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The Next Adventure…

Dear Reader,

First, I want to thank you for coming on this journey with me. When I arrived at the three year mark of my diagnosis and wasn’t dead, I knew I wanted to do something worthwhile with my life. To make a difference. To leave something behind so that when I did die, I’d be able to feel a little less helpless about it. I wanted to write a book. I wanted to write a series of letters to my Lochlan so if I wasn’t around to teach or guide him, his mother’s voice could still resonate in his life. When it was suggested I write those letters as a blog I was hesitant. I didn’t read blogs. I didn’t know blogs. It felt insincere to join a space that I had no knowledge of, or even, real interest in.

When I decided to move forward I did vast amounts of research. I took an extensive New York Times course and I made countless notes on what I thought worked for other bloggers and why. The publishing of my first post was thrilling because I’d never done anything like it before. My voice was “out there”. I was no longer anonymous or protected. I had allowed my story to be public and I had made myself accountable to that persona.

Leah Lee  002In the meantime, I found I loved writing. I loved the opportunity to be honest and reflexive. I loved connecting with people, both strangers and close friends but, most of all, I was grateful for the catharsis. Writing made me feel less afraid. Every post I published was one less thing I would never be able to say. The process of creating the world of ‘In Case I’m Gone’ gave me a power I no longer had in real life. It allowed me to be in charge of my own story. It became less about what was happening to me and more about what I could learn from it. Writing, and hearing from those who were reading, made me feel less alone, less panicky, less fearful that soon there would be nothing left of me than a picture in a frame. Everything I published became a reminder that I had lived. That I was real. That I’d loved and cared and made mistakes and learned from them all.

underwood picWhen I was approached to write this blog as a book I was thrilled. It was what I’d hoped for. The opportunity to write my story in a forum I really understood. To leave a part of me behind. To be able to look back on my life and feel as if I’d done something real, something tangible. What I didn’t realize at the time was how long it would take to write that book. How difficult it would be to honor someone else’s idea of how it should look and feel while still making it my own. It took me almost three years to get it right. To have a book that really felt like me. This wasn’t some fictional character’s story. This was my real life and I had to do it justice. It had to be exactly right.

Though I continued to write the blog I found it was a real effort to keep the two things separate. I’d have an idea about something and think, is this a blog or a chapter? Is it on message? Does it serve a purpose? Would anyone care? Lochlan_McGowan-152It was a crazy amount of work and, I’m not ashamed to say, there were months where I wasn’t sure what I was even doing anymore and the book would sit completely dormant. When everything clicked last summer I was able to rewrite the book in it’s entirety in just over three months and, after two more of rewrites for my agent, by January we were ready to submit to eight different publishers.

I’ve never worked harder on something in my life. I’ve never done anything as intimate or daunting. I put my heart and soul into those pages and it felt right. In many ways it made my struggles feel worthwhile. As if coming to terms with my own death I could potentially help others live a better life. It felt hopeful and personal and, dare I say it, successful. The day I finished I cried. I cried my eyes out from relief and exhaustion and pride. I’d done something, something real and, at the time I said, “Even if the only person who ever reads it is Loch. It’ll be worth it.” 

photo copy 2Little did I know how true those words might be. As of now, all eight publishers have passed. Passed in the most glowing, complimentary way but, passed all the same. Apparently everyone loves the book but doesn’t know how to sell it and in a world of marketing and branding and everything being for sale this isn’t particularly good news. I can’t properly express the greatness of my disappointment but, I can say, I’m almost positive it’s not the end of that tale. The outcome may not be what I’d hoped, but the product is. I’ve written a book I’m truly proud of and, hopefully, someday many of you will want to read it. For now, I have to be resigned to it sitting on a shelf.

Which brings me to today. I haven’t been writing much lately and, though I could blame it on a million “busy” things, I’ve come to realize it’s because I’ve reached a crossroad. The completion of my book, though not culminating in the desired result, still represents the end of a journey. A journey I started in 2011 and one that’s now reached its’ conclusion. Lochlan is finally at an age where he’ll remember many of things I’ve said. He’s old enough that he might actually get to know me. I’ve made a singular impact on his life and, even if I haven’t, I’ve left a tangible part of myself behind in my writing. No matter what happens to me now I’ll have existed for him and, honestly, that’s all I ever wanted.

IMG_2326I am called to something new. I’m not exactly sure what it is but, until I take my foot out of this world I’ll never be able to firmly plant myself in another. I have a million things to say and I don’t want to feel boxed in by a “brand” or “message”. I’ve loved writing from the perspective of a mother who’s dying because, I am and I will but, these days I feel drawn to tell a different story from a different perspective and, if I’ve learned anything from being sick it’s that you have to listen to your heart. I could write ‘In Case I’m Gone’ until I was, but for now, I’m actually here and I owe it to myself to see where the next road leads.

Thank you for supporting me. For listening to me. For reaching out and sharing with me. I wish you luck and love and success on your own journey. Hopefully, sooner rather than later, I’ll be writing for you again but, this time from the pages of a book, the dialogue of a movie or, even, from the mouth of a politician who believes, as I do, that we as a people can do better than we are.

I thank you from the bottom of my heart for supporting me as I found my voice. I promise to try and do something truly worthwhile with it before I go.

All my love,

xo Leigh


Blind Support

Dear Loch,

Your Dad and I recently came to watch your after school Ninja Presentation. It was a culmination of what had been learned over the past semester and a graduation ceremony as you move on to the next headband. They can’t call it a belt because the whole thing is more game based lessons rather than any formal martial arts training. To be honest, I don’t really understand it. I’m not sure what you’re doing or learning in these classes because it sure as heck isn’t any actual skills but, you throughly enjoy it so, we continue to sign you up no matter how pointless it might appear from the distance of an adult mind.

IMG_450644036This was the fifth presentation I’ve been to. The first couple were quite enjoyable because I went into them with zero expectation. You were just cute and committed and I dug it. By the third and fourth presentation I knew what to expect but, despite the minimal skills presented, I always felt proud because you took the whole thing so seriously. Clearly working hard and doing your best, you were respectful of your Sensei and committed to the process. What more could I ask for? By the time this presentation rolled around, however, I’m ashamed to admit I was kind of wishing there was something I could do to get out of it. Despite my pride in watching your hard work, the presentation itself is a pretty tough hour to sit through. I support you unconditionally but keeping a pleasant smile on my face while most of the kids fall on the ground in convulsed fits of goofiness and laughter while seemingly incapable of remembering what a line is and generally hard pressed to preform even a single move is quite difficult for me.

What I’ve held on to during these master classes in patience is that my child’s seemed capable of rising above the “noise”. The attention and respect you’ve always shown your teachers and the other children amidst the chaos impressed me. You seemed to understand when you should be quiet and when you should be talking and you always performed like a champion when it was your turn. Are you an amazing ninja? No. But, you always put forth an amazing effort.

Quotation-Jack-Kinder-life-expectations-achievement-Meetville-Quotes-186285I don’t need you to be the best. I just need you to be your best and, untill now, you’ve never let me down.

This time however, as I sat there watching the craziness, I found myself getting more and more twitchy. Not only did the Sensei have to come over and tell you and your friends to be quiet three times (with me giving you the hairy eyeball on a number of other occasions…) but, when it was your turn to present, you were all over the place. Giggling. Laughing. Falling over. Talking back to the Sensei in a cheeky/show-off way, forgetting almost every move and just generally acting like a cut up. At one point I leaned over to your Dad and said, “When does unconditional support end? We can’t tell him he did great. He’s doing awful.” Your Dad just shook his head. Neither of us knew.

