Things I Suddenly Care About

Things I Suddenly Care About:

  1. High school sports.
  2. Chrissy Teigen.
  3. Stretching.
  4. Habits (both the good and bad variety).
  5. Yo-Yo Ma’s Bach’s cello suites.
  6. Acceptance.
  7. Mascara.
  8. Poetry.
  9. My upper arms.
  10. The meaning of life.

Got anything to add? Feel free in the comments below. If you want to stay in the loop, sign up over there to the right for my weekly newsletter for a roundup of things I do and don’t care about. You can also follow me on Facebook and Instagram. Gucci. (That was for my kids to see if they actually read this stuff).

Waving Through a Window

This summer, there have been times that it’s felt like the whole universe has been conspiring to get me back here, to my dusty old blog. There have been some moments it’s felt as if the Blog Gods have grabbed me by the shoulders and given me a good shake before asking, “Amy, wtf are you doing?”

The truth is that I’ve felt stymied for a while–creatively, professionally, economically. I’ve reasoned that I should find places that pay money for my writing instead of giving it away for free here. But then I lack the motivation and chutzpah to pitch any of my work. I compare myself with other writers I read and admire and think that my writing could never measure up to what they produce so–it seems–effortlessly. If you looked at my Documents folder, you’d see dozens of unfinished essays, which is def a metaphor for my modus operandi.

Then there are all the other voices in my head. All of those mouthy bastards. Some of the internal monologues come through distinctly in my voice — the snipes of self-loathing and indecision — but there are other voices festering in there as well. Family members from whom I’m estranged. People I used to be married to. The mother of my good friend. A writing mentor.

I hear those voices and I cringe any time I read something that I’ve written. It’s like, “What am I thinking? Who cares? Will they care?”

Sometimes, all those voices seem to be standing in the way of me telling my story, which is all it really is, my take on things that happen in an ordinary life. But really, I’m starting to think it’s just me unable to get out of my own head.

Recently, I’ve gone back and read some of the things I’ve posted here over the last 5 years and am sometimes shocked that I went as far as I did in some pieces. That I shared as much as I did. But at the time, I had zero issues with occasional oversharing. It felt kind of cathartic.

I’d like to get back to that.

It’s what connected me to every person who’s read something of mine and said, “Me, too.” Not in a #metoo, Harvey Weinstein/Matt Lauer, kinda way, but more in the, “Totally,” vein. As in, “I totally get it.”

The kids and I got to go see “Dear Evan Hansen” last summer, which is something I highly suggest you refinance your house to do. It’s epic. Anyway, there’s a song the main character sings in the beginning, called “Waving Through a Window,” and it’s about how all any of us wants is to be seen. To be heard. To be loved. It’s what connects us all at our core. You can watch him perform it here to get a sense of just how moving the song can be (here I pause to watch for the 100th time).

When I first thought about writing personal essays, or maybe a bigger memoir, I felt hampered by the fact that my story was just so ordinary. My divorce, in the scheme of things, was pretty run-of-the-mill. I mean, we had some exciting moments, don’t get me wrong. But it wasn’t like my ex had a second family stashed somewhere in New Jersey or had gambled all our money away. We just didn’t get what we needed from each other, and no amount of couples therapy or red wine was ever going to fix that fact.

(Teachable moment: Kids, don’t get married when you’re 24.)

I remember saying this to a college friend early on in my separation, how my story was a dime-a-dozen. We were sitting around after dinner in her Brooklyn Heights apartment with friends, sipping grappa, which I was about to find out was not only very strong but could lead to blackouts. I told her what was holding me back and she shook her head and told me that my thinking was all wrong.

“People read to feel connected,” she told me. “They want to know that they’re not alone.”

Of course, it would be another few years before I put that logic to the test here on my blog, when I quickly found that both men and women, folks my age and way younger and older — some with kids and some without — would tell me they could see pieces of themselves in my stories. Snapshots from their own lives.

I was sitting around a long picnic table having dinner with friends this summer in Montauk, all the way out at the very end of Long Island, where glass box beach houses sit atop a bluff overlooking the Atlantic and there are long stretches of beach with more rocks than people, when one of the women in our group starting talking about my blog.

“You were so fucking brave,” she said of the things I wrote, and I felt kind of proud because this woman was no shrinking violet. I also noticed she’d been speaking in the past-tense.

Earlier in the summer, I met some women at a local bar that sits along the Shrewsbury River and offers a front row to a spectacular sunset most nights. It’s all pinks and purples stretched across the sky and slowly dipping into the water.

We stood in a circle with our drinks in clear plastic cups and someone that I knew introduced me to the gal she had come with. “I don’t want to come off as crazy,” this new girl quickly said, “but I love your blog. I even wrote you fan mail a few years ago.”

And this woman in neither divorced nor as old as I am. Just another human struggling on this planet to make sense of things.

Finally, just last night, I was at a mixer for my baby’s high school football team at a local bar where we stood outside on a deck and clung to our icy vodka drinks to help us not melt in the oppressive New Jersey heat. I ran into a gal I went to high school, with whose son is now in high school playing football, and she always has something nice to say about whatever crazy thing I’ve written here over the years.

