Three things…

Ethan advanced the idea that there are three things you don’t like that everyone else adores. I love this topic. I also love the willy-nillyness of social media that can lead me to a boy like Ethan– and in particular, Ethan’s dog, on whom I’ve developed a sincere, passionate crush.


I don’t even like animals (there’s my first of three). But who’s a good boy? Who? Who? Yes, yes he is.

Well, not that I don’t like animals. It’s just that cats make me sneezy and I’ll never be a poopbag-carrying sort of girl. The Lee Family pet history is limited to two horrible mini frogs. One tormented and starved the other, and after his acrylic cube companion died, the murderous amphibian was released into the pond. We assured the kids that an unheated backyard water feature was an ideal new home for our lonely African jumper, and that the fish probably didn’t eat him, you know, right away. Though Brodie fantasizes adorably about Dog ownership, I already have two smallish boys with poor aim. I’m immune to all pleas. But not your adorable dog snaps. I mean, seriously. THIS DOG.

Try not to love Charlie.

Try not to love Charlie. Go ahead. Try.

Just this week, Lisa asked me to suggest some fluffy-robe resort destination for her and her lucky husband. This reminded me of my second I-hate, you-love topic: massage. I was flattered that Lisa thinks I’d enjoy a spa day. Maybe my frequent lauding of expensive shoes and brazen champagne addiction does paint the picture of a gal who knows a bit about hot stones and sea salty wraps. But I don’t.

During Zealot Sister’s Wedding Week, my mother gifted me with an hour of massage at the super fancy Victorian Ladies Day Spa. At the time, I was a young, broke graduate student, living in a rodent-frequenting apartment with my excessive revolving credit. A massage? Awesome.

But it wasn’t. No one asked me if I was a massage virgin, and so I faked massage bravado, and climbed naked under sheets nervously awaiting what others had only described with excited, moaning pleasure. But is it supposed to be, like, this chilly? I wondered and waited. Naked. At the Victorian Ladies Day Spa. Finally, my therapist arrived: harried, apologetic, and about 42 weeks pregnant. “Oh my God, it’s so HOT in here!” she gasped along with lots of information about the shenanigans of her furnace fetus. Unwilling to contribute to her preeclampsia, I didn’t mention that I was freezing. She apologized when her hot hands practically sizzled on my frozen feet, but we didn’t call it quits until I started actually shivering.

“I think I’ll just get dressed.”

More apologies and blah blah blah, but no mention of how to remedy my hypothermic, oiled state. So, I pulled clothes over my sticky body and went to find mom, who was perplexed that I hadn’t showered. But NO ONE TOLD ME WHAT TO DO, and so I happily avoided this expensive luxury for the next decade because I hate hate hate being cold and feeling stupidly sticky.

Though Bernie and I often forget our own anniversary, we still totally dig each other and at Year Five escaped small children for a weekend B&B getaway in one of those cute New England towns boasting presidential compounds and spas with couples massages in sweltering conditions. Five years of marriage and hundreds of hours of neck-straining microsurgery were certainly deserving of a dueling oohs and ahhs under boiling wraps in a steamy room! I buried all memories of my polar rubdown and booked a hot room for two. Sadly, a rare plastic surgery emergency called Bernie back to town for most of our weekend getaway. I swapped the couples massage for a single, borrowed an old-timey bike from our adorable B&B, and pedaled over to the spa for my second shot at solo shiatsu.

Again, I approached this with confidence because you maniacs keep extolling its pleasures, only to find myself alone and naked in Maine with NO IDEA who is about to enter the room. Quick prayers for divine intercession that my masseuse wasn’t a dude were issued. Quick retrieval of undergarments just in case. Florid relief when a miniature blonde in yoga pants appears, assuring me I will be warm and comfy. I relax. And for three whole minutes I can stand to be under the freak pressure of her tiny fingers. A massage rube, I’m still quite certain it’s not supposed to, ouch, hurt. But it does. And like the middle-child people pleaser I am, I didn’t say a word… enduring a slow assault that left REAL BRUISES all over my thighs. My quaint ride-a-bike-to-a-massage plan was less charming on the way back to the B&B during which I winced with each incline.

I haven’t paid to be slathered with scented oils by a stranger since. I not so secretly think all of you are nuts at best, adulterous at least to enjoy this nonsense. But, that’s me.

Three is skiing. Yikes and brrr sums it up squarely. Though thousands of tweets and updates attest to a fanatic obsession with all sorts of things assumed to be loved by all, I’m sure all of us are baffled by a few. And maybe we’re sort of quiet about it. How ostracized the furtive few who have only lukewarm feelings about bacon or the Beatles?

Ethan’s confession was Boyhood, tagging it a “three hour menagerie of evolving facial hair.” I could fill a binder with complaints about beer, snorkeling, traveling, and Lena Dunham.

What are the popular obsessions you cannot abide? Before Ethan acquired his dog, I might have complained about over-Instagramming a pet. But I think we’ll all agree that there cannot be too many pictures of Charlie.

The Girl in the Hideous Poncho, by Katie McWane Diecker

Katie is a funny, blonde, talented mommy of three lovely children: two earthly blonde cuties, and one darling angel in Heaven. Reading about my Cancer-versary, Katie admitted to a measure of jealousy. Two years later, I have my hair back. But Zachary? Not any number of Zach-aversaries will bring him back. Putting fingertips to keyboard, Katie sent me this collection of paragraphs that she calls her Christmas miracle—the redeeming notion that maybe, after four years, she’s back.

