Thursday, May 31, 2018

Mother's Day, 2017

There was a time when I didn't visit Dad much. Weeks, sometimes months would go by without me showing up at the house I grew up in.

I'm not proud of that, but I'm not ashamed, either. I moved on when I moved out, and we still had solid lines of communication. Dad understood that my life was 40 miles away from his.

When I did visit, sometimes it would just be him, Mike and I, and we would talk or he would read something aloud to me - something that pissed him off on Facebook, or an article that resonated with him. Those times often found us going deep in conversation. In those later years, we would often go deep. I could talk to Dad about anything. He made it safe to be his flawed and frightened daughter, and that meant he really knew me. He understood the whole of me, and for that I will be forever grateful.

As summer approached last year, I made it a point to come around to the family home more often. Dad was so excruciatingly tired, he'd made the decision to move Mike to the resident program at Marklund. So, knowing I would soon not be able to visit my brother in the house we grew up in, I committed to visiting every weekend until Mike moved.

That first visit was on Mother's Day.

We would often spend that day together as a family. Mom was gone, but there was still much to celebrate. I couldn't tell you what we ate, but I know that I sat at the table with Dad and talked. I know the family gathered for dinner. I know we laughed. And I know Dad was exhausted. So exhausted that he couldn't handle the business of a full day's responsibility for Mike. In an instant, I made the decision to take a few days off to help out.

It would only be temporary, I told myself. Just until we figured out what was wrong with Dad. Then he'd get better, and we'd all go back to our usual routine.

"Usual routine" is no longer in my vocabulary.

But on that day, with that simple decision to show up, everything changed. Because I was there, I was  able to say, yes, Dad - I will be here tomorrow at sunrise, to help you get Mike ready. I will be here with you for whatever you need. I will be here.

In those last weeks of his life, showing up was the only thing I could do. But it was all he needed. It was all any of us needed. We showed up for one another in simple and profound ways. I didn't realize it at the time, but in the simple act of being there, I ensured that my time with Dad would end with no regrets.

In those last weeks, we had opportunities to talk. There wasn't a lot that needed to be said, but we had ample opportunities to let it all out. To laugh. To remember. There were no conversations about being worried about the road ahead, but there was a lot of "I love you."

And it all came down to that one decision to show up, and the next decision to stay. To hold space. To say "I will be here," and then simply be there. 

Monday, May 14, 2018

It's time

It's been a year.

May 14, 2017 was Mother's Day. Our family gathered at Dad's house on Henry Court, as we did for pretty much every holiday we observed. And yeah, we observed Mother's Day even without Mom. Sometimes we'd go out, but last year ... last year, Dad was so tired.

He'd been tired for months. He muscled through as best he could, but going out to dinner would have been asking a bit much. So we gathered at the house we grew up in, and we had dinner together. If memory serves, that was the last time we were all together under one roof.

He was so tired.

Too tired.

And so, rather off the cuff, I said hey ... lemme take tomorrow off, Dad. Let me stay in town overnight, and come over first thing in the morning. Let me get Mike ready. Let me go with you to the doctor. Let me help.

The man was not much for accepting help, and so you knew that his acceptance of that offer meant he was feeling really pretty low, indeed.

And in that moment, everything changed.

Like life tends to do when you're not looking, mine turned on a dime. In a lot of ways, I found myself in the weeks that would come after that. I found patience, I found the heart of a caregiver, and gratitude I'd never before felt. My priorities became crystal clear. My dad, and my brother. Everything else was secondary.

I knew it would be temporary, but I thought that was because Dad would get better and we'd return to our regularly scheduled programming. Instead, a few weeks later Dad was gone.

At the time, I kept referring to the beauty in the pain. How even though the grief was at times excruciating, there was poetry in it. I kept saying, eventually I would write about it. Eventually, I will be able to process how losing Dad carried with it a measure of grace we could not possibly deserve.

It's time to tell the stories.

Friday, April 13, 2018

On a limb

I'm headed into uncharted territory here. I haven't written here in months, or regularly in years. But when I need to get things out, this tends to be where I land.

And today, it's a somewhat controversial topic I'm diving in with. Forgive me; this is a tough one.

Over the last three weeks or so, I've felt torn between being a Christ-follower and being a feminist. Between faith and critical thinking. Between standing with my church, my God and my fellow women.