“I’m not getting your posts any more,” she immediately told me. “Do I need to sign up again?”

I told her that no, I’d just been lame lately, and she said she missed reading my stuff.

“You’re in luck,” I told her, “because I am posting something tomorrow.”

You know how Oprah is all, “Pay attention to the whispers of the universe”? That eventually, the universe will start shouting at you if you don’t?

I’m pretty sure that’s what these most recent incidents were. The universe shaking me by the shoulders and telling me to write. Anything. Just write.

So, that’s what I’m going to do.

Are you waving through a window, too? I totally see you. Sign up to get my posts right in your inbox in the erratic fashion I’ve accepted, after 52 years, is just the way I operate. We can wave to each other (I’ll try to remember to comb my hair and put on a bra).

Where Does the Time Go?



Time management has never been my strong suit. I begin most days well-intentioned, with big plans to DO THIS and DO THAT, which mostly degenerates into watching videos on Facebook and taking quizzes to determine who was Rory’s best boyfriend on the Gilmore Girls.

So I was really struck by a recent piece in The New York Times called “The Busy Person’s Lies.” The author, Laura Vanderkam, is a time management expert who’s written a few books on the subject and suggests that we often think we are busier than we really are. In the essay, she shares her experience tracking her own activity for a full year, which included writing, extensive travel to give talks on time management and giving birth to her fourth child.

And I was like, what is my problem? My fourth child is 13 and I have a hard enough time just getting to the food store, much less traveling for work or writing a book.

I have come to understand that I need structure in my life and without it, I flounder. I can’t have too much time on my hands and find the more I have to do, the more productive I become.

So, when I left work to care for my first child many moons ago, I had a lot to figure out. With just a newborn at home and tons of hours to fill in the day, I’d often spend much of it shuffling around the house in my pajamas carrying my little crybaby and waiting for his dad to get home.

But then more kids came and the crybaby got a little older and the days became more structured. Breakfasts and coloring and story time at the library, mid-day naps and maybe a walk around the neighborhood followed by chicken nuggets, tubbies, a story and then – blissfully – bed.

When the older kids were in high school, I went back to working full time and although things were bonkers – four kids in four different schools – it was kind of impressive what I was able to accomplish each day. Not only was I doing the regular parenting stuff – making meals, food shopping, back-to-school nights – but I also launched and managed a local news site — reporting on and writing, like, five stories each day — and attending grand openings, school assemblies and municipal meetings a few nights each week. Somewhere in between all that I also started a blog.

To get that job, I had to take an intense three-hour long writing test, which happened to fall the day before Thanksgiving. I went up to my office (really a desk pushed next to my bed), instructed my children to stay out of my way, ploughed through all the writing, was told I got the job, came downstairs and started cooking Thanksgiving dinner for 20 people.

No sweat.

Fast forward three years and a company-wide layoff later and I found myself once again with not only hours of unstructured time each day but also wondering how I ever managed to fit a full-time job into all my mothering duties.

But now, about three years after that conference call layoff, the kids are that much older and self-sufficient (well, in theory, anyway). Now that a year of moving and renovating a new house is behind me, I kinda find myself floundering again. I mentioned this to my friend Dan the other day and he said, “I hear that a lot from my clients who don’t have jobs. They can’t seem to get anything done.”


But I don’t really want a full-time office job. I mean, I do, don’t get me wrong. But I still have a seventh grader and three months to fill during the summer. There’s only so much Netflix I’m willing to let him watch each day.

I really want to develop freelance opportunities and work on a bigger writing project and am tired of trying to figure out how to squeeze that in between cleaning the kitchen and trips to Trader Joe’s.

According to Vanderkam, the first step is keeping track of how you spend your time, which I started doing a few days ago and it’s been an interesting exercise (you can print out or download a spreadsheet here). I’m trying to approach the process with positive intentions and not as a way of beating myself up.

Vanderkam, whose most recent book is aptly titled I Know How She Does It, writes, “Keeping a time log is not about figuring out how much time we waste. It is about making sure we are not telling ourselves stories about our lives that are not actually true.”

I mean, I know that being a single mom with four kids can be time-consuming, especially in the summertime with everyone at home. There are a lot of distractions. But I also know that I could manage my time a lot better. Like, do I need to check Facebook every 15 minutes? I think not.

Working from home can be challenging, but rather than scrolling through photos of kindergarten graduations and cat videos — and man, I love a good cat video — I’d really like to concentrate on more productive activities. Like, maybe writing or starting a meditation practice. Or food shopping, for that matter.

“Just because you know where the time goes doesn’t mean that you need to punish yourself for wasting it or feel bad about spending it the way you do,” Vanderkam said in a recent interview with KJ Dell’Antonia for the NYTimes Well Family blog. “Are you happy, or not? If you’re happy, celebrate that. There’s nothing wrong with sitting on the porch drinking a glass of wine and staring at the trees.”

Vanderkam was able to keep track of her days in 30-minute increments for an entire year. That’s 8,784 hours. And she had a newborn. How hard can it be for me to do it for a week?

I’ll keep you posted.

Do you know where all your time goes? What are some of your time management tips? Share in the comment section below.