After one particularly bone headed move, where you clearly could have done what was asked of you if you’d only been paying attention, I muttered, “Uhhhh, that was terrible…” and the mother in front of me turned around and looked at me as if I’d screamed “You SUCK!!!” at the stage. I was simultaneously embarrassed and defensive. Was I an asshole parent? Should I be just smiling and clapping like she was? Why should I feel guilty for not being impressed by my child’s bad behavior? Her child had wrestled another kid to the ground during his turn, not because he was supposed to but because he wasn’t listening when he was told to stop, and she just sat there giving him the thumbs up and sharing a laugh with her husband about how silly and wonderful he was.

1484c8b77a4b35d6864c7ec7a19e7ff3Look, I believe kids should have ample opportunity to be silly but I also believe they should understand when that behavior is not appropriate and I think it’s the parent’s job to help them make those distinctions. Being inappropriate and disrespectful to your teachers and the people who’ve given up their time to come and watch you is not, in my humble opinion, worthy of a double thumbs up. Sure, I might have muttered you were terrible but, that’s because you were. You could be a terrible ninja and I wouldn’t care. I’d smile and clap and cheer. But you don’t earn my praise and respect for not even trying. What lesson does that teach?

You knew I was less than thrilled with how it had gone so when you finished you came over and said “That was really bad wasn’t it?” After feeling like the s*&^est mother on the planet for about 10 seconds while I weighed the consequences between being blindly supportive or honest I said, “Well you’re not bad but, that wasn’t great was it?” You looked at me earnestly and said, “No.” I said, “Look babe, I’m always proud of you but I can’t say I’m proud of what you did here today.” As you started to blame your friends and the younger kids I stopped you and said, “I’ve seen a lot of these presentations Loch and I know a lot of these kids aren’t respectful but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be.” I reminded you that you were one of the oldest kids in the room and more was expected of you. That the parents come to see what you’d learned and that the Sensei wanted to show what they’d taught but that we didn’t have the opportunity do either with the way you’d chosen to behave. Then, because you looked completely crestfallen, I finished with, “I love you with all my heart Lochlan and I’m proud of you every single day. I don’t care if you’re amazing. I just care if you do your best.” 

B_vAXfXUwAAh22E.jpg-largeWe left it at that but later in the car, still feeling guilty, I said “The thing is Loch, I want you to trust what I tell you is the truth. That if I tell you you were amazing it’s because you were, not just because that’s what I always say. It wouldn’t mean anything if I told you you were great all the time. I want you to know I’m telling you you were great because it’s the truth. I want my words to mean something. I want you to know that your Dad and I are happy and impressed because you’ve done something worthwhile. Do you understand?” 

You said you did. I think you did. I hope you did.

article-2261903-16EAE9F3000005DC-903_306x410I want to be the kind of parent who encourages you to do your best. Someone who believes your best self takes effort and applauds the effort not just the result. I want to be the kind of parent you can believe in. Who’s praise means something because it comes from a  place of truth and authenticity. Yes, your mother should be your biggest fan but that doesn’t mean everything you do will be perfect. I have high expectations of you because the world will have high expectations of you. You won’t do well in school by spacing out and talking through classes, you won’t move up in a job if you can’t deliver what’s expected of you at the time it’s expected and you won’t succeed in life if you disrespect the time and effort of those around you.

Life doesn’t offer double thumbs up for blowing it so why would I teach you it does?

I love you Loch and I’ll support you in all that you want to do. I just won’t cheer unless you deserve it. Fair enough?

God bless you baby. Put forth your best effort and the rewards will come.

Ever yours,

xoxo Mommy


Lost: The Six Year Fog

Dear Loch,

There will be times in your life when you feel lost. When you look around and don’t recognize where you are. When you question the choices you’ve made and find yourself at a loss for which direction to go. I’m not going to lie, it’s a horrible feeling but, one I believe all those searching for true meaning in life find themselves facing at some point. Let’s be clear, I’m not talking about a crossroads or one of those moments where you need to make a leap of faith. I’m taking about a no man’s land of fog and oblivion. A place of near debilitating uncertainty where your path is nowhere to be seen and you’re dominated by fear and confusion. It’s an ugly time and I know exactly how it feels because I’m there right now. I may not have the answers to fix it but, I can tell tell you no matter how painful it is, it will eventually pass.

I know because I’ve been here before.

feeling+lostEvery six years or so I seem to find myself in a bit of a “what am I doing?” quandary. When I was younger it was infinitely less frightening as there was always a higher power I could lean on to get through…namely, my parents. No matter how despondent I felt, how scared or unsure I might have been, your grandparents were always there to pick me up. To love me while I struggled to find my place. My loss of direction and overall sense of confusion were always buffered by their protection.

As I aged, I came to realize – painfully, I might add – that this was no longer the case. Increased awareness and autonomy allows you to see your parents for the fallible, human people they truly are and, even with the best intentions, it’s impossible and honestly, unhelpful for your parents to protect you from everything. Your father and I want your life to be truly wonderful but your decisions are ultimately yours alone and, as much as we hope to help, it’s your path to follow not ours to dictate. If you’re true to yourself, you will find that some days – weeks, months or even years – will be truly difficult as you search for a life that means something to you.

How I feel now is how I felt after graduate school when I found myself in a job that wasn’t my calling. I’d ignored my dreams in favor of a life with less struggle and, ironically, was now struggling with the consequences of that choice. I’d redirected my path to conform to someone else’s standards and was, not surprisingly, miserable with the results. After crying every day for three months I came to the conclusion I must be clinically depressed. An acquaintance who had recently been committed seemed to be doing really well at a Toronto clinic so I called to see if they would take someone like me. They wouldn’t. So, instead, I partied, complained and worked out too much. I made strange decisions and found pleasure in very few of them. Ultimately, it was a movie that changed my life. Sitting alone in the dark on a hot, summer afternoon I realized I was unhappy because I was ignoring who I was and what I really wanted to do. It didn’t matter how “cool” my job was if it wasn’t the job for me and it didn’t matter how “amazing” my life seemed if I wasn’t happy living it. With the clear realization I was never going to be happy unless I wrote my own story and followed my own dreams, the fog lifted revealing the path I would follow without hesitation. Four months later I was living in New York, a student at an amazing conservatory and fully committed to my lifelong dream of being an actress.

It wasn’t until that dream began to falter that the fog rolled in again.

Living in LA, my career stalled, my plans adrift, my bank account empty and my face far older than was required for my profession I once again found myself crying every day. My shame compounded this time by the fact I now had a witness to my unravelling, your father. Things clearly weren’t working out. All the efforts and dreams and hopes I’d poured into my career were falling short. It didn’t matter how hard I worked or how good I might be, the fact was, it wasn’t happening. I just didn’t know what to do with that information. The reality was I’d become an incredibly overeducated, full time bartender who could barely look herself in the mirror for all the disappointment and self loathing. Who was I if I wasn’t who I thought I was going to be? Where was I going? To what purpose? I focused on photography because it made money but it didn’t reveal my path. I hid in the planning of my wedding, behind the success of my husband and in the excitement of my pregnancy but, I remained without direction. For a long time I tried to convince myself I could find happiness and fulfillment in other’s success. I wanted to believe I could be satisfied just raising you and playing a supporting role to your father’s dream but, when his dream started to waver and I allowed myself to finally admit my love of being a mother wasn’t extinguishing my own ambition, I had to face what I’d put aside and acknowledge how off track I truly was.

It was a painful time but, there’s a lesson in pain if you’re willing to look for it. Something to learn from unhappiness so you never have to deal with the same distress again. What-success-looks-like

Getting sick was the best and worst thing that could have ever happened to me. In the blink of an eye I was reminded, without a shadow of a doubt, who I was, what I wanted and what I cared about most. I recognized what was important and immediately stopped feeling sorry for myself because I wasn’t who I wanted to be. I realized, should I be lucky enough to live longer than expected, I was damn well going to live a life that mattered. I knew I wasn’t going down without a fight and discovered the best way to express that sentiment was through writing. Suddenly, there was my path again. I wasn’t just a sick person, a wife or a mother. I was me and I still had something to say.