Three weeks ago, a story broke in local media that the founder and lead pastor of my church had been accused of sexual misconduct in events dating back more than 20 years. The news shattered my heart.

I am not a stranger to powerful men taking advantage of women. I have seen it with my own eyes. I have helped to pick up the pieces afterward. I have witnessed the damage it does, in churches, in schools, in workplaces.

This does not make me an expert.

I believe with my whole heart that women must be heard. For far too long, women have not felt that they have a voice. I am grateful beyond measure that women have banded together to say "no more." And yet, from the beginning of the "MeToo" movement, I have had this itchy thought in the corner of my mind.

Because we are in an era where women must be heard and given credibility, there will be good men who become collateral damage.

It's dangerous territory, I know. But here are a few things you should know about me:

  • I am cynical. 
  • I do not trust blindly.
  • I question power and authority.
  • I am more skeptical of leaders - particularly those in the Church - than most people I know. This is especially true when I consider those in my orbit who are also people of faith.
  • I work very hard to be open enough that my mind can be changed when evidence shows I was wrong.

Given all that, I still find myself believing my pastor. Not blindly, but after reading documentation from both sides, looking into the legal firm the church hired to investigate the allegations, listening to statements from both sides, and reading the news coverage (both when the story first broke and when my pastor eventually decided to retire, six months before he intended to.)

The allegations vary from an affair (which was later recanted with a long apology from the accuser, who admitted to being very angry with the church) to compliments of physical traits, from invitations to hotel rooms to awkwardly long hugs.

All of this happened some 20 years ago. Which got me thinking about what my office environment was like back in the 90s.

Friends, I should have been fired daily, as should have my male boss. We were incredibly close. We had office dance parties. We often went to lunch together, unsupervised. He didn't always inform his wife of these lunches, because our relationship made her uncomfortable. (There was no need for this, but the older and wiser version of me would have respected her enough to draw different boundaries.) There was at least one time when he showed up at my apartment on a Saturday, because he was in the neighborhood.

We were friends. We had an environment of vulnerability, and being creative people, it made us better at our jobs. None of this was remotely untoward, but to an outside observer, it could have appeared incredibly inappropriate. If, today, he were in a position of power, I could come forward with allegations that would most certainly end his career.

But I wouldn't do that, because there's no there, there.

Many have asked, "what's in it for the accusers and their supporters to come forward now?" As if somehow having no motive equals instant credibility. Every day, people do things for no apparent reason. There could be any number of motives that we cannot see, or know, or understand. The first thing that springs to mind is the woman who alleged an affair only to later backtrack on her claims, admitting anger, saying she wanted to "take down" the church and my pastor.

I am no stranger to anger at church, and at The Church. I was angry for a long time. Church and I had a falling out for a number of years, and it's an anger I can still tap into if I think about it. So it is not beyond the realm of possibility that angry people went looking for other angry people, and at the right time they chose to use their anger as fuel. I don't know this to be the case, but I do know that not seeing a reason doesn't mean there isn't one.

Here's what I know for sure, and feel in my gut:

  • You cannot prove a negative. In general, one cannot compile evidence to prove something did not happen. 
  • Absent evidence to the contrary, what we have is a he said/she said situation, and we live in a time when "she" has the loudest voice. (Again, I do not think this is a bad thing, overall.)
  • The accuser who claimed the affair apologized in writing to a church elder, saying she was angry and she didn't realize they would take the claim so seriously. She admitted to lying, and to being embarrassed that everyone would know she lied.
  • After the accuser recanted, a group of people in church leadership went looking for others who would speak out against our pastor. In any other time in history, we would refer to this as a witch hunt.
  • An independent investigation was performed. It was paid for by the church, but the firm they hired to do it is known for being thorough. They have no ties to my church. They searched records both personal and professional and found no evidence of wrongdoing.
  • My pastor has been a trailblazer in favor of women in leadership in the church, much to the chagrin of many who believe it is not biblical for women to lead. As such, he opened himself up to a catch-22, in that the appearance of impropriety is as damaging as actual impropriety. Because he served as leader and mentor to women, there were occasions when he was alone with them. Mike Pence might disagree. Billy Graham might disagree. But if women are to be truly equal, they will at times be alone with men in work settings. 
  • I believe my pastor. He has responded to every allegation, and while I do not claim to be able to tell when someone is lying, the evidence does not suggest it. He may not be innocent - and his responses have addressed this - but I do not believe he is guilty.
In a strange way, none of this matters now. Our pastor has stepped down from the church he founded 42 years ago. There was too much focus on this, and not enough focus on the true work of the Church. I wish he hadn't, because the optics aren't the best ... but he's not the sort of guy who cares about optics. He cares about Jesus, and if he can't effectively do the work of Jesus, he's going to leave that for someone else. 

