Gross

Two posts? Blame it on the HVAC guy. He’s taking forever. I submit that most bloggers are simply waiting for repairmen to arrive.

Being a parent is occasionally quite disgusting. This morning’s bus stop backpack pummeling death match between my usually-not-that-annoying children resulted in a bonk to Brodie’s nose. Two minutes until bus arrival, and my son looks like a tiny trauma patient (while the little one shirked into the shrubs submitting a steady stream of  “sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry…”). With no Puffs to be found in any of our pockets or zippered compartments, I let my darling son blow his bloody, runny nose into my sweatshirt. Repeatedly. Until the flow stopped and the bus arrived. As a parent, at some point, you’re going to find yourself wearing blood and boogers. (And you might even forget, and chat up the neighbors wearing your defiled athletic-wear.) Being a parent involves Gross Things.

I’m certain many of you have your own tales of ick, especially with flu season not quite wrapping up in these parts. Teddy’s stomach bug coincided with an awesome sushi feast last weekend. “Hey, there’s my clam!” the little patient exclaimed, after he spewed everywhere except the designated HazMat area I had prepared. Although small people often feel instantly fabulous after a good purge, this excrement identification game had Mommy dry heaving her own expletives at the chum-stained carpet. Blech.

I have no idea why the toilet is an elusive target, or why all of our iThings are covered in a greasy film, or why Brodie’s hockey bag smells like that. But I do know that despite lots and lots and lots of wonderful things about little boys, they’re kind of revolting. Last night Brodie showed all of the signs of imminent hurling, and I consoled him commode-side as he suddenly switched gears and unleashed the evil humors from the other end. Luckily this was one of the times when his aim was good, but little boys with sore bellies want Mommy’s company. So we’re privy to these charming moments in the privy. An honor, I’m sure.

Last year, when I was on immunologic lockdown, Teddy got sick. The projectile kind of sick that involved all 147 of his stuffed animals. Bernie insisted that I keep my distance as he and A-Ma did the midnight sheet swap, jammie change, and mountains of laundry. This was, actually, a bit of a perk regarding chemotherapy, although at the time I would have happily de-chunked the blankets if it meant I wasn’t bald. A year later, I can care for my bloodied, oozing, vomiting boys… and even three inches of hair is plenty to collect a delightful souvenir of such proximal parenting. Yuck. But it’s a good thing to know that my little boys are no longer scared to blow their noses and vomit clams all over me. That’s a beautiful kind of gross.

My apologies if this whole thing has you groping for Purell. But there is actually great love in these nauseating moments. What’s the most repellent thing you’ve done in the name of Parenting?

Don't leave home without it.

Little boys should be issued with a lifetime supply of this stuff.

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Teachers

Professor Simmons (of Fromage fame) sent the perfect gift: a book! Selected from his favorite purveyor of pre-owned texts and wrapped up in plain brown paper, my darling Professor delivered the syllabus for our next bubbly reunion. If you, like me, are a writer who enjoys reading about writing, then Simple and Direct: A Rhetoric for Writers, by Jacques Barzun is Manchego on your apple, Devonshire cream on your scone, sherry by the fire. (And if you, like me, enjoy talking about reading about writing, then welcome to Britt’s Book Club, champagne included.) Although written words about the written word may have the city-slickest of you crying, “Meta!” Mr. Barzun will insist that you resist. After many elegant and witty chapters illustrating ways to sidestep common writing errors, the author reminds us not to take it all too seriously, either.

 Pedantry is a misplaced attention to trifles which then prides itself on its poor judgment.

I assume these beauties slide off of his brandied tongue at any given cocktail party. I want to fill his pipe, TA his class, and write (better). I read the entire text in two sittings and now I am savoring a second study to collect my favorite sentences for the pleasure of saying them aloud. Try it with the quote above and enjoy channeling your best Dowager Countess. Here is another little gem, equally applicable to braving the blank page, choosing a Halloween costume, and approaching the pretty girl at the bar:

Once committed to a cliché… you must not tamper with it.

