Bad Hands, Good Heart

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As performed by Rachel Pokay at “The Women’s Christmas Celebration” in Oak Brook, IL in 2019

We’re less than a week away from Christmas. Let’s sit here together in silence to think about that.

Five days, seven hours, forty-three minutes and 52 seconds. I’m sweating. I’m sweating so much.

But if you think about it, here are only two actual days on the calendar that are explicitly designated for Christmas – December 24, Christmas Eve, and December 25, Christmas Day. So, in theory, you still have a few days before you’re required to do anything. Technically and legally, you could just wake up on December 25 and just be like, it’s Christmas. Here I am! 

But it’s not that easy. That’s like saying to your friends, “Sure, I can meet you guys for brunch but at some point I just need pop out for a colonoscopy.” You don’t just show up for a colonoscopy, just like you don’t just show up for Christmas. There’s this whole long, unavoidable process leading up to it. Like with a colonoscopy, you’ve got to drink like, ten gallons of water and this disgusting Pedialyte concoction, then you have to fast, then you stay up until 2AM Googling how many people have died from routine colonoscopies, and so then you show up for it tired and malnourished and cranky.

But no, I’m not saying the holidays are like a colonoscopy at all.

That’s not to disregard the beautiful season of Advent happening right now. I love Advent. It’s a time of pensive reflection and spiritual preparation. One of my favorite Advent traditions is when one special family gets picked to go up and read the Bible verse and light the candles in the wreath, and then one of the little kids says something cute and everyone laughs. I love it! I always wondered why my family and I never got picked to do that. But then again, I just opened with a colonoscopy-based holiday metaphor so…mystery solved.

But today’s Christmas seasons starts even earlier than Advent. It all starts with a slight nip in the air. Somewhere some dude is burning leaves and the temperature drops below 60 and you and your girlfriends are like “I LOVE THIS TIME OF YEEEEAAAAAR.” You know you do. You run home and light every candle in your house, you’ve got a different decorative fleece blanket for every chair, and you start slathering your body head to toe in sugar plum lotion. By the way, has anyone ever even seen a sugar plum? I think it was just invented by Bath and Body Works to sell body spray.

I love sweater weather. We live in the upper Midwest, so the best sweaters are the ones that are as thick as a sleeping bag but are slightly nipped at the waist so as to show off your girlish figure. Sometimes I like to just wrap myself in an actual queen-sized duvet cover and just cinch it with a cute little belt. You know what they say – just because it’s negative 40 degrees and your internal organs are freezing over, doesn’t mean you need to let yourself go, ladies.

***

Now there’s a lot of debate out there about the right time to start embracing all the bells and whistles of the Christmas season. You have the Thanksgiving purists who say not a drop of yuletide until after Thanksgiving. 

How many of you out there fall in this camp? No Christmas stuff until after Thanksgiving. No acknowledgement of the baby Jesus until that last piece of pumpkin pie has been scarfed down over the kitchen sink at 3AM on Black Friday.

That moment is sacred, right? Just shoveling cold mashed potatoes down your gullet with a set of salad tongs because all of your silverware is dirty and you’re too tired to clean them.

I’m with you. It’s important to get through one season of emotional eating before moving onto the next one.

Fun fact: there’s this German word, Kummerspeck. It refers to the extra weight you put on after a round of emotional eating. In English, Kummerspeck literally translates as “grief bacon.” Grief bacon. If that doesn’t effectively capture the mood of pre-holiday prep, I don’t know what does.

***

Your first impressions of what Christmas is supposed to be, of course, starts with your childhood.

At an early age, I learned from my mother what the beauty of Christmas can be. She is what I always refer to as extremely tactile. Not tactile in the sense that she touches people. No, we as a family are not tactile in a human relations sense. In fact, when my mom and I try to hug, we explode into a giant dust cloud. Every. Time. It’s super annoying.

I mean tactile in the way that she is very good with her hands and when you pair that with her inherent sense of style, beautiful things are created.

I remember one year, my mom handmade poinsettias made of white crepe paper to adorn our Christmas tree. It created this beautiful, white swan-like motif that was so uniquely different from everything else in the early 90s, when Coca-Cola ornaments were in vogue and everyone’s trees were draped in that shiny silver tinsel that looks like slime and shows up in your cat’s hairballs well into Epiphany. 

My mother created a festive environment that was chic, minimalistic, and impeccably coordinated with our home furnishings and all the carefully curated trinkets.

