It’s a New Day (Sadly)

As I sit here on a quiet Easter morning mulling over frenetic egg hunts of the past, I find myself struggling to overcome inertia, to seize this day, to make it something new. I really liked the old. It was full of love and belonging. The new is a wide open expanse of cold disconnection, and I don’t like it.

I have somehow failed myself. I have tried to live my life in a way that prioritized the people in it, and yet I now find myself mostly on my own. How did this happen? Was it always only me? Were the participants in the mad parade being pulled along by my fervor, all the while planning their escape?

The thoughts of getting up early to make Easter treats eventually evaporate like the Oregon fog, and I sigh as I realize that Easter dinner plans for two just don’t seem worth the effort. It’s a new day, for sure.

How I long for the old.



2017 – The Year of Not Caring

I’ve always been a pretty optimistic person, someone who believes in love and family and that those two things will see you through any bad time that comes your way. My friends and family have seen me through a couple of harrowing years, one of a scary cancer diagnosis and another seeing me through the job from hell. I don’t know how I would have made it through either of those without the love and support of family and friends. But we all go through phases and stages, and this past year everyone’s phases coalesced into the perfect storm of children pulling away and adults revisiting their purpose in this world, all under the helpless feeling that comes with a tumultuous election of a divisive president. It was a one step in front of the other kind of year, a year of going through the motions, of waking up with a dedication to getting through the day.

And it’s taught me to care less.

Though I’m not a Buddhist, I can finally see how letting go gives peace. I have held tightly to my ties, even while the hands on the other end were slackening their grip. I have sat in the middle of a pile of photo albums that only I look at and cried over times past. I have served dinner in front of a wall of photo collages of happy times and tried to make conversation with people who were intent on showing that they were just not that into me. I have tried to communicate my needs and my desires only to be met with blank stares as I pounded my head against that brick wall. And so I let go.

It’s a lonely feeling to let go.

I have spent a lot of time this year wandering by myself, walking through nature, feeling the salt air on my face, staring at the expanse of the Pacific Ocean and marveling at the giant moon as it rose over the land. I slept in the back of my car to get my camping experience and cried as I listened to the families around me talk and laugh around their own campfires. I have wandered and traveled, all the time taking photos that don’t include the people I love. I have dammed up the feeder stream to friendships that were sustained on my little trickle alone. I have searched inward for solace.

There were islands of joy in my barren year, trips to see Smartypants in Virginia and Sunshine in Colorado, trips that filled my soul and reminded me of what I love most about life. We explored and ate and talked and laughed, and I went home revived, with a full tank to carry me through months of what has become a dry, prickly, arid existence. There was a springtime trip with Mr. A to the national parks, getting away from the roles and responsibilities that have made up our last 23 years in this same spot. But returning to knee-high grass and weeds and those same roles and responsibilities brought reality home like a blast from the furnace, and as Mr. A dove back into work, I was on my own once again.

And so I wandered.

And I stopped caring.

As I said, there’s a freedom that comes from not caring, a vagabond mentality that is always seeking out options. It’s a freedom from fear. It’s a knowledge that anything  stable could be upended without a moment’s notice, and an appreciation for what is going well in the moment. It comes with a humility that I cannot influence what I thought I could, and that being myself might not be enough to work magic in other people’s lives. It’s come with the feeling of teetering on the brink between falling back into a life I’ve always treasured and being pushed into a new existence, a chance to re-imagine myself, that square peg that will never fit into the round hole no matter how much pressure is applied.

And so I’ve wandered through the darkness of 2017 and come to the end intact, though the lessons may have been hard. In the autumn of my life, I watch my expectations change and fall like leaves, clustering at my feet, in sight, but out of reach, before blowing away on each stiff breeze.

I am learning to let go.

 “All that history, the love & laughter, is designed for youth. It is what keeps the story of who we are alive from one generation to the next. It ensures our indelible mark in the souls of generations we will never have the pleasure of holding in a warm embrace. Life is short people. Before you know it, another decade will pass, people you love will be lost to this world, and all that will be left of them is what we carry in our hearts.”
― E.B. Loan


Ferrari or jalopy?