When I’m not trying to figure out where all my time goes,  I write about being a mom to grown, and almost grown, kids. Sign up to get all of my latest posts sent right to your inbox by typing your email into the box below. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter. 

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Yes, Please (Part 2)

il_570xN.228470474-1To be filed under “Everyone’s a Comedian.”

Also: “Just say ‘Yes.’”

My 12yo son and I went to Trader Joe’s yesterday to stock up on English muffins and frozen strawberries. A weekly event.

As we scurried through the hot parking lot toward the icy interior of the store, a woman I had noticed as I pulled into my spot – who seemed as if she was looking for someone – stopped me and asked if I wanted to hear a joke.

Let me just say right here that I am suspicious of overtly friendly people. When I flew to the Midwest for the first time for my first job out of college, it took me a while to realize that the folks behind the ticket counter at the airport in Minneapolis didn’t actually know my fellow passengers. I thought by the way they asked, “How are you doing?” that they’d recently spent time together. No, they were actually just being friendly. They were being nice to strangers.

It was confusing to someone who’d lived her whole life in New Jersey.

And recently, on a trip to the middle of Pennsylvania, the kids and I stopped to eat lunch at a place called Moe’s – a Chipotle-kind of place – where each time a person walks through the door all the workers behind the counter stop to shout enthusiastically, “Welcome to Moe’s!”

I would never eat there again.

The woman was a good 20 years my senior – with her grey hair pulled back and blue eyes bright behind her eyeglasses – and didn’t come off as nuts. She didn’t look like she was going to spit at me or push me down, right there in the Trader Joe’s parking lot (but sidebar: why do weird things always happen to me at Trader Joe’s?). So, against my better judgment, I said, “Of course.”

She looked over at my son, who had continued walking towards the store and stopped to eye her warily, and motioned him over telling him, “You’ll like this, too.”

And then she dove right in.

A mushroom goes to see his psychiatrist and lies down on the couch and tells him he’s been feeling down in the dumps.

‘I don’t know,’ the mushroom says, ‘I just haven’t been feeling very happy lately.’

The doctor looks the mushroom up and down and asks, ‘What’s the problem? You seem like a fun guy.’

The woman stopped and waited until I started to laugh and a smile spread across her face as she realized I got it. Fungi. My son shook his head smiling, too.

“Isn’t that great?” she asked, and then she turned and began walking through the parking lot and – presumably – towards her car.

Or maybe she needed to get ready for her next show.

At any rate, the moral of this story is that if anyone ever stops you in a parking lot and asks if you want to hear a joke, your only response – in the immortal words of Amy Poehler – should be: Yes, please.

It will make your day.

You can sign up to get all my latest posts sent right to your inbox lickety-split by typing your email into the box below. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter. And by all means, tell us a good joke if you’ve got one. 

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10 Things I Learned at Blogher ’15

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Carpool Candy, Moi, One Funny Motha, Chew Nibble Nosh and Smiles and Duct Tape at Eataly Friday night. Heaven.

I got home yesterday from the whirlwind that is Blogher, the annual ginormous conference where bloggers from all over the country gather to learn, network and eat and drink for three action-packed days. This year it was held in New York City, which made going for me a no-brainer. It was fun to meet writers in person whom you immediately recognize from their websites. And it was especially great to reconnect with writers from Bloghers gone by. Here are some of the highlights:

  1. S-T-R-E-T-C-H: Blogher ’15 was chock-full-of-speakers, addressing everything from Internet trolls to maternal health challenges and featured an A-list lineup including “Selma” director Ava DuVernay, “Every Mother Counts” founder Christy Turlington Burns and the Goop-y Gwyneth Paltrow. But the story that resonated most with me was told by Teneshia Jackson Warner, a multicultural marketing expert, who spoke about those defining moments we all have in life. She told the Blogher audience about leaving a good job that left her wanting more and having the tenacity to land her dream job with hip hop mogul Russell Simmons. “When you have a moment before you, be willing to stretch into it,” she told us, and I knew just what she was talking about. I knew that to get what I want, I’d need to do some stretching of my own.
  2. Take what you want: “Selma” director Ava DuVernay is a badass. She’s really the very definition of a boss ass bitch. She closed the conference on Saturday with a great discussion about the dearth of women – especially those of color – in Hollywood and really gave the impression that she was kind of over putting up with bullshit. “Women have been trained to ask for what we want instead of taking it,” she told us. “We’ve been indoctrinated in a culture of permission.” I’m gonna stop asking and start taking, too.
  3. Divorced parents need to get over themselves: I lunched with Gwyneth Paltrow on Friday. Well, there were probably about 1,000 of us there, listening to her speak while we ate our turkey sandwiches and faro salads. Say what you will about Ms. Goop, I kinda like Gwynnie and think she gets slammed a lot by trying to be forthcoming about her personal life. Anyway, I was especially impressed by this portion of her conversation:

  1. Conferences are more fun when you’re part of a posse: Dudes, I went to my first Blogher in Chicago two years ago and knew ZERO PEOPLE. Like, not a one. Of the four blogger/writer friends I made that year, I mostly stayed connected with two — Carpool Candy and Em-i-lis — and both were there this weekend and it was, in a word, a lovefest. I’m really getting good at surrounding myself with solid people and we added a few more to our crew (Chew. Nibble. Nosh. and Smiles and Duct Tape) and it was lovely having a posse to pose with  the weirdAquafresh guy and share a lovely plate ofburrata.


