood.

In all of my college classes that were meant to prepare me for educating young minds, this was never mentioned.

Fucking out of touch professors.

This actually fucking happened and I need to just crawl into a hole now before I hurt someone

Mondays are crazy. Two practices at two different times means dinner options are minimal. But on the way home, inspiration hit.


Yes, clean food, fresh ingredients, no preservatives– it’s like I can claim I cooked a decent meal instead of running through Wendys. Again.

But this encounter is just a hint of what my entire day was like.

I walk in, and make sure I stand toward the back, not at the counter, while I text Bill to see what he wants. Eyes still on my phone, I hear, “Whenever you’re ready, I’m ready.”

Unsure if this was some kind of mating ritual at Panera at 3:30 in the afternoon, I glance up and see the cashier staring at me.

Umm… I’m just waiting for my husband to text his order back to me.

More staring.

More staring.

Fuck it, Bill, you’re getting a turkey bravo.

Hi, this order is to go. Can I get two grilled cheese sandwiches?

Uh, hold on, I think we’re out of white bread. *yells to guy three feet away* Hey, are we out of white bread?

They are out of white bread.

How can you be out of white bread?

Uh, we’ll, is there another bread that you want?

Do you have honey wheat?

*yells again* Hey, do we have honey wheat?

They don’t have honey wheat.

Tell you what, just tell me what bread you have.

Uhh, *yells again* what bread do we have?

No lie, the guy replies, Sourdough and THE OTHER ONE.

Umm, what’s the other one?

*yells again, although the guy can clearly hear me* what’s the other one?

Sesame. Like white bread. With sesame seeds on the crust.


AND WHY ARE YOU OUT OF ALL THE BREAD AT 3:30?!?! Your name is Panera BREAD for fuck sake! Are you out of flour? Water? No??? THEN MAKE SOME FUCKING BREAD.

Ok, so two grilled cheese on sesame.

Do you want drinks?

No… and a quart of chicken soup.

Do you want drinks?

No… and a goddess Cobb salad.

Do you want drinks?


No… and a turkey bravo.

Do you want drinks?

My head plays this:


This is why I need to wear a warning label at all times.

WARNING: This person is unstable and may blow at any moment. If you are a slow driver in the left lane, someone who repeatedly jams the copy machine and leaves, or repeatedly asks stupid questions be aware.

Anxiety overload

My chest is tight. My brain is in hyperdrive. My thoughts are scattered. I thought I was doing ok, but now I’m not.

That’s how anxiety works. I can be completely fine, then one thing will happen that triggers an attack. And I don’t want to scare my kids or lose myself completely, so it’s all kept inside.

Writing this is my outlet.

And it’s all over something stupid, inane and everyday. 

There have been utility workers parked in front of my house digging holes, marking lines and burying cigarette butts in my yard. All. Week. Long. 

I tried to alleviate it by trying to see the humor in it. So I posted this:

And called it “Fiber Optic Phallus.”

Today I came home to this:

More holes and more strange men. 

I opened the back door to let Ginger out and heard two men discussing the sign our neighbor posted about her dog. She got the idea because I put up a similar sign. See, a short time ago, a dog in my city was shot and killed by a utility worker for barking at the stranger in her yard. Doing what dogs do. So I put up this sign:

It sounded like these guys were making fun of it, so I went outside with Ginger. 

Since then, my neighbor has called the foreman and she called me. I was standing by the window talking to her when one worker spotted me. He said something to his buddy and he then looked at me too.

And now my paranoia and anxiety are peaking. I had wanted to clean the basement, but all my anxiety demons are protesting. “What if someone comes in? You won’t hear them. There’s no escape in the basement.”

I’m afraid to let my kids ride their bikes. Afraid of what these strangers might say or do. I’m afraid to let my dog out on her own. What if they do something to her out of spite because I put up a sign to protect her? What if one of them sees me use the garage code and records it to come back later? If I complain, will one of them take revenge? On me? My kids? My dog?

I’m afraid of talking to them. I’m afraid of not talking to them. I don’t want to seem too friendly or too bitchy. 

It is isolating and confining and terrible and suffocating and frightening to feel this way. 

