The Happiest Day of my Life

Summer of 2003. I’m almost thirteen years old. My parents separated a year ago – and by separated, I mean my mother took all eight of us without warning and moved across the country because she realized Dad had left the Mormon Church for good. That their relationship had been on the rocks for a long time was no secret us kids, but we had no concept of divorce when we abruptly left behind our bantam chickens, our newborn pygmy goat, and our ten acres of Kentucky farmland.

The night before we left Kentucky, we awkwardly killed all the roosters with a blunt axe (follow the big mean black one through the nooks and crannies of the barn until it bleeds to death! Isn’t it funny how that red one runs and jumps with its head flopping around at its side?) and threw their bodies in the garbage. We divvied up the remaining farm animals – mommy goat, baby goat, two sheep, dozens of chickens – amongst our church-going neighbors, left the cats to fend for themselves, and took Delilah, our dog, with us. Mom chastised me for bringing a whole garbage bag of my stuff. She told us we’d be coming back.

But we never did go back, and so a year passed by and it was summer again. By now, I had stopped sneaking away into the unfinished parts of my grandparents’ house so I could cry in private, sobbing so hard I had to stifle my choking. I didn’t think so much about the old back pasture with spring daisies and a wide tree whose biggest branch was perfect for sitting and watching the neighbors’ horses. I didn’t miss the mama pygmy goat, Sweettart, that I had unsuccessfully tried to milk with my big awkward fingers. I hardly missed my old best friend, the yellow-haired Joanna who was in love with my older brother. I hardly missed my dad.

Now, I had a new best friend who lived right across the street and whose older brother loved, much to my friend’s consternation. I played basketball for my church team, babysat for a couple of families, and was generally liked by the girls I went to church with. My hair was finally long again, albeit with a horrendous perm, recovered from the even more horrendous buzzcut I’d had in Kentucky.

That summer, I went to a special camp for 13- and 14-year-old Mormon girls called Oakcrest. My camp counselor was a young woman named Carebear whose boyfriend lived overseas, on a mission for the Mormon Church. Carebear loved the Lord, and right away, I knew that she loved me. Every day during the week we were there, she gave us so much special attention that we probably each felt we were her favorite. I thought Carebear was beautiful and perfectly exemplified a good Mormon young woman, and I adored her. She told us her real name on the last day of camp, but I can’t remember it anymore.

During the week at camp, we hiked, we prayed, we ate and sang and did all kinds of fun, silly camp activities. I tried to keep up socially with the girls, some of whom had known each other for a very long time. Because I was homeschooled, and, as they say of homeschoolers, “didn’t get out much,” I found myself picking up colloquialisms and repeating them until I irritated the people around me. “My bad,” I’d say fifteen times an hour, whenever I dropped a pencil or misinterpreted someone. Or I’d loudly proclaim, “That’s garbage!” every time something required vocal disapproval.

But I had a great time. I was a mighty pious little Lizard at that time of my life, and I took God, Jesus Christ, and the gospel very seriously. During one sermon about only listening to that which uplifted us, I vowed to go home and snap all my pop music CDs in half (which I actually did, and later regretted sorely). I had prayerful moments late in bed at night that felt so powerful they threatened to lift me right up and ascend me into heaven. I trembled at the thought of the Second Coming, and hoped with fingers and toes crossed that I had been good enough to make the cut.

One night, the last night we were at camp, we did an exercise. Us campers were blindfolded and let out into a large field. All around us, our counselors were assigned to act as the influence of either the devil or God. I’d stumble along for a few steps, when I’d hear someone yell in a very wicked way, “Turn left! Do not go right, what are you thinking? Go left!” And, startled, I’d bump into a chain link fence and find that I had listened to Satan. Dang it.

So along I bumbled for quite some time. Into trash cans, other people, potholes, trees, etc. I wasn’t moving quickly so I never got injured, despite the urgent insistence of Satan to “Run! Move faster! Come with me, I have a special treat for you.” Suddenly, a gentle hand laid itself invisibly on my forearm, and a soft voice said, “Liz. Come this way. I’ll take you home.” The voice was Carebear’s, spoken almost in a whisper, but I knew right away. She took her hand off of my arm, but continued to urge me quietly in the right direction.