My mom taught me about the virtues of open-faced sandwiches. They are the only acceptable sandwich option for a high-end holiday soiree. Everyone knows that. If you put a slice of bread on top of the sandwich, you might as well have been raised in a barn.

Because what are you hiding under all that bread? Your mediocrity, that’s what.

So yeah, my mom has she has style, yes, she has taste. But a person can be tasteful and stylish while also destroying delicate materials with their giant sausage fingers. That person, by the way, is me.

My mom has good eyes and good hands. I have good eyes but very, very bad hands. 

I blame it all on being left handed. The world is cruel and hostile to the left-handed person. If you’re right-handed, you might think I’m being hyperbolic. But try being a six-year-old leftie at school trying to construct a culturally insensitive Thanksgiving headpiece before the invention of left-handed scissors. It’s traumatizing.

And so here I am, daughter of Julie, mentally and spiritually destined to excel at do-it-yourself craftsmanship, but just so genetically flawed.

You can imagine the pressure I feel in this modern world deliver a stylish, do-it-yourself Christmas atmosphere in my home. In today’s social media environment, you basically have to make your house look like a bed and breakfast in a Hallmark holiday movie or you get your suburban mom card revoked. And take it from me – it’s really hard to get that card back after you’ve had it taken away. I’ve spent the last two years volunteering at my town’s children’s theater just trying to rebound from one lousy fist fight at a PTA meeting.

And before there was Joanna Gaines or Lauren Conrad or Gwyneth Paltrow and her Goop empire… before Pinterest and Instagram and HGTV… before this multi-billion lifestyle industry blew up, there was Martha Stewart.

This is a woman who has good eyes, good hands, and a good bookkeeper. And a good lawyer. And a good dietitian and a good dermatologist. Honestly, any woman who comes out of the slammer with even better skin than when she went in has the best team in the business. She’s unreal. Martha Stewart’s vegetable garden is worth more than my entire 401k. 

And before Martha Stewart, there was another Martha. Martha of Bethany. She’s from a Bible story about an overextended, type-A woman and her lazy sister.

The Bible says in Luke 10: “As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

I’m going to pause here and just say that this sounds like a woman who was in the “cleaning the baseboards” phase of house cleaning. I don’t know about you all, but in my experience, the baseboards are usually the breaking point. That’s when the strongest of domestic goddesses buckle under the pressure.

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, gently prying the Swiffer Wet Jet from her clenched fists. “Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only 42 or fewer things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Leave it to Jesus to get right down to the heart of things. Mary has chosen what is better. And in this season of unrelenting multitasking, it’s so important that we stay focused on what’s important. That’s why I love this story, I really do. I want to share it with every stressed out woman that I know.

But you know who I don’t want to share it with? My husband. Because what I don’t need is to ask him to pick his fifty million shoes up from the front hallway and have him remind me that Jesus said that I need to chill out. 

Also, did Jesus say that there are 42 things on her to-do list? Such a specific number. And also, I think he may have rounded down but okay.

***

But it’s hard to stay focused on what’s important when there’s so much peripheral noise and pressure. Amazing how easy it is to forget what Christmas actually is. Thankfully the small children in our lives are always quick to remind us.

It’s Baby Jesus’ birthday!

Can you imagine planning a birthday party for the savior of the world?

But Mary, mother of Jesus – she got it just right. First off, they had it in a barn. How many weddings, retirement parties, or craft bourbon social mixers have you had in a barn-inspired space? Oh, I’m sorry, RUSTIC CHIC. Admit it ladies, your Pinterest boards are full of Edison bulb lanterns and wood paneling and Mary had it all, plus oxen and sheep. She was ahead of her time.

Plus, she didn’t fret over evites and RSVPs. She was like, if you guys want to come to see my baby and be part of my rustic chic party, you’re just going to have to chart the heavens and follow the star and FIGURE IT OUT. And they did.

Three wise men came from the east, following the star. And they got there eventually. And once again, the Bible is telling us to just like, learn to let it go. Amazing what people figure out when you stop trying to control everything.

Three wise men showed up with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Which kind of sound like gifts that they would have wanted for themselves. Do you know those kinds of gift givers? “Oh, honey, I saw this Chicago Cubs back scratcher and I just knew you’d love it.”

Mary’s like, “Ummm, thanks for these gold bricks that I now have to carry home in my donkey satchel.” Joseph was like, patting his robes, all “I don’t have anywhere to put it, babe.”  And into the purse it goes, just like everything else. And honestly, she probably would have liked some breastfeeding salve, or like, some dry shampoo, or they could have just picked up dinner on the way in.

