Punishment

Right before my 20th birthday, I traveled with a friend to Barcelona.

We were living in Luxembourg through our university’s study abroad program and decided to treat ourselves to a long weekend in Spain over midterm break.

(I believe we flew Ryanair, so I think our plane tickets were cheaper than train tickets – which was critical for me because I’d moved to Europe with a whopping $700 to cover all of my costs for just over five months.)

We were warned against staying in a specific youth hostel located in La Ramblas – and so, that’s exactly where we stayed.

I loved it.

We met smart, curious and adventurous teenagers and twenty-somethings from all over the world and somehow ended up at a dinner party at a local restaurant where fried plantains, homemade wine and multiple kinds of simmered meats dressed the table and filled our bellies until the owners insisted it was time to close.

Everyone was stuffed and drunk and as we started for “home,” (the hostel) we crossed paths with an American serviceman who was also staying where we were, and stumbling even more so.

“Someone should really stay back with,” I told my friend.  And then, (under the influence) decided that someone should be me.  Afterall, I wasn’t legless.

The rest of the group went ahead and the serviceman and I walked very, very slowly.  So, slowly in fact that two local (younger) teenagers, after passing us, turned back around.

Even as drunk as he was, the serviceman seemed to catch on to what was happening before I did.

“I’m gonna put my arm around you,” he slurred.  “I promise I’m just trying to help.”

Then he started shouting as the teens came closer.  “It’s cool, it’s cool.  No problem.  No problem.”

Before he could get out any other assurances one of the teens knocked him out.  It didn’t take much.  It was the first time I’d ever seen anyone really hit someone in the face in real life.

I was stunned.  Too stunned to run.

I wouldn’t have gotten very far anyway, because the other teen had me down and on the cobblestones before I could fully process – anything.

He was on top of me.  Grabbing at my shirt.   All I could do was swat back and think: “Fuck no, no, no, no, no.  I’m a virgin.  I’m a virgin.  Fuck, no, no, no.  Not like this.  Not like this.”

Then, for whatever reason, it occurred to me that my purse was hanging across my chest.    Maybe he wasn’t grabbing my shirt.  I stopped fighting.  Put my hands up.  Looked at my bag.  Looked at him.  And nodded.

He unhooked my bag from its strap and they both took off.

The police showed up shortly after.  Helped the guy who’d been punched out – asked me what happened (I didn’t speak Spanish, but did speak French and so did one of the officers) – and then took me around in their car to find the two that jumped us.

We found them.  They put them in the back of one car.  Me in another, and when I got dropped off at the hostel I asked what would happen next.

They gave me some paper –  told me to show up in court the next day.  Told me if I didn’t, the two we’d just caught, would be let go.

I told them I’d be there – and then at the crack of dawn convinced my friend to bail on our cheap airfare and catch the first train back to Luxembourg.

As scared and naive and sad as the whole experience made me feel, I’d looked that kid in the face.  We saw each other, and I just couldn’t fully believe that anyone involved (from the the drunk serviceman, to the drunk student tourist (me), to the very sober kids who did and didn’t throw punches) actually wanted to hurt anyone.

Yes, bad things happened.  Yes, rules were broken.  And, more punishment didn’t make any of it feel any better.

A less scared (more grown) woman likely would’ve stuck around to ensure that the kids got off,  and then would’ve gone on to enjoy the rest of her vacation.  But, I wasn’t her yet…and I can’t punish me for that, either.

the-roofs-of-barcelona-1903

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wonder Full

Let me tell you about the best moment of my summer:

I was sitting by a bouncy castle at a rainbow and unicorn birthday party for one of Briggs’s classmates.  He was playing in the castle with the birthday girl and a few other friends.  I overheard one of the girls say:

“We need more power!”

And then, I heard my son (with complete authority) respond with:

“Let me get my Mom, she’s got tons of it.”

My heart swelled.

I’m super good at calling me out for being silly, small, stupid, suckered and/or sunk.  Saying (and even more so believing) the good stuff about me takes effort – like a lot of effort – like way more than I put in most days.

So, when Briggs picked out my Halloween costume, I thought back to that summer day.  Took a moment to recognize the good in raising a boy who sees his Mom as a positive force (a boy, who after being permitted to watch Wonder Woman probably five years too early, came out of the theater saying, “So, I have lots of Wonder Women in my life, right?  Like you, Omi, Nana, Auntie Heid, Autie Gig, Auntie Riri, Autie Tree-Tree…”), and realized that no matter what, #thefutureisWonderFull.

WW

 

A Nasty Spill

We never put up a baby gate.

