Emotional Baggage: A Packing Guide

I am going to Greece in six days. I’ll be there for a week and a half, working as a Carry the Future volunteer distributing baby carriers and infant/toddler supplies to refugees arriving by boat. I’ve compiled my packing list with military-like precision, which must be a laughable statement to anyone who knows me well. I will weigh my checked luggage down to the ounce, and if I’m lucky, I’ll have a few small cracks in my carry-on to fill with plush toys and lollipops.

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What I don’t know is how the hell to pack for the emotional journey. Like many of my friends, I experience almost daily meltdowns after I watch video clips of starving children in Syria or families reunited in refugee camps. I’ve become accustomed to wiping away tears, taking a deep breath, and moving on. We Americans, we’re pros at compartmentalizing. Shit, we’re the creators of a place called the Container Store. But those are images on a screen, not flesh and bone people who have suffered and have only just begun their journey.

My desire to make this trip was born of a ridiculous-sounding goal: I wanted to hug some Syrian families. As my red state governor enthusiastically joined the “No Syrian ISIS Terrorists Can Resettle in MY State” B.S. train, I felt compelled to embody a human pendulum. I wanted to swing as far as possible from the hatred that surrounded me. “We’re not all like that,” I want to tell the refugees I meet. “We care about you and your beautiful children. We will help you find safety. We will love you into a feeling of acceptance and hopefulness.” I straight up want to hug these men, women and kids who have suffered so much, as if I can somehow transfer my empathy via touch.

I’m one person, and a flawed specimen at that. I’m worried I’ll cry at inappropriate times. I’ll probably offend someone accidentally. I’m definitely not confident in my ability to master the mechanics of 12 varieties of baby carriers. My feet will hurt. The rain will make me sneeze. I’ll miss my children, my husband, my dogs, my friends. But hopefully, I will also realize how Goddamn lucky I am. Not just because I was born in peacetime in a democracy. Not because I’ve got enough (ahem, too much) food and a warm bed. Rather, because I have the opportunity to do something. Friends and relatives and total strangers helped me buy a plane ticket. Packages of relief supplies arrive in my mail every day. My community has blown my mind, and in the midst of this global crisis has reminded me of the awesome organizing power of good people with good intentions.

The best antidote to hopelessness is action. We know this. Research backs this up. My mom even wrote a book on this topic. I’m getting my turn to take action next week, and it’s a privilege even if it’s scary as hell. Your turn is next. Make it great.

We Have to Get Naked

Dear PDV readers, I turned 40 this month! And for that I get a mammogram. In honor of getting to be a part of this wonderful rite of passage into awkward adulthood, I’m rerunning an oldie but a goodie (much like me) from my former blog Childhood Relived

I have a question that’s been gnawing at me for nearly 25 years. It relates to something that really traumatized me as a kid.  Continue reading

Today I Didn’t Eat Lunch with My Kid at School

BobbyBettyPicnic

It starts off a typical Friday morning, where I stand in the shower and meticulously plot out what to do with my 2.25 hours of allotted free time for the week.

Husband has the cute suggestion that today I should go have lunch with our kindergartner, Kid #2.

Husband had lunch with Kid #2 before and it was no less than the highlight of Kid #2’s life since October 2009 when he first breathed air.  Continue reading

Why I’m Quitting Stickers

Stickers

Here they are, waiting to take over my sanity.

I’m quitting stickers, I decided today.

Done. Cold turkey. NOT A SINGLE ONE MORE. Adios, stickers.

From this day forward, I vow to make my household a sticker-free zone.

That includes fancy-schmancy fundraiser nametags that screw up my fake-satin shirt. That includes irrelevant product ads that cover up the front of my newspaper. That includes hanger-on-Frozen-Elsas attached to the bottom of my boot.

Over!

I should’ve learned from my mother.

It was 1989. She was standing in my brother’s newly-evacuated room with a Parkay margarine tub of hot water and a butter knife in hand. There my mom sweated and scraped the day away, trying in vain to remove the saucer-sized Captain America that had leeched onto the side of my brother’s old dresser hutch – like that birthmark on Gorbachev’s head when he tore down that wall. Perhaps it was easier to rid the western world of communism than remove that unsightly blotch.

And now here we are. Wait, where? How did we get here, here covered in goddamn stickers?  Continue reading

Oh Brother, Who Art Thou?

Justine_and_Jason_Bateman1Today I invite you to saunter on over to Tue/Night, where I’ve published an article about one of my favorite people on earth, who happens to be the person on earth I have the most complicated relationship with, who happens to be a dead ringer for Bradley Cooper, who makes me laugh so hard I pee my pants yet makes me crazy with his political beliefs.

My brother.

An Antidote to Helplessness (I Hope)

This afternoon I took my sons swimming, eager to help them savor one of the last hot days of summer. They shot their cousins with water guns (thanks a lot mom, I’ve managed to keep them away from toy weapons for six years, and you walk past the clearance rack at Walgreens ONE TIME…) and, when we wearied of the pool, the boys picked fresh raspberries and gobbled them, juice dribbling down their chins. (No, I do not live in a Norman Rockwell painting; it was just one of those top-10 days.)

Raspberry-Picking-5Because I had this day, I want to share some information about Syrian refugees and how you and I can help. We all know we’re lucky, and this week’s gutwrenching photo of the drowned toddler brought that knowledge home to roost in a major way. Our village may be punch drunk, but it’s still a village, replete with creature comforts, security, friendship and compassion. So please, indulge me in this departure from pop culture and snark. Soon enough, we’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming. Continue reading