It’s something you never think about when the gears are in motion and the machinery is chugging along. You take for granted the easy ride, but the machinery of love requires upkeep, regular tuneups in the form of outings, dates, memory-making experiences. It benefits from regular polishing with the wax of affection, carefully and deliberately applied. Smoothing oil of conversation and companionship keep the motor purring.

Neglect any one of these things and this machinery starts to break down. Gears start sticking, squeaking and squawking. The motor gets tarnished and full of gunk. Forget about the tuneups and soon you find yourself stuck by the side of the road, trying desperately to flag down help.



Reach for the Stars

wp-1471102556464.jpgWhen my son was four years old, I sent him to Grandma’s house and painted his room – a black ceiling fading down the wall into blue, then regular white. I added in planets, scaled as much as possible, with his light as the much-too-small sun. Glow-in-the-dark stars popped up all over the night sky. Above his door I painted, “Reach for the stars!”

Well, I can’t claim responsibility for my son’s successes. He’s put in plenty of hard work and has been influenced by many great people. Still, I’d like to believe that that one saying, hand-painted somewhere he couldn’t miss, served as a daily reminder to reach for success.

He’s had his ups and downs. In fifth grade, somehow he managed to convince me that a major project was due the day after the last day of class. His teacher was probably surprised when he waltzed in in the middle of grading with his project in hand. We doubled down on the work ethic, relieving him of some of the distractions for a while. It worked. He became a stellar student through middle school and high school.

When he got out on his own, Mom wasn’t there to nag him any more, and he faltered, but just a bit. Chalk it up to a lack of direction and focus. At one point, I pulled him aside and said, “Look, what are you going for here? What is it you want to do with your life?”

He related a story of going stargazing with a friend who had a Dobsonian telescope and seeing the rings of Saturn. His eyes shone as he spoke. “Mommy,” he said, “I want to have an observatory.”

Well, that’s not what I expected to hear, but we went online and looked at the possibilities of buying an observatory. It turns out, most “observatories” are small silos in the middle of nowhere. I don’t know if I said this at the time, but I could not imagine my social, talkative son spending his life in the middle of nowhere. I looked at him as we perused. He seemed perplexed. This may not have been what he was expecting either.

“Hey, you should check this place out,” I said, opening a page for Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. The previous summer on a road trip to San Antonio to drop my daughter off for college the rest of the family had stopped here. We had been impressed with this small observatory in dark sky territory. (He hadn’t been able to come along.) As we looked through the website, we clicked on the jobs page. There was an opening for an educator. We looked at each other.

He applied.

What began as an educator position (read tour guide) has morphed into a research assistant position and the pursuit of a physics/astronomy degree. He is currently looking into doctoral programs around the country and around the world. He has seen the construction of the Discovery telescope and met Neil Armstrong, and is currently helping to map the universe. (At least I think that’s what he’s doing. He’s talking a bit above my head these days.)

I think back to that inquisitive little boy who just wanted to know more about the world around him, and I just have to smile. He’s reaching for his stars.



Greener Grass

Ah, the old greener grass dilemma, the one that has you looking over the fence and drooling at your neighbor’s yard, dog, family, life. And by neighbor I mean anyone. It’s cliche, but the grass really may be greener on the other side of the fence. I mean, when’s the last time you fertilized your own lawn.

It’s easy to look outward, especially in the age of Facebook and Instagram, and see who you want to be. It’s hypnotizing, the desire to remake oneself into a thinner, richer, happier, or more successful person than may be the present case. A person may appear to be fulfilled, surrounded by beautiful, happy faces cheering him or her on. Yet a snapshot does not describe a life any more than a book cover does a book. Because we can’t know the fertilizer our neighbor is wading through, we may idealize his or her existence through whatever he or she chooses to share. Through social media we market ourselves as our perfect vision of what we hope to be as much as we buy in to others’ marketing efforts.  This disconnect has led to to the widespread Facebook envy phenomenon.

I’m here to tell you, that green grass has been fertilized by the same bullshit that’s heaped onto your yard and watered with the same tears, and the sooner you manage it and rip out those pesky weeds, the greener your own lawn will be. Tend your own lawn, and you will be so busy lying in the lush, green grass and looking up at the stars that you won’t even notice those poor souls peering over your own fence.

