Why I Yoga (Don’t Hate)

Child of The Universe

My favorite quote. It’s from “The Desiderata.” It says YOGA to me.

I remember my first real yoga class so well. I had just returned from four luxurious months in Italy and had the cheeks to show it–the ones on my face! My friend Caitlin and her mom, Ms. Sue, had been Bikraming their butts off for months. Cait said she knew I’d love it. I met her at the Timonium Bikram, she handed me a mat she’d gotten me at the Five and Below, and we went to work in that hot box. I had a flurry of thoughts. Why does it smell like rancid Asiago cheese? Why do I have to put my wrists under my hips in Locust Pose if it hurts so much? Where did this yoga teacher get all of these ridiculous similes? Japanese ham sandwich? What is a Japanese ham sandwich? Aside from the flood of inquiries, I walked out of there lighter, more peaceful, and ready to turn around and go right back in. Maybe two days later, I met Chas. I didn’t know it at the time but I’d just welcomed two things into my life that I would never be willing to let go.

Since that first $30 for 30 days Bikram membership in 2008, I’ve tried most of the yogas that Baltimore has to offer. While there are certain types of yoga I favor over others, I just love being around yoga and its community. But, I do realize that just the two syllables: yo-ga can incite eyerolls and sighs and snide comments. Haters gonna hate. And yoga is awesome. So, here’s why. For all y’all haters, there are jokes mixed into my yoga-doctrine so you have to read it anyway. Do haters like jokes? Hope so.

Pre-Yoga Squee

Before I get to yoga class but I’m planning to attend one, I feel a pre-yoga squee. It’s a feeling of anticipation reserved only for yoga. I feel jittery and excited to get there, sweat it out, tune into myself, do a 60-minute moving meditation, and just be in one place. Even the anticipation of a yoga class is enough. It makes my day better to know yoga is in my future.

What Yoga Does for Me

When I am in a yoga class, I push myself. If it’s CorePower, I look myself in the mirror and I say in my head, “Yep. Keep going. This is all you.” It’s a rare moment in my day in which I face myself, encourage myself, and make the woman that looks back at me feel proud about what she’s doing.

Yoga is also my sharp-edge softener. I walk out of that room and I’m softer somehow. I remember being a kid and feeling like when I left church, I was supposed to be kinder, feel more “good,” like I should talk more nicely, smile more pretty. I know church might do that for some people. At this point in my life though, yoga is my church.

This is the first joke I promised. So, there’s this guy. He’s driving along the road in his purple pick up truck. He sees a bunch of penguins by the side of the road and he thinks to himself, “What are these penguins doing here? I guess I should take them with me.” So he puts them in the back of his purple pick up truck and keeps going. Well, it becomes time to get gas so he stops at a gas station. The gas station attendant comes out and says to the driver of the purple pick up, “Hey, what are you doing with these penguins in your truck?”

“Well,” says the driver, “I found them by the side of the road. What do you think I should do with them?”

“I guess you should take them to the zoo,” says the gas station attendant.

“Yes, good idea!” says the driver of the purple pick up truck and he drives away.

A week later, the gas station attendant is back at work and the very same guy drives up with the same purple pick up truck and the very same penguins in the back of the truck. Only this time, the penguins are all wearing little blue hats and sunglasses. The attendant walks out and pulls the driver aside and says, “What are you doing with these penguins still? I thought you were going to take them to the zoo.”

“I did,” said the driver. “We had so much fun, we’re going to the beach this week!”

Yoga’s History

The history of yoga is staggering. It is thousands of years old–something that can not be said for most forms of group exercise (if that’s what yoga is for you). Purely its ability to stand the test of time impresses me. Some researchers believe that yoga is 5000 years old. A seminal document, The Yoga Sutras, date back to the years of Jesus.


I mean, with that hair, it looks fitting. Doesn’t it? Also, since Jesus was not a blonde, blue-eyed hippy-looking-concert-going Westerner but rather a middle easterner, maybe he really did master lotus pose in his 33 short years. 

I know that something being “old” does not make it right. There are too many examples for me to even list. But yoga is tried and true and practiced. In the 20th century, it leapt from the east all the way to Hollywood, California. From there, it spread.