My point, then, is that yes, we must listen to women. But we must also think critically. We must recognize that if an awkward hug or a compliment of someone's arms happened 20 years ago, and did not become a pattern, the person in question likely changed with our culture.

I would ask you to think back over the last 20 years, and see if you are making wiser, better decisions with your relationships today. Then I'd suggest that we shouldn't expect anything different from the human beings we have placed in positions of power and leadership. We mustn't allow good people to become collateral damage because we cannot bring ourselves to look with critical eyes at those who allege wrongdoing.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Too much

Sometimes, there is so much to say it's impossible to say anything.

I'd like to introduce you to basically my entire life for the last nine months. Which is interesting, because in that amount of time, I feel kinda sorta like I've given birth to a different version of myself.

This is not a complaint, mind you, but I have to admit that my life right now is nothing like what I was prepared for. And it is nothing like my life last year at this time. It is precisely as it should be, regardless of how little time and opportunity I had to prepare for it.

For starters, my sisters and I now share legal guardianship of our brother. Let that sink in just a l'il bit: I am responsible for another human being. That was never part of the plan, and yet it was never sensible to do anything else. I mean, I always knew at some point I would need to make Mike a priority. I always expected I'd need to be close enough to make a weekly trip to see him.

I expected that to happen when I was an old woman.

Also ... hell. Am I an old woman? I don't even feel like a grown up.

See what I mean? There is too much to say. Too much to think. Too much to ponder. And so I haven't written.

I promised I would eventually write about the experience of losing Dad. The poetry and wonder that walked alongside the grief. The beauty of how it unfolded, and how it felt so much like the best way the worst thing could happen.

And so, it's time. It's time to get it out, and that's my goal for 2018. I'll spend some time this year reflecting on last. The loss, the love, the lessons.

As my friend Janie says, "leap, and the net will appear."

Monday, June 19, 2017

Heartaches and lullabies

I've been without my father for 17 days now.

Seventeen days of darkness, waiting for light. Praying for light. Trying to find gratitude. Lost in the dark.

My best friends know that when it gets dark, the rabbit hole comes closer. I'm afraid to turn out the light or close my eyes, because the dark just gets darker. So I sing to the darkness.

It is impossible to sing yourself to sleep. You cannot sing your own lullaby.

When my mother died, I had so many questions, and no possibility of answers. Death is final like that. So with Dad, I did things differently. I had the conversations. I unloaded my soul over the 13 years since we lost Mom, and we talked. About all the things. I learned from Mom's death, so I wouldn't make the same mistakes, and then Dad died and the questions crept in.

What did he think of me? Did he think of me? Or was I out of sight, out of mind? Did he see me as I am today, or as I was once upon a time? Did he know I'd grown? Did he remember the good stuff, or was I far enough away that when I wasn't there, he reverted back to memories of me when I couldn't be trusted?

And once again, I will never have the answers.

In the 13 years since Mom died, I have grappled with the loss and the questions, and I've grown. But if I'm honest, goddammit, I really do not feel the need to grow like that all over again. I wasn't prepared to have my heart broken, because now here I am without my dad, without my answers.

This is a lonely place to be. It's isolating and terrifying and I can't much cope with the darkness. It's been about two months since I've had a good night's sleep and I don't know how long this can last.

I don't know. I don't know. I don't know.

From here, there is nothing but questions and sadness. I'm pretty much just waiting here for one good thing. Just one good thing. I don't think it's too much to expect that something good will happen in a year that has thus far cracked me open in all the worst possible ways. Because there are only so many nights I can sing in the dark.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Things my father gave me

When I was in my early 20s, my father gave me a cedar chest. Painted white with a floral pattern, I fell in love with it at one of the fancy shops in downtown Geneva, IL. It was beyond my budget, and I knew I would never have it, right up until I did. I don't remember how it happened, but I know that for my birthday, I received that cedar chest. It has been my coffee table or my bed bench ever since.

I love it because I've had it for more than half my life, but I love it more because it came from my father.

