The Best Parenting Advice Isn't Even Parenting Advice

I grew up in a pretty small, conservative Southern town where right was right and wrong was wrong. And you weren't supposed to much question that. So when I encountered the concept of dialectics in graduate school, I was skeptical.

For those of you wondering what the heck I'm talking about, I'll skip the esoterics and just say it's the idea that your right is not always the right and your wrong is not always the wrong. There's no absolute truth and opposing viewpoints can coexist. At. The. Same. Time. And even in your own head.

I know, right?!? It took me a minute, too.

But now that I have warmed up to the idea, the merits of its application are endless, especially since becoming a parent.

Because what I've noticed, in my very limited and brief time as a mom, is that everyone has an idea about how you should be raising your child. And they all think their way is the "right" way (myself included). And when you do or say something contrary to their way, they get all defensive and yelly because they think what you really mean is, "Your way is wrong."

And if their way is wrong, then they must be awful people and terrible parents.

For instance, I recently had a conversation about how to handle a crying baby. Now my husband and I loosely subscribe to the RIE parenting philosophy, which means we don't always swoop in to "fix" our crying child. We respect that babies cry sometimes and that's ok, especially since it's one of the only ways he has of communicating with us. When he cries we give him a few minutes (seconds even) during which we try to decipher what he's telling us, ask him some questions, and then proceed with whatever we think he needs (which, yes, means leaving him alone at times).

Now I know some of you are rolling your eyes, because my god you have a parenting philosophy?!? Others of you just want to read about the birth story and could care less about how I tend to the kid now that he's here (it's coming I promise). The rest of you have gone to call Child Protective Services because how could we be so neglectful?!? The baby is crying! You have to do something when a baby cries! You have to pick him up, or change his diaper, or rock him, or swaddle him, or something! You can't just let him cry! You are going to scar him for life! You are horrible parents!

Now, I could recite facts, and reasons, and philosophies about why we disagree. I could point out how immediately intervening seems to be more about your own discomfort than the baby's. I could do all this in order to get you to see the errors of your way, so that you change your mind. So that you ultimately agree our way is the "right" way and your way is the "wrong" way.

But chances are that's not going to happen. You won't change your mind, and in the meantime we'll do nothing but frustrate and upset each other.

So I could just save us all a lot of time and trouble, by applying the dialectical "Yes, and..." rule.

Yes, you do/did that with your babies, AND we are choosing something different.

See how wonderful that is? Your experience and choices are just as valid as mine. And me doing it one way, in no way discredits the way in which you do it. We're both "right". 

Yes, I believe having a working mom is important, AND staying at home is just as valid. Yes, we want to breastfeed for as long as possible, AND formula feeding is good, too. Yes, you rock your babies to sleep, AND we put our kid down before he nods off so he can figure out how to self soothe. Yes, I think letting kids regularly watch TV before aged two rots their brains, AND Sesame Street is cool.

And it doesn't just work when people are giving you parenting advice you disagree with, but in all areas of conflict. 

Yes, I want you to do this dishes, AND you would rather watch TV and drink beer. Yes, you want cookies for dinner, AND we are having broccoli. Yes, your crying is annoying at times, AND you're an awesome baby. Yes, the the fact that I have to point stuff like this out to you drives me crazy, AND I love you.

This method works because it doesn't shut people down. It continues the conversation and allows space for everyone's thoughts, feelings, and experiences to be heard.

Is it harder than arguing, judging, or rolling your eyes? Yes, AND it's worth it. Because it means that respect, compassion, and empathy are being practiced. Even during tough moments. Even when we disagree. Even when I know I'm right.

And the practice of those things is what will allow my kid to be able to say, "Yes, my mom was passionate, and opinionated, and headstrong, and vocal, and did things wrong, and totally screwed me up, AND she was wonderful, and considerate, and kind, and loved me very much.

My Fish Are Dead!

Or the Importance of Treating Mental Illness

When I was about 16 my OB/GYN diagnosed me with PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder) and recommended that I start taking Sarafem (Prozac for women). This diagnosis and treatment plan excited me because for the first time in my life I felt like someone saw me, understood me, recognized my struggle, and was going to help me. Up until that moment I thought I was broken, too sensitive, melodramatic, should just "stop it." Now, I had a real thing. A real thing that could be treated. I could stop having all these feelings all the time. I could get better. I could be "normal."