Briggs wasn’t that kind of toddler.

If we were downstairs – that’s where he wanted to be.  Same went for when we were asleep – which is basically all we do upstairs.  He just wasn’t ever the kid that wandered up or down without first fetching Mum or Dad.

Hell, at six, he still isn’t.

So, for the most part the stairs were never an issue.  Except for the one morning when he was three.

Ken was downstairs in the shower.  I was getting dressed in our bedroom closet (which isn’t really a walk-in closet but it isn’t like a typical closet either – old New England cottage – odd spaces) – and Briggs had just woken up.

Briggs waddled in just as I finished up – though I still hadn’t made a final decision on necklace and earrings.  I gave him a quick snug and told him I was almost ready to head down.  He said ‘okay,’ and started toward the top of the stairs.

His intention was to wait for me – but he was carrying his silky blanket – and even as I turned toward my jewelry box, I caught a glimpse of his green silk drop far too close to his bare feet and before I could finish the sentence, “Bubba, don’t slip on your…” he was tumbling down.

I saw his whole little body flip – head first – and it all felt so slow, even though all I wanted was to move quickly enough to keep it from happening.

I yelled for Ken and darted for Briggs – and the two of us got to him by the third step from the landing.  There were loud cries – but no bumps, bruises or blood.  Plenty of hugs and kisses and ultimately decisions that doctors weren’t necessary and daycare and work could go on as scheduled.

Though I did call my daycare provider (who was really more like an aunt and angel combined) every hour on the hour – and I excused myself from the first meeting of the day to throw-up.

Even after the accident, we still never installed a gate and to date another spill has never taken place.

Still, the slow-motion of the accident haunts me.  Makes me feel like I knew it would happen before it ever did, and still, I couldn’t stop it.

At my lowest, I can still get down with some serious blame and shame for feeling like, my inability to stop the spill, means that in part, I must have caused it.  It’s a flawed logic that unfortunately isn’t limited to this incident.

And still, I’m grateful for the awareness of the faulty thinking and the disservice of blame and shame, and the resilience of everyone involved – because falling (spilling, slipping, even crashing) is inevitable…and so is coming together, and getting up, and making the climb.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love, Hate & Stinky Feet

In 5th grade, I had this pair of Dr. Martens knock-offs that I LOVED.  They felt especially rebellious when paired with my St. Patrick’s Elementary School uniform.

I wore them out – from the inside out.  Like, until the actual inserts started corroding.  I wore them even though they smelled so bad that my mother made me leave them outside the back door when I came home.

One morning, when my beloved fake docs totally reeked (but I still couldn’t let ’em go), I decided to perfume them with CK One.

Now, this was the early 90s in Jaffrey-Rindge, New Hampshire where this particular Calvin Klein unisex fragrance was all the rage and my younger sister had actually saved $50 of her very own money to purchase an entire bottle.

I stole one silver cap full and carefully distributed half the contents into each shoe.  Then with my tights already on, I slide my feet back and forth to ensure full coverage.

Out in the open – which is to say, on the walk to the bus stop – and then actually on the bus – the smell wasn’t noticeable…but once in the confines of a small classroom with only 12 students and one teacher, the rank quickly shot up.

“What is that?”  our teacher asked.  “Does someone have food rotting in their desk?”

As she made us check, I dragged my feet as far back under my chair as they could go.

“Is something in the trash?”

She investigated – found nothing – and then headed to the window.

Through the commotion I raised my hand.

“Can I have the pass for the bathroom?”

She nodded and I darted for the Girls Room where I quickly removed the source of the stink and filled each shoe with liquid soap and started scrubbing with wet paper towels.  I gagged (and cried a bit) through the process – and then repeated it on the bottom of my feet – over my tights.

While the soap on the tights seemed to freshen things, the combo of rotting soles, CK One, pink liquid soap and damp paper towels only enhanced the puke inducing stench from my now unavoidable, unwearable favorite pair of utterly destroyed shoes.

I stuffed them with mounds (and mounds) of toilet paper and then buried them under a couple of sweaters and sweatshirts and abandoned notebooks in my locker.

I went back to class in my stockings.

My teacher and classmates were kind enough to connect the dots, without out saying anything out loud.

That’s the first day I remember hating my feet.  Like really hating them.  Casting them as nothing more than an embarrassing source of stink and rot.  So, for the next…I don’t know…25 years, I basically beat them or ignored them.  And, not surprisingly, they grow hard and tired, a bit diseased and at least once in college, shredded to the point of near hospitalization.

Tonight, during yoga, I was asked to kiss my toes.  Part of the practice of giving my own body the tender love and attention it deserves.