The earrings I'm wearing right now - the little Hawaiian slippers, in perfect sterling from Na Hoku on Oahu - are the gift he brought back for me on a trip to the islands with my sister. I'm sure she played a part in selecting them for me, because I'm sure my dad doesn't remember that I bought myself the matching pendant when he and I were on Oahu a few years before. But still, I love wearing them, because they came from my father.

So many things he has given me over the years. At the moment, they all feel like heirlooms. The bench in my bathroom, which he built with his hands. The shelves that hold my books, which he cut from a huge piece of lumber just a year ago.

He is present in every room of my home. My dresser is a perfect blend of both Mom and Dad; it was a flea market find that Mom bought without a top on it. She picked it up because she fell in love with the hardware, and Dad built the top out of scrap lumber. And my bed? Dad bought it for Mom when she was recovering from surgery after breast cancer back when I was 11 or 12.

I'm not sure how I'm going to cope with Christmas, because he is all over my tree. When I was a teenager, he gave my friend Patrick and I the first string of lights for the first tree we ever put up apart from our families. Christmas has always been our "thing," and many of my ornaments came from my parents. After Mom died, Dad began purchasing for us the annual Swarovski crystal snowflake ornament; those are so special, because they feel like a legacy from Mom while they're also a gift from Dad.

But those tangible things are nothing compared to the real gifts. The ones that can't be opened, but seem to get a little more uncovered as I grow older. My sense of humor, my absolute lack of patience for liars, my tendency to eat dessert first.

And yet there was one I didn't see coming. In the last month of his life, my father gave me a gift that I wasn't prepared for at all. One that did not have an accompanying gift receipt, so I cannot return it. See, in those final weeks, Dad gave me an entirely different version of myself.

This one comes complete with compassion. And it's sorta blowing me away.

If you'd told me just four weeks ago that there was a day in the not-too-distant future when I would sit with someone in silence or in conversation, just content to be with them, I would likely have laughed. If you'd had the audacity to suggest that I might provide care throughout a loved one's most personal biological occurrences, I definitely would have thought you were off your nut. But there I was, giving it not a single thought.

I'm not writing this to toot my own horn. Nope, not really; it's more a way of pointing out that we are all capable of stuff we might not have thought possible. And caring for Dad (which in turn meant caring for Mike, too, because the care of Dad was the care of Mike at times) was the easiest and hardest thing I've ever done.

I would do it again in a heartbeat. I would switch places with him if I could. But that's not how life works. Instead, I get to be here. Without him.

And I do not like it.

Missing him gets turned up a bit, every day. I am my father's daughter, and he was my favorite person in the world. And it's a big world. I have a feeling it's going to get worse before it gets better, and when it hits me, it could get ugly. But Dad taught me to be strong, and sometimes being strong means asking for help.

Which is another new skill.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Holding space

It sounds like a difficult thing, holding space. The way I understand it, to hold space for someone means you walk with them wherever they need to go, wholly present, shouldering their burdens along with them.

I think it's most notable when you hold space for a loved one. I've had ample opportunity to do this of late, and I consider it practice in life. But any time you ask someone "how are you?" and you wait for the honest answer, you are holding space. When you hold eye contact with the barista and say a sincere "thank you," you are holding space.

For me, anyway, it's the act of letting your needs go in order to meet the needs of another, and it's a direct route to the most sacred parts of me.

I didn't put those words on it while it was happening, but these week I've had the opportunity to hold space with my father. He's been to see more doctors in the last seven days than any one person should have to do, and on one particular day he was having a blood transfusion. I was told to expect this process to take five hours or more, so I packed my iPad, three magazines and a coloring book for the day. I used the iPad to send an email to family members, and other than that, I never once opened my bag.

It wasn't because I was trying to be disciplined or anything; it was simply because my place in those hours was with my dad. Wholly and completely with him. Sometimes we talked, sometimes he'd just smile at me. One of his friends stopped by to visit, so I took a walk around the hospital, but other than that we simply sat together.

Holding space for one another.

It was a simple day, and one that I hope brings physical healing to my father. But what it did for me was transformational, too. Because sometimes what we needs is to be seen, heard and loved. Nothing more, nothing less.

Monday, January 23, 2017

52 Lists - January 8 through 14

This week's list was a hard one for me: List all the routines in your personal life an work.