Carebear, a.k.a. the Holy Ghost, led me until she described an iron rod to my left. Just as I reached out to find it, a hideously loud shout in my ear: “STOP! Do not touch that! Back away now, and come with me!” I jumped and withdrew, but the H.G. found me again and at last I grasped the cool, smooth surface of PVC pipe/iron rod. The rod led upward, upward, through a bumpy trail, until at last I was directed to stop. Gentle hymnal music wafted from a distance. Save for the music and the birds, it was silent.

My blindfold was removed.

Standing before me was a lifesized portrait of Jesus overlooking his flock. The picture was softly lit and stood in gentle contrast to the darkening evening. My eyes, which were used to total blackness, did not wander from the picture.

After a few moments of silence, Carebear said, “What do you see?”

I started to cry softly. “Heavenly Father,” I whispered.

“He loves you, Liz. He loves you so much. Do you know that?”

Yes, I nodded. Yes, yes, I knew – God loved me. I felt it with all of my heart. A joy so total, so redemptive, encompassed me. I felt wrapped in the gentle arms of God’s care. The sorrow of the last year was gone, wholly and completely, as I stood and looked at this beautiful picture, and I was happy. I knew, right then, that that was the happiest day of my life and would be for a very long time.

I’m sharing this story because this was a powerful experience. I’ve obviously never forgotten it. But I’m also sharing it because I want you to know that I get it. I’m not just this God-hating, gun-slinging, take-no-prisoners bitch of an atheist, although sometimes I am that.

I take the positions I take having been on the other side, having stood in those shoes, having felt what I truly believed to be God’s love. Of course, now, I don’t think that’s what it was, but I can save that for another time. Suffice to say that for thirteen-year-old me, in that moment, that shit was very real. And I’ll always appreciate and remember that.

I think sometimes we get so caught up in the who’s right and who’s wrong of the religious argument, we forget that on the other side of the aisle sit normal people. Some of those people have a greater proclivity towards assholishness than others, sure, but we’re all basically normal folks with histories, backgrounds, worries and cares. We all poop and we all love our kids. Neither side is necessarily smarter than the other. Neither side is necessarily nicer. The nature of humanity casts a broad net over us all, ensnaring even the kindest among us in the trap of being a dick on a bad day.

Enough pontificating – you get the point. But I’m just sayin’ – I get it. Let’s break bread together and have a conversation about it…

I will bring you to the dark side. ❤

An Open Letter to the Spider in the Front Yard

Dear Not-So-Dear Arachnid from Hell,

Good evening, sir/madam. I’m writing you because a situation occurred tonight which I would like to immediately address so that it does not happen again.

You should know I don’t consider myself a homewrecker. Indeed, I have gone out of my way to avoid situations where those laying snug in their corners might feel violated by my behavior. You should also know, therefore, that when I destroyed the northernmost anchor of your web tonight, it was because you forced my hand. Nevermind that my “hand” was really a stick, gingerly held many feet away by my actual hand. I had to blast apart the very foundations of your household just so I could get into my household. And therein lies the problem, Mr./Mrs. Spider.

I’m mostly okay with you inhabiting the corner of the tall front-yard shrubbery – my tall front-yard shrubbery. I am aware that you may consider this area highly wooded and therefore suitable for you to stake a claim here.

However, I must enlighten you that, in fact, the heavily wooded area consists of but three small non-deciduous tress that run exactly perpendicular to the walkway most often used by the inhabitants of this home (you can see here that I am selflessly looking out for others, not just me). To further exemplify my great selflessness, I’ll let you know that on my way from the garage to the house tonight, I purposefully avoided the shortcut down the alleyway between houses, just so I wouldn’t accidentally destroy the web that one of your idiot cousins rudely built in between the buildings’ walls. I took the long way around, despite knowing you were lurking by the front walkway, no doubt watching for my return, plotting how best to ensnare me in the sticky vestiges of your lair.

And I still tried to avoid you. Are we getting somewhere yet? No?

Let me persuade you further. You may not be aware of this fact, so I’ll just briefly enlighten you. In human law, there exist the concept of aerial property rights. You may or may not be familiar with the Latin term, “Cuius est solum, eius est usque ad caelum et ad inferos” – If you are not, I highly suggest you review your root words. You are welcome to use the underground – i.e., infero – until your little exoskeletal heart explodes. But goddammit, araneae, the caelum is mine! Mine, I say!

So listen up, you fat, hairy bitch. It is unacceptable for you to spin your surprisingly strong web in any area that I may accidentally walk face-first into. It was to both of our advantage that I am so sensitive to your locale that I did not plunge into your trap, inadvertently dragging you and all your dead prey into my very cute hair.