    Hanging with Captain Aquafresh at Blogher’s Expo was a little weird but I did walk away with a year’s worth of toothpaste. So that was something.

  2. Blogher makes me ballsy: In my regular life, I don’t like taking risks. I always feel like I’m bothering someone or acting needy. But for some reason, being at Blogher makes me nervy. I ask editors to meet for coffee. I go out to dinner with bloggers I think are funny. I tell writers I admire how much I like their work. And I’m not even drunk.
  3. Trust your instincts: I initially planned on staying in my room solo until I noticed a blogger I’d met online and chatted a bunch with put out on Facebook that she was looking for a roomie for the conference. It took about two seconds for me to decide that A: I could use someone to help split the hotel bill and B: She seemed like a great girl. At any rate, she seemed like someone who wouldn’t put a pillow over my face while I slept. And she’s also from New Jersey and likes cats, so how bad could she be? Err … But it turned out, Stacey Gill of One Funny Motha is not only funny but a pretty great all-around girl. She was friendly and inclusive and is a lovely addition to my growing blogger posse.

    Can you say swag? Staples back-to-school breakfast with One Funny Motha.

    Can you say swag? Staples back-to-school breakfast with One Funny Motha.

  4. Network like it’s your last day on earth: I got into Manhattan on Thursday afternoon and by late Friday night I was seriously tired of talking and I still had another 24 hours to go. Thanks to Stacey, I met a bunch of people I maybe wouldn’t have met at the conference and I had the great good fortune to shamelessly hand out my new super-gorgeous biz cards, compliments of Solari Creative and Moo.
  5. It’s all about the writing: Sometimes, I get distracted by all the bullshit. All the noise like networking and social media and forget what the whole point is: my writing. I was inspired this weekend to spend more time working on that writing and developing a larger project to start shopping around. I’m not getting any younger, for fuck’s sake.
  6. There will be bread: I went into the conference thinking I could just stick to my regular no carb/no sugar (or really the almost-no carb/almost-no sugar) diet. But that proved impossible. I mean, nothing is impossible but I’m just not a great committer and between all the sandwiches the hotel put out for our lunches and the loaf of very delicious bread I ate at our 10:30 p.m. dinner on the rooftop of Eataly Friday night after a super long day, I came home feeling less than skinny.
  7. Girls named Amy rock: What is it about girls named Amy? Why do I love them so much and feel such an affinity towards each and every one of them? They’re usually super awesome (although tread softly around ones that are amazing) in many respects. This weekend I connected with a great writer who blogs at The Amy Situation. You should check her out. I feel like this isn’t the last we’ve seen of each other.

I came home Sunday afternoon and ate a big bowl of kale at my favorite new eating spot to counteract all the bread and spent the rest of the lying on my bed to escape the heat and read the paper. I feel motivated and excited by my fellow bloggers and buoyed by all the support.

Time to stretch.

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Read Me in the August Issue of Family Circle !

cir-1438412400-225x300Last Friday, I was getting ready to leave my house for a midday meeting when a text popped up on my phone.

“Your famous,” it read and was accompanied by a picture of the cover of Family Circle magazine and another of an article with the headline in big, red lettering “PHOTO FINISH.”

I was so caught off guard that I responded, “I don’t think it’s this month is it?”

My brain could not compute anything I was looking at.

I had known for some time that it was coming but I didn’t expect to see it for another month.

Last August I submitted a piece, almost as an afterthought, to Scary Mommy. I was getting ready to ship my oldest two kids off to college and it occurred to me that other moms and dads might be getting ready to do the same thing, and was reminded that I had actually written about that experience a couple of years earlier on my blog. I heard right back from Samantha from Scary Mommy and the piece was put up on the site pretty quickly because of the timing and it was called “The College Good-Bye.”

And it got great feedback from the SM community. Lots of nice comments. Shares. Tweets. All that good social media stuff. I was pretty content with the process.

And then it happened.

I don’t really check my blog email account like I do my regular Amy Byrnes Gmail account. I just don’t get a ton of messages other than new posts of all the blogs I follow. So a few days after I posted the Scary Mommy piece, I clicked on my blog’s inbox while standing at my kitchen island thinking about what to cook for dinner.

A name that I’d never seen before popped up with “The College Good-Bye” in the subject line and when I clicked and started reading the message I had to stop and step away from my laptop before I could finish the message.

And then I started to scream.

The note was from the articles editor at Family Circle magazine who said complimentary things about the essay she read on Scary Mommy and wondered whether I would consider selling it to the magazine.

Are you fucking kidding?

The kids and I hooted and hollered and ran around the kitchen before I could settle down and very calmly respond to the email and say, “Why of course, I’d be happy to have my writing featured in a national magazine.” I mean, they sell that thing at Target.

