It’s a break, not a breakup

My hair and I are taking a break.

Am I sad about it? Yeah.

Do I wish it didn’t have to be this way? I really do.

What happened? I don’t know, I’ve been kinda busy lately, I guess. I just need some time to figure things out.

Tonight as I was in the shower not washing my hair, my hair was all “Um, hey. Can we talk?” And I was all, “Of course, Hair. Shoot!”

Hair: Well, I’m just wondering when you’re going to wash me again…it’s been a couple-three-maybe-four days?

Me: What? What? I can’t understand you, Hair.

Hair: Yeah. Sorry. Um, it’s sorta hard to talk when I’m all tied up in one of these black rubber bands from Target, you know?

Me: Oh, snap. I’m so sorry, Hair. Let me take that out for you.

Hair: (sucking in fresh air) Oh, wow. Thanks, Emily. That feels so good! I can breathe! Man, I don’t remember the last time I—

Me: —Hair, I know what you’re about to say, and I just want to apolo—

Hair: No, no. It’s ok. You don’t have to do that. I mean, I see what’s going on. I get it.

Me: No, Hair. I’m serious. I miss you. Really, really miss you. I love you. I mean, you’re my hair! I wish it weren’t like this right now. Sometimes I get a little nostalgic about all the great times we’ve had together…

Hair: Yeah, me, too! Like when you used to curl me for work a few mornings a week?

Me: Yeah! Or when I put in extra product and hot rollers to make really big, flouncy curls?

Hair: Oh, yeah. And what about that special stuff you spray all over me when you use the flat iron? Gah! I love the way it smells!

Me: Me, too, Hair. I even like just hanging out with you and letting you air dry. You have some really nice natural waves, you know that? I mean it. I really take those for granted sometimes.

Hair: And I love when you do that one French braid on the side of your head…

Hair: Look, Emily, I don’t want to belabor my point or anything here, but I think the only thing you’ve put on me in a while is that aerosol powder.

Me: Oh, you mean dry shampoo?

Hair: Yeah. You use, like, a LOT of it. I’m not a doctor or anything, but aren’t you worried about respiratory toxicity or something?

Me: I wasn’t until you mentioned it…

Hair: Maybe you could try actual shampoo more often?

Me: Hair, I hear you. I love you. And I really wish I could commit to that right now. I just don’t think I have the time to put into that kind of relationship. There’s the baby, the boys, and work is crazy right now and I’m not getting much sleep and I’m just not mentally prepared to to dry you and…

Hair: I know, Emily. I’d like more of a commitment but, like I say, I get it. I just miss you.

Me: Honestly, Hair, I didn’t realize you had feelings until right now, but let me tell you the truth: I’d give you all the water and shampoo, deep conditioning and heat protectant spray, curling and attention in the world if I could. Maybe I just need some time to figure things out. Could you wait for me? Would you do that?

Hair: Yeah, that’s cool. Take your time, Emily. I’ll be here. And don’t worry, I’ve got you covered with that Nancy Drew ponytail and the messy fake bun in the mean time. Whatever you do, just don’t do the mom chop or I swear I’ll…

Me: Aw no. You’re safe on that, Hair. I think we did enough pageboy during my childhood. Never again.

Hair: Never again. Ok, well, let me know when you’re ready to talk about that bikini line…

Me: Don’t even.

hair

(1) My coworker, Lindsey, coined the “Nancy Drew.” (2) Fake bun (3&4) Behold, the only time I have done my hair in at least three months.

Mama does Lolla

photo 2

Daytime crowds.

You’ve never seen crowds like this. This is all new.

You’re trying to make yourself as narrow as possible to sneak through a converging labyrinth of girls in high-waisted denim shorts and crop tops or sheer bodysuits, and shirtless guys sipping from CamelBaks. You don’t even bother to say “excuse me” because, at this point in the day, the teens are well into their molly, their cocaine, their smoke and no one cares. But they’re also not moving. Because, like you, they’re here to see The Weeknd, and they won’t budge.

You first started listening to The Weeknd three years ago, when one of your friends said he thought you should. So you did. To all his mixtapes, almost every day, but only when the kids were in bed and you were alone because he sings about sex and drugs and pain in a way so real and so raw that it feels private, like a secret you’re keeping for him.

This guy sings words and ideas you can’t believe one would admit so openly. He comes out with darkness—society’s and his own—in a way that slays you. You’re mesmerized and a little bit floored. The boldness! His music becomes your escape to a totally different life, not one you want, but one you want to understand. You’re intrigued by the “XO” (ecstasy + oxycodone) devil-may-care sensibility that The Weeknd embodies. It’s a middle finger to everything judgey and a thumbs up to recklessness. Essentially, a complete departure from your entire existence.

The intrigue is not about recklessness for you—it’s that you want to be that open. Wide open. Without a thought to who might care, and without a care of what they might think of you.

At the time, the only people you know who love him as much as you do are your friend in LA, the radiant chick rapper you met at the resale shop (Loretta Mars. Check her out.) and the rival gangbangers who showed up to your block party that one summer and scrolled through your iPod like, “Damn, mami!”

This night, though, thousands of kids are holding up XOs with their hands and talking about how much they hope he does “I can’t feel my face.”

First Aid Kit in the grove with your girls.

First Aid Kit in the grove with your girls, just before Sylvan Esso and, later, The Weeknd.

Bye-bye, buddy system.

One hour earlier, you were watching Sylvan Esso finish her set in the grove with two girlfriends. “I don’t care at ALL about The Weeknd,” one of them says and the other one just smiles. “You’re on your own for that show. See you at 11 at the Givers after show.” Your girls go to Paul McCartney to hang out with dad jeans, high fives and pyrotechnics. You plan to meet at a bar in Wicker Park to see a show at 11 p.m. You head a different direction.

You push through crowds of very young people until the density is such that you are in some way touching another human being on at least three sides of your body. You stay there.

You text this pic to your friends, who are at the Paul McCartney stage, with the words

You text this pic to your friends, who are at the Paul McCartney stage, with the words “Everyone is 20.” If you look closely, you’ll notice a shirtless male wearing a CamelBak. Take note. You’re about to meet him.

“Hey, um, why are you so dressed up?” a voice asks over your left shoulder. You look up to see a tall, shirtless guy wearing a CamelBak.

“Oh, am I dressed up?” you ask.

“Like, yeah. I mean all the other girls here are in like, bras with their asses hanging out of their shorts, and you’re in a full-on dress.”

“Oh, yeah. Looks like you’re right,” you say. “Maybe cuz I’m not 20?”

“Oh, ok,” he says, smiling. “Cool.” He’s adorable in his strapping, blond, youthful glory. And he seems nice. So you ask a question.

“So, hey, is The Weeknd, like, hugely popular with all the 20-year-olds? I mean, when did that happen?” You decide it’s best to go all in with the Old Lady bit. “I thought I might be able to get up closer 30 minutes out of his show. But this is crazy!”