Within our yoga teacher training, we’ve been able to learn about the principles of yoga. They truly make me want to be better at every single thing in my life. An Indian sage named Patanjali wrote the Yoga Sutras. Within this text are ways of dealing with the struggles of being a human. Wouldn’t the world be better if we could all just follow this?

Why did Adele cross the road? Punchline: to say hello from the other side!


My mom often breaks into half moon pose in public, continually reminding me that yoga can be anywhere. Many yoga poses could be done on a train platform. I’m not sure why, but that feels like the best guideline. Because I can only imagine the contents of a floor of a train platform, I wouldn’t break into downward facing dog there to avoid things like chlamydia and papercuts. But lots of yoga could be done waiting for a train, in your living room, in a handicapped stall, in an office, on a sidewalk. It’s just so mobile. And there are so many times in our lives when light stretching and some mindful breathing could really rescue us from misery.


My homegirls and me in handstands (well, I’m trying) in front of the second Washington Monument (Baltimore’s was first). Stacey is working herself into Mountain Pose.

Yoga is also accessible in that there are modifications and ways for everyone to access at least something within it. Common cop outs I hear are “I’m not flexible” or “My back hurts” or “I can’t even touch my toes.” First off, all of those are actually more reason to come to yoga. Second off (second off? Not a thing, is it?) yoga is a no judgment zone. No one is looking at someone else and thinking, “Wow, she sucks at this.” That’s not what it’s about and that’s certainly not part of the 8-limbed path of yoga. We’re all there to better ourselves and looking at and judging someone else, well, there’s simply not time for it.

Yoga Clothes

Yoga clothes are comfortable and sexy at the same time. How do they do it? You should see some of the outfits walking around with humans in them at Core Power. It’s like a fitness fashion show. I won’t pretend these looks come cheap. The bourgeois yoga clothes are only affordable to me at 75%. That’s not a joke. At 75% they actually seem reasonable to me. Not quite Mecca (Target) or Vogue Revisited prices, but “treat yo’self Tuesday” prices.

I live in my yoga clothes now. Sometimes it’s because I have pre-yoga squee and sometimes I’m doing what my friend Morgan calls Faux Exercise Athleisure. You wear athletic clothes without getting actually athletic. It gives the illusion of exercise, without the work.

What did the finger say to the thumb?

I’m in glove with you!


I started yoga teacher training in June (then promptly left for three weeks in Europe). Since then, with one month off, I’ve been in it. It felt so full circle to me–to go from student to student/teacher. I’ve been taking from yoga for 9+ years. It’s time to give back to it. And I think I always, in the back of my mind, knew I wanted to teach yoga. When it entered the front of my mind, it was time to act.

There’s something to be said for the empowerment of taking a yoga class, watching yourself succeed, making decisions of going into a pose or skipping it, moving into something you haven’t tried before, focusing on yourself for an hour, and honoring the whole room with your practice. Furthermore, guiding people through their yoga practices is a true privilege.

YTT has been challenging. It’s been time consuming. It is expensive. And it goes until 10:30 p.m. in some cases. All of that considered, it’s been completely worth it to me and I haven’t even really started teaching yet.

Eyerolls, sighs, snide comments–bring them on. But please don’t knock it until you try it. There’s a reason yoga is really old and worldwide and so well respected.

So yea, I’m drinking the Koolaid (or the electrolyte infused water). And it’s delicious.

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My Omies and me. We teach for FREE the next two Sundays at Core Power Harbor Point. Hot Power Fusion. 11:30-12:30. All (who can take 105 degree heat) are welcome. 

Everything I Shouldn’t Have Known When I Was A Kid, I Learned From Seinfeld

Dinnertime on Kennewick Road meant a dining room table crowded with mail, newspapers, and our homework, some type of Hamburger Helper, fast food, or TV dinner, and Seinfeld on the black and white in the corner. I can’t say what happened to that TV now. You had to turn a nob to change the channel and adjust the antennas constantly. But it did what mattered. It cranked out episodes of Seinfeld five nights per week. And Aubrey and I gathered much of our knowledge of the world from Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer.