I don't feel like I have a lot of "routines." I have habits and traditions and rituals, but they don't really feel like routines. When I checked in with Jenn, though, she encouraged me to think of these things as routines and include them in the list. Here's what I came up with:

  • Morning coffee when I'm getting ready for work
  • Taking walks during work breaks
  • Saturday morning workouts
  • Weeknights at Life Time Fitness
  • Weekday morning work chats (I have some great colleagues)
  • Working from home on Mondays and Fridays
  • Annual Christmas decorating (at home and at church)
  • Working out (um ... that's in there a lot. I'm trying to love it more these days.)
  • Breakfast after Saturday morning workouts
A lot of my routines center around working out or work itself. I think that's because we tend to use those appointment-like habits as the framework around which we build the rest of our life. So, that's where most of my routines come from.

The second part of this list was to circle the routines that bring joy and crossing out the ones you don't like. I didn't cross out any, because honestly there's nothing on here that I dislike; however, it would appear the ones that involve food or coffee rank toward the top. 

You're not surprised at all, are you?

Routines are tricky business, because the word itself doesn't feel inherently positive. I'd like to introduce some new ones into my world, but I think of them more as rituals. Things I'm going to be trying over the next few weeks (maybe to become a habit by late February?) are tea before bedtime and a short yoga flow in the morning.

What about you? Are there any routines you'd like to add to your list that aren't there yet?

Saturday, January 14, 2017

52 Lists - January 1 through 7

Back in September, my sister Jennifer and I bought the same book - 52 Lists for Happiness by Moorea Seal. We thought it might be fun to work on the lists and compare notes. I thought it might also be fun to share the process throughout 2017. Is there anything more worthy of a weekly commitment than the pursuit of happiness?

List one is "What makes you happy right now?" I was fortunate to be writing out this list in Florida, and from a balcony of a cruise ship. Pretty sweet arrangement, and it shows through in my list. Here's a sampling of what's on my list:
  • Seeing Goofy, Pluto, Donald and Minnie
  • Really good chocolatea
  • A great cup of coffee
  • Netflix
  • Baths
  • Knitting
  • The perfect smell on a winter day
Once this list is final, the next step is to ask yourself, "how often do I actually get to experience these things?" Then, the idea is to pick one thing from the list and work on making it a daily practice. So, I'm planning to start each day with a great cup of coffee (I do this most days, anyway) and end each day with a great piece of chocolate. Decadence, book-ending my days.

So, come on in. Make your own list. We have all year.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The end of The Haiku Project - November 2016

Well, I went almost a full three months before I lost steam. It was fun while I could keep it up!

November 1

November baseball;
that's how I'll probably die
These boys are so good.

November 2

Game tied in the 8th
extra innings; FREE BASEBALL!
rain, then ... win it all.

November 3

I found a new trail
surrounded by red forest.
Peaceful autumn run.

November 4

Train is too crowded
everybody, please go home
Chicago? All blue.

November 5

Couch couch couch couch couch
Don't make me get off this couch
Couch couch couch sofa

November 6

I voted today
informed, exercised my rights.
Thank you, Suzy B.

November 7

So tired of Donald.
Please don't vote for that asshole.
What a total jerk.

November 8

As I go to bed,
I grieve for the USA.
You fell for a con.

November 9

A one-day, six-pound weighloss.
Tomorrow, I gain.

November 10

No, dumb GOP
you don't understand what it's
like to feel afraid.

November 11

Surround yourself with
smart people and you'll never
lack for true knowledge

November 12

Scraped the windshield this morning.
Hi, autumn. You suck.

November 13

I ran a 10K.
I did not die, but only
because I'm stubborn

November 14

I'm wearing a dress
my sister ordered; medium.
clearly, it's mis-marked.

November 15
We will not sit down
This election is a joke
Poor, stupid voters

November 16
Just keep your head down
And wait for four years to pass
I miss smart people

November 17
Training runs can suck
Sometimes, it's hard to run long
But ya gotta go

November 18
I've missed the magic
Of Rowling's fictional world
Yay, Fantastic Beasts!

November 19
Planning vacations
Is at least as much great fun
As going on them

November 20
Sometimes I miss Mom
In those moments when I think
She'd be super proud

November 21
There is no such thing
As too much avocado
Please pass me the guac

November 22
There may never be
Any coffee I like more
Than my first red cup

November 23
It's Thanksgiving eve
Annual Eric dinner
I have such great friends

November 24
Love is like gravy
It makes everything better
Except maybe pie

November 25
Enchiladas Pie
Coffee Pizza Scalloped Corn
Turkey Turkey Burp

November 26
Fastest dialog
Have to pay close attention
I love Stars Hollow!