You really had no idea. You just figured he got popular when he did that 50 Shades of Gray song. “I dunno. I’ve been listening to The Weeknd for about three years,” the guy says. “His music helps me focus. I love it.”

The young guy introduces himself, asks you why you’re there. How did you first hear about The Weeknd? What are your favorite songs? What do you hope he plays? Do you live in the city? What do you do for work? What do you write? How old are your kids? He’s just turned 21. He tells you that you don’t look “old.”

“Definitely not 35, not that that’s old at ALL. C’mon, you’re only 14 years older than me. That’s nothing. I mean, you’re really pretty, too. That’s why I first talked to you. I would NEVER have guessed you were as old as you are. Which isn’t old, for the record.” Two girls centimeters in front of your face turn around to survey you and smile-scowl. You think maybe they would like to be talking with him, so you smile at them and turn your body away from him to give them an in.

He moves in closer to you, says it’s so nice to have a conversation with a girl who’s not like all the other girls there. You tell him to keep an open mind to the younger girls. You’re sure there are young women his age who are devastatingly lovely, but sometimes being 20 is not about knowing or showing it. But 20 is good and fun and important.

You wonder if you should move, because you’re not there to get your swerve on with a 21 year old, but this guy and his friends are so cute and warm and good, so you stay put and chat casually until the sky goes dark.

Waiting for the show to start.

Waiting for the show to start.

The Weeknd comes out and opens with one of your favorites from “House of Balloons.” It’s almost exhilarating. You wish you were up closer, but the energy is still buzzing. Arms are up, everyone is dancing. You know all the words.

“Can you see ok?” the guy asks right in your ear.

“Yeah! I can. It’s great!” you say, still watching the stage.

“No, really. Can you see ok?” he’s yelling in your ear. “You love this guy. Don’t you want to see him better?”

“Ummmm? I think this is good,” you call back to him, eyes on the stage.

The guy leans down and his face drops in front of yours. “I’m asking if you want to get on my shoulders.”

What the hell? Those are words no one has EVER asked you. You burst out laughing.

“Oh, no way! You’re sweet to offer, but I’m a big girl and I’d probably hurt you. There’s no way. But thanks!”

He gives you a discerning look and steps back. You notice he’s ridiculously cut. (because he’s shirtless and wearing only a CamelBak. Right. How had you missed this till now?) “As long as you’re not more than 500 pounds, which is what I bench, I’ll be fine. And you’re nowhere close to that, so don’t worry about me. C’mon, Emily. It’ll be fun!”

You giggle nervously and fear streaks through you. Would it be fun? You wonder for a split second. No! The answer is no! Wait. It’s NOT appropriate for a woman your age to do such things. What would people say? No!

You emphatically decline again and you keep dancing. Nervously. You notice several girls on shoulders around you. But they’re 20. You are embarrassed and terrified that you even considered the invitation for a second, but he won’t leave you alone about it and deep down inside you really, really want to say yes.

“Emily. Everyone else is up, so you might as well get up, too. Come on. You’ll have fun.” He takes your hands in his and squats down in front of you.

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

As if out of body, you watch yourself agreeing to this nonsense before you can stop it. Because you’ve wanted to go to Lollapalooza since Pearl Jam was there in 1992 and you’re fucking there and you are free to do as you please and you don’t know a soul in the crowd and as you place your thighs on either side of the back of his neck, you panic because you are just way too sweaty, way too heavy, way too sober, way too amazon, way too scandalous, way too old to actually do this and the next second you’re in the air, wobbling precariously—it’s seriously kinda scary for a couple ticks—till you find your balance on the shoulders of a 21-year-old body builder and the girls in front of you are looking up at you with absolute glee (must be the molly) and you know you look shameful perched above the crowd in your blue dress and 35-year-old-ness and you had your 7-year-old son there with you earlier in the day for goodness’ sake and it all feels obscene and deplorable and Absolutely. Fucking. Amaaaaazing.

For reference, see 7-year-old. (this is just before leaving for the show. he's pissed you did not get him a pack of gum at the store on your way to pick him up.)

For reference, see 7-year-old. (this is just before leaving for the show. he’s pissed you did not get him a pack of gum at the store on your way to pick him up.)

You cannot stop smiling. At first it’s out of embarrassment, but then you realize you are literally in the clouds, high above a sea of people all rocking to an artist you love. You note that The Weeknd would probably be extra proud of you for not caring what the people think. You laugh and relax slightly as the guy dances beneath you and you can’t help but think of the Guns & Roses concerts you watched when you were a kid and MTV still played videos, and when you confess this tale to your sister the next day she asks you if you flashed your boobs because that’s what you do on shoulders at concerts, right? (No. Der. It’s not 1985.) Up there on this adorable kid’s shoulders, it’s just you, arms outstretched, bathed by stage lights in front and a blue moon behind. A literal blue moon. You look up at the sky, at the stage and throw your head back in laughter. Then a couple euphoric minutes later, you ask the guy to kindly bring you back down. He doesn’t hear you, so you have to touch his face and repeat your request. Your cheeks MUST be as flushed as the hot pink lipstick you’re wearing. And you don’t even care.

The girls in front reach their hands out to help you land safely. “Why so soon? I could’ve held you for so much longer,” the guy says with a huge smile. “Did you have fun?!”

You had SO much fun.

“Any time you want to get back up, just let me know,” he grins.

You know you won’t ask him—or anyone—to hoist you up again. It was sort of like crowd surfing…it was awesome that one time in college, but you don’t need to do it again. The ground is fine for concert viewing, thank you. You feel strangely grateful to this guy and you wonder where he came from and why that just happened. And you’re still smiling. And you dance. And the night is young. And The Weeknd plays on.

###

Just because, here are pics that tell a different story from the day…

Emilee, her little man, Charlie and me taking in Cold War Kids.

Emilee, her little man, Charlie and me taking in Cold War Kids.

Rappin'

Just some cats rappin’

Mamas and boys

Mamas and boys

Drummin

Lil drummer boy

We actually had the best day ever together.

Silly faces.

Up front. Charlie's first rock concert. First Lolla for us both.

Up front for Cold War Kids. Charlie’s first rock show. First Lolla for us both.

The looks of love

By the looks of things on social media, the love was flowing this Valentine’s Day. And, to my delight, Love (let’s capitalize it, shall we?) looked different for everyone.

It wasn’t just flowers, a hot date or a perfect marriage on display. As seen on Instagram and Facebook, which have been known to dampen one’s enthusiasm about one’s own life on occasion but valiantly took the high road yesterday, Love included kids, pets, lovers, friends, parents, grandparents, sports, self and more. I was struck by the outpouring of self-love, friend-love and love of what is, whatever that was. At least in my feeds, I didn’t see a single person lamenting Valentine’s Day, regardless of their lot in Love. But I saw a whole lot of nurturing of varying kinds.

