My Real Life

February 23, 2015

Little Church

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 6:00 am

I’ve had this post rolling around in my head for quite awhile, but I haven’t been sure how I wanted to approach it.

Originally, my post was going to be called “Why I Love Church,” but a conversation with Matt, my colleague and office-mate, reminded me that I actually don’t love church, and that I have huge issues with organized religion, in general, and that …

You get the point.

So, Matt said, all that being true, there is something, though…something there that you do want to write about, so you need to get to the bottom of it.

I started sharing with him what I was thinking, and by the time I was done, he said, “I don’t think you want to write a post saying ‘Why I Love Church,’ but instead, want to write a post about that particular little church you’ve fallen in love with.

And he’s right.


I’ve spoken, several times, about the fact that my Dad is a Presbyterian minister.

He retired many years ago, and now does supply pastoring for ministers who are ill or on vacation.

This position takes him far and wide on Sunday mornings, and on occasion, he has asked me to come with him.

And preach.

This always makes those who know me well giggle a little, because I am not quiet about my issues with “the church” and my questions about faith.

So, the idea of me, up there, always takes people back.

But, let’s face it.  I grew up in church.

I probably spent more hours in church in my childhood than some people spend there in their entire adult lives.

There are two places where I am completely comfortable, outside of my home, and those places are schools and Presbyterian churches.

I’m also a pretty good public speaker.

So, my Dad uses my strengths and combines them with his, and we deliver some pretty good sermons, where he deals with the theology, and I share stories and anecdotes that illustrate the point.

A few weeks ago, for two weeks in a row, we worked at a little church, about 15 minutes away from my house, but tucked in, where I never would have known it existed.

It’s probably the smallest church I’ve ever been in.

It would fit inside the auxiliary chapel that is next to the main sanctuary at my church.

And I loved it, instantly.

It’s an old church, and I love old churches.

This one was established in 1758.

I have a friend who works at a church in Georgia and it’s modern and technical and I don’t know…to me, something gets lost in the modernity.

Real Man and the kids go to a local Catholic church and it’s all sharp edges and modern decorating and it just doesn’t work for me.

There’s something about the simplicity of an old church that rings true, to me.

“Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (which I like to call “Indiana Jones and his Dad”), is, by far, the best of the Indiana Jones trilogy.

Yes, I realize there was a fourth, but seriously?  “The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” doesn’t really count.

I digress.

My favorite scene is when Indy finally makes it back into the room with the ancient knight and he has to choose the cup that is the Holy Grail.

When he sees it, he knows it instantly, for a simple, wooden carpenters cup.

A movie, yes, but that’s how I feel about church.

If Jesus came back to life today (we’re not talking end of days, here…just talking like I do when I say, “I wonder what George Washington would think of this if he came back”) I don’t think he’d be impressed with the massive, modern structures full of statues and nonsense.

The cathedrals of Europe?


But, I think, son of God or not, he was the kind of person who would be completely at home in the simplest of surroundings.

I am a 100% believer that there is beauty in simplicity.

So, we go in, and we are greeted by the man that opens the church in the morning.

He and my Dad chat, while I organize my papers.

By the time the service started, there were about 30 people in the congregation, which pretty much filled the pews.

It was a normal church service, but there were pieces that just made me fall in love.

At one point in the service, a woman stood up and walked to the front and asked people to share their joys and concerns.

People randomly called out things that they, or people they knew, were struggling with, or good things that had happened in their lives.

A woman sat, near the windows, and wrote down what people shared, and that is what, I assume, was the list that showed up in the bulletin, each week.

After the scripture readings, but before the sermon, the bulletin called for the “Chancel Choir” to sing the anthem.

Six people got out of their pews, went to the front, stood and sang a lovely song.

They wore no robes, didn’t sit in a loft, were backed by a piano, and it was beautiful.

While we preached, I was able to make eye contact with most of the congregation, and I could see them listening…really listening.