Regarding the construction of a perfect sentence (or outfit, or one-liner), one may go whole hog (but not pan pig), and the key to success is a steadfast dedication to your point… even if your point is not having one. Here’s mine, tucked into third paragraph and written plain: I just love Professor Simmons and all of the Great Teachers with their easy eloquence, unsolicited gifts, and scholarly encouragement to write (better).

Earlier in the week, I found another treasure in the mail, sandwiched between the piles of glossy encouragements to buy rustic coffee tables and resort clothing. My elderly editor (of Pom Pom fame) sent an amused reply to my chatty letter… and requested a meeting! Luckily, I have the sort of husband who will surrender his wife to another man for a few stolen moments at Church coffee hour. The summons was printed on a thick card embossed with the university library that bears his name, and it directed me to look for him in a red jacket, green cap. I’m so excited to meet an outfit-planning, tryst-arranging, letter-writing, library-naming fellow. This man has ninety brag-worthy years of academic, business, and personal successes, so I feel compelled to bring more to the meeting than my silly, pom pon-wielding passion for the written word. I think baked goods are in order.

Thinking about these delightful Professors Emeriti recalls another: A Gong. I’ve written about my father-in-law oodles of times, so that regular readers know all about energy work and wasabi peas and the understated brilliance of this kind man. Bernie’s father is a student of Qi Gong, a Tai Chi master, a healer, and the former Chairman of the Psychology Department. His East Meets West philosophy elevates all of his pursuits– golf, photography, YouTube videos– to a search for their essence. We all believe that A Gong is a little bit magic. This is a man who can unknot your back, lessen the chemo pain, improve your putt, win the photo show, and introduce you to God. Over the past dozen years I’ve met, hosted, housed, and fed students of all ages who call A Gong, “teacher.” They come from all corners to sit at our table, drink many pots of tea, and pocket bits of A Gong wisdom that we take for granted. Like this:

The tall tree invites the wind.

In the bloggy brouhaha of weeks past, this was A Gong’s take on being so very… public. The image of a proud, towering tree laid flat by the forces of the universe is such a stark contrast to my sunny worldview. But A Gong’s concerns as The Family Patriarch trumped his consideration of these musings as Professor. This is understandable, honorable, expected: his job is to make certain no Evil Things slither into our God-fearing bubble. Unfortunately, Cancer already did… and these pages (and your words) kept that scary beast at bay. Also, these very posts prompted a welcome letter-exchange (a dying practice) with the Great Professor Simmons. It’s also possible that Pom Poms has inspired the beginning of a beautiful, new friendship! Good Things can come of shared writings… not the least of which was three hours of discussion about Love, Truth, and Internet Evils with my father-in-law. Writers must write… but psychologists must analyze.

And now, I leave you with the words of another teacher (Liberal Joe) who, because of what I was writing (and omitting), sensed I wasn’t my bubbly self. He inspired me to remember the point: why I began writing these little essays a year ago… and maybe even why the Great Professors are sending books and letters of encouragement.

On your last thought on the loss of peace: So find peace. Be peaceful. Beautiful, bright, thoughtful and well written go real well with peaceful.

Jacques Barzun wouldn’t say it any better.

That's me... still standing.

That’s me… still standing.

In Defense of Minecraft

On Fridays after school, my little boys run into the house, hurl backpacks into corners, shrug out of a dozen layers, and race each other to the computers. They’re not wasting one second of mommy-sanctioned Minecraft time. As the children are entertained (abducted) by a virtual world, I curse this insidious addiction, and mollify my kids-who-won’t-require-parenting-‘til-bedtime guilt by repeating the mantra of all parents of the Minecraft-obsessed: as far as gaming goes… this one isn’t so bad. And if you fall for that, it really does free up cocktail hour quite nicely.