I have more than a couple friends who kicked it alone, and relished it, more power to ‘em. Others partied. Others worked. Others traveled. Others cuddled up with partners, kids and/or dogs. One friend unexpectedly ended up apart from her loved ones and surmised that God was her Valentine this year. “If you want to come over for a glass of wine,” she invited. “God and I will be here just hanging out. We’d love to have you.”

I’m a girl who loves quirky twists as much as I love Love itself, so seeing my friends stake their own claims on a day filled with all kinds of weird expectations kinda ruled.

For me, Love included a yoga class and long shower, pretty flowers from Brian and pink buttercream, sincere conversations and hugs, Thai takeout and family snuggles. After dark, as I drifted to sleep way too early with my arms around two boys who dampened my chest with drool, I thought, This doesn’t look like a traditional mass-market, gender-normative Valentine’s Day, but it’s kinda perfect.

It was a major scene at the store Friday. Kip wanted to pick out some jewelry for me. Charlie wanted to as well. I politely refused. They raised hell. "I just want to get my mommy someping as beautiful as she is, ok?!" Kip cried. "Wet me just pick someping beautiful out for you!" It was loud. I almost cried, too. He selected this bedazzling bracelet and Charlie chose the earrings and necklace. "The two little owls are me and Kip," he said. "And the big owl is you. You can wear these and think of us, all together."

It was a major scene at the store Friday. Kip wanted to pick out some jewelry for me. Charlie wanted to as well. I politely refused. They raised hell. “I just want to get my mommy someping as beautiful as she is, ok?!” Kip cried. “Wet me just pick someping beautiful out for you!” It was loud. I almost cried, too. I pointed him to the clearance rack. He selected some glittery Halloween earrings and this bedazzling bracelet and Charlie chose the earrings and necklace. “The two little owls are me and Kip,” he said. “And the big owl is you. You can wear these and think of us, all together.”

The scene of the sweetest Valentine's Day party ever, at the home of my pal, Lyz, who has found favor in heaven for welcoming five extra boys and their mamas into her very pretty house and arming them with frosting and sprinkles.

The scene of the sweetest Valentine’s Day party ever, at the home of my pal, Lyz, who has found favor in heaven for welcoming five extra boys and their mamas into her very pretty house and arming them with frosting and sprinkles.

We did a little family cupcake decorating.

We did a little family cupcake decorating on the big day. As you can see, Quinn men take their cupcakes very seriously.

No such thing as too many toppings.

No such thing as too many toppings.

Pat yourself on the back

It’s January, the month when everything that fell under the soft, twinkly haze of the holidays is cast in the glaring light of the New Year, and acting all prickly. I’ve spoken with more than a handful of friends who are having a tough week, mostly regarding work, specifically, so I think it’s time to unveil Charlie’s latest invention: The back-patting machine.

Maybe what we all need no matter our career lot is a little encouragement right now, so here goes… You’re awesome.  Don’t waste any more energy doubting yourself. Whatever it is, it doesn’t define you. Listen, learn and do your thing. Be you. Get some rest. Take good care of yourself. Because you’re darn good at providing care, and only the best will do for you. Have some fun today. Fun is good for you. You are good. So good. Everything is going to fall into place. You can do it, no matter what “it” is. You got it goin’ on. Love yourself. I love you. You’re awesome.

Now go ahead and pat yourself on the back, you magnificent thing, you.

This is a Boy Scout (note the neckerchief) wearing a helmet with a robotic arm, the sole purpose of which is to pat your back. Well done!

This is a Boy Scout (note the neckerchief) wearing a helmet with a robotic arm, the sole purpose of which is to pat your back. I say well done! (pencil sketch by Charlie.)

Cool things I did while burning up with enterovirus this Thanksgiving

Over my Thanksgiving holiday, I was so sick I did a bunch of stuff I never ever do:

I shivered with a high fever for two days.

I lolled in satin pajamas and a fluffy robe for three days.

No mascara. No lipgloss. (No photos.)

I reluctantly uninvited our Thanksgiving dinner guests.

I left the kids alone with tablets because I was too lethargic to do otherwise.

This was way more our holiday weekend reality than I'm proud to state openly.

This was way more our holiday weekend reality than I’m proud to state openly. They were giddy about my negligence.

I took two steams, heady with eucalyptus, with the kids.

I backed out of birthday drinks for one of my favorite friends.

I skipped yoga.

I sat, no, reclined a lot. On couches, on kitchen stools, on chairs, my bed.

I bought only like three things at Whole Foods.

I had one serving of Thanksgiving dinner—I haven’t skipped seconds since I was about 7.

I mainlined essential oils in little capsules (doTerra flu bomb) and inhaled apple brandy fumes from an oak barrel like it was my job.

I didn’t have a drop of anything fermented all weekend, unless you count apple cider vinegar in water.

I offered minimal coaching as Brian strung the lights on the Christmas tree. (he totally nailed it without my “help,” btw.)

Charlie picked the tree this year, Brian strung the lights, Kip showed heartwarming enthusiasm for decorating the tree and I vacuumed an obscene amount of pine needles.

Charlie picked the tree this year, Brian strung the lights, Kip showed heartwarming enthusiasm for decorating the tree and I vacuumed an obscene amount of pine needles.

I took naps.

I watched the movie Chef twice. And, when Charlie woke up coughing in his own feverish state one night, I let him watch it with us.

Which leads me to why being crazy sick over my favorite holiday wasn’t the worst thing in the world…

After the movie, Charlie and I sat shoulder-to-shoulder on the couch in the dark, feet up, devouring the Seattle segment of Dave Grohl’s documentary series, Foo Fighters Sonic Highways. Just the day before while driving, the boys and I had discussed Dave Grohl, the grunge sound and various artists of the genre, which was new to both boys but somehow irresistible to them, so Charlie was ripe for this documentary. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have let my six year old digest that many f-bombs and images of head-banging in one sitting. He was completely rapt (a new style of music? angry guitar riffs? mosh pits?!?!) and fascinated with the artistic freedom of the likes of Grohl, Kurt Cobain, Motherlovebone, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, etc.

As a practice, I try not to expect my boys to love the same stuff I do because I want them to feel free to like what they like, not compelled to succumb to Mommy’s tastes, but I discovered my kid can geek the rock out about music. (cue the hallelujah.) If I hadn’t been sick and weak and stricken with a rare 102-degree fever, I never would’ve let my ritual 7-o-clocker stay up that late with me. But we bonded like thieves over this documentary in our dark living room till almost 11 p.m. So, all thanks to the enterovirus, which made its way decisively through our house in five days, Charlie and I have at least one blissful Thanksgiving memory and a possible lifetime of shared music nerd-dom.

Final night of our couch-tv-movie-tablet bender, and it looks like we're almost out of the woods.

Final night of our couch-tv-movie-tablet bender. Here’s hoping we’re out of the woods.

You and magical realism

It’s a warm October night. And it’s raining just lightly. The stoplights are hazy, the shadows dark, and wispy slips of autumn sprinkle windshields in the breeze.

