"they say the owl was a baker's daughter. lord, we know what we are, but know not what we may be." (Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 5)

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016


Today, for the first time, I feel like maybe I've had enough. I've had enough of parenting and the endless driving and fighting through traffic and gridlock to get to orthodontist appointments, and baseball practice, and anywhere else someone needs to go.  I've had enough of living my life sitting at red lights.

I've had enough of never being able to fit it all in. Rushing, endlessly rushing to get somewhere else, to make it on time, to be somewhere else, to cut one place early only to arrive somewhere else late.  I've had enough of only 24 hours in a day, and none of them seeming to hold a full 60 minutes.

I've had enough of holding it together, being in the know, taking the blame, and being on point for whatever it is that hasn't gone right, or deviated from the plan, and just generally absorbing everyone else's angst, unhappiness, anxiety, confusion, and malaise. I'm only one person. I may be responsible for some of it; but it wouldn't be possible to be responsible for all of it. No one person can be that catastrophic. Or can she?

I've had enough of it never being enough. There's nothing left. "I don't know. Ask Jeannette." No. Whatever you do, do not ask her. Because the universe won today, and she's glad to be just one of the dozens of losers it left in its wake. The anonymity of defeat never felt so comforting.

Monday, November 23, 2015

What I Learned the Week I Owned a Dog

I owned a dog for one week. She was a beautiful purebred Siberian Husky. Her name was Francesca, and we called her Frankie. We adopted her from a carefully researched breeder and we waited months before she was old enough to come home.

We heard a podcast called, Legendary. We fell in love with the 06 Female gray wolf. I wanted one of my own. I was obsessed with her. I couldn't stop listening to the story of this amazing, powerful, clevel, intelligent, warrior. I  loved her before I even met her. It was the most brilliant story I have ever heard.

My younger son has always wanted a dog and I found myself at a point in my life where I finally felt capable of taking it on such a major commitment. My son did the research on breeds, made a formal presentation to me, and even responded to an RFP I wrote for a sole-source contract for a new dog-owner. I couldn't have made it harder. He couldn't have wanted it more.

We brought Frankie, our 06 Female, home on Sunday, November 15.  She fit right in. We walked for hours each day, she ran laps throughout our neighborhood outpacing every dog. No one could touch her. She slept in her crate, and rested next to me (in her playpen) during the day while I worked. On day three I started itching, and by day five I couldn't stop. My head, my legs, my chest ... so much itching. I've never owned a dog, never knew I'd be allergic.

We had to return Frankie to the farm where she was born the following weekend. I cried the whole way. When we arrived, and it was time for her to get out of the car, she just looked at me and put her head on my lap (more itching, more love).  I like to think she didn't want to leave me. I know that I didn't want to leave her. And that's how it came to pass that I had a dog for a week and it taught me this.

The heart is built to love. It's amazing how much love a heart can hold. For a child, for a friend, for a spouse, and even for a silly dog you've only known for a week. And a heart can break. Because it's the only way to release all the love it holds inside when things don't turn out as planned. And, as I'm trying to tell my son who sits crying on my couch, broken-hearted over his all-too-short love affair with his dog, a heart can heal. It takes time. But a  heart can heal. The fissures and the scars that grow during the healing process will forever hold all of his sweet memories along with all of the hope and plans he once held for him and our beautiful Frankie.

There's hope, and there's love, and there's loss.  There's moving on into a future that looks different than the one we had planned. I have done it many times. The pain will lessen. Tomorrow becomes bearable. Because the heart is built to love.

Monday, June 15, 2015


I've always associated imagination with mental wandering that results in bursts of artistry and creativity. I'm changing my mind. There's a different version of imagination that has undone me. It's not poetic or artistic or even remotely beautiful. Instead, it's the destructive version of imagination that no one discusses. This is the dirty little secret about imagination.

If you haven't yet, I encourage you to listen to Kathryn Schulz's TedTalk, "Don't Regret Regret".  In it, she has this to say about imagination, and it's been haunting me for months.

"It (regret) requires, first of all, agency -- we had to make a decision in the first place. And second of all, it requires imagination. We need to be able to imagine going back and making a different choice, and then we need to be able to kind of spool this imaginary record forward and imagine how things would be playing out in our present."

