Remembering Gratitude When You’re Not Really Feeling Too Grateful

photo(72)Someone nominated me to take part in that Gratitude Challenge that’s been going around on Facebook over the past week or so and my initial response was, “Fuck you.”

When I first saw the notification from Facebook pop up on my iPhone screen that I’d been tagged in something, I was coming off of a weekend spent by myself and feeling – I’ll be honest – kind of down-in-the-dumps. Which makes no sense because I had a really fun weekend, for the most part.

But I spent most of Sunday, which at least here in New Jersey was a pretty stellar day weather-wise, inside, emerging only for a quick trip to Trader Joe’s. I then started guzzling wine promptly at 5 p.m. and watched Netflix until the kids got home later that night from their dad’s.

And I don’t know if it’s my plummeting estrogen levels at this time of the month, my unemployment status or an as-of-yet undiagnosed case of ADD, but I feel incredibly unmoored and unfocused about what I am doing with my life. And having to fill up my weekend with activities to help me forget that the family that I worked so hard to create is fractured is exhausting.

I’m cranky, y’all.

So I stomped around on Monday gritting my teeth and muttering a lot but woke up Tuesday with a much smaller chip on my shoulder. I started to remember just how good my life really is.

It’s ridiculous, my woe-is-me attitude, really, because in theory I have absolutely everything: my health, four healthy children, a (pretty nice) roof over my head, a brain in my head, thin ankles. I need to stop acting like such a little bitch, moping around and feeling sorry for myself and give thanks.

And so, herewith, the Top 10 Things in Absolutely No Order For Which I’m Thankful:

  1. Call the Midwife: Mom, I know you’ve been telling me to watch the British series for a couple of years but I resisted. But as with many things in life – like that time you told me to pack a rain jacket to go camping with my Girl Scout troop and I resisted and then spent the weekend cold and wet – you are often right.
  2. The Girl Whisperer: The man stands in my family room twice a week and makes me and my girlfriends do more squats and push ups (real ones, like, on our feet) than I could ever have thought possible two years ago. He’s freed me from jumping jacks and running and my back and knees have never felt happier and my legs have never looked better. But more importantly, in the 18 months I’ve been working with him, I’ve never eaten better. I now eat stuff like quinoa and smoothies with egg whites in them as opposed to CheezIts and Doritos. What’s even better is that the healthier eating has trickled down to how I feed my kids, too. I can’t remember the last time I grilled a hot dog, and we should all be grateful for that.
  3. Checking the School Calendar by Chance: Had I not just done that, I would have missed Back to School Night at our middle school tonight.
  4. Turning Off the AC: I am as thankful for and dependent upon air conditioning as the next person but was glad to turn it off Sunday and let the cool air in from outside. I like hearing the birds tweeting and the neighbor’s kids riding their Big Wheels around the neighborhood. It makes me feel connected to the rest of the world without the Internet’s help.
  5. My Trip South Next Weekend: Okay, they might think I complain about them here incessantly, but I had a really nice summer with my two college kids and really miss them. So I’m looking forward to seeing them next weekend and drinking Jungle Juice before a football game. Good times.
  6. My Journals: While some people may dispute the accuracy of some of the stories I tell here, I do have a safe-full of journals in which I’ve been taking notes for the last decade. Sure, there are a lot of holes in some events that have occurred, but I can totally tell you how much I weighed on March 21, 2012 and how many glasses of wine I drank the night before. The journals have also come in handy recently as I’ve tried to tackle some bigger subjects in my writing and unearthed descriptive nuggets like the broken television trapped behind plexiglass at our hospital psych ward and lying on a boat in the Aegean and hearing the sounds of rooster crowing at dawn.
  7. Fortunate Timing: I went paddle boarding on the river Saturday afternoon and even though I had heard on the news that there were storm warnings and my two friends and I heard the thunder while digging through the choppy water, we kept on going. Finally, one of the girls was like, “I think I’m turning around, y’all,” and as we changed direction, we noticed the giant black clouds quickly moving towards us. Luckily, it was only as we were hoisting the big boards out of the water that the gusts of wind really kicked in and white caps formed along the river where we were just paddling frantically moments before. We took comfort in the house margaritas at a nearby bar where we told anyone who would listen about our adventure for hours afterwards. And yes, we totally learned a valuable lesson about the force of Mother Nature. You do not fuck with her.
  8. My Cat: She made me write that.
  9. My Blog Readers: I went for a walk in a nearby park yesterday and ran into a woman I know who immediately started telling me how much she could relate to something I had just written about here. And I’ve gotta tell you, that happens at least once a day, running into someone at the market or at a local restaurant who tells me they read my blog. And if you’re a writer you know that it never gets old. Your ego would never let that happen. I love hearing that people can relate to the things I write about that are going on in my life and that sometimes I even make them laugh. It helps me know that I’m moving in the right direction in my life.
  10. Friends With Benefits: I am blessed with being able to call a ton of people “friend.” They sit on the beach with me and are happy to share their limes and Coronitas. They invite me to their place in Florida and put up with me after one too many Hendricks cocktails. They invite me to their gorgeous beach house – like, on the beach beach house – and feed me things like Halibut Oreganata with Pesto and Peach Macaroon Crisp and then take the time to email all the recipes, just in case. And they nominate me on Facebook to remember all that I have to be grateful for and then graciously remain silent when I act like a bitch about it.