November 27
A good candle can
Make home smell so much better
Than bitter defeat

November 28
Today I wanted
To sleep until noon and then
Stay under blankets

November 29
I need new knitting
Needles; not really "need" but
Can I have some please?

November 30
My work is better
Than your work because we get
Beef tenderloin here

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Haiku Project - October 2016

October 1

10k in the rain
Stupid, stupid, stupid me
Trained for just a mile

October 2

Relaxing Sunday
Morning coffee and movies
All day on the couch


October 3

Waiting for Friday
Cubs play first post-season game
Go for 11


October 4 

Early morning run
Makes me feel strong all day long
Sorry 'bout the rhyme


October 5

Autumn sucks; shut up
you annoying, crunchy leaves-
precursors to cold

October 6

Sometimes work is hard;
It's almost always worth it.
Pride in job well done

October 7

Birthday tour goes on!
This time headed to Hudson
Biff! Amanda! Dogs!

October 8

Bourbon and baseball
a big TV and great friends
my life is perfect

October 9

Debates are better
with honeycrisp apple pie
and all the bourbon

October 10

Jake Arrieta
is my spirit animal
Pilates? Yes, please.

October 11

Today we honor
National Coming Out Day
Stand firmly in love

October 12

I don't want to hear
of third-party candidates
Save it for next year

October 13

My garden is gone
I will miss my outdoor space
Fall can kiss my ass

October 14

Compassion is the
most under-used resource in
America now

October 15

Tomorrow, I fly
Memphis is waiting for me
It's still summer there!

October 16

Walking in Memphis
the city captures you fast
with music and love

October 17

Dinner with Amy!
So grateful for my sweet friend
Thank you, laundry room

October 18

There's nothing like fun
at the old ballpark, even
if it's not your own

October 19

"You are my people,"
LeVar Burton told the crowd.
That guy is awesome.

October 20

I always miss Mom
When I'm watching a ball game
She would love this year

October 21

Beauty lies hidden
in a most unlikely place.
The smart ones seek it.

October 22

I don't know 'bout you,
but tonight's ballgame makes me
believe in heaven.

October 23

Leaves crunch underfoot
the chilly air fills my lungs.
Fall running is good!

October 24

Science is awesome,
but it's scary trying to find
something in my brain

October 25

Two months 'til Christmas!
If it has to be so cold,
look forward to that.

October 26

Around the table,
old friends trade stories and food;
laughter never dies

October 27

Faced with decisions
that challenge my thought process
I can't sleep at night

October 28

i carry your heart,
cummings wrote so long ago.
Tomorrow, I read.

October 29

"Take me or leave me"
we sang all those years ago.
I sure miss my friend.

October 30

Sometimes, you have to
get over yourself to be
the best kind of friend.

October 31

Don't be such a jerk
that you can't realize just
how good you have it

Friday, September 30, 2016

The Haiku Project – September 2016

Day 1  - September 5

I have decided
to write a haiku each day
my fiftieth year
(With apologies to my friend Janie, who reminds me that this is actually my 51st year. Whatever. I screwed up the new millennium, too.)