For those of you who don’t know the value of a diamond pick axe, this is my (complete mis-)understanding of Minecraft: a sort of virtual Lego world with the goal of building large structures, teleporting, avoiding zombie-like creatures, slaughtering animals for food, and digging digging digging for materials in a never-ending game with Frogger-era graphics. But there are plenty of smart people at MIT who say this about it: “Notch (the Swedish programmer and Minecraft creator) hasn’t just built a game. He’s tricked 40 million people into learning to use a computer-aided design program.” So when tiny Teddy explains to my 39-year-old brother how to set up a multi-player server, and outlines the code to play the game, I should feel like he’s actually learned something about computers?

You can be the judge. I found this gem in one of the many emails from Teddy to his now Minecraft-obsessed uncle:

So keep 1 gold and you will be fine.  Later try to find redstone and you can make toilets!  Hahahahahaha!  Well I am a kid so i find it pretty funny that you can die by a toilet.

But then again, he also drafted this email to Uncle Patrick, prefaced with lots of actual Minecraft images that I cannot figure out how to cut and paste:

With lapis block you can make hot tubs and you can dye sheep from the beginning.  Here is how to make sheers so you can instead sheer sheep.  You should also make a farm.  I will show you how to make fence and fence gate.  Wheat attracts sheep and cows.  If you ever find a village you can get carrots to control pigs.  Those are the basics for making a farm.  Bye!

Do all second graders know how to insert graphics into the text of an email? I’m torn between odd pride in my computer savvy son and absolute horror of the sheer amount of mommy-sanctioned screen time that enabled the development of these skills. I guess it’s not a bad thing that my kids know how to forge glass from sand, recognize that bonemeal is nutritive to saplings, or have facility with the verb “to smelt.” But like all things in life, self-control is necessary as too much of anything is probably going to make the kid… weird. Or worse: my parenting… suspect.

The Lee Family rule is no screen time during the school week: no TV, no computers, no iThings of any sort, but Bernie and I allow open access on weekends. And though Teddy is smart enough to follow and write Minecraft code, he does not excel at moderation. If we didn’t force Teddy into fresh air and team sports and Church and mealtimes, he’d sit there from Friday afternoon until bedtime on Sunday, happily right-clicking away to the Netherworld, and cliff diving atop flying pigs (this really is an odd game). So we do these periodic dissections of our boys from their keyboards and encourage them to interact in a world without exploding zombies, even though it would be far, far easier to leave them undisturbed in front of their monitors.

Recently, I found a whole slew of sites serving as soundboards for parents who are similarly concerned. That was a mistake, as “parental concern” inevitably takes the high and mighty turn toward “parental judgment.” Although Moms Against Minecraft Addiction (MAMA) is the attempt of a thoughtful mother to engage other parents in a broader discussion of the influence of screen time on our kiddos, her page often incites broad generalizations about parenting and even ban-worthy filth. Why are we all so quick to judge other parents and their (nerdy) children? Even though she launched MAMA, this mom doesn’t actually believe Minecraft (or any video game) can undermine a family dynamic. In her words (to parents with a strong abhorrence for all things that beep):

Every child is different, every household is different… and your child isn’t going to grow up to be a something awful merely because they spent an hour on the computer every day. Or two hours. Or three hours. Or all day Saturday. We ALL have different values. I, for example, couldn’t care less about sports. But I worship math.

I like her already. Letting your small child happily immerse in a virtual world isn’t evil, but needs to be limited if your kid (like mine) consistently chooses Minecraft over the park with the zipline or licking the beaters or changing out of his jammies. But let’s be honest: an entire weekend forcing the entire family into Monopoly tournaments, arts and crafts, outdoorsy things, and self-betterment pursuits sounds exhausting. Also, I do want my boys to be computer-literate in an ever more electronic world. And at this age, that might just mean letting them decipher the keystrokes necessary to build an exploding toilet. This may be an over-long defense of my guilt-riddled parental laziness. Or maybe kids and parents alike need a little Minecraft time… especially at cocktail hour.

Cheers, friends.

This is a Creeper. I know this because I'm an awesome, engaged parent.

This is a Creeper. I know this because I’m an awesome, engaged parent.