I would like to offer those of you in the gutter of your grief, some hope (I hope). I just felt a Christmas miracle. Of course the best would be to have Zachary home, but recently I just sort of, well…woke up? And of course, I am a totally changed person, woman, mother from losing my biggest dream, my first baby, my Zachary. Sometimes I feel like people can see the grief all over me. Possibly that’s all they see, covering everything like some hideous poncho. But now I see that miracles happen, even to girls in hideous ponchos.

A few weeks ago an old child psychology colleague recommended me for a really great job, and the selling point of my employ-ability was this:

She is one of the funniest people…EVER.

Me? This was me she was advocating. Grief-stricken, Dead Baby Mommy, me? But when I read that cc-ed email, something shifted, and my blonde head started spinning. Wait, I was funny! I mean, I used to be funny. But not anymore. I don’t know how to be funny anymore. Funny stopped at Zachary. But maybe this email suggested that humor (humor!) had begun creeping back in. Great, now they’ll be expecting hilarious emails and witty asides. This is how grief (and human nature) distort otherwise lovely compliments. I wasn’t quite ready for Zachary-cancelling compliments.

But fate (God?) is persistent. Today I was at work with three people I spend more time with than my two small children. As a voice director for animation, we work hard, fast, and precisely to meet deadlines, simultaneously preventing those pressures from sapping our creativity or performance. I sit beside a recording engineer and we work in tandem, with a producer and casting director behind us. It’s Hollywood and badass and also tedious and repetitive. I love it.

Today was our last session before the holiday so we were unwinding, saying things we normally wouldn’t say, collapsing into the friend zone and sharing the best sort of inappropriate insights about our industry and the challenges of finding work. The casting director said, “You know Katie, you could be an actor.” Hmmm, “Yeah, I used to be, but I just don’t know what my ‘thing’ is, you know? You have to know what you are best at in order to sell yourself.” My engineer nearly slapped me in the arm

C’mon Katie you’re funny! TV needs you. You’re like Lucille Ball!

And now I’m crying. For the first time, I realized I’m back. Not because I’m ready to stop being Dead Baby Mommy, but because the world doesn’t see me that way anymore. I have a little boy in Heaven guiding our family, but I am a woman that no longer wears her grief first. It’s no longer the prow of the family ship. I’m not sure if any of this makes sense, but maybe it will to those who feel that sadness defines them, owns them. And my hope (my Christmas wish) is that your losses will come back. Though earthly losses remain, our personal ones can be filled with the love and appreciation of people who really see us under our hideous ponchos. My Zachary is gone, but I’m still here… laughing with other people. This happens. It’s a proof of love in the world, or the power of humor, or the grace of God. But this happens.


The Diecker house is trimmed for Christmas cheer, and love, and laughter… with a stocking hung for Zachary. Merry Christmas, friends.

December, by Steve Safran

December. This is a notable month for me and Britt. It was two years ago that we shared our respective big news, albeit on markedly different fronts. I moved out of my home, in the first step toward a divorce. Upstaging me considerably on the Oh Crap meter, Britt told us, her friends, that she had breast cancer.

It took years to work up to a divorce. Britt stole all my thunder with one mammogram. I have yet to forgive her fully.

So, for both of us, December 2013 marks the second anniversary of our reorganizations. Britt’s changes involved an unplanned physical assault on her body and peace of mind, a year’s worth of rotating relatives, hair loss, hair growth, and a blog. My reorg was self-imposed, required the packing and unpacking of many boxes, job changes, post-marital dating (and a blog). Within a span of three months, I’d lived in three different locations, finally settling into an apartment near Nordstrom’s. I hardly expected that years of domestic disharmony would lead to the mall. But for me, Black Friday simply means I can’t get out of my driveway.

The second part of my reorg was my mental health. I had suffered years of depression and anxiety. Although I have regulated the depression, the anxiety remains. I suspect it always will. A visit a couple of years back to Dr. Drug Dispenser yielded this diagnosis: “You’re fucked.” Not kidding. Direct quote. Let it be noted that I, like Britt, do not approve of candy-coated health information. “Fucked” was an excellent diagnosis, accurate and pithy.

In what now seems an absurdity, one year into my reorg in December 2012, I became a producer on a series for the Discovery Channel called “Amish Mafia.” The highly rated “reality” show was a lot of fun. The pay was good and the hours, though long, were tolerable. But the commute blew. It meant weekly trips to New York City, coming back to Natick on weekends to cram in a week’s worth of quality time with the kids. And the awesome paycheck was largely wasted on overpriced New York sublets. After two seasons, I’d had enough, and announced The Amish would have to keep being Amish without my guidance.

Reorganization needs support, and I had plenty. My family and friends were there. Last December, when I was at a particularly low point, I arranged a “grownups cocktail hour” over here above the mall so I could spend an evening drinking and laughing and reminiscing with Britt and our other college cronies. When reorganization leaves you feeling adrift and lonely, seeing old friends in their holiday finest and reminding you that you are loved and occasionally funny… well, that helps.

You know what else helps? Fate. Luck. Love. Britt would call it the Holy Spirit (and there she goes, wielding her editorial power), but I wouldn’t. This December also marks a year since my first date with a woman I met on She billed herself as “Agent 99” and, as I am a huge “Get Smart” fan, drew my attention immediately. After a few exhanges, 99 and I took our virtual relationship into a nice restaurant. I met this smart and funny and pretty woman. I also love the fact that she found a typo in my bio describing myself as an annoyingly fastidious writer. My life turned on a typo, unearthed by Agent 99.

This December, I don’t have a job and Britt has chin-length hair. Our reorganization continues. But as the pair of us head into another holiday season that evokes all sorts of bad memories, an intervening year creating better ones makes it all seem like there are many reasons for drinks to be poured. And next week is the second annual Grownups Cocktail Hour.