The downside was that because print publications have such a long lead time, usually a few months, Family Circle was interested in publishing my essay the following summer. Like, a year later. For someone like me, who seeks immediate gratification in most things, this was a serious test in not only patience but also in keeping my mouth shut. I really didn’t want to curse it.

So I waited and waited. I tried to stay in touch with my contact, just so she wouldn’t forget who I was. The holidays came and went and communication tapered off. She had a lot going on in her life and what sounded like a demanding job and probably didn’t have time for hand holding. So I just quietly wrung my own hands at home in New Jersey and stared at my laptop and waited.

And then that voice inside my head, you know that asshole who’s always telling me what a loser I am, started to speak. “They found someone better,” it hissed. “Did you really think it would happen?”

That bitch kept on whispering terrible things up until the point that I really started to believe her. I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that Family Circle had come to its senses. I made my way through all five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining and depression and just when I had made my peace with the loss through acceptance, I got an email from my Family Circle contact telling me to expect a contract in my mailbox.

And then things moved quickly. I signed documents and mailed them back. I looked at some cuts and edits that had been made to my story and noted in my approval that the changes only made the story stronger. And then one day, a check for real money for my writing appeared in my mailbox.

And then it was time to wait some more.

Because even though I had received payment and cashed the check and everything, it still didn’t seem very real. I still didn’t want to jinx it.

I sat quietly and waited for the essay to appear in what I thought would be the September issue, which would hit newsstands in August. I grew up devoted to Seventeen magazine’s annual September issue, a giant tome featuring tall girls in perfectly feathered hair wearing courduroy pants with vests and ties that I longed to own even though I wore a Catholic school uniform every day. So to me, back-to-school is naturally in the September issue of a magazine.

And then the text from my girlfriend who stumbled upon the piece in the August issue of Family Circle while on vacation with her family in Cape Cod came and I realized it was really happening.

But I still needed to see the actual magazine with my own eyes. I needed proof.

I raced around town before that meeting last Friday trying to track it down. My daughter and I spread out and hit four different supermarkets and pharmacies and nobody had the issue out yet. I went to the meeting and on the way home, stopped at a local market to pick up some burgers and corn on the cob for dinner and on the way to the register, I stopped to scan the magazine rack and there it was. And it’s a beauty, too, that August cover.

I tore one open to its Table of Contents and easily found what I was looking for. I thumbed to the middle of the magazine and there it was, my work, my writing, just hanging out on Page 88. It was a beautiful thing.

Behold. Page 88.

Behold. Page 88.

I pulled four issues into my basket and headed to the checkout and started chatting with the gal ringing me up. She got to the pile of magazines and asked, “What, are you in it or something?” And I couldn’t get the giant grin off my face as I nodded my head. She seemed interested so I gave her some background on what had happened and quickly opened to Page 88 to show her my name in big blue print at the top of the page. She oohed and aahed along with the young checkout gal next to her who, it turns out, is an English major in college and would like to someday write.

“Ack,” I said to her, “it’s a tough road. It’s a lot of hard work. Don’t expect to make a lot of money.”

I gave her my business card and told her to email me if she ever had questions or needed advice and headed home with my corn and pile of magazines. But I won’t lie, every time I see my name in the magazine, I can’t help but smile. It is incredibly satisfying to see the result of five years of really hard work.

I can’t wait to see what happens in the next five years.

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In Which I Am a Boss Ass Bitch

Me reading "Boss Ass Bitch" as part of the North Jersey 2015 Listen to Your Mother show on May 9.

Me reading “Boss Ass Bitch” as part of the North Jersey 2015 Listen to Your Mother show on May 9.

This winter, I wrote a story about jumping off a cliff and getting a divorce, with a little emoji on the side, and got to read it live on stage in front of an audience who paid money to watch.

It was called Listen to Your Mother and our North Jersey show was one of 39 productions held all over the country Mother’s Day weekend.

I was one of 13 women who told stories that were sad and funny, poignant and bittersweet takes on motherhood, from post partum depression to adoption to one mom’s confession that she loves when her kids leave for summer camp.

The experience rocked on a zillion levels. I got to mix with strong women who shared little bits of their souls by telling their powerful stories. I felt so loved and supported by all the friends and family who made the trek to watch me tell my own story that day. And I am super proud of that story. I worked hard on it and loved the final product, which may or may not be because I called it “Boss Ass Bitch.”

The national LTYM just released the videos from all of the 2015 shows and it’s been fun to relive the experience and everyone’s stories. I am so honored my story was chosen and to have shared a stage with our insanely talented cast and encourage you to watch each and every one of their stories. I dare you not to be blown away.

Postscript: I learned after I wrote the story and was picked for LTYM that “Boss Ass Bitch” was a Nicki Minaj song.

“Awesome,” I told my 18yo — who had also penned the Valentine’s Day card that inspired my story — “it can be, like, my theme song.”

I then started imagining myself walking out on stage while Nicki sang something about what badasses we were. I would be like Rihanna or, oh just imagine, Beyonce.

I was going to be Beyonce.

“Um,” my daughter said, placing her computer on my lap and inching towards the door, “maybe not.”

She pressed play and closed the door.