Sometimes people throw away something good for something better, only to find out later that good was actually good enough and better never even came close. ~Susan Gale


How Do You Vote?

I’m not stirring the pot of the heated election of 2016. I mean in your life, in your relationships, how do you vote?

Do you vote with your presence… or your absence? In a world filled with distractions, it can be tempting to eschew the company of a loved one for another trip down the Reddit feed or a Snapchat conversation with a friend. I have had many car trips with teenagers glued to their phones, and the longstanding rule of no technology at the table is continuously broken. Each look down instead of up is a choice for and against, and each vote is counted as a tally mark on the heart.

What role does work play in your life? A job is a necessity, but it can become a mission, another separate world complete with its own gravity, populated with its own citizens that speak a completely different language. Family becomes a distant blip on the horizon, a destination that becomes harder and harder to reach.

Do you take the time to visit loved ones, or do distances that are short on the map become insurmountable, as hard to reach as if they were on the other side of the world? It is said, where there’s a will, there’s a way, so the converse must be true as well.

Do you vote with your presence or your absence?

Photo credit: craftivist collective via / CC BY


Do you vote with words of kindness or of criticism? Do your words uplift or devastate? Negative words are like acid, drop by drop tearing down even the strongest foundation. Kindness is a glue that binds and builds not walls, but webs, scaffolds of strength that hold us all up and unite us. After a long day at work or school, are your words measured and thoughtful or impatient and rude?

Your words are your vote toward what you value. Do you vote with kindness or criticism?

Photo credit: symphony of love via / CC BY-NC

Do you vote with your dependability or do you frequently betray trust? Can your partner, your parent, your friend, or your child depend on you to catch them when they fall or do you constantly rock the boat just as soon as they stand? Where do your loyalties lie? Is impressing the masses more important than holding tight to those in the inner circle? In life it’s good to know who’s got your back. Trust is the foundation of love, and without it, love falls apart.

Photo credit: birgerking via Small Kitchen / CC BY

So, in the relationships of life, how do you vote?


Echo Chamber

This empty nest thing is for the birds. (Pun intended.) I feel like I should enjoy this silence after years of rambunctious kids and their singing and shouting, TV blaring cartoons through the house, dancing, laughter and fighting. Now  the house is just so quiet.

On a good note, I’m getting more proficient at self-talk. I can almost carry on a whole conversation with myself while walking through the grocery store. I’m not the only one afflicted. I saw a friend in the chip aisle the other day. We were both stocking up for graduation parties. I saw her before she saw me, and didn’t recognize anyone around us she might have been talking to. I approached her and laughingly asked if she was talking to herself. She nodded semi-sheepishly. I think we’ve both come to terms with a certain amount of crazy.

They say you should live long enough to embarrass your kids. I have, but they’re not around enough to be embarrassed.

I get it. Kids need their space. My head knows this. I’ve been an independent young person aching to stretch my wings. I lived through the days of no cell phones and probably didn’t call my mom as much as I should have. (Mom, I’m sorry I put you through this.) My head is on board. My heart, however, feels like it’s being ripped out of my chest and trampled on the ground in front of me. (Okay, only slightly dramatic.)

The thing is, I saw my mom starting to teeter with empty nest syndrome, but I was the eldest and didn’t take much time to look back over my shoulder. She coped by adopting a whole new family’s worth of kids, thereby extending her motherhood years by another eighteen. I was not willing to go that route. I looked forward to the day Mr. A and I could spend some quality time together sans kids. The appeal of a $30 dinner bill loomed in the near future. We could go out to eat 3 or 4 times for what it cost to take the family, all of whom are lovers of strawberry lemonade (at $4.00 a pop). We could go to the beach on a whim and not hear anyone complain about the cold or try to figure out an activity that everyone wanted to do. We could watch documentaries without eye rolls. Yet here I am, longing for those days, for the structure of the family web and the love and support we provide each other.

