Kindness. 2. Don’t Be Quiet. Be Kind.

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I was having a conversation with a friend the other day, telling him about a time not long ago when someone said to me, “I didn’t have anything nice to say, so I didn’t say anything at all.”

We’ve all heard this in various forms before. I’m sure I’ve even repeated it offhand, reminding someone that it is better to be quiet than to be mean. “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” That’s old. And to some extent, it’s true. If you can only think of shitty things to say, then just keep your mouth shut.

But if you can only think of shitty things to say, you have a lot of work to do. Because you can always be kind. Always.

Last week, my band performed a big show here in our little town. And watching the show was a friend who I know doesn’t particularly like my singing style. It’s not her thing, and that’s fine. But she came to the show. And you know what she said afterwards? She said, “The sound was great!”

And she was right. The sound was great. And that mattered. I love her for not just keeping quiet because the music we make isn’t her jam. She found something nice to say, to show her love and support.

Because there’s always something nice to say.

Someone got a haircut, tattoo or piercing you don’t like? Don’t say it looks like ass, because that’s douchy. And it makes it all about you. Who cares if you don’t like it? Someone’s haircut, tattoo, piercing, music, painting, and general lifestyle choices have nothing to do with you and how you feel about them. So don’t make it about you.

And don’t keep your mouth shut, because you know what? That’s also douchy.

You know she wanted to get that buzz cut. You know he wanted that rising phoenix tattoo. You know she wanted that eyebrow piercing.

Try “Hey! You finally got your hair cut! Good for you!”

Try “Wow, look at the colours in that tattoo!”

Try “I’m proud of you for finally getting that piercing. You’ve been talking about it for a long time.”

Try “Are you happy? Then I’m happy for you.” And mean it.

Someone wearing something that’s not your style? Compliment the colour.

Someone making art you don’t appreciate? Commend them for being brave, and putting their art out there for the world to judge. That’s a hard thing to do.

Someone invite you for dinner but then serve something that was barely palatable? Enjoy their company, and tell them you enjoyed their company. Thank them for their effort. Be gracious. Be kind.

Being quiet isn’t kind. Being quiet is a cop-out. Being quiet speaks volumes. Being quiet is a shitty way to be with the people in your life.

Don’t be quiet. Be kind.

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Kindness. 1.

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Amira has always been an early riser, and when she was first born and the weather was still nice, I used to take her out early so Stu could get a couple more hours of sleep, and I could get the hell out of the house. One of the places Amira and I used to hang out in was our local Wal-Mart.

I know. Wal-Mart. I KNOW. But these were desperate times. And they knew what they were doing when they set that place up. It’s huge, you can walk up and down a hundred aisles, stopping to look at a million things, and spend hours in there just reading the magazines. They open early. And they have a McDonald’s. So once in a while, Amira and I would head to Wal-Mart early in the morning, just to go somewhere. She’d gurgle in her car seat, I’d have a coffee, people would ooooh and aaaahh over her while I smiled my proud-mother smile (because no one wants to hear the tired-mom sigh), and drink more coffee.

So anyway, this one morning in early September, we were at Wal-Mart. It was early. Like, I was sitting in McDonald’s with a cup of coffee in my hands by 7:00am early. It was cool and crisp, and just the kind of weather I loved to dress for. But on this day, like on so many other days during this time, it was ill-fitting jeans, boots that needed a good polish and some oversized sweater that hid my breastfeeding bra stuffed with those “Why are my boobs leaking?” pads. My hair was tied back. I wasn’t wearing makeup. I loved my baby, but the truth is, I didn’t recognize my myself, or my life.

As usual, a couple of the senior citizens who also troll Wal-Mart early in the morning stopped by our table, cooed over Amira, and went on their way. Then one of the older ladies who worked at McDonalds came over.

I’d seen her there a few times. She was probably in her early sixties, she was super-quick on her feet, and she always gave me my coffee with a smile.

She came over and said, “Good morning! She looks happy today!”

I replied with my usual stock response, “She’s really good.”

And then the lady said to me, “And how are you?”

My eyes welled up with tears. I just looked at her, not really believing that she had seriously asked how I was doing. And it wasn’t just that she asked, it was the way she asked. It was both the concern and sincerity in her voice. It was her vulnerability in asking me, with as much love as she had, how was doing – a question I had been asked in passing a hundred times over the past few months, but mostly by people who just asked for the sake of politeness, even by most of my family and friends. This lady meant it.

“I’m okay,” I replied. But she had already seen my tears.

“Is there anything I can do?” she asked.

“No, really. I’m okay. But thank you so much for asking.” I meant it. And she knew it.

The weather got colder, and Amira and I hung out at Wal-Mart less. I saw that lady a couple of times again, but we didn’t really speak, until two years later.

The week before Stu, Amira and I moved to Costa Rica, I went back to that Wal-Mart. I stood in line at McDonalds until this lady was standing in front of me asking, “What can I get for your, Dear?”

