Because a stranger called me a prostitute

Occasionally, an odd message will come through the blog or even directly to my personal email. They don’t comment on the topic at hand (trivializing breast cancer, embarrassing myself, hating exercise). Instead, they want to use my small platform to peddle their own ideas or products. Probably most cancer bloggers have had at least one herbal-happy loon suggest we attack our tumors with green tea and meditation because chemotherapy is an evil scheme. I’ve only had to block a few weirdoes, which is saying something in this increasingly say-anything-at-all world.

One reader suggested that my willingness to stand naked before anyone but my husband and undergo life-saving surgery was a profound disobedience to God. We in the Shittiest Sorority should submit to His plan regarding our cancers, and die (or not) according divine whim instead of disrobing for surgeons. BLOCK. But it disturbed me enough that I still remember it three years later.

Today I received a bizarre email from a man trying to strike up a jokey relationship based on the conceit that I am being held in this marriage against my will as an “American Comfort Girl.” An actually creepy, deeply racist stranger found a picture of my family on line and wanted to ridicule the outlandish idea that I had married an Asian and birthed these two bastard half-breeds. He wanted to help me “escape.” I couldn’t delete and change all of my passwords to everything fast enough.

This screen-polluting email made me even angrier that there wasn’t a true apology for this. (I won’t link directly to the disgusting clip.) When something that ugly is laughed off as lighthearted fun, it can lead to other jokey offences, actual on-the-street, go-back-to-China shouting, and possibly prompt a message from a stranger suggesting I am a prostitute to the husband I adore.

Our current political climate has reminded us that we’ve only been putting makeup over our hate-filled pustules of racism and sexism. We’ve looked good enough for the school pictures, but it’s time to lance these boils. Maybe someday we’ll actually credit the billionaire bully for exposing what has obviously been simmering and spreading below the surface for too long: fear and misunderstanding of different skin, beliefs, and women in general. And you know, it’s not helpful to simply wag a judge-y Facebook finger at the orange ego-maniac who has been caught on tape, or the white man who made an actual video demeaning an entire town of Asians. We’re going to need to do more than that.

Only one generation ago, it was against the law for Bernie and me to be married in many states. Some of our parents, just 20-30 years ago, warned us not to date other races “because it would be difficult for your children.” And those were the thoughtful, modern parents who weren’t overtly racist. And you know what? They weren’t wrong. Last week, I had to explain to my boys why an entire “comedy” segment on a popular news program made fun of people that look like them… and why no one said, “sorry.”

Have you honestly never been complicit and quiet in the presence of downright rape-y language about women’s bits? Do you publicly chastise the jerk (maybe even a family member) who makes the offhand Asians-with-cameras or black-neighborhoods-where-you’ll-get-shot comments? No. No you don’t. Not every time. And you definitely didn’t ten or twenty years ago.

And that’s ok. Not sure you’re changing minds doing that, anyway. But I bet you make damn sure that the kids within earshot get schooled. Dinnertime discussion at the Lee home has been nothing but race relations (complicated and problematic) and rules for talking about girls (only ever say nice things). Exhausted, exasperated, and frankly kind of grossed out with the topic (God, aren’t we all?), Teddy pushed back from table exclaiming, “I’m still PRE-pubescent! My voice hasn’t even changed yet! Do we still have to keep talking about this weird stuff?” Well, Teddy, yes we do. But last night, this picture went viral, and gave me a glimmer of hope that future locker rooms will be filled with actual feminists.


Young men at Centennial High School, showing us how to combat the overwhelming ickiness on the news.

Unlike other angry outbursts catalyzed by news reports of truly gross behavior, mine is not political. I don’t care about the election (this year). Vote, don’t vote. Whatever, dude. But I do care profoundly about how you and I treat each other, how we talk about and to each other, and how we raise our boys to be champions for women. It’s time to get our multi-colored asses into pews or temples or mosques or yoga studios or Soul Cycle. Where do you go to tap into your sincerest, We Are the World feelings? I need them. And so do our kids.


Things I Think While Wearing Lycra

Let’s talk about horrible gym group classes. Are you itching to read another set of paragraphs listing things I think while wearing Lycra? Likely, no. But this little ditty has nothing to do with politics, or even how the minds of (some) boys are filthy, violent sex fantasy containers that can be punctured by narcissism and ooze misogynistic slime. Nah, this is about competitive spin class.