If there exists even the remotest possibility that a human may pass through any of the air above the ground which said human possesses, your presence is exceedingly unwelcome. You may not reside there. You may not even think about residing there. Your siblings and descendants and in-laws may not think about residing there, and if they complain, you can tell em Liz sent ya, and then shake an imaginary can of bug spray for effect.

So learn to anchor your web elsewhere, spider, or God so help my little white terrified butt, I will slaughter you. I don’t care how much you help the environment by eating bugs. I can eat my own bugs. Whether you face death by spider spray, blunt force trauma, or slow, intimate dissection, you will die.

Look, I think we can find some common ground (I hear you eat your men post-coitus). All that I ask is, during your standard housekeeping procedures, you stay far, far away from any area of my home that could even be remotely crossed by humans, particularly me. It’s not that hard.

Kiss my fucking ass, sweetheart.



THIS JUST IN: God Sends Dying Homeless Man some McDonalds, Forgets to Cure His Cancer

About a week ago, some guy named John Brantley shared an inspirational story on Facebook. I’m using his name because the story now has over a million shares, and it’s been featured on several news stations. The garish publicity is part of the silliness, and tragedy, of this whole situation, but suffice it to say that John has no issues with people knowing who he is. You can go on to Facebook and read the story here, and I highly encourage you to do that, but I’ll write up a short summary for your viewing pleasure.

John Brantley is walking to his car and sees a man digging through a dumpster, looking for food. This man isn’t begging, he isn’t talking to anyone else, he’s just minding his own business and picking discarded morsels out of the trash.

Saint John’s heart goes out to this homeless man, and decides to do him an enormous favor: Dinner at McDonald’s. So Steve the homeless man follows John to McDonald’s, and then John drives away. But John can’t shake the feeling that he should have done more for Steve.

So he turns around, goes back to Steve, and buys him some more McDonald’s. Then Steve reveals that he’s been homeless since his sister died a year ago, and then lifts up his shift and reveals a gut-wrenching tumor in his belly. Steve shares with John that he’s in great pain, that he hopes he dies soon, and that he is so grateful for John’s assistance. John asks Steve if he knows Jesus. Steve replies in the affirmative, and then they pray together. Steven informs John that he prayed for someone to bring him a hot meal, and Bam! As fast as Elijah sent the bears to kill the taunting lads, John shows up with a credit card and a big ol’ heart.

John then leaves Steve, and spends the rest of the post praising God for his greatness. What a generous God! His Almightiness sends John to buy Steve the cheapest meal on the block. But wait – He doesn’t stop there. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ also uses Steve to teach John to be more grateful for how blessed he is. John reiterates his feelings of being blessed several times before he ends his post. Then the gratuitous back-patting ends and we are left to vomit freely as we will.

The craziest thing about this post was actually not how self-congratulatory John is. People bust out their inner Pharisee all the time. I’m sure I’ve done it. But 1.2 MILLION people shared the story, and local news outlets picked it up. Praise God! Thank God for John! Thank God for Steve! I’m literally crying my eyes out! Praise McDonald’s! God is great! God is merciful! God loves salty french fries, and so do we!

Are you fucking kidding me?

Let’s just break this scenario down a little bit further.

John, who wants everyone to know what a good person he is, begins the story by asserting this: “My heart literally hurt for him. I am not someone who just hands out money or even helps homeless people because so many are not truly homeless.” So it’s not like John is leaking compassion for the homeless out the ears. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. John only feels Steve is worthy of his assistance because Steve isn’t bothering anybody and he isn’t begging. John believes that most homeless people aren’t “truly homeless” – whatever the fuck that even means. It takes Steve quietly digging through trash, looking for food, for John to feel moved enough to help his fellow man. And where does he take Steve? To a sit down restaurant? To a grocery story store filled with healthful foods? No. John takes Steve to McDonald’s, the cheapest possible place to buy a friend a meal. Christlike? You decide.

John and his groupies spend so much time jacking off to the idea of God using John as a tool to help Steve that they miss what are, to me, a few critical things.

  1. Steve. Is. Dying. Of Cancer.
  2. Steve is dying of cancer.
  4. God’s way of coping with this is sending John to buy him… McDonald’s.
  5. John worships a God who uses a homeless, dying man digging through garbage to teach John about how “blessed” he is.
  6. God blesses John more than Steve.
  7. Steve is dying of cancer.