When we love our bodies, our bodies will love us back. So, love your body.

Kissing my feet never occurred to me – but what I did learn from all that time hating them (and nearly every other part of me at some point, too) is that how I feel about my body (and me) absolutely affects how my body (and me) actually function.

Hate made me hurt – which makes me believe that Love could help me heal – and sometimes, getting to the truth, just stinks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love Blocks with Amanda G.

A month before I officially received my undergraduate degree (in media communications), I had two job offers:

  1. Production Assistant for a public radio station in southern Connecticut
  2. Sales Rep. for a commercial radio station in southern Connecticut

The second had the potential of pulling in approximately three times what the first one offered, and (secretly) the only thing I really loved about the commercial station was their live, local weeknight love songs program that I fantasized about hosting.

When I confessed this to a mentor at the time, she rolled her eyes.  “Amanda, you’re not telling me that your aspirations are actually to be a love songs disc jockey, are you?”

I laughed it off and took the production position at the public station – which, for a variety of reasons was actually the right call – but, I still haven’t landed my own program and I definitely still have a thing for love songs.

Early this fall, as my 24-mile weekday commute began to drag out to nearly 2-hours each way, I started filling the time with my very own Love-Blocks.  Stacks of songs I know by heart, that I play/sing/dedicate to me, from me.

Here’s one of my most powerful lineups:

Tom Petty: Don’t Come Around Here No More

This one goes out to Mandy the Manipulator.  The part of me that constantly seeks to fix and please.  The well-intended, “yes-er.”  She’s not bad – she’s just scared shitless of disappointment and confrontation.  She takes over when things get awkward – which is just another way to say – when things get real.  She shuts down the feels and ramps up the do-s.  She’ll convince the rest of me that sleep, and food, and breaks and deep breaths are weak.  She’ll reinforce and ensure that the only way to gain affection and attention is to keep proving my worth.  She’s helped me earn a lot and lose so much more.  She’s protected and perverted me, almost simultaneously.  I love her for helping me come this far, but she’s anxious and exhausting and tangled my emotions…so, honey, please admit it’s over.

Sara Bareilles – I Choose You

My name – Amanda – means worthy of love.  And this song by Sara reminds me that all of that worth that Mandy is so obsessed with “proving” – is actually my birthright.  One benefit to the height of my commutes rarely speeding up past 5-10 MPH, is that I can belt out this whole song with one hand on the steering wheel and the other on my heart.  Singing, I choose you – saying, out loud, that I choose me – over and over and over again reminds me that I’m already completely, perfectly and permanently chosen.  Accepted.  Grounded.  And Good.

Peal Jam – Just Breathe

Inhale.  Exhale.  Come clean.  There would need to be so many hands to count all of those I love and all of those who love me.  On the rides where I trick myself into feeling the most alone, confused, small and ordinary,  I sing and breathe and inevitably end up seeing and being seen by someone else.  There’s a smile and a nod and a reminder that WE truly are all in this together.  None of us are getting out of here alive – so, let’s enjoy the ride.  Appreciate our time.  Savor our one breath.

Blackbear – Do Re Mi

To my ego – from my ego.  You and your constant need for validation and control.  Your score cards and bullshit rules.  You trip me up.  Make me feel lazy.  Mediocre.  Silly. Stupid.  This one fits as a love song simply because I love the idea of sassing my sick.  Telling all those ugly, heavy thoughts, I’m so fucking done with you. (Even if the done only lasts until the end of the song.)

Adele – I can’t Make You Love Me (Bonnie Raitt Cover)

On my show – love songs tend to be sad songs because in my world joy and sadness and acceptance and rejection are all connected.  Nothing reminds all of me about all of this quite like this cover.  And when I sing it to me what I’m really saying is, “You’re all I’ve got.  And the best I’ve got.  And really, there’s no try.  I can’t make me love me.  Instead, I’m just going to accept, that even when I feel like I don’t even like me – at my core – I do.  I always do.”  I could totally give up this fight, but, I don’t want to.

Aoife O’Donovan – Oh Mama

Sing me a love song.  Pour me some bourbon.  And lay me down low.  When it’s about time to pull in and power down there comes an ease.  A peace.  Just for a few beats – minutes – moments.  With a full heart (even when it’s breaking or bleeding) I let the Mama in me make everything okay.  Close my eyes.  Put me to sleep – just enough – to give me pause before I open up, get out, and rise again.

 

Not So Perfect (or Boring) Game

Currently, there is no perfect game of candlepin bowling on record.

A perfect game would consist of 13 strikes, for a total score of 300.