By the end of summer, I had become a bit of a regular at the Dracula Studio of Cycling Nowhere. My ass was tighter. My arms were ropier. I mean, I still hated it and refused to whoo hoo, or turn the knob very far, but I couldn’t argue with its effects. Then September happened. How do you have time to exercise in September? In addition to all of the back-to-school nonsense, Bernie and I needed to binge watch Stranger Things. I chose The Upside Down over Equinox. Here’s why.

Equinox sucks. And it’s not Equinox, exactly. Equinox is pretty and clean and all the right stuff is there. But the problem is… well… there are other people there. And they might be delightful. But at Equinox they seem so fit, or they are exercising so earnestly just watching them makes me feel like an alien on Planet Cardio. Group exercise, I suppose, is meant to motivate us to a higher level. Not for me. I’m not “pushing past the pain” for sweaty strangers. I’m truly not stronger than I think. What is the opposite of endorphins? I get those.

But last week I put a brisket in the oven, settled my boys into homework, squeezed into Lycra, and went to spin class. I arrived early, adjusted my bike, put my hair in a ponytail, and waited for the chipper instructor to solve her IT issues. I wasn’t sure why spin class needed a PowerPoint presentation, but a big white screen was soon replaced with spinning orbs corresponding to our numbered bikes and listing our very names beneath. Britt L. Bike 4. My orb wasn’t nearly as glow-y as the other orbs. You can probably write the rest of this post.

Five “challenges” pitted us against each other or assigned us to fake teams that I helped lose. Exercise is already awful, so to heap real time shame onto the experience was a new low as far as Equinox experiences go. Which is saying something: the first time I went, they told me I was fat. Probably the most annoying aspect of the class was that there was so much “down time” in between these stupid competitions that I didn’t leave with the sweat-soaked certainty that it was worth the trouble.

I really should have hauled ass out of there the minute I realized the instructor was going to make us interact. My only other experience with this was an ill-fated afternoon of yoga. A few years ago, I dropped into a noon class on a whim. I normally took the early power hour with the cute Asian guy, and had never been to this class with this instructor. There were only four of us: two moms trading my-shitty-teenager stories, shirtless Hairy Dad, and me. The skinny yogi arrived, clasped her always grateful for everything on earth hands, and told us what a wonderful opportunity a class of four would be to do Couples Yoga!!!! (Exclamation points represent her puppy dog enthusiasm for this wildly great idea.) Moms with crap kids immediately paired up, leaving me with the bare breasted bro. I will always and forever regret that I let myself be peer pressured into couples hot yoga. And aren’t yogis supposed to be intuitive and able to feel the energy in the room and other ridiculous things associated with their beatific smiles? Well, this skinny bitch was clueless.

The class began with stretching. We sat, straddled, feet touching, and were instructed to clasp hands and pull our partner over the chaste diamond of space between us. Hairy Dad wasn’t very flexible. Pulling with all my might, he hardly entered my personal space. But when it was my turn for assisted stretching, I felt the full power of a man who attends regular yoga classes. Dude was strong. The trouble though, my friends, is that I’m still-do-splits flexible. His forceful yank on my outstretched hands pulled my pelvis into the diamond and my head right into his junk.

“Oh my God oh my God oh my God, sorry sorry sorry,” we both said to each other.

I called Bernie afterwards to report my infidelity. I still recoil physically when I recall that moment I unwittingly dove into a stranger’s crotch—an experience I actually paid for.

Time to find another class. Stories and complaints to follow.




I got cancer… and fat! By Steve Safran


Picture the fictitious cancer patient. Skinny. Gaunt. Wasted muscle clinging to pencil thin bones. Weak. They have lost a ton of weight from the combination of no appetite coupled with vomiting up what they have managed to get down. It’s the World’s Worst Diet. Everyone loses weight on it.

This wasn’t me.

I finished chemotherapy a year ago weighing one pound more than when I started. Today, I weigh 25 pounds more.

What the fuck?

So here’s the nasty trick chemo played on me. The treatment and never-ending recovery has added a lot of weight, and it continues. And, mind you, I take ownership for much of this. I did not go into treatment nice and svelte. Britt has called me “…a teddy bear… a grumpy Jewish teddy bear,” and you don’t get that moniker weighing 145 lbs.