You’re noticing how beautiful it all is as you’re driving down Ravenswood when the wind blows a golden sprig of maple leaves onto the street about 25 yards ahead of you. As it falls, the leaves catch your headlights just so and flop back and forth on the pavement, which is shining with rain.

Glowing black street, like the lake at night, and a bright golden flash dancing in your headlights. The glimmering splotch of gold looks so alive you think it’s a fish. You hit the brakes because you believe a fish has fallen from the sky, is flapping on the street, you better slow down, you might run it over. It’s raining fish!

When you’re not in the pool, which is where you’ve been tonight, your body, your mind, your heart, your spirit are in the midst of a transformation so surprising, so inexplicable, so otherworldly, so outrageous that you actually believe, right, this is an unseasonably warm fall night and golden fish are raining from the sky. If all that can be going on, why can’t this?

So you slow down and wonder if you might save it. Take it home, put it in your big flower vase with some lukewarm water and tomorrow show the kids the goldfish you rescued in the street last night. You look around. Are there others?

Eventually you get five yards away from the dying goldfish and you see it’s a bouquet of maple leaves, blowing in the warm breeze and lapping up the warm rain. Your brain flips a switch, allowing you to see what’s really there. And you laugh. It’s an out-loud laugh full of real, boisterous joy because, holy hell, you’ve always said if your life were a literary genre, you’d like it to be magical realism. And then there you are—enacting something out of Gabriel García Marquez’ world. This is some certifiable Pablo Neruda shit. Oh, how you used to love Laura Esquivel…

You just keep laughing. At yourself, at what’s going on with you, at the insertion of magical realism right there on the dark drive home. You are so consumed in your own peculiar reality that, for a few moments, you, a reasonably logical person, actually thought it was raining fish.

It’s just funny. You throw your hands off the steering wheel in delight and thank the leaf fish for reminding you that even in a weird, heartbreaking story, there’s beauty and whimsy and undoubtedly even some magic. Which, you pray, is on its way.

Epilogue: In the third paragraph of this post, your spellcheck wants you to make “black street” a proper noun. Which also makes you laugh. Magic delivered! No diggety. No doubt.

And, just for fun, a Pablo Neruda poem I love and excerpt often with my kids:

Ode to a pair of socks

Mara Mori brought me
a pair of socks
which she knitted herself
with her sheepherder’s hands,
two socks as soft as rabbits.
I slipped my feet into them
as if they were two cases
knitted with threads of twilight and goatskin,
Violent socks,
my feet were two fish made of wool,
two long sharks
sea blue, shot through
by one golden thread,
two immense blackbirds,
two cannons,
my feet were honored in this way
by these heavenly socks.
They were so handsome for the first time
my feet seemed to me unacceptable
like two decrepit firemen,
firemen unworthy of that woven fire,
of those glowing socks.

Nevertheless, I resisted the sharp temptation
to save them somewhere as schoolboys
keep fireflies,
as learned men collect
sacred texts,
I resisted the mad impulse to put them
in a golden cage and each day give them
birdseed and pieces of pink melon.
Like explorers in the jungle
who hand over the very rare green deer
to the spit and eat it with remorse,
I stretched out my feet and pulled on
the magnificent socks and then my shoes.

The moral of my ode is this:
beauty is twice beauty
and what is good is doubly good
when it is a matter of two socks
made of wool in winter.

Hurricane Odile

We were just there...and now this coastline is thrashed.

We were just there in April…and now this coastline is thrashed.

A place I love, the land and sea that shaped my twenties, is now a disaster area. Hurricane Odile passed through Los Cabos and traveled up the Baja Peninsula this week, crushing homes, infrastructure, an entire industry and human spirit as it went. It hasn’t been widely reported in the States but, today, some of my friends are waiting in mile-long lines for food, water or an airlift to anywhere else. Others are staying to pick up the pieces, sticking it out despite the devastation, the heat, the lack of power/cell service and the clear-and-present threat of looters, who are going from home to home in search of anything, everything. (Sign this petition here to ask the Mexican government to send in security reinforcements.)

Los Cabos International Airport following Hurricane Odile.

Los Cabos International Airport following Hurricane Odile.

As far as I can tell from Facebook and word of mouth, all of my friends are technically safe, but biblically scared. (Listen here for one Canadian expat’s experience.)

If Southern Baja has ever touched your heart, or has a place in your memory treasure box, following are a couple legit places you can donate. These two organizations probably have no way of updating their websites with fancy hurricane relief links as yet, but I can tell you they do SO much good for the people and animals of Los Cabos and you can trust that your donation ultimately will be put to good use. I will be keeping my eyes and ears open for ways to help specific friends over the next week or so, so message me if you’re interested in being kept posted on other ways to help.

http://www.ligamac.org/

www.loscaboshumanesociety.com or their Crowdrise page, https://www.crowdrise.com/HurricaneOdileReliefFund

And also, here: http://www.cruzrojamexicana.org.mx/

Looking back on Hurricane John

I’m reminded of a brush we had with a hurricane when I lived in San Jose del Cabo. I journaled about it at the time–pre-blog days–and am reposting my journal entry (which I sent as a letter to friends in the States at the time) here today. It’s inane to even talk about Hurricane John in the same sentence as Hurricane Odile, but I’m marveling at what catastrophe might have been, and holding all the people of Baja California Sur in my prayers. If you’re so inspired, please do the same.

These used to be people's homes.

These used to be people’s homes.

TBT: Hurricane John, Los Cabos, 2006

Aside: I cannot even imagine what my friends and everyone else has lost in this horror. I dearly wish Hurricane Odile had unfolded as trivially as Hurricane John…

Thursday 8/31/06

I made a giant vegetable omelet for breakfast this morning. After all, I have to do something with all this food before the power goes out. I’ve thought about eating what’s left of my frozen 27th birthday cake—slathered in Grandma Fogel’s chocolate icing. And I’ve momentarily mourned the impending demise of my homemade Caesar salad dressing. The worst test, though, is to figure out what to do with the frozen filets of Brian-speared snapper, sea bass and dorado from our cruise in the Sea of Cortez a month ago. It’s not just fish; it’s memories.

Taking a break from considering the culinary impact of Hurricane John, I just put a tattered copy of Appley Dappley’s Nursery Rhymes, the 1980 favorite of Emily’s Book Club, into a Ziplock bag and stashed it in the corner of a bookshelf. Alongside it is my collection of journals from age 11 to the present, sealed away in freezer bags like the leftovers I can’t figure out how to save. And I, a Kansas City girl who barely knows the scrapes of a tornado, am left to wonder what exactly will be left over after a massive hurricane.