So this wonderful, caring God who blesses John with great abundance is happy to see Steve’s cancerous belly full of hot, fatty food, and that’s where His goodness stops. That to me is not one Facebook share-worthy. It’s certainly not 1.2 million shares worthy.

What would have been really incredibly is if, instead of asking Steve if he knew Jesus, John had said, “Hey, Steve. Do you know any local medical practitioners? Do you know that there are clinics who can provide discounted services for poor people suffering from terminal disease? Steve, do you need help finding these places? Do you need help finding a regular source of healthy food? Can I help you live out the remainder of your life in slightly better living conditions?”

But no. John was so busy gawking at how fucking blessed he is that he walks away, practically breaking his arm so vociferously does he pat himself on the back, leaving Steve to return to the same place he was before he met him. And, apparently, everybody in the whole world thinks John was sent by God to bless Steve.

I have issues with the concept of being blessed in the first place. Any good Christian knows that blessings come along with being righteous, obedient, and recognizing God’s love. No matter how much you believe God loves his children, as a Biblical Christian, you accept as fact (or allegory, whatever) that God pretty consistently blesses those who believe in him and follow his word, and punishes those who don’t. It’s the biblical modus operandi: Good folks, even the unfortunate Job, get rewarded. Bad folks get Sodom and Gomorrahed.

God bestows blessings on whom he sees fit, and in this case, God wanted to remind John of how blessed he is. John has food. John has a home. John has never dug through garbage to find what he needs. And rather than John thinking, “Wow! I am extremely grateful, and recognize the factors that have led to the difference between Steve’s lifestyle and my own, most of which are entirely out of my control!” John thinks, “God blesses me sooooo much!” (and presumably follows all of his thoughts with, like, so many heart-eyed emojis).

Worse than this is John’s finishing words: “Sometimes God sends situations our way to remind us of how blessed we are! … Yes, I have been blessed, God’s so good to me! … God has been good, so good! I have been blessed!”

In John’s bizarre universe, not only is he more blessed than Steve, but Steve exists to teach John a lesson that makes John feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Steve’s purpose in this interaction is to bless John even further. Steve functions in this seriously fucked up role of being impoverished and miserable, so John can realize how much God loves him, Boniface John, the chosen and cancer-free one.

So yeah. That about sums up how shitty this stupid post by John is. And if you want me to give John some credit for buying Steve food, I will. It was nice. John did a nice thing for Steve. Good John! That’s a very good John! And even though I’ll lose a few friends by admitting I wouldn’t mind if a stranger bought me a meal at McDonald’s, I will say that John probably did more in that situation than your average Christian would have. It was nice for John to go back and buy Steve more food on a gift card, and it was nice for John to talk to Steve and try to comfort him.

But Christ almighty, 1.2 million shares? And none of the commenters, not one, felt inspired to do anything but pray for Steve and praise the Lord. I’m guessing those prayers haven’t done much to change Steve’s living situation. I’m guessing the Lord hasn’t done much to change it either. Just a whole lot of people with tears in their eyes who feel mighty blessed.

Now I’ll admit that, more than once, I have seen something and been reminded of how truly lucky I am. It’s important to remained grounded by gratitude, and unfortunately, one of the easiest ways of doing that is by seeing those who have much less than we. What better way to act upon that gratitude than by going out of our way to help others, privately, without boasting? In Matthew 6:3, we find one of the most useful lessons in the Bible: “But when you do alms, let not your left hand know what your right hand does.” I’m not sure if the author of Matthew exactly foresaw John repeatedly high-fiving himself like one of those little wind-up monkeys, but the boot fits.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, but I think it bears repeating: Stop praying. Start doing. You’ll notice that billions of prayers have never made a dent in poverty and hunger. You know what has? People getting off their prayer-sore knees and doing something about it. And John, on the off chance that you read this, I dare you to go back, find Steve, and actually do something that will change his life more than satiating his hunger for a day or two. And then keep it to yourself.

Moving Towards Middle Class

Happy birthday to me! Blah blah blah blah blah blah. This year as a gift, I received a Kate Spade wallet. It’s new. Whoa. Not gently used, not opened and unwrapped and resold. Brand-spanking-gleaming-fucking new. Also, I’ve been shopping this last month, and gotten swell new shoes, bodacious outfits, and really nifty makeup.  I have to say that it feels mighty good.