In addition to using a TV from the ’60s unironically, our parents have always been the type to answer our questions. I remember when I was maybe 8 years old, I pulled my dad away from Aubrey’s hearing range on Christmas morning and said, “Straight up, Dad. Is Santa real? He can’t be real, right?”

My dad, ever faithful to the truth, sighed looked down, met my eyes, and with a smile said, “No, Santa is not real.” And I appreciate that. No bull. (I just knew Santa didn’t have the same handwriting as my parents!)

My mom said that when my Uncle Michael was born, her mom went to the hospital for “a hurt leg” and came home with an infant. Had Aubrey and I gotten our wish and had a little brother when we were of talking age, my parents would have explained the entire thing. We may have been horrified but at least we’d be informed. Oh, we knew where babies came from.

They were the same way with Seinfeld. Everything Aubrey and I maybe shouldn’t have known when we were little kids, we learned from Seinfeld. If I asked Nancy or Dick for clarification, I got it. I specifically remember the episode called “The Contest.” Season 4, episode 11, first aired on November 18, 1992. (Okay, I’m not that much of a Seinfeld junkie, I googled that.) I asked my mom what Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer were talking about. Why were they being so cryptic? What was this contest about? Why was everyone so much more calm after losing the contest? I remember my mom falling into a bashful smile and then she started with something like, “Sometimes when people are alone…”

That one was particularly scarring because of the content and that my poor mother felt like she owed it to me to explain.

Seinfeld references exist throughout life. I love when I make an obscure reference and someone I don’t know is a Seinfeld-er joins me. “Mandelbaum! Mandelbaum! Mandelbaum!” Aub and I could literally have a conversation comprising only of animal-voice-pet-talk and Seinfeld references. It’s just so applicable to life. And that’s why we learned so much from it.

It’s not possible to enter a Chinese restaurant without saying, “I yell ‘Cartright! Cartright!’ and no one answer, so I hang up.” If you are on the way to meet a friend’s new baby, you simply must say “Ya gotta see the baaayyyyybeeeeeeeeee,” in a nasally voice. And it made me so happy the other day when Lockdogg (my brother in law) randomly called me Jugdish. Just YES.

Seinfeld also taught me that “Shut up” was not nice thing to say. If we said “shut up,” we had to sit out of one Seinfeld episode. If that’s not great parenting, I don’t know what is.

I remember May 14, 1998 (that date I actually did remember but googled to make sure). My parents had some event in a hotel and Aubrey and I were allowed to be in the hotel room by ourselves. We got to sit up in our fluffy hotel bed and watch The. Last. Episode. Of. Seinfeld. We stayed up until at least 10 p.m. I know that the final ep didn’t earn a lot of praise from critics but for a pair of sisters at 8 and 10 years old, it was Emmy-winning. I mean, “Who figures an immigrant’s gonna have a pony?”

I’m a pretty observant person. Maybe that’s the ENFP in me. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s the fact that I was raised by Seinfeld. A show about nothing is ideal training for keen observation skills. The minutia that Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer cared about meant that they were close observers of the world, and I became one too.

  • Jerry: She eats her peas one at a time.
  • Elaine: You don’t think that someone having a baby warrants an exclamation point.
  • Jerry: You can’t eat this soup standing up. Your knees buckle.
  • Kramer: The carpet sweeper is the biggest scam perpetrated on the American public since One Hour Martinizing.
  • George: I don’t dip that way. You dip the way you wanna dip. I’ll dip the way I wanna dip.
  • Estelle Costanza: You’re not giving away our water pick!
  • Jerry: There’s no reason for her to not taste that pie!
  • Elaine: I once broke up with someone for not offering me pie.
  • Jerry: Looking at cleavage is like looking at the sun. You don’t stare at it. It’s too risky. Ya get a sense of it and then you look away.
  • George:  I think I’ve reached a point in my life where I can tell the difference between nougat and cookie.
  • Kramer: I’m H.E. Pennypacker. I’m a wealthy industrialist and philanthropist, and uh, a bicyclist.