The oncologists suggested eating 2000-3000 calories a day during the course of my chemotherapy regimen. They didn’t tell me how to pack in a 4th or 5th meal a day, but insisted I needed extra calories to fight cancer and stave off nausea. When they didn’t specify any specific source for these calories I thought, “Awesome! Ice cream at every meal!”

Except, I found out, eating was a horror. You know how you feel at 3pm if you’ve skipped lunch? Imagine that but with a sour stomach, achy bones, bitter fatigue, and a sandpaper tongue. I had nightmares where I actually screamed, “I can’t eat again!”

So there I was, lying in bed, immobile, eating 3,000 calories a day. It’s amazing I only put on one pound. Chemotherapy treatment ended. Eating habits returned to normal. Bald and exhausted, it was now time to start an exercise regimen. But my body had other plans…


For the uninitiated, neuropathy is extreme nerve pain. Imagine “pins and needles,” except the pins are on fire and the needles are sticking you a thousand times a second, all over, from the inside. Neuropathy is a common, though under-discussed side effect of chemo. About one in three of us get it. For me, it is exacerbated by heat. I keep my apartment at a temperature approaching the crisper drawer.

So here I am, post-treatment with one no-advancement-of-disease scan under my over-stretched belt, actually wanting to move. I want to return to some sort of daily routine that involves logging steps outside the apartment. But doing so activates my neuropathy. The pain is awful in a way that awful is just not nearly strong enough a word. I’ve tried meds. I’ve been to acupuncture. (A funny irony. The cure for Hell’s “pins and needles” is more pins.) These treatments stave off an attack temporarily, but a short sprint to catch the cab or extra flight of stairs is enough to warm my body for another attack.

All of which means I’m terribly out of shape, gaining weight, and damn near immobile at times. Helplessness settles in: if I can’t lose weight getting cancer, what chance does Weight Watchers stand?

I can eat less, or better, I suppose. Who couldn’t? I’m determined to fight through the pain. I’m starting physical therapy with people who specialize in neuropathy. I take cold showers after exercising (which helps) and text Britt that this sucks (also helpful).

I’ve written before about how when cancer treatment ends, you’re really only smack in the middle of it. “If you think cancer’s bad, wait until you’re cured,” I’ve noted. The PTSD. The side-effects. The constant follow-up appointments. The time spent in giant scanning tubes and machines that make loud noises. The four days after each scan wondering “Has it come back?” The cancer goes away, but the “cancer patient” remains.

Recovery for me still includes lasting effects. It also, unfortunately, includes an occasional jokey barb about my increasing teddy bearish-ness. Prior to cancer, those comments might not have weighed as heavily on me as these extra pounds. But I got cancer and got fat. Beat the first. Working on the second. Stay tuned.


Editor’s note:

I will continue to remind Steve that a recent study of breast cancer patients found an average 11-pound weight gain for women who had chemo versus those who did not. The toll these poisons take on our metabolism is still undefined, but certainly reported anecdotally and with great humor and frustration in thousands of breast cancer blogs. Hang with us, Stevie. We think you’re doing great.


Boys in Pink Tee Shirts

Before I became a pledge in The Shittiest Sorority, the Pepto Bismol dipped month of October didn’t make much of an impression on me. Plus, pink is the principal color in my closet, so I was happy to buy an umbrella or vacuum cleaner in rosy hues. But for those who have spent a year (or lifetime for metsters) preoccupied with mutilating surgery and poisons, wigs and neuropathies, PTSD and depression, that pink ribbon-emblazoned hosiery egg becomes irritating and dismissive. Control Top for the Cure in nude and suntan!

Pinked-up products are like that girl in high school who does a happy, drunken jig to The Love Cats, but cannot name a single song on any of the B sides. She likes The Cure because The Love Cats is upbeat and silly and ba dum dum dum dum dum BAH da da da da da! The peppy cheerleader doesn’t know The Cure, though. Don’t pretend to understand the tortured genius that is Robert Smith. That’s what we’re like in October. We’re eye-rolling goth girls and YOU DON’T GET IT. We’re barely tolerating your cheery enthusiasm and goofball Facebook status jokes (“no TP, goodbye socks” isn’t saving lives, y’all.) The #FuckCancer slogan, though– that one we can wave a foam finger for.