And it’s not rational or logical or sane to think this way. I KNOW that. But my brain sometimes fights logic and reason with the unknowns of ‘what if?’

Sorry, there’s no real end to this post, because the feelings are there and raw. I’m going to make some tea and check on the kids. And maybe try and find refuge away from my brain.

I fucking hate this, but writing it feels better. Thanks.


Ahh, the sounds of 1am. 

And 2am.

And 3am.

Yep, nothing but that toilet that runs every so often.

These nights suck. Not always while they’re happening. I mean they do when I’m working and I count the hours until my alarm is going to go off, but during the summer they don’t suck as much. They will, of course, as the sun finally rises and I finally feel tired enough to sleep.

Sometimes it’s my brain that keeps whirring, and sometimes I have no idea why I can’t sleep. Last night wasn’t completely my fault though because this was happening at 3:30:

This was after a bout of ear scratching and subsequent panting. And then she rolled onto my shoulder, but it was kind of ok because I have these knots that never get worked out and I’m pretty sure my scapula was separated from my body and the stretch felt hurtful, but in a good way.

So I kind of gave up and turned on HGTV to watch a couple that looked like they had just rolled out of bed and spoke like they both dropped out in 6th grade– “Like, I dunno, babe. Which one do you like?”– who apparently have 4 million dollars to spend on a private island off the coast of Florida. And I’m not trying to judge, but I’m kinda cranky with no sleep and really? 4 million dollars? On a vacation home/ island? And then I got pissed off at them because they picked one that didn’t have a causeway so you had to take a 10 minute boat ride to get there and, I mean, who DOES THAT? Like how did they get all their precious knick knacks out there (which I assume consist of gold lions or some other ostentatious shit).

So then I started thinking more about how stupid it was. Like where does it go when you flush? I pictured this giant septic tank under the sand, and then I started rooting against these people hoping a tropical storm– not hurricane because I’m not a total bitch– would erode the sand and break the tank and the island would be covered in rich people shit and shreds of gold leaf toilet paper which I’m sure they use to wipe their asses. Or maybe the butler does that for them.

But then there was an episode of a gal from Chicago who was defying cultural norms and moving to Guam to see the world and be a pharmacist (two things that seem anomalous in my sleep-deprived head, but whatever. Pharmacists just don’t generally seem to be the exploring adventurous type, but maybe it’s because I’m not part of the pharmacist inner circle.)

Anyway, she went with her sister to pick out a house and honestly, after seeing the views, I wanted to move to Guam. And then I got a little weepy because she was part of an Indian family where you really don’t leave home until you’re married, but she wanted to be independent and live her life and that made me think of Sandra Cisneros’s “The Storyteller” where she described the EXACT SAME THING and I was all like, You go girl! And crying for this unknown woman to make it as a pharmacist in paradise and fulfill her dreams.

And I hugged Ginger and scratched Fiona behind the ears (since she determined that my stomach was now the place to curl up and take a nice cat bath) and I realized that I was never, ever going to get any sleep tonight, and that since it was now 5am I could just pretend that I was just getting up and try and trick myself that I actually slept.

But I wrote this, and that’s (kind of?) productive and now Ginger is acting like I kept her up all night because she begrudgingly followed me downstairs and now looks like this:

Poor baby.

What I did on National Women’s Day (part 1)

Last Wednesday was National Women’s Day, and while my sisters were marching and speaking and changing lives, I was making my own statement. 

I covered myself in dog shit and howled at the moon. 

Let me clarify. This was not some midnight ritual meant to make me feel empowered as a woman. There were no animal sacrifices or burning bras. It was a desperate yell-scream-groan at the sky while wrestling with a trampoline during 60mph wind gusts. 

The moon just happened to be visible. 

Let me back up a bit. 

On that day I happened to be home when the wind storm of all wind storms barreled through Michigan. I heard a “FOOMP” and looked outside to see the trampoline flipped upside down teetering on the fence between us and our poor next door neighbor who always has to deal with our shit. 

So I did what any independent woman would do in this situation.

I texted Bill. 