The fact that six years later I’m still alive but once again lost is pretty classic. I have a blog that doesn’t make money, a book that’s yet to be published, art pieces I can’t afford to make and a political itch I’m unsure how to scratch. I’m also fully ensconced with your father as he goes through the exact same thing. It’s an uncomfortable time for us. One full of uncertainty and, in my case, quite often despair. I’m questioning everything: my talent, my direction, my mothering, my marriage, my history, my path and every time I come up wanting.351333

My friend Betsy says you “have to ride the horse in the direction it’s going” and though I don’t currently know which way that is, I rest in the knowledge that if I can just hang on, keep working, keep believing, keep listening I will eventually learn the lesson the universe is trying to teach me and all will become clear. I’d LOVE IT to just be easy but, history has shown me, it never is.  Despite the draw, the option to sit down and give up is not one I’m interested in. I know the fog will only lift if I continue to move forward, if I don’t make decisions based on fear and if I stay true to myself and the life I want.

Maybe we’re all phoenixes and, in order to create the ash to rise from, we must allow ourselves to burn. I’m in the fire right now but I know something new and better is coming. I just need to hang on until it does.

Even if it takes longer than you want, if you listen to your voice the path will always reveal itself. Pain and uncertainty are simply a necessary part of growth and rebirth.

I love you always.

xo Mommy



Drowning in Reality

So, we were robbed again.


Almost one year to the day our car was broken into and all of our luggage and bags were stolen, it happened again and it hit me really hard. We took a family bike ride. One of the first opportunities I’ve had to really participate in something physical in a while and it was wonderful. A full two hours of talking and riding together. My boys off roading while granny here tooted along with her oxygen watching their adventures to the rhythmic puff of my O2. When we finally arrived back at the car it was to the talk of ice cream and watching the second Harry Potter since we’d finished reading the book the night before.

As we came up on the car, getting off our bikes in the open dirt parking lot, I was struck with the fact that it appeared to be unlocked. Our car locks itself using an outside keypad but, since it has a history of acting up, I’d insisted Sean bring his set of keys lest we get locked out after our ride. The car being unlocked made no sense. We’d definitely locked it. We’d done a whole song and dance around locking it. Sean told me it was probably because he’d been close to the car when I’d tried to open it but it seemed weird to me.

IMG_443553413-2After Sean put the bikes on the rack – Loch and I passing the time racing each other (something I can’t do more than twice without gasping for breath but attempted anyway because I hate feeling like the “lazy” parent who doesn’t do anything fun) – we piled into the car to continue our lovely day. It was at that point I reached for my purse, the one I’d hidden in the back under the passenger seat like I always do. Out of site, out of mind and all that. When I couldn’t reach it I told Sean to stop the car and I hopped out to open the back door and grab it. When it wasn’t there I looked across under the driver’s seat thinking I must have just put it there by mistake and that’s when the panic set in. The next few moments consisted of the three of us tearing the car apart, hoping against hope I’d randomly put it somewhere different but really knowing, all along, it was gone.

The five minutes following were a Master Class in futility. We may as well have laid on the ground and had a tantrum. We ran around looking in random cars as if our stolen items would just be sitting on someone else’s seat. We frantically asked strangers if they’d seen anything. Sean even asked a guy to open his trunk. We called the restaurant we’d been to earlier in hopes I’d just lost my mind and left it there and, I made the incredibly classy move of screaming at a mostly empty parking lot, that “whoever took my purse is a TOTAL A*^H#@)!”

440798Just first rate immaturity epic fail parenting.

After the breakdown we got down to it and started making calls. The first officer I spoke to couldn’t have been less interested and decided our conversation was an appropriate time to correct my semantics. “If you weren’t there Ma’am it wasn’t a robbery, it was a theft.” Here’s the thing. I actually know that. I know that from the LAST TIME  our things were stolen! I understand I wasn’t held up by gunpoint but, come on, you can’t used the word “theft” as a verb and, quite frankly, after you’ve had your ID, credit cards, bank cards, smart phone, car keys, house keys, alarm fob, sunglasses, makeup, and medicine (among many other things – the purse itself for instance) taken, correcting my choice of verbiage was not particularly helpful. What he did recommend was that the police report could be filled out in a “timely manner” but that calling the banks and credit card companies should be done right away.

Taken 2 Red Carpet Premiere - 38th Deauville American Film FestivalThe first card I called to cancel already had a charge on it. 4 minutes prior someone had purchased $43.88 of gas at a station not 5 minutes away. Hearing this Sean turned into Liam Neison in Taken 7. He tore over to the station (promising not to get us in an accident) while I stayed on the phone with the bank reversing the purchase and canceling my other 3 cards. We pulled into the Chevron Dukes of Hazard style and Sean jumped out and started looking into all the cars. He then went inside to discover the thieves had just left. Turns out they were able to use our card (without the pin) because they had our zip code (from my ID) and that’s all gas stations require to confirm who you are. The most we got out of it was the pump number and based on the time and amount spent we can have the manager check the surveillance (when she’s working) to see if the cameras recorded a license plate or perpetrators on video.

As we drove from the service station to the police station it dawned on us that, not only did the thieves have my purse and wallet, they also had our home address with our house and car keys. Holy *&^%! They could be there right now cleaning it out! They could be driving away in Sean’s car! We couldn’t fill out a police report!! We had to get home!!! We peeled away from the police station the backup camera screaming. We couldn’t even be sure the ‘secure alarm’ report on Sean’s phone was accurate because my keys also included the alarm fob so all our potential house gutters had to do was press the button and safely turn it off. Bah!!!!!!

Over the next 4 hours we had every lock in our house changed ($250), set up an appointment with the alarm company to reset our codes for the missing fob ($277.70). Drove to the Ford dealership to reprogram Sean’s key and have my key replaced ($350), made an appointment to have Sean’s car keys reprogrammed and all the locks changed ($1600), talked to AT&T about what do do about the phone I’d had for less than 2 weeks but now needed to be completely replaced ($899) along with apple care ($100), attempted to navigate the DMV website for a replacement license (first available appointment: 3 months) and talked on the phone to our insurance company who were less than pleased that we were making yet another claim so soon after our last one. Oh, and Sean went back and filed the police report.

Having things stolen from you is a violation you’re never quite prepared for. If you’re someone who would never do such a thing, it hits you like a ton of bricks. You can’t wrap your head around it. How does someone just take something that isn’t theirs? How can you screw someone over like that? How do you carry that purse or wallet or wear those sunglasses? What goes through your mind when you find all those medications or a blood oximeter? Do you feel bad or do you just not care? This isn’t a Robin Hood situation. We weren’t ^%#@*s to someone and got what we deserved. There’s nothing noble or understandable about this. It’s just awful and, according to the police officer we did file the report with (a very nice man eating his sad squished PB&J out of the lunchbox he, obviously, brought from home to save money himself) this is something that happens ALL THE TIME.

This is just the tip of the problem (Bernie Sanders Facebook meme)

This is just the tip of the problem (Bernie Sanders Facebook meme)

I get it, people are struggling. The rich get richer and the rest of us are drowning. I understand it because I feel it. The cop eating his broken chips out of a Ziploc feels it. The manager of the service station who won’t be in for 2 days feels it. My family, with all our hours and hours of work and very little to show for it feels it. Something is wrong with our society and things are reaching a tipping point. I just read a great article in Elle about the hyper educated poor. About academics who are subsisting on food stamps despite the fact they have a PhD and jobs at universities. People are hurting and something has to give.