Then, I drove home and told my mom about my appointment. She immediately discredited the doctor and forbid me to have the prescription filled because "didn't I know what happened to kids under 18 who take SSRIs? They commit suicide." End of story. No discussion. You're fine. You absolutely do not have that. Now, let's have dinner.

To say I felt deflated is an understatement, and I often wonder how the trajectory of my life would have played out had I been able to start getting treatment for my depression at such a young age.

Instead, it would take me ten years, countless poor relationships, 70 pounds, and numerous risky behaviors to seek out and get the help I needed. I was most definitely not fine and I most certainly did have that. I just couldn't always see it and neither could those who loved me.

I don't blame my mom; I know she was just scared. And I've mostly stopped blaming myself; I was scared too.

But I haven't, and I won't, stop blaming our society. Did you know that 80% of all people who had a physical illness got treated for their medical condition last year, while only 40% of those with a mental illness did? Or that one and ten adults report being depressed? Yet, nearly two out of three don't seek the treatment they need.

This is not okay. The stigma we have created around mental illness is not okay.

Mental health issues are just as real as physical ones. I'd even argue that they're more powerful, more influential, more detrimental (at times) because they come with a large dose of guilt and shame. And they permeate our whole entire lives, including our ability to genuinely connect and be in this world. To experience love, joy, and contentment which are just as much birth rights as health, or did we forget that line about the pursuit of happiness?

No one finds fault with the person who gets treated for cancer. No one whispers about them, questions their abilities, denies their symptoms, criticizes their choices, tells them to "just get over it." But those are all things I've heard, things my clients have heard. 

Things that cause millions of people to suffer in silence each year. And that is not okay.

What happens to people, to families, to towns when mental health issues go unresolved is not okay.

So, in honor of National Depression Screening Day I beg of you to begin thinking about health differently. Take your loved ones seriously when they reach out to you and even more so when they don't. Take yourself seriously. Your feelings are real and you matter.

Let's start making getting our souls "fixed" just as important as our bodies.

And because there are many people who've said it better than I ever could, here are some of my favorite depression related links:

A hilarious and accurate description of depression.

It would be like having a bunch of dead fish, but no one around you will acknowledge that the fish are dead. Instead, they offer to help you look for the fish or try to help you figure out why they disappeared. 

An incredibly moving podcast about how depression is treated in rural Africa. Transcript here.

He said, “You know, we had a lot of trouble with Western mental health workers who came here immediately after the genocide, and we had to ask some of them to leave.”
I said, “What was the problem?”
And he said, “Their practice did not involve being outside in the sun, like you’re describing, which is, after all, where you begin to feel better. There was no music or drumming to get your blood flowing again when you’re depressed, and you’re low, and you need to have your blood flowing. There was no sense that everyone had taken the day off so that the entire community could come together to try to lift you up and bring you back to joy. There was no acknowledgment that the depression is something invasive and external that could actually be cast out of you again.
“Instead, they would take people one at a time into these dingy little rooms and have them sit around for an hour or so and talk about bad things that had happened to them. We had to get them to leave the country.”

Sciencey things and resources.

Don't Think Twice, It's Alright

The advice I wish someone had given me

When I found out I was pregnant I did a lot of things, including but not limited to: freak out, cry, wallow in bed, throw up, sleep, curse, squeal with delight, deny, worry, wonder, question, and obsess. But perhaps what I did most was start Googling, and asking questions, and reading. And then I stopped for awhile. The Internet can be a scary, mean place for mamas and nothing I was reading was resonating with me. The following post is what I wish I would have found in my first burst of research.

Dear Mama-in-the-Making,

Stop reading this and go outside. Or write, or paint, or draw, or cook, or take pictures, or call your best friend. Or talk to your husband. Or better yet, have sex with him. Do anything that lights you up because what your baby needs-what the world needs-is for you to be lit up.

Your baby does not need you to be an expert. Your baby does not need you to read books, or studies, or blogs.

Your baby needs you to be happy. Content. It needs you to take care of yourself. To experience the world. To pay attention.

It needs you to trust your intuition. And none of that will you find in a book or on the Internet.

What you'll find there is a lot of crap. A lot of people telling you what you need to do, or should do, or absolutely can't do. And for every expert opinion, you'll find ten more that are contrary.

Why do you believe they know better than you? Why do you let their voices override yours?

You are designed to do this. 

Every atom of your body knows its role. How to grow and form a life. And no matter what you do or don't do, that process will happen. Your baby will grow. It will push itself out into the world. It will thrive.