Endocrinologic Solidarity

Bernie took a tamoxifen. No, this wasn’t an extreme act of endocrinologic solidarity by my prince charmy guy. Instead, when I consolidated my anti-Cancer, anti-reflux, and anti-headache pills into one tiny bottle, Bernie was none the wiser… and now has ever so slightly reduced his own chances of getting Breast Cancer. When I finally found my little container of mixed meds in Bernie’s briefcase, I knew the 1:3 risk of filling my husband with anti-estrogens was too great (and too funny) not to have happened.

I suppose I could fill the next three paragraphs with jokes about how smart, logical, unemotionally focused, and virile my estrogen-dampened husband has become. But truth is, (unharmed) Bernie and I found the whole pharma swap a funny end to a gloomy week. Though I had counted the calendar days to the anniversary of The Big Bummer News with dread, I hadn’t counted on how the One Year After Mutilating Surgery would feel. It crept up on me in little, devastating moments: Brodie’s un-knocked arrival into my bedroom, those fucking airport scanners, and Adam’s* birthday.

We went to Florida last week. Bernie and I use plastic surgery conventions in warm climes as a great excuse to recruit a teeny tiny Grandma and escape without children. Bernie and I flew south to attend talks by the best and brightest in reconstructive microsurgery, and to share shakers of poolside cocktails in the name of scientific communication. As I was packing for the trip, consolidating the medicines, and unearthing strapless beachwear from the back of the closet (and another life), Brodie burst into my room unaware of my half-out-of-formalwear dishabille. This shouldn’t be a big deal, but I worry that my altered and scarred body can create its own wounds on the psyche of a little boy who doesn’t deserve such a naked reminder of anything from last year.

Ultimately the bags were packed and Bernie and I were off to the airport to stand in lines, disrobing for strangers who make the world a safer place for our temporary shoelessness. I have a new-found hatred for the security detail. I wonder if other patients of the oft-scanned-for-Cancer ilk also have a mini panic attack in that damning tube. It’s also just embarrassing: what do these implants look like on the monitor? Can EVERYONE see them? Does the TSA agent make a connection between my short hair and those opaque circles… or just assume I’ve made some age-related adjustments? Add this to the List of Unfair Things: I don’t have the choice to keep my altered body a private matter, much less to get to Gate C without a reminder of everything from last year. Once we finally arrived, I dulled the post-traumatic stress with mojitos.

After a few days, we returned to our little boys, the wintery weather, and Adam’s birthday on the calendar. This exhumed a handful of year-old, Ativan-dulled memories of terror, sadness, and the hunt for a present worthy of a man willing to be a participant in our trauma—and taint his own cake-and-ice-cream celebrations for the rest of time. Adam’s birthday is the anniversary of my mastectomies. When I re-read the posts from a year ago, I hear a drug-addled girl with a lofty gratefulness. Apparently, it takes a year to get to Sadness: to mourn my body, my Peace, my life in a strapless dress.

Recently asked about the side effects of tamoxifen and other Cancer reminders, I confessed that I don’t always (ever) want to take this little pill. I get mad at it. I hang up angrily at the automated CVS reminders. I’m annoyed with the pharmacist who will ask me each and every month if I have any questions about a prescription with 60 refills. You bet, I have questions. But the answers can only be found in Church, or the kind company of my Bible study companions, or the collected messages from all of you who have been reading this nonsense from the scary beginning right up to its Sad-iversary, or in the eyes of sweet Bernie who has been waiting with open arms for the inevitable fallout for weeks.

My poor husband was all too aware of the date, and how I might spiral down into a wallowing, winy mess of a girl. Bernie chaperones his patients through these crappy milestones at work, and now… every January 17th… will soldier through with his own weepy wife at home. And although I do think it is important to recognize the anniversary, and respect the emotions it will always trigger… Bernie and I aren’t really wallowing types. We’re going honor the Sadness but we will Find the Funny! Bernie took a tamoxifen. Insert jokes here.

*Bernie’s colleague and my plastic surgeon

 

The most estrogen-dampened Prince Charming I could find...