Through endless studies of human behavior we know that human beings act and feel in accordance with what they believe. But a belief is really nothing more than something we imagine to be true.  We act and feel, not according to how things really are, but according to the image our minds hold of how things are. Everything is imagination!

When we talk about a failure of imagination, we are referring to things that the mind couldn't predict, or a future the brain couldn't conjure, or a reality that humans couldn't anticipate.  But the real failure of imagination is the way it distracts us from how things really are (or were), how it distorts how much agency we truly had, the regret it generates over the choices we've made, and the way it perverts the consequences of those choices into things that we imagine could have been, should have been, would have been different ... better .... if only .... if only we had no imagination

I'm thinking about long distance running. I'm exhausted, but it's only mile 12, or 14, or 16 or 22. I'll never finish if I give in to the fatigue. So, where do I put the tired? I have to imagine it isn't there.  I have to put it aside so that I can accomplish something better, and bigger, than my fatigue.  Regret is like that. Where do you put it? How do you put it aside so you can accomplish something better? You imagine it away.

My imagination is alive and well.  It feasts on my memory, and my moments of weakness, and my mistakes, and my constant wishing for a life without blemishes.  And that's why I instantly fell in love with Kathryn Schulz's TedTalk. Because, "Here's the thing, if we have goals and dreams, and we want to do our best, and if we love people and we don't want to hurt them or lose them, we should feel pain when things go wrong. The point isn't to live without any regrets. The point is to not hate ourselves for having them."

I can imagine this kind of life.  A life in which, "Regret doesn't remind us that we did badly. It reminds us that we know we can do better."

I can throw the full force of my imagination behind betterment-via-regret. Counting Crows said it best, "Regret is a carousel ride."

Time to get off.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Be Light

There has been a shift.  How things were is no longer how they are.  I don't know when it happened, but I know that it did. Maybe it's happened to you?

You awake and realize that you are changed; you are changed in your relationship to the people and the things around you, in your acceptance of the past, in your appreciation of the current conditions of your life, and the inevitable and brilliant truth of your future.  You are no longer at war with yourself.  And for a moment, you wonder, "How did the battle end? Is this defeat or is it victory?"

You know that it has ended because you are lighter. 

The Art of Living, Epitecus said, "Everything has two handles: one by which it can be carried and one by which it can't."  Could it be that you switched handles and started carrying smartly, ending the struggle?

Could it be that you realized that the burden weighing on you wasn't yours to carry so you gave it back to its rightful owner, releasing yourself of undue and irreconcilable responsibility?

Or, as in my case, could it be that you realized that sometimes you have to put things down, simply for the reason that they are heavy?

Ask yourself, "What else can I stop carrying?" Put it down and be light.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Start Line

Whenever I would hear about someone running a marathon, I would think to myself, "Who could do that? Who could run for 26.2 miles?"

Now that I've done it myself, I know that the actual race is really not the big deal. It's the training.  We're talking hours and hours for months and months of discipline and dedication.  In preparing for the actual race, I estimate that I ran over 360 miles and invested about 60 hours on the Washington and Old Dominion Trail (W&OD), and that's a modest estimate of a modest training program.

When you commit to something like that, when you spend that much time with nothing but your own thoughts and the rhythm of your own breathing, you can't help but be changed.  Every mile-marker brought me a shorter distance from who I was when I started and a step closer to who I hoped to become when I finished.  Through the sweat, the heat, the rain, the sunrises, and the eventual foliage you become part of the trail, you find harmony with your thoughts, and your race becomes your friend.

I once ready a quote that helped me understand why I love running. "Running is such a fair sport. There's no interference. It's just me and the road." For me, that's true. I prefer to run alone, and I look forward to the long stretches of time and the gift of hours during which I work out my thoughts, my hopes, my regrets, and my plans. The running is a pursuit of clarity. And I think that's why I found so much friendship in those miles. Every single one became a friend. Now that the training has ended, I miss them. I miss the early morning air, the momentum of distance building behind me, the constant companion of my pace, and the mental calculation of miles to minutes.

Running is the way I learned to understand myself. Being understood requires a level of introspection and honesty that can be difficult to tolerate. It's a reckoning. But, instead of avoiding it and running from it, I ran to it, through it, and to some degree out the otherside.  It isn't always comfortable. It wasn't always easy. The path of least resistance was always tempting me; I could give up at any time.  There would have been some comfort in quitting. This form of therapy (in my case) was unforgiving. But it brought me peace.