Children got up to explain that they would be collecting for the Souper Bowl of Caring, which would donate the proceeds to a veteran’s organization, and I know now, that they were able to raise over $300 that morning.

When the service ended, people talked to each other in the aisles and talked about bringing meals to the people who were sick, and asked how they could help the others who were in need.

They laughed and shared and caught up with each other, and slowly moved toward the back of the church.

They shook my hand and thanked me for coming and were gracious and sweet and welcoming.

The next week was similar, as we went back, again, with a different sermon, and this week, the church was packed, as it was Scouting Sunday, and the Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Brownies, and Daisies all participated in the service.

That day, my Dad and I joined the congregation for the coffee hour, next door, and again, there were conversations and connections and community.

My Dad went back, again, last weekend, and I did not.

My gig with Dad was over, and I spent my Sunday morning at ShopRite with Tiny.

But, I gotta tell you… I missed it.

I missed being at that church, with those people.

Even not knowing a soul, it felt…good.

Don’t get me wrong.

I still love my church.

The church in which I grew up will always be home.

But there is just something about this place.

In the tiny narthex, there is a painting on the wall of the church, at Christmastime, and it just encapsulates how the place, and the people, makes me feel.



On my last Sunday with them, they came up to me and said, “Surely this won’t be your last Sunday with us.  You’ll come back again, right?”

And despite the fact that I don’t go to any church, pretty much at all, anymore, unless I’m preaching or one of the kids is doing something special there, I have a feeling that, yes, I’ll be back for a visit.

February 16, 2015

The Power of Music

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 6:00 am

I’ve been thinking, a lot, lately about the power of music.

Music has the power to take you to another time, another place…with just a few notes drifting at you, through the air.

You hear those opening notes and you remember where you were, when it was, what was happening.

You see a picture in your mind, smell a phantom scent, and your body starts to move.

You laugh.

You cry.

You think, “What if?”

Couples don’t have “a book,” “a food,” “a piece of silverware.”

Couples have a song.

Real Man and I have a song.

Well, technically, we have two songs.

Our wedding song is “Crazy Love.”

We were sitting in the movie theater, seeing “When a Man Loves a Woman” and Andy Garcia was driving across a bridge, and the song began to play and we just looked at each other and we knew.

This was our song.

However, we have another song.

We danced to it at the Junior Prom and over the past 26 years, whenever we have heard the song, we look at each other and remember.

But songs aren’t all about romance.

Songs are happy memories.

The opening strains of The Romantics (Hmmm…they seem to be recurring players in my life) “Talking in Your Sleep” bring me to Judy’s basement where we are dancing, singing, and trying on her big sister’s awesome shoes.  I am happy, and life is good.

When I hear Alicia Bridges, “I Love the Nightlife,” which, admittedly, doesn’t happen to often, I am with Erin.  I am 8.  We are dancing in my bedroom to my 45.  I am happy, and life is good.

Howard Jones, “No One is to Blame” and I am 14 and I am with Michaela.  We are at her house.  We are at the beach.  We are playing with hair and makeup.  We are on a boat.  I am happy, and life is good.

When I hear those first notes of “Oh What a Night,” I am 18 and I am driving in the car…to anywhere, really…with Kim.  The windows are down, we are singing at the top of our lungs.  We are talking about boys and college.  We are laughing.  I am happy, and life is good.


I was in the grocery store the other day, and I was singing along with “Party Lights” and an older gentlemen came up to me and said, “How on Earth do you know all the words to this song?  This is a song from MY youth, not yours!”

I smiled and said “My Dad.”

So, any song from the 50’s or 60’s and I’m in a car with my Dad and he’s turning up the volume as loud as it will go, yelling over the music “Amy…listen to this bass line!” or “Amy…can you believe the brass section on this one?”  He’s educating me, and although I doubt he had any idea what he was doing, he was setting basis for how I would feel about music for the rest of my life.