But before you think this is simply obnoxious birthday braggadocio, let me continue.

Last year, if you had asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I would have said money. The year before that, if you’d asked me what I wanted, I would have said money. The year before that, the same, etc., all the way back to when my baby brain thought our dirty green currency was only good for chewing and barfing on.

That’s because, until a few months ago, I was in debt that spiraled out of my control. During and after college, I’d never had a job that paid the bills and still had some dough left over for luxuries like non-ramen dinners. Nearly all of my wardrobe had been donated or bought second hand, and my shoes were always on the brink of wearing out. Every once in a while, I’d splurge ridiculously, and I’d berate myself for days, weeks, even months. Why did I spend that money? How would I pay it back? I’d lay in bed after going out with friends the night before, agonizing over the $60 I’d spent on food and drinks that could have gone towards *insert bill here*. I’m not asking for pity. I didn’t live in poverty, and I didn’t starve or suffer. I worried, yes, I was constantly stressed, yes, and I endured embarrassment and the occasional nervous breakdown over finances. But I paid my important bills (usually), I never lost my car (although I got very close), I managed to look like I knew what the fuck I was doing with my clothes and makeup (although I was shocked to learn that when you pick up your clothes from the dry cleaners, you just throw away the hangers and paper-wtf?).

But despite the fact that people admittedly have it much worse than I, I can still remind myself (and hopefully you) that it isn’t a contest to see who suffers the most. Sometimes I have to remember that just because I didn’t have it the worst doesn’t mean I had it easy. There were days where I’d call up friends, steeped in anxiety, crying because I was sure the next time I went out to my car, it would be booted and I would be fucked. I’d pace in my living room, hand on the “Call” button, embarrassed to ask somebody if I could please join them for dinner because if I had to eat ramen noodles with eggs one more fucking time this week, I’d puke (in which case, Lois would have gladly eaten it, but that’s besides the point). I’d lay awake in bed, sleepless for hours, wondering if I’d feel guilty for defaulting on that credit card so I could take my monthly payment and put it towards a gym membership so I could finally lose that fucking weight I gained from eating like shit for years. (Not that you care – but I did default, I got a cheap gym membership, I lost 40 pounds, and I never regretted it – even after I finally paid off the balance of the card in collections, plus numerous late fees, etc.)

But okay, you get it. Enough about how tough things were. How did things untough themselves?

Well, in my opinion, I caught a couple of very lucky breaks. First, even though I’ve always been sexually active, thanks to #PLANNEDPARENTHOOD and other sliding-scale health providers, I have never had children. That alone makes a huge difference. Second, I found a job that I loved that paid a decent living wage. Third, a few months ago, I was matched with a recipient family and donated my eggs. Between the small financial windfall of egg donation and a consistent paycheck from a job where I feel respected and valued, I’ve managed to get myself out of debt except for my car and my student loans.

That feels fucking good. It feels too good to be true. And now, I have more pocket money every week than I used to have for my monthly food budget. Every bill is paid on time – no more late fees, either. I’m not rolling in dough. But I don’t need anything bad enough that I’m going to take my Kate Spade wallet and sell it for cash. And that feels miraculously lucky.

So, I’m turning 25 and sitting in my cozy queen-sized bed with a feather comforter, with my iPhone charging next to me, and my Chromebook on my lap, my fancy anti-aging cream on my face that I bought on clearance from Amazon, and my kinda fancy perfume and jewelry on my dresser, and my piano against the wall, and my closet full of reasonably priced clothing from Target. I feel humbled that I have enough pairs of underwear and socks to go two weeks without doing laundry. I’m amazed that a parking ticket or a necessary doctor’s visit doesn’t spell financial disaster anymore. I’m #blessed that I don’t lose sleep over how to pay the rent. All kidding aside  – I am solemnized by gratitude.

Some might argue that I was always middle class because I’m white, in possession of a college degree, and more literate than most native English speakers. That’s true. Some would say that I didn’t have it all that bad because I had a solid cohort of people I could go to for help. That’s also true. And I’m on my dad’s health insurance, I’m tall, I’m fairly good looking, I have a name that doesn’t keep me from getting callbacks on interviews, and all those other stupid, superficial attributes that make it easier to be successful in America.

Due to circumstances out of my control, I had so many things working for me that when I paid my dues (whatever that means – I think there’s a way to give people a decent living without requiring them to suffer beforehand, right?), I got out of petty debt and into a surprisingly easy standard of living.