I’m convinced that the ball being so much smaller (than 10-pin “big ball bowling”), and the pins staying as they fall in between the three throws, greatly increases the degree of difficulty for this simple (and frustrating) game.

Yet, I still love it.

I love it so much that for a time after becoming a wife but before becoming a mom, I bowled in a candlepin league.  In fact, the best game I every bowled was the week before I found out that I was six weeks pregnant.

“Looks like your balance has finally worked itself out,” I remember one teammate saying.

Today, that little boy who corrected my balance (now six and not quite able to keep his balance as he chucks the ball) and I made our way to the lanes and I was reminded what candlepin really has to teach me:

  1. Keep it Simple:  Roll the ball, knock down pins.  The concept’s not hard, AND that doesn’t make it any easier to execute.  It can however make it less intimidating to at least get in the game – and even when it goes down the gutter, the game’s worth getting in.
  2. Focus:  There’s a lot happening on the lanes – especially in the middle of the afternoon.  Music pumping.  Kids falling.  Pins crashing.  Chaos.  Breathe anyway – it might be the only way to remember what I’m doing here.
  3. Have Fun: Especially when there’s truly nothing at risk.  Smile.  No one’s watching.  Loosen the grip.
  4. Like Your Stuff: A perk to having played in a league (and having the same shoe size since I was 14) is that I splurged for my own kicks.  They are still the most comfortable pair of shoes that I own and every time I put them on I feel like…I belong…to  me.
  5. Perfect is Boring: I guess there’s some value in striving for it…but I prefer the stories of showing up to do your best – getting guttered – losing patience and passion – and then, showing up again…in great shoes. 🙂
  6. shoes

I Am the Lobster

I got to go to college for two reasons:

  1. I studied, volunteered and networked my ass off
  2. I graduated from a small-town public high school with an extraordinary number of local scholarships

One of the local organizations that helped put me through school did so by running a number of meat raffles at the local V.F.W. to rally support for their scholarship fund.

In case you’ve never partaken – here’s the basic outline of a meat raffle:

The organization negotiates with a local, wholesale meat distributor, advertises about the raffle, and then on the day of, they run anywhere between seven to nine tables.  Each table is set up with an array of cuts – from expensive racks of prime rib, to whole hams and turkeys, to 15lbs boxes of bacon, to double packs of chicken breasts.  Those who wish to try their luck at taking home a prime (or any other) cut, buy strips of tickets – anywhere from $1-$10.  Once all of the tickets are sold for each table, tickets are then pulled and if your number comes up, you get to take your pick.

At this particular meat raffle, there’s also ALWAYS a lobster table.  A table FULL of 10+ pound lobsters.

Since graduating, I try to make it back home for at least one of the four meat raffles that this volunteer organization puts on.  Yesterday, happened to be this year’s kick-off, and my son and I decided to make the drive up to New Hampshire to visit my parents and make our annual contribution.

The highlight of the trip was seeing some good friends that I grew up with, having our kids get along for a few hours, and winning some chicken on the very first table (also, the only table we won from).

The low-point of the trip was hearing a sudden and painful crash from the table across from us.   I looked over – confused – because no one was actually sitting at the table and I couldn’t see anything tipped over.  Then, I looked down and saw the lobster.

This particular lobster (still alive) had been put in a plastic shopping bag and left under the table while his (her) winner ventured to the bar for another beer.  I noticed the lobster was now fully on his back – claws (double wrapped in black duct tape and industrial strength rubber bands) out – and tail desperately trying to break free from that plastic sack.

The crash had been that thick, hard shell smacking against that cold, hard floor.

Putting it all together made me feel sick and heavy.

“It was the lobster,” I said out loud.

“What?” my Mom asked.

“Look, under that table.  The lobster flipped over – trying to get free.  Jesus, just to lay on the cool floor of the V.F.W. before being brought to a painful, scalding death.  Legit – the linoleum is now as good as it’s ever going to get.”

I’m not vegan or vegetarian.  Currently, the majority of protein in my diet comes from seafood and eggs.  I was raised on game hunted in our own woods.  I received thousands of dollars over the course of my higher education from functions just like this one, and have contributed hundreds back over the years.

And still, seeing/hearing this lobster…trapped and struggling…made me feel sicker and heavier.

I can’t help thinking that even when our intentions are good (like: let’s do something to help more kids from our community go to college), the way in which we realize our intentions through our actions, needs to be equally as good – for all.

What we intend and how we act requires reflection – and evolution – and even some, goodification.

Because – for me –  it just doesn’t feel like enough to simply be grateful that on this go-round, I wasn’t the lobster.

lobster