I’m actually pretty impressed that I used such fluid alliteration, but alas, Bill was at work and the trampoline was still unstable. 
So I did what any independent woman without a choice would do. I heaved on my good winter coat and grabbed a step ladder and walked into the neighbor’s backyard. 

Of course I didn’t bring gloves. And I didn’t change out of my good boots. Big mistake. 

Because the neighbors have the most adorable dogs ever. Who like to poop as dogs do. All. Over. The. Yard. 

Undeterred, I hoisted the step ladder up, turned to the trampoline and heard a crash. The step ladder had blown over. 

Plan two. 

If I gauged the gusts just right, I realized I could jump, grab the frame and flip it over the fence so it could lie upside down on the grass. I waited for my moment, hoping I wouldn’t get crushed in the process.

And while I waited, I envisioned the officers who would have to report my dead body. 

Cause of death: idiocy. 

During a lull, I jumped, ok, barely got off the ground, grabbed the frame and yanked that motherfucker down like Captain America snagging a helicopter. 

But the frame was bent, and it needed to be taken apart to be truly safe. 

With a screwdriver in one pocket and hardware going into another, I separated all of the parts from the frame, pausing at times to lay across the trampoline to keep it from flying. I was completely focused until I got some mud on my hand. 

But it wasn’t mud. 

It was dog shit. And then I looked down at myself. 

I had dog shit on my coat, I had dog shit on my hands. 

I had dog shit on my face, I had dog shit on my pants. 

I had some dog shit everywhere, just not in my underwear. 

(Credit: Dr. Seuss. It’s also reading month, so read something worthwhile after reading this trash)

That’s when I yell-scream-groaned. 

After getting almost blown over several times that would have even made Jim Cantore proud, the trampoline was finally apart. 

I dragged the frame to the back corner of the yard just in case and dragged myself back home. 

I felt like I had been beaten with a club while running a race. And I was  gross. Grosser than gross. I carefully peeled off my much loved winter coat and threw it in the washer. 

And then the power went out. 

Stay tuned for Part 2! The stages of surviving a power outage

I love my kind hearted boy and will beat the ass of anyone who makes fun of him for it

Boys will be boys.

Boys need to be tough. Man up. Get a set.

At eight years old, my son is three years and nine months younger than my daughter. We are open with I love yous, hugs and snuggles. My daughter has always been loving and nurturing with him, so he has always only known love, kindness and affection.

Not that he hasn’t been yelled at, scolded and corrected. He has.

But my son is the kind of boy who tells me constantly how much he loves me– as big as everything in the universe.

When I get leg cramps, he drops what he’s doing and concentrates his hands on my leg to make it feel better. And then he asks for the next two days if it’s still feeling ok.

When I’m carrying a pizza out to the car, he points out the ice in the parking lot so I don’t slip.

He’s a goofball who makes Lego vehicles of every sort, tries to make time machines and recycling factories, quarterbacks his football team, makes half the points for his basketball team, and races around the soccer field like a crazed maniac.

And when he gets upset, or scared, or frustrated, he cries.

Some see him and call him soft. A wimp. A pussy. 

They say, He’s got to get over it. He’s going to be bullied. Kids are going to make fun of him.

I say, Fuck you.

Am I embarrassed sometimes? Sure. Do I enjoy having to wipe his tears when he doesn’t understand why a friend would push him down? No. Do I wish sometimes he’d haul off and deck a kid? Yes. 

It’s what I did when I was younger.

But when I see your kid laughing and tormenting my kid because he’s an easy target, I’ll take my kid.

When I see your kid calling my kid a baby because he cries when he gets tackled to the cement for no reason, I’ll take my kid.

When I see your kid throwing a bat in anger or punching a wall in frustration, I’ll definitely take my kid.

This ongoing stereotype of what it means to be a boy or a man gets tiring. It becomes a cycle of rationalization for parents and society. My kid can be an ass because he’s a boy? I applaud my daughter making fun of someone because that means she’s not a girly-girl?

When did being kind and empathetic become being a pussy? 

I was an ass kicking kind of kid. I grew up in a house with an older brother and dad who constantly teased me and made me cry. And when I cried, they made fun of me. They called me a baby, which made me cry harder. 