That it was to be played loud, to be really dissected, to be thoroughly and utterly enjoyed.


Not all musical memories are happy ones.

We all have them.

I love Journey…always have, always will.

But, when I hear “Faithfully,” I’m taken back to my college boyfriend, and a relationship that started with such promise and turned sad and sour and felt more like a prison than a relationship, toward the end.


One of my favorite things that I have taught, over the past 18 years, was a “Music with Meaning” unit in an 8th grade Social Studies enrichment class.

The students and I would discuss how music used to be the best way for people to communicate what they felt was wrong in society.  How, in a time when the media could be bought and it wasn’t proper to talk about certain things in certain circles, artists took to their music to make sure that the world knew exactly what was happening.

Music was a way of letting everyone know about social injustice.

I opened up by asking if anyone had ever heard of Reuben “Hurricane” Carter.

Very few had.

Those who had said, “Oh, yeah…he was a boxer who killed some people.”

So, I would cue up some Bob Dylan and let them hear the whole story.

I’d ask if, after hearing the whole story, that they thought the media was reporting all of the facts.  If they thought, in a world torn by segregation, racism, and hate, that people were really understanding what had been going on, and if they understood how music was the way to get the story out there.

We listened to “Revolution” by the Beatles and “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield.

We listened and talked and then I asked them to find music, in their own lives, that told a story, that meant something, whether to the world or to them, personally.

And I had 100% participation.

Because music is a universal language.

Even if you don’t consider yourself “a music person,” there’s that one song…those few notes…that take you there.

So, what’s your song?

What song makes you remember?

What notes make you feel?

February 13, 2015

Five Question Friday

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 6:00 am

I haven’t done a Five Question Friday in awhile, so I thought, maybe, I’d give it a try today.

1. What is your favorite color?

So, it’s not particularly popular, but my favorite color is brown.

Probably because I love fall, and the different shades of brown and orange that come on the trees, as they turn, but whatever the reason, I’m a fan of brown.

I prefer unpainted and stained wood over painted wood, and will go for earth tones over pastels or bright colors any day.

I tried to dye my hair brown in high school, but it didn’t take.

So, my favorite color?


2. If you could switch places with someone else for a day, who would that person be?

That’s a tough one.

My life is far from easy, but I’m not sure there is anyone I’d rather be.

Well, Jimmy Fallon.

Maybe I’d like to be Jimmy Fallon for a day, because I don’t think there is anyone in the world who enjoys their job more than he does.

I think that would be a good choice for just one day.

Or, maybe Kate Middleton.

Because I’m pretty sure she doesn’t have to cook or do laundry.

And she lives in a castle.

3. What is your very first memory?

I don’t know if it’s a real memory or something I made up over the years, but, the first memory that I think I have is from when I was 3 years old and we lived in upstate New York.

We had an exchange student, from Yugoslavia, who was staying with us, and I remember being in my bedroom, making a ton of noise, and Martina coming in and telling me I was driving her up the wall.

I got on my toy car and immediately began to pretend to drive it up the wall.

I thought it was hysterical.

She was not as amused.

After that, my next memory is accidentally punching my Dad in the nose on our porch in the house we lived in, once we moved to New Jersey.

He was holding me, and I was pretending to punch him, or something, and followed through and gave him a bloody nose.

He was not happy.

The one after that was when I cut all my hair off.

It was so long, I could sit on it, and I was watching Sesame Street, and they were making a nest for Big Bird.

I thought that made sense, so I looked at my long, yellow hair, that easily resembled straw, and got some scissors, and cut it off, above my ear, on one side of my head, only.

Immediately, I heard my mother coming downstairs to do laundry, realized what I had done and ran to hide.

I hid under the ironing board, because that is so concealing.

I was caught and oh, was I in trouble.

I was saved, only, because my Grandma was visiting from Ohio and she was a hairdresser.