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Good-Bye Pizza. Hello Kale.

trader Joe's watermark

Shhh. Can you hear them calling my name?

Most days for me begin the same: the iPhone next to my head comes to life at 6:05 and I struggle to remember – for the millionth time – what I need to do to make the thing shut the fuck up. Generally, I tap the screen to snooze it and promptly fall back to sleep. This happens another three or four times until I see that it’s almost 7:00 and need to get downstairs to make breakfast for my dear children. If I have snoozed away valuable early-morning minutes, there’s no time to brew a cup of coffee and get back into bed to write in my journal for a spell. I do like to squeeze this activity in a few days a week and take a very Bridget Jones-approach to documenting the amount of alcohol I’ve consumed the day before and my perpetually stagnant love life.

But if I’ve frittered those precious minutes away, I begin the day by first ascertaining like Nicole Kidman in “Before I Go to Sleep” where the hell I am (I don’t know why I must begin each day disoriented) and, once I’ve realized that I am in the same bedroom I’ve been waking up in for the last 12 years, I get up to use the toilet and – most mornings unless I just can’t handle the truth – get on the scale.

This is always done after urinating but before drinking anything and always while wearing the tank top/underwear combo I sleep in. Scientist that I am, I like to keep all the variables not only consistent but also as lightweight as possible. Every ounce counts.

When I am being really good about what I’m eatingsaying “yes” to Greek yogurt and kale and “no” to all the beautiful, salty things sold at Trader Joe’s – I am anxious to see if my weight reflects my culinary sacrifices. I mean, if I am resisting the siren call from the plastic tub of Whole Foods chocolate chip cookies in my pantry, there better be some fucking payoff. If I can’t make love to each and every one of those gorgeous cookies, I need to know my ass somehow just got a little bit smaller.

I am the kind of person who needs to weigh myself daily to help keep me honest. I need something to reign me in when I am standing in front of my pantry and eyeing the open bag of Trader Joe’s honey sesame cashews. When the news on the scale is bad, I am more apt to move away from the pantry and just eat some baby carrots instead. However, when the scale tells me I’m moving in the right direction, I sometimes tell myself that I deserve a reward, like I am a good doggie and just sat on command. Slip me a treat, wouldja?

But mostly, knowing how much I weigh helps me stay on the right track.

But if I’m premenstrual – which I have been for the last two months (if you don’t understand this phenomenon, please discuss with any woman you know in her mid-to-late-40s/early 50s while slowly backing away from her if she’s holding anything remotely sharp) – all bets are off. I not only need those TJoe’s sweet-and-salty nuts but a cookie chaser to wash them down and don’t even think about getting in between me and those snacks or I will press my thumbs into your eye sockets and crush your skull Game-of-Thrones-style.

The other element that usually helps keep me on track that’s been missing lately is the now-famous Girl Whisperer. For a couple of years he sat on my couch and encouraged my girlfriends and I to cut out the sugar and add the protein yadda yadda yadda while we squatted and lunged around the room. He’d arrive on Monday mornings and ask us about our weekends while assessing – subtly, I’ll give him that – our bellies. And then he’d ask us to tell him what we ate. Since I am a terrible liar, I would generally refuse to tell him the extent of my naughtiness. Maybe I’d admit to a cookie after dinner but I’d never let him know about the bag of veggie sticks I ate in bed. I just hated to let him down.

But, as many of you guys know, my friend The Whisperer has been out of commission for months undergoing treatment for cancer and we’ve been left to our own devices for staying in shape. Actually, we’ve been great at maintaining our workouts a couple of times and week but my eating, which I really kept together for a couple of months, fell apart somewhere around March. Going to Hong Kong was kind of the beginning of the end. I still drink yogurt smoothies religiously for breakfast but I ate a sandwich for lunch on Friday and devoured a bowl of chips and guacamole at dinner that night. I never would have eaten any of those things a year ago.

So in a come-to-Jesus-moment, I hopped on the scale Saturday morning in an attempt to get back on track. I got up and peed and stood on the scale while saying a little prayer and when I looked down, I saw a number on my scale that I have not seen since the second trimester of my last pregnancy. Or when I was a sophomore in college.

It was a sad, sad day in Amyville. Just in time for swimsuit season, I am fat as can be and cannot fit into shorts or button down shirts and am currently relegated to wearing stretchy exercise clothing and old skirts from The Gap.

But here’s the good news: The Whisperer is coming back, like Lazarus from the dead (but that’s not my story to tell). Starting tomorrow, he will be back on my couch and talking about the evils of sugar and joy of protein. And egg whites. The dude is always talking about egg whites. But I can’t wait.

In the weeks leading up to his return, I’ve joked with a bunch of the ladies who work out with him about how much we worried about him seeing how we’ve kind of fallen apart in his absence. We’re so worried about him seeing how we look. Of course, given the circumstances, that is ludicrous thinking. Here we are, generally fit and healthy people, fretting about what a guy – who’s just endured months of having his head radiated and body pumped with chemo – thinks about our bloated bellies.

So to celebrate his return, I am heading out this afternoon to meet an old high school chum at a very hip and trendy place that’s known for its outrageously good pizza. They even make one with Nutella. I will say good-bye to carbohydrates the proper way, with a glass of two or wine while eating every bit of crust off my plate.

