Emotional Support and Why You Need a Peacock

I  just read an article that United Airlines denied a seat to an emotional support peacock that was attempting to fly today from Newark to Los Angeles. With this announcement coming on the heels of the recent Delta announcement, people are understandably debating both sides of the emotional support animal issue. Who are airlines to decide what a person needs psychologically?  Who are these crazy people trying to cheat the system to fly with their potentially dangerous pets? How do we protect true service animals?

There are some important issues these debates are overlooking, though.

  1. First, I think it is impressive that a peacock that has been forced to live–presumably for years–in Newark, New Jersey, is even *capable* of being an emotional support animal. I know that if I lived in Newark, I would need an emotional support menagerie and I would not be able to help anyone out at all.  I would be an substance abuse peacock who cut people off in traffic and drank too much coffee and never smiled. Eff you all, humans. I am not supporting nobody. But that bird, apparently named Dexter, was totally chill.  I need to be more like that majestic bird.
  2. Second, that peacock was shockingly well behaved by the look of things. It might not have “service animal” level training or full immunizations, and that’s important, but did you see the pictures of it perched on the baggage cart, patiently waiting for people to sort out the issues so it could fly for five hours to LA?

    emotional support peacock

    I have never traveled with a peacock, but I have traveled with children, and I can tell you, we have never once even come close to keep our shit so well together during air travel.  We’ve spilled beverages. We’ve left bags. We’ve laid on the floor and cried (even the children). We once had a flight where *both* children peed in their seats.  Once my oldest child vomited in my hands during landing and the second child looked over to see what happened and emotional-support vomited on herself in response (people sure got off the plane fast that time).  I have completely untrained, emotionally non-supportive children on flights every time.  If people just stopped to think about *that*, well, maybe we want the peacock.

  3. Third, maybe this is a greedy, cheap way to get your animal across the country for free, doing a disservice to the people who truly need service animals. (Though probably not Dexter. He seems lovely.) But, guys, there are people out there living exotic, imaginative lives where they travel about sitting next to peacocks. Don’t trash them for being weird. Figure out how to get a peacock in your life.

    peacock

    I spent this morning washing syrup off of so many things, folding so much laundry, and fretting about how this weekend it might snow and then they might cancel school again (oh man, if they cancel school again, I need all the support animals. Do some cook?  Do some take over yelling about chores so you can lie down?) I need to think peacock.  I need to get creative and get some more beautiful, exotic creativity up in this day. I need to roll with Dexter and wing it a bit.

I urge you: think bold and be inspired by today’s story of Dexter.

Have the peacock.

Be the peacock.

Go get the peacock.

I like me.

Evie got a new helmet for her bike. It has a dry erase surface and comes with cool neon markers so you can make your own design, over and over again. Evie is 5, so this is the perfect helmet because she knows–of course–that she can make much better helmet designs than any store. Much, much cooler. So, where I would choose something pre-designed, she was all about DIY. Even for an extra $5.

She rode to school today rocking her first design. She made it last night but I had not seen the totality of the masterpiece until this morning. Her name, hearts, squiggly lines. And then at the stop light she turned her head towards the other side of the street and I saw what she had written across the right side of her new headwear: “I like me.”

I caught my breath. What an amazing thing to want to put out there for the world. Evie did not ask me how to spell any of these words as she designed, so she came up with that slogan–and spelled it correctly!–herself.

I pondered it all the way to school. I like me. I like me. Evie likes Evie.

Does she know about self-love? Did someone teach her about liking herself the way she was and it sunk in, or did she just feel that way without any teaching? Sometimes she’s so hard on herself–did she like herself just last night, or does she like herself in a deep, long-term, sweeping way? Would other kids think she was stuck up? Was she stuck up? Could she be convinced to never erase that part?

