50 Binge-Worthy Shows to Watch This Summer

Jul 25 2014

On Wednesday, my 16-year-old had her second foot surgery of the summer and began the subsequent 6-8 week recovery phase.

photo 3 (52)In addition to the tasteless selfies I’ll take with her latest Frankenstein foot, an activity so obvious it practically goes without saying, this means a whole lot of “Mom” and “MOM” and “MOM!” and “HEY, BETH!” from Abby when I don’t jump quickly enough to get her pillow, her blanket, her socks, her shower started, her snacks, her meds, her hairbrush, her phone, her make-up, and, and, and, and, and, and, and.

I am, in short, 48 hours into being Abby’s Beck-and-Call Girl again, and I’m desperately missing my usual Get-It-Yourself, Your-Legs-Aren’t-Broken defense. As such, I’m more than happy – thrilled, in fact – to plug my impressionable kid into as much mind-numbing, brain-rotting, soul-smothering television as possible. The problem, of course, is I end up hearing most of the shows Abby watches, and, as happened during the June/July surgery recovery, I’m prone to be sucked into them. All the way in. Which is how I watched 5 seasons of Gossip Girl, loved it, and lost any hope of getting into Heaven. 

That’s why I turned to you yesterday on Facebook. To ask what my kid and I should binge-watch next. Because there are more than 500 awake-hours in 6 weeks of recovery, and THIS IS IMPORTANT.

As always, due to y’all being extra rad, you came through. And, also as always, due to being a giant nerd, I tabulated the results of your advice.