I told her that I didn’t want to buy anything. I reminded her of our conversation that morning, two years before. She didn’t remember, but I’ll never forget it. I told her what her sincerity had meant to me, and that I hadn’t forgotten it. I told her we were moving next week, and I probably wouldn’t ever see her again, but I wanted her to know that I so appreciated her generosity and concern for me on that day two years before.

I haven’t seen her since we moved. But I still remember her kindness.

When Someone Else Says It Better

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Original Artwork by Allie Brosh

I remember coming across this blog post by the insanely talented writer and artist Allie Brosh when it was first published. Everyone was all, “Allie’s back!” and I was all, “Who’s Allie?” So I started reading, and I couldn’t stop. Plus, she draws, which I can’t do for beans, so I was doubly impressed.

Allie has since had one book published, but I just found out that while her second book was to be published this month, it has been postponed indefinitely. She hasn’t posted a new blog post – or even a new tweet – in years. She kind of disappeared. I hope that she didn’t disappear into the fog of depression again. I hope that wherever she is, she’s happy and snarky and loving it.

I read “Depression Part Two” before I read “Adventures in Depression” (which could have been titled “Depression Part One” if she had known at the time there would be a Part Two.) And while the latter is exceedingly good, the former is really the best explanation of depression I’ve ever read ever ever.

I was talking to a sister-cousin-friend today, trying to explain just this very thing. And then I remembered what Allie wrote. So now sister-cousin-friend can simply read this and know what I was trying to say.

She Brings Me Wildflowers

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About a month ago, Amira started doing the most curious – and beautiful – thing.  She started bringing me flowers.

Often, she and Stu will go out for a quick jaunt around the neighbourhood in the morning.  One morning, I took a call while they were gone.  I was up in the office with the door closed, and I heard them come in, and Amira saying over and over again, “Mummy!  Mummy!”

Stu told me later that this is what happened:

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I’m worth it

A couple of days ago, our little family was on our way out for a walk when I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and had to stop to take in what I was seeing.  I was wearing a sweater, jeans, and running shoes.  That’s right, running shoes.  And not the cool, Skechers kind of running shoes, but actual, white, running shoes. Like, for running.

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Her word is Feisty.

A few weeks ago, I had a friend over for lunch.  She came with her beautiful baby girl, Lucy.  Though Lucy and Amira are exactly the same age, they couldn’t be more different.

Lucy’s mom said to me, “Her word is ‘Placid’.  As long as she is fed, she is perfectly content to just sit there and be happy.”  And it was true.  Lucy wasn’t up for crawling or rolling around or getting to things.  She was beautiful and happy, just sitting in one spot, laughing and playing with whatever was rolled her way.

We pondered over a word for Amira.  We threw around spunky, spirited and vivacious, but none of those really felt right to me.

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We still have a million amazing moments every day.

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Remember back in September when all I had all that breastfeeding drama?  Well, it didn’t end there.  I took the herbal supplements, I took the prescription drugs, I pumped, I gave Amira my stockpile till it was gone, and I never made enough breast milk to keep up with her demands.  The drama went on and on, and I persisted in giving her breast milk any way I could for as long as I could, but I couldn’t do it as long as I wanted.  So after 8 months of martyring myself to give her all that I could, it’s done.

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My Wandering Heart

As this year comes to a close, my heart is so full.  Full of love for Stu and Amira and the little family we’re growing.  Full of love for our extended family and friends, who have come together in a beautiful village where Amira will be raised with love and laughter and celebration.  And full of sorrow for those 20 families in Connecticut – 20 families – whose lives were changed forever a few weeks ago.

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Oh, the places you’ll go

Being on maternity leave is great.  Being home with the baby, having all this time with her, bonding with her, blah blah.  All good.

You know what’s not good?  The four walls of my house suffocating me all day.

Stu works from home, and he talks often about how he needs to just get out of the house because he he needs to just get out of the house.  And while Stu works alone at home, he’s often on the phone or online with other people, having adult conversations, and making stuff happen.

I’m just doing everything I can to get her to sit up.  I need to get out.

And so, Amira and I don’t stay home.  We go out. We go anywhere.  And over the months, I’ve compiled a list of the 6 best places to go with babe in stroller.  Since I’ve done the legwork, allow me to share.

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Mummies need Daddies

There are two women in my life right now who are single by chance, but mothers by choice.  Both of them decided it was time to stop waiting for the right guy, took matters into their own hands, and are now wonderful mothers to two beautiful baby girls.

They both have support around them from family and friends, but by and large, they’re riding this wave alone.  And I have to say, I’m so in awe so of them.  Because I have no idea how they are doing this alone.

It’s one of the biggest cliches in the world, and nothing has ever been more true: Parenting is the hardest thing in the world.  I know there are single parents all over the place who do it alone, and do it well.  And I have to say, hats off to you.  Because doing it with two people, and only one baby, already makes me feel like I’m in over my head.

A friend recently told me about a parenting book she was reading, and it included a section called something like  “Babies need Mummies and Mummies need Daddies.”

I totally get this concept.

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