Day 2 - September 6

Weekend memories
Fill my soul with such delight
Never felt so loved 

Day 3 - September 7

Stop making mistakes
I made before you were born
Learn, and make new ones

Day 4 -September 8

people walking through
the airport seem not to know
they are not alone

Day 5 - September 9

Dole whip with rum's good
Champagne with Chambord is, too
Let's toast to 50

Day 6 - September 10

My feet are so tired
Worth it because of my new
Fairy godmother

Day 7 - September 11

I'm home once again
Familiar smells, sights and sounds
But I miss palm trees

Day 8 - September 12

Mementos from trips
Provide a sweet reminder
Of yesterday's fun

Day 9 - September 13

You will not find a
Liver in a cooler here
Writers don't save lives

Day 10 - September 14

I don't like watching
Regretful downward spirals
So ... good luck with that

Day 11 - September 15

Alanis and I
Do not agree about what
Isn't ironic

Day 12 - September 16

just hand me coffee
and as Bob is my witness
no one will be harmed

Day 13 - September 17

last night we found it
the speck of dust onto which
we'll scribble stories

Day 14 - September 18

It takes just a few
Days to get used to sharing
Unlimited hugs

Day 15 - September 19

Thirteen-point-one miles
Will not run themselves, and so
It's back to training

Day 16 - September 20

Mammogram today
And a Pap smear, too - because
I really love life

Day 17- September 21

a day set aside
for international peace
it starts inside us

Day 18 - September 22

18 years ago
my favorite show premiered
many thanks, Sports Night

Day 19 - September 23

We all have bias
but if we try to see beyond
it can get better

Day 20 - September 24

Celebrating love
with extraordinary friends;
joy shared is more joy

Day 21 - September 25

sometimes even I
am a fool when it comes to
understanding you

Day 22 - September 26

the truth is, she goes
all the way to eleven
right across the board

Day 23 - September 27

What someone else thinks
pales in comparison to
the actual truth

Day 24 - September 28

Sometimes you have to
go crashing into the ground
before you can bounce

Day 25 - September 29

5:30 a.m.
spin class makes me want to die
did it anyway

Day 26 - September 30

Gray, rainy Friday
windows open, I smell fall
really not ready

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Staring down the barrel of 50

Oh, you guys. YOU GUYS. This is not as easy as I am making it look.

Actually, that's not true. Turning 50 is easy. Handling the emotions that come along with it? That's another thing entirely.

I'm going through all the stages of grief - denial, annoyance, pizza, claustrophobia, anger at Trump supporters, tequila and baking - at the same time. This is bullshit, you guys.

I'm grateful to friends who have let me cry/weep/have a level four nervous breakdown with them over the past week or so. The tears are right near the surface these days, and I am powerless to hold them back. I've stopped trying.

Not panicking. It's out there. It's gonna happen whether I want it to or not (Lord willing.) I am not going quietly into that AARP-festooned hootenanny of middle age, but as God is my witness, if one more person tells me that age is a number, I will not be held responsible for my actions. I. Will. Cut. You.

See, over the past few years, I've seen myself change, and not for the better. I have never felt pretty. Ever. Except for about two days back when I was about 19, I have not felt like I had my looks going for me. It's not easy to be a girl and not be happy with the person looking back in the mirror. I joke that my awkward stage lasted until last week, but really ... I'm not joking. (Although that is entirely why I developed a sense of humor.)

Anyhoo, over the past year or so, I've seen myself becoming less pretty, and when you start out not very pretty to begin with, it feels like a tragedy. If the mirror tells the truth, I will never be as pretty as I was yesterday.

It's downhill from here, and it's breaking my own heart.

Yes, there are lots of things I can do now that I didn't do 10 years ago. I like myself - the whole of me - more than I ever have. But I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I'd like to have the self-love I have now, and the body and face I had 20 years ago.

That's not how it works.

And no matter how many times I remind myself of amazingly beautiful women who are my age or older, the truth is I am not Helen Mirren. I'm not Diane Lane. I'm sure as hell not Angela Bassett (who has obviously made a deal with the devil himself.) So I'm just doing what I do, and moisturizing regularly, and hoping maybe nobody notices that I've hit this milestone.

So I'm trying to look at it like that picture - clearly, rockin' it into a new decade.

It helps that I have amazing examples of women who got there before me. My strong sister Jenn, who leaped (probably literally) into her 50s when chemo was an all-too-close memory, and two other sisters who paved the way (and proved that wrinkles are not, in fact, a foregone conclusion.) And my besties from Lifetime who have welcomed me to this exclusive tribe with open arms. As Donna said last night while I was trying desperately not to collapse into a pile of self-pity in yoga class, "Welcome to the club. We've been waiting for you." And I'll be damned if she doesn't make it look so beautiful and graceful, it seems like a place I might want to be.

Guys, this isn't an easy one for me. I'm probably not done crying, and I don't know what it's gonna look like as I move through it. Bear with me. (Do not bare with me, however. Gravity has arrived, my friends, and it is an unforgiving whore.) I have a lot of good stuff coming up during the coming year, and my 50th Anniversary Tour is going to be epic.

