days like these

The other day was one of those days in a week that was one of those weeks. Steve (not his real name) came home and we ate supper and then I simply had to get out. Ever notice that sometimes in order to want to come home you have to leave for a while? Like peel-out-of-the-driveway leave? And kickin’ up gravel in a mini van is so totally cool, in case you’ve never had the pleasure. Once I had proceeded into the wild blue yonder and found nothing satisfying on the radio, I popped The Fresh Beat Band CD out of the player and shoved in the first thing I laid my hands on that was recorded with adults in mind. It happened to be Ten by Pearl Jam. I kept turning up—louder and louder. And louder. And—need I say?—louder. I could just feel the tension draining from me. The experience prompted this Facebook status update:

After a day like today (and a week like this one ... ) sometimes you need yoga. And other times it's Pearl Jam blasting in the mini van on the way to Market Basket. Today was the latter. God gave rock and roll to you ...

Life has grown a little too real as of late. I almost didn’t write a post this week because there seems to be gravity every direction I turn and I thought that anything I could possibly say would fall short or somehow trivialize reality. Surgeries and serious illnesses and a child who seems to have inherited his mama’s troubles with anxiety, manifesting in it’s own complex, convoluted pattern. People who are suddenly facing their mortality which cannot help but turn the head towards the fragility of life.

It’s a fragile thing, this life we lead ...
Pearl Jam

I love that line. I love that song. It is fragile. Not only our mortality, but the ways we perceive ourselves and others, our dreams, our hopes, the illusions we hold. Our hearts. The ways in which we hold each other mean everything. The way you hold the ones you love best (who are often those you take most for granted), the friendships that uphold you, the ways we hold our children. That might be most fragile one of all. The ways we hold the strangers with whom we share our communities, our countries, our planet. All delicate. Brittle glass, tender petals, thin skin. How do you hold these?

I’ve been thinking a lot about that.

By the way, don’t be fooled by the narrow glimpse into my life I provide here because I get it wrong all the time—shards of broken glass around my toes. But I try to hold tight to the moments I recognize the light.


The other night when I had to leave home for a while in order to want to ever be there again, I figured I’d better go ahead and pick up a mocha at Starbucks. I really needed that mocha, let me tell you. The Starbucks kid informed me that they were out of mocha mix. My face must have reflected my dismay.

I said, “Oh, I really wanted one. I have had the hardest day.”

“How bad was it?” he said.

So bad.” That was the most I could muster.

“Okay,” he said. “I’ll open up tomorrow’s supply. Shhh ... “

“Really?” I said.

Then he made me a venti and only charged me for a tall. Never, ever underestimate small kindnesses. Ever.

So on a night I had to leave home for a while in order to want to ever be there again, I did go home and I looked at my sleeping children. I fell asleep holding my husband’s hand. I will remember to hold them carefully, I will remember to hold them carefully ... I recited to myself as I fell asleep.

I went home. And I was so happy to be there.

Visit the elders in the hospital, answer your friends’ calls even when you are busy, cook a supper for someone who needs a night off, let the guy take a left even when you have right of way, assume the best in people, look at your children when they are speaking to you, take out tomorrow’s mocha mix for a woman who’s had a hard day. Help each other remember to do these things because if one thing is for sure we are going to forget. It’s a fragile thing, this life we lead ...


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the secret to having life balance!

Wanna know what it is? You can’t. Not know, that is. Have it. You can’t have it. You cannot have life balance. That is the secret. Not because you don’t need it, deserve it, or are not bright enough to achieve it. It simply does not exist!

Seriously. It doesn’t. I just figured this out. Today. And I must say I feel better. Relieved, even. It’s nothing I’m doing wrong that I can’t “get” this. It is simply not possible.

What is life balance? I think it’s something different for each person seeking it. Which is another reason why it can’t be pinned down. There could never be a single formula. For me, it means having all areas of my life—homemaking, homeschooling, fiction writing, blog writing, business—organized and executed with precision, control, and harmony. Planned and carried out smoothly. I don’t even mean “perfectly”—I mean somewhat efficiently. But real life never allows this. The little—and big—fires always creep in.

Of course.


Ever lose a library book? We do all the time. (Note: It’s always a kids’ library book.) It’s the kind of thing that makes me lose my shizzle. It’s a time eater—looking for lost library books is a time-consuming monster. It is made more maddening because it is utterly unnecessary—if only they would simply put the books back in the designated library book basket it would never even happen! But noooooooooooooo. So then I must rant and rave about the lost library book. I mean, I don’t get mean or holler at them. But I do that annoying mom sing-song voice of reproach. You know the one. “If we could just put the the book back where it belongs, then this wouldn’t happen. I make a special place for all our stuff but everyone just drops everything wherever they want. And why are your markers all over the floor? And your Lego? This is how things get lost. Or broken. Or lost and broken. Or broken and lost. Bleh bleh bleh...” It goes on longer but I don’t want to give you a brain bleed imagining what it sounds like. You already know if you have a mother and were ever a kid. Or are a mother. (If you are innocent of this practice, I will personally sculpt a statue of you and lay flowers at its feet every Mother's Day.) As of now, I have not yet found that book. And, no, I have not stopped sing-songing. I’m trying. I swear. (Not really ... But I know I should and that’s the first step.)