So now, when I hear that someone has run a marathon, I know the accomplishment isn't finishing the race. The achievement is everything invested in getting to the start line, and the strength to release all that was left behind on the way there. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Five Feet

For the past few days, my little guy has been really sick. I'm not the type of mom you want around when you're not feeling well. I can barely operate a digital thermometer, I don't really know the difference between Tylenol and Motrin, I don't keep things like alcohol swabs and band-aids in stock, and I hate messes.  So, when you throw up on my carpet--or on me in my bed--I tend to react with something other than warm maternal instinct.

I really don't like that about myself, and I doubt my kids like it about me either. So, when my nine year old came crashing into my bedroom at midnight covered in vomit, I tried to respond with tenderness. 

We took our time and got cleaned up, I brought him ginger ale with crushed ice and a straw which is the salve for all things in my home. ("You feel off your bike? How about a ginger ale?" "You're doing the taxes? How about a ginger ale?" You're allergic to cats? How about a ginger ale?")  We somehow made it through the night with many more episodes of illness and not much sleep and I called in sick to work when morning dawned.

He spent most of the day on the sofa, fever burning him up, eyes rolling in the back of their sockets, not able to wake him for more than a few moments to force water (or ginger ale) into his system. A day later and it was time to see the doctor.  Before we left, I asked him to take a shower, and he said, "Will you help me, mama?" And in those moments of helping him into his clean soft clothes, of powdering his skin, blow-drying his hair, and tying his sneakers, it was like I was his mom all over again.  The choreography of early parenthood that you never forget.

When we got to the triage station and the nurse asked him to stand against the wall for height and weight, my little guy turned obediently and just like that, he crested 5"0' for the first time.  I had to hold back the tears. My hands had just tied his shoes and zipped his coat like the toddler he used to be. Over the past few days, I had reclaimed so many moments with him, so many of my own moments of motherhood. And it felt like it was all being ripped away from me by that stupid mocking giraffe-shaped growth chart, as the nurse exclaimed, "He's over five feet tall now, mom, too big for the 60 inch giraffe!". It sounded like she was really saying , "He's all grown up now, mom, and your little guy is gone forever."

She could be right. Maybe my son will only carry memories of me as the frantic mom who never had band-aids, was outsmarted by every splinter she ever met, and didn't know how to use an ace bandage.  Then again, she could be wrong. Maybe my son will think back on his childhood and remember all of his moments of need like this one, in which his tender and capable mom moved calmly and brought him comfort. And you know what? I don't think it matters. Because in that moment, while he rested on the hospital bed, dozing in and out of sleep, he reached across his IV, held my hand and whispered, "I love you, mama." All five feet of him.

Saturday, November 29, 2014


There is a lot of hype approaching a 40th birthday.  It sits on the calendar like the gateway to your own age of enlightenment.  Everyone has predictions: "You'll stop caring about the little things." "You'll gain confidence." "You won't care about the extra 5 pounds." "You'll be more calm." Maybe it takes awhile for all of these predictions about being 40 to seep in, because none of these things have happened yet. At least not to me. 

And while everyone has something to say about turning 40, the advice that resonated with me the most was this  New York Times Op-Ed published shortly after my birthday: We're all just winging it.

What the doorstep of my 40s has taught me, more than anything, is that the greatest common denominator among all of us is simple. We are all unsuspecting. So many of my friends are divorcing after decades of marriage; relationships that seemed destined to succeed have somehow failed.  Other friends are coming to terms with brain tumors, and breast cancer, infertility, and children with terminal illness. Still others are coping with elder care issues, unemployment, living loss, and death. None of those things were there yesterday. Yet they are here today. No one suspected it. We were all unsuspecting.

We need that unsuspecting space. It's the space that allows us to experience great joy, fully and without compromise. Mixed in with that joy we sometimes find awe, beauty, and love issuing their own unexpected gifts; parenthood, friendship, accomplishment, a home-run, a phone call, a warm bed. It's where we hear laughter and feel lightness of heart.

I don't plan to search for that gateway to self-enlightenment and I don't expect my 40s to bring me anything more or different than my prior four decades have. But I do think I'll try to experience them with more awareness; alert that time is mercilessly marching on and what it will bring is unknowable. I am set to be unsuspecting. And there is a freedom and a confidence in that.