Here we have it. From most to least recommended…

50 Binge-Worthy Shows to Watch This Summer With Your Teen

  1. Gilmore Girls (comedy, drama)  - “Drama centering around the relationship between a thirty-something single mother and her teen daughter living in Stars Hollow, Connecticut” 
  2. VeronicaMarsVeronica Mars (crime, drama, mystery) – “After her best friend is murdered and her father is removed as county sheriff, Veronica Mars dedicates her life to cracking the toughest mysteries in the affluent town of Neptune”
  3. My So-Called Life (drama) – “15-year-old girl and her trials and tribulations of being a teenager and dealing with friends, guys, parents and school” 
  4. Psych (comedy, crime, mystery) – “A novice sleuth is hired by the police after he cons them into thinking he has psychic powers that help solve crimes. With this assistance of his reluctant best friend the duo take on a series of complicated cases” 
  5. Gossip Girl (drama, romance) - I hate that I loved this show! “Privileged teens living on the Upper Eastside of New York City”
  6. Once Upon a Time (adventure, fantasy, romance) – “A woman with a troubled past is drawn to a New England town where fairy tales are to be believed”
  7. Doctor Who (adventure, drama, sci fi, family) – “The further adventures of the time traveling alien adventurer and his companions”
  8. One Tree Hill (drama, sport) – “This series follows the eventful lives of some high-school kids in Tree Hill, a small but not too quiet town in North Carolina, where the greatest source of pride is the high school basketball team, the Ravens” 
  9. Switched at Birth (drama, family) – “The story of two teen girls who discover that they were accidentally switched at birth”
  10. buffyBuffy the Vampire Slayer (action, drama, fantasy) – “A young girl, destined to slay vampires, demons and other infernal creatures, deals with her life fighting evil, with the help of her friends” 
  11. Alias (action, drama, mystery) – “Sydney Bristow is an international spy recruited out of college and trained for espionage and self-defense”
  12. Sherlock (BBC) (crime, drama, mystery) – “A modern update finds the famous sleuth and his doctor partner solving crime in 21st century London” 
  13. Chuck (action, comedy, drama) – “When a twenty-something computer geek inadvertently downloads critical government secrets into his brain, CIA and NSA assign two agents to protect him and exploit such knowledge, turning his life upside down”
  14. Friday Night Lights (drama, sport) – “The trials and tribulations of small town Texas football players, their friends, family, and coaching staff”
  15. Big Bang Theory (comedy) – “A woman who moves into an apartment across the hall from two brilliant but socially awkward physicists shows them how little they know about life outside of the laboratory”
  16. Friends (comedy, romance) – “When Monica’s high school friend (Rachel) re-enters her life, she sets off on a series of humorous and entertaining events involving Monica’s brother (Ross), her ex-roommate (Phoebe), and her next door neighbors (Chandler & Joey)”
  17. Dawson’s Creek (drama) – “Four friends in a small coastal town help each other cope with adolescence”
  18. Leverage (action, crime, mystery, comedy) – “A crew of high-tech crooks attempt to steal from wealthy criminals and corrupt businessmen”
  19. Call the Midwife (drama) – “The lives of a group of midwives living in East London in the late 1950s”
  20. FireflyFirefly (adventure, drama, sci fi) – “Five hundred years in the future, a renegade crew aboard a small spacecraft tries to survive as they travel the unknown parts of the galaxy and evade warring factions as well as authority agents out to get them”
  21. Orphan Black (action, drama, sci fi) – “A streetwise hustler is pulled into a compelling conspiracy after witnessing the suicide of a girl who looks just like her”
  22. Ugly Betty (comedy, drama) – “Betty Suarez is smart, sweet and hard working. The only problem is that she’s not thin and beautiful like all her coworkers at Mode, the high-fashion magazine where she works” 
  23. Pretty Little Liars (drama, mystery, thriller) – “Four friends band together against an anonymous foe who threatens to reveal their darkest secrets, while unraveling the mystery of the murder of their best friend”
  24. Heartland (drama, family) – “A multi-generational saga set in Alberta, Canada and centered on a family getting through life together in both happy and trying times” 
  25. Downton Abbey (drama) – “Beginning in the years leading up to World War I, the drama centers on the Crawley family and their servants”
  26. Felicity (drama) – “A young fresh out of high school girl, follows her high school crush to college to be near him”
  27. White Collar (comedy, crime, drama) – “A white collar criminal agrees to help the FBI catch other white collar criminals using his expertise as an art and securities thief, counterfeiter, and conman” 
  28. CastleCastle (comedy, crime, drama) - “After a serial killer imitates the plots of his novels, successful mystery novelist Richard “Rick” Castle gets permission from the Mayor of New York City to tag along with an NYPD homicide investigation team for research purposes”
  29. Charmed (drama, fantasy mystery) – “Three sisters discover their destiny – to battle against the forces of evil, using their witchcraft. They are the Charmed Ones” 
  30. Angel (action, drama, fantasy) – “The vampire Angel, cursed with a soul, moves to Los Angeles and aids people with supernatural-related problems while questing for his own redemption”
  31. Heart of Dixie (drama) – “Three young sorority women try to find love with potential men, while worrying about changes in their way of life when integration begins at their college in 1957 segregated Alabama” 
  32. Lark Rise to Candleford (drama) – “An adaptation of Flora Thompson’s autobiographical novel set in 19 century Oxfordshire in which a young girl moves to the local market town to begin an apprenticeship as a postmistress”
  33. Lost (adventure, drama, fantasy) – “The survivors of a plane crash are forced to work together in order to survive on a seemingly deserted tropical island”
  34. BonesBones (comedy, crime, drama) – “A forensic anthropologist and a cocky FBI agent build a team to investigate death causes. And quite often, there isn’t more to examine than rotten flesh or mere bones” 
  35. West Wing (drama) – “Inside the lives of staffers in the west wing of the White House” 
  36. The Good Wife (crime, drama, mystery) – “Alicia has been a good wife to her husband, a former state’s attorney. After a very humiliating sex and corruption scandal, he is behind bars. She must now provide for her family and returns to work as a litigator in a law firm” 
  37. 24 (action, drama, mystery) – “Jack Bauer, Director of Field Ops for the Counter-Terrorist Unit of Los Angeles, races against the clock to subvert terrorist plots and save his nation from ultimate disaster”
  38. Burn Notice (action, crime, drama, mystery) – “A spy recently disavowed by the U.S. government uses his Special Ops training to help others in trouble”
  39. Scrubs (comedy, drama) – “In the unreal world of Sacred Heart Hospital, intern John “J.D” Dorian learns the ways of medicine, friendship and life”
  40. Heroes (drama, sci fi, thriller) – “They thought they were like everyone else… until they woke with incredible abilities”
  41. Eureka (comedy, drama, sci fi) – “The best minds in the US are tucked away in a remote town where they build futuristic inventions for the government’s benefit”
  42. Warehouse 13 (drama, mystery, sci fi) – “After saving the life of the President in Washington D.C., a pair of U.S Secret Service agents are whisked away to a covert location in South Dakota that houses supernatural objects” 
  43. DropDeadDivaDrop Dead Diva (comedy, drama) – “A vapid aspiring model killed in a car crash gets brought back to life as an intelligent, overweight lawyer, hoping to find the meaning of inner beauty”
  44. Supernatural (drama, fantasy, horror) – “Two brothers follow their father’s footsteps as “hunters” fighting evil supernatural beings of many kinds including monsters, demons, and gods that roam the earth”
  45. Smallville (adventure, drama, romance) – “A young Clark Kent struggles to find his place in the world as he learns to harness his alien powers for good and deals with the typical troubles of teenage life in Smallville”
  46. House M.D. (drama, mystery) – “An antisocial maverick doctor who specializes in diagnostic medicine does whatever it takes to solve puzzling cases that come his way using his crack team of doctors and his wits”
  47. Battlestar Gallactica (action, adventure, drama, sci fi) – “When an old enemy, the Cylons, resurfaces and obliterate the 12 colonies, the crew of the aged Galactica protects a small civilian fleet – the last of humanity – as they journey toward the fabled 13th colony of Earth”
  48. Monarch of the Glen (comedy, drama, romance) – “Archie MacDonald, a young restaurateur is called back to his childhood home of Glenbogle where he is told he is the new Laird of Glenbogle”
  49. McLeod’s Daughters (drama) – “Five women run a cattle station, “Drover’s Run”, in the outback of South Australia” 
  50. Winners & Losers (comedy, drama) – “The lives of four best friends bound together by their shared experience of being “the losers” in high school. Now ten years later the women are about to become winners, but at what cost?” 