The carpets are rolled up, the paintings are hidden in closets, favorite books are in plastic and the TV is in a trash bag. The lawn chairs, flowerpots and other would-be projectiles are stowed on the side of the house and water, canned food and boxes of juice are stocked in the laundry room. A stash of clean clothes waits in a garbage bag that will hopefully still be dry after the storm has made itself at home. I have a first-aid kit, flashlights, candles and even a muzzle for the ever-loyal Tinkerbell, should she feel that someone gets too close to me in the hotel shelter. Nevertheless, even as I scurry around in a caffeine-assisted frenzy, the three dogs sprawled on the bare tile floor with their eyes trailing my every move, it’s hard to fathom the reality that a Class 3 or 4 hurricane is on its way.

All the networks have descended on Los Cabos—along with blue-bottomed clouds—and Brian did a live interview with Fox News this morning. Traffic is congested and the lines at the supermarket are 15 minutes at least. Everyone is buying just one more thing they think they may need: plastic buckets, batteries, masking tape, water and more. A woman in front of me had 750 plastic straws in her cart and I almost bought myself a Cabbage Patch Kid.

Now it’s a quarter till 2 p.m. on Thursday and I’m moving into Brian’s office at the Westin Resort & Spa, Los Cabos, at 4:30 p.m. Since I probably can’t save the food in the freezer, my next step will be shoving our down comforter into a plastic trashcan, loading the seemingly unaffected dogs into the car and making my way to shelter. I will try to keep you all posted as long as we have power and phone lines and, in the mean time, know that we’ll be safe at the Westin and don’t pay too much attention to the news networks. As we all know, they’re always in search of the most dramatic story and sometimes they’re not afraid to make it up as they go…

This is the Westin Resort & Spa Los Cabos, where Brian worked, where we took shelter from the mini hurricane in 2006 and, as pictured here, the scene of our wedding.

This is the Westin Resort & Spa Los Cabos, where Brian worked, where we took shelter from the mini hurricane in 2006 and, as pictured here, the scene of our wedding.

This is an aerial shot of the Westin after Hurricane Odile.

This is an aerial shot of the Westin after Hurricane Odile.

9/4/06 Hurricane Juan?

I should’ve known better. I’ve been in Mexico long enough to know the drill.

You invite friends for dinner and either they’re an hour or two late or sometimes, if it’s a larger party, they may never even show up. Regardless, at the appointed time, the table is set, the music is on and your lipstick is fresh. And then you wait.

You wait for them to arrive and, if and when they ever do, both of you will act as though everything is fine, even though you have threatened your husband at least twice that you’re just going to eat all the smoked salmon cakes yourself if they don’t arrive in 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes later, you tell him you’re just going to call Francis and Therese to see if they want to come over for a last-minute dinner because it’s obvious your guests aren’t coming. Fifteen minutes more, you take your shoes off, plop on the couch with the dog, spill a drop of wine on your white blouse and the doorbell rings. We’re in Mexico for goodness’ sake. Why should a hurricane be any different?

After transforming our home into a big, black trash bag Thursday afternoon, I took shelter with the dogs in Brian’s office at 5:30 a.m. Friday. Despite all our hurricane preparedness, by noon, the birds were still chirping. Forecasters said Hurricane John would arrive at 8 a.m. Friday. At 8 a.m., they said he would join us at 11 a.m. At 11 a.m., they said 2 p.m. and at 2 p.m. they said 8 p.m. Somewhere along the way, Mr. Category-Four-turned-Category-Three, Nevermind-I’m-a-Category-Two slowed down to a leisurely 6 miles an hour, taking his sweet time in arriving. And, in the end, he must’ve had a better invitation.

We waited all day for something to happen. The satellite maps kept predicting the storm was heading straight for us, and Harris Whitbeck himself was live on the scene at the Westin covering the storm for CNN. However, we never saw the 110-mile-an-hour winds and horizontal rain for which we’d prepared.

In fact, it wasn’t until the eye was already 100 miles north of Cabo that we got anything more than flickering sprinkles, a gentle breeze and a sea without whitecaps. Unfortunately for our neighbors on the East Cape, John rearranged his evening to visit to Cabo Pulmo, Los Barriles, La Ribera and La Paz. I guess it didn’t matter to Hurricane John that the entire destination of Los Cabos was closed down, taped up and huddled in shelters awaiting his arrival.

When we returned to our home on Saturday afternoon, puddles of water greeted us in every room along with the stale smell of towels we forgot to pick up off the floor before we left. The arroyos had turned to rivers and the highway was covered in runoff from the hills, but other than that, there was little evidence of John in Los Cabos. We were lucky to have water, so it didn’t seem like a big deal to go without power for a day and a half, or to live without Internet for three days.

We still have six weeks left of hurricane season, and I’m counting down the days till October 15. With any luck, if Mother Nature takes hurricane form in the near future, she’ll again take the “when in Rome” approach to her travels. Because, lucky for us, Hurricane John behaved much more like a Hurricane Juan and, just this once, I was grateful.

Unfortunately, the Cabo San Lucas Marina endured a destructive beating by Hurricane Odile.

Unfortunately, the Cabo San Lucas Marina endured a destructive beating by Hurricane Odile.

Thanks to Edgar, Mike and Sherry's amazing friend and deckhand, shown helping Charlie back onto the boat, the Ambar III made it through Odile. The hurricane ripped through La Paz, where the Ambar III is docked.

However, our beloved friends’ boat made it through the storm in La Paz. Hurricane Odile ripped through La Paz, B.C.S., where the Ambar III is docked. Edgar, Mike and Sherry’s amazing friend and deckhand, is here helping Charlie back onto the boat in April somewhere near Isla Espiritu Santo.

 

Lost and found: My kid

Here we are in Baja, just off Isla Espiritu Santo, and I'm teaching Kip how to snorkel for the first time.

Here we are in Baja, bobbing around in the Sea of Cortez near Isla Espiritu Santo, and I’m teaching Kip how to snorkel for the first time.

I lost track of my youngest son Sunday afternoon. At a crowded beach on Chicago’s North Side, I looked around and discovered Kip, my soft-cheeked, sweet-spirited, strong-willed, face-caressing, twinkly eyed, soulful, viking-metal-loving, sun-bleached blond of a four year old was missing. “Where is Kip?” I asked his buddies, my husband, my friends. “Have you seen Kip?” He was completely out of range. Friends scooped up babies, grabbed tiny hands and, all together, combed the shoreline both directions in search of him.

He wasn’t by the kayak. He wasn’t by his other little friend, who’d wandered a ways south as well. He wasn’t up in the grasses. He wasn’t on the sidewalk. He wasn’t on the wall from which he’d asked to jump earlier. He wasn’t on the playground. He wasn’t anywhere. I tried to still my worry so I could feel his energy, wherever he was. I figured maybe I could detect on the woo-woo waves whether he was in danger, and where he might be. My gut told me he was ok, but I prayed. And prayed. And prayed some more nonetheless. He couldn’t swim very well, and yet he had a lifejacket on, so after a cursory search, I ruled out drowning and my mind jumped almost immediately to “someone took him.”