The freakin' designated library book basket.

This sort of thing makes me nuts because I DO NOT HAVE TIME TO LOOK FOR FREAKIN’ LIBRARY BOOKS! Yes, I am yelling. (Sorry.)


Time is such a pain in the tush. (That’s Portuguese for “butt.”) There is never enough time to get everything done. Even when you try to plan it out, those little—and big—fires always creep in to screw up everything. Of course. In spite of planning, I never achieve everything in a day that I hope to. And I don’t generally over-plan—I truly do not. I try to keep the plans/to-dos moderate and draw on experience to set goals I have an actual chance of accomplishing. And even with this mindfulness, achieving the daily goals remains a challenge. Which returns me to the topic at hand which is life balance and the fact that you will never have it. Not until you are elderly and then you will probably feel like you have nothing to do. So what are we supposed to do about this?

I don’t have an answer but I do have an idea! Want to hear it? It’s kind of brilliant.


Just change your attitude. Yeah, I know—easier said than done. But it works. I know that I cannot plan effectively because there are simply too many variables and too many individuals with their own ideas of how time will be spent. For instance, sometimes a person simply must cry for 20 minutes about a paper cut whilst recovering in my lap. And any plans I made don’t matter an iota. Sometimes things like this happen several times a day. And no one can actually get out the door when Mom wants them to so that we can say on track. There is always one more drawing that MUST BE FINISHED or socks to be put on and someone is always starving and then everyone realizes that they are starving as well. Also, something is always lost. Always. Do you get where I’m going with this? So I adjust my attitude. I reframe.


On Sunday, I decided to sleep in a little which ended up being 9:00am (WHAT?!) and then I needed to make breakfast and clean up the kitchen and get supper going in the slow cooker. Then I wanted to visit Mem at the nursing home and Dad in the hospital (yes, he is back in there ... ergh ... but on the mend, so no worries), all of which took up a ton of my day. Yet, meanwhile, I imagine hours and hours of unfettered time unfurling wherein I can accomplish oodles and oodles of work. There has been no day like this since I have birthed these children that would indicate that such a day is likely. Except when they are not here. Except they are pretty much always here. Why do I think it will happen today? I am unnecessarily frustrating myself. Instead, maybe I could work in the time I do have available to me and adjust the tasks as needed. And most importantly, accept reality for what it is.

I know when the kids are grown and the elders have passed that I am never going to regret one moment I spent with them. So to lament “lost” time is the true waste of time.

This is a work in progress, people. I share my good ideas and then I fumble around attempting (and often failing) to execute them. It’s about trying. Although Yoda says do or do not, there is no try. Hmmmm ...


This kid just found the book! It was in the couch, although I could have sworn I checked there ... several times. She suddenly remembered her brother was reading it to them the other day. I shall sleep well this night.

turning toward a fresh new year

I have been so very scattered since Thanksgiving. Between the Holidays and my dad’s health crisis, I have been vacillating between feeling completely overwhelmed and a super-hyped emotional state. Every now and then I feel calm. Mostly when I am unconscious. To make it all just a little more interesting, my kids got a stomach bug in the middle of everything which they graciously passed along to me. And I felt kind of lousy for more than a week. Not wicked lousy; just lousy enough.


I know Christmas is a week away, but Yes, I DID begin writing this post a week before Christmas. Yes, it IS January 10th.



I hardly left this here easy chair for a week. It was Pep's and it's not pretty,
but holy dear La-Z-Boy is it comfy!

Can I tell you how happy I was when December 26th arrived? That makes me sound a bit Scrooge-y and I swear I wasn’t. We had a lovely Christmas—we busted Dad out of the rehab for the day and everyone had a great time. We didn’t travel anywhere this year and I never got out of my yoga pants and Grinch thermal shirt all day. But when the 26th arrived we sank into that wonderful in-between time of the year. You know that in-between time: the insanity of the Season is over and the new year (when you need to get your shizzle together) is still a week away. Steve (not his real name) was home from work all week and I let everything go. I cleaned when I felt like it (not much, that is), we ate leftovers and meals I had previously cooked and frozen, I sat in the easy chair and read books. Read books! (I had to say that twice, it was just that delicious.) It’s pretty much the only time of year (aside from our beach vacation) when I just stop. It is so good.

And I bought a new planner!


Oh, the joy and bliss and excitement a new planner bestows!

I have tried for many a-year to create the perfect planner—one that suits all my needs. I have tried spiral-bound ready-made planners, small-sized planners, homemade planners, but nothing quite worked. They were either too spirally, too limiting, too small, or too homemade. I wanted something in which I could add pages when the mood struck me and replace pages if I messed up (messy don’t work for me); something biggish wherein I could stash this and that with a spot for everything—the calendar, the daily planner, blog post brainstorming, writing idea note-taking, journaling, meal-planning. Then I found this! I love the free printables on this website and have been using them for quite a while. When I saw this, I suspected it might be the planner of my dreams!


It lives in a pretty 3-ring binder I bought at Target and I have pockets and folders and dividers! Oh, how I love my planner! It’s going to change everything and I will be 100% organized and nothing ever will go wrong and I will never be frustrated or feel like I am running endlessly on a hamster wheel strewn with dirty laundry! I will be perfect.

(Not really.)