So, my earliest memories…not my best moments.

4. If you had three wishes, what would they be? (And you can’t wish for more wishes. 

My first wish would be that my children would live long, happy, healthy lives, full of love and joy and laughter.

I just want my kids to be healthy and happy.

My second wish would be for the financial freedom to pursue our dreams, whatever “financial freedom” might mean for our family.

I don’t necessarily know what that would look like for us, but it’s definitely a dream for me.

Financial freedom would allow me to write, allow us to travel, allow us to do many things that we haven’t been able to do, thus far.

My third wish?

That’s tough.

I’d like to wish something for someone else, but I don’t really know who, or what, to wish for.

World peace?

Is it responsible to wish for something global without really understanding what the effect would be on the planet?

I don’t know.

So, I’d just hold on to that third wish, and really think about it.

And, if I know me, I’d wind up wasting it on a whim, in a moment of weakness, yelling something like, “I wish that for just one night I could make a dinner that no one would complain about!”

And that would be that.

5. Have you ever wanted a pony for your birthday? If not, what has been the craziest thing you’ve ever wanted for a birthday/other celebration present?

Funny question.

No, I’ve never wanted a pony for my birthday, but that’s only because I thought I was getting a pony for Christmas, one year.

I was an only child, and I was a sneaky, sneaky squirrel around the holidays.

Although I was able to locate, unwrap, and rewrap my presents by the time I was a teenager, when I was a little kid, I wasn’t quite as sneaky as I thought I was.

So, when I snuck downstairs to eavesdrop on my parents, one December evening, they staged a conversation.

“Do you think she knows?” my Mom stage-whispered.

“No, I don’t think she has a clue!” my Dad replied.

“How are you feeding it?” my Mom asked.

“I cut a hole in the basement ceiling and I push the hay up through the hole.”

“It’s such a good pony…it never nickers or makes any noise!”

Now, you should know that there was a large box in my living room, next to the tree.

In my 8 year old mind, that box was big enough for a pony, and so, I spent the remaining weeks, prior to Christmas, fully believing I was getting a pony.

I was a smart kid, but it just never dawned on me that it would be nearly impossible to keep a pony in a cardboard box for that long, never mind the smell that should have been emanating from the living room.

I was getting a pony.

That’s all that mattered.

Until Christmas morning when it turned out that I was actually getting a stereo for my bedroom.

Not a pony.

So, no…I never wished for a pony again.

February 9, 2015

Good Boy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 6:00 am

Tiny had to have surgery on Friday.

Minor surgery to remove his adenoids and have tubes put in his ears, but surgery, nonetheless.

He was ignorantly excited about the whole process, wondering if he would get a sticker afterward (he did).


In the recovery room, he smiled at everyone, but he was very, very quiet.

Over and over again, the doctors and nurses and staff kept saying “He’s such a good boy!’  “He’s so well-behaved!”  “What an awesome kid!”


And he is…they are correct.

But, I couldn’t help but wonder…what if he was in his element?

What if he wasn’t a little nervous, and so still and silent?

Would they not have considered him “a good boy?”

What if his mouth was moving a million miles a minute, like it usually does?

What if he was moving around, always in motion, as if powered like a battery, like on a normal day?

Would they have not said he was “so well-behaved?”

What do we value in children?



I’m not saying that this kid is perfect.

He’s spent time in the office at daycare, and is currently getting stickers for when he is actually able to be still and quiet for a few minutes before moving to the quiet room at nap time.

So far, he’s earned one.

But, does this mean he’s not a “good kid?”

Or does it mean he’s a three year old monkey who is learning how to behave.

Who is learning the power of words and that “No! I don’t like that!” shouted at the top of his lungs can often getting a larger reaction than a quiet, “No, thank you.”

Some of my favorite students from the past 21 years of being an educator were the ones who challenged me most

Who were always critically thinking, problem solving, debating, wondering, dreaming, speaking, moving, and shaking.