Whether because of or in spite of you, it will have its own life. It will make its way. It can't not.

And I know you want to do everything right. You want to be perfect so your little one will have the best possible chance. It's how your brain will work from now on. In worst case scenarios and late night fretting. In protection and preparing. But think back on your own life.

When have you grown? When have you learned?

Not when life is perfect. But when it's messy and hard. Don't forget to give that to your little one. To be vulnerable and imperfect. To make mistakes, and repair, and learn. To be honest. Deeply honest even about the hardest things.

The best thing you can do. The only thing really. Is to live. Really live your life. 

So, do what you've always done...

Eat what feels good, even the bad stuff sometimes. Delight in what you put in your body even when you reach for something processed, or with high fructose corn syrup, or from the forbidden list. Food is just food. Parisians eat soft cheeses, the Japanese sushi. So stop worrying and enjoy it. Praise the miraculous tingle of sugar on tongue. The texture of cheese on bread. Then, be done with it. Don't worry about not doing right or getting enough leafy greens. Stop beating yourself up. Your body knows what it needs. And sometimes it needs pleasure. It's ok. Take your prenatal and eat a salad tomorrow.

Do what you like, all of it. Even the stuff other people don't understand, or accept, or tell you not to do. Take a nap. Skip your walk. Run a marathon. Read a book. Whatever makes you feel alive. And be gentle and kind to yourself when nothing feels good. It will pass, as all things do.

Have feelings, every single one of them. Be mad. Cry. Hate that you are pregnant. Love that you are pregnant. Nothing you could think or feel will make you a bad mother, or someone who doesn't deserve a child. Even if the Internet tells you otherwise. Allowing yourself to be honest about this whole mess is an incredible gift-to you, your partner, your child, the world. Having the courage to tell the truth is more honorable than hiding behind fear and judgement, and it's something most don't do. So admit and acknowledge where you are. It's the only way to create true connection, you know that.

You also know the peril of that. Of speaking your truth. It makes other people uncomfortable sometimes. Can ignite loneliness and isolation. Embrace those moments of pulling in. Then, get out of bed, fix your hair, and get on with things. You know who your tribe is, who gets to hear your whole story. Call them. Tell them.

Worry, knowing it won't help a bit. But realizing when we try to dam up our thoughts they soon become an overwhelming torrent. So let them be. Wonder and be curious about them without indulging.

Know that when people are harsh and judgmental-when they offer their opinion as God's given word-they are probably just scared. You're scared too. Tell them that. And listen. Chew on the kernel they offer until it splits open and reveals a deeper truth, even if takes awhile. Even if you have to dig through a mountain of bullsh*t to find the pearl. Even if you end up spitting it out or throwing it away. Because everything is a opportunity to go deeper. To learn more. No matter who's mouth the words are coming from.

Be open. Let things unfold as they will. Control is just an illusion we give ourselves to sop up fear.

Pay attention. Listen. Not only to your body, your mind, your feelings, but to your baby's. And to the world around you. Life is much bigger than your tiny existence. Look up when you get too myopic. Lay down on the ground when you feel disconnected.

Say you're sorry. But only when you really are or when you've truly wronged another. It's not a filler word. Not to be uttered when you are doing what you need to do to take care of yourself.

Respect the little person you've created. See her for what she is-what we all are-beings trying our best to make our way in the world. She can be your greatest teacher if you let her.

Ask for help when you need it. Tell people no when you mean it.

And mostly importantly know that there's no one way. No best way. No perfect way. 

“You have a right to experiment with your life. You will make mistakes. And they are right, too.”
-Anais Nin
So, stop reading this and go outside. It will all be fine. Is fine.

Your True Self

Just Be and Other Things I Learned While Recovering

Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver 
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

When I was in pre-school I informed my parents that I wanted to learn how to read. So they marched me across the field and our very patient next-door neighbor (Hi Frances!) pulled out some See Jane Run and got busy fulfilling my wish. In elementary and middle school there were special classes, and camps, and trainings. And then in high school, when I felt I had out grown my public school, I decided I was going to an elite boarding school. In college, I studied Art History in the Louvre––in. the. Louvre. After that, in grad school, I was voted "Outstanding Marriage and Family Therapist Student." Since then, I've applied to and participated in yoga trainings, counseling seminars, local boards, and extra classes.

I do not tell you this to brag or tout my accomplishments, because at the end of the day I haven't cured cancer or solved world peace, I haven't done anything all that great except have an insatiable need for knowledge, for learning, for growth. A need so painful, so intense it has driven me across continents and countries. It has made me annoying, and humble, and depressed.

