Back in August I went away for a 40th birthday weekend with my best friend and I put this dress on and went to dinner. We had a great night. I was 30 pounds heavier then. And I was happy. I felt a light inside.
I got home from that trip and I wrote a blog post about wearing this dress. That post went viral and opened the door to what I now consider to be my burgeoning career. And I didn’t look or feel the way I do in this same dress today.
In August, I was struggling to believe I was beautiful. I wanted to say that if I could wear the dress the way I felt in it, if I could believe I was beautiful, then anyone could. My message of positivity was shared by thousands of people. My light was shining.
Then, specifics aside, in October I learned that I was living in a lie and didn’t know it. For a long time. And things that no woman should ever have to hear were said to me, by someone I loved. So much.
I heard things that I’ll never be able to un-hear. Things that made me realize why I was struggling to believe I was beautiful in the first place. Things that made me realize why I was having a hard time loving myself. Things I’m left with now to rattle around inside my brain. But there’s still a brightness.
I look the way I do in the dress now because of a broken heart. And that’s okay. I mean, I choose to believe that it’s going to be okay. As hurt as I am, I still have happiness. My mind and body and heart are healing. And I’m thankful for that.
NOW I KNOW that it’s never been about my body anyway. I don’t think the first post was about my body and I don’t think that this post is about my body.
I think it’s all been about spirit. It’s all been about strength and self-love and the struggle to save myself. From myself and from others. From outside forces. To preserve that little flicker of light that I’ve never let go out. A constant promise that’s always lived in me to stay bright inside to survive. As bad as things have gotten in my life and as hard as things may get for me, I know that the dark is no place for me to live. And I will keep this light on to lead me out.
Today I realized that there’s something good about breaking. It creates cracks for the painful things to flow out. Things that have been poisoning you inside and you didn’t know it. And if you want to, you can choose to try to replace those things with joy. With things that were once healthy and happy and good. I hope.
This is me in a past life. Maybe 12 years ago. Before I was a mom. Dancing in the dark one night with my friends and a sweet, sweet beer buzz. I love this picture. There’s joy in me in this picture. Before I started to close myself in.
Now that I’m broken open, I’m going to try find that joy again. The joy that was inside this girl. Some days I don’t know if I can, but I know I’m going to try to make this breaking count for something good.
I’m going to try to replace this betrayal with a million tiny beautiful, brave things. I’m going to try to replace this heartbreak with hope. I’m going to try to replace this disbelief with dancing. And I’m going to try to stay so beautifully broken open that I never get closed in again.
I’m going to just come right out and say it. Everybody needs to take it down a god damn notch with the cauliflower. I mean, sweet and sour Jesus, this has gotten out of control. Growing up in northern New York in the early 1980s, if my mother had told me that one day people would try to convince me that mashed up and flattened out steamed cauliflower would be an acceptable base for a pizza, I would’ve packed up my Pound Puppies and run away from home to join the circus. Ain’t nobody messing around with cauliflower at the circus, I’ll tell you that much right now.
Full disclosure, Michelle Obama’s Cauliflower Mac & Cheese recipe is one of my favorites. And I’ll sit right down and eat an entire head of roasted cauliflower in one sitting. Don’t you think I won’t. I’ll give you and your cauliflower ricing comrades kudos on roasted cauliflower until the cauliflower cows come home, but don’t be comin’ up in here with your cauliflower brownies and thinking that I’m going to let you sit on my couch and watch Fixer Upper with me. UH UH. Not happening.
Ok, I’m sorry for what I said about riced cauliflower. I take it back. I’ve made Tasty’s Cauliflower Fried Rice recipe a few times, and, it’s really good. I was fine with that, but YOU HAVE CROSSED A LINE with your Cauliflower Eggs Benedict. Benedict Arnold or whoever Eggs Benedict was named after is probably rolling over in his yolk-soaked grave right now.