They may be insane but those are some very astute observations. Sometimes I feel like I think in a Seinfeld mindset–hopefully just less selfish, narcissistic, and nihilistic.

Aubrey and I learned at early ages that men’s chest hair grows back itchy when they shave it, mutton probably doesn’t taste very good, what gonorrhea is, not to scratch the side of your nose in a car, envelope glue can be poisonous, sharing toilet paper is common courtesy, you can sing on your voicemail if you want, to be careful when you stop short so you don’t send the wrong message, if given the option do not take part in a police line up, that when men swim in cold water, there’s “shrinkage,” and so many other lessons. And then we named our family cat Kramer.

I think the way that Seinfeld really serves us best is that it teaches you to laugh at tiny stressors. Notice them, give them funny names, chuckle, and then let them go. Seinfeld shows viewers how to handle life with a sense of humor. Also, there are times in life to embody each character, even if we don’t necessarily want to admit we relate. I think I oscillate between a self-loathing George, an naively optimistic Kramer, a feisty Elaine, and a confident and even-keeled Jerry. They’re in all of us.

Let’s end with the words of Frank Costanza, “Welcome, new comers. The tradition of Festivus begins with the airing of grievances. I got a lot of problems with you people! And now you’re gonna hear about it!”

End of Seinfeld


How We Label Ourselves

Mountain Goats 2

“Are you serious?”


Mountain Goats.

In high school, my friend Sarah and I took a class about media. Our teacher was one of those very randomly intense people. You couldn’t really predict when she was about to snap into her intensity and get “serious” about something that did not seem serious. One that is burned on my brain is her description of a label for canned vegetables. She widened her eyes, walked to the center of the room, approached the first row of desks (thank god we sat back a row), raised her hands like a politician about to announce a plan to fix poverty, and said:




On the table,



You’ll like it

on the 




Those spaces are necessary because that’s how slowly she delivered it to us. That last “label” required at least a 10 second wait. I looked up the ad she was quoting so oddly and she was a little off with the “lyrics” but still it’s advertising gold for the ’70s, I’m guessing.

We humans are very attached to labels. They give us identity, solidarity, and maybe a bit of an internal mirror, which is a comfort of sorts. Like “Ah, I do exist. And there’s a label for that!”

Labels have been swirling in my head lately. At Gram’s viewings, she had flowers for each of her roles: mother, wife, sister, grandmother. Pretty standard. Those are labels that truly do give one an identity. If I could, I would have added “saint” or “angel” because that’s what she is now. Did I tell you I scored 12 points in my basketball game last night? That’s Gram’s divine intervention.

I made an Instagram last week and I couldn’t decide on a name. I went with “amandywritesthings” which sounds very juvenile to me. I made the account to promote my writing and my yoga classes so at least I’ve labeled 50% of that. It’s easy enough to find out what the kids are calling themselves these days because they write their Instagram names all over the mouse pads at school. To each her own…?

Seinfeld had a large role in raising me. I learned everything I shouldn’t have known from that show. (Just realizing this is a blog for another day.) Every once in a while they’d play a montage episode, a large chunk of which was just the main characters calling people ridiculous names.

Man Hands, Close Talker, High Talker, Crazy Joe Davola, Rabid Anti-Dentite (that’s just Jerry), The Face Painter, The Soup Nazi, The Bra-less Wonder, The Virgin, Loud Braun, The Lip Reader, The Maestro, and so many more.

Of course Larry David is a genius. That label goes without saying. But if you’re going to create a show that contains a constant stream of ridiculous characters, you best label them for the 7 year old girls who are watching in their dining rooms while doing their math homework and eating a TV dinner, so we can keep track.

Seinfeld Group

My teachers.

In my class at school, I have had the girls complete the Myers Briggs. It’s an easier, more boiled down version but they love it. They have really enjoyed seeing themselves in their results. I have taken the Myers Briggs several times and each time I am a strong ENFP. The site I used with the girls also gives users a name. I am “the campaigner” and it honestly weirds me out how accurate it is. An actual quote in the career paths section is: “Can’t I fly helicopters AND be an oceanographer who writes songs and cooks?” which for me means: “Can’t I teach AND help with future planning AND instruct yoga AND tutor on the side?” There’s something so amusing about reading all about yourself. If you want to take it too: www.16personalities.com.