This month, my favorite gals in the blogging world are posting under a common theme: #BreastCancerRealityCheck. This hashtag is our clubhouse—a place to vent about the realities of breast cancer treatment as our social media feeds fill with well meaning, but miss-the-mark slogans and fundraisers or complete inanity (Save the Ta-tas, No Bra Day). A brief scroll through these tweets will immediately acquaint the un-cancered with the uglier side of the disease, and explain why your friend who you assumed was “cured” gets a bit bitchy in October.

Bernie, who is sometimes nicer than I am, says people should not be criticized for good intentions. I will never Walk for the Cure—I’ve given quite enough, thank you. Plus, cardio, so yuck. But today, both of my kids did that… for me. I think. I’m not sure. Teddy chose crossing the Smoot Bridge over the first performance with his choir. Brodie skipped the second tryout for travel basketball in favor walking all over Boston in the rain. Maybe they just wanted to ditch Church to hatch Pokémon eggs downtown. I’ll never know. But last night, their bedroom looked like this:


and I gave them the benefit of the doubt. The only other time they have laid out clothes in anticipation of an event, we were going to watch the Red Sox in the World Series.

Thing is, Bernie and I can never underestimate how Breast Cancer has affected our boys. For nearly 5 years, they have been the kids at school whose Mom Had Cancer. It certainly doesn’t define them. But when other moms join The Shittiest Sorority, mine naturally become the go-to pals for information, possibly support. Two years ago, Teddy told me that a school friend’s mom “… has breast cancer, and probably is going to die.” Ooof. I reached out to her not only to offer help and a sympathetic ear, but also to be able to change that narrative for my own kid.

The boys understand that Breast Cancer Awareness is unnecessary—everyone is aware. They know there is no remission, that there is no cure, and also that many moms don’t die (but that some do). Why did they want to do the Breast Cancer Walk today? Not sure. Last night Bernie and I watched Deadpool, and I cannot stop thinking about this quote:

“The worst part about cancer isn’t what it does to you, but what it does to everyone else in your life.”

Some of these Pink Things aren’t really about us, at all. Instead, they give the people who love us an opportunity to do… something. If that something raises even the teensiest bit of money for metastatic disease research, that’s even better. At year five I feel less back-lashy about the Pinking of October, possibly because I know I have my sisters at #BreastCancerRealityCheck who will virtually high five my snarky aggravation with pink urinal cakes, Dill Pickles for the Cure, or silly slogans about boobies that insult the very people who no longer have them. (So, maybe still a bit back-lashy.)

But to all who gathered together in the rain to walk the city in support of people like me: THANK YOU. Thank you for raising money and caring and being silly and wonderful. This is what my boys need to see in the world: a bit of pink-drenched proof of generosity, encouragement, and love. And to my Shitty Sorority Sisters, hang in there. Only 29 more days…









Failing September

What made it slightly more embarrassing that I wasn’t prepared for our Committee Meeting at my house was the fact that they showed up while I was still wearing teeny tiny pajamas.

I thought I had all morning to prepare for tomorrow’s meeting. Plenty of time to drain the coffee pot, type the agenda, send the reminder email, and make the muffins. Look at ALL OF THIS TIME! But first I’ll make the beds. It’s easier to be productive in a house with made beds.

Ding Dong. 

After a summer of carb-eschewing and spinning, my bits are higher and tighter. I’m sure our new interim director didn’t expect to see them, though. The remainder of the committee arrived after I found pants. And maybe they didn’t notice that hospital-corner bed-making after a breakfast of Tamoxifen and coffee meant I was legitimately feverish. Ding Dong, welcome to the Lee’s! Watch me glisten with hospitality.

I hate being busy. I’ll never be one of those moms tethered to her SUV and a slave to an impossible schedule of overlapping practice times at fields in different towns. It’s not that I refuse to let my boys drag me around because I prefer evenings on the couch. Like most moms, I’d give up all mid week drinking to shuttle them to sports. I’d spend my entire shoe budget on cleats and guards and pads and helmets. Lucky for me, we Lees aren’t traveling team material.

On any given school night, you’ll find us at home. Of course, there is some stuff on the calendar. Asian law requires piano lessons. And my boys are on a just-sign-up flag football team that plays for a handful of weekends in the fall. My days are plenty full with a part-timey job, oodles of volunteer meetings, and the usual mom stuff. And I take pride in my commitment to the mom stuff. Currently there is not a single item in any of the laundry bins. Can’t stop. Won’t stop. Sorting and separating.