And when I get on my scale tomorrow, I will know for sure that the only direction those numbers are going from there on in, is down.

It’s the least I can do for my Whisperer.

Amy shares way too much about herself at ‘A’ My Name is Amy. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter@AMyNameisAmy.



My Hong Kong Trip, Part 2


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When we last left this blogger, she had staggered off a 16-hour flight, spit out an expletive and proceeded to tour Hong Kong with her expat neighbors along with her two youngest children.

The China trip had always seemed so far away because we booked it so far in advance. I am usually pretty last-minute and willy-nilly about everything in my life so making plane reservations for the vacation six months ahead of time was a completely foreign concept (and really, setting the tone for the entire adventure). But we pulled the trigger in October, bought the tickets, and then started counting the days.

It turns out, I am not a great counter because all of a sudden — somewhere around mid-March — I realized we were scheduled to leave about two weeks hence and had done nothing to plan our itinerary. Zippo. I reached out to my girlfriend, who moved to Hong Kong last summer with her family, to ask her if she had any ideas and she messaged back, “Actually, what do you think about this?”

We were just a little busy.

We were just a little busy.

It was like a dream come true. We literally just had to get our asses over to the other side of the world, and our friends had made plans for the rest. It was like being on a tour or something.

The best part about the trip – well, one of the best parts about the trip – was that we had locals as our very own tour guides. And we were their first visitors, so things were still relatively new for them. It wasn’t like, “Oh, there’s that giant Buddha again (*yawn*).” They were as excited as we were.

Because we were with locals who don’t own a car, we not only got to experience the thrill of riding in a Hong Kong taxi, but we got ourselves some Octopus cards (Hong Kong’s equivalent of NYC’s MetroCard) and rode all sorts of public transportation, like the rollercoaster double-decker buses, the crazy little green minibuses and the MTR (or subway) all over the island. We also took a couple of gondola rides, but that’s another story.

We jammed a lot in during our week there, including breathtaking hikes, yummy dim sum, foot rubs, a twisty-turny rollercoaster ride above the South China Sea, a junk boat tour and a visit to the aforementioned Giant Buddha. And we ate at some outstanding restaurants but did manage to have a brush with some of China’s creepier food choices. Never — I repeat — never order a chicken Caesar salad for your lunch at a Chinese beach snack bar. Shiver.

Anyway, here are some of the highlights:

Hiking the Dragon’s Back

Since our friends moved to Hong Kong, they’ve posted lots of pictures on social media of amazing hikes they’ve taken around the island with their three young sons. I had indicated that we’d love to do some as well during our trip. So when I went to my local Athleta store to buy some fresh new tops for sightseeing and hiking (a goodwill gesture towards the Chinese people so that they would not subjected to seeing me in an item pulled from my old pile of stinky, pit-stained workout tops), I told the very enthusiastic sales woman that I didn’t anticipate any serious exertion. “They’ve got young kids,” I told her, “so we’re really just going to be going for walks and not quote-unquote ‘hiking.'”

So, it turns out that those expat friends of mine are fucking hiking with their kids. Like, strenuous stuff. Our first hike was the famous Dragon’s Back – named for the way the mountains the trail traverses resemble one of those fire-breathing creatures — which is part of the Hong Kong Trail. We climbed eight or nine miles of hills and steps, and it was kinda hot and we were kinda tired from the time change and maybe a tad dehydrated but then we looked around at the drop-dead gorgeous scenery and shut the hell up.

 Hitting the Beach at Big Wave Bay

The Dragon’s Back trail ends with about 1,000 steps down (literally) to Big Wave Bay, which is where we crashed (literally again)  for the rest of the afternoon. Who knew China had beaches, much less boogie boarding? Oh, and shark nets. That’s a thing.

Walking Around SoHo

We spent Easter morning in the SoHo section of Central — the big city on Hong Kong Island — and walked around a little after brunch.

Sailing Around the Island on a Junk Boat 

Later that day we walked down to Stanley Pier, right down the road from our friends’ flat, and boarded our very own junk boat. When my girlfriend told me before we left that they had made reservations on a junk boat, I envisioned we’d be on one of those old-fashioned Chinese-y sailboats with the red sails. You know, one of these deals:

Seen from our junk boat.

What I thought was a junk boat, as seen from our junk boat.

But, no. We boarded a lovely two-level sea vessel replete with beanbag chairs for lounging and a crew to make us dinner and sail us around the island. We stopped for a while off Big Wave Bay — outside the shark nets, I might add — to do a little swimming. Beer totally helped get me past the threat of sharks or the very large, red jellyfish we kept an eye on. As my girlfriend would say — and I began to follow suit — about a thousand times while we were there whenever we encountered something not-very-American, “Welcome to Hong Kong.”

Victoria Harbor Light Show

After dinner and a competitive game of Uno, we headed to the north side of the island to see the famous Symphony of Lights show. Asian countries — admirably, in my opinion — have a thing for lights. Like, the more, the better. This holds true in Hong Kong where all the crazy tall skyscrapers lining the harbor light up as the sun goes down and then at 8:00 each night, laser lights stream from the top and sweep across the harbor for the light show.