Yes, depressed.

Because when you base your life solely around accomplishing things, you're bound to get let down. Not every moment is great, there's not always something to learn, and sometimes there's nothing more to do than keep your head down and slog through.

And slog through is exactly what I have been doing lately. Getting up, going to work, coming home, and watching TV like most Americans. Except, I am not most Americans. I am the Valedictorian of Everything. The Valedictorian of Everything does not just slog through.

The Valedictorian does things. Accomplishes things. Has projects. Is great.

But I've accomplished all the major things on my list. I have an advanced degree, a job in my field. A wonderful husband. Amazing friends.

I've ticked the boxes I've been told to (that I've wanted to). So, what's next?

It's a question I've had a long time to ponder as I've been laying around being the Valedictorian of Doing Nothing, of recovering from my surgery. My it's not cancer, you may have endometriosis, but you'll be fine surgery.

And all I can come up with is that my next project is realizing that the mundane, ordinary life I've created (that I've been granted since my it's not cancer, you may have endometriosis, but you'll be fine surgery) is actually quite extraordinary. That it's what I worked hard to create. That it's what I walked across that field for when I was three.

And that it's enough. I'm enough.

Which may be the hardest lesson of all. Becoming a human being instead of a human doing. Funny how we do that. How we learn that we have to do things, accomplish things, run marathons, tear down walls, cure cancer to be good enough.

When really all we have to do is let the soft animal of our body love what it loves.

And my body loves my husband, and seeing clients, and cooking food, and snuggling on the couch. And that's good enough. I'm good enough.

So are you.

New Year's Resolutions

December 31st, 2013

While most pop champagne and share ruddy cheeked kisses, I sit on the couch running my fingers along my belly. No outward sign of the abnormality I know is there. No rippled skin. No hard place. No indentation or bulge.

Nothing to announce the presence under my skin except for a phone call and a hunch, "mass, right ovary, abnormal, cyst, large, specialist." A string of words I arrange and rearrange as the clock ticks. As the new year slams into me.

And I can't help but wonder what's really there among the old spent cells, among the blood and viscera of my sex. Is it the story of my mother? The unwanted glances, missed opportunities, and regrets of my youth? Or is it newer? Maternal ambivalence, over-striving, and always measuring myself up short?

What has grown, but then been discarded?

The doctor says it's just endometrial tissue. But I know it must be something more. Why else would my body turn against me? Why else would it threaten my fertility?

January 10th, 2014

Google search:
Chocolate cyst
Treatment for endometrioma
Endometrioma and ovarian cancer
Can I have babies
Will I die

I'm tired of not talking about this. Of saying, "it's nothing," "millions of women," "no big deal."

There's a golf ball sized growth in my ovary, and the blood work doesn't come back until next week. I'm tired, and full of too many thoughts.

I need to say, "this hurts," "I'm scared," "please pray."

Four Ideas for Better Living

Conversations for Overcoming Depression

Dear Internet,
I spend most of my time thinking about how I can improve myself, what I need to work on, how I'm lacking, and/or ways to combat any number of the things I've either been diagnosed with or have diagnosed myself with (SAD, dysthymia, depression, eating-too-many-cupcakesitis). This, perhaps, helps explain why I'm a counselor for a living because this sort of obsession? Compulsion? Way of being? is encouraged. And sort of what we get paid for in a way. After all, how am I to be of any assistance to my clients if I haven't done the work myself?

Because of this neurotic tendency towards growth, introspection, and being the Valedictorian of Life, I have a lot of esoteric conversations with people about navel gazey type things, the latest psychobabble research, and strategies for better living.

Recently, several of these conversations have resonated very deeply with me. So deeply, I feel the need to pass them on to you because they've shifted how I think about things and ultimately how I behave (which is sort of the whole point of psychology when you get right down to it). They've been the shot in the arm I've needed to help me get off my butt and clear the depressive fog that sometimes creeps in on me. Maybe they'll do the same for you.

>The 7/10 Rule

Part of my depression stems from the fact that I don't like to fail and have a very abnormal desire for perfection. I often get so caught up in doing it right, in winning, in being perfect that I often end up not actually doing anything at all. Because procrastination is the flip side of the perfection coin.

We set ourselves up for failure when we set the bar too unrealistically high.