So I got harder.

And I treated others the same way. I couldn’t win at home, so I made sure to win on the playground. I fought anyone who challenged me. When a kid picked on my best friend Lou, I came home, put on my snowsuit, went back up to school and kicked that kid’s ass. When fighting stopped being the answer, my tongue could shut anyone up in seconds. 

No one fucked with me.

And at 44 I’m still trying to undo the damage. Still trying to be kind rather than critical. Still trying to be someone I’d like to be friends with. Still trying to create a different experience and childhood for my own kids. 

I don’t want either of my kids to repeat my history. I don’t want them to look at themselves with confusion and regret as I often have. To burn bridges and friendships and significant others just because they could.

So, you can think what you want about my son.

I love his sweet soul. His caring nature, his creativity, his questioning mind, his athleticism and his heart that loves me as big as everything in the universe.

But say anything to my face and I’ll punch your fucking teeth out. 

You know, just for old time’s sake.

Goodbye again, sweet Grandma

This is my grandma. But it isn’t.

Early Saturday morning, Wanda Jean Welling’s heart stopped beating when her body finally wore out.

But for me, she died years ago.

My Grandma was a woman who was known to be as proper as one should be in the small town of Perryopolis, Pennsylvania. 

When she set the table for lunch, bread was pulled from the bag and placed into a basket lined with a napkin. Deli meat was fanned out onto a platter. Applesauce was poured from the jar into a dish. Even mayonnaise was spooned out and into an amber glass.


In case someone came to the door during lunch, she didn’t want anyone to see jars on the table. Apparently jars were the epitome of low class.

If this is the standard, then I am very low class.

But that wasn’t her only idiosyncrasy.

She would wax the hot water tank so it stayed looking shiny and new.

She would iron my dad and grandpa’s undershirts in case they were called to a fire in the middle of the night (they were volunteer firemen).

But behind closed doors, she was her completely goofy self. 

She had fart contests with me. She always won.

When we watched a ballet on TV, she admired how much “culture” Baryshnikov had. Between the legs of his leotard.

If she heard something vulgar, she would claim, “I’m from Missouri,” like she was too innocent to get it. She wasn’t.

If we heard a motorcycle or loud car, she’d murmur, “Hot damn,” and raise her eyebrows suggestively.

She was absolutely a product of her generation. She watched her husband go to World War II and kept a world map to mark his different locations while she worked at Westinghouse. She raised one son and buried her second before he was six months old. She played bridge, was a Worthy Matron in the Eastern Star, and had weekly beauty appointments.
But she was also a contradiction of her generation.

She worked part time in a hardware store and knew how to fix a toilet. She took Calculus in high school and always said that she would have been a train engineer…  if she had been a boy. She broke up with my grandpa once in high school because he got too jealous of her male lead in the school play. 

Every single memory of my grandma is filled with love, joy, and sometimes exasperation. Like the time I visited her in my mid-20s. Her words of solace in my singledom? “Why, in my day, you’d be a spinster!” Thanks, Grandma.

However, memories can be fickle, and they can evaporate.

When she was finally diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s, no one was surprised. She had been forgetting things for a long time. Like the time I went to pick her up at her apartment and the stove burner was red hot with an empty pot on it. She had forgotten how to use the microwave, so she decided to boil water to make coffee. She then forgot about the water and it boiled away.

She forgot dates, numbers, plans. She would call me in a panic because I never showed to take her out to a lunch that was planned for the following day. Timelines became confused and she would ask if I remembered when Faith taught us in high school. She once insisted that her mother had died in child birth with her. Even though she had a younger brother.

And then she forgot people.

At first, she just needed a gentle reminder. Visits changed from her exclaiming, “Andi!” to me asking, “Do you know who I am?”

More often than not, she would nod yes, but was unable to answer the follow up question, “Who am I?”

I slowly got used to being introduced as her niece, cousin or nurse. In the picture above, I was introduced as all three.
Eventually, she barely spoke. She was always happy to see me, but I was just someone giving her undivided attention. She became extremely affectionate and just wanted to touch my face, or kiss my cheek, or stroke my hand.

