How to get your parents to buy you a guinea pig, by Lily S. (Part 1)

letter from child asking for guinea pigShe’s been campaigning for months. Almost a year, actually.

It started out slow. The occasional mention of a new pet. Library books on hamsters and guinea pigs. Drawings, paintings, and lots of “did you know” fun facts at the dinner table.

Then she started the hard core research, practically filling a binder with her findings on all things rodent. Comparison charts. Brochures from the pet store. Magazine clippings.

And just a few weeks ago, letters started appearing on my pillow at night.

“Please read this! Mommy and Daddy!” she’d scrawled on the first one, after folding it 16 times into a little one-inch-square nugget of hope. Here’s what it said:

Dear Mommy and Daddy,

I would relly like to have a nother pet. The pet that I would like is a ginea pig. I know that you might think that I am not muchur enognf to have one but I think I am doing really well in school and I am very machor. And if you aggre to all of this I promis to take care of it. I will clean out the cage, scoop up the poop, let it exersiz and play with it evory day. And I will also pay for as much as I can.

So, pleas pritty pleas with a chery on top can I do this? I know it is a big responsibility. But I am reddy! I have don all of the reserch and the mesherments so don’t worry! I feel like I am more than reddy because I am sinding you the research that I have done. And like I said before, I will take care of it all by myself without your help. And I will let Sophie play with him too. I just hafe to set ground rules with her.

I can do this remember!

Lily ((hand-drawn paw print emoji))

P.S. Waht I mean by mesherments is I know where to put the cage.


little girl on beach

Starts almost every sentence with “Did you know?!” and launches into an explanation before we’ve had a chance to answer.

Loves, loves, loves school.

Is a bookworm who begs for extra minutes to read every night.

Has the same tickle-spots as when she was a baby. Often laughs until she cries.

Can remember ANYTHING. Like that time three years ago when she lost a penny and then found it.

Despite the general, persistent irritation of having a little sister, she protects Sophie, walks her to her classroom every day (holding her hand) and hugs her before bed every night.

Delights in being outdoors. Climbs trees like a monkey, seems to feel most free when riding her bike and loves a good game of hide-and-seek.

Is a loyal friend who loves sleepovers, dressing alike and playing in secret hideouts at school and home.

Loves animals — especially little ones — beyond measure and is steadfast in her campaign for a hamster or guinea pig (complete with a research binder stuffed with facts and illustrations).

Tries to sneak a little blush and lip gloss for school. Tween-age-hood, here we come.

Has this wonderful confidence and self-assurance that makes others believe they can feel the same way about themselves.

Loves a good joke. Often tells bad ones.

Lights up a room with her toothy smile, twinkly eyes and infectious silliness and positivity.

Will always be my first baby, the person who made me a mother, my snuggle-bunny. (For real. She promised to keep snuggling me even when I’m an old lady.)

Owns my heart.

Happy ninth birthday to my super-girl Lily Maxine. You make life marvelous.


Why I marched

women's march in Raleigh NC

I marched for all those who are marginalized, bullied or mistreated just for being who they are.

For HUMAN rights, equality, inclusivity, kindness, justice, love.

women's march in Raleigh NC

women's march in Raleigh NC

With deep gratitude for all the women who came before me, especially my mother who shattered glass ceilings in corporate America, then came home every evening and cooked us dinner, exhausted, still wearing her power suits. Now she works for peace and justice as a secular Franciscan. And for my grandmother, who at 79 years old, was just elected to her county school board and is passionate about helping children.

women's march in Raleigh NC

women's march in Raleigh NC

women's march in Raleigh NC

For myself, because I should never be made to feel afraid or uncomfortable or unworthy because I’m a woman. Because I deserve equal pay for equal work. And control of my own body.

I marched to celebrate being a woman. Because it is a gift, not an impediment.

women's march in Raleigh NC


women's march in Raleigh NC

Above all, I marched for my daughters, so that they know they are magnificent individuals who can do and be anything they want.

I marched for their futures.

women's march in Raleigh NC

women's march in Raleigh NC

I wasn’t alone. 17,000 here in Raleigh. Half a million in our nation’s capital.

Thousands and thousands more all over the country and the world.

And I’m going to keep marching. Every day. As best I can.

8 tips for new moms struggling with internet perfection

Tired mom with new babyI was lucky.

I was lucky when Lily was born that Instagram didn’t exist. That Twitter was just growing legs. That I hadn’t yet created a Facebook account.

Because, as a new mom struggling with postpartum depression and anxiety, seeing a whole world of blissed-out moms with perfectly dressed (and sleeping!) babies, gorgeous nurseries and designer gear surely would have sent me over the edge.

Reading about this new mom breaks my heart and rips open old wounds. Because she suffered in silence from a debilitating illness. But also because she worked so hard to maintain the appearance of perfection.

And I can’t help but wonder how big a role the internet played in her ideal of perfection.

There really is no such thing as perfection in life, much less when you’re slogging through the newborn trenches. But the internet tells us it’s out there. It’s everywhere, actually. And why can’t you — exhausted mom with leaky boobs and matted hair and a screaming baby — attain this perfection?

It’s ridiculous.

And even if someone else’s reality actually does include glorious hair and makeup, a baby dressed in the latest on-trend clothes who can sleep anywhere and a home that looks like an Anthropologie catalog, that doesn’t make your experience any less amazing or beautiful.