Seriously, though, I needed this planner, people. When I think about it, I have been scattered for nearly a year. Making the decision to sell our house, getting it ready for market, the stress and tremendously (and surprisingly) time-consuming process of selling, moving, getting used to a new home. I simply needed to take control of SOMETHING. And this planner is a good start. I can schedule tasks rather than maintain an unwieldy and overwhelming to-do list, I can plan out homeschool and use the space to keep track of their progress and our activities. Everything is here in this one spot—meal plans, the family calendar, to-do tasks, and daily plans.

Organization is a lovely start to this new year, but the most important thing I am working on for 2014 is balance. I know we have all heard that word a trillion times with a trillion ways to achieve it. I’m not even going to try to fool you—I do not have the answer. But I am starting by trying to honor my needs. What does that mean for me? Honoring the fact that I am an introvert who needs time to decompress and renew my energy stores every day. That means making time for yoga. It also means honoring the fact that I need my evenings to rejuvenate. That is NOT the time to try to write, which is something I have been trying to force forever. I try and then get nothing substantial accomplished because I can’t really focus, then I feel badly that I am “not getting enough done,” and in the process I’m not only beating myself up but also not taking the time I need to refill the energy coffers.

No more!

How to remedy this? Get up earlier! I have been writing from 6:00 to 8:00am and then my evenings are free for whatever I want to do. Sometimes that means reading, sometimes a nice episode of Masters of Sex (OOOOH if you have Showtime, this is such a compelling show!), or organizing my planner. Or it can mean writing—if I want to. I am so much happier because I simply tuned in to what I needed. And I’m finding that I am spending quality, mindful time with Steve (not his real name) in the evening because I’m not trying to “get enough done” and staying up way past his early bedtime.

And I definitely feel more content! Is that what “balance” feels like?

I wish you much happiness in this new year! What are YOU doing to find balance in 2014?


2013-12-10 17.34.41 I intended to write about the plague of “busy” this week, but the recent events of my life call out for attention instead.

On Thanksgiving evening, my dad went to the ER complaining of terrible abdominal pain. What we thought was probably just a little bug turned out to be much, much more serious. His vitals went screwy, they rushed him to the ICU and by 2:00 am, he was intubated. My mom and I did not go Black Friday shopping that night as we’d planned—we instead sat by his bedside watching the monitor above him, praying his blood pressure would just go up. We were simply speechless with shock and worry. On Saturday morning, the doctor told us that he wasn’t sure how the treatments were going to go. He was very kind with his words, but we received the message—they were not ensuring us that Dad was going to make it.

But he did.

Thankfully, he is getting better and continues to make slow but steady progress. He will be leaving the hospital soon, not to come home, but to spend a little time in a rehab facility. Will he be home for Christmas? The kids (6 of them between my sister and me) are hopeful. I think they can’t imagine Christmas without him. I have a cold suspicion that he might not be ready by then, but I am holding out hope, too. If a week ago I thought we might lose him, it is not impossible to believe that he might be sitting in his spot by the Christmas tree handing out present after present to the kids. And if not, we’ll just have to bring Christmas to him.

2013-12-10 17.35.03

Last week we were in full-blown crisis mode and I couldn’t help but notice—was totally surprised, actually—how priorities fell neatly, concisely, and quickly into place. The stuff about which I would normally freak out simply fell away. Nothing mattered but being at the hospital, taking what burdens I could from my mom, making sure the kids’ basic needs were being met. (Thankfully I have my good husband for that—and he was a major anchor in this storm.) What I needed to do, and what I did not need to do, became entirely clear.

2013-12-10 17.37.42

Dad doesn't have a Christmas tree in his hospital room so the kids made him a
big paper tree and are working on some ornaments for it.

Now, we’re in semi-crisis living-by-the-seat-of-our-pants mode—a difficult state for us. As my mom said to me this morning, we are planners. Serious, hardcore, need-‘em-bad-in-order-to-stay-sane planners. Our plans right now are nearly hour-by-hour.

But this is about presence.

Maybe this post has more to do with “busy” than I originally thought when I sat down to write it. In a culture where “Good, and you?” as the response to the question “How are you?” has been replaced with an eye roll and a breathy “Busy,” being present is a challenge. But this week, I have witnessed first-hand how readily that which is truly vital can come into sharp focus. That might be the small blessing of this family crisis—the gift of presence and the clarity it brings. A reminder of what’s important. Simple lessons that sometimes take serious circumstances to penetrate the busyness of life.

2013-12-10 19.01.50

I am taking the kids to visit Dad this morning. He needs us right now. So what gets done will get done and what doesn’t just won’t. And that’s okay. My priority is presence right now and in that state, everything will be clear.

(Please come back Friday—I am going to post the final part of my short story, “Red Step-Stool.”)

costume-making with sheldon cooper


A melange of socks on the floor. Luckily all are accounted for. Notice the charming “balling.” Makes laundry day that much more special!

Does a sock going missing make you want to weep? No? Guess what? It makes me want to weep. Seriously. If I don’t keep track of the socks who will? I can tell you—NO ONE around here. And then what?


So, Halloween costumes—fun, right?