I know you’ll have me believe that carbs are the enemy. I understand that you want me to think that potatoes and flour are for heathens and mole people. But, let me tell you something. If you DARE show up to my house warming brunch with Cauliflower Everything Bagels, I will literally fist fight you in front of the quiches and then I’ll call your mother AND your grandmother and I will tell them what you’ve done. If you can live with disappointing your Mee-Maw like that after she worked her fingers to the bone knitting mittens for you that you probably lost at a frat party in college, well then that’s on you, Allison.
And then you’re going to post on Facebook that Cauliflower Nachos are better than old school nachos? ARE YOU WOMAN ENOUGH TO COME OVER HERE AND SAY THAT TO MY FACE? Yea. I didn’t think so.
I’m all for eating healthy and trying to sneak in some veggies into recipes here and there so my kids won’t notice, but for the love of all that’s decent on this great green earth, some things are sacred. And if you think I’m going to let you desecrate my turn to host book club with a Cauliflower Cheesecake, you’re obviously not the person I thought you were.
All of the important messages of speaking out impacted me at last night’s Golden Globes, but there was a line in Oprah’s speech that resonated with me the most. And in a different way. Really, just a fragment of a line.
She said, “In 1982, Sidney (Poitier) received the Cecil B. DeMille award right here at the Golden Globes and it is not lost on me that at this moment, there are some little girls watching as I become the first black woman to be given this same award.”
Something there spoke to me unexpectedly in my new year of trying to be brave. I mean, I don’t think I’ll be winning any awards in the near future, but what I do know is that “at this moment, there are some little girls watching.” In my case, one little girl. My 10 year old daughter, Ollie.
This time, this divorce, as hard as it is on me, is having an effect on my kids. I can’t tell fully yet what it is, but I know it has to be. None of us can suddenly be thrust into this and be able to make sense of it, especially not my kids. Their dad moves out and their parents no longer speak. I think that’s enough for gravity to let go of all of us and let us float off into outerspace.
What I realized, though, is that she is looking at me and looking to me. Watching me, to see how I recoil from this. I’m her compass. She’s looking at me to show her the way. And she’ll follow. Every tear I shed affects her. Every time she catches me lingering in bed a little too long scares her. Every reaction I have everyday informs her on how to feel.
So I have to fight. Not even for me. For her. So that if, when she grows up, some man does this to her, she’ll have a map on how to get herself back. She won’t define herself by the love of a man or the pain that he can cause. She won’t allow her self-worth to be compromised by staying with someone who is indifferent to it. She’ll look back at this time and remember watching me fight my way back to earth and she’ll know to do the same.
Right now, the most important little girl is watching me. I’ll be composed on the outside and I’ll be clawing my way back on the inside because someday I want her to want to be like me. And that can’t happen if she watches me disappear.
If you’re struggling in a way that threatens your survival – put up a fight. I don’t mean struggling to make ends meet. I mean if you feel yourself spinning out to space. If you can see your whole self disappearing – fight like your life depends on it. Because there’s someone who needs you to come back. And they’re watching.
I had to be brave today. I didn’t believe I could do it. My mother looked at me and said, “You’re going to breathe through it and the message you’re going to send is that he can knock you down but he can’t keep you down.” I said to her, “He doesn’t care either way.” And she said, “But you do.” So I did it. I was brave.
At the end of my reiki session last week, the therapist asked me to write down an affirmation to take with me and told me to put it somewhere that I could see it all the time. She told me to write “I AM COMPLETE. I AM ENOUGH.” I cried. I couldn’t write it. Because I don’t believe it. YET.
2017 has been 100 years for me. I was stretching my tentacles for much of it. Reaching out to myself and out of myself. Embracing the experience of writing and making people laugh with 8 open arms. I was coming back from a dark place I’d put myself in and I was beginning to reclaim a little bit of my power. Until October 6th when I was shot down out of the sky by the person I loved the most and who I believed loved me the most. All three of my octopus hearts, broken.