Don't get me wrong lofty goals are wonderful, but at a certain point they become action prohibitive. This conversation and subsequent realization has completely changed what I do (and how depressed I (don't) feel).

Instead of having an insane, totally unrealistic goal (like going to the gym everyday for an hour and running a marathon next month), and then being totally derailed and shutting completely down when I don't achieve that goal (because come on-that's never going to happen for me), I've put the 7/10 Rule into effect.

You don't have to make a hundred on the test, all you gotta get is 7/10. So, I missed one day at the gym. Did I go six other days? Well, good enough. I'm still moving in the direction of my value. One slip up, one wrong answer doesn't matter in the long run. Because 7/10 is way better than none/10. And none out of ten is usually what happens when we get too focused on being perfect.

This rule alone has re-energized me, and served as a massive counter to the inertia I often experience (especially when it's 30 degrees and snowing outside).

>Don't Wait, Just Do It

A few weeks ago I was in one of my slumps. Instead of wallowing in bed like I usually do, I reached out to my girlfriends by sending a simple mass I miss you text message. They of course responded with witty and I love you banter that instantly lifted my mood.

Then, one of them called me. Which is sort of a rarity with this friend (we're more of the let's meet for coffee or go for a walk kind of girls). In the course of that conversation she said, "I was going to text that if you needed to talk just call, then I thought that's silly I'm just going to call her. I'm not going to wait for her to ask."

How many times have you gotten the impulse to do something for someone, but didn't? How many times have you said, "If you need something just let me know?"

Do you know how much that works for people in crisis? Not very much because they are in crisis. Also, do you know how helpful it is when someone just does something for you when you're down, or upset, or hurt, or...? It is extremely helpful.

So, don't wait. Don't make it the other person's problem. Just do it. Just make that phone call, or send that message, or fold that laundry. Action begets action. And what goes around comes around. Not to mention, being of service to others is one of the quickest ways to improve your own mood.

And since you only have to get a 7/10, you don't have to worry if your action is perfect or not.

>Actually Show Your Support

Living and working in a small town comes with a unique set of problems. People frequently complain about the lack of resources we have, or the cost of the ones we do. They do their shopping out of town, or seek out services elsewhere. Then, they complain when people don't show up or support their own venture. (And yes I've been guilty of this).

The recent closings of several of my favorite businesses in conjunction with trying to drum up my own clients, has made me consider the part I played in the shuttings. Me just liking that we have a knit shop, or bookshop, or yoga studio, wasn't enough. And that's true no matter where you live.

People need you to actually spend your money in their shops. They need you to show up for the things they plan. They need action not just kind words and prayers. 

Plus, how can we expect people to support us when we don't support them? When we don't show up for the classes they are teaching, the events they are planning, the shops they own?

I have to invest in the community not only with my time and well wishes, but with my money if I want it to invest in me.

So, if there's a shop you like. A person you know doing something cool. Go. Go, spend your money. Invest in them and they'll invest in you.

>No One's Coming to Save You

It's no secret, to those who know me well, that Maggie Mason is one of my personal heroes. So, when she posted, Amy DuBois Barnett, "Take care of your own damn self, a few weeks ago I was all, "Yeah! Do that! Take care of your own damn self!"

It was an article, (who's basic premise is that no one is coming to save you, so you best get along with your own life), that stuck with me for days. I kept vacillating between, "that's so true," and "aww that's sad, we all need support and connection."

I'm still not completely sure of how I feel about the whole thing. But I do know there's an element of truth there because I do believe we are each responsible for our own lives and how they turn out (to a certain extent). 

And if one thing's true, it's that we can control the meaning we make of the situations we either put ourselves into or that are thrust upon us. 

When we fully realize that it gives us an immense amount of freedom to make changes because we aren't waiting around or at the mercy of other people.

And that my friends feels good, especially when you don't worry about being perfect, or how your actions will be received.

As winter closes in on me, my hardest time of year, I'm trying to keep these conversations in the forefront of my mind because I find them useful tools.

What helps you? What conversations have you had that are helpful?


From Pink to Red: My Issues with the Month of October

[Author's Note: I wrote this last weekish and let it sit in my drafts box because I know it's controversial. And quite honestly, I was a little afraid of posting it (least I hurt someone's feelings). I also sat here for a half hour debating whether or not I needed to put several disclaimers on here and apologize for my strong opinion. But really, I'm not sorry for the following post. And I do truly believe it's our duty to be responsible, to ask questions, to educate ourselves, to stand up and say, "Hey something's odd about this," even about the hard things-even about cancer. I also believe in listening to my urge to write, and this I didn't so much write as standby and let the words fall out. ]

Dear Internet,

There are a handful of things that really fire me up. Like when my husband gets something out of a cabinet and leaves the door open. When people say one thing, but do another. When grave injustices are committed like double parking, genocide, or Netflix not having a movie I really want to watch.