By the time I was back home, I was thinking about whether Lauren likes Lauren. She does, mostly. But she would not put it on her helmet. She might just think it very quietly after working out, or making great dinner, or drinking kombucha on the porch. She has worked hard to like herself, and there have been times of serious non-like. And some days and hours of non-like still. Remembering to like is still sometimes trained, rather than spontaneous, and quiet, rather than racing across the street in neon with training wheels.

Maybe we all start out liking ourselves, and then so many things in life happen that shake that like. And the goal is to come back to where we started.


Having two girls changed my self-like for the better (crazy since having kids changed my body and my sleep and my time…). Two amazing, powerful, fragile, brilliant, crazy people in my care, growing and learning and messing up everything every day. They have already faced some of their own “things in life that happen”–their own five-year-old and nine-year-old hardships. It is so hard to watch as a loving (rather awesome) momma. Often they just have to go through those parts of life, finding their way and waiting for a new day to try again.

But sometimes, I get to help or offer advice. Then I get to practice advising someone I dearly love how to be safe and well and happy. It’s a daunting task and I learned, as I tried to complete it over and again, that I often doled out suggestions of what I thought could bring happiness that I was not myself following.

For example, I used to be bulimic. It was long ago and I am better now (I thought you’d wonder; thanks for mentally asking), but even after recovery I used to struggle sometimes with the desire to purge after eating too much of something unhealthy. It seemed like an easy, relatively harmless shortcut to feeling in control again, and I took that shortcut every now and again, without feeling I was “unhealthy” overall.

And then one day, as I was contemplating the toilet after two donuts, or something ridiculous like that, I thought of my kids. Evie, in specific. What if she sometimes freaks out about what she eats? What if she opened up to me about her insecurity and asked what she should do if she ate too much and felt guilty?

“Go to the most remote restroom you can find. Wait until you’re alone, and gag yourself until you vomit. It is worth it to cancel out a donut. I mean, you don’t want to have eaten a donut, DO YOU?”

AHHH. I mean, I would never in a million years say that. Only a super villain in a very avant-garde Disney movie (with an oddly wide range of plot points) would say something like that to a child.

But, that was what I told myself. That was what my inner voice was saying to me. It doesn’t get much farther from “I like me” than that. I was my own super villain. And I decided it was not okay.

So I started giving myself advice as if it was something I’d say to my kids. If it sounded like something I wanted for them, it was good to do. If it sounded like I was Maleficent, well, that was a no.

“You ate two donuts? Probably they were awesome donuts, and everyone indulges sometimes. Go for a walk. Eat oatmeal tomorrow. You are okay and life is short and some days have donuts and don’t fret.”*


While my practice is not perfect, I have come so far in the last several years. I am so much kinder to myself. So much happier. Maybe some future day, I will have come so far that I will want a blank helmet, and I will make it say “I like me.” Just like my daughter.

My greatest accomplishment today was that I raise the girl under the “I like me” helmet. My goal is that she, and her sister, and their mom, and everyone else out there, can say that–and mean it–forever. <3

*I ate 5 maple leaf cookies while I wrote this post. They were so delicious. Maybe I’ll have oatmeal for breakfast. But maybe not.

Self love: Before and After

In TV shows about people and hairdos and houses, in social media posts about my friends and fitness inspirations, in magazines I read if I ever get time to read a magazine, I have always liked the ‘before and after’ shots.

I like to see how subtle use of bronzer warms up a face, how “eating clean and training mean” drops inches off a waist, and how people can make a house with kids look like a catalog display with storage buckets and some impractical curtains and tabletop decor. (I am still waiting to see the after-after, when the family with small kids moves back in to that stylish house. They never seem to show that…)

I must not be alone because there is no shortage of ‘before and after’ all around the web. Sometimes, I see them and feel inspired: I really could apply blush. I could. I just know I could. She says this whole face only takes 5 minutes and clearly it looks better. (In reality, I pretty much always choose spending the 5 minutes for blush application sleeping 15 extra minutes, then rushing madly about the house running late. Try it. I am sure you can do it.)