What a journey that must have been for Mary, the whole thing. And done with such grace.

I remember my oldest child’s first birthday. It was polka dot themed. Seems harmless, right? Except I used my useless, mangled left handedness to cut cellophane polka dots to hang from fish wire from the ceiling. Except of course they looked like half-melted gum drops. And then I tried to cook homemade macaroni and cheese, which was so incredibly stupid because I don’t even know how to scramble an egg.

Can you imagine that being the Christmas story? “And she wrapped the baby up in swaddling clothes, and placed him in the manager, and then she cried into a pot of inedible half-burnt bechamel sauce.”

I’m telling you guys, bad hands. But that little baby, born in a manager, became the man who told Martha, and all the rest of us, to chill out. And choose what is better.

***

And I don’t share all this to insinuate for one moment that it’s wrong or a waste of time to create beautiful things. In fact, I believe there is inherent goodness in it, because it produces a ripple effect of happiness out into the world.

Like people who invest time and money into their homes’ exterior lights. I don’t think my husband knows how to operate a nail gun and we don’t even own a ladder, so it’s easy for me to resent other people’s homes. But there are people who put so much effort into making their homes sparkle and shine and some nights when I’m driving home after a horrible day at work, it’s those twinkling displays that ease me off the edge and restore my spirit.

In fact, just the other night, my sister, who just had a baby two months ago, piled her family into the minivan draped some string lights along the interior, and picked up milkshakes, and drove around to ooh and ahh over their neighbors’ displays.

Those people’s efforts gave my sister the opportunity create memories with her family.

My mom made those paper poinsettias 30 years ago and I still remember them clear as day. That’s not a small thing. And I’m betting my mom never thought I’d remember all the work she put into those flowers.

But I did, Mom. I remembered. And I know how much work it took you to bring all that beauty into the world.  And I know how much work you put into that immaculate holiday spread every Christmas Eve. Weeks of meticulous preparation – handmade lefsa, stacks of cookies, jars of preserves you started back over the summer –and then in a matter of hours, it’s over. The quietness of the house after the family leaves is deafening, and you’re just surrounded by stacks of dirty platters and strips of wrapping paper.

Mom, I know. And I know all the work, as thankless as it feels, is worth it to you. And it’s worth it to all of us too.

And it’s taken me years and years of frustration at my inability to live up to the standard you set. I wish I had your good hands. But I don’t. But what I do have is the gift of storytelling, and that’s why I feel blessed to have this platform, to do some small part in bringing joy to other people this time of year.

We all have something to bring to the proverbial potluck. What’s your thing?

Consider the story of the little drummer boy. The lyrics are so poignant:

Little baby, I am a poor boy too.

I have no gift to bring that’s fit to give the king.

Shall I play for you on my drum?

Mary nodded.

The ox and lamb kept time.

I played my drum for him.

I played my best for him.

Then He smiled at me, me and my drum.

The commonality of our own stories and that of the drummer boy is the goodness of heart and the pure intent. You can have good eyes and bad hands, bad hands and good eyes, bad breath, bad skin, or a bad back. But none of that matters when you have a good heart. And a good heart can’t be bought, baked, or draped. It comes from God, and no matter how it chooses to manifest itself, from the right hand, or the left hand, it’s the source of the beauty we feel every Christmas, no matter the packaging.

So this Christmas, I challenge all of us to put down the grief bacon, and focus on serving up our best selves. And maybe that’s microwavable bacon. They have it over by the dairy section. Just 30 seconds on a microwave safe plate – cover the strips with a couple paper towels and voila! The easiest way to show some effort at 6AM on Christmas morning.

And besides, I think that’s the kind of bacon Baby Jesus would have preferred anyway.

I Am Deciduous

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I am a deciduous tree. I am not an evergreen. My leaves are destined to float away. Today, I’m feeling the mounting chill of a fading autumn and I’m bracing myself for the moment when my branches become completely bare and exposed.

I love my leaves. They provide a soothing shade in the scorching heat, and a dazzling display of color and flamboyance in the fall. My leaves help passersby identify who I am. Isn’t it satisfying to glance at a tree and be able to immediately snap your fingers and say, “That’s a maple! That’s an oak! That’s a magnolia!” and feel that you know what its defining attribute is? Whether it’s sturdy or flowering or fruit bearing.