The thing is, our family’s has been running on fumes for long time and we’ve told ourselves time and again our hardships are almost over, that things are finally going to change. That we couldn’t work this hard for this long just to fail at the 10 yard line. As Linda Tirado, whose blog on her minimum-wage existence catapulted her into the national spotlight last year, wrote in her new book, Hand to Mouth: “Being poor while working hard is fucking crushing.”* Sean and I always figured you don’t swim 500 miles just to die a mile from shore. Yes, things were hard. Sure we’d been dealt some seriously tough cards but, it was all leading to something good right? The struggle, for all it’s pain, was there to make us stronger and better so when our ship finally did come in it would be that much more worth it… right? Darkest before the dawn? But yesterday, having those people just TAKE from us was too much for my little soul to handle.

When I’d finally dealt with all the logistics I could, I completely shut down. I internalized. I felt like someone flushed the toilet and my life was just going down the drain. What, really, was the point of fighting? We’d been doing it for so long. Maybe I was done. Look, we’re artists. We live an artist’s existence. That means 4 to 5 jobs between us, lean months that overshadow the fat, working till all hours of the night and waiting, waiting, waiting for our break to finally come. Compound that with the financial and emotional strain of being chronically and, technically, terminally ill while trying to raise our child in today’s “bigger is better” world and we’re at the end of our rope on a daily basis. Everything is strained. Our bank account, our marriage, our patience, our tolerance. I understand what drives people to steal. I just don’t understand how they do it.

After Loch had gone to bed I asked Sean if he thought we were cursed. He looked at me like I was crazy but I was really asking. Every day I get up and try and make it work. I push the fear and worry and realities aside and put on my positive face. I interact with the world. I try to help other people. I do my best to be a supportive wife and good mother. I wrote a book. I do this blog. I raise my child. I run the school’s fundraiser. I’m involved. I’m committed. I’m living every day the best I can but yesterday, yesterday, I just shut down. My fight left me. My positive mantras failed. I felt done and broken. I felt as if it was just one too many things. It felt like the straw.

I went to bed a zombie. Maybe the world had just become too shitty. Maybe we really were just going to drive our country to disaster or civil war or world annihilation. Maybe things wouldn’t work out. Maybe God really did hate me. How else do I explain all the bad luck? My conscious mind was aware of how many blessings I have. How many good things surround me but, it had been a heck of a week. A heck of a year. A heck of a decade and I was spent. I wondered aloud, to Sean’s horror I’m sure, if all the struggle and bad luck and pain and effort was all for nothing. Maybe it wasn’t going to work out. Maybe our lives were just f*^#ed and I should just accept it.

I woke up in the morning and lay there listening. Sean and Loch were getting ready for school (something I normally spearhead) and though I was grateful to Sean for being kind and letting me rest, it also made me feel numb, as if I had no purpose. I considered going back to sleep and pretending my life wasn’t happening but, despite the draw, the reality of checking out doesn’t really suit me. Real life, even with all it’s struggles, isn’t like that. It doesn’t matter how sh^%#y it gets, it goes on and it’s your choice to either deal or die. I didn’t fight my disease this hard just to roll because my purse was stolen. I considered the alternative. I just decided not to choose it.

kim-kardashian-33I may be infuriated with the expectant, entitled behavior of people who have no real struggles yet continue to complain. I may be inspired to punch the newsstands at the “issues” of the rich and famous. I might scream at my computer bitterly when I read about corporations getting tax refunds while the rest of us drown in reality. I may be livid with the illegal behavior of someone who chooses to break into my car and steal my life but I can’t give up. What’s the point of that?

My Dad told me how proud he was of how I’d “handled” the situation and I burst into tears. I felt like an imposter just like I do when people tell me I’m “brave” to deal with my disease. I don’t deserve the praise. Half the time I feel like I’m barely holding it together. But, I also resent having to live up to that kind of compliment. I didn’t handle it well. I snapped at my child and yelled at my husband. I allowed myself to feel dead inside and I’d teetered on the verge of throwing in the towel. I may not have cried. Perhaps I didn’t wallow in a “this is so unfair, why me” blah blah, but I’d thought terrible things. I’d shut down. I’d considered giving up. Every day is a struggle for us and this particular situation combined with everything else that’s currently on our plates just pushed me over the edge. I needed to have those feelings in order to move past them and being complimented for not having them felt grossly unfair. Compliment me for not wallowing, for moving on the next day, for getting on with it but don’t praise me for breezing past them, because I didn’t nor, should I have been expected to.

It-does-not-matter-how-many-times-you-getUltimately I’ll leave this post and move on. I’ll get new cards and new ID. I’ll replace my credit cards and change my online information. I’ll get a new bag, and new keys, and new codes. I’ll do all I need to in order to reset my life but, I felt the way I did yesterday for a reason. Having your purse stolen sucks but, it shouldn’t break you unless your life is already on the verge. I need to find a way to get my life to a place where terrible, frustrating, inconvenient things can happen and not be devastating.

Terrible, yes. Soul crushing, no.

The fight goes on. I’ll keep you posted.

xo leigh


* Elle magazine, December 2104 “School of Hard Knocks”.

Ringing the Bell

For Christmas this year some dear friends gave us a bell. It wasn’t just a pretty bell or a decorative bell, it was a bell with a story and the story went something like this:

A bell symbolizes magical enchantments.

As our family welcomes 2015 it will be in mindful awareness that we’ll ring the bell recognizing “the little moments”… A big fat belly laugh, a good talk, a yummy meal, a fragrant summer breeze, a beautiful moon, an unexpected hug, a giggle that echoes through the house or a snuggle on a rainy day…

Knowing how lucky we are to be in the little moments. 

Right now. The present. Where life happens. We are in it. 

 We are grateful for YOU.  As we bring in the New Year we will be ringing our bell in celebration of  YOU in our lives.

 Happy Holiday and may the New Year bring you a waterfall of beautiful “little moments” that make you feel loved and lucky.

What’s so lovely about a gift like this is that it isn’t so much a thing as an idea. An idea that, if allowed, has the power to change your life by simply adjusting your perspective. This fabulous family’s present wasn’t so much the gift of a small, reverberating piece of metal but, rather, the gift of awareness. In telling us they loved and appreciated us, our friends were reminding us to love and appreciate ourselves, to be mindful of the world around us and the small, often passed over moments that make it special and uniquely ours and, since receiving their gift, I’ve found myself infinitely more conscious of those moments both big and small. It’s my hope I’ll be able to hold onto those realizations well into the new year before I need reminding again.

It’s not that I’m physically carrying around the bell or rushing into a room to ring it in order to make a point. It’s more that I’ve accepted the idea of what ringing it represents and, since then I’ve been inspired numerous times to just say “ding” out loud.

IMG_8087My Dad dancing in the kitchen with Loch while my mother laughs and scoots out of the way. Ding. Skating outside with my family in the crisp Canadian air and finding, for once, I’m not out of breath while doing something physical. Ding. My childhood home filled with my childhood friends and the chatter and laughter of our children and families on Christmas Eve. Ding. Lochlan lying on the floor in his undies writing a thank you note to put alongside Santa’s milk and cookies. “I don’t want to just thank him for remembering ME Mommy. That’s too vain. I want to thank him for remembering all the children in the world!” Ding.

IMG_8138There was even a bell hung low on our tree this year so I knocked into it a couple of times while handing out the presents. In the classic Christmas film It’s a Wonderful Life George Bailey’s daughter has the famous line, “Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings” but that wasn’t my first thought when I heard it ring. In those moments when the sweet tinkling filled the air, I was pleased to discover the power of the bell also worked in reverse. In this case it was the sound itself  that reminded me to stop and take stock of where I was and how I was feeling. Of course, given what I was doing, it was difficult not to feel grateful but, I think it could work in any variety of moments.

Summer friends in Winter fun! Ding.

Summer friends in Winter fun! Ding.

My life, despite it’s obvious (and hidden) struggles, is full to the brim of reasons to ring the bell. Multiple moments to stop, take notice and say thanks. This world moves so fast. So many of us are pushed to accomplish more, succeed more, earn more that we often don’t realize – bombing towards our next goal, next desire, next instagram post –  that so much around us is already wonderful, already successful, already complete and joyous.