Although these were recommended based on what my daughter and I might like to watch, there’s such a great variety here! Something for everyone. What are your favorites from the list? Or what else would you add?

Though I’ve watched and liked several of the shows above, my top picks at the moment are Firefly (my favorite sci fi, a totally unique series with great character development, superb writing and a bizarre setting), Leverage (funny, charming heist series) and Veronica Mars, the last of which we’re watching now. Gilmore Girls and Buffy the Vampire Slayer are up next. And, although it’s not something my daughter would like, I think this list is missing Boston Legal – LOVED that series.


All series descriptions, images and categorizations via IMDb, the Internet Movie Database.

On Messing Up and Finding Grace

Jul 22 2014

We’re on Day 2 of 5 Days of Day Camp which obviously means we barely made it to the buses this morning.

And, by barely, I mean the buses were rolling, friends – engines sputtering and PULLING AWAY from the curb – while four of my kids ran at the front of them, following the directions I’d barked in the car on the way there.

“If the buses haven’t left yet, lady and gentlemen,” I said, “we run for them as soon as we park. We RUN. WHAT DO WE DO, kids?”

“WE RUN!” they chorused.

And that’s what they did. Pell-mell. With enthusiasm. Drawing on all those late-to-school, jump-from-the-van, “Go, go, GO” rehearsals we conducted this year. And totally heedless to their mama who was behind them hollering new directions, too late, like, “WAIT!” and “STOP!” and “YOU’RE NOT ALLOWED TO GET RUN OVER!”

Which is why I thank God for Erin, our excellent, wonderful, awesome, BEAUTIFUL camp coordinator, who saw my kids coming, stopped the buses with one hand, waved a door open a la Moses parting the Red Sea, and ushered my littlest two aboard while, with her other hand, she directed my middle schoolers to their seats in two other vehicles. All while deflecting my “I’m so sorry… I’m SO sorry…” apologies with smiles and those most soothing words of mamaraderie, “I barely made it here with my kids, too.” And I don’t even care if she was lying, friends. I do not care. I just want to make it up to her. Although I do feel that NOT throwing my arms around her ankles and washing her feet with my grateful tears and then rising to kiss her on the mouth is, perhaps, thanks enough. (You’re welcome, Erin.)