And it was hard. So how much harder is it for people without any privilege whatsoever? Because they’re out there. In, like, droves. Copious numbers of poor people have we here in good old America. There’s a lot of them and they could all use a lucky break. Maybe, as some of us move into the middle class, we can do a little less self-congratulation and think (aka do) more about others less lucky than us.

I have yet to figure out how best to do that – suggestions accepted.

Jewish Holidays + Nannying = Record for Longest Job Held

One year ago today, I officially started my nannying career (and yes – it is a career, but I’ll jump on that soapbox in a few). Happy Workaversary to me! And how fun that it falls on the first day of Rosh Hashanah! This has already been the longest I’ve ever kept a job – the closest runners up were a couple of bars and a teaching assistant job in college that required about 3 hours a week.

Lest you think me a total flake (rather than a partial flake, which I am), do consider that I’ve been in college until fairly recently and had a few false career starts after that. But hey, I figured if I’m going to be food insecure anyway, it’s better for me to get out of a job I hate before the suicidal midlife crisis sets in. I followed my gut when it came to ending jobs that may have had promising potential, and that has paid off.

And not just because I make more in childcare than I did in any other post-college career field I’ve worked in. Every morning, I get to work and am blasted awake by either a screaming toddler – or, more often, big smiles, food-smeared hugs, and a detailed account of the places a four-year-old has planned for us to go that day. What with the every day processes of getting dressed, figuring out which toothpaste to use (Thomas? Lightning McQueen?), driving to and from school, and using enough dinnertime reverse psychology to make Freud proud, the days go by pretty quickly.

I happen to work for a Jewish family (No they don’t take advantage of me, yes they have big curly hair, no they’re aren’t miserly, yes they keep kosher). And over the last year, if nothing else, I’ve been amazed by how much I’ve learned about Judaism. I think part of the reason that I’ve enjoyed my time with this family so much is because the parents are both well-educated, kind-hearted intellectuals who are willing and able to answer the myriad questions I have about Jewish law, Jewish history, Jewish culture. They also have a great library which I borrow from liberally. As a total outsider, Jews are a people who fascinate me – in no small part because it’s entirely possible to be an atheist Jew who practices culturally. How awesome is that? Particularly in Mormonism, where absolute belief in the doctrine is mandated, it is virtually impossible to separate beliefs from culture. But boy howdy, the Jews can do it. (Not all, I know, but a lot).

And Sam, the 4-year-old – I’m sorry, 4-and-a-half-year-old – has thoroughly educated me on all things pertaining to Jewish holidays. He and his brother, Micha, both attend a Hebrew preschool, and Sam’s mind is this black hole of knowledge retention. (“Watch out,” warned my boss on my first day. “If you don’t want us to know something, do not say it in front of Sam”). Sam slowly and patiently makes me repeat new words in Hebrew until I get it right. Then I get a congratulatory “Good job!” Or once: “Liz, sometimes I can’t understand what you’re saying. Then I just say ‘Good job!’ anyway.” I can recite the first half of many of the most common brachot. I know a fair number of silly children’s songs in Hebrew, and even more in English. I can count to ten in Hebrew, I can keep a kosher kitchen, I know what to announce before the shofar blows, and I can even blow a miniature shofar, which is fucking hard, btw. Google it. It’s really interesting stuff to learn about.

And when I’m not getting Hebrew Immersion 101, I’m eating dinner with the family. Visiting the super awesome Museum of Science and Industry, or the Lincoln Park Zoo. Hanging out at parks. Playing outside with chalk. Drawing pictures. Changing poopy diapers and instructing the boys in basic anatomy. I love all of it. It’s a really fun job, and it’s often a really challenging job, and I just love it.

And it’s shown me things about myself that I didn’t know. You don’t know how far you can push your boundaries of patience until you’re nicely telling someone else’s child for the umpteenth time to Stop laying on the bathroom floor and put on your pants after you finish pooping! Or when you’re waiting for a raging toddler to finishing throwing himself at the foot of the stairs because he’s suddenly forgotten how to get up by himself. Sticky hands in your clean hair. Shit spilled all over the floor the second you get it clean. Piles of crisply folded laundry devastated in one fell swoop. Or when you think to yourself, “What’s that smel- Oh, good God, no! Nooooooooo!” and the call in the Hazmat team.

