Friday Faves: Believe in Miracles

I believe in miracles. Who knew?

I believe in miracles. Who knew?

As of about 48 hours ago I was still complaining about my life.

I was feeling overwhelmed.

I had a lot of work to do.

I had too many kids.

I had a bunch of driving back and forth from the middle of Pennsylvania to New Jersey awaiting me.

I needed to get my daughter ready to leave for college in said middle of nowhere.

I had to figure out how to pay for all of the things.

So there was a lot of hand wringing and weepy moments this week as I shared my distress with a couple of close friends.

But here’s the good news: I pick really good friends. Like, I keep negative and crazy at bay and really try to surround myself with folks who exude good energy.

I recommend it.

So, I was telling my friend Dan, you know him — The Girl Whisperer — about my woes and he listened very carefully and said, in all seriousness, “Your life is great.”

He went on: “Love your children. Love your work. Enjoy everything about your life. These are not big problems. Big problems are coming. These are not big problems.”

Dan, as you may recall, recently had a run in with cancer. And it beat the shit out of him. Actually, it killed him, however briefly. At the end of January, after 33 rounds of radiation to his face and neck and chemo that caused magnesium to slowly leak undetected out of his kidney, his heart stopped beating. Apparently magnesium is really important. Some little doctor jumped on his chest and broke his ribs in her effort to resuscitate him and then he was popped on ice in an induced coma for two days. And when the doctors brought his around, he was fine. I mean, fine in terms of he was alive and hadn’t incurred any brain damage.

Which apparently never happens.

So the medical staff started referring to Dan as “The Miracle Man” as he slowly began to recover following the coma. During his treatment he’d lost over 40 pounds, all his hair and all the muscle he’d built and maintained and created a business around. His whole life had been dedicated to good health.

And now six months later, he’s back on my couch looking and sounding almost like his old self. Every week his face looks a little fuller and his voice a little stronger but his spirit is so strong. I can feel it.

So when he told me that my life was good, I really knew what he meant. I had the honor of waking up that morning and getting out of bed and going about my day. My children have all their fingers and toes and most of their wits and whatever challenges I face will resolve themselves one way or another.

There are much worse things.

So right there I decided I should just shut the fuck up.

Yesterday, while I was sitting at the kitchen table working and staring at a full calendar for the day of writing and a meeting and a trip to the Genius Bar to get the soon-to-be-college-girl’s laptop issues resolved, my oldest child — who at 22 is hard pressed to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for himself — asked me if I wanted him to go food shopping.

Granted, our cupboards were bare, but usually that would just call for complaints, not action. This was an impressive move and one that I did not see coming.

Later, we brought the mail in and stuck between my gas bill and yet another bullshit Victoria’s Secret catalog was a check, ladies and gentlemen, for something I wrote that is going to be published in a national magazine. Like, the kind they sell at the supermarket checkout aisle and Target.

So between Dan’s amazing recovery and that much-needed check and my son’s generous assist, I’ve come to one very big conclusion: Miracles do happen. And sometimes they come when you least expect them.

Here are a few other tidbits I’ve found slightly miraculous this week:

  • Usually I’m prepared for long drives. I’m a fan of the audiobook. But I hadn’t done any prep work for the eight hours I drove at the beginning of the week to get my girl out to new student orientation. Actually, for the four-hour leg early Sunday morning, we sat in silence for a while and then began to talk. And we pretty much talked most of the drive. And if you’ve spent any time with an 18yo — even a really nice one — you know that that’s not always the case. Sometimes they wear headphones or a scowl that does not invite conversation. So I enjoyed our chatting. But driving the four hours home Monday night, we were kind of all talked out so I fiddled around with stations on XM and discovered one of my very-best-make-believe-TV-girlfriends has her own radio show and I happily drove and listened to her joke about her hair and interview Candace Bushnell. It totally beat listening to The Bridge or 70s on 7.
  • We left the Apple store last night and Daughter #2 commented that it was the first time she’d done that without anybody spending any money. New territory for us. Then we headed to the Verizon mall store where Daughter #1 bought herself an iPhone 6 and her little sister, duly impressed, told her she was a “grown ass woman.” But then we learned that you can pay about $25 and Verizon will put a piece of glass over your iPhone screen, which both of the girls ended up paying for, and we left feeling like we’d killed that mall trip.
  • While at the mall, we had to drift into Aerie and I’m sorry but I always find things I love there. Sadly, all my money is spoken for these days, but if I had a few sheckels to spare, I would have totally scooped up this and this and this and been the most glamorous girl at the beach this summer.
  • I made my third going-to-college pilgrimage to Target this week and while there’s really not a lot out yet for dorm living, we found a cute comforter kind of like this and my girl is kind of obsessed with these sheets . Add some lady products and a bottle of Tums and it was an easy $500 to kiss good-bye.
  • What would the getting-a-kid-ready-to-go-to-college-experience be like without a trip to Bed, Bath & Beyond as well? They are still pushing outdoor living and haven’t really put a back-to-school section together but I did spy these totally adorable Kate Spade comforters and was glad we’d already bought our much-cheaper Target versions.

Believe in miracles, everyone. They really do happen.

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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.



A Lot Can Happen in a Year

Calendar Image-1524x975About a year ago, I was standing in my TV room with my two neighbors – good girlfriends – lifting weights over our heads when one of my pals started to cry.