The falling of my leaves is not new. It happens cyclically and is a biological necessity. But when my leaves are on the ground, raked up in large piles for children to jump on or blown into the street by old men who find them a nuisance, my heart’s reaction is to weep.

Don’t shove my leaves into bags! Those are my leaves! I grew them and nourished them and now they are gone.

But deciduous trees lose their leaves to conserve water so they can survive the harshest of winters before growing fresh new foliage in the spring. A healthy tree must let go of what no longer serves a purpose, to preserve that which is needed to flourish in the new season. And in the current season, I am not here to be functional or entertaining. I am not here to provide shade, or produce fruit, or excite with my technicolor hues. And I must not worry about having convenient identifiers for casual onlookers.

Right now, I am conserving water. To survive these bitter elements, I am allowing myself to be temporarily indistinguishable in this tangled grove of trunks and twigs. And as quickly as the freezing winds swoop in from the west, they will exit to the east. The sun will rise, the soil will warm, and soon my empty branches will sprout again, more beautifully than ever before.

Some might herald the evergreen, with its consistency, its signature, its comforting predictability.

But I will never be evergreen.

I am deciduous. And my blooming season is just on the horizon.

The Silent Storm of Love Unspoken

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Sometimes, late at night, I feel a profound feeling of grief that grips me by shoulders, pushing me down into the murky depths of some sort of existential dread. I consider how both frighteningly short and unfathomably long the rest of my life feels, considering the complex burden of responsibility that comes with living life to its full potential – as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, and neighbor.

Often it feels like I’m mourning a loss that I haven’t yet experienced. On those nights, like tonight, I soak my pillow with tears not meant for anyone in particular, except perhaps my children who are sleeping peacefully down the hall – children who I am terrified of losing.

I feel fear, love, grief, and guilt. Guilt for not routinely expressing my deepest love for them, for not saying right to their round little faces what I can so clearly articulate in my mind in the deep blue silence of the night. In the heaviness of the twilight, I yearn to wrap my arms around them and say what feels so grotesquely saccharine in the light of day. I wish I was wired for these words of affirmation. It can be torture to feel such warmth in my heart while lacking the ability to push the words out of my mouth, like a non-verbal toddler angrily banging her head against the wall because she can’t find a way to ask for more milk.

Processing these feelings can be a very lonely experience, and so I attempt to drown them out with my headphones. I can hear the low roar of a passing freight train floating above the music and for a moment, I confuse it as rolling thunder. When I realize that these cold winter nights do not produce the atmospheric electricity needed to drown out this emotional rollercoaster, I’m disappointed. It’s a little peculiar for me to crave thunder when under normal circumstances, I would feel a bit frightened by it.

What a strange person I am – fearful of the storms until I become one.

Identity on the Rocks

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At the bar

Intended to be a departure from the suburban mundane

But instead it substantiates the mundane

The faces symmetrical, mirror images of the retail banners that splash across my vanilla algorithm

Age, sex, location, all generating the toothy grins selling me a life designed

By marketing interns hired to sell tech vests and minimalistic twin sets

Perfectly suited for the coasts of Maine

I’ll never be that

I’m just the girl behind a whiskey on the rocks

Trying to reconcile my neurotic thoughts of trauma and discontent

With the expectations of this perfectly attractive population generating the national GDP

I work as twice as hard

My thoughts generating triple the effort of these plastic bodies

That diminish mine as I walk through the door

Who created the haves and have nots?

The lines of delineation tearing through my flesh as I strive to please them all

At work, at home

In the past, the present

God help the future as it hobbles through lessons never learned

We smile as we try to ignore our inevitable demise

The smile heals

At the same time that it hurts

And lies

And pushes the mess under the bed

Until the next time we all need a good old fashioned meltdown

As if we never saw it coming

Finding Peace in the Smallness

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There’s an inspirational quote that has made the rounds in my social media networks:

“You are bigger than what is making you anxious.”

The statement is painted in vibrant red and orange stencils against aged brick facades and emblazoned across oversized coffee mugs in chic metallic script. It is an uplifting statement, designed to help those of us plagued with daily stress and anxiety to rise above the seemingly trivial triggers that undermine peace.

But there’s an adjacent philosophy that makes this all a bit tricky.

Women in particular are constantly being urged to take up space, to pull up a seat at the table, to speak loudly and unabashedly, and to make no apologies. Aggressively squash the imposter syndrome, and where you have very real knowledge gaps, fake it ‘til you make it. LIVE LARGE.