But September’s calendar requires even the Lees to be busy. September heaps BACK TO SCHOOL and WELCOME BACK and FIRSTS OF THE YEAR functions onto doctor’s appointments, multiple trips to get vital sporting equipment for one season, and your 43rd party at the trampoline paint ball rock climbing venue because (better/annoying) moms insist on birthday parties for their kids. I still use a paper calendar, and this Thursday’s box is too small for all of the things I need to do but will probably forget because they are written too tiny and I KNOW, BERNIE, I KNOW THAT I NEED TO USE THE GOOGLE CALENDAR.

How’s your September going? Are you greeting the Chair of the Board of your nonprofit and its interim director wearing skivvies? Maybe you haven’t missed a single meeting, or shown up to one without pants and sweaty half moons of yesterday’s mascara heralding your competence. Me, I’m ready for this Sept-embarrassment of a month to be over.

Middle school dinner is tonight and I’m totally going to be on time, definitely not in jammies. It’s in my phone marked “don’t forget to go” with three alarms. I plan to be entirely un-embarrassing. Until at least tomorrow. (Tomorrow’s not on the Google calendar yet.)



I still use these. I’ve missed three meetings this month, but I still use these.

In Defense of Journalists… by Steve Safran

Journalists know they are doing a good job when they get hate mail from both sides of a story. By that metric, most political journalists have been doing an excellent job this political season. While I no longer cover news, I write about television and social media. I did produce coverage of the New Hampshire primaries for an online news organization earlier this year, but that’s been the extent of my official reporting. And, since we’re in an era of everyone crying “Bias!” you should know my bias right up front:

People have to shut the fuck up about how journalists are covering this election. Now.

Let’s get this right out of the way: Journalists lean liberal. They don’t deny it. They go into the profession with the idea of changing the world, taking on government and speaking truth to power. They do that, knowing the job does not come with a lucrative salary. Those are not the personality types of a conservative.

Having said that, I am a conservative in a liberal profession. I am a conservative who does not like Donald Trump. There are my biases.

If I had to distill the biggest complaint people have about “The Media” this campaign it is this: The media created Donald Trump in an effort to get ratings, and now they have to expose him as a fraud.

Is there anyone out there who hasn’t heard that Donald Trump tells lies? For that matter, is there anyone who thinks the media has gone easy on Hillary Clinton? And does anyone think that a person who has decided to vote for either candidate would change their mind if they were to read, in “The New York Times,” that their candidate lied?

It is not the job of the news to call news subjects names. Journalists are supposed to tell you what happened, and leave it to you to decide how you feel about the topic. You’re not going to see “Hillary Clinton (D): Hides Emails” and “Donald Trump (R): Lies a Lot” as their titles on TV.

Reporters are operating under unprecedented conditions. One candidate puts them in a pen, calls them names on Twitter, mocks them on live TV and even has them arrested. The other candidate won’t even speak to reporters in a formal setting. So we have a campaign in which neither candidate wants anything to do with the media, and yet the media is called irresponsible. Face it: the candidates are the reason their own coverage sucks.

When you heard there was an explosion in Manhattan Saturday night, you may have first found out about it on Twitter or Facebook. What did you do then? You went to cable news. And you saw great coverage. On Twitter, people were screaming about terrorism and ISIS and all sorts of as-yet unfounded theories. Good journalists don’t do that. They report the facts. They tell you what they know and what they don’t. We need these people on the street– people who are willing to go where a bomb just exploded and tell you what they found out.

Journalism as a profession is a skeleton of what it used to be. Newsrooms are decimated. Newspapers have either gone out of business or drastically cut staff. Reporters are asked to write, tweet, shoot video, post on Facebook, use Instagram and still file a complete version for the web and the next day’s newspaper. Bias? They’re biased toward getting six hours of sleep.

They do this in an industry where the median salary is $38,095. Oh– and it’s a job that CareerCast ranks as the worst job in America, right below pest control.

A word about “The Media.” There is no “The Media.” There aren’t daily meetings to decide how to advance the liberal agenda. There is no consensus. There are conventions, and they are full of seminars on how to improve coverage, have good relations in the community and other ways to improve your skills. There are also free drinks (…but fewer than there were 15 years ago).