The bell, whether its’ sound comes before or after those realizations, is a reminder of that.

The bell resonates, not only in the air but, in our hearts and I, for one, am extremely humbled by its’ lesson.

Happy New Year. Go ring your bell.

xo leigh

My love. Ding.

My love. Ding.

I Am Someone’s Mommy

I’ve spoken before about how I often feel like an afterthought in my son’s eyes. How his Dad can do no wrong and I’m a pain in his ass. Sean’s the playmate. I’m the teacher. He’s the joy. I’m the heavy. My illness makes me weak and Sean seems like the most capable man in the world. His Dad shapes breakfast into starships and his Mom insists he put on shoes before we leave the house (the injustice!). I’ve come to accept that, for the most part, I’m lame and Sean’s cool. I don’t like it but, I’ve come to terms with it. He may love us both the same but, I can’t compete. I’m his rock but his Dad’s his Hero and a Hero throws a pretty large shadow.

The other night however, Lochlan was sick. Not crazy sick, just bad cold sick and it had been a long day so, after I put him to bed, I went to sleep myself. Sean was out and, when he got home, Loch woke up and started calling for me. Apparently, no matter what he did, Loch was still asking for me so, eventually, Sean came to wake me up. He apologized, saying he’d tried everything but, Loch just “really needed his Mommy.” 

This is literally how Sean presents Loch's breakfast. There's no competing with that!

This is literally how Sean presents Loch’s breakfast. There’s just no competing with that!

Here’s the thing, I’m an insomniac. Sleep is a struggle for me. When I’m already asleep, I REALLY hate getting up because once I’m up, I’m often up for hours. I’ve spent way too many nights just staring into the darkness worrying, writing notes, breaking down and trolling Facebook, counting the ever shrinking hours until I have to be out of bed again and, just waiting for the sleep that doesn’t come. It’s incredibly frustrating and I really do my best to avoid it at all costs.

I didn’t want to get out of bed that night. I didn’t want to be awake until 3am exhausted at home the next day with a sick child but, my baby was calling for me so, it didn’t matter what I wanted, I was going. I understood. Sometimes you just need your Mom.

He blew his nose and I gave him more cold medicine to break up the phlegm. I refluffed his pillows, straighten his sheets and flipped his blankets and, when he was finally settled, I sang. I sang the lullaby I’ve been singing to him since the first day he was born. I sang it soft and low while I patted his back and scratched his arm. He lay on his side, his little hand resting on my knee and I could feel his tiny shoulder blades through his t-shirt, the little hairs on his forearm, the impossibly soft skin on the top of his hand. I sang and sang and, finally, I just sat. I listened to him breathe. I listened to the sound of his stuffiness, to his little, muffled girggles and, then I made the disastrous mistake of asking if he wanted to blow his nose.

“Mom! You woke me up!!” (I didn’t). “You’re going to have to do it all over again but, this time when you’re done, don’t talk to me after ok?”

“Ok, babe. Sorry about that.” (He’s sick, I’ll give him a break on the tone he’s using.) “DO you want to blow your nose though?”

“Um…Yes.” (blow)

I started again. The singing, the back patting, the arm tickles but, this time, I became aware of how amazing the moment was. I’d passed the fresh out of bed, trying to get back to it phase. I was there now, awake, in it, and the intimacy of the moment, the warmth of being there in the dark with him, the satisfaction of being able to give him the affection he needed, it all overwhelmed me. I was struck by the fact that my love for him had become a tangible thing. A security blanket he craved. Something he needed to hold on to. My very presence was like a xynax for his soul. Despite all the hero worship, in this moment, it was me who made a difference. Me who was required.

IMG_7903The thing is, being diagnosed when Loch was 5 months old, I wasn’t sure I’d ever get to experience that feeling. It didn’t seem as if I’d be around long enough to ever really matter to him. To be remembered or, make any lasting impression on his life but, sitting there quietly on the side of his bed just allowing the song to settle, I recognized I’d made it. I’d lived long enough, and put in enough effort, to register as essential and, it felt amazing.

Eventually I took his hand off my knee, stood up, walked to his doorway and…

Tripped on his door stop.


“Sorry! Sorry Lochie! I didn’t see it.” (Ow. My toe.)

“Can you sing it again?” (It’s my own fault. Damn you rock.)

“Of course baby.”

I crossed back to his bed and sat down. I felt his little hand searching for my knee in the dark.

“When you’re done will you tuck me in too?”

“Do you want your arms under the blankets?”

“No, just my shoulder.”

“Ok, babe. I’ll do that.”

IMG_7838I wasn’t annoyed. I wasn’t tired. I wasn’t rushing to get back to bed. I knew I would be there for as long as he needed me. His little, pudgy fingers softly moved against the flannel of my pants as I started the song again and, this time, I found myself getting choked up. For all it’s efforts, being a parent is an incredible blessing. What an honor it is to be the person who can calm and improve a situation simply with your presence. How extraordinary to be the one looked to for help and guidance, the one who offers security and, in this case, how touching to be the one chosen. The one required above all others.

I sang the song two more times, even after I knew he was asleep, not wanting the moment to end and, every time I sang, the importance of my role grew on me. The repetition was a gift that allowed me to see the wonder.

I am Lochlan’s Mom and, no matter what ends up happening to me, I can say with all certainty that I mattered. That I made an impression on this small, wonderful boy’s life. To him I was irreplaceable.

Thank you Sean. Thank you Lochlan’s cold. Thank you stupid door stop. Thank you beautiful son. Thank you lovely and haunting “Bye Oh By Baby”.

I went right to sleep that night, a completely happy girl and, a totally fulfilled mother.

Blessings to you all.

xo leigh



Tinder: Dating in the New Millenium

Sean and I recently came home to find our baby sitter busy scrolling her Tinder account. Loch was asleep and she was watching a movie on mute while checking out prospects. Having heard of, but never really seen, Tinder I sat down beside her to check it out. An hour later I was STILL there.

Is this is how people date now?! For reals? How old am I? It was completely ridiculous…and totally addictive.

Tinder is an on-line dating app that locates you with GPS then uses your Facebook information to create a profile (nothing about Tinder is posted on Facebook). A Tinder profile is simply your first name, age and “up to” 6 photos of your choice. It also includes any public pages you might have ‘liked’ on Facebook. Tinder then uses an algorithm to find you potential matches and you further narrow the choices by age, distance and appeal.

These days, if you’re single, you’re probably on Tinder. Since I’m not single, and this kind of technology didn’t exist AT ALL when I was dating, I completely missed the boat and, it’s a hell of a party boat!! You can literally “shop” for a person. Our sitter is a doll, with a great sense of humor, and she thought it was a riot to give the old lady her phone and allow her to drive. I learned to “swipe left” on anyone I didn’t think was right for her and press a heart button for those I thought were. I could further “examine” a profile by checking their other photos and short bio and, I could just as quickly discard someone who didn’t make the cut with the touch of an “X”. It took SECONDS for me to judge and decide. “No. No. No. God no. No. Please! Dude, where’s your head?” Even taking the time to look further into someone took less than a minute. You check their pictures – make assumptions based on their aesthetic, background location, clothes and friends – and read their “bio” which seemed to range from the bare minimum – LA<NY<CA or, their height, which apparently is a big thing on Tinder – to cleverly written self-descriptions that offer insight. If you were still intrigued you could “heart” them and their picture was stamped with “Liked” (much like the the post office would stamp a package with “Fragile”) and, if that person also “liked” you, a separate page would appear with the offer to “Send a Message” or “Keep Playing”.

Keep Playing!!! It actually said that. As if the entire thing was a game.

If it was, I was in it to win it.