But nothing really compares to the disdain. The furry. The annoyance. The fire I feel for the month of October. Because for the month of October I have to hear about, and see, and deal with breast cancer awareness.

I usually keep quiet about this particular pet peeve of mine because: 1) it's not exactly popular to say, "If I see that stupid pink ribbon on one more thing I'm going to scream." 2) I know my hatred is personal and stems from the fact that my mom died of Ovarian cancer. A cancer that gets little attention, yet is far more deadly (figure that one out Internet). And 3) Deep down I'm all about promoting awareness and research and supporting survivors and their families because regardless of what kind you or your loved one get-cancer sucks.

I bide this month sending dear friends snarky messages, rolling my eyes, and complaining to my husband. But this time October you've gone too far.

I mean seriously, a National No Bra Day? Pardon my french but WTF? How is putting on display the things breast cancer survivors loose helpful? Should we have a no underwear day in support of testicular cancer? I mean the cruel, cruel irony of this idea makes my insides hurt. (Which is what really fired me up about this whole thing in first place. Because really, a No Bra day?!? It makes no sense to me.)

(Then, there's the second thing riles me up about any "awareness" type event, breast related or not.) What does it do?

Let's say I didn't hate trite (My inner feminist would like for me to also insert the world sexist here, which I realize opens up a whole other can of worms. Do with that what you will.) stuff like this and I just happened to whip off my bra in support of breast cancer. Then, what? Are we closer to a cure? Has some family suddenly gotten money to offset the cost of medical treatment? Has a survivor magically grown their hair back, overcome their nausea, and resumed a "normal" life?

No. Not one of those things happens.

What happens is people have pointed and stared at my nipples and sagging breasts all day. Which helps no one, and quite frankly makes me feel a little weird. Just like half the crap that's painted pink.

So while it might make you, personally, feel better to ditch your bra or buy something with a ribbon, it's not actually doing anything (and in some cases it's actually spreading the disease). (Some of you will argue, "Yes, it is! It is! It's bringing awareness!" To which I will reply: unless you have been living under a rock for the past decade we are all very aware of breast cancer. I can't buy yogurt without being reminded of breast cancer. Awareness does not in fact fix the problem. It's like if a giant hole opened up in the middle of my living room and all I did was tell people about the giant hole. "Hey, there's a hole. It's giant. It's in my living room. It happened at this time and was caused by this. And it's a real problem. Let's make t-shirts about this giant hole. And go on walks. And spend a portion of the money we'd use to fix the hole making sure everyone has a trinket that acknowledges the hole!" And if I did that. If I made sure everyone was aware of this hole. Not only would my husband think I'm crazy, we'd still have a giant freaking hole in our living room. The problem wouldn't have actually been solved. I can't just wear cute shirts that announce the presence of the hole. I actually have to do something about said hole.)

And doing something is what cancer survivors and their families need. They don't need you to take off your bra (they may even actually hate you a little because you have a bra to take off). They don't need you to buy a key chain, water bottle, Christmas ornament, trash cash, vibrator, dog dish, T-shirt, bumper sticker, tote bag, pencil, pen, roll of wrapping paper, yoga mat, magnet, lipstick, or cookie. (Things that organizations and institutions have to spend their money on to make, instead of spending their money on you know finding a cure and doing research. And all because we want some bauble that says, "I'm aware! I support! Look at me!")

No, cancer survivors and their families don't need any of that. They need you to come over. To sit with them. To clean their house. To buy their groceries. To talk to them like they're normal. To talk to them like they are sick when they are sick. To mop up vomit and diarrhea. To help care for their children. To visit them in the hospital. To listen to them. To cook for them. To tell them you love them. To make donations directly to companies and foundations that are doing research whether you get a knickknack or not. To take care of yourself. To be educated and empowered about your body. Your whole body-not just your breasts. To give them a pass when they are tired and cranky and crabby. To be supportive by actually being supportive.

Because cancer is hard. And it sucks. And for the most part we'd all rather buy a cute shirt or take off our bra because it's easier. But these people don't have it easy. And neither should you.