A few weeks ago, I was with the kids at a museum and we went to the bathroom. It was one of those full-on-everybody-in-together-lets-steal-the-handicapped-stall trips. I went potty. I coerced Sam into going potty. I changed Micha’s poopy diaper. We got everybody’s hands washed and dried, using both the towels and the hand dryer of course, and then we were out and on to the next adventure. Some point shortly thereafter, I realized I had not even looked at myself in the mirror once while I was in the bathroom. I had forgotten to. Getting the little dudes in and out without pissing off the fickle baby gods was my only priority, and for maybe the first time since I turned eleven, I unwittingly walked in and out of a mirror-equipped bathroom without looking at myself.

That might seem stupid. But we know why there are more mirrors in women’s bathrooms than men’s. I fix my hair, check my makeup from every angle, sneak in a quick teeth check. We all do it. But having kids around you makes you less self-absorbed. Yes, even if they aren’t your own. Taking care of someone whose needs constantly supersede your own brings you to your knees – literally, metaphorically, emotionally.

Nannying is one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had, and yet now, I really understand those assholes who say that you should do what you love. I always thought that was stupid – like, who loves their job? – but at the end of the work week, or the short weekend trip by the family who’s in from out of town and needs a babysitter, or the three-hour walk to the park so somebody’s mother can take an elusive nap, I get paid. And I think to myself – every fucking time – “Sweet! I just got paid X bucks at hour to hang out with kids.

I just love it. And here comes the nannying soapbox.

I’ve had a lot of jobs. My boss always teases me whenever I mention them: “Was this before you were an assassin for the CIA? Was this after you were an astronaut?” My stunts in various professions include, but are not limited to: Auction House Secretary, Dental Assistant, Editor, Bartender, Waitress, Car Salesperson, Bank Teller, Banker, Children’s Photographer, Research Assistant, Mashed Potato Scooper at KFC, Clothing Retail Bitch, etc.

Never, in any of those jobs (probably combined), did I get any kind of intrinsic fulfillment that compares to the kind I get now. There was never a sales goal or piece of paperwork or meeting that was more important to me than making sure these two little guys make it out into the big fucked-up world a little more well-adjusted and loved because of how I showed up to work every day. No promotion or bonus measures up to pre-naptime snuggles from Micha and the gut-busting laughs I get from the shit Sam says.

I get asked a few questions about nannying pretty often, usually with this weird, “Don’t mean to offend you but I’m about to say something offensive” tone.

  1. How do you not swear in front of the kids?
  2. Aren’t you bored?
  3. But you’re not going to do this -*awkward pause*- forever, right?
  4. Don’t you think you could be doing something more intellectually stimulating?
  5. This isn’t, like, a career, though?
  6. What are you going to do when they grow up?

My answers:

  1. How do you not have sex in front of your parents? There’s a time and place for everything, and it’s not that hard to sort out.
  2. No. Absolutely not. Things change every day in this  job. The kids get older and start doing new funny and adorable and weird shit. They stop doing other things. Family comes to visit. Holidays are celebrated. When I do “boring” things like laundry or dishes during naptime, I put on NPR podcasts and learn something.
  3. I very well fucking might. It pays well, it’s fun, it’s one of the few careers that often lets you bring your own children to work with you.
  4. Such as…. sitting at a desk, trying to convince people to take out loans they don’t need? Writing? (Which I do on the side). Music? (Which I do on the side). Art? (Which I do on the side). I have time and money to pursue my interests because of this job, and I’m plenty intellectually stimulated, even when I’m not trying to explain to Sam why the sky is blue (you try doing that for a four year old and get back to me on how that works out for you.)
  5. Yeah, it is. You get raises and PTO and everything, by golly! You get better jobs with experience. You learn new things. Some people are lifers. Have you been in your career forever, anyway?
  6. Cry a little. Be happy for them. Miss them. Find another family, repeat. Maybe start fresh as an FBI operative. I don’t know! What did you do when you were fired? When you company merged? The kids growing out of needing a nanny ins’t some existential career crisis, even if it’s a little sad.

Anyway, down from my soapbox. That about sums up what I have to say about that.

Shanah tovah, motherfuckers! 🎉

The Profound Philosophy of #ShortHairDon’tCare

When I recently cut off more than a foot of hair, I made my appointment with the salon only three hours beforehand. I didn’t make up my mind until right before I made the appointment, and I wanted to cut it off before I had a chance to change my mind again. I didn’t tell anyone where I was going and why. I just went and did it.