Did TV give too much coverage to Donald Trump early on? Yes. He made for good TV. And because he was on TV so much, the newspapers couldn’t ignore him. As for the accusation that TV news put Trump on because he was good for ratings: Guilty. These are businesses. People demand high-quality coverage, but aren’t willing to pay for a newspaper or website. You have to get ad money somehow. I love it when people razz us with, “So– trying to sell more newspapers?” Yes, yes of course we are. We make $18 an hour. We could use the extra $1.25.

But nobody forced people to vote for the man. CNN could have aired a five-knife juggler cracking jokes as a Presidential candidate, and it would have been great TV. I don’t think the juggler would have received many votes, though. Don’t blame reporters for not asking Trump the tough questions. They ask. He doesn’t answer. Or he answers with outrageous statements that used to get candidates disqualified– and he gets more support. This is asynchronous warfare now. I would argue that showing Trump’s press conferences did a world of good by showing people exactly the kind of person he is. It just turned out that he is the kind of person those voters want.

Hillary Clinton gets away with plenty, too. Her supporters should really demand more of her. She is running a campaign not to lose. She isn’t running to win. I can tell you five of Trump’s plans off the top of my head. I can’t tell you what Hillary plans on doing, because it keeps changing and because she answers questions on substance with a “We’re going to look into that.” You should really want more from her. The Clintons don’t answer so much as put together pre-tested words and hope a sentence comes out.

So, with all of these problems– candidates that don’t talk, jobs that don’t pay, reporters hoping they’re not fired tomorrow– miraculously, the news still goes on. Media bashing is a fine political tradition. But when it becomes a habit of the public, it is dangerous. Hold the media accountable, by all means. But consider the alternative. These guys hate the Republicans. Those guys hate the Democrats. Everyone hates the media. The alternative is a one-party state with no press.

And in those places… you’re not allowed to complain at all.



Cancer, Facebook, and Harley Quinn’s Ass

Dear Facebook Love Your Spouse Challenge,

It’s not you; it’s me. Typically happy to over-share and post flattering photos of my beloved and me holding cocktails on decks and beaches, I’m not going to do this competitively. Like many, I am exhausted of arguments that we can’t do anything if it alienates, triggers, ignores, belittles, or otherwise doesn’t include everyone on the planet. But your recent “challenge” made me mindful of how my newly widowed, freshly divorced, or not perennially-euphoric-about-her-spouse friend might dry heave at seven separate updates of Bernie and me being, well, Bernie and Me. Also, if you’ve ever read EMB (now B&B), the early years are more a tribute to my husband than Suicide Squad is a 2-hour homage to Margot Robbie’s ass.

I realize I just compared Bernie to a perfect posterior. And though he’ll appreciate that, it’s probably not what your Challenges intend us to do. Seven days of Prove You Love Your Spouse means posting pictures holding Solo cups in dorm rooms, cutting the wedding cake, blissfully unflattering moments with the first baby, and then finally the whole family at the beach/on the boat/in front of the Eiffel Tower. I don’t have any of these (where I look fantastic). So forgive me if I don’t play.

Truth be told, I avoid anything that smacks of audience participation. I ignored the Ice Bucket Challenge. I have zero interest in riding a bike from P-town to kingdom come– even in the name of Cancer. I won’t come up on stage or whoo hoo. I will raise one limp arm for The Wave. When asked to high five my neighbor in spin class, I’ll give an enthusiastic slap… but secretly I’m irritated to be pulled into her endorphin moment and peer pressured to touch her gross, sweaty hand.

It’s not you. It’s me. I’m outwardly sunny, inwardly a little bit awful. Recently, a beautiful friend who I honestly enjoy introduced me as “the nicest mean person I know.” And I started wondering when that happened. Thing is, Facebook, Cancer made me kind of a jerk. Touched with scary disease at a young-ish age, I was launched prematurely into that personality given to older, barely-tolerating-you characters (Dowager Countess, Emily Gilmore, most of the cast of Steel Magnolias). Breast cancer knows no “remission” and so there is a might-be-dead-next-year slogan stamped in the darkest parts of my psyche no matter how favorable my five-year statistics. So I do not pretend to like or join in or ride or run or care if I don’t.