Ironically, all Prince Charming stills look decidedly estrogen-rich

 

 

 

It’s Mine

Stevie is back to ponder the illusion of control associated with grammatical possession of our illnesses. I don’t want to own my Cancer anymore. I’m hoping it was more of a borrowed time share condo in Cancun.

Me, Myself and My Illnesses
By Steve Safran

Those of us with anything interesting to suffer from use a particular possessive term to describe them: “My.” As in “my depression,” “my epilepsy,” “my cancer,” etc. I’m a word guy, and I find this choice interesting. We are claiming ownership over something we don’t want.

Why is it “my illness?” After all, saying “When I had the first heart attack” is structurally and grammatically sound. There is no need to amplify it by specifying, “When I had my first heart attack.” What other heart attack could you possibly be having? His? He’s not having one. Look at the shape he keeps himself in.

I’m not going to go on about how making it your own somehow makes you feel more in control of it.  If I could make it “your anxiety,” chances are I would.

(Well, not you, per se. But “you” in the sense of “not me.” So, actually yes, you.)

Ownership is one of the first things a child learns — both to claim and to lie about. “That’s MY finger paint,” yes, but also “That’s NOT my mess over there, despite the use of MY finger paint.” Ownership usually implies pride, too. See: “That’s my new car” vs. “I drive a piece of crap.”

The possessive can be used as an admission of guilt, as in “My bad” or “My mistake.” (I have yet to hear “My good,” and our language is the better for it.)

None of which gets us any closer to understanding this peculiar propensity we have for claiming ownership over illness. It must be about control. And maybe it’s a little mental sleight-of-hand.

If we choose to make an illness ours, then it is our battle. We can beat it or succumb to it, but it’s in our hands. “My depression” means it’s not entirely up to the doctors and the drugs to fix me – the ultimate “repair” is my responsibility, too. There’s a handy bit of self-deception involved in this, of course. But who better to deceive than one’s self? We do it all the time, anyway. In my mind, I weigh less and am taller. I might as well be healthier as well. And I probably read Dostoyevsky.

It’s mine, you see. Mine to win, mine to lose, mine to fight, mine to throw pills at, to wallow in, to lament, to mock, to endure. I appreciate your help, doctor. You, after all, have the degree and the stethoscope and you know how to say “uvula” without giggling. But it’s mine. All mine.

Unless you want it.  All yours.

Mine?

Mine?

Bliss

As you read over here (and maybe on Facebook), darling Dr. Miller passed away on Wednesday. Here’s how his oldest son described it:

After a small nightcap of whiskey, making his funeral intentions abundantly clear, refusing all unnecessary medical help (as only a surgeon can), having returned to his home… my father, almost 97 years of age, a former clinical professor of surgery and departmental chief in innumerable hospitals in Boston, a true gentleman with generosity and heart from a bygone age, passed from this earthly plane to one of bliss.

And now Maida, darling Maida, is lonely.

“I know I’m not alone… but I only want Harold.”

Her plan was always for them to pass into “bliss” hand in hand. Even in her tenth decade of life, living without her partner of 66 years was unfathomable until the cruel reality of his death. And although this is devastating, it’s an absolute honor to witness: to be called to comfort a woman capable of this much love.

Following traditional Jewish rites, Dr. Miller will be buried promptly and without pomp and circumstance. I can’t make it out to California in time for the service, but (if little boy schedules, flu season, and somewhat reasonable airfares permit it) I really want to pay a visit while the family is “sitting shivy.” Jews really do this well: let the family stay put, let the world come in and bear witness to a life, and let us hold close the ones suffering the gaping wound of its absence. I want to be a part of that for Dr. Miller, for Maida… for me.