Now, the thing I’m believing in the most is bravery. Hoping I can believe bravery into reality and back into my hearts. Bravery to face betrayal. Bravery to face the pain. Bravery to believe that I’ll get to the other side of this. Bravery to tell myself that the happiness ahead will be what I deserved all along. Bravery to allow myself to believe that one day soon, I WILL BE COMPLETE and I WILL BE ENOUGH.
Wishing you bravery so big it fills all three of your octopus hearts in 2018.
This is the face of a girl who has one dream dying and another dream coming true. How can this be possible? My marriage is over and my heart is broken, and yet somehow, my dream of being a working writer is suddenly sprawling itself out in front of me like a brand new lover in my bed.
I’m going to take it as the most glorious sign and be gracious and be thankful and be present and make love to it in every possible way.
I lived “happily” in such a state of SAMENESS for so long. Every day was the same. Every conversation was the same. Every person was the same. Now, I’m faced with newness in every single minute. In my brain, in my heart, in my experiences. Everything is the first time for my new normal, but now I have this little gift of self-worth that I’ve created. I have something new that’s bringing me this crazy joy of self-fulfillment, in one of my darkest times.
This little dream I suddenly started believing in again last October when I started my blog. Maybe I knew this storm was coming and I grew the blog from my heart like a little life preserver for me to cling to. Just in the nick of time. HOW LUCKY AM I FOR THAT?
Keep your eyes open and your heart open and be willing to hurt and feel and change and be scared and take chances and look at what can happen. Grow yourself new dreams so that if one dream dies, you’ll still have magical things to cling to.
When I was in high school I had a boyfriend who nicknamed my boobs Will and Denise. His parents had a cottage on the St. Lawrence River and their neighbors had 2 dogs by those names, so… that was that. I’m telling you this because 2 weeks ago I took Will and Denise for their very first mammogram. Now that I’m 40, that’s just one of the super enjoyable things I get to do along with having my cervix scraped with a wire brush once a year. 40 is rad. Get psyched 30 somethings!
I made my mammogram appointment for a Monday, because who doesn’t love to start their week in excruciating pain? I KNOW I DO! I made sure to give Will and Denise a good scrub before I went. I even made sure I plucked their nipple hairs because I’m a friggin’ lady and I wanted my mammaries looking their best for the big day.
I checked in to the radiology office and a few minutes later, the young woman who was about to smash my front muffins into crepes called me into the room. She told me to take my top and bra off and put on a paper gown. She asked if I was wearing deodorant which I thought was weird considering my armpits (both currently unnamed) live directly next door to Will and Denise. Of course I’d slathered on my men’s Speed Stick this morning. Did she want to borrow a swipe off my trusty purse deodorant? She did not. She asked me to use a wet wipe in the changing room to clean my pits so I didn’t junk up her expensive boob-crunching machine.
She showed me how she was going to use her torture device on me and then she helped me pose for Will and Denise’s first pictures. She gingerly placed Will on a thick, clear plate and said we’d start with the front facing photos. Then she grabbed a second plate called a paddle from above and JACKED THAT SHIT DOWN with 23 lbs. of pressure until Will looked like a freshly made corn tortilla. It was more painful than I thought it would be which was awesome because it was about to get worse. She VERY STERNLY instructed me to hold my breath and NOT MOVE while her chompy booby monster bit down on me. Not going to lie. It hurt. A lot.
We ran through both of Will and Denise’s front facing pictures without a problem, I mean, as long as don’t consider having two deflated footballs for boobs a problem. Then it was time to kick things up a notch with the side boob pics.