Another label that some people really subscribe to are zodiac signs. Chas and I are both Capricorns. I remember telling my fellow Capricorn friend Maiesha that and she was surprised we were compatible because she knows a lot about the signs. When I look at descriptions of Capricorns, I actually do see a little Chas and a little me. Maybe our 50/50 Cap-ness works out. Zodiac signs seem like another great opportunity to recognize ourselves in something written. I’ve never really gotten into the Zodiac signs although I almost always agree with horoscopes. I also love that the Capricorn’s symbol is a mountain goat because I really enjoy watching videos of mountain goats climbing.

Is all of this a little self-fulfilling? If the horoscope says something like, “Today you will find a lucky penny,” won’t you be staring at the ground all day? Why would your birthday, actual day, matter so many years after it’s gone? I don’t not believe, but I am certainly skeptical. But I’ve never heard someone say that he or she is the opposite of what his/her zodiac sign says. Though, do those types read horoscopes? Chicken-egg.


Mountain Goats.

Mountain Goats 1

Actual mountain goats!

In traditional Chinese medicine, I lean toward the fire element. In the Chinese calendar, we 1987 people are “rabbits.” I know I’m part Irish, part Polish, and part Sicilian and I always dance to “Brown Eyed Girl” because I am one. I am an Orioles fan and I was raised Catholic. I grew up in East Baltimore, which actually is a thing in Baltimore City. So many labels, do they make up who we are?

In Swaziland everyone we asked questions of started their answers with, “In our Swazi cultyah…” It exuded such pride.

I think I get it, though. We love the solidarity of the labels. They bring us together. We also love the acknowledgement that we exist. A couple of weeks ago in a yoga class, the teacher told us about an exercise in getting to the core of who you are. Someone asks “Who are you?” and maybe you start with your name, job, familial roles, and eventually you run out. The concept is pretty meta and you come to “I am.” When you peel off all of the labels you collect throughout a lifetime, you’re a human body with a spirit inside. That, with the exception of Libby’s canned vegetables–when you peel off that label, they’re still the freshest canned vegetables.



self-evident truths


This is Loyanda. I met her when we visited Shar in Swaziland on our honeymoon and fell in love with her spunk. If this photo doesn’t say “self-evident truths,” I don’t know what photo does.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men [people] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator [whatever power they believe in] with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  

– The Declaration of Independence

I think it’s a good time to revisit that paragraph, with two tiny adjustments. While “we” have these truths that are self-evident, I have some not-necessarily-truths that I hold to be self-evident, really Amanda-evident. I call these my theories–though I know I am using this word broadly, and likely incorrectly. That’s okay. To me, they’re true. And not in the way that Kyrie Irving “believes” the earth is flat.  And not in the way that Trump believes…anything. They’re true to me because in my world they work.

1. You can never buy too many bananas. I always overbuy bananas. They’re maybe the last food in the grocery store that costs cents and is still filling. The price-gouging on oranges is crazy. If bananas start to go brown, no worries–you freeze them for smoothies or you make banana bread. Who doesn’t love banana bread?

2. If my parents have taught me anything it’s this. When you run out of napkins, it’s time to get Chipotle. Chipotle is delicious. And so are their napkins. Kidding. But somehow those are the napkins that always end up on the Doran dinner table and now the Doran Eby table.

3. In commercials for TV shows, there are too many shots of people just turning around and looking, doing nothing else. Good luck not seeing this now.

4. When I get goosebumps, my leg hair grows back. I try not to shave my legs when I know I am going to be cold that day. This is coupled with the fact that I don’t shave my legs very often. All girls school trains you to know what matters in life. All girls school that encourages wearing knee-high socks trains you to know you only shave your knees and the bottoms of your thighs.

5. Men are not fully cooked until they’re at least 24. I think this is something someone told me when I was dating guys younger than 24–so maybe not my own theory. But it’s silly to waste time crying over guys who aren’t ready to…be. I know I don’t have many teenaged female readers but for my cousin Maggie, Samantha Tumminello, and maybe a random or two, this could be helpful. They don’t mean to be ass holes, they just are.