I want you to know, we were going to be on time this morning because I was on it. I mean, sure, I hit my 9-minute snooze button 3 extra times. And yes, I was mostly naked until 24 seconds before we walked out the door. And of course I shoved my mascara in my purse and carried my shoes in my hands on the way to the car. BUT. But. But I did a good job getting the kids ready. I did. I did. 

As soon as I leapt from the bed, I started issuing orders. From the top of the stairs in a loud, booming voice, to the kids somewhere on the floor beneath me, I bellowed, “SHOES! Do you guys have your shoes and socks on?”

And they yelled, “YES!”

And I clarified because I am no rookie, “ALL OF YOU?”

And they yelled, “YES!”

Five minutes later, I hollered down the stairs, “BREAKFAST! Did you guys eat breakfast?”

And they yelled, “YES!”

And I yelled, “ALL OF YOU?”

And they yelled, “YES!”

Four minutes later, I belted, “BACKPACKS! …”

Three minutes later, “SUNSCREEN! …”

Two minutes later, “SWIMSUITS! …”

And then, with juuuuuusst enough time to get everyone in the car and to the bus before it was scheduled to leave, and right after I threw yesterday’s clothes back on my body, I yelled, “OK! EVERYONE IN THE CAR.”

And you guys. You GUYS. THEY DID IT. With their shoes on and their tummies full and their backpacks in hand, they trooped to the car. And just before the littlest one closed the door behind him, he yelled back up the stairs, “Is Aden coming, Mom?”

And I said, “OF COURSE Aden’s coming. Why wouldn’t she be coming?” Which is when it dawned on me that perhaps he was asking that question for a reason. Which is when it occurred to me that I hadn’t heard her voice in the chorus of bellows from below. Which is when it transpired that I popped my head into her bedroom. Which is when I discovered her asleep in bed. Sweetly asleep. Soundly asleep. Sans shoes. Sans socks. Sans breakfast. Sans backpack and sunscreen and swimsuit. Sans mommy who keeps track of her kids.


And so we scrambled. And we rushed. And I threw a breakfast bar which barely missed Aden’s head. And my kids didn’t get run over by the bus because Erin has Moses magic.

After the bus left, and after I chattered at a friend about all the mama crimes I’d just committed, and after I hopped back in my car and laid my head on my steering wheel and shook the noggin back and forth and back and forth, I headed to grab a quick coffee before my morning meetings. And I sat in the coffee line rehashing what a dumb dummy I am because I’m still working on positive self-talk and loving myself and accepting that I make mistakes, and some days that’s harder work than others. 

I ordered my usual cappuccino, I added a muffin to the mix, and I pulled up to the pay window where they waved me through.

“The car ahead of you paid for your order,” they said. “You’re good to go!”

And I pulled away and cried at the stop light. Like a dumb dummy. Because it occurred to me how great a gift it was to screw up and be met with mercy. And then to have mercy compounded with kindness. As though I didn’t need to be punished or to pay. Just loved. And enough. And worth a smile and a warm cup of coffee and grace. 

And that’s my wish for all of us today. That we’d know we’re worthy of the deepest love. And that we’d recognize that love when it finds us. 

Grace, friends.


Mostly Drivel, Plus One Good Tip for Writing (and Life)

Jul 21 2014

I love my family. I loved being on vacation with them. I love that our kids are consistent (that questionable hallmark of good parenting), which they exhibit by dependably peeing on and around toilets no matter where we reside and reliably making messes in mere hours that would take others weeks and weeks to achieve. And I will undoubtedly tell you more about vacation eventually, because it was as awesome as I’d hoped and not as awful as it could have been, but right at this moment I must say I love being on Not Vacation with my family.

I love being on Not Vacation with them very much.

Very, very much.

Very, very, very much.

ALL THE MUCH, is what I’m saying.