My daughters have new princess dresses my mom made for them. Really puffy and frilly and hot pink with purple accents. It hits all the little girl marks. But even if they didn’t have these lovely frocks, they are the easy ones. I could get them almost anything and they would be thrilled. Doesn’t have to be perfect, just needs to be pink or purple. Could be ripped, could be too small, too big, could be filthy. It’s all good. “We don’t care!” they say. Not in a sassy obnoxious way—in an omigod it’s purple and pink and ruffly and rainbows and sparkly and Hello Kitty and mermaids and unicorns! way. They simply focus on all the good parts. I would really like to be in their heads for a little while. I’ll bet it’s like Disney-flavored wine in there. I could just lie down and rest for a spell. So needless to say they are perfectly thrilled with any costume. As long as it’s pink or purple or somehow incorporates a rainbow, a pony or a puppy. A princess pony renders them pretty much unconsciousness with joy.

My son is not so much like this.

His personality and temperament are similar to Sheldon Cooper’s. He is utterly literal, largely inflexible, geniusly smart. (Is “geniusly” a word? Spell check says NO.) He’s also equally sweet and so very good at the core. But as you might imagine, costume-making with this personality type is... well, whatever word is the absolute opposite of “fun.”

He originally wanted to be Ike from Super Smash Bros, a game he used to play (only on Fridays!) with the little boy next door. Take a peek at the picture and then note that Ike has a relatively complex outfit. Also blue hair. Also sort of a mullet. Also he is not actually a person. My son does not have blue hair or a mullet. This was our first issue. (Also he is an actual person.) I talked him off that ledge by suggesting the use of blue hair spray and stiff gel. Not that I had any real confidence those would work—I just said it would and hoped for the best. Next problem arose when the different parts of the costume were not exact. The shirt was a little too big, the boots were just not the same. I got a blue shirt at the thrift store and painted the edges with yellow paint and I thought it looked pretty good. He said the color was “94% exact.” But he meant it in a nice way. He worried off and on that this was not going to be the Ike costume of his dreams.

I am crafty, but clearly I was in over my head. I suggested we hit Target. And thank all divine beings, he agreed.

Several stores later, he decided on a red ninja. There were a number of ninja costumes from which to choose. This was the winner as it is a “complete” ninja costume and therefore ranks higher than the others. (We—meaning he chatting endlessly and me nodding meaningfully and thoughtfully—deliberated over this in the aisle for a good 45 minutes.) He was really happy. As was I. (Also the store has an unlimited return policy on Halloween costumes. I checked.)


In spite of his quirks (or perhaps because of them), I love my little Sheldon. He makes everything more interesting. (And overly complex). At the end of almost every day, he tells me I’m the best mom ever—in spite of all MY quirks. I think that’s what we have to do—love our people, thorns and all. Focus on the blooms, actually, because we’re all aware of our own thorns and I think the world would be a better, happier place if we illuminated the prettier, gentler parts of each other.

I would go costume-shopping any time with this kid. I’m pretty lucky. He’s the best boy ever.


(By the way, the hood on the ninja costume is a little too short, it points up at the top too much, the red mask should be wider so it doesn’t pop out of the hood so much, the boots are too long (and NO we CANNOT put some rags in the toes to make them tighter), the tag is itchy—why do they have to make tags so ITCHY?—(I cut it out so was a hero for a few minutes), the red vest doesn’t stay-put on the shoulders enough, the red string on the sword wiggles around and doesn’t stay right on the handles. Aside from all that, it’s perfect.)

painting with mike

170 This is Mike. Mike is my dad. (Welcome to the Internet, Dad! No, this doesn’t really make you famous. Sorry...) Mike is a very useful person—he loves to help out whenever he can. Which is one of the many reasons he is awesome. So of course he offered to help me paint some rooms at our new house... even though he doesn’t totally love doing home improvement projects. He is a really good guy like that.


This should in theory be a perfect paint color.

A brief aside: I went down to the paint store to get some paint chips and I found one called—I am not making this up—Green Tea Latté. I was desperately hoping it would work somewhere, but it wasn’t quite right in any of the rooms which is weird because I can’t imagine a scenario in which green tea latté would not be perfect. I guess it’s a little different when it’s paint. But still. I truly thought such a thing could never happen.

So my dad and I set out to paint the bedrooms the week before we moved in. The walls had been covered with old, peeling wallpaper over horsehair plaster—all of which is a nightmare to remove. Then my mom discovered paintable wallpaper. Problem solved! You put it up right over the old paper then paint with regular old latex paint! (Such a miraculous product fully warrants—demands!—the use of the exclamation point.) So easy, right?

No, it was not.

My mom and dad were the lucky ones who put the paper up. (I intend “lucky” sarcastically, as you will see should you choose to read on.) They tell me it was an enormous pain in the ass. Seams wouldn’t stay glued down. Bubbles erupted. It tore easily. But they managed to remedy these issues. Painting would be a lot easier, they reasoned. Was it?

No, it was not.


This stuff is a paint sponge. We used twice as much paint as we would have on normal walls. And it took FORever to cover them. Also it is patterned vertically. See?

Try painting across those lines. Go ahead. Easy, right?

No. It is not.



Yes, my son DID insist on 3 different colors.

We had 2 days to paint 3 rooms. No problem—easy, right?

(What do you think?)