Chas at 23 on the day we met. Preakness ’08. He wasn’t fully cooked but enough to get them digits!

6. Annoyances unite strangers like nothing else. I am sure that tragedy does as well but I am lucky to not know this firsthand at this point. This summer when Chas and I were driving back from Ocean City, we approached a full stop on route 50. A tree had fallen on the road, smashed the hood of a car, and stopped all of the Saturday drivers. Luckily no one was seriously hurt. When everyone realized the status of our Saturday, we got out of cars and chatted. We analyzed. We leaned on cars like it was 1959. And then when a couple cars left our new club and drove the wrong way down the shoulder and got GOT, we chuckled then gasped in unison when we realized that an ambulance had tried to drive around those idiots and fell into an embankment. When the tree was removed and the hood-smashed car scooted to the side, we celebrated together, high fived, said goodbye. New friends. Ever been in a long line at a bank (Does anyone still go inside the bank?)? People love to unite over long lines. In 2008 when I was in line to vote in the presidential election (simpler times), someone started a strangers-in-an-annoying-situation-conversation with “If this was a white neighborhood, we would’ve voted by now.” I wanted to yell “yea!” along with everyone else but thought that might be taken in the wrong way. Still, we were united in that line.

IMG_8815 2

My traffic jam peeps and the stuck ambulance in the background.

7. Once you join my web, I will envelop you. Maybe less of a theory and more of a truth. If Aub and I get you to join our book club, before you know it, you’re on the basketball team, you’re running a race with us, you’re texting my mom, you’re getting a masters degree. I realize this is how friendships work but I also know that I pull my peeps close in every way that they’ll let me. And nothing makes my heart warmer than my friends becoming friends with one another, or with my parents. (Other masters of this skill: Mary Colleen and Alice)

8. It’s better to have a full trunk with a ton of stuff in it than to need a softball glove, or a tennis racket, or a desk organizer, or a vase, or a container of uncooked grits, than have no idea where to get those things. It’s a little embarrassing when you get work done on your car, but totally worth it in the long run.

9. Airplanes taking off make me fall asleep instantly. I don’t know if it’s the air pressure, the white noise, the angle, or the comfy seat (haha) but not many things knock me out like take-off.

10. It’s easier to bump into someone from your distant past than your recent past. I have to admit: I don’t always say hi. Not to you of course, I’d say hi to you. But I loathe, loathe small talk. I find it easier to get into the real stuff with someone I haven’t seen in years than someone I saw a few months ago. I’d much rather have an awkward conversation that entertains me than a “safe” one that bores me.

11. This country is way too sensitive about expiration dates, especially for condiments. And I write this as a person who has been eating expired food for years. I’m still here! I think they are exaggerated so that people will throw away “old” items to spend money on new ones. Considering world hunger, it’s really a travesty. #longliveourfood #strongstomachs #ihopeidontregretsayingthis

12. People generally love to help. This is something Chas and I disagree about often. I am quick to ask others for help, directions (cliche, I know), questions, anything. It makes him painfully uncomfortable. Nevertheless, she persists. Almost always, people eagerly accept. I know what Cindy is going to say: “That’s because you’re a cute girl!” BUT I really think we take pleasure in helping others, even if it’s just because it makes us feel good about ourselves. The only simple day to day help I do not like to accept is help putting my luggage in the overhead compartment. I know I am short. But I am really strong. And I got that.


So, prove me wrong. Prove me right. I don’t care. I hold these truths to be self-evident. And you really can never buy too many bananas.