Oh, there’s one more thing! I’m always super grateful when you guys sign up to get my posts delivered right to your inbox. I love knowing I’ve made your life a little easier! What are you grateful for?

Choose Happy

995268_10152146986632173_491263369_nWhen I started to see all those posts this week of everybody’s Facebook movie, I was like, “Really? It’s not enough we need to complain about the weather and post those Throwback Thursday photos, but now we need to set it all to music?”

When will the oversharing end?

Apparently, in honor of the social media Goliath’s 10th anniversary, Facebook came up with some magical algorithm for users that highlights their top posts and photos in a 62-second video.

I was having none of it.

But naturally, due to a burning desire to be up-to-date on all things pop culture, curiosity got the best of me and I broke down yesterday and had to just see what mine was like.

And I freaking loved it.

I don’t know how Mark Zuckerberg and his Facebook evil geniuses did it, but in one minute they kind of encapsulated the last six years of my life and even gave the movie a theme.

A couple of weeks ago someone I’m friends with on Facebook had shared a meme that said “Be Happy,” and you know how sometimes something just speaks to you? That little square picture screamed, “HELLO AMY,” and so I swiped it onto my Desktop to use as my profile photo.

It really just sums up my philosophy for life. I really don’t have time to be stuck doing shit I hate with people who don’t bring me joy. Life is too short.

So, this is where it gets interesting, the video starts with a picture of me on my 42nd birthday in 2008 and I can tell you that the girl in that photo couldn’t have been further from happy.

This woman couldn't be further from happy.

This woman couldn’t be further from happy.

My marriage was rapidly deteriorating and I did not know what to do. So I just smiled and pretended everything was okay.

And then the slideshow starts and it’s mostly pictures of my kids: my two sons, 10 years apart, fishing at the end of a dock with the little one reaching up to pinch his older brother’s cheek; the three oldest kids at my big girl’s high school graduation; the photo of me saying good-bye to my oldest child his freshman year of college; the two of us together at a football game; a throwback to my little ones laughing behind their jack-o-lanterns on the front step of our old house; me standing in front of the Acropolis last summer when I threw caution into the wind and traveled to Greece alone.

There’s a picture of the post-it notes that had been hidden around my house, which when found and put in order, spelled, “Check your Facebook,” because as my Mother’s Day gift my 15-year old daughter had finally accepted the friend request I made about two years earlier.

A lot changes over the years.

The movie ends, as they all do, with a wide shot of all of the photos and then zooms in on the one in the center, which for me happens to be the “Choose Happy” picture and if that’s not perfect, I don’t know what is.

I feel like I need to tip someone.

Because even though it isn’t perfect, my life is much more real than it was when I joined Facebook in 2007. I am much closer to being the person I want to be rather than the one I thought I should be.

Unfortunately, I may have the writing part of being a blogger kind of down, but I cannot for the life of me figure out how to get that video on the blog and get where I need to go later this morning. So to see it, just hop over to my Facebook page here and naturally, feel free to “like” it while you’re there so that I can check in with you from time to time to make sure that you’re happy, too (shameless, shameless pitch for your love).