I stopped a lifeguard. “Hi. I’ve lost my son. Is there protocol in place for when this happens? Anything you can do to help?” She very calmly led me to another lifeguard, who asked me what Kip looked like and what he was wearing. I told them in detail. Someone radioed someone else. My surrounding friends looked at me with concern. They hadn’t found him, either.

Charlie, my oldest, who has beautiful intuitive gifts, looked shaken. He had been running down the beach yelling, “Kip!” I grabbed his hand, knelt down, looked into his eyes and placed my hands on his heart. “Charlie. I need to ask you to do something really huge. If it feels ok to you, drop down into your heart, close your eyes, look in the center of your forehead and see if you can see Kip. See if you can see where he might be.” He nodded his head once and closed his eyes, then opened them almost immediately and turned around. My gaze followed his. One of our friends, with a baby strapped to her chest, was rushing toward me with Kip’s hand in hers.

IMG_0501

Kip’s hands. Oh, his sweet hands. They hold delicate things so softly and grip cameras just so to snap photos like this one, on the Ambar III last April.

I promptly lost all composure.

I ran to my amazing little boy, scooped him up and wrapped my arms so tightly around his damp lifejacket, hand on the back of his head as though he were a newborn. He sobbed into my neck. I sobbed into his cheek. We both held each other and heaved.

“I was so scared, Mommy,” he bawled. “I couldn’t find you anywhere.”

“I’m so sorry you were scared, my Kippy. You’re ok now. I was so worried about you,” I cried and cried. “I am so happy you’re ok. I am so, so happy you’re here in my arms. We are going to do a better job of keeping our eyes on each other from now on, ok?”

“I just wanted to give Maya these stones I found,” he sobbed even harder. As we suspected, it seemed he’d gone on a mission for his favorite girl. “I was trying to find sea glass to give her, but I didn’t find anything good. I kept looking, but could only find these ones. And they’re not even that good!” He opened his cool little hand to reveal two stones, which were warm from his careful guarding.

“Oh, buddy. She’s coming back from the paddleboard with her daddy right now. Would it make you feel better if you could see her and give them to her?”

“Yeeeeesssssss!” he cried. “I want to give her these rocks I found for her.”

I don’t know how that amazing little six-year-old girl knew to be thrilled with the nondescript rocks he brought her, but when she approached moments later, he presented the two smallish stones and her face completely lit up.

She said something like, “Wow, Kip! Thank you so much! I love them!” Right then, his face cracked into a big smile and everything we’d just experienced seemingly washed away from his being.

My recovery wasn’t as quick. It felt as though I’d aged a year in however many minutes it was I thought he might be gone. My eyes hurt. My heart felt tender. Brian couldn’t fall asleep that night. But hours after we returned home, I was able to go into Kip’s room and curl up next to his sleeping body, safe and sound. And that felt absolutely euphoric.

He gave her a couple unremarkable stones, she gave him this hug. His heart is full.

He gave her a couple unremarkable stones, she gave him this hug. His heart is full.

To be clear, this is not a cautionary tale

I don’t need to tell you to learn from my mistake and make sure you watch your kids closely at the beach. Because, if you have kids, or even friends, or cats, you all probably do that already. That’s why I’ve omitted the details of the moments before we noticed he was missing—they’re inconsequential because we obviously weren’t en pointe, and mistakes happen. To everyone. It’s really obvious that if we’d been keeping a closer eye on the little guy, this wouldn’t have happened, and any amount of ridiculing you could throw down would pale in comparison to what’s already been unfurled in my own head. (you’ve met my inner mean girl, yes?)

But I do want to drop a tiny piece of preaching

I was surprised by the response of passersby once I had Kip safely in my arms. When Laura found him, the countenance of the lifeguards and the surrounding people who’d worn masks of concern moments earlier shifted completely. They glared at her as she ushered Kip back to our spot on the sand. As I hugged my baby and cried, the lifeguards looked me up and down, cocked their heads and darn near rolled their eyes at me. On the way toward me with Kip in hand, one woman even snarled at my friend: “Happens fast, doesn’t it?”

Ouch, bitches.

Unfortunately, this was a bad thing that happened. We effed up, and it could’ve gone much worse. Thank God, our beach companions and the pack of concerned little kids who searched for Kip, everything turned out ok and I was supremely supported in the emotional aftermath despite the weirdness of strangers.

Next time it turns out ok for someone—anyone—would it be possible for all of humanity to hide their disgust, pretty please? Like, maybe try tapping into a loving or compassionate place and saying something to the tune of, “I’m so happy you found him,” or “Oh, wow. We were concerned. Glad he’s ok.”

As the cropped t-shirt of one woman strutting down the beach an hour or so later read in huge block print, “Shit happens.” It sure does, I can attest. To everyone, I might add. (Even to generally type-A, hypervigilant parents.) And, when it does, an outstretched hand and little compassion goes a long way.

Kip parties on. And now understands a bit more about the importance of staying with his grown ups.

Kip parties on. And now understands a bit more about the importance of staying with his grown ups. Note: This was second his costume change at our block party this summer–he washed off *most* of his face paint and threw on this Hawaiian get up from Aunt Andrea so he could really tear it up. And, of course, by “tear it up,” I mean stub his bare foot on the curb and rip his pinkie toenail off. This kid has given me too many a fright this summer…

 

The good and bad of birthdays, and the gift we can give ourselves and others every day.

See? Historically, I relish my birthday no matter what. You wanted a Cabbage Patch Kid, too, little sister? Aw, I hope you get one on your special day. But stand aside because it's MY birthday and I'm gonna enjoy it. Smile!

Do you see? Historically, I relish my birthday no matter what. You wanted a Cabbage Patch Kid, too, little sister? Aw, I feel a little awkward about this, and I sure hope you get one on your special day. But, shhhh, stand aside because it’s MY birthday, this is MY gift and I want to make sure Mom gets a pic of me with Henrika Lily. Wait, no. I think I’m going to name her Jenny Henrika. I’m turning 7 today, so I can totally change the name on the Cabbage Patch Kids birth certificate. You know, I can actually do anything I want today. It’s my birthday. I’m the star. Sing to me! Feed me cake! Give me ice cream! Let me open presents! Cheeeeeeese!

I turned 35 two weeks ago. Appreciation and surprises rolled in from near and far. People made me smile, laugh, blush and feel overcome with gratitude because I can’t believe they love me so perfectly. (cookie bouquets, haikus, notes, flowers, jewelry, cars pulled over on the side of the road and technology given to kids to make space to talk to me, oh my!)

And, yet, there’s the other side of birthdays, and it didn’t elude me. There were tears. Not because I’m getting older—although I was once told by someone who is obviously mistaken that 35 is a woman’s tip toward the downhill slide—but because of this: My journey sometimes feels way harder than I want it to be. And, though I know this journey is all for the greater good, even my birthday couldn’t relieve me of its present weight.