So, what makes “a good boy?”

And is that what I want for my own boy?

February 6, 2015

Birthday Month

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 3:25 pm

February is birthday month around here.

By the time March 2015 fights it’s way through the snow to arrive, I’ll have 14, 11, 9, and 4 year old children.

I’ll have a 14 year old girl who is ready for high school and all that awaits her.

Who is loving and kind and funny and brilliant, and is the person I want to be when I grow up.

I’ll have an 11 year old boy who is moving on to middle school.

Who is busy and curious and wanting to be involved in it all, despite the fact that it all gives him a world of worry.

I’ll have a 9 year old boy who is quiet and shy and funny and unique and could solve all of the world’s problems with construction paper and tape.

Who is patient and often misunderstood, but awesome in ways that most people can only dream of.

And I’ll have a 4 year old boy who is headstrong and hilarious.

Who is the apple of his sibling’s eye, and is the joy we didn’t know we needed until he arrived.

February comes and goes in a blur.

There are birthday parties and family dinners and presents and snow days and deadlines and performances and every other thing under the sun.

It’s easy, in this house, to view these birthdays as “something else I have to do.”

Something to check off the list.

Something to get through.

So, despite the fact that, in all aspects of our lives, February is the busiest month of the year, I want to make a concerted effort, on these four days, to stop.

To be grateful for the four people who call me Mama and who keep me young (and make me oh so old).

To celebrate.

To remember.

Because, someday, these days might be celebrated with a card in the mail and a phone call across the country or over the sea.

Happy Birthday, my babies.

Mommy loves you.




February 2, 2015

Mamma Mia!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 6:00 am


Since I was a kid, there are very few things in life that move me as much as seeing a Broadway show.

Even a show that isn’t fantastic just (to quote Monkey Girl) gives me the feels.

We live about 45 minutes west of NYC, and even still, I haven’t been to that many shows, which is a real shame, but they are incredibly cost prohibitive, and as an adult, I have four children and that’s time prohibitive.

I saw a lot of shows when I was younger and my parents were paying.

I’ve seen Phantom three times.

I’ve seen Les Miserables six.

I’ve seen Annie twice, once in the 80’s and once a few years ago, thanks to a generous invite from one of Monkey Girl’s friends.

My parents took me to see Cats, as a kid, and they both fell asleep until some of those Jellicle cats came out and perched on the edge of my Dad’s seat and scared the bejesus out of him.

Real Man and I saw Smokey Joe’s cafe with my parents, sat front row center, and my incredibly introverted Real Man inadvertently became part of the show, complete with a boa.

I saw Movin’ Out with Erin, which was INCREDIBLE.

And, a few years ago, I saw Mamma Mia with Erin, Kim, and Michaela…all born in the 70’s…all girls who know their Abba.

So, for an early birthday gift for Monkey Girl, Real Man and I bought tickets (through Broadway’s awesome 2-for-1 deal) to see Mamma Mia.

She really wanted to see Wicked, but guess what show sold out first?

Mamma Mia was her second choice, but she was thrilled and grateful and overwhelmed, because that’s the kinda kid she is.

So, she and I headed in on the train and the fun began.


I should mention that it was cold and the ground was covered in snow on the day we went in, so we were all bundled up.

Well, I was all bundled up.

Monkey Girl decided that she would wear capri jeans with flats.

Because “that’s all she had.”

I offered to loan her some of my boots and shoes, but they were too small, and by the time we were leaving, she said there were no other options and that her winter boots were ugly and she wasn’t wearing them.

I didn’t agree, but that was a battle I wasn’t going to fight.

As the parent of a teenager, sometimes the only way they will realize you are always right is to let them experience being wrong.

Even if it’s a very uncomfortable wrong.


On the train, we talked and she filmed the first piece of her Vlog assignment for her french class.

One take and she was done.