For the side boob pics you should be able to contort your body into an infinity symbol like an earthworm. This is so you can stand at the proper angle to get all the right parts of the boob on the plate. This was no problem because I’ve actually got LOADS AND LOADS of side boob. Just another one of the fun gifts that the Lord hath bestowed upon me. Denise was first. We propped her up on the plate and the tech lowered the paddle of doom down on her with around 28 lbs. of pressure. I held my breath, stood still and waited for the machine to kick in. That’s when I heard a GA-GUNK. The camera in the machine didn’t rotate like it had been doing before. I looked over and the tech was staring at her laptop with a crunched up forehead. She told me to take another breath and then hold it so she could try again, ALL THE WHILE, MY POOR DENISE WAS BEING PULVERIZED LIKE A PUMPKIN IN THE BACK OF A GARBAGE TRUCK THE MORNING AFTER HALLOWEEN!
She fired the machine again. Nothing. I thought “OH MY GOD I LIVE HERE NOW! WITH MY TIT IN THIS MAMMOGRAM MACHINE! I’LL HAVE TO HAVE MY MAIL FORWARDED. THEY’RE GOING TO HAVE TO SERVE ME MY MEALS HERE.” The tech ran from behind the machine and yells, “The machine is malfunctioning! Can you get out of it?!”
I wasn’t prepared for her to ask me this question since mammography isn’t my area of expertise, oh and, MY FREAKING LEFT BREAST BEING MASHED INTO A FLESHY PULP RIGHT BEFORE HER EYES! No I couldn’t get out of it!!!! Not if I wanted to walk out of that office with all the boobs I walked in with!!! She tried to push me back off the machine, but Denise, being attached to my body and all, would not be torn from the machine’s powerful grasp. I should’ve left all of that nipple hair on her. She probably would’ve slid out of there lickety split! Luckily, the tech was able to pry the plate and the paddle apart with her hands and poor Denise flopped off the machine and away from its angry clutches.
I know people who would’ve had heads rolling in that office for the machine malfunction, but I was just grateful that I was able to leave that day with all of my pieces and parts still attached. The tech apologized up and down and we actually both had a good laugh about it. I had to go back later that afternoon to have my side boob pics retaken and I’m happy to say it was without incident.
Thankfully my mammogram results were normal. As hilariously terrifying as my experience was, I promise you it was very quick. I urge all of you to suck it up and get your girls checked every year because there’s absolutely nothing funny about rolling the dice on your health.
This is a cardboard box. It came to my house this past Saturday around 12:30 p.m. I get all kinds of boxes delivered here. Boxes of swim equipment for my son. Boxes of pool parts for my husband. Boxes of clothes for my daughter. But I’ve never received a box like this. This 6 inch square, corrugated cardboard box held my motherf*cking dream come true.
We all grow up dreaming that we want to be one thing or do another when we’re older. Things that maybe seem impractical once the confines of reality set in – time, bills, kids. Things we decide we aren’t smart enough or skilled enough or matched properly for. And we let go of those dreams to do what sustains us. That’s life. It happens.
I realized my dream in 1993 when my brother died and my life cracked open. I was 16 and began to write to fill in that chasm of pain. I went on to college for my writing degree, concentrating in poetry, and believe it or not, I wasn’t half bad. I loved it but, you might have heard, poetry doesn’t pay the bills. After college, I began a career in the advertising arm of publishing. Got married. Had kids. Eventually, my dream of writing was left behind so that I could do what moms do – help my family follow their own motherf*cking dreams.
I became a SAHM and started a small business where I work alone. I began to feel extremely depressed – isolated and unfulfilled. All my life I’d questioned my intelligence and that insecurity had taken some major hits in the last few years. I realized I had to go back to my dream if I wanted to try to save myself to be any good for anyone else. So on October 18, 2016, I started The Mother Octopus. And let me tell you something. A lot really can happen in a year.
Last February, I began to make memes for my Instagram and Facebook accounts as part of my blog’s presence and quickly realized that I loved making them. I was good at making them. I’ve continued writing and have had some great response to my blog, including one post that went viral. I started to feel proud of myself. I started to think that maybe I could do this.