A sweet neighbor keeps offering up inventive ideas for Family Fun. My consistent answer: “That sounds tiring.” Others might promise to visit that lighthouse, take that cooking class, or brave that water park teeming with Pseudomonas, even if they never would. But like the Dowager, I won’t feign enthusiasm for their exhausting activities for entertainment and betterment. The Olympics are on! And someone needs to hold down this couch.

And so, Facebook, when you playfully challenge me to Prove My Love for My Husband, my answer is, “Nope.” I wonder if other Cancer victims have adopted this gave-at-the-office sort of approach to peer pressured pursuits, no matter how silly or innocuous or feel-good they might be. And I honestly adore seeing Kodak moments of the people I love as they post seven days of lovey doviness. But my inner Cancer bitch (is this a thing?) prefers me on the sidelines, even if a teeny part of me knows that if I enter any Love Your Spouse Challenge… I. WILL. WIN. Because it’s Bernie, a husband lovelier than Margot Robbie’s butt.


They’re probably asking her if she does SoulCycle…



Sing, instead

On Wednesday, one of my loveliest friends invited my boys and me for an evening of… song. Not music. Not a concert. But song. We had only a few details, but even my smallish boys didn’t balk at the idea. Maybe smallish boys also wanted to escape the ALL CAPS political discourse of angry adults? Hmmm. But the Lees were immediately down for this.

The venue was a Quaker meetinghouse. The group: strangers. The leader was a television actress my kids knew well, having recently Netflix binge-watched ten seasons of her oh-my-Gods. Her workshop is based on the truth that everyone can sing. Her workshop is magic because she can direct a room full of strangers to sing in four part harmony within minutes. Want to feel good about your fellow citizens? Hold hands and a melody with them.

We floated out of that room in an entirely different mood. Immediately I knew I needed the Olympics to begin already. I want triumph stories and personal bests and schlocky theme music that’ll make you want to buy a new pair of sneaks, or get back in the pool. I want to see strong bodies from all corners of the planet inspiring and challenging each other to do impossible things. Side by side. Together. High-five-ing. I need a good lump-in-your-throat National Anthem singing moment. I want our shouts of U-S-A to feel like a unifying chant of victory rather than a fear-mongering dirge of exclusion.

We are all suffering from Don-illary/Trump-ton fatigue. My (mostly lefty liberal) social media threads are like protests from petulant children making 11th hour arguments for a later bedtime. But why? But why? Are all of these articles—there’s, like, one every hour– kind, necessary, and true (dear friend Lisa’s criteria for gossip-spreading or reposting)? Who knows? What I do know is that we already have plenty of reasons to find Trump repellent. And everyone already knows that oodles of people who wouldn’t break bread with him, trust him in a business deal, or believe his handicap at Mar-a-Lago are voting for him anyway. And the but why? but why? protestations land on the same ears as the SAHM holding her ground and her Chardonnay.

Friday, August 5th, friends. Opening ceremonies. No Hillary. No Trump. Nothing but strong bodies from all corners of the planet. And us: staring in the same direction shouting U-S-A in spite of a media maelstrom that bombards us with angry opinions insisting we couldn’t possibly agree about anything. When, duh, we can. Even people voting for Trump agree that he might be the most odiously orange pseudo-politician in our shared history.

Olympics, people! And until then, let’s swap out the umpteenth post about why your candidate is just the worst for unlikely animal friend videos and people bumping into stuff playing Pokémon Go. We keep promising ourselves (and we promised Nancy) that we’d do better than this. We demand that our politicians engage in bipartisan discourse, we applaud leaders who encourage us to listen to each other, and then we go back to our little screens and shout into the echo chamber.

Let’s sing with each other, instead.


(Relieved Teddy didn’t ask her why she cheated on Chandler.) 

Vampire Cycling

Last night’s insomnia was sponsored by Moth in the Bedroom, Cousins Who Could Not Catch Moth in the Bedroom, and Necessary Confirmation of Death for Moth in the Bedroom. Coffee will be my best friend today as I help Zealot Sister’s kids shove ten days of accumulated summertime ephemera into too-small suitcases and drive from the Cape to Logan airport. Today is my last day making sure four kids have three squares. Today is my last chance to create memories that will outlast the stretches of time these cousins don’t see each other. Today is my third day of spinning.