Determined not to be that parent frantically trying to hold onto my kids as they perched precariously at the edge of adulthood, I went back to school and finished up my teaching degree. I wanted a life, something to fall back on after motherhood, an airbag to fill the space left by my fledglings. The thing is, motherhood doesn’t end. Those babies whose first steps you worry about become preschoolers who learn to ride bikes and teenagers who start to drive and develop relationships and head off to college, and you never stop worrying about them. It’s a mentally exhausting job. My life is inextricably intertwined with those of my kids, bonds I’m sure they’re only too eager to hack at with the machete of youth.

I know they’re busy. I was too, at their age. The days go by and my phone doesn’t ring. Texts go unanswered, and then all of a sudden they are there, cheery and wanting to talk, and for a moment, life goes back to the way it used to be. Too soon the conversation ends, and I’m surrounded by silence once more. I’ll be glad to one day reach a state of equilibrium.

In the meantime, won’t you join me in crying over this clip from Toy Story? I’m certain the song was written by an empty-nester.


Photo credit: brx0 via / CC BY-SA

Through untamed wilds we cleared a space;
A vision shared of sweet-smelling roses
And filtered sunlight through trees,
A place that invited happiness in.

And happiness came through the open door
On toddling feet,
And in the whisper of a curious, “Why?”
Like wind over warm ocean currents
It grew and nourished,
Warmed and refreshed.

As the roses grew, so did the thorns,
And an occasional branch fell from the tree
Leaving the sting of pain
And debris,
And clean-up ahead.

But happiness came again
As we worked side by side
And tended each other’s wounds.

We built a tower and pulled them up
Encouraging and guiding small hands and feet.
Through new-found confidence,
They soon sought their own footholds,
And brushed our hands away impatiently.
Yet we remained, unbidden,
Within arm’s reach,
Ready to grab on tight
Should they start to fall.

And happiness overtook us
On its way up, up, up,
Seeking its own path.

As they reached the top
They marveled at the view,
Three-hundred-sixty degrees of possibility.
Turning and turning, overwhelmed.
Which way to go?
And we nodded our understanding
As they stretched their wings,
Balanced on the precipice of what was
And the possibilities of what could be.

And happiness blew over us like the breeze
Tossing hope like leaves through the air,
Fluttering through their outstretched wings
As it beckoned in a whisper,
“Let’s go.”

One by one they took the leap,
Turning back only briefly,
To make sure we were still there.
Then charting a course into the unknown
They flew,
One by one,
Not looking back to see us wave
A sad goodbye,
As they rode off on the currents of happiness.
Stretching their wings,
Soaring ever higher, ever farther,
Growing smaller in our view.

Then the world became still, if only for a moment,
Contrail reminders of happiness dispersing in the atmosphere,
In the pause before we climbed back down,
Alone in our togetherness.


Brown eyes watch my stillness
As an ember glows brightly,
Fanned by the winds of change,
Fed by laughter and footfalls echoing through time
Off photo-plastered walls,
Into a blaze that threatens to engulf.

I am fueled by the fire within.

Photographs of frozen moments
Stand in for warm bear hugs and childish grins.
The jangle of a telephone subdues the flame, and time ticks off
Seconds, minutes, hours in a life of waiting.
Then again, silence – nothing but expectant thumping
Of a dog tail on hardwood floor.

I am fueled by the fire within.

Resigned to fate, I pull on my running shoes.
This race isn’t over yet.
“Ready, girl?” I ask both of us.
The thumping intensifies, a beating drum of anticipation.
I cup a burning ember in hardened hands and place it in my soul.
“Let’s go.”

I am fueled by the fire within.

Tiny Footsteps

Photo credit: Ian Agrimis via / CC BY-NC-ND

Tiny footsteps once echoed through our cozy house, staccato taps of small feet encased in glittered jellies and flashing velcroed tennies. Those little feet bent fresh grass, but only briefly; grass springs back, erasing evidence of passing. Bare heels and toes in miniature once impressed themselves upon the sand beside much larger ones, leaving a trail of passage too soon washed away. Pink ballet slippers that once pirouetted over bare floor now rest in a cedar box alongside hiking boots sized for not-yet-walking feet.

To everything there is a season. Children grow and seek their own paths, and all too soon the footsteps are leading out the door.

The house is quiet now, but if you listen carefully, you may hear echoes of those once-small footsteps.