Sitting longhaired in the salon chair, I was overcome by the feeling that this was the right thing to do. I guess after all those years of ignoring Mr. Jesus, he still decided to bless me with the Holy Ghost’s warm spirit, letting me know that He gave a shit about my hair and that he condoned the decision I was about to make. Or maybe it was the bubbly.

Anyway, the stylist asked me if I was nervous. “Nope,” I said, in my most cavalier tone. “Not at all.”

“Wow,” she said. “You’re, like, so brave.”

I’m really not, though. Because a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a rather unusual thing happened, and lucky you, you’re about to hear all about it.

Nigh unto fifteen million years ago, in that aforementioned galaxy, there existed a remote solar system; in that remote solar system there existed a small, bizarre planet called Kentucky. And somewhere in the deepest, darkest corner of Kentucky sat Millersburg, population 750.

In Millersburg, it was perfectly acceptable for the wife of a dead cosmetologist to run her deceased husband’s business, as if his license posthumously passed on to her. Ah, Millersburg: the clarion bastion of all that is good and fashionable in the universe. (It is also socially acceptable to marry your first cousin there, but that’s beside the point.)

So thus it came to be that Marjorie* – who was lovely, albeit egregiously underqualified – owned the sole barbershop/luxury hair salon in Millersburg. Like her husband before her, may he rest in peace, Marjorie performed all functions necessary to a salon owner, including leaving in perm solution for so long it burned off the front of her clients’ mullets. Just for the sake of brevity, we’ll withhold speculation on whether Marjorie was making a commentary regarding whether mullets should be worn at all, nonetheless permed.

Some time after Marjorie began operating her late husband’s salon, a small family of ten moved to Millersburg; and not long after that, several family members were in dire need of haircuts. One day, half of the intrepid young family sojourned into the heart of Millersburg, braving the presence of many a large cow and neighbor, both of which roamed freely throughout the region.

One of the family members was a young girl – we’ll call her Liz*. Liz was in the twilight of her eleventh year; taller than all the boys, Liz had no boobs and no ass, and wasn’t old enough to wear makeup. Accompanying Liz were three brothers, and Liz’s father. At the time, Liz’s hair was a very grown-out pixie cut; and when Liz took a seat in Marjorie’s sole styling chair, she requested that Marjorie simply give her another pixie.

“A pixie?” boomed Marjorie, ex cathedra. “Are you sure?”

“Well,” said Liz, a little hesitantly, “Yes?”

“Describe it to me.”

“Okay, well, it’s short all over, you know? With uneven bangs in front.” Liz shook a hand in front of her face to show what she meant.

“Mmmhmmm,” said Marjorie. “Okay.” And she turned on the clippers.

By the time Liz’s paternal parental unit looked up from his colossal subway sandwich, several inches of shorn hair sat around Liz’s shoulders, and Liz herself sat trembling mightily. Their eyes met, and in hers he saw fear, and extreme dubiety.

“Liz,” said her father reassuringly, “You’re getting a buzz.”

And later, after they got home:

“Liz,” said her mother kindly, “You guys left with three boys. And you came back with four.”

“Liz,” said her brother sincerely, “Even though you look like a freak, we still love you.”

To Liz’s credit, she only cried once, after she got home. To her father’s credit, Marjorie was paid (and tipped) for all five haircuts. And to Marjorie’s credit, there have been worse buzzcuts – not many, yes, but a few.

Later on that infamous day, Liz had a pool party with her Girl Scout Troop, which she had been looking forward to with great zeal, but which she now feared. What if everybody thought her hair was just too damn weird, and nobody would talk to her because of it? But in the end she went, and made friends with another eleven year old named Midge*, who was also pretty damn weird, because she only had one arm. So the two weird girls spent the evening together, had the time of their lives, and remained friends until Liz left Kentucky for another, stranger planet called Utah. 

From that experience, Liz took away this: Arms don’t grow back, but hair does. And even if it didn’t, the fact remains that there is a lot more to a person than superficial things like a haircut or how many arms one possesses. People liked Liz whether or not she had long hair or no hair, and ever since then, when Liz is considering whether she ought to be adventurous with her hair, she almost always answers Yes.

The end.

*names in this story have been changed

As seen on national television.
Liz’s new hair, as seen on national television.