Even if I'm wrinkly. Even if I'm not as pretty as I dreamed I'd be. Even if I never run a 10-minute mile, finish a tri in less than two hours, fit into my skinny jeans, have a thick head of hair or leave the house without under-eye concealer. Because here's the thing:

I am still here. I am still dancing, and laughing, and cooking amazing food (you should see the pasta salad I just made!) and still being a damn good friend to those I love. I'm still here, guys. And my face may have aged, but I have not yet grown up.

Second star on the right, my friends. And straight on 'til morning.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Cold day in July (or, the beginning of the fairy tale)

It was 10 years ago this month that my ex moved out.

If I'm honest, I'm still pretty angry sometimes. Angry, because that bastard stole eight years of my life. In those eight years, I could have been out finding the person I'd spend the rest of my life with. Instead, he stuck with me until someone else came along.

(Note that I didn't say "someone better." In every way, the man downgraded. Idiot.)

There's this song that the Dixie Chicks covered, called "Cold Day in July," and it goes something like this:
The moon is full, my heart is empty
all night long, how I pleaded and cried
You always said the day that you would leave me
would be a cold day in July
Well, it wasn't a cold day. It was a blistering July day in Chicagoland, and one of my best friends came over to rescue me from the torture of watching the leaving. Brian dropped the top on the Jeep, and the two of us spent the entire day driving all over hell's half acre. Music blaring, hair flying, we drove.

And when we arrived back at my place, I was well and truly alone. For the first time in my adult life, really, I was single. Didn't wanna be, but like Mick says - you can't always get what you want.

It took a long time and tears before I even decided I would move on. But once I did ... there was no looking back. The person I am becoming barely recognizes the girl I left a decade ago. And sometimes it scares me to death, because I do not know how this story ends.

Sometimes people ask me if I'm afraid of dying alone. If I'm honest, I do have moments when I'm afraid it'll take awhile for people to find the body, especially if I kick it in winter. But the truth is, I won't die alone unless I turn into an asshole. (Spoiler alert: I don't intend to do that.) I'm not alone now. But damn, was I ever alone during the eight years I was with my husband. I was an island. I thought I was on that island with him, but in truth, we had our separate islands.

And so, here I am. Ten years later, still figuring it out. But all that really means is that I'm still growing. Still becoming. It's a good life. It's not as full of romance as I'd planned. There is no white picket fence.

What there is, instead, is a girl who knows herself. Who isn't afraid to be authentic. She understands boundaries, and she understands her worth. She invests in people. She loves thoroughly and well. She cries a lot, but she laughs more. On a scale from one to 10, she feels at an 11. She's barefoot and tan, she hasn't combed her hair in a couple of days, and she had coffee for breakfast.

She's living happily ever after.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

a decade

He used to say we didn't need Valentine's Day. That our love was so special, it could be celebrated in any day that ended in "y." That flowers, chocolates, shoes ... such gifts shouldn't be relegated to one day a year, but rather showered upon the object of one's affection on a random Tuesday, because 365 was just about the right number of days per year to celebrate how special we were.

But then one day, I realized random Tuesdays never happened.

It will be exactly 10 years tomorrow that I finally relinquished my grip on marriage. Things started falling apart in December. In January, it became clear that there was someone else. February rolled around and I was done trying to compete.

In a moment, I made the decision to do something good for me instead of beating my heart against a brick wall. And 10 years later, I'm the same girl while simultaneously so completely different.

That night, I chose to surround myself with music and love. My life became a quest for more, an opportunity to find my edges. See, once you fail at something you thought you could not fail at - like marriage - failure becomes so much less scary. I started doing things. I started trusting myself and those around me.

I started living.

I took huge bites out of life - sometimes more than I could chew at a time! But in 10 years, I've propelled myself forward in my career. I've discovered things I truly love to do. I've learned so much. And yes, I've become an athlete.

I have actually improved the health of my heart. What was once broken can, indeed be filled.

The years have not passed in a vacuum. Truth be told, I don't think I would have survived without you, dear friend. Whether you've been the one who answered the phone in the middle of the night, or you proofread my resume when I was trying to figure out how to afford important things like a roof over my head, or you've bought me dinner, or played me a song, or just listened to me ramble, man do I owe yo all the gratitude. Your willingness to love me through it has allowed me to become something more than I was a decade ago.

Human beings have relentless capacity to become something they currently are not. We're more than resilient; when untethered, we are unstoppable. And as I stare down the barrel of 50, I'm grateful to have discovered all this about myself ... and I'm oh, so ready to see who I become in the next 10.

Happy Independence Day to you.