That Time I Got Mentioned by the New York Times

Screen Shot 2013-11-06 at 8.43.00 AMYesterday was one of those days that showed just how far your emotions could swing over the course of a 24-hour period, aided and abetted by hallucinatory gases.

I shall explain.

The first thing you need to know is that I try to get up every day around 5 a.m. to write. “Try” is the operative word here because sometimes, my only response to the piano sound trilling from my iPhone next to my head is to hit snooze. Like 10 times.

Once I’ve lumbered out of bed I need coffee. STAT. And then I get back under the covers with my laptop and get to work.

But not so fast. Before I can get to the writing – the real work – I’ve got to fritter away precious early-morning minutes checking Facebook, emails, Twitter and the daily statistics for the blog.

The stats don’t really dive too deep, but I can see things like how many page views I get each day and where some of the traffic is coming from – like did you get here through Facebook or Google. (It still cracks me up that at least once a day, some poor unwitting soul winds up here after Googling “Cheez-Its.”)

So yesterday, I check the site stats and notice #1, traffic was already pretty brisk for the start of the day and #2, most of it was coming from The New York Times.

Wait, what?

So I click on the link and am taken to the Times’s parenting blog, called “Motherlode,” which of course, I love because it’s smart and current and everything you’d think a parenting blog associated with The Grey Lady would and should be.

I scour the various articles and comments and don’t see any links to my blog, nothing indicating how people were ending up from there to here.

I repeated this fruitless effort throughout the day as I noticed more and more clicks on my site coming from “Motherlode,” but still couldn’t get a handle on why.

In the meantime, I had a conversation later that morning that reminded me that people do not change. Not really. Ever.

And it made me cry so hard and so long, I began to suspect that hormones were helping to enhance the melodrama of the event. Perimenopausal madness at its finest.

But it was one of those cries that leaves you exhausted. Emotionally spent. And with a blotchy face.

At lunchtime, I had an appointment to get my teeth cleaned, which I look forward to because it’s an opportunity to get completely stoned in the middle of the day under the supervision of medical experts. My teeth are so sensitive that I need the laughing gas even for a cleaning. To put it in perspective, I gave birth to two of my kids naturally. Not a problem. But don’t even try to come near my teeth without some type of sedative.

I might bite you.

Now, I don’t know how nitrous oxide works, if the technician turns a dial to a specific setting depending on how anxious you are or the dosage is based on your size. Maybe it’s just an “On” and “Off” button.

I also don’t know if that sweet, sweet air is affected by your emotional state. But I was really hallucinating as she scraped the plaque from my lower teeth and rattled on about the holidays.

Usually I can stay pretty connected to what’s going on in the room. Can follow the one-sided conversation coming from somewhere above my face.

But yesterday, all I could think about was how my whole body was vibrating, sitting there in the chair, and that the noise of a motor was filling my head and drowning out the chatter and the whir of the brush as it polished my teeth.

And then I’m confused because it’s no longer the hygienist who’s been cleaning my teeth for years but some random mom I know in town sitting there, shining my pearly whites.

“What is she doing here?” I wonder.

Then, in an instant, I’m being instructed to breathe through my nose. “It’s oxygen,” the hygienist tells me. And before I know it, she’s removing the mask, straightening my chair and telling me to have a nice day.

And I’m slightly concerned because just moments before, I couldn’t feel my face.

I am able to make my way home and once again, need to go through the whole check in routine – it’s obviously a compulsion – and continue to be confounded by that NYTimes traffic.

“Why am I not understanding how the Internet works?” I wonder.

I click over to “Motherlode” one more time, and whether it was because I really believed I’d actually find a clue this time or the magical powers of nitrous oxide unlocked a portion of my brain previously closed, I noticed a box on the site I hadn’t paid attention to earlier in the day.

And that’s when I saw it.


Screen Shot 2013-11-05 at 2.43.52 PM

Do you see me? I’m there with The Atlantic and CBS.


At first, I thought, “Well, maybe it’s some kind of ad or something. Like, it’s just coming up on my computer.” Sort of like that pair of Frye boots I looked at once on Zappos that now seem to follow me around the Internet.