My boys are, naturally, shaken. I’ll admit that my first fascination with the adorable Millers morphed into a bit of an outreach program to teach Brodie and Teddy the importance of generosity, kindness, and neighborliness. It was a joy to bring the boys across the street… to watch Maida’s face as Brodie played their Cold War-era-tuned piano or to find Teddy watching televised soccer at the feet of a snoring Dr. Miller. Coffee cake delivery to our ancient neighbors was a job to teach the boys how to cross the street carefully, looking both ways before they were greeted with kisses and pinches and love. And although we had discussed the sooner-than-later mortality of our 90-year-old friends many times, I wasn’t prepared for how sad I’d be… and how that would affect them, too. Teddy told Grandma Karen:

“The last time I saw Mommy cry was when she told us she had breast cancer.”

I’ll be reeling from that blow to the stomach for a little longer. Brodie reminded me of a funny voicemail from them: a rambling message from Maida listing all the reasons we were lucky to know each other, with Dr. Miller in the background yelling his “me, too!” endorsement of these sweet sentiments. I hadn’t deleted it. And it made us laugh all over again.

There is going to be a lot of talk about Heaven, where and what it is, and if Dr. Miller won’t need a walker because he can fly now. Because the afterlife is impossible for me to explain to anyone, much less these logical little people, I focused on more earthly explanations. I told them that Heaven can be found find right here in little moments. When we curl around my cell phone to listen to a funny message and laugh… that’s Heaven. When we stand in a circle and squeeze each other after Teddy yells, “Family Hug!”… that’s Heaven. When Maida opened the door and gazed with delight at two eager little visitors who never once shied away from a lipsticked kiss… that’s Heaven. We can bring a little taste of it to each other right here, right now. And if we’re lucky enough to notice it, it’s bliss.

(Farewell, darling Dr. Miller.)

"Other's faults seem so small when looking at our own." -- Dr. Harold Miller

“Other’s faults seem so small when looking at our own.” — Dr. Harold Miller

Pom Poms

I’ve been nominated to join the Church Vestry: a huge honor. The first task was to pen a little blurb about myself for the Redeemer News and it went like this:

Britt Lee found The Church of the Redeemer in 2008 when The Lee Family was looking for intelligent, poignant, and witty sermons (and the option to enjoy them without the children). Smitten with the Rector and Sunday School, Britt found herself joining every committee listed in the Announcements. She has enjoyed being a member of the Sunday School Committee, co-chairing the Christmas Market, and being both a part of and a grateful recipient of the Pastoral Care Committee. She has a whole bunch of science degrees, but is lucky to ignore them and stay home quizzing small boys to be better than yours at math. When she isn’t blogging about Breast Cancer, she’s buying new plants that refuse to grow in her shade garden. She has pom pom wielding enthusiasm for our Church and is thrilled to join another Redeemer group where fellowship and love bring joy to any work done in His name.

This is somewhat of a lighter tone than the other biographies with their rather more impressive employment histories and societal contributions and talents. What I lack in accomplishments, I attempted to bolster with goofy wit. Mr. T (his wife’s pet name for my favorite Church “elder”) mimed an adorable rah rah rah as I sallied down the aisle last Sunday, suggesting my ebullience for all things Redeemer was evident from that handful of sentences, at least for him. And yet… in the midst of current discussions (and self-flagellation) regarding the effect of the published word, I received a note from the Church Office. A fellow parishioner mailed in an edited version of my silly bio, correcting my usage of “pom pom.” Surely, I didn’t intend to convey “anti-aircraft artillery”-wielding enthusiasm for our Church! This lover of words felt strongly enough about my simile to put a pen to paper and stamp to envelope for edification. Now, I’m rather obsessed with meeting him.

Most likely, this brilliant man (who lived through WWII) was just struck by my word choice. Though I intended to summon the image of a tight-sweatered girl in pigtails, this reader conjured guns and death. Was he being funny? professorial? silly? or just kind of bored with Monday’s jumble? I need to know. I fantasize that we develop this deep kinship based on Writing, Faith, History, and Life. He’ll impart great, charming wisdom and lead me to some higher road where I never again write anything that could harm anyone. This is probably taking my romantic notions of all elders a little far, but forgive the fancy… I’m missing my favorite neighborhood ancients.