Undoubtedly, employing these mantras are necessary to revolt against the social conditioning that has pushed so many of us to shrink away from the spotlight, to be talked over, passed over, and marginalized. 

But then, here I am, seemingly an outlier of these social norms. I assert myself. I take up space. I speak up. I cozy up to “the table.” I make the tough calls. And I’m anxious, sad, angry, and stressed precisely because of the boisterous assets that are propelling me forward.

“Your bigness is what is making you anxious” is what my cover image should say. Forget the cheeky brick wall stencils – instead, Banksy should spray paint a woman with a big mouth and sleep-deprived blood shot eyes, painfully stretched across three chairs at the proverbial table.

In the words of the young people: It me.

And I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately. The anxiety runs deep, coursing through every vein of my practical, middle America suburban existence. The stakes feel tremendously high, and every decision I make – from what to order from Uber Eats to what my 3-year strategic plan looks like at work – weighs on my shoulders in equal proportion.

Yes, I’m a 21st century Rosie the Riveter, the portrait of modern femininity (ordered off Etsy from the #Empowerment category, packaged in a shiplap frame). Maneuvering middle management. Navigating the pressures of breadwinning. Mothering a pre-adolescent daughter who wears “Girl Power” buttons on her jacket and just started wearing deodorant – Dove deodorant, which, incidentally, is the leading consumer packaged goods brand in fourth-wave feminist marketing spend.

“You can’t know everything,” I explained to her little angelic type-A face after getting a tire patched up at a local auto parts store. That’s what I said to the condescending little twerp behind the counter after he asked me some stupidly specific question about my vehicle that he, as a subject matter expert on automobile parts, should absolutely know but instead chose to attempt to knock me down a few pegs for not knowing the answer.

“I can’t know everything, okay?” I lobbed back at him. “Look it up.”

But despite that momentary surge of defiance, I’m routinely beating myself up for not immediately landing on The Answer to Everything in every facet of my life. In my preoccupation with stomping out my imposter syndrome and faking it ‘til I make it, I’m incapable of asking for help or accepting support or admitting failure. And to support these deficiencies, I’ve built a personal “brand” of wisecracking self-deprecation. Though I’ll let you in on a little secret: it’s mostly just repressed anxiety masquerading as self-assurance.

It’s a mode of self-preservation.

And sometimes, it hurts.

When Anthony Bourdain died, a tidal wave of quotes surged through the 24-hour news cycle, Instagram and Twitter, and celebrity tributes. (We sure love our inspirational quotes, don’t we?) One quote in particular jumped out from my newsfeed and to this day, I can’t shake its resonance in my own life:

“The more I become aware of, the more I realize how relatively little I know of it, how many places I have still to go, how much more there is to learn.

Maybe that’s enlightenment enough – to know that there is no final resting place of the mind, no moment of smug clarity.

Perhaps wisdom, at least for me, means realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.”

Such calmness these words have brought to me. In a world where you’re being pushed to be big, you need the strength to accept how very small you actually are.

Smallness can be a comfort, alleviating the pressure to have all the answers and halting the grind on all cylinders. And, most importantly, smallness frees up space for others to sidle up next to you – whether at “the table,” at the bar on a lonely Sunday afternoon, or in your bed during a sleepless night – where the demons can be unrelenting until a familiar arm pulls you towards a heart that recognizes your own.

Live from a Chick-fil-A: Play-by-Play of a Failed Sex Talk

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ANNOUNCER 1:

We are LIVE at the epicenter of Chicago’s beautiful suburban sprawl to bring you another round of “Failed Attempts at Good Parenting.” Today’s match-up? A mom and her pre-adolescent daughter, who are about to have a riveting exchange about the birds and the bees.

ANNOUNCER 2:

That’s right, ladies and gentleman. After nearly a decade of insisting to her children that Jesus places the baby in mommy’s tummy through a series of magical spells, Mom has suddenly realized that this story will not play well in the junior high locker room.

ANNOUNCER 1:

Many sources credit Mom’s recent horrified binge of HBO’s teen sex drama “Euphoria” as the turning point. Apparently that Zendaya girl is a real pistol.

ANNOUNCER 2:

Yeah, turns out there’s a lot more fentanyl and group sex on HBO than there is on the Disney Channel.

ANNOUNCER 1:

Let’s turn our attention to the dining room of a local Chick-fil-A, where Mom has chosen to have The Talk. Can’t tell if this was purposeful or totally ill-advised. This place is absolutely packed with young families.

ANNOUNCER 2:

It’s the Baptists. They really show up for their people.