Our sitter’s the best and she happily sat beside me while I continued to “play”. I became giddy when we (yes we, I was an active participant now) got a match. I was abnormally excited to come up with something clever to say when they messaged her. I was careful to take her personality and likes into account when crafting my response and check before I sent it off but, I know her well so, I think it’d be fair to say, I did a pretty good job of capturing the vibe she was looking to send out. At one point she even said, “Dude, you got him hooked!” and I felt, God help me, proud. You know what’s incredibly attractive? People who are happy, who aren’t really looking, people who don’t feel the pressure of needing anything to lead to anything.

Happily married people can apparently kill on Tinder.

Look, for many reasons I’m glad I’m not single but, it really is a new world out there and, I believe parts of it can be truly fun if you allow them to be. A friend who’s my age recently joined Tinder after a disappointing run with on-line dating and very little help from her married friends. She said the process was horrifying but, it was also kind of awesome to be encouraged to embrace your instantaneous and shallow reaction to people. She said “Tinder teaches you a lot about yourself and your biases”. She told me she realized she was kind of “nameist”. That if the guy was named Io, or Jebbadaiah or, God help her, Five (real name for a real guy who came up shirtless in her pile) she was “swiping left”. I totally get it.

It’s pretty easy to be judgey from the privacy of your own phone. No one gets hurt if your shallow flag flies because no one knows. You either like someone or you don’t and you don’t have to make up a whole song and dance excuse at a bar in order to have them go away. With a flip of your finger they’re just gone. You might go on some bad dates. The guy that turns out to be 4’1″, a grump or, worse, a bully but, that can happen no matter how you meet someone. I went on any number of bad dates as a single person. The guy that did six shots of tequila at a bar before the movie and then proceeded to get into a fight with someone he thought owed him money. The guy who verbally shamed me for over 10 minutes after I ordered a glass of wine because, unbeknownst to me, he had just decided to become sober. The first date who left me sitting alone for 45 minutes in a restaurant without a call, text or apology. Even the waiters wanted me to bail. There are a million jerks out there, how you meet them is kind of irrelevant, you keep trying because one day, the hope is, you’ll finally meet someone good.

Honestly, I found the whole Tinder thing incredibly amusing. I’m sure it can be just devastating if you’re never “matched” with anyone or your dates all turn out to be duds but, without risk, there is no reward. Personally, it made me feel like an incredibly successful matchmaker. I’d look at people’s pictures and say, “Ok, he travels, that’s good” or “He likes animals. That’s important.” Or “Aw, he’s hanging with his niece. You love to do that.”

I picked dudes with tats and piercings because she likes tats and piercings. I chose alternative looking guys I found borderline homeless but, she found hot. I avoided the clean cut guys that appealed to me but were too “boo-jee” for her. Despite being over a decade older, a “married with kids” to her “single, ready to party”, we ultimately had the same goal. We both know she deserves better in the love department. We both want to see her in a solid relationship where she feel good about herself and, just like the friend who’s my age, we both know she’s a terrific girl who deserves a terrific guy. I’m not sure if either of them are going to find him on Tinder but, it seems like a legitimate place to start.

Meeting in a bar, at work, through friends, it seems slow and archaic in today’s busy, busy, go, go, social media is mecca, world. Tinder speaks directly to our culture’s shallowness, our preoccupation with physical attraction and our increasingly limited attention span. It’s a game where the winner gets a date, a hook up, or just personal validation.

Ultimately I had to force myself to stop. It was just too fun. Too addictive. Too tempting.

Single people, I don’t envy your situation but I am slightly jealous of your applications. Permission to flirt without expectation? The ability to follow through only if desired? Picking a date out of a virtual catalogue of potential suitors? I know finding love can be tough, but lighting a flame on Tinder…that’s kinda hot.

xo leigh

ICIG Tinder


The Green Eyed Monster

Dear Lochie,

Like many people, I’ve spent a fair amount of my life dealing with jealousy. At ten I was absolutely dying for a white and green rugby shirt from Benetton but Granny & Granddad, not down with me being a walking billboard, refused to buy me one so I was forced to stew in my desire until that fad had passed. In the seventh grade it seemed as if all of my friends had Roots’ desert boots so I became desperate for a pair. When Christmas came and I unwrapped the box, there were desert boots alright but, they weren’t Roots. Granddad had done done “all the research” and these were “the best ones on the market”. I may have worn them but it wasn’t the same thing as liking them. In the early days you want to be just like your friends, different wasn’t better it was just different. I’m flashing back to that feeling right now with you and your friends. You’re at a stage where you’re really into Pokemon. I didn’t buy into the Skylander craze. I didn’t get down with the Rainbow Loom shenanigans but, you’re older now, know what you want and can’t participate unless you have it. I’m not sure it’s right for me to leave you out of this world just because I know “this too shall pass”. I think it’s important you not always get what you want but, I can’t discredit the comfort felt by fitting in. You’ve struggled recently with certain kids because you’re an individual and don’t just fall in. I wouldn’t change that personality for the world but I also don’t want you to be a complete outsider and if  I can alleviate a tiny bit of that discomfort simply by spending some quality time on Craigslist or eBay I think it’s worth it. The way I see it, this is your version of the rugby shirt, and darn it, I’m going to get those cards for you.

Not that the feeling won’t happen again. High School is ripe with jealousy. You’ll probably covet people’s cars or vacations. Personally, I wanted a boyfriend and was resentful of the girls who seemed to find one so easily. I wanted clear skin and long, tanned legs. I envied the attention the prettiest seemed to receive from everyone and I wished I had a house in the same neighborhood as the majority of my friends. The summer I turned sixteen my friend went on days off from camp and left most of her perfect wardrobe behind. For the next two days I wore all of her stuff. It was terribly bad behavior but she always looked so cool and I was dying to know what that felt like. Years later when I came clean she laughed at my ridiculousness but I still remember how amazing it felt to slip into that “skin” for a couple of days.

In my early twenties I started dating my friend’s ex-boyfriend in a direct violation of the “girl code”. Yes, there was a part of me that thought it was the real deal and allowed myself to believe the relationship was my shot at true love, but there was another part of me that just felt validated by his interest. He’d dated my most perfect friend. The most beautiful and talented and smart and now, now he wanted me. I’d lived in the shadow of my friends for over a decade and his choosing me made me feel worthwhile, as if my existence was somehow justified by hitting the benchmark he’d set with her. I still wasn’t confident enough to realize your self worth shouldn’t be looked for in the eyes of another.

In New York my jealousy was more focused on people’s talent than anything else and, in LA, I found I wasn’t envious of talent so much as opportunity. I felt like I was floundering, apologizing for my age and lack of camera experience, while others were getting their shot at the big leagues. I was even jealous of people’s ability to audition, a skill I’d never quite mastered. Auditioning for theatre? Never a problem. Auditioning for camera? Total suckage. I struggled hard with it and, the more I worried, the worse I was. A casting director once ate through my entire audition and I cried for five hours after.

Even as an adult with full knowledge of my wonderful life – great husband, terrific kid, all the blessings that have kept me around – I still have moments where I feel slightly green. I wish we had more success, more financial security. I can pick up magazines now and my peers are in them. They’re buying second homes and designer clothes. Their work is credited on my TV or they’re lounging in their beautiful kitchens in House & Home. I’m happy for them but there’s also a part of me that feels sick in a “I’m failing to keep up with the Jones” kind of way.

The thing is, you never know what’s really going on with anybody else. From the outside you might think my life was perfect. You wouldn’t know I was sick or that we struggled. You wouldn’t know I can’t have more children or hold down a normal job because of my health. Someone could be completely jealous of me and yet not have a clue what’s really up.

I remember being floored when a friend told me she was going into AA. I had no clue there was any kind of problem. She was one of those people who just appeared to have it all. Her life seemed ideal and easy yet, as it turned out, it was anything but. Every day was a struggle for her and her burdens and pain were only exacerbated by the fact that everything seemed so perfect from the outside, like “What could she possibly have to complain about?”