For the last year, she was a shell of her former self. Just a body going through the motions of living. Sleeping, being fed and dressed and showered and pushed. Her beloved Bible stayed shut, the people in the pictures were strangers, and the TV ran on a continuous loop.

She had not been living, but merely existing.

I am deeply mourning the physical end of her life. But I understand that my real Grandma died a long time ago. The woman who spooned mayonnaise into that amber glass so that potential visitors wouldn’t think she was low class would have been mortified to know she would live out her days with every bodily function facilitated by strangers. She would have been appalled to think she would forget her husband, her family and her church. 

So while I am sad for her passing, I am relieved that she is at peace. I loved her in all of her stages of life, and will continue to do so for all of the life I have left. But my grandma and the woman in the photo were two different people. Same face, but different personalities.

Goodbye again, sweet Grandma. I have missed you for years, and always will.


Fully done

It started as an experiment. 

At first it was easy– I don’t usually wear makeup in the summer because it’s hot and I work outside a lot and I drip sweat like a melting polar ice cap so I don’t bother with it. But my makeup bag stayed closed even on nights out with the girls and date nights and on trips to places where my picture might get taken.

It felt freeing, but I also kind of felt like a fraud. I needed a real test.

So I went back to work in September makeup free.

Now I get that there are a lot of women who don’t wear makeup. Many of my friends and teaching colleagues don’t. And I never wore a ton of it– your basic foundation, eye shadow, eye liner and mascara.

But I’d been wearing it since 5th grade.

And now that I’m in my 40s, the lines are deeper, the skin pigmentations are stronger, the dark circles are darker.

So why quit now? 

Because about a year ago Kathleen asked me why I wore makeup.

Several answers ran through my head– I look prettier, it hides my flaws, it highlights my strong points, I look more professional…

But all of those answers made me cringe. I HAD no real answer.

So I said fuck it and stopped.

My six month old experiment is over with now, but it has led to a permanent change. I was going to give myself until school pictures. I figured I might possibly be so grossed out by my photo that I would go running back to Cover Girl. 

It wasn’t SO bad. But I was still unsure.

There’s a set of memes going around on Twitter that look like this:

Like saying ,”We women just can’t win! We’re never able to please everyone!”

And I have a problem with that message. 

The thing is, I AM tired. I AM old. I AM often stressed and overworked. And I resemble the picture on the right with alarming accuracy…

But who gives a fuck? Aren’t we all? And isn’t that what the whole movement to understand mental illness is about? That I shouldn’t have to hide and pretend and cover up the outside to hide what’s going on inside? 

And isn’t being honest the mantra we teach our daughters? That beauty comes from within? That she doesn’t have to change herself to be attractive? That people will like her for who she is and not what she looks like?

So fuck it. 

I’m done with makeup. I’m done with doing things because the omnipresent “society” says I should so I can stay valuable as a human being. I’ll do things because I want to and no other reason. I’ll work out because it makes my body and mind feel better and I’ll eat a donut (or three) for the same reason.

Society only sends you messages if you’re listening for them. (It just got all deep up in here, yo)

Au natural 

I have a permanently red nose. NOT FROM BEING DRUNK. Mostly.

I have sun spots across my nose, cheeks and jawline from too many sunburns.

I have bags under my eyes that could fit a week’s worth of vacation clothes.

I have so many lines that I imagine little flea geologists study me like their human counterparts study the Grand Canyon.

And I found that this decision doesn’t just benefit Kathleen (I hope). My kids and husband still love me. My students still listen and laugh at me. My friends still hang out with me. 

My face is just a face. Flawed, scarred and aged. Just like me.

Why I never go to the fucking mall

Well, a real mall. Not a place where people… you know… Fuck. Let me start over.

Five days before Christmas I was desperate. It was too late for Prime, yet not late enough for Dollar General. I did what all productive workers do and took a day off to get ready for Christmas… and to take Derek to the dermatologist in case my bosses are among the 8 people reading this. 

But I digress.

So I headed to the mall of malls in the area– 12 Oaks. Two full floors of materialistic wonderment with Santa’s workshop and a Starbucks right in the middle. Accidental? I think not.