Because it turns out two weeks of vacation is a LOT of time with People, folks. And, not to be dramatic, but, for those of us who are introverty, a LOT of time with People, even the People We Love More Than Any Other People in the World, equals a LOT of time having our energy siphoned away, as though all those People were issued Mystical Straws and then they popped those suckers right through our bodies and straight into our souls and slowly but surely sucked our Life’s Essence from our now-useless shells, Dementor style, leaving us empty and breathless and pretty much dead. Like, way more dead than the guy in Monty Python’s Holy Grail who insists he’s not quite dead enough to go on the death cart. Compared to us, that guy is downright spunky. No; we’re more like Wesley in the Princess Bride after he was tortured by The Machine. Dead by all appearances. Dead to everyone who needed him. But not so dead that a miracle, given enough time, couldn’t resurrect him. Just mostly dead, you know? 

We arrived home on Saturday at 4:00pm, and I spent the next 5 hours at Full Crazy Mama TILT doing All the Laundry in All the World, and putting away All the Crap, and – get this - Cleaning My Bedroom which is also my office, which is really just a desk, which I couldn’t see because it was hiding under All the Piles. And why did I clean my bedroom, you ask? Why do something so very out of character? Because I was frantically and giddily anticipating today – Monday – the Best of Days! The day I would send my children to Day Camp and have ALL DAY to write! ALL DAY to sit on a potty with no surpise pee sprinkles! ALL DAY without the MomMomMomMomMommyMoms! ALL DAY to craft something brilliant for you out of all that’s been bottled and ready to burst from my brain.

And so this morning I sat at my pristine desk in my comfy pants. The off-yellow velour ones that are threadbare in the inner thighs. And I got straight to work, because that’s what we writers do. Butt in chair. Words on page. Discipline. Discipline. Write.

So far I’ve played all my lives on Candy Crush.

I’ve ordered nail wraps online.

I’ve ignored my panties which insist on rolling down the lowest of my belly rolls to constrict around my hip bones.

I’ve used the words “hip bones” in their loosest possible sense, since there’s no empirical evidence I have any.

And I’ve wondered if I’m constipated.

I mean, I’m either constipated or there’s a giant ghost poop haunting my bowels. And THIS IS WHY IT’S IMPORTANT NOT TO TAKE TWO-WEEK WRITING BREAKS, people. BECAUSE IF YOU TAKE BREAKS, YOU COME BACK AND WRITE CRAP LIKE THIS.

Of course, if you don’t take breaks, you can write crap, too. That’s possible. 

So, basically, to clarify, Shit Happens either way.

BUT, and here’s the writing tip I promised you in the midst of all this drivel, you can write in the poo, friends. And through the pretend poo – the feelings of inadequacy, the certainty you’re a fraud, the belief you’re doing nothing worthwhile – that haunts you, too. Because you will find, in writing and in life, the poo is ever-present and very, very good at trying to block your way. Your way up. Your way out. Your way past and over and onward and through. And so you face a choice. Every day. Every moment. Live fully in spite of the poo or go nowhere at all.

To be clear, going nowhere at all is totally an option, and one of which I avail myself frequently, because sometimes we simply must sit in the muck and the mess until we find the magic. We know this, right? Right. There’s no shame to be found here for resting a while. No shame. Not ever.

But sometimes we’re eager to move, to take next steps, to find the next right thing, to blaze a path through the jungle, to find the illusive Village… and we look at the overwhelming piles of crap surrounding us – emotional crap, writing crap, life crap, parenting crap, marriage crap – and we wonder HOW. 

How do we write past, live past, move past this enormous mess?

Here’s the truth as far as I know it: We don’t move past the mess. Instead, we live and love and learn inside it. Despite it. Because of it. We write things – and push “publish” on them – knowing they’ve got crap clinging to them. We parent from sheer and brilliant imperfection. We inadequately shovel the poo and clear a way forward knowing more is on its way. And we take bold next steps knowing our shoes may squish and slide on the trail. 


And what about you?
What’ve you been up to these past 2 weeks?
I’ve missed you, and I’ve missed hanging out here. I’d beg for someone to tell me that’s not weird, but I think we’re way, way past that. We’re weird. We’re good with that. It’s what makes us rad.