Once again I’m blown away by the work of the Holy Spirit here (less annoyingly Zealot types might call this “coincidence”—take your pick), reminding me that my little musings could feel like the rapid firing of so many angry guns. At Bible Study today (yes, BIBLE STUDY), we discussed word choice at great length. The King James version of John warns against the Wrath of God, yet other interpretations are kinder regarding the fate of people who fail to know Him. I’ll always favor the sunnier interpretations. I see rainbows and lollipops and cheerleaders instead of clouds and cavities and acts of war. My next writing assignment is to pen a cheery little letter to my newest (oldest) editor, cross-referencing each word with Wikipedia lest I unwittingly fall onto some horrifying Holocaust allusion in an attempt at bon mot. Wish me luck: I’ve got a great lunch-at-the-retirement-home outfit at the ready.

Yay, Church!

Yay, Church!

 

The Truth Is…

Yay! Steve Safran is back, encouraging all of us to embrace the inevitable: social media (and perhaps the backlash of those we drag into it). Although Stevie and I attended the same college, our friendship really blossomed on Facebook. Our shared love of shared-writing has led to this fun, bloggy partnership I cherish. And honestly, who doesn’t love a Facebook birthday?

The Truth Is… By Steve Safran

Webster defines “decorum” as “that thing other people think you’re violating when you write it, but not when they write it.” Webster does not, of course, write any such thing. He would… if he were alive in this era of Facebook and blogging, and also… if he were me. Alas, none of this is so, even though my fourth-grade nickname was “Webster” because I knew so, so many words. (Another lie. But I’m a writer–for TV–so the power of the lie is mine to spread, and abuse my power, I shall!)

Britt recently wrote about how people can react to seeing their names in print. Not everyone likes it. I’d like to offer why living this way is important to those who do. I’ve been writing online since 2002 and blogging since 2004. I started updating on Facebook before anyone knew anything about a man named Obama. This makes me an old man in social media. I live my life online. Writing. In Hebrew, Safran literally means “writer of the scrolls.” Really. How could I not write? It’s a Jew-y birthright.

Last week, I turned 45. I was working at a new job in a new city. By myself. And there, in a two-star Manhattan hotel room, the bedbugs and I read more than 150 “Happy Birthdays” and “Congrats on the New Job” messages. I was alone, but I was not lonely. Without social media, I’d have heard from a handful of people. I know it’s not strictly the numbers, but when you want to feel the love, let me tell you– there’s nothing better than 150 messages of “attaboy.”

Webster defines “catharsis” as “that thing you need so you’ll stop feeling so shitty all the time.” (This time it’s true. Webster was a total bring-down.) Writing is great catharsis. And writers must write! You don’t need to be a professional to write. You just need to write. This is fantastic. Britt is a doctor, which required years of training. To be a writer, all I needed at the start was a pencil. It had to be a Number Two Ticonderoga, but I’m a connoisseur. Want a good catharsis exercise? Write a really open, honest, mean letter to someone you’re pissed at. Then erase it. Do not– and I can’t emphasize this enough—do NOT hit “Send All.”

I fully understand Britt’s need to write about her illness. You write what you know. It’s great catharsis. I have depression and I am getting a divorce. I am not going to write about the joys of handcrafting fine cabinets. (Although I’m sure it would be an amusing read from someone who cannot handcraft a small block of wood out of a larger block of wood.) When you write honestly, it shows. You need to include the details, or it doesn’t feel real. Would Britt’s writing work without A Ma or A Gong? I suppose– but we’d be the poorer for it.

In Neil Simon’s “Biloxi Blues,” the character of Epstein says, “Once you start compromising your thoughts, you’re a candidate for mediocrity.”

I’m not running for that office.

Britt’s a writer. Writers need an audience. The audience demands the truth. Britt writes the truth. QED.

Webster defines “conclusion” as “that bit you’re very happy to reach, especially if the writer has belabored a point to death and, possibly, has been drinking too many Harpoon Ales.”

Stevie in his wheelhouse: on TV, plugging social media

Stevie in his wheelhouse: on TV, plugging social media