It’s a Tuesday, I thought. How busy could it possibly be? I slid into a parking spot easily (a little too easily) and thought I was prepared.

Not even close.

American Girl

Goal: gift card and play set for my niece. 

The cult-like atmosphere enveloped me as soon as I crossed the threshold. I was a newbie, and they smelled it. The noise from the mall was sucked away and I couldn’t take my eyes off of the boxes and boxes of perfect little hands and faces. It was like walking into the human embryo lab of Brave New World and seeing a hundred Alpha girls ready to be decanted.

I tried to look like I knew what I was doing, but it was useless. I circled around, but I could feel all eyes upon me– dolls’ eyes. They followed me wherever I went.

With tiny boxes in my hand, I approached the counter to pay. In line before me were two exhausted looking parents who appeared to be engaged in some sort of contest to see who had the brattiest kids.

“Well, I’ve got two girls and they don’t share! They’ll fight each other for outfits and accessories.”

“Two?? Try THREE all one year apart! If I don’t get three of the same thing, it’s not a pretty sight!”

I imagined girls dressed in tandem with their dolls yanking each other’s hair out while throwing plastic tea cups. Meanwhile, the dolls sit off to the side placing bets.


But I survived and made my purchase while refusing to give my name– what the hell is THAT all about? You want my last name? No thanks! And so I was off to…


Goal: gift for Kathleen from Derek

Did you know that the store doesn’t even put their name on the front? It’s just that Omega symbol. I barely know the name of the store, just that it’s “elite athletic wear” and I’ve seen scores of pre-teen girls carrying the red and black bags like mini Carrie Bradshaws.

I was ashamed to ask, so I went out of my way and looked at a directory and sure enough I was in the right place. My first thought walking in?

What the fuck????

The line was 20 people deep. Some had numerous hangers draped over their arms and I naively thought there must be a great sale. 

Oh no.

I looked at a tag on a random pair of leggings. $125. For leggings

My workout leggings come from Kohls because when I go to hot yoga I sweat so much that I can barely stand my own stench on the ride home. All of my gear goes right into the washer with a splash of bleach. Even when I run, I’m hard on my clothes. 

I have a feeling these are not clothes to sweat in, or those in which to be an “elite athlete.”

And I’m also guessing that these clothes are not meant for women because the sizes stop at 12. Yes, 12. Do they not have enough shelves? Hanger space? 

So like any bargain shopper, I wound my way past the clearance rack (Originally $150, now $100) and found myself at the wall of shame– the headbands.

I actually felt guilty for taking up the time of the life-sized version of an American Girl doll by having her ring up my puny purchase. 

“Just this?”

Yes, just this.

I know there are a lot of places where I will never be able to work. An engineering office. A recording studio. But it was pretty humbling to know I could never work retail because I would be the fat ugly one. And old. Too old.

And so it went.

Pink, where things went well, except that I sold my daughter’s soul to become a brand loyalist and started her sexualization by others off on the worst foot. 

Vera Bradley, again not too bad considering the choking perfume and the feeling that I would suddenly see my grandmother in the corner (must have been the hallucinations brought on by the patterns).

But after a while, I was drained. I ceased to think and just moved blindly along. It began getting more and more crowded and my anxiety was creeping to the surface. Suddenly, I knew where I needed to go.


Yes, there is a pet store in the mall that sells puppies. And yes, I know that pet stores are supposed to be bad. Well, if that offends you, I’m truly sorry. And you should stop reading now because I’m about to promote the SHIT out of them.

I looked at all of those four legged beauties– playing, sleeping, watching– and after asking, discovered a balm for my frazzled brain.


I felt like I was in the best bar in the world. I took a seat, said, “bring me the house special” and enjoyed glorious puppy bites and snuggles for almost 15 minutes. 

He was wiggly!

He was snuggly!

I felt like the Pigeon… Awww!!! Puppies!!!!

After that, I had enough energy to shop until my credit card maxed and all was right with the world.

Not really, but I forced myself to two more stores, dragged ass to the car, drove home and slept for two hours.

I decided it would be a cold day in hell before I ever went to the mall again.

And then the kids got gift cards…

I’m fucked.