I didn’t get why I was feeling so heavy on my birthday, the ultimate festival of awesomeness for a hardcore Leo, and I felt generally very awkward, alone and socially inept all day. I just wanted to hide and not have to face anyone because I simply wasn’t “myself,” and I was definitely not playing the part of the happy-go-lucky birthday girl I felt I should be.

So I called up a friend who’s always good for spiritual refreshment. Cin is a poet of some renown (check it) and always has a fresh way of seeing things. She said, “Everything is just extra on your birthday. Ouchy things feel extra ouchy. Wonderful things feel extra wonderful. This is kind of how birthdays are. They’re extra everything.”

So this is obviously, like, "extra" fabulous. This is me on my 35th birthday, post-tears. If this is the downhill slide, I'm wearing tight jeans and big necklaces the rest of the way.

So this is obviously, like, “extra” fabulous. This is me on my 35th birthday, post-tears. If 35 marks the downhill slide, I’m totally wearing tight jeans, Blanche Devereaux jackets and big necklaces the rest of the way.

One thing we can learn about being a friend, from a comedy writer

So, yeah, on the topic of those “extra” kinds of feelings and friendship, I read this really cool Cracked.com article the other day. (Hey-oh, David Goldstein, thanks for the share!) It’s called “Robin Williams and why funny people kill themselves.” It paints a vivid picture of why comics develop the gift of funny, and how they often feel compelled to hide their dark stuff throughout their lives, sometimes all the way up until a self-inflicted end. It’s insightful and it’s sad. And I hereby declare it required reading.

(Aside: My inner circle does not need to read the article because they already know. They miraculously like me even when my need to process is incessant, my forehead vein is sticking out and mascara is streaking down my cheeks. Which is doggone decent of them.)

Anyway, David Wong’s boiled-down advice to friends of funny people is this:

“Be there when they need you, and keep being there even when they stop being funny. Every time they make a joke around you, they’re doing it because they instinctively and reflexively think that’s what they need to do to make you like them. They’re afraid that the moment the laughter stops, all that’s left is that gross, awkward kid everyone hated on the playground, the one they’ve been hiding behind bricks all their adult life. If they come to you wanting to have a boring-ass conversation about their problems, don’t drop hints that you wish they’d ‘lighten up.’ It’s really easy to hear that as ‘Man, what happened to the clown? I liked him better.’”

It got me thinking. I wonder what would happen if we substituted different personality traits in for “funny.” Nice. Smart. Strong. Empowering. Sexy. Snarky. Motivational. Witty. Holy. Wise. Tough. Passionate. Ornery. Creative. Cool. Shiny.

What’s your schtick?

I’m not funny, so the applications of Wong’s article aren’t an exact match, but, like you, I am a bunch of other stuff (warm, open, caring, playful…) These are real things about me, and I generally try to be my real self at all costs, but sometimes other qualities (over-thinky-ness, overwhelm, hard-on-myself-ness, perfectionism, fearfulness, etc.) take the stage. On those days, I feel afraid of what might happen if my shiny self doesn’t present.

Will you still want me?

I’m not sure you will. So I can identify with Wong on this point. I’ve seen it before—that moment when someone you consider a friend isn’t quite sure what to do with a state of being that’s not your modus operandi—you get the glazed-over eyes and emotional detachment and end up feeling dumb for venturing from your usual shininess, or whatever it is you think they like about you. And so you bottle it up around them and, next time, you’re darn sure to put on the face you think they want to see.

Feeling dumb after showing your real self sucks. And it veers awfully close to feeling un-liked or unloved or isolated. Which, in some cases, can be a slippery slope.

So my point is: If funny people feel required to stay funny because that’s what’s expected of them, as Wong asserts, others may feel it behooves them to maintain X, Y or Z persona for the same reason. And it’s just as damaging. We must break this pattern. All of us. I’m talking to you.

The shiny mask keeps things nice and pleasant, but behind the mask, we feel glaringly alone walking around in the world. You tell yourself people don’t want anything to do with this heavier, lackluster version of you. You keep your sunglasses on.

And if you remove the sunglasses? And the mask?

Well, I can’t say I’m skilled at doing this myself, but all I know is that when someone takes off his or her sunnies and lets me see their heart and soul, no matter what shape it’s in that day, it gets pretty awesome. Unfortunately, most of us walk around with some masterful masks, which may cause us to miss out on potentially expansive connections.

Recently a friend I’ve known for almost a year shared one of the saddest stories I’ve ever heard. It was a tale of unending loss and grief in his life. In our relationship of pleasantries and passing conversation, I never could’ve guessed he’d been through such tragedy. After he laid it out there, he apologized for telling me, for weighing me down. But, on the contrary, I felt both more alive and more connected with him. I’m not sure how this works, but something about the honor of becoming privy to the trials of this guy as he was processing some deep feelings was ultimately very, very uplifting. And, as a result of being let in and letting him into my own world, I am now way more into what’s beneath his facade than my experience of him from the past 10 months. It took some time to develop a friendship, as it usually does, but the dude is now in my heartspace.

Another example: I was recently shaking it with a big crowd at a festive occasion, delighted to have run into a much admired friend I hadn’t seen in a while. As we hugged, shimmied and bumped booties on the dance floor, I asked her how she was doing and she responded so simply, to the tune of, “Well. Here I am. I haven’t done this (insert her deep desire) yet, and I want it so bad. So, I’m happy for these people, but I’m really not doing so well at the moment.”

The honesty. The authenticity. The courage. The vulnerability. The real, pulsing life being laid out there in an unlikely space. The power of it all will take your breath away. At the time, when each of these friends opened their hearts and showed me what was inside rather than what they thought they should display, my heart opened, too. And what came next in each instance was infinitely better than whatever I was doing or planning to do the moment before they got real with me.

This chick--let's call her "Tiffany" in honor of the artist who created her--is all, "Hey, Fish. I'm kinda blue today. Do you still wanna hang out? No? Ok. I'm just going to descend, then."

This chick–let’s call her “Tiffany” in honor of the artist who created her–is all, “Hey, Fish. I’m kinda blue today. Do you still wanna hang out? No? Ok. I’m just going to descend, then.”

It’s awesome when people get real.

On one end, the willingness to let down the walls and just be who you are, whatever it is, in that instant, is a pure, glistening gift.

On the other end, compassion, sincerity and general openness is equally as valuable. For example, at a BBQ last weekend, someone I don’t know as well as I hope to one day circled back to a nonspecific comment I made weeks ago about a tough time I was having. She asked me about it in the most sincere, caring, understanding, open way, and it instantly brought me to tears. She might as well have said, “I see you, I care about you and I’m here for you.” It’s ballsy to jump into someone’s world like that. I’d call it heroic, even. But now I know that if I want to reach out to her and be my stripped-down self, I totally can. What a gift. Happy Birthday to me.

So, what if we were genuinely open to allowing the people in our lives to be however they are on any given day? And what if we were authentic about our own feelings as well? When we’re not our usual shiny selves, what if we could just be ok with that? And not worry about how others might receive us? And not feel icky about their response, if unfavorable, to us on these days?