To Gram, Mary Lou Lucskowski Lutz Papa James


I remember when I was about 8 and Aubrey was about 7 and we were driving with you in your baby blue Corolla, randomly-assigned license plate: SAL and some insignificant numbers. It smelled like all Toyotas did back then to me. Like the sun had baked that EKG-looking interior all its life and what was emitted was like fabric in a frying pan plus a little bit of sweet plus a little bit of crayon. Your cars were always spotless, which was hard for Aubrey and I to understand. A windshield shade, perfectly folded, on the floor of the back seat. Maybe a box of tissues if it was the season. And then you, your purse, and us. This day we were driving down a narrow street in your neighborhood. Someone was driving toward us and there were parked cars on both sides. You hit the gas and yelled “CHICKEEEEEEENNNNNN!” You had won. As you sped past the other car who waited for its turn, Aubrey and I giggled with joy. Then, we asked what yelling “CHICKEN” meant. You explained, surprised we didn’t know. We kept giggling.

Last month you had a “mini-stroke” which paralyzed the left side of your body. The wrist you broke the night of my dad’s play (about the Israeli-Palestine conflict) is no longer painful, because you cannot feel it. The knee they replaced and maybe the hip–I can’t keep track–won’t creak or stiffen anymore. Those toes that were stepped on in dance class and broken or mangled or just kind of sad looking, they don’t have to take any more pressure. The plastic things on the inside of your glasses don’t have to redden your nose if you don’t want them to.

I know you already know all of this because you are still yourself. You’re witty, sweet, adorable, kind, and a little spicy. Last night you repeated after me “How ’bout dem O’s?” I looked away as I laughed because I was also starting to cry. That’s kind of how it is when I’m with you now. I laugh because I am with you and Mikie doesn’t call me Bubbly for nothin’. But I cry because I want to get you out of that bed and into the chair in your sunroom and have your TV volume on a million, because you put it there. I want you to root for Manny and squee with me about how cute he is with those ears.

You are so beautiful and perfect to me always but it’s just not fair that you’ve been chained to this body. This body that sent you through 15 years of cancers. 15 years of chemos. 15 years of “How are you feeling?” and “Is this really happening again?” I tell you this often and you probably think I am hyperbolizing (you know I do that a lot) but you are the strongest person I know. The thing is, your daughter is a close runner up so I’m crossing my fingers I’ll get those genes too.

I loved when we read what you wrote in the booklet for your 50 year high school reunion. You got married in 1952 and “escaped” 30 years later. Grandpop–god rest his soul. You said you had bought your own house a couple years after moving out. I loved that you wrote that. I could feel your pride bouncing off that page. Go awf babysis. (I explained that term to you a few weeks ago so I feel confident you still remember.)

You let me write this in a personal essay for graduate school a few years ago. I wrote about Memorial Stadium and yours and Grandpop’s story snuggled right in there. I loved living it with you, even if it isn’t how your story with Grandpop ended.

“In a different time, it didn’t dip below 60 degrees in Baltimore on Saturday, September 29, 1945 when 14-year-old Mary Lou Luczkowski and some of her friends attended a local high school football game at what was then called Municipal Stadium. She was a beauty—her curled brown hair bounced on her shoulders, her bright Polish eyes smiled when her mouth did. She was petite, good-humored, and smart, having skipped a grade in elementary school. It was during that Poly-Patterson High game right there on 33rd Street that she met 17-year-old Vince Papa, thin-faced and Sicilian and from a different part of town. To hear her tell it, his charisma and politeness won her over that day in the massive oval structure on 33rd Street.

Just a year earlier, the Baltimore Orioles, then a minor league team, moved their home to Municipal when their own Oriole Park and its wooden stands went up in flames overnight on July 3rd into the 4th, 1944. Municipal, built in 1922, was the choice venue for local and collegiate sports at the time. The game where my grandparents Mary Lou and Vince met was just another sporting event in a blue-collar town that hadn’t yet earned professional teams of its own.

The city gradually built its reputation as the home of sports enthusiasts and the Baltimore Colts football team stomped into 33rd Street in 1947. Seven years later in 1954 Grandpop had finished up his military service. He had already won over and married Grammom and they were talking about children when the Baltimore Orioles came flying back to town, this time as a pro team. Vince, Mary Lou, and Baltimore finally had their team.”

When your friend Mercedes came to see you, before she walked out, you asked me to get her to come back. You wanted to give her a kiss. I grabbed her, watched that moment, and then turned away because oh. my. gawd. You have been friends for over 80 years. She told us that you had a lot of boyfriends. I asked whether that was your doing and she said no, the boys pursued you. Duh. Why did I even ask? You with that wit and kindness and having skipped a grade because you are so smart. You with that big brunette curls on one side. Your doe eyes, strong nose, translucent skin. Of course they pursued you.