Do You Like Your Family? Yes, No or Maybe

Jul 13 2014

I just sent a note to my sister-in-law. It was about dinner and what we’re having for it, so it was important. She’s in a condo next to ours on vacation so I had to choose between walking upstairs to get my phone to text her or keeping my butt on the couch, demanding my minions get me paper and a pen, and then sending them to deliver the note and await a response. Minions, obviously. 

At the end of the dinner note (we’re having chicken and stir-fried noodles, FYI), I wrote, because everyone who’s ever been in middle school knows this kind of thing is an essential part of note-writing, 

I like you. Do you like me?

☐ Yes
☐ No
☐ Maybe

But my teenager, who was supervising me, suggested I add a box for Sometimes, which is an option that makes sense, so I added,

I like you. Do you like me?

☐ Yes
☐ No
☐ Maybe
☐ Sometimes

And then my mom intercepted the note and sent it back looking like this:

I like you. Do you like me?

☑ Yes
☑ No
☑ Maybe
☑ Sometimes


And she added,

P.S. I’m going to go take a nap.

Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure that’s the most accurate description of parenthood around.

I like you all Yes, No, Maybe and Sometimes, and I NEED A NAP.

My mama’s the smartest lady I know.

Best iPhone Photo Apps (I’ll Show You Mine, You Show Me Yours)

Jul 7 2014

Psst… I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.

Painted in Waterlogue

Come on. You know you want to. I’ll even go first.

Here are my favorite iPhone photo apps for summer. I’m using them a TON on our vacation. And I’d love to know what your favorites are, too.

1. AVIARY. It’s FREE, and it makes adjusting light and color a snap so the pictures look sharper and more like real life. Although it has a lot of bells and whistles, I primarily use their cropping tool and the adjust tool, which lets me tinker with brightness, contrast, warmth and saturation. Here are some examples of my pictures before and after using Aviary:








2. PICSTITCH. It’s also FREE, and it lets me easily combine photos to create a collage. I know there are fancier collage-making apps out there, but this is basic and the editing software is powered by Aviary, so it’s easy to navigate… no need to learn multiple ways to edit pics, which is a bonus for me. Note: you can also leave one of the collage picture spaces blank so it’s easy to add text (with another free app like Over) later.


3. My newest, SUPER FUN toy, WATERLOGUE, which turns your pictures into watercolors. Now I don’t know what it is about apps, but I just hate paying for them. Hate it. I agonized over the $3 this one cost, but it’s been more than worth it. (Psst… Waterlogue isn’t sponsoring/paying for this post. This is just a really neat find.) Note: Waterlogue works better with scenery and shapes than with faces or portraits. Here are some of mine, before and after Waterlogue:



AFTER WATERLOGUE:Painted in Waterlogue


the view from our ship, departing Seattle:




OK! Now it’s your turn!
What are your favorites apps for family pics?
For platforms other than iPhone, too. We’re a mixed-platform household.


Jul 4 2014

I’m about to leave on vacation. A LONG vacation. The longest vacation of my life, I think; at least since I was a child and had summers off and thought they were boring. This one’s a TWO WEEK vacation, friends. And just let me clarify here — I’m talking about TWO WEEKS IN A ROW — which is UNTOLD RICHES as far as I’m concerned and like WINNING THE LOTTERY and is entirely thanks to my mother who’s unreasonably generous and my father who’s also unreasonably generous but likes to be gruff and grim and mutter under his breath, “She wastes all the money on the children.” 

I’m as ecstatic about vacation (VACATION!) as I am embarrassed and hidey and reluctant to confess I get this one. It’s a strange world inside my head, because I love to tell you our gross poop stories, and I’m happy to write about humiliating myself in public, and I love so much – SO MUCH – that we momrades wave to each other in the dark, but I’m realizing I’m upside down and backwards, because the good things are sometimes harder to report. The things like TWO WEEK VACATIONS, because I have a kind of survivor’s guilt. 