I fully encourage you to tell anyone you would enjoy seeing really pissed off and frustrated to run out and buy this wallpaper. (You shouldn’t really do that, though. It’s not very nice. But if there is someone you absolutely MUST see really pissed off and frustrated, this would be an excellent option.)


The girls chose pink. I know... shocking, right?

So I was totally freaking out and planning on painting through the night because it was taking twice as long to paint as normal walls. And this HAD to be done before we moved all the furniture in. Catastrophe would ensue otherwise. (What catastrophe? Just the regular kind. But still.) I am sure my response to this painting crisis comes as a surprise as I am usually so calm in general. And am never ever a total control freak.

(Steve [not his real name] please stop guffawing.)

In the middle of a panic attack, my dad said, “Just do what’s right in front of you.” Don’t look at the whole thing, he said. Just do the thing right there in front of you.


If you were smart, you would apply this philosophy to other areas of your life. That’s my plan anyway.

(He’ll most likley need to remind me next time I am freaking out.)

In the end, we got it done in one and a half days. And it actually came out really nice. Especially in light of the fact that we fully expected it to come out really awful. Dad even took me and the kids to the beach on the second afternoon.

(Daddies are the best.)

goodbye leominster

empty_house6 We said goodbye to our home, our lovely neighbors, our sweet little city. (It’s “lemon-stir,” by the way. No one from out of state has the first idea how to pronounce it. And why would they?)


The rooms are cleared out. My kitchen counter has been reduced to a vast expanse of blue.


I’ve been putting off writing this post because I kept waiting for what I wanted to say to surface in my mind. But I think I simply don’t know what to say because this move was harder than I thought it would be. I was focused on prepping the house for sale and dealing with showings for months. Then when it sold, everything we’d be letting go suddenly hit me full-force.

This is a bittersweet move. While there are many, many positive reasons to make the change and I am certain we will be happy in our new home, there is so much we leave in our wake.


I think I am at a loss for the words that could capture how we feel.


We can take our stuff—our pots and bedclothes; our books and toys. But we can’t take the charm of this city and the places we love to go; the lovely neighborhood and wonderful people who fill it; the friends we have made. We can’t take the door jamb that has recorded our history through the growth of our children. We can’t take this house which we took from a shell and made into a real home.


All that remains on my counter is a welcome note for the new family.

I hope they are as happy here as we have been. I hope their tears are few and their laughter echoes through these rooms. I wish for my family the same in our new home—and I know in my heart we will have it. I mean, what is home after all but the people who live and love there?

it’s not what you thought

No, I’m not pregnant! (YAY!) But guess what?! SOLD!

The house, that is.

I’m not even kidding.


This is our adorable dog. She is smelly. Our smelly adorable dog. But isn’t she adorable? She can’t help being smelly. Or adorable.

(I have a point with this train of thought that does indeed connect with selling our house. I swear.)

Selling a house is a giant pain in the ass. People are so critical and it makes you go slightly nuts. Steve (not his real name) might debate my use of the word “slightly.” First we fixed the roof when people complained about it. Then we gave the kitchen a facelift when people described it as “dated.” I picked up stupid leaves off the front lawn with my bare hands so it would look Stepford-y, the grass was always mowed, the house was lick-ably clean (gross metaphor, sorry—but it totally was), it was "staged" and all personal offensive vestiges of our history and presence removed. It was pristinely tidy and the beds were always made (which is not the norm—I don’t give an everyday crap about making the beds). I seriously went slightly (or whatever word is more appropriate) nuts. We were a perfect family. I mean absently perfect—there was little evidence we lived in this house—at least I imagine from the perspective of the people coming through.

But for the “offensive dog odor.” It was most often described as a “turn-off.”

Seriously? Did these people miss that day in chemistry when they were supposed to learn about the volatility of odorous molecular compounds? (Maybe that is a little wrong—I suck at chemistry.) But I do know that smells dissipate since I am a human who has been on Earth for a while and have noticed that when you cook bacon your house doesn’t smell like bacon forever. Although it would be nice if your house did smell like bacon forever. Unless you don’t like bacon. Then also if you were trying to sell your house people who don’t like the way bacon smells would never buy your house. People don’t like the way my dog smells (it’s NOT like bacon or anything else that smells good) and I can't honestly hold that against them, but smells dissipate for those who missed that day in chemistry when they were supposed to learn about the volatility of odorous molecular compounds. Or something. I was there, I just don’t really understand chemistry.

2013-07-25 14.44.18

At any rate, I bought crazy powerful candles and smelly laundry soap and expensive cleaning solutions. I washed the curtains. I washed the floors with vinegar and then Mrs. Meyers lavender. (I love that stuff. I was secretly pleased to have an excuse to buy it since I am usually too cheap to lay out the cash for it. But I have decided life is too short not to buy simple stuff that makes you happy—it’s Mrs. Meyers from now on! See how I share life lessons? You’re welcome.) I washed pretty much everything.

2013-07-25 14.45.40

We washed the smelly couch and armchair—twice. Also an astonishing amount of Fabreze was absorbed into their smelly fibers. (It’s not their fault they’re smelly, either.) I hate artificial fragrance. I never use any product with fake odors. But fake smell is better than offensive dog odor. For most people, I imagine.