Yes, I would love an easier life. I wish we had less worry. I want to be able to buy a home I love and furnish it. I’d like to pay bills without strain and freely accept friend’s invitations to parties and trips without any sort of anxiety. That being said however, I realize no matter how many things I still want, no matter what I secretly covet, I already have everything I need. I’ve been blessed with an amazing life and it’s important I attempt, even amidst the craziness of LA, to keep that in perspective. The only thing I should truly be jealous of is people’s health. I was dealt a bad hand in that department and I think a little envy is justifiable. The rest of it…just window dressing.

pikachuI’ve learned that jealousy, no matter how understandable, just holds you back. You can’t run your best race if you’re busy looking at others racers. You can’t better your life if you spend too much time as a spectator to someone else’s. What’s that expression? The race is long but, in the end, it’s only with yourself?

Comparison is only good if you’re looking for the best deal on shoes.

That being said, I’m still getting you those darn Pokemon cards. What can I say? I’ve got a soft spot for that Pickachu.

xo Mom




I was recently in Starbucks – my new go to work space after I discovered how much more I’m able to get accomplished when I don’t make my writing compete with my laundry and dishes – when a father and son came in and sat at the table opposite mine. The father was older than me, maybe forty-five, and the son younger than Loch, close to four. As they enjoyed their separate drinks and explored their different handhelds, I found myself unable to work, not because they were bothering me, but because they were so charming. The little boy was just everything wonderful about childhood squeezed into one person. All fleshy elbows and turned up nose, legs dangling off the floor, his orange ankle socked feet shooting straight up in the air as he sneezed into the arm of his shirt.

Aside from the extreme cuteness and the fact that I wanted to go over and hug and kiss him because I no longer have a three-year-old of my own to cuddle, what struck me most was the boy’s exuberance. His unmitigated joy for almost all things. His outward, visible manifestation of everything that thrilled him. Finding the right table to sit at, taking the phone from his Dad and talking animatedly to the person on the other end, eating his croissant, everything was wonderful and worthy of note. Being told he was allowed to play Angry Birds on his Dad’s tablet resulted in a full body, booty shaking dance that made him fall over. He was just so into everything. He karate chopped the air when the birds hit their target. Pulled out the double fisting air pump “Yes-es!” and exhilarated “I can’t believe this”  Whoooooo’s when he completed a level. He was fabulous and, no matter how into my writing I was, it was impossible to not just abandon it to simply watch this kid exist.

That’s the thing about people who fully commit to life. They’re infectious. It’s too bad we often lose that enthusiasm as we age. Life, bills, marriage, stress, anxiety and, quite frankly, the bloody news just make it more and more difficult to be truly thrilled about anything other than flopping into bed.

The entrance is literally through that fridge! How great is that! Nice play #GoodTimesAtDaveyWaynes

The entrance is literally through that fridge! How great is that! Nice play #GoodTimesAtDaveyWaynes

I guess that’s why I’ve always been such a big fan of parties and holidays and long dinners with people who’s company I love. It’s so amazingly nice to have a reason to leave the everyday behind and live in a moment of excitement no matter how brief. I really wanted to go to this super cool club for my birthday this year. It’s a fully themed Hollywood bar set up like a 1970’s house party where you enter through a vintage beer fridge at the back of a garage sale. What?!?! Come on!! So good!! It’s all shag carpeting and lava lamps and beer served in #1 Dad mugs. I love the idea of it. I love the effort that went into creating it, the attention to detail and the complete lack of irony in which you can embrace it. There’s a roller skating show for crying out loud. How can you not love the idea of putting on wide leg jeans and drinking properly mixed cocktails with your friends in a different decade?

Sean & I at the Speakeasy. We were not the only people dressed up!! Yay enthusiasm!!

Sean & I at the Speakeasy. We were not the only people dressed up!! Yay enthusiasm!!

It was in the same vein that Sean and I planned our school’s fundraiser last year. It was a 1920’s burlesque slash prohibition night at a club owned by the same people as that 70’s place. These genius brothers took one of the oldest private homes in Los Angeles and turned it into a what looks like a very hip, traditional speakeasy. Again, how fun to be greeted by a 1920’s madam in a vintage hotel room just to be directed to a secret set of stairs that leads you to a vintage club? Even knowing how reticent grown ups typically are at the mere suggestion of costumes, we went ahead and encouraged theme dress and it was amazing to see how many people actually made the effort to show up in period. The thing is, once you get over the discomfort of doing something out of the ordinary, people usually have a pretty good time.

Aquaman & his biggest fans!

Aquaman & his biggest fans!

Halloween for most children is right up there with Christmas and their birthday. It’s a BIG deal and they devote themselves to it whole hog. On Loch’s first Halloween, like the newbie parents we were, Sean and I decided to embrace the holiday and try to enjoy it the way the kid’s did. Every year since then we’ve done our best to be the Supemes to our child’s superstar. We try to back up the costume he’s committed to and attempt to have fun while doing it. When he was a three-year-old vampire, we tossed around the idea of being people who’d been bitten but, to ensure we were also entertained, we ended up as Sookie and Jason Stackhouse from the popular vampire show “True Blood”. Loch had fun, but so did we. Last year’s costumes were my favorite so far because Loch’s adamant decision to be Aquaman (a costume that is NOT sold in stores by the way) stumped us on what we should be. After talking though relatively pathetic, homemade jelly fish and squid costumes, we considered – for the first time ever – abandoning our family plan. When we finally figured out something we could get on board with: Punk Aquaman fan club members, it became easy and, once again, fun. Multiple fake face piercings and our son’s own costumed picture silkscreened on our shirts, we arrived at Loch’s school Halloween party with an unbridled enthusiasm that darling boy from Starbucks would have truly appreciated. Plus, we kind of made people nervous, which was an added bonus.

The McGowans circa 1955.

The McGowans circa 1955.

It’s fun to be committed. It’s incredibly enjoyable to dive in to things with enthusiasm and, from what I’ve noticed over the years, that kind of keenness is contagious –  even if it’s just to yourself. Putting energy into something and getting positive feedback inspires you to make that kind of effort again and do it even better. That’s exactly how my family ended up with our increasingly elaborate Christmas card.

Every year we’ve been married Sean and I have sent out a Christmas card. For a while we couldn’t afford an actual card so we’d send a short letter with a separate photo we’d mass produced. Personally, I love getting Christmas cards but I wish every single one had a picture. I love to see people. How they’ve changed. How they look. It’s nice to get smiling faces in your mailbox and really, so much better than what usually ends up in there. I’m looking at you bills and black widow spiders! Anyway, in 2010, burnt out trying to write our Christmas wrap up, Sean came up with the idea to put our family on the cover of a magazine called McGowan (fonted to look like Esquire) with just teaser titles to highlight our year. It was easy and fun and the response we received made it well worth the effort we’d put into it. We were so glad we’d done it, in fact, we found ourselves in the catch twenty-two of trying to outdo ourselves the following year.

The McGowans circa 1973.

The McGowans circa 1973.

We failed.

2011’s photo strip was cute – with the added bonus of it’s size leaving absolutely no room for any sort of written debriefing – but at the end of the day we felt we could have done better. So, the next year we stepped it up and did a full fledged 1950’s family portrait that entertained us probably more than the people who received it. It was a riot. In fact, it was that card that solidified for us that sending a Christmas card to your friends and family shouldn’t feel like a burden. It should be a happy thing that makes YOU smile as much as anyone else. If you’re not enjoying it what are you doing other than adding yet another thing to your “To Do” list? So, with that idea firmly in mind, and Loch old enough to truly be on board with the revelry, we went straight over the top last year with a card inspired by Sean’s Barry Gibb hair phase and shot a Bee Gee’s type Holiday Album cover. I take the fact that people tell us they now “look forward to our card” as both a compliment and reminder that we’re doing something right.