And, I have *always* tried to take them with a grain of salt. Sometimes they apply way too much makeup and hair … poof (for lack of a better word). I like the before/natural look much better. Sometimes the subject of the photo gets way too thin, which isn’t healthy AND apparently makes some people want to get terrible orange spray tans and wear impractical swimsuits with heels (never take it this far, ladies. Never this far.)

Sometimes the house looks great because they don’t have any *real* stuff in the house. It is pristine because it is fake. I saw a Trading Spaces once where a designer (Hildi. straw on the wall in trading spacesRemember her? She was crazy. There must have been something in the contract for that show that said ‘You have to continue to have your house redecorated even if you get Hildi.’ Because they had to have seen it coming.) GLUED HAY TO A WALL. ‘Shabby, country chic,’ or something like that. Clearly she has never been around an child (some lived in this house!), who would have had no trouble creating ‘shabby’ for free. That is probaby what got the family on the renovation show in the first place. Plus, I think I have specifically forbidden gluing “nature” to the walls on multiple occasions, so hay decor just seems hypocritical. And kids will almost certainly eat any organic decor. Fail.


So, ‘before and after’ photo lovers, it is time for me to pay back into the system with my own contribution. As much as I’ve looked, I’ve never submitted; but you can see that I appreciate realistic and uplifting ones, and I have really been working on mine:

Before: running selfie_May 2014 After:  lauren green wall and painting


Correctly labeled (I grant not a completely parallel comparison. I find I take fewer no-shirt pictures lately; more on that later).

If you’ll quickly pause to google, “before and after,” you’ll see that almost all of the images are labeled opposite of mine. But for me, the before is when I’d reached my “ideal” weight. I had 18% body fat. I worked out six times a week and ate clean and even applied blush. (The house was still a disaster; that is the focus of another episode. Probably in someone else’s series).

Guess what? Worst year of my life. I was so unhappy. My eating became unhealthy; I weighed myself 4 times a day, obsessing over the number. I chose working out over… well, most things. What I looked like was what I could control and I stopped trying to fix painful things that actually mattered and just focused on my physical appearance. I was the probably the best looking I’ve ever been, and I pretty much hated myself. I suffered physically and mentally, and it hurt my family. “Ideal.” The supposed “after” state I’d worked for… super sucked.

I hit bottom. Then I started making changes. I worked out less; I ate more; I came home and hung out with my family and ate dinner with them instead of dashing off to gym classes and making myself separate meals. I started paying attention to other things about my life again. (There are so many! That you can’t even weigh on a scale!) The expanded focus and self acceptance (slowly growing!)  allowed me to start to address the real issues in my life.

I left my “ideal” weight. I packed up the ‘never, ever thought I could wear this size’ wardrobe. Because I never ever want to wear it. I ate brownies and slept in on Saturday (you know, with kids, so until, like, 7:45). I snitched cookie dough and had movie dates with popcorn and sometimes skipped workouts to do nothing at all.

Apparently there is growing movement like this on the Internet. I love it. Check out others who have walked this path; apparently some call them “reverse progress” photos. I like to think of them as ‘self love’ photos. ‘Finding a better measuring stick’ photos. ‘Choosing your priorities’ photos.

Check out Body Image Movement from Taryn Brumfitt. It is awesome. And watch her trailer for the documentary Embrace, her journey from body loather to body lover.


I still care about how I look. I actually love working out and do so often. And sometimes–like this morning, even–have a freak-out that my body isn’t what I wish it was and feel a pang missing my old abs.

But I’ve learned that ‘before and after’ shots that go from fat to thin, messy to clean, soft to toned, are NOT showing a linear progression of happiness. Not a one size-fits all map of self improvement. Happiness is mental. Almost completely. You can’t show it in photos. And if you don’t have it, really, you won’t feel any better with toned arms and smokey eyes.

After: an arbitrarily chosen point on my infinite journey to being happy, loving myself and others, and being at peace.

life is about creating yourself