But then my 16 year old walked in from school and was like, “What are you, stupid? Mom, it’s really there.”

And I couldn’t believe it. I mean, it was just a quick little mention. A link to a recent post and my blog name. The blog editor tagged a question to it, trying to generate some conversation.

Even so, it was beautiful.

Once I determined it was legit, I took to Facebook to share the great news.

And it was there that I found that validation that I was looking for earlier in the day.

It was there I felt the love.

So many people chimed in to say “Mazel Tov” in one way or another, it washed away the hurt from that morning.

My college son sent me a text laden with heart-filled emoticons – just what I love – and told me he was proud and happy for me. One good girlfriend called to say woohoo and another BFF came over to have a celebratory cocktail later in the day.

(Really, we’re always just looking for a good excuse to have a cocktail.)

And it was all just nice – to have everyone from my kids to high school friends to folks I’ve met through my work as a local reporter –psyched for my success, no matter how really minor it was.

And I know, it’s just Facebook and we could make a whole case that the site just provides an alternate and slightly misleading universe for many users.

But just give me this. Today. I really wanted the petting and kind words and maybe that’s why I do what I do. I’m needy.

But in the end, it was a good reminder that sometimes, you need to find a new well to drink from when the first one comes up dry.

Because that water tastes just as good.





5 Habits of Highly Ineffective Bloggers

522591_379600385471432_307731171_nPeople ask me all the time, “Amy, how do you manage to get absolutely nothing done, day in and day out?”

I mean, think about it: I wake up at the crack of dawn most days, with hours of potential productivity stretched ahead of me. But other than checking off my list the things that HAVE to be done each day  – feeding the cat, interacting with the children, getting dressed (and this last one is debatable, like, are yoga pants and long cardigan considered an actual outfit?) – I can never get around to moving forward in my life.

I’m really good at talking about doing stuff – like writing something other than blog posts and fixing the power steering on my SUV that sometimes just inexplicably doesn’t feel like working – but it’s all talk.

It reminds me of something my therapist would say to me from time to time during our early sessions, when I would bemoan the course my life had taken. “Do you know what the definition of insanity is?” she’d ask. “It’s doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

So if you, too, would like to experience life similar to Bill Murray in “Groundhog’s Day,” you might want to start following Amy’s Rules for Getting Nowhere:

  1. Check Facebook every 10 minutes. It’s mesmerizing, all those … (NOTE: It is here that I quickly jumped over to FB to find great examples of  just what it was that I couldn’t get enough of, like one of those snarky mom-memes or people wishing happy birthday to their 4-year-olds, when a headline about who’s been cast as the new Christian Grey (meh) caught my eye, leading me down a whole Huffington Post rabbit hole of crap about Kim Kardashian’s engagement ring and why Denmark is the happiest country. It took a huge burst of effort to get myself back to here.
  2. Refresh your site stats constantly. I just can’t get enough of knowing how many people have clicked on my latest post at any given moment. This activity is only rivaled by checking Facebook Insights and gleaning tidbits about my followers like what country they hail from and other demographic tidbits (shout out to the guys who make up 9 percent of my followers!).
  3. Schedule beauty appointments throughout the day. A girl needs to look good, n’est ce pas? Accordingly, time needs to be set aside daily for the brows and ‘stache, bikini upkeep, hair cut and color, manis, pedis and exercise a few times a week to keep it all together. It probably requires a few hours weekly to keep me all glued and taped together.
  4. Order up Netflix and cram 30 one-hour episodes of “Scandal” into a week of your life. Not interested in getting on board with the fabulous Olivia Pope, she of the white hat and gladiator ways? No problem. Try “Breaking Bad” or “Game of Thrones” or “Walking Dead” or “Mad Men” or “Orange is the New Black” or “Homeland” or “House of Cards.” Like me. (This activity pairs nicely with #5.)
  5. Drink wine every day. This, by far, is probably the biggest secret to my lack of success. It makes me sleepy and lazy and just want to watch TV (see #4).

Maybe this is what I’ll write my book about. I’ll cobble together a guide for other would-be authors on how to just not do it. On how to wish your life away.

I just need to check if I’ve gotten any new likes on Facebook first.