Or not…

Our plan was simple.

We’d head into Penn Station and walk to John’s Pizzeria…one of my favorite places to eat in the city.

I had called ahead and they had told me that we didn’t need reservations for a party under 15 people and had assured me that during the time in which we were arriving, we would have no trouble getting a table.

So, we arrived and…no tables and a one hour wait.

That would put us late for the show, so we decided to try Carmine’s, down the street.

And, as you can imagine…they weren’t accepting people without reservations.

So, we decided to hit the Hard Rock.

Monkey Girl was not excited, as she had her heart set on pasta, but time was ticking away and we were starving, so she agreed to give it a try, because I was not taking my girl to McDonald’s on her big night.

They gave us a wait time of 30 minutes, and we figured we could make that work.

We walked around and looked at the memorabilia and chatted.

I made her take a picture of me next to Adam Levine’s guitar and picture because…Adam Levine.


She was a little apprehensive while looking at the menu, so I decided that this would be the perfect time to introduce her to some haute cuisine.

Potato skins.

If it wasn’t so loud in there, the noises coming from our table as we devoured those potato skins could possibly have gotten us thrown out, but her education in the world of appetizers was a success, and she was on board.

With each song that came on, I fascinated (bored) her with tales of the artists.

Like the time I chatted with Joan Jett on a plane on the way to San Antonio to see my friend, Mark.

Okay…maybe chatted is a bit of an exaggeration.

We head nodded to each other as I moved past her in first class.

I like to think it was as memorable for her as it was for me.

I took this shot of her next to the Black Sabbath guitar because it was right at our table, and she wasn’t too keen on posing with Billy Joel’s motorcycle.

Which is crazy.


It’s a great shot of my girl.

But, upon closer inspection, we found that it’s an even greater shot of the woman behind her, who did not appear to enjoy the fact that she was being immortalized in our family photos forever.


We found it interesting that they followed up Joan Jett with “Let it Go” and then moved to Marilyn Manson, but applauded the fact that they were engaging a larger audience, and couldn’t help but notice the fact that at least one person at each table sang along with “Let it Go,” while a far smaller audience mouthed the words to most of the other selections.

A little girl of about 7 actually stood up and sang, standing next to her table and sang the whole thing…arm motions and all.

Gotta love that enthusiasm.

Our waiter, who was being shadowed by a trainee, asked us what show we were seeing, and then told his trainee to leave.

She was confused, but she left, and he then proceeded to lower his voice and tell us how he and Bradley Cooper are BFF’s.

Well, they WERE BFF’s, but they haven’t seen each other in years, but he was going to see him in The Elephant Man and was going to surprise him backstage.

Well, maybe not backstage because it’s a surprise and Brad won’t know he’s coming and may not give him permission, so maybe he’d surprise him outside the theater after the show.

But, they definitely are BFF’s.

I don’t know about you, but I smell a stalker.

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Then…the show.

Genetics run strong in that girl, because, although she looks exactly like her father, her emotions come from her Mama.

I have never been to a Broadway show where I haven’t cried my way through the overture at the sheer excitement of being there.

I turned to her, halfway through the overture and saw the matching tears on her cheeks.


Amazing show, once again, and after it was over, on the way to the train, we talked about which of our friends would be which characters, if the show was about our lives, our Broadway dreams, and, most importantly…she finally admitted she was, maybe, a little cold.

But only a little.

On the train ride home, she got a crash course in drunk people on a train, which, incidentally, would be an excellent Twitter hashtag, and she made a time-lapse video of the sights outside our window.

We got home and she thanked Real Man and I profusely for a wonderful experience, and I think we both had a hard time falling asleep for the wonder of it all.



Imagine being lucky enough to have your job be to sing your heart out in front of an audience night after night after night.


Imagine being lucky enough to be able to spend some quality time with your daughter in the midst of deadlines and due dates and paperwork and four children and life.

Even better.

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