ANNOUNCER 1:

Well, it’s a bold strategy. Let’s see if it pays off.

ANNOUNCER 2:

Looks like they’ve settled in with their food. Daughter has crispy nuggets, Mom has grilled. Adhering to Weight Watchers even under the height of pressure. Good for her.

ANNOUNCER 1:

Wow, the tension in the air is thicker than that honey mustard sauce.

ANNOUNCER 2:

WHOA! She jumped right into it! Mom skipped the small talk and went straight to asking her if she knows what sex is.

ANNOUNCER 1:

This woman is a loose cannon. Most experts would advise a gradual warm-up period. Sure hope she doesn’t pull a hammy out there.

ANNOUNCER 2:

Daughter’s face seems to imply that there is more foundational knowledge about sex in place here than previously assumed. The big question is, where did she get this information?

ANNOUNCER 1:

I wouldn’t be surprised if that harlot Zendaya has something to do with it.

ANNOUNCER 2:

Mom’s initial gusto is rapidly devolving into a red-faced fluster. She’s trying stick to a fact-based anatomical overview, but she’s haphazardly bouncing back and forth between male and female genitalia without any sense of direction.

ANNOUNCER 1:

Pre-event polls predicted that Mom was going to take a more pragmatic approach but we’re only five minutes in and the word scrotum has been said three times.

ANNOUNCER 2:

Experts would tell you that’s at least two times too many at this juncture.

ANNOUNCER 1:

As an aside, Daughter has not even touched her nuggets. However, when we zoom in on Mom’s tray…oh my. All her nuggets are gone. That was a 12-piece box. That’s got to be a stress eating record.

ANNOUNCER 2:

We’re at an important part of the conversation now. She’s getting into the mechanics of intercourse.

ANNOUNCER 1:

Daughter’s neck seems to have completely disappeared as her head sinks right into her torso. Her skin color is rapidly changing to a strange green hue as she realizes that intercourse has occurred between every adult couple she knows.

ANNOUNCER 2:

This is electric. You can actually see the flicker of pain in her eyes as she runs through the roster: parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers, karate instructors, the President…

ANNOUNCER 1:

On the upside, Mom seems to be slowly regaining her composure. She got through the tough stuff and managed not to use any grotesque hand gestures. Her posture seems more confident as she sips on her Diet Dr. Pepper.

ANNOUNCER 2:

WAIT, what’s that? Hold on…a follow-up question just came out of left field. Did you catch that?

ANNOUNCER 1:

Yikes. Daughter is asking about same-sex intercourse.

ANNOUNCER 2:

UNBELIEVEABLE! A MASSIVE FUMBLE. Mom didn’t caveat that this overview was in a purely heterosexual context. No mention of the broader sexual spectrum. She should have seen that coming. Wow. Where’s the preparation?! Stunning pivot from offense to defense.

ANNOUNCER 1:

Yup. And in the words of Bear Bryant, defense wins championships.

ANNOUNCER 2:

And what about consent? Not a single mention of boundaries.

ANNOUNCER 1:

It’s almost as if Mom hasn’t read a single sex-positive think piece leading into thing. I mean, it’s not like Alyssa Milano is out there tweeting about bodily autonomy for her own health.

ANNOUNCER 2:

I gotta say, the Chick-fil-A decision is really backfiring. This is the absolute worst place to teach your 10-year-old daughter about gay sex. I don’t care how good their chicken is.

ANNOUNCER 1:

Especially now that you’ve got Popeye’s making big moves. Have you tried their chicken sandwich? Dynamite.

ANNOUNCER 2:

Well, it looks like things are winding down. Mom’s expertly deflected any additional follow-up questions and is now delivering an after school special speech about how she is always there for her if she has questions or wants to talk about anything.

ANNOUNCER 1:

We’ll give her some credit here. This is a remarkably solid ending to what was an otherwise flimsy parenting performance.

ANNOUNCER 2:

Be sure to join us for the next live parenting event: “Substance Abuse is Bad Except for When I Do It”

Dysfunctional Vibes Only

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Welcome to my Etsy store!

About Me

I started this little side project to express myself creatively, as well as to combat the compounding, chaotic effect of late capitalism, which has plummeted the American middle class into a rapid death spiral, thus forcing me to make shoddy hand crafts to generate a supplemental income in order to put my kids through college so that they too can spend the rest of their adult years as wage slaves in a broken system.