2013-07-25 14.44.57

Then it happened. A couple with an extremely dulled sense of smell who didn’t miss that day in chemistry when they were supposed to learn about the volatility of odorous molecular compounds (or something) who also possess excellent taste decided to buy it! Which is exactly what I knew I had to wait for in spite of the fact that I was acting slightly nuts. Dog smells, dated kitchens, a few errant leaves on the lawn—none of that was at the heart of it. Someone needed to love this place like we do. Their feedback: “This house feels like it could be home.” It is and as much as I am excited for our move, I am sad to leave it.

They came here recently to take some measurements and I commented that what they witnessed in the house right then—the mess of toys and markers and the dish rack out and the smelly dog in her smelly bed—was what this place really looks like. The woman said it was refreshing to see everything more “real.” And she described my kitchen (her kitchen, I suppose) as “charming.” I am so happy she thinks so—that’s the word I always use to describe it.

Now we go make a new home. I can hang the kids’ art again and put out the family photos and let it all go to chaos as it will.

2013-07-24 17.42.26

For now, I will enjoy every last moment here. Oh, and I am happy you tell you that my toaster is back on the counter—where it belongs.

i am tired of hiding my toaster

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I think she likes hanging out with the wine.

Well, it’s been a while since you’ve heard from me. Are you okay? I’m really sorry. I once promised I would never do this to you again. But I did. Now when I repeat this promise you won’t believe me. But I swear—I am nothing like that lying college boyfriend. I wasn’t flirting with those girls. I swear. See, you don’t believe anything I say anymore.

It suddenly occurred to me one day a couple weeks ago that I had completely forgotten to blog for like 3 weeks. I’m serious. I totally forgot to blog. How does one forget something like that? Then I continued not to blog for a few more weeks. But that was more like blatant not doing it. In my defense, this house-selling business is awful.


Did you know I have to put my toaster away every time someone wants to view this place? Also my dish drainer. If I don’t, the prospective buyers will not be able to imagine living here in a house where people actually toast things and wash their dishes. They don’t want to know we eat. Maybe it will make them buy this place if they think no one here ever eats.

Doesn’t this make perfect sense?

(It might have something to do with de-cluttering, but I can't remember anymore. It's probably about toast. I’m so tired.)

Additionally, this house-selling business is horribly time-consuming. And also stressful and distracting and rendering me incapable of thinking smartness. Or smartly. Or something.

I had a fleeting notion of writing a post about focus, but... Wait. What was I talking about?

Seriously. My brain is not able to hold coherent thought for any significant amount of time. Like around 2 minutes seems to be the max. Probably 2 minutes is a generous estimate.

This is what I am doing instead of thinking.

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overly elaborate cross-stitching

No, I’m not 80. I just enjoy the simple motion—all those nice little x’s. They relax me.

One of the worst parts of this house-selling business is the utter lack of planning that I can do. I am NOTHING without my plans. I am actually pretty crazy without my plans. Steve (not his real name) might use some other words to describe what I am without my plans... I have no idea when we’re going to move, when I can begin packing, when I can start really planning our new life. I cannot control how things will fall out.


(Sorry... I’m not yelling at you. I swear. You don’t believe me, do you?)

I have also been on deadline to complete The Mosquito Hours edits, a task that requires a great deal focus. (My brain hurts.) In spite of my throbbing brain, I did get those edits done. I have one more little scene to write and I send it off to my publisher. Then I go on vacation for 2 weeks to the beach. I have a ton of organizing and packing to do for that, which is good—I am channeling all that (crazy) energy that needs to plan.

Life isn’t about waiting for the storms to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain. Vivian Greene

I saw that quote recently and even though it’s a little cheesy, I couldn’t deny the value in its sentiment. I have been trying to relax and remember I actually possess very little control—that idea is just a nice little notion we want to believe is true. But it really ain’t. And I can't forget to enjoy the journey—kick around in those puddles.

So, yes, I’ll keep hiding my toaster. And I’ll even try to smile while I do it knowing in the end this will all work out just fine. It’s only a move, after all. You hang in there and keep hiding your toaster, too.

And I’ll never not blog again—I really mean it.

some mindful thoughts for a friday

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Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense. Ralph Waldo Emerson

As usual, I have a HUGE list of things that haven’t gotten done this week. I have an even longer list of things that have not gotten done in the last month. I can’t seem to carve out writing time, yoga has slipped out of my life lately (NOT good for anyone, at least in this domicile) and as I sit here attempting to write this post, I have been interrupted at least twenty times by my kids who needed: juice (my personal favorite), snack, water, red sharpie, snack, to show me a book that must be read right away, to inquire how Darth Vadar eats with that mask on all the time, snack, to discuss a story we need to write and illustrate immediately about the Little Ponies. ETC. (Did you actually think there wasn’t more?) And once I got to say “Don’t run with scissors!” which is always fun. For me.

As usual, I feel behind with my tasks and I cannot imagine how I am going to get caught up.

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And I have been dreading sitting down to write this post because I simply had no ideas. Add lack of inspiration to absence of time to write and you can imagine what ends up. When there is so much going on, tapping into creativity is extremely difficult.

I started to think about the origin of creativity. From where do the new ideas emerge? In this hectic world filled with an overabundance of information and distractions and an endless list of work that needs to be done—the business of life—when is there time and space for replenishing? If creativity (whatever that might mean for you) is like water in the well, what happens if it runs dry?