Take a moment and remind yourself to embrace life with the joy of your inner orange socked kid. Find the things and people that make you want to double fist pump or scream whooooo! Why not commit to a little escapism? Is it really so terrible to engage in things that might make you smile?

DSC_0818That little boy’s voice. His shining face. Every day my Lochie grows farther and farther away from being a little person and I want so desperately to make sure he doesn’t lose his joy while doing so. He’s still excited about everything. He’s still lives in a world without shame or self judgement but, I see it changing. He’s aware of people now. He’s mindful of who’s watching. He’s becoming conscious of what’s “cool” and what his friends are (or are not) into.

That little boy in Starbucks didn’t care anyone was there but his Dad. He was in the moment every single second and I want my boy to be able to hold onto that feeling for as long as possible. I don’t want him (or me, for that matter) to turn into some adult who’s forgotten how to have fun. Someone too jaded to be thrilled. Too caught up to let go. I want Loch to live in a world where, even with all the real problems and worries he’ll face, he will still strive to find the moments where he can fall over laughing.

In my perfect future that joy will advance past Angry Birds…but, you know, I’ll take what I can get.

xo leigh

The Waxing and Waning of Friendships

I recently unfriended my first person on Facebook. I’ve never done it before. I’ve blocked people’s feeds when they post too frequently or I heartily disagree with their politics. I’ve ignored friend requests, not denying them so much, as simply leaving them in Facebook purgatory because the alternative feels judgey. Who am I to deny their “friendship”? We deny friendship in real life – when we can’t find the time to “grab a drink” or “get the kids together” – because time in real life is finite and it’s truly impossible to be friends with five hundred people, but on line it’s just a click, so what’s my problem? The thing is, I’m not into “collecting” friends. Though I consider myself incredibly lucky to have a rather large and eclectic group of extended friendships that seems to span the globe, my day to day group of friends is really quite intimate. Real time friendships take more effort than a thumbs up or the occasional comment. There aren’t enough hours in the day to be part of everyone’s life so you have to make tough decisions. Social media sites like Facebook and it’s ilk (Twitter, Instagram) are already monster time suckers so, to realistically get anything out of them, you have to keep your numbers low there too. I recently decided I was wasting too many hours – mostly sleeping hours – devoting myself to other people’s thoughts. So I’ve decided that when it comes down to it, if someone’s life has little or no baring on my own, I can’t take it on virtually or in real life. It’s unrealistic to think you can truly be friends with everyone, and even though the effort of being friends on line is a minimal one, I still find it necessary to make that call. A vast amount of followers doesn’t stroke my ego.* I think if you really want to properly assess how well you’re liked it’s best to look at the faces you see rather than the feeds you follow.

This has been a big year for friendship shifts for me. I haven’t made this many new friends since starting University and I was beginning to think “my people” would always just live in another country (Canada, UK, Hong Kong) and I’d have to just accept the loneliness that came with that fact. However, with the natural reshuffling that comes with changing schools and jobs, I’ve found that people I was doing everything with for a time are suddenly no longer part of my life and, people I didn’t know a year ago, are some of my closest friends, just scratching the surface of what could be. I found people I can truly count on this year, people I’m not ashamed to ask for help, people who share the same values and sense of humor and, for that, I feel incredibly grateful. This is not to say if I saw some of my previous friends on the street I wouldn’t be thrilled to catch up, simply that the relationships didn’t have a strong enough root system to continue to grow without the constant attention of daily care. Though the waxing and waning of friendships can feel uncomfortable, I think it’s a natural and necessary part of growth and change.

UnknownThe decision to actively “unfriend” someone, however, is an interesting one.  In real life, that process can be quite messy. I was unfriended in real life over the past two years by someone very close to me and for a while I fought it. I was sad and angry. I felt unheard and used and disappointed, but ultimately I came to understand my friend simply made the decision that, despite our past together, she’d prefer her life move forward without me and there was no alternative but to accept her decision. I’m sorry to see her go but I believe the future remains unwritten. I’m not hoping for a reconciliation. I’m just not writing one off.  Unfriending someone on line is so much simpler. All it takes is a click of the mouse and that person is no longer part of your life. If I’m being honest it was actually a pretty liberating experience and I’m not exactly sure why I didn’t do it sooner. This particular person added nothing to my life and, quite frankly, just seeing his name on my newsfeed made me angry. The whole act of cutting ties was clean and simple and, in many ways, preferable to the drawn out desolution of a real life relationship.

2c940fe0bc7f92b7adeeac85a2ae640dWhether you fight with someone or grow apart naturally, losing friends is a part of life. Some friendships are location sensitive, some are born out of necessity, others simply have a shelf life. As you change, so too do your friends, and the combination doesn’t always work. This process can work in reverse as well. People you aren’t close with as a younger person can grow into dear friends over time. My closest confident and I were peripheral friends through high school and college, drifted apart for years and then found each other again as adults. What we share now is stronger and more important than anything we could have had in our youth. Life dealt us both some serious blows and we’re ultimately better and more connected because of them.  This isn’t to say friendships from childhood can’t be wonderful life long relationships, just that over time certain ones will become like feeds on your Facebook page, passive and perfunctory. You’re happy to hear about their lives when you can, but you no longer actively pursue the relationship.

mama-kat-promptVisiting Toronto this summer I realize this habit of limiting of my numbers extends into my old life as well. At first I was concerned I was becoming an introvert, happier to stay home with Loch and my parents than rush out to see anybody, but now I recognize it’s simply that I prefer to catch up one-on-one rather than in a big group or a crowded setting.** Sean and I have a pretty large group of extended friends in LA with whom I have no problem actively socializing. The difference is, I’m not trying to update them all on my past year. They proably saw me, at most, two weeks ago. In Toronto, there’s a lot more to say, a fire to rekindle from a glowing ember rather than one already roaring and I just find it’s easier to build up one fire at a time.  It’s a hoot to get together as a group, just not the way to truly visit. It’s my experience that I either become sick of my own voice – while I recount whatever story best explains my past year over and over – or never get past the small talk pleasantries that dominate a chaotic setting. I prefer to take the time for each person separately. That way I can properly see how they are rather than simply graze the surface. If I can do both…all the better.

tumblr_n0sv52Ixkg1t5zonco1_250I’m also making an effort to not just disappear from my LA friend’s lives simply because I’m no longer physically in LA. I usually go radio silent for six to eight weeks a year while I’m in Canada, but I started to notice that when I returned it was increasingly difficult to pick up where I’d left off. I don’t have the history with the LA people that I do with the Toronto people. So instead of trying to build a fire from a glowing ember, I found I was dealing more with a lukewarm ash. Old friendships are like old growth trees, requiring minimal maintenance to continue to thrive, new relationships are like saplings. They need more tending if you don’t want them to die. I’ve recently been lucky enough to add some great people to my life and it’s my hope that making a concerted effort to keep in touch will ensure we’ll hit the ground running when I get back.

So, while un-friending my first person was strangely freeing, I find the act of continuing to re-friend people even more empowering. Friendship is a fluid state of being. There can be no permanence without effort and I want my friends, virtual and otherwise, to know their connection to me is an active choice. That they are respected and appreciated and that I will do my best to never take them for granted. I think you can live without money, you can live without a spouse, you can live without children but I don’t believe it’s possible to live without friends. For those of you who add to my life, I thank you. To those of you I have yet to know, I await it and, for those of you I loved once, I appreciate the memories and wish you well.

Best to all of you.

xo leigh

*Millions of followers for this blog however, that would be a completely different thing!! It’s your public life vs. personal I suppose.

** Particularly where people are smoking. I just can’t do it anymore. Toronto, stop smoking man. You’re killing yourselves and ruining patios for me. 🙂