It’s just that I remember the times when we needed a break in those earliest parenting years, and we couldn’t afford one. Couldn’t afford it financially, although we often cobbled together an excuse for spending more than we had. And couldn’t afford it emotionally, because as much as I wanted to be away from the littles, I hated it, too. I was drowning without kid breaks, and I was drowning when I brought them along, because, it turns out parenting is hard all the time. On vacations or not. With kids or longing for them. And, let’s be honest; even if you can afford one, breaks are rarely breaks in those early years. Not to be dramatic, but thinking I might get a break and then having that expectation dashed on the rocks of ruined dreams and wasted hopes was the worst. The worst

And so I find myself reluctant to talk about all the things that are good and easy now, the total miracles of kids getting older, like the fact that they put on their own seatbelts these days (!) and wipe their own bottoms, like, 92% of the time. It’s been a week now – a WEEK – since I’ve seen anyone’s butthole, you guys. And, sure, I woke up the other morning to a little boy penis in my face because “LOOK! There is fuzz on this thing, Mom,” (psst… it was dryer lint) and I can’t pick it all off by myself,” and we had to have a cute little chat about penises and faces and what other solutions there might be for defuzzing one’s man parts, but STILL. No buttholes! These things eventually happen. Are eventually possible

It’s a whole new world, I tell you.

Now, here we go. In one day’s time, we leave on VACATION. With ONLY TWO CHILDREN! Because we’re terrible parents, of course, taking some with us and leaving some behind. And also because our 14 year old – the one who has special needs and anxiety issues and just HATES vacations (a lot) (a lot, a lot) – will be at camp for a week. And because our 12 year old will be there, too. And because our 15 year old was all, Do I HAVE to go?” And I was all, HELL, NO! STAY HOME!” Except it sounded like, “Oh, baby, we’ll miss you so much, but if you REALLY want to stay in town with your friends, I’ll allow it.” So, although we’ll all meet up for the second week of vacation (in order to collectively torture the 14 year old, of course), this first week will be… dare I say it??… relaxing as we cruise for a week to Alaska and back.

We booked the cruise at the last minute because they’re way, WAY cheaper that way, (hint: check out VacationsToGo.com, especially their 90 Day Ticker <– not a sponsored ad… just the way we’ve been able to afford trips), and cheap is how we roll. 

So cheap, in fact, that Greg and I weren’t planning to stay in the same room on the ship, because the cheapest rooms are too tiny to accommodate 4 of us, and we weren’t willing to spend the parents’ money on more expensive staterooms. It was going to be me + a kid in one room, and Greg + a kid in another. But WHO CARES? It’s still VACATION, right? I mean, we’ve arranged awkward conjugal visits in the past. Heck, we live with 5 children, half of whom sleep in our room every night. We’re like the reining World Champions of Awkward Conjugal Visits. We could teach classes. 

But the Vacation Fairy shined down upon us. 

You guys! You GUYS. Greg answered his phone yesterday. Which isn’t unusual at all, because my husband is an extrovert. When his phone rings, his response is like a Golden Retriever’s when someone’s at the door. It’s a person! It’s a person! It’s a person! Someone’s at the door! At the door! At the door! A PERSON! WOOHOO! And he tackles the person on the phone and licks them to death. Because JOY! 

I, on the other hand, am an introvert. My phone is on silent all day, and I often don’t get my messages for hours and hours, which drives my teenage daughter INSANE. I don’t answer the phone at the dinner table, and I’ve spent years – YEARS – mocking Greg for his inability to ignore a ringing phone, even when he doesn’t recognize the number. Rolling my eyes. Lifting my eyebrows in a silent seriously? SERIOUSLY?” To which he responds, “But it might be IMPORTANT.” 

He’s answered EVERY CALL. For TWENTY YEARS. Every sales call. Every political pitch. Every scam. EVERY CALL.

Yesterday he took a call from an unknown number. From our cruise line, it turned out. Offering to upgrade us for free to a suite. A SUITE. For FREE. Instead of two, teeny, non-adjoining rooms with life boats in front of our windows, for which we were genuinely excited, we get a suite with a BALCONY. And amenities. And fresh flowers. And an extended room service menu. And a complimentary mini-bar. Who even knew that existed?? That that’s a thing?