This is totally not my video. Thank you, YouTube.

Honestly, we had a hard time — sitting there on our junk boat in the middle of the choppy harbor — gauging just when the show started or stopped. We were a little underwhelmed. But we happened to catch the show a few nights later from a restaurant high above the city, and it seemed a lot better. But who cares? It was a spectacular setting.

Oh, and there was a full moon.

But Wait, There’s More …

I think we’re going to need a Part 3. There’s so much more to show and tell you about. We still haven’t even gotten to the Big Buddha, the insane gondola ride over mountains and the South China Sea or all the smelly fishing village we visited. Not to mention all the toilets I took pictures of. No, we’re going to need to do this again.

Stay tuned.

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When Pets Lose Their Marbles

IMG_1344The other night I was sitting on the big, red couch in my TV room, all cozy in my pajamas, watching the most recent episode of ‘Fixer Upper‘ – my latest TV obsession. I was never really much of an HGTV person — but my 17yo totally is –and we wasted a lot of time recently watching ‘Property Brothers’ and ‘Love It or List It’ when she was home sick for a week with the flu.

But our fave home improvement show nowadays is ‘Fixer Upper.’ If you don’t know, ‘Fixer Upper’ features the most adorable couple — Chip and Joanna Gaines – who help other couples find and fix up houses in and around Waco, TX. They have amazing style; it’s all charming, farmhouse-looking remodels with lots of cement countertops and ship lap (I know, I’d never heard of that either).

Even my little guy is hooked on the show. The 12yo told me the other day that when he makes it big as a video gamer (sigh), he’s going to buy a house for us in Waco. What a guy.

We watched so many episodes of ‘Fixer Upper’ while my daughter was recuperating from the flu that we started to feel like Chip and Joanna had become our really good friends. We cheered when Jojo nailed a flip on the trampoline in front of her four little kids in one episode and shook our heads when Chip ate a bug in another. In fact, while we were sitting around in our pajamas one day (obviously I try to spend as much time as possible in my pajamas), my daughter Snapchatted my reaction to Chip plowing through a wall:

So anyway, I was sitting there on the couch when the cat jumped up next to me. She is not a snuggly creature and usually keeps her distance, licking her belly or snoozing for hours on a nearby chair, so I thought, “Oh, how cute. She wants to snuggle.”

I turned my attention back to ‘Fixer Upper’ when suddenly I felt something warm and wet spread across my back.

“Holy shit!” I yelled and jumped up to find the cat urinating on the couch next to me.

Legit peeing, right there on my couch.

She looked up at me, gave her back legs a big stretch, and hopped off the couch like everything was fine-and-dandy.

And since then, I have watched her relieve herself on my couch, a fairly new and nice couch, at least two more times. And while most of my children’s responses to this behavior has been, “Can we please get rid of her now?” the Cat People that I polled suggested she might be struggling with a urinary tract ailment and suggested I take her to the vet.

Okay, some backstory: this cat just appeared one day in my garage in the middle of a snowstorm, a bag of bones and with the side of her face burned. We felt bad and took her in and she set about establishing herself on the family food chain somewhere higher than the dog but lower than me. Her weapon? Pee and poop. She constantly peed on the dog’s bed and pooped once on my side of the bed and whether she succeeded in replacing me as the alpha chick around here is debatable, but she did prove her tenacity.

So the prospect of having to get her into a carrier to get to the vet made me very nervous. I had to have a pal come over and cage her during the Hurricane Sandy aftermath so I could board her until our power was restored and it was like trying to cage the Tasmanian Devil.

I ambushed her one morning last week and wrapped her in a beach towel and dumped her in the crate and headed – with my heart pounding – to the vet.

Three hundred dollars later (more sighing), they drew some blood and told me they could not access her bladder and sent me home with a kit to collect a urine sample myself.

You’re fucking kidding me.

But somehow I managed to trap some pee the other morning and enlisted my 12yo to hold the sample vial while I sucked pee into a syringe CSI-style and dropped if off at my vet.

Good news, I got a call from the vet Saturday morning and everything came back negative. Her blood work seemed normal and her urine was clean.

Which means she’s fucking crazy.

The vet suggested I rethink the type of litter I’m using. She also gave me the name and number of a local woman she calls the “Cat Whisperer.” She’ll come over and assess the situation and help you modify the bad behavior. And it should only cost another $100 or so.

Oh, or I could try putting the cat on Prozac.

And of course, these things only happen at the most inconvenient times, which means I was going away for the weekend and had to go to Home Depot to buy plastic tarps to cover all of our furniture while I was gone.

So that’s pretty much where we stand. I’m headed out to buy a new kitty litter box in the event that the current one is not meeting the cat’s urination standards. And then I’m actually considering hiring the Cat Lady to come over and try to reason with her.

But so far, there’s no moral to this story – as far as I can tell – other than pets are a pain in the ass.

And expensive.

Maybe I should just consider sending her to Waco.

Got any suggestions? By all means, send them my way. As long as it doesn’t cost me any more money. 

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