I began following a lot of other writers, mom bloggers and meme makers, I noticed many of them in Scary Mommy t-shirts. Lots of them were either staff writers or contributors at Scary Mommy. So very early on, I made becoming a Scary Mommy contributor and getting that t-shirt a goal for myself. I saw that t-shirt as a major rite of passage, validation that I could do this. And on Saturday, around 12:30 p.m., that t-shirt arrived at my house in the 6 inch square cardboard box above. I have an author page at ScaryMommy.com and I have a job making memes for them. My motherf*cking dream is now my reality.
For many years I felt like what I had to say wasn’t important. My dreams of being a wife and mom had been realized and now my job was to keep my head above water and so that everyone else could realize their dreams. I bring my daughter to piano lessons because I believe that is what she’s meant to do. I bring my son to swim practice because I believe that is what he’s meant to do. What I’m learning is that in order to be a better mom and wife, I have to strive for what validates me. I’m no good if I’m not nurturing my own desire to succeed in what I believe I’m meant to do.
So, if you have a dream that you’ve buried in the back story of your life, under the chaos of schedules and clutter of other obligations, DIG IT OUT. You’re going to come to a point in your life when everyone else’s dream is coming true and there won’t be time left for yours. If you dream of going back to school so you can change careers, go back. If you dream of starting your own business so you have more time for your family, start it. Whatever it is, DO IT. NOW. Your 6 inch square cardboard box is out there and your motherf*cking dream is waiting inside of it.
This is my daughter Olivia brushing her friend Ellie’s hair. I took this photo when my family was visiting my best friend Nichole’s family last spring. Ellie is Nichole’s daughter. The girls didn’t know it at the time, and they still don’t, but it was the weekend they became best friends.
It was Saturday morning and I’d slept in the kids’ room with all 4 kids in case mine woke up during the night. The kids got up early and headed downstairs to play. I heard some husband voices down there, so I continued to doze, a little wine soaked from the night before. A while later I woke up to the sound of the girls chatting in Nichole’s large closet, attached to the kid’s bedroom. The door was cracked enough so I could see Olivia brushing Ellie’s hair. I quickly got out of bed and crept in to snap a few pictures before they could protest.
A little background. Nichole and I come from a long line of best friends. Our grandmothers were neighbors and close friends, so our fathers had always been close. When Nichole was born 6 months after me, our best friend destiny was sealed. That was 40 years ago.
Now, the 5-hour distance between my Long Island home and Nichole’s Syracuse home makes it difficult for us to get together as much as we’d like. We had a great weekend with them and our kids cried when it was time to say goodbye. On the car ride back to Long Island, going through the photos on my phone, I came across the hair brushing pictures. All bleary-eyed and probably recovering from the night before, I’d forgotten I took those.
An Instagram fan, I quickly added a few filters to it and posted it to my FB page. It wasn’t until a few hours later that I looked at the picture again and got chills, suddenly remembering the last time Nichole had brushed my hair. The morning after my brother died. The day she became my sister.
It was July 8, 1993. She and I were 16. My brother J.P. had died suddenly the day before from cardiac arrest following a bout of heatstroke. He was 19. Nichole slept in my bed with me and woke up next to me with the confirmation that the day before hadn’t been a nightmare like I hoped. That morning I went to the funeral home with my parents, somehow thinking they could use my support. I didn’t last long and I ended up on the front steps of the funeral home in the hot summer sun waiting for my aunt to pick me up.
Getting back to the house, Nichole was still there. I played Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd on repeat because my brother used to play it. I sat on the floor dazed and she sat behind me and brushed my long brown hair while the music blared. Because the days that followed were such a blur, I hadn’t thought of that moment in 24 years. What seemed like a small gesture at the time now reveals itself to me as the moment she stepped into her rightful role as my heart’s mender and still now, my heart’s protector.