About My Products

Explore my latest range of hand painted fireplace mantle signs, which are an expansion of my wildly popular “Good Vibes Only” collection. These shabby chic pieces will bring warmth and individuality to any overpriced Craftsman bungalow.

Shop Collection:

“Unpredictable Lactose Intolerance” Vibes

“I Owe An Unspeakable Amount Of Late Fees On Library Books I Never Finished” Vibes

“I’m Embarrassed By How Quickly I Just Ate That Value Meal In My Car While Driving” Vibes

“Actually, Woman At Old Navy, Leggings Are Pants And That’s A Hill I’ll Die On, You Misguided Female Misogynist” Vibes

“For The Love Of God, Why Do You Type LOL At The End Of Every Text” Vibes

“Oops, I Haven’t Changed The Oil In My Car In Two Years” Vibes

“I’m Secretly Jealous Of My Parents’ Cat Because He Gets To Freely Nap Without Consequence” Vibes

“Oh God! Is That A Serial Killer Or A Racoon In My Garbage?” Vibes

“Why Does Chronic Procrastination Feel So Good While Also Being Utterly Destructive, Oh No I’m Basically A Heroine Addict” Vibes

“I Never Go To The Doctor So I Probably Have A Dormant Blood Disease” Vibes

“I Don’t Have A Living Will So I Hope I Don’t Die Suddenly And Unexpectedly From This Blood Disease” Vibes

“You’re Using The Term Marxism Incorrectly But I Won’t Correct You Because You Have A Great LinkedIn Network That I May Need One Day” Vibes

“I Know This Shirt Is A Little Too Lowcut For This Situation But Honestly That’s Why I Picked It” Vibes

“The Other Day I Doubted The Existence Of A Higher Power And It Made Me Feel So Guilty That I Emotionally Ate A Stale Chocolate Bunny I Found In My Son’s Toy Box” Vibes

“Ask Yourself Why You’re The Only Person Who Thinks I Have Resting Bitch Face” Vibes

“When I Recycle It’s Purely Peformative But At Least I’m Recycling” Vibes

“I Instagram Every Egg I Poach Because That’s The Only Thing I Know How To Cook” Vibes

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Her Pleasure Peaks at 10/9 CT

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Blood pulses through her veins, filling each and every one of her extremities with intoxicating warmth, as if every strip of sinew is dripping in thick molasses. Her muscles alternate between tension and relaxation as she’s enveloped in mind-numbing desire, almost to the point of seeing stars. She bites her lower lip and lets out a deep moan. Her spirit grabs onto this exhalation, finally escaping the chokehold of her body and freely dancing along the sparkling, infinite freeway of existential exploration.  

This is absolute pleasure.

This is self-actualization.

This is an ultra-plush microfiber blanket she found on clearance in the Nate Berkus Décor endcap at Target, and now it’s covering her body as she eats Triscuits on the couch, watching low-def Everybody Loves Raymond reruns on TV Land after a 10-hour work day and a 45-minute bedtime routine with the kids, who for some reason can never remember that they have to brush their teeth and put on pajamas literally every single night even though she’s been doing the exact routine with them for over ten years, which is also the same routine every other human being does before bed across seven continents – well probably just six, since she’s not sure climate researchers in Antarctica ritualistically change into PJs and floss every night like the rest of us do…well, maybe they do, because there’s probably comfort in consistency when you spend the rest of your day using data analytics to predict the planet’s inevitable demise, as well as fleeing from ravenous polar bears.

Ooohhhh yeah, baby. It doesn’t get any better than this. 

She Let Herself Go

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I was recently at a bar for a work function, eating pot stickers and talking to a colleague about synergy and alignment and economies of scale or whatever, when I overheard a conversation at the table behind me. There was a man in his mid-40s sitting on one side of the booth across from three young women, all of whom were hovering around 23. He was dressed like a mix between Steve from “Blues Clues,” a part-time club promoter, and a fax machine technician. He spoke in a nasally and grossly self-assured voice.

“Here’s the thing, women let themselves go at 35.”

Why these three women were hanging on to Mr. Xerox’s every word remains a mystery. At any rate, they giggled at this declaration. They giggled because when you’re 23, 35 seems distant and irrelevant.

Now, to be fair, there is a pretty big difference between 23 and 35. When I was 23, everything in my wardrobe was made of polyester and I had a cardboard box full of tiny “travel sized” bottles of Jim Beam under my kitchen sink, which I reserved for chugging on the subway at room temperature on the way to concerts sponsored by Red Bull. Sure, I was skinnier and dewier and could bend over and tie my shoes while wearing low rise jeans, but I also bought Sum 41 tickets. On purpose.