So I have some advice for any new mom feeling defeated by the “perfection” of the internet-Joneses. Some stuff that helped me when my second baby was born and I was hooked to my brand-new iPhone.

These aren’t easy. But they helped me, and I hope that even just one will do the same for you.

  1. When baby is sleeping, nursing or in your arms just hanging out, put down your phone and try to close your eyes. I know the urge will be strong. To check Facebook. To send a snap. To get the perfect dreamy-light-cozy-moment photo for your Instagram feed. But trust me, there will be tons of other moments to capture. If you have to, take a quick pic, then put the phone down. You can post it later, after you’d had a little rest and your partner is taking care of the baby.
  2. Quit following any accounts that make you feel bad about yourself. I still do this.
  3. Follow accounts that are REAL. Like @womenIRL and @kidsaretheworst. And any of these. Because many of those mom bloggers/social media influencers claiming to “keep it real” are still posting beautiful, unattainable images of perfection.
  4. Build lasting, helpful, meaningful connections through the internet. It can be a wonderful place for new moms. There are all sorts of communities of women in your shoes, and you can find them in Facebook groups, Twitter meet-ups and blogs. It’s beyond comforting. It’s validating. And can be life-saving.
  5. Try to resist the FOMS. I know it’s hard. But the most important thing in the whole world is happening right there in your arms.
  6. Let in those closest to you. The woman who wrote that article above was the mother’s best friend, but even she was being kept behind the curtain of truth. Lean on your partner, your family, your closest friends. Let them see and hear and feel the real stuff. My best friend traveled 600 miles to spend time with me when both of my babies were just a few weeks old. She got puked on, screamed at and saw me at my very worst. But I needed her more than anything, and her presence was the best gift. Let your people help. The whole village thing really is true. And they don’t give a shit about perfection.

AND if you think you may have a perinatal mood disorder like postpartum depression, talk to your doctor. As soon as possible. Get the help you need. For me, it was medication, therapy and the most amazing support group. And Postpartum Progress and Postpartum Support International are wonderful resources. You are not alone. None of us is ever alone.

Sophie Lately

Photo of a little girl on the beach

On her goals for the future:
> Actually when I grow up I’m going to be a veterinarian and also a digger and a builder.

After I told her she ate a good dinner:
> My face was so hungry and my heart inside my tummy was saying “I’m so hungry!”

General wisdom:
> My brain helps me think of everything.
> That’s not a nice thing to say. I’ll keep it in my mouth.
> Guess who’s the boss? My brain.
> 8-years-olders don’t know everything!
> Life is what’s important for ya. Not the cereal Life, but life.

After a kiss:
> Inside your mouth did you smell my mouth breath?

Throwing a penny into a fountain:
> I wished I love you and I wished for the earth.

On love:
> All of the love things people give me, they sink into my heart and my heart grows bigger and bigger.
> I love you a hundred and a million.
> Hugs are for love.

On Christmas night:
> This is the most awesomest day I ever did!

Doctor = “dop-ter”
Iron = “i-run”
Jesus = “Jeez-its”
Remember = “buh-member”

Saying goodbye to our Bella

Bella didn’t just love the beach. She could never get enough of it.

The sand, the waves, all the birds to chase.

Here she is in her element, during our wedding week 12 years ago:

photo of black lab playing at the beach

Her ritual never changed. From the moment Bella caught the scent of salt air, she’d claw her way across the boardwalk, dragging us up and over the dunes with a leash extended as far as it could stretch.

And once that “clink” separated leash from collar, she’d bolt for the water in a flurry of sand, flapping ears and maniacal tail-wagging. Back in her young-gal days, she could jump several feet off the ground to fetch a piece of driftwood or snag a waterlogged tennis ball from the air.

So I never doubted where Bella’s final resting place would be.

Ocean Isle Beach. The west end, where Tubbs Inlet slices it apart from Sunset Beach.

When the tide is really low, the water recedes so far back you can practically wade between the islands. That was always Bella’s favorite time to sprint through tide pools and terrorize seagulls trying to rest.

Yesterday was cold and windy and beautiful. My favorite kind of winter day on the beach. And the tide was really low when we set out to say goodbye to Bella, which I took as a good sign.

The clouds had just started smothering the sun, but it didn’t matter. We walked to the point, separate but together, our little family spread out across a vast expanse of sand and shallow pools.

Sophie darted in and out of the water, scooping up sea foam, pants rolled up above her knees. Lily carefully combed the beach for sand dollar pieces. I followed Marc to the very edge of the sand, head down, tears stinging my eyes.

The wind caught my first scoop of ashes, causing it to splatter onto the wet sand. Which was awful and upsetting. So I shed my boots, rolled up my leggings and waded out to ankle-deep territory. The cold water stung, which made me cry even harder, but finally — gently — I spread a handful of ashes into the ocean. The tide quickly lifted and scattered them.

Marc stayed quietly nearby, hugged me when I most needed it, and spread a handful of ashes. The girls each got a turn too, then scraped little tributes to Bella into the sand after watching their dad carve a heart around the letter B.

photo of dog images carved into sand photo of a heart and the letter B carved into the sand at the beach

By the time we finished, the sun had completely disappeared.

But later, as I walked back down the beach with a soaked Sophie on my back, I turned around and saw this. A glorious sliver of golden sky over the inlet.

photo of beach and sky

And I didn’t feel like crying anymore.

We love you, sweet Bella girl, queen of the waves, sand and seagulls. Rest in peace.

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