For about a year we’d been gathering at my house two mornings a week to exercise under the ever-watchful eye of our Girl Whisperer. He’d sit on my big, red couch and boss us around, telling us to work a little harder, while monitoring the bloat around our middles and asking what we’d been eating. Because while he’s all about working out – he makes us do endless squats and push ups – he’s a firm believer that it really all comes down to what you put in your mouth. So over the course of the almost-two years I worked out with The Whisperer, I eliminated a lot of the naughty things that were part of my daily food triangle – Doritos, CheezIts, and pizza – and replaced all that yumminess with a lot of protein and vegetables.

Boring, I know, but the bloat did subside a bit. I’ll give him that.

And for as annoying as the Girl Whisperer initially was — harping on protein and how sugar was poison ad nauseum — the guy started to grow on me. Over the course of hours and days and weeks and months, I really got to know the man who was sitting on my couch, wearing all black and telling me what to do. I got to know about how he’d overcome so many struggles and sadnesses in his life and how that shaped his incredibly positive attitude.

I mean, this cat was a legit prison guard in his previous life and tells stories involving shanks and grown men’s feces. A lot of other bad things happened to him before he found fitness but he came through it to become one of the most grounded people I know and someone who can always put life’s challenges in the proper perspective any time I tried to whine to him about something, like my job or my love life.

“A bad day is when you find out you have cancer,” he’d tell us while we complained about how heavy the weights were or how much our legs hurt. “Today is not a bad day,” he’d add.

“Now, eat more egg whites, please.”

So, we were exercising when my girlfriend started to cry, which was weird – she’s pretty stable and not prone to random weeping.

“Michael was offered the job,” she cried and we knew what that meant. For months, her husband had been talking about the possibility of moving to Hong Kong for a job opportunity and his wife had been filling us in. It was all okay while the whole thing was in theory, she was kind of open to the idea then. But the reality of uprooting her three young boys from the really nice life they had built on the Jersey Shore kind of had her freaking the fuck out.

My girlfriend is a Jersey Girl. I mean, a real Jersey Girl, not the kind you see on a reality TV show who is really someone who hails from one of New York’s outer boroughs and wound up living somewhere in the Garden State.

She loved her house – filled with her cat and her dog and all those boys. She and her husband taught them to surf in the summer and snowboard in the winter and there is nobody – literally, nobody – who cheers louder from the sidelines during the boys’ lacrosse games than their mom.

And there’s no place she’s happier than sitting on her beach chair with her painted toes dug into the Jersey Shore sand with a margarita in her hand (preferably one she concocted with Trader Joe’s mango juices and the tequila she infuses with jalapeno in a mason jar in her freezer).

Pretty much, she’s, like, the only woman I knew who was thoroughly content with her life.

So the prospect of pulling up stakes to move to China did not thrill her.

“That’s amazing!” we told her. “What an opportunity for the boys!”

We continued to talk her off the ledge as we lunged and squatted and by the end of the hour, she seemed much calmer about the move.

And it turns out, not even six months later, they had cleared every last Lego out of their house and moved the whole kit-and-caboodle to Hong Kong.

And we were really sad. For ourselves.

All of a sudden our neighborhood, that for years had teemed with boys running abound with lacrosse sticks and making skateboard ramps out of crap they found in their parents’ garages, became really, really quiet.

“We are SO coming to visit you,” we had told them a million times before they left and we totally meant it. But we meant it in that “some day” kind of way. Like, in a year, or something. Some day.

But a few months into their relocation, my girlfriend messaged me to say they really wanted visitors. And not “someday,” but “now.”

So I hemmed and I hawed as I figured out how we could do that and how I could eliminate one of my kids from the equation so I wouldn’t have to buy so many plane tickets. But in the end, my 17yo had to come, too, because – man – when do you get the opportunity to go to the other side of the world?

So one year after my girlfriend cried about uprooting her family from the Jersey Shore and moving to China, they have settled into their new life in Hong Kong and seem really happy. The boys love their new schools and they even get to play lacrosse. And they’ve already taken advantage of being in Asia and have visited Thailand and Vietnam as a family and their oldest boy went to Beijing for a few days on a class trip.

And one year after I told my girlfriend that I’d totally come visit them some day, we are making good on our word and taking off this afternoon to spend about a week with them in Hong Kong.

I know. I’m dying.

But I’m also struck by how much things can change in a few short months. How a life that seemed so firmly planted in one place can – with some effort – be plucked out and replanted on the other side of the world. And how you can end up taking a trip you never imagined you’d be taking so soon in your life.

And that brings us back to the Girl Whisperer. While everyone around here’s been moving and traveling, he’s been on a journey of his own. A few months after our friends moved to China, he found out he had cancer. And it’s not been kind to him, which has surprised so many of us with how someone so strong – both physically and mentally – could be shaken to his core by the disease and ensuing treatments.

Like, he just had a feeding tube removed not long ago.

But he tells me in his sporadic texts that he’s getting better. That he’s going to fight it. And I believe him. He’s overcome so many other challenges; he will eventually show cancer who’s the boss. Just like he showed me.

You just don’t know what life has in store for you. There are so many good and terrible things that await us all. And I think the only answer is to live. Really live and love and make the most of all the time we have here. Together.

So I’m getting on a plane today for 16 hours to see the faces of my neighbors that I’ve missed so much and have an adventure. I am going to really live my life and help my kids really live theirs.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Want to find out what happens? 

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