Therefore, nothing warranted the ageist, sexist disparagement this guy was sputtering between bites of jalapeno poppers. I, of course, wanted to wallop him. It was a futile, emotional reaction, but it’s hard to keep a level head when you’re being subjected to the human equivalent of a refurbished Motorola Razr.

I happen to be 35. And I can say with confidence that I most certainly have not let myself go, at least not in the way he meant it.

That said, here is what I have let go of:

  • Suppressing my snorts when I laugh at something extremely funny. I will let those suckers rip any time, any place.

  • Pretending at parties that I actually know the rules to football. I have watched so many football games and I still have a barely cursory understanding of what’s going on, except that we celebrate 10-yard increments. But don’t worry, you can still invite me to your playoff parties. Like a woman powering through a lukewarm one-night stand, I can expertly fake my way though all the right moments if needed.
  • Attempting to walk in any heels higher than 3.25” or with a diameter of less than an inch. Life’s too short to wobble around like a top-heavy baby colt. Give me a pair of block heel loafers and I will out-dance you at a wedding, out-walk you on a pub crawl, and out-run you during the inevitable zombie apocalypse.
  • Mastering the art of dicing tomatoes and onions. I like homemade salsa as much as the next person, but when it’s time to chop delicate produce, my hands turn into hammy hulk fists and I have the fine motor skills of a fat baby.
  • Learning how to change a tire. I get that it’s supposed to be a “Life Skills 101” type thing, but if you thought I was bad at handling a beefsteak tomato, wait until you see me with a scissor jack.
  • The impulse to deflect compliments. Yes, this is a fabulous blouse, and the fact that I bought it at TJ Maxx and it has no lining and the armpit seam is being held together by a series of conspicuously placed safety pins is not information that needs to be shared right now.
  • Lying about my weight on my license. I used to lament over how bad my license photo was until one day, my youngest looked at it and said “But mommy, that’s how you look.” To his point, we all know what I look like and it’s definitely not 5’8, 140 lbs. If I ever get kidnapped and forced to openly participate in some sort of religious cult, I want the authorities to be looking for the correct full-figured girl blinking twice for help.

“Letting go” has made me happier, and if I wasn’t stuffing my 35-year-old lady face with ½ priced apps, I may have turned around and told him so.

(That’s the other thing I’m learning to let go of. Bar fights.)

Besides, in another 12 years, those three women will be where I am today – happily snorting their way to the top in a wrinkle-resistant, all-season herringbone blazer, with nary a thread of polyester blend in sight.

Oh No, My Metaphorical Carcass Is Splitting

Creativity, Parenthood, Working Mom

When women return to the workforce after maternity leave, there’s this immediate focus on maximum efficiency hour-to-hour, minute-to-minute. Never a moment wasted “on the clock,” for wasted moments during the work day lead to workload spillover at night, thus infringing on those precious few hours that can be enjoyed with one’s darling children.

Creativity is a lot like that child begging for attention at night (and, in my case, is in addition to actual human children). I constantly yearn to do more than what has already been deemed excessive by most definitions of work/life “equity.” It would be far less emotionally taxing to not feel so compelled to CREATE and instead remain focused on that maximum corporate efficiency during the day and the dutiful parenting at night.

Instead, I often feel like I’m strapped to one of those medieval limb stretching devices, being yanked to the north, south, east, and west until my carcass cracks and splits and pops open like a piñata.

Yes, it really would be so much more pleasant to not feel driven to stay up until 1 AM to write a bunch of meandering metaphors about screaming babies and splitting carcasses, but here we are.

It’s been 454 days since I last wrote an original piece of my own. It’s been two years since I last produced a sketch show. I recently discovered that I’ve forgotten how to read music and my muscle memory as a pianist is all but gone. This is more than a little dry spell. This is my own personal artistic Sahara Desert, all 3.6 million square miles of it. (Yeah, I’m using a lot of metaphors but I fact check the hell out of them.) And while I’m in the middle of the desert, something is pushing me to find that oasis that will rehydrate me and propel me out of the dunes.

I’ve been feeling an overwhelming sense over the last many months that my next big creative “a-ha!” is right around the corner. I think I just needed to let that crackling pig skin tear open. In the desert. While a baby screams for attention. As a crappy rendition of “Chopsticks” clangs in the background.

Wow, I am really rusty.

Okay, Pokay. Time to get to work.