I heard a story on NPR a while back in which a scientist spoke about water, its origins and supply and management. Apparently, all the water we have is all the water we’ve ever had—it cycles over and over again. Time and circumstances are irrelevant to its movement.

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I’d like to think of creativity that way. Maybe I will take some time to wander slowly, allow that deep well to stir and ripen. Maybe practice some self-kindness and do some light contemplation about nourishing my creative self. Answer some questions: what is nourishing and what is robbing? I know that the act of creation is itself nourishing and that creativity is elusive—try to look at it too closely and it will slip away. Maybe I spend a little time on this rainy, dark day being quiet and idle and uninvolved and unconcerned with the workings inside. Perhaps creativity is nothing within my control and all I need do is wait patiently for it to come and flood the well inside me with inspiration.

I am publishing this early on this Friday morning; it is a new day. Time to carry on.

and no one asked me for juice even once

2013-04-20 14.24.43 If you had to name the one thing that your kids do that makes you most likely to want to rip your own face off, what would it be? For me, it’s the daily morning whine for juice. And I have never once denied these people juice! Why fuss when there is no history of deprivation? I really, truly, deeply-in-my-bones despise juice.

(Or maybe it’s the whining. Maybe the whining about juice. I was never big on juice and now I don’t even like the word “juice” anymore. It’s just all of it. Mystery solved.)

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My sister and I do a get-away every spring, just the two of us. It’s our Mother's Day gift to ourselves. No one makes me laugh as much as she does. Especially at stuff no one else understands or thinks is funny. The laughing often happens in places where hysterical laughter is either relatively uncommon (Home Depot) or entirely frowned-upon (a wake). But we’re never embarrassed which I think makes us completely normal. Or not. Who really knows. (And let it be known that we’ve never actually lost our composure at a wake, just always share the lurking potential of laughing inappropriately. That being said, we probably shouldn’t go to wakes together. Which is difficult to avoid when you’re in the same family...)

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Anyway, every May, we rent a beach cottage for a weekend together and this is our favorite place—this beach, this town, this cottage.

Every year, we each bring along heavily stuffed bags of lofty goals. And yoga mats. (We’ve never once unrolled them.) It seems that 48 hours away from our little guys simply cannot be squandered and must be utilized fully. Those 48 hours swell in my mind as I imagine the multitude of tasks I will be able to accomplish in all that free time.

To realize the unimportance of time is the gate to wisdom. Bertrand Russell

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But then the sun is always shining and the sky so blue and the ocean calls, the sand fine under our feet.

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We relished the quiet and the freedom and got nothing done but some pleasure reading and (of course) a nearly endless stream of uninterrupted conversation. Thai food and several movies from start to finish. Many long walks on the beach. This year we made a list of home improvements she wants to tackle at her house, then we went to Home Depot to find some pretty paint chips.

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Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time. Marthe Troly-Curtin

It was so delightfully indulgent to watch the time pass slowly and amply. Especially since I usually think of time as my nemesis. A thing of which there is never enough, that passes much too quickly, that gets devoured by the demands of home and children. And this is my biggest problem with the shape of time: it constantly evades me.

It’s being here now that’s important. There’s no past and there’s no future. Time is a very misleading thing. All there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past, but we can’t relive it; and we can hope for the future, but we don’t know if there is one. George Harrison

But I know that all we can do is keep on with the business of life and the work of our hearts and make friends with the idea of time—even we never figure it all out.

(We won’t.)

As happens every year, the sisters’ weekend was over too soon. Inevitably, the following weekend as we washed clothes, made snacks and got back to business each in our own homes, one of us texted the other (we were too busy to make a phone call), “Wish I were doing this weekend what I was doing last weekend!”

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Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.
Mother Teresa

But we know our work is good and grounding and important. Work of the heart. It was another wonderful sisters’ weekend and now my sister and I possess more lovely shared memories. And she never once asked me for juice and she was really well-behaved in Home Depot. (At least as far as I’m concerned which most likely shouldn’t be trusted. Either way, she did not ask me for juice. Which is real love.)

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There is no one with whom I’d rather waste time. I consider myself very lucky to have someone with whom time spent is never wasted.

violence is not the only thing from which we need to protect our kids

boston1 Today I intended to write about some homeschooling topics. (That post will publish next week.) I enjoy being funny on this blog and even though some of what I talk about (mindfulness, homeschooling, parenting, etc.) possesses a seriousness, I try to inject some humor into everyday experiences. But in light of the bombings in Boston, I feel a need to respond as a mother.

First, I must express my sincere and heartfelt condolences to all who have lost loved ones or sustained injuries. My thoughts join in with those from peoples all around the globe.

My children are still quite young and I can shield them from violence and its consequential senseless tragedy. My children aren’t aware of Aurora, Virginia Tech, Newtown and too many others—I turn off the TV and NPR (my constant companion) in the wake of these kinds of violent acts. If any of it were to enter their consciousness, we would conduct the necessary discussions. But thankfully, it hasn’t happened yet. As I wrote after the Newtown shootings, “I feel so grateful that my kids are little enough to be oblivious to this tragedy. I want to protect them from the knowledge that this kind of violence is possible in this world into which I’ve brought them. I know this kind of protection will not be possible forever.”