I’m not writing this to rehash the feelings of that awful time. I’m writing this because when I looked back at the picture of Olivia brushing Ellie’s hair, it struck me that what Nichole and I share, our girls have begun to share. It was a strange and beautiful feeling. They’re 10 and 7. Their 3-year age difference was palpable until that weekend when I took this picture and they became inseparable.
I remembered Nichole’s grandmother telling me stories about my own grandmother. I wondered how many times they’d laughed together or consoled each other or stood together in front of a mirror while they prepared for a night out with our grandfathers. I wondered if they’d had any idea that something as simple as their friendship would become so much more for Nichole and I and now for our kids. I wonder how happy they’d be to see their granddaughters and their great granddaughters sharing the same bond they shared almost 80 years earlier.
This picture is the culmination of 40 years of laughter, tears, firsts, lasts, fights, failures and triumphs I shared with Nichole. I realized our daughters will have that together now. That’s the legacy we’ve passed on to them.
When I look back at the picture of Olivia brushing Ellie’s hair, I hope one day our girls will realize that they’re so much more than “fourth generation besties”. I hope they’ll understand that sometimes the best kind of family is the kind you find outside your bloodlines. It’s the family that somehow becomes your family through the opening and rending of your hearts and the experience of shared joy. It’s the family we make for ourselves.
This is me in a dress I have no business wearing. It’s not the first time I’ve worn it and it won’t be the last time. I know it’s not flattering but I don’t want you to say, “OMG, YOU LOOK GREAT!” I don’t want you to say, “GOOD FOR YOU!” I want you to know why I’m wearing a dress I have no business wearing.
I took this picture two days ago. I was one and a half proseccos deep during a girl’s weekend with my best friend and we were on our way to a nice dinner. Someone could say that I look a little pregnant in it, because of, you know, that part sticking out in the front. I do look a little pregnant. That’s fine. Once upon a time I grew two babies in that part sticking out in the front, but I assure you, now it’s just where I keep my cheeseburgers and sauvignon blanc.
I bought this dress for a trip my husband and I took in July. When I tried it on I knew the dress wasn’t made for my 5’2″ body, 160 lb. body, but I felt great in it. I don’t know why. I just did. I’m not known to wear form-fitting clothes. At all. But I wanted it, so I bought it. And I was proud of myself for it.
The truth is, I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been, other than when I was pregnant. Another truth is that I’ve always struggled with my weight and if you’ve ever struggled with your weight, you know it’s not a physical struggle. It’s about how you see yourself and how you speak to yourself in your mind. After 40 years of telling myself I have no business wearing things I want to wear, I’ve decided to change the subject. I’ve decided to start being kind to myself.
I’m a work from home mom. I make my own schedule. I could spend 2 hours a day at the gym if I wanted to. I could run from here to Manhattan and back if I set my mind to it. The thing is, my mind is elsewhere. Right now I’m in the business of keeping my shit together. I’m in the business of raising loving children. I’m in the business of maintaining healthy friendships. I’m in the business of having a happy marriage.
For 40 years I’ve stood in the mirror and compared how I look to how I THINK I should look. And it’s exhausting. Now, in an ugly world where I have so many other, more important things to worry about, I’m hitting that red decline button when the self-doubt calls start pouring it. I don’t want to do it anymore. I want to be in the business of loving myself. It’s as simple as that.
I’m not saying I’m giving up. I’ll still try to get healthy, here and there. I’m just taking a break from beating myself up. I’m muting the negative things I say to myself, because as it turns out, I care way more about my own comments than anyone else’s.
So here’s the thing. If I can put on a dress I have no business wearing to go out with my husband or to go to a fancy dinner at a nice restaurant with my best friend because it makes me feel good, you can too. And if I’m putting this picture on my Facebook page for 15,000 people to see, well then you can certainly wear a dress you have no business wearing to a BBQ this weekend. If the hard part is talking yourself into it, tell yourself life’s too short to worry about things you have no business wearing.