I’m at it again: the loathsome exercise I burn more calories complaining about than doing. This is my first experience at one of these boutique cycling torture classes and so far I’ve learned that the price of spinning is directly proportional to the volume of the dance track. It’s also darker than a nightclub. A physically perfect, fast-pedaling lunatic guides us up and down simulated hills, encouraging us to risk certain facial trauma to include arm exercises. I fake my turns on the resistance knob.

“Woo fucking hoo, you crazy batch of minivan moms. You just cycled absolutely no where in Dracula’s exercise studio,” I scream-think as I dismount early, too pooped to stay for the cool down set accompanied by base-heavy Beyoncé orgasm riffs. I’ve seen you Soul Cycle sisters on Facebook all sweat-dreamy and thankful. That’ll never be me. And honestly, I wonder what the hell is in your water bottles. Almost always chipper and annoyingly upbeat, at the 43rd minute of group exercise I hate everyone. Replacing venomous retorts to, “HOW WAS YOUR RIDE?” with normal responses requires the strongest level of verbal Spanx for me.

It’s also possible I’m tired. Graduation season with late night parties, umpteen speeches, and too many Chardonnays was followed by a whirlwind trip to the Poconos for Taiwanese Family Camp. Which is totally a thing. A thing that we did. Bernie was their keynote speaker and somehow managed to give a lecture about Plastic Surgery that included only two sets of boobs and one severed arm. Our kids got to see their Dad at his bow-tied, smartypants best, and then we raced to the Cape where Grandparents were waiting with Zealot Sister’s kids for fireworks. It’s been three squares for dozens of people since then, and the occasional wee hour insect hunt and murder.

After this round trip to Logan, summer really begins for me. Theme: get your own damn sandwich. Also, naps. And let’s be honest, more spinning at Dracula’s Rave. Because all of us should aspire to the physique of these fast pedaling lunatics. Left right left right left right left right.


But where would a VAMPIRE want to cycle? — B/Spoke studio designers, apparently








In the dream, Joe picks me up like a little girl… high over his head… beaming at me with an imp grin like he might toss me up to the ceiling.

“Put me down,” I tell him. “You’re going to pop my implants.”

Joe laughter. Loud, unbridled joy guffaws from Joe. I’ll miss that the most.

Joe’s last will and testament directed The Stockpeople to join the extensive Burke clan and other good friends to celebrate his life. So we did just that, meeting in gorgeous Shoreham, his childhood home. We came from all four corners of the country to live like nuclear Stocktons before there were any husbands or babies or faraway jobs. The only thing missing was a golden retriever. It was exhilarating and exhausting, full of giggles and tears, ocean panoramas and pink skies. It was perfect.

My favorite eulogy was from Nancy. With classic Burke humor and love, she reminded us that Joe’s bigger-than-life persona included a larger-than-human ego. Joe was quite aware of his handsomeness, seductiveness, magnetism, and crowd-wowing abilities. He wasn’t perfect (who is?), but we adored everything about him. I read The Joy Vacuum out loud. I couldn’t get through that without ugly, gasping tears. But Joe appreciated things that were real… even if they were messy. So there was that.

I miss them already: Erin’s not-aware-how-stunning-they-are daughters, the overtall boys, the staggering beauty that accompanies the Burke genes. Why didn’t we do this sooner? We kept asking ourselves that. Joe probably had, too, as he traveled thousands of miles to visit everyone– one last time. Did he know we’d do it? Did he know we’d quit work early, board planes and ferries, rent houses, and buy cases and cases of wine? Maybe not. But if he knew we did (and we think he knew), it was just what he had imagined. We loved each other all over again and for the first time.

It was supposed to rain. Instead: this.

Joe's Sunset

One thing Joe did beautifully in his later years was to live soberly, with purpose, mindfulness, awareness, and kindness. In the past five years, Joe had introduced me to a handful of people I now call friends. If Joe thought you should probably know so-and-so, he’d broker the introduction, and then watch with great satisfaction as it all played out the way he knew it would. At his own memorial service, we could feel him mayonnaise-smearing his joyful love all over us, forcing us into a huge Dagwood sandwich of piled up people—messy and delicious.

*          *          *

At least an hour late, the Burke family pulls up to the Stockton home, noisily spilling out of the family car. Joe’s body fills the frame of the doorway, and announcing in his made-for-radio voice he bellows, “THE LOUD FAMILY IS HERE.” I’m 11. He picks me up, beaming at me with an imp grin like he might toss me to the ceiling.

I don’t want him to put me down.