Last night I asked you what your high school mascot was, “The teddy bears,” you said within two seconds. The things people had written in your yearbook about you helped me know what I already knew. That you’ve been you, all your life. You’ve been someone people flock to. Someone people admire and love and marvel at and sign “Stay the way you are.” In the big picture of your class at prom, we love that you are right up front, standing with a tall drink of water with blonde hair. I think they must’ve put you up front on purpose. We keep learning things about your childhood and I know we’re all soaking them in, continually amazed by your recall even if it’s coming from a slight voice, just a fraction of what it was a few weeks ago.

A few weeks ago I went to your house to hang out. We caught up and then you started doing a crossword. I worked on some of my Omwork for yoga but fell asleep on your floor. I woke up maybe 45 minutes later, looked at you with the creases of pages on my cheek, and told you I had fallen asleep. “I know,” you said with the wisdom of a thousand years. You’ve always exuded peace for me.

In college when I was dating that guy who was on drugs and it was not okay and he was not okay and I was not okay, I told you everything. I sprawled out on your sunroom floor, probably, and I told you what was wrong. I cried and you said ohhh in your way that you do when you empathize with us, which is all the time, and your eyebrows spread and went down toward your cheeks. I don’t know how many teenagers tell their septuagenarian grandmothers their dramatic love stories with drug addicts but I knew I could. You justified my feelings. You told me it was going to be okay. You empowered me.

Remember that time we had girls’ weekend at the beach? On the ride down I wanted to play car games and you were totally down. Of course you’d be great at them. Mom and Aubs were probably in and out of naps, and maybe you were too, but I remember you talking with me the whole time. Then I watched you on the OC Rocket with wind in your face and the thrill of something you recalled but hadn’t experienced in a long, long time. We rode on one of those stupid bikes that looks like a surrey with the fringe on top and for that hour it was anything but stupid. We rode past the weirdos and the shops where they buy their awful tee shirts. We rode along the sand and the ocean and we laughed like we were all the same age. Just a gaggle of preteens on our own for the first time. You didn’t judge or squeal or even seem surprised when Aunt Carol taught us how to wax our armpits. It was like, yep, this is what girlfriends do.

The last bicker-session I remember between you and Mikie was about sour cream and onion chips you’d gotten at the dollar store. It was amazing. I recorded some of it and sent it to the cousins group text. Evan said, “She’s still got a lot of fight left in her. Especially about chips.” Oh yes you do. I’ve listened to the recording several times because while I always try to quell those bicker sessions, this one is hilarious to me. The clip I have has you yelling, “The bag was full when I left and when I came back the bag was empty!” So logical. Mikie responds that you’re not going to change your mind. Then almost in perfect unison, you say “Okay,” and he says “Anyhow.” For the record, Gram, that’s how chip-eating goes. First it’s full, then you eat the sour cream and onion chips, then the bag becomes empty.

I could type our memories for hours. But what I want you to know most is that we love you. We are all in awe of you. Someone said you were storming heaven with praying that rosary all hours of the day but I don’t even think you need to lift a bead to get there. You have more faith in your pink fingernail than I know of in another person. And when a whole group of us are in your room at Stella and I look around, I’m stunned by all that comes from you. The personalities. The doe eyes in Ryan and Aubrey. The tenacity in my mom. The style and soup-making in Aunt Carol. Evan’s intelligence. The humor in Uncle Michael. The sweetness in Ben and Zack. And me, I just want to be everything you are.

And you played “CHICKEN” with cancer for 15 years. And you won.

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You and all that comes from you.

I wrote this trying to replicate the style of Ta-Nehisi Coates in Between the World and Me. It’s one of those books that although I’m reading it now, I already want to re-read it. Coates writes to his son and talks a lot about his body, granted for a very different reason than I am talking about my Gram’s body but that topic made me see a way of writing this similarly. If you haven’t read it, do.