I think we can try for all of this.

Kip frosted this cake for me all by himself. Because it was my birthday cake, and because he loved frosting it so much, it was extra-extra delicious.

Kip frosted this cake for me all by himself. Because it was my birthday cake, and because he loved frosting it so much, it was extra-extra delicious.

But back to my birthday.

Birthdays feel like the New Year to me. They’re a chance to look at your life, at what you’ve created, and reflect on what you want to manifest in the coming year. I’ve got a rough sketch in my head of how I might want my 36th year to look. It’s pretty bold and there are a lot of unknowns, and being true about my feelings and wholly accepting of others is on the list.

But if it ever gets to be too much, I could take the tongue-in-cheek advice from my burst-of-goodness-and-wisdom-and-laughter friend, who rocked an extended text convo with me the day after my bday. Here’s a sample:

Her: That pic of Kip and the cake summarizes how blessed yet awesome you are. I hope your day is as rockin as yooooouuuu!

Me: You are so right. 🙂 It was an up and down day (birthdays are kinda like that sometimes), but overall definitely rockin. Thanks for your kickass love!

Her: Ummm, yes, birthdays are bittersweet, emotional, thought provoking in maybe not the best ways…why is that?! … I hope wine punched those thoughts in the ass…ha!!

No filter. No mask. Let’s just feel what we feel and be who we are today, tomorrow and every day after. And, if friends aren’t ready to embrace the real you when you’re “not yourself,” don’t let it get to you. Be that person anyway and go for a cup of the fancy tea, a talk with your closest friend, a nice yoga class, a long run, an Epsom-salt bath or, yes, maybe even a glass of wine. You are not alone. You are divine. You are loved. A tough day—be it your birthday or otherwise—doesn’t have to mean a downhill slide. It can mean your very blossoming.

 

The great girlfriend lip gloss interrogation

My first-floor toiletry essentials.

My first-floor toiletry essentials.

There’s a basket on the back of the toilet in the bathroom off our kitchen. In it are bathroomy things like tissues, hand lotion, nail files, tampons (plus pads for visiting preteens and old-school girls out there), a hairbrush, Altoids, moisturizing face mist and a selection of lip glosses. These are things for which I’m not willing to risk general destruction of property by my children were I to run up to my boudoir and leave them alone for two minutes. So, I keep them handy.

During a party, some girlfriends commented on the basket, and then cornered me about the lip gloss. They observed that I always have it on, even while away at camp with another family for Memorial Day weekend.

“Wait! I was really good about not wearing any makeup while at Family Camp,” I protested.

“You were really good at making sure you had lip gloss on,” the camp-witness friend quipped.

Was I really wearing gloss at camp?

I clearly slowed it down with the eye makeup, but was I really wearing gloss in the camp hammock, and everywhere else?

I don’t want to believe that I glossed my lips out in the wilds of Michigan, but I can’t confirm I didn’t because the habit of swiping a wand across my pout is so ingrained that, in hindsight, I frankly don’t know what the truth is. She’s probably right. Ack. What does that say about me? Something bad? Something good?

“So what is your deal with lip gloss?” they asked. “Where does that come from?”

I gave them a story, one of them sweetly declared that I always look so nice, we moved on and then, the next day, I thought about it some more. And—taaa daaa!—I uncovered the following layers to my own personal lip gloss tale…

Level 1: I just love lip gloss. It’s girly, it’s fun, it’s shiny and I like it.
Level 2: I have this really luminous friend who always wore lipgloss. It inspired me, I thought she always looked really nice, so I picked up the habit and ran with it.
Level 3: I learned it by watching my extraordinarily lovely grandma, who even at age 93, doesn’t go a day without sprucing up. Makeup, clothing, accessories, nice shoes, the whole bit. I wasn’t afforded the indulgence of being girly as a kid and young woman, so now it’s my turn to relish femininity. Like grandmother, like granddaughter?

She even looks good mashing potatoes.

She even looks good mashing potatoes.

But when I reeeeally think about it, I can trace the habitual use of lip gloss to a very specific conversation with a very specific human being: my then-suitor, now-husband. Which brings me to the deepest level…

Level 4: Because I wanted to look like a “Fox girl.” For him.

When I first met Brian, the Fox News Network was young and not yet freaky business, and all the anchors were polished to the nines, right up to what he affectionately called “Fox girl lips.”

“What are Fox girl lips?” I asked him, young, impressionable and yet unsure of what it meant to be a real woman, at age 22.

“I don’t know…they just all have really shiny lips,” he explained. “They must use some kind of special lipstick or something.”

I knew enough to know that this “special lipstick” was called “gloss.” So then and there, I decided lip gloss was the surest way for me to look like a Fox girl. Because, having studied so many issues of Teen magazine and later Cosmo, I was an expert in deciphering casual comments from guys, and I assessed that’s what Brian liked. And I wanted to be what he wanted. And now, almost mindlessly, 12 years later, I have the right shade of lipstick and gloss for almost every occasion, and I’ll be darned if you catch me with naked lips. What’s more, sometimes I do look like a news anchor. (Thanks, Lemon Tree Photography.)

This is but a sampling of my lip-sprucing collection.

This is but a sampling of my lip-sprucing collection.

Lip gloss aside, I’m in a place right now of looking earnestly at who I am. I think all of us are, really. On a cosmic level, that’s what this age is about—finding out who we truly are.

What is my true nature? Who am I, really? How can I authentically be myself and act from my heart in everything I do? Who do I want to become? What do I want my life to look like, present and future? How might I soar while simultaneously empowering my loved ones? How do I want to live? How can I manifest the best possible life for myself and my loved ones?

You may have your own version of these questions; they are not small ones. And because habits are more telling than we often give them credit for, neither is this one: Why do I so diligently brush on lip gloss?

Do I actually “love” lip gloss? And for whom am I wearing it? Is it really who I am to wear lipgloss, or is it just a holdover from my days of figuring out how to be what someone else wanted me to be?

Habits are sticky. They hang around unbeknownst to us. We all have the stories we tell ourselves if people ask about them, but very rarely do we thoughtfully consider our habits and determine whether we wish to change them. For whatever reason, the simple question of “what’s your deal with lip gloss?” set me off on a crusade to examine my own drives for this and one or two other habits.

Long story short, it doesn’t matter where I end up falling on the lip gloss issue. Whether I decide to keep wearing it because I actually do love the girliness of perpetually glossed lips or I decide to abandon the shine because it no longer serves me is inconsequential. In this 24 hours of self-exploration regarding cosmetics usage, I am ultra-clear on one thing I hadn’t consciously noticed about me before the girlfriend lipgloss interrogation: This practice of morphing myself into the person he, she or you want me to be is a habit that no longer holds stock in my being. And that new awareness makes any time spent under the microscope worthwhile.

So, I encourage you to climb onto the glass and look deeply at what’s there. If you have any epiphanies, message me. I want to hear about them so I can cheer you on.