So here we go on VACATION. A vacation with LUXURIES. And I know I sound like a loon and a Neanderthal. And I know I never, ever, ever get to give Greg crap again for answering the phone, which is a significant loss to my marital repertoire. And I know we’ll probably embarrass ourselves with wide eyes and oooohhing and aaaaahhing and gushing about free laundry service to our cabin steward. But right now, I can’t bring myself to care. Because VACATION.

I hope you’ll bear with me over the next couple of weeks as I talk about vacations and family and, well, resting. I know it’s not the usual fare here. And we all know someone will get sick and vomit all over the fancy suite and make it all OK eventually. In the meantime, I’d love any tips you have to offer, especially if you know how to be fancy! We can use all the tips you have.

More soon!


P.S. Greg asked me what canapés are. Apparently they bring them to our room every evening. I said, in my very best I-can’t-believe-you-don’t-already-know-this voice, “They’re hors d’oeuvres. Appetizers. Duh.” Then I googled “canapé.” I was right! Woohoo!

P.P.S. I also went on the Google to look up how to spell hors d’oeuvres. 

The End

People: Closer Than They Appear

Jul 1 2014

I glance in the side mirror. A quick check and then I look away. Forward, mostly. Occasionally back. And then side check. Side check. Forward. 

I see things in the side mirrors. Cars. Bikes. Kids. Mamas with strollers on the sidewalks. Friends on walks. Runners with their dogs. I see them, but usually only to assess how they might affect my drive. Or to think I really ought to go for a run. And then conjure the usual excuses for not running.

I pulled out in front of a car the other day. She had her turn signal on and she was slowing, so I thought she was turning before she got to me, but I was wrong; she was turning after, into a tiny, hidden driveway I didn’t know existed because I wasn’t familiar with the area, and I misjudged her intention. My fault, for sure. I should’ve waited until she turned before I began to pull out, which is something I tell my 15-year-old who’s learning to drive. “Wait until the other driver has committed to the turn,” I say. “It’s not enough to just see the signal.” But did I do it myself? Nope. And I was lucky we didn’t collide. 

We both stopped, the other driver and I, window to window for a few seconds, so I could see that she is young and beautiful and her car was clean and she was shaken. I mouthed “sorry” and “I thought you were turning here” and she mouthed back “you bitch” and “fuck you” and “my KIDS are in this car” which I knew meant “you scared me” and “I’m angry because you could have hurt us” and probably “I was having a really, really crappy day even before you tried to barrel into me,” but her words still made me feel worse than the bad I already felt. I wonder; if she’d known how long I’d dwell on her words and replay them in my mind, would she have pulled her punches and had mercy on someone who wronged her? Or would she have been glad at how punishing her punishment really was? 

It’s impossible to say, of course. I mean, I don’t know her, and we’ll probably never see each other again.

I watched her in my side mirror as I pulled away, embarrassed and jittery from an accident barely avoided. And then I looked forward. And back. And forward. And to the side again. 

And I wondered how much she and I have in common.

…if we’d met another way, if we’d be friends.

…if she has the same late nights and early mornings and days that are too long and too short all at the same time.

…if she feels happier when the sun comes out.

…if she puts chocolate chips in her brownies and takes her coffee with cream.

…if she’s ever a mess and if she sees the magic there.

Which is when I looked one last time and noticed the sign on my side mirror.


Closer than they appear.


And people, too.

All of us. Closer than we appear. 

It’s easy, I think, with an altercation and blame to assign, to put myself on one side and that mama on the other. But I suspect she’s closer than she appeared. And that we’re more the same than different. 

People usually are.

Which is important for me to remember. Especially when the lines seem clearly drawn. 

The kid of mine who freaks totally out every time I ask him to shower?
Closer than he appears.

The mama who loses it at her kid at the grocery store?
Closer than she appears.

The people who seem have it all together and who I envy?
Closer than they appear.

The husband who snores at night – maliciously – AT me?
Closer than he appears.

The people who wrong me and the people who are wronged by me?
Closer than they appear.

The people with terrible politics and worse theology?
Closer than they appear, darn it.

Which is wonderful. And terrible. Like the truth often is. More nuanced and scary and life-changing than I want it to be. But still true. 

Closer than we appear. Every last one of us. And so, so human.

photo 1 (70)