I love Boston. I called it home for nearly 10 years. I now live a mere 40 miles (give or take) from the finish line of the marathon. As you can imagine, this tragedy is the primary topic of conversation on local television and radio. On Tuesday, the day after the bombings, all major local news stations preempted regular programming to carry coverage of the tragedy. Hours and hours of terrible images, the same information rehashed over and over with very little new to add. This event—like all acts of violence—is terrible in and of itself, but the local media turned it into spectacle, as it does to everything from a Nor’easter to politicians’ naughty conduct. I want to be informed so I can form educated opinions and keep my family safe and healthy, and an event like this requires and merits extra attention. But the coverage verges on exploitation. And I think it is because it doesn’t feel as though it comes from a place of authenticity; a place of genuine concern for the tragedy itself, its victims and its implications. It feels sensationalized and serves not to inform, but to add to the general anxiety of our culture.

This latest act of violence has prompted me to wonder: from what exactly do we need to protect our kids?

We live in a culture of fear. We seem to have moved from the credo of there is nothing to fear but fear itself to adopting a better safe than sorry mentality. What are we sacrificing for our children when we live under the willingly assumed fear that there is no safety, no certainty, nothing to be trusted? When we perpetuate and fuel these fears with our beliefs and actions? Armed guards in schools, the tug-o-war between arms enthusiasts and those in support of tighter gun laws (which is the tug-o-war between the fear of being unarmed and the fear of those who are armed), the belief in the necessity of a highly-funded military. In some respects, I am a “just in case” kind of person myself, but the ways in which we respond to violence, fueled by the media frenzy, is polarizing us as a people rather than building community and solidarity—the real antidotes to that which can threaten us.

How will our children be shaped if led to believe such great fear is founded?

From bike helmets to “stranger danger,” ultra-safe playgrounds to media frenzy, I wonder how it will effect them to live with the assumption that there is something to fear in everything. Do we want our children to be safe? Of course. Are there good arguments for some of these things? Without doubt. But how do we protect them from fear itself and its limiting power? The idea that nothing is safe and everything requires precaution?

This is what I want to protect my kids from.

I want to honor the losses when acts of violence erupt. I want to grieve for those who lose their lives, their loved ones and those who are hurt and might spend months and maybe a lifetime in recovery. But I want my children to be free of unnecessary fear. I don’t want to live in a world where armed guards are a fact of life—a reminder and symbol of an unavoidable threat to be feared. I want to focus on the good, seek out hope, build community and in embracing these ideals and passing them to my children, free them.

...Imagine all the people sharing all the world... You, you may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one I hope some day you'll join us And the world will live as one John Lennon

a walk in the woods

2013-04-14 15.29.41When you can’t plan and you can’t make lists and the future is too hazy for comfort, go for a walk in the woods. 2013-04-14 14.55.46 2013-04-14 14.58.34 When all the stuff of life is too much, do something that requires only presence. 2013-04-14 14.54.19 Go for a walk in the woods with the ones you love most. 2013-04-14 15.04.37 If you don’t like the woods, do the thing you like. 2013-04-14 15.00.42 (Even if you think you should stay home and worry some more.) 2013-04-14 15.00.55 Go for a walk in the woods. 2013-04-14 15.35.45 You will never be sorry you did. 2013-04-14 15.49.16

a stranger said my house stinks

Does one really need to empty out the bottom of the toaster oven? In theory, won’t it all eventually simply burn away? I would bet that lots of crumbs have already burned away without my explicit knowledge. It’s sort of a perfect system. toaster_oven_crumbs I never clean it. This is not an act of will—more like unintentional neglect. Now and again, when I am toasting something (usually toast) Steve will holler from somewhere in the house, “Is something burning?”

“Just the 2 year old bread crumbs, honey!”

I think it smells pretty.

(Although apparently not everyone does...)

We had an open house the other day and one of the parties that came through said my house is smelly. (It is NOT.) This was the quote from their agent: The buyer really liked the area, the house showed pretty well, but it had a very strong odor, and that was a real turn off.


Was the odor akin to Fritos or raw sewage? Paint or athlete’s foot? A little specificity would be most appreciated. And I made mini muffins for these freakin’ people. With tiny and adorable mini chocolate chips.

disinfectant_wipes Additionally, random people coming through my house is totally freaking me out. They are touching everything with their germiness and who all knows what. It has prompted us to wipe down the whole place with disinfectant wipes after every showing. Luckily Steve is crazy in many of the same ways I am which normalizes us. (I think.) We hide this activity from the kids just in case it’s actually crazy.

dish_rack And I have to put away my dish rack every time we have a showing to make the counters appear more spacious and it’s a pain. I like my dish rack because it makes my life easier and all these shenanigans are not making my life easier.

(I’m a little fussy right now.)

Also, all this uncertainty is giving me a stomachache.

That, I suspect, is the root of the problem. I am no good with not knowing.

Flow with whatever may happen and let your mind be free. Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. Chuang Tzu

I bumped into that quote in Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything by Laura Grace Weldon. I love this book—its perspective is so refreshing and right-on. It’s helping me solidify my own homeschooling philosophy, which has evolved into more of a life-learning philosophy. Meaning we don’t think of learning or “education” as separate from life itself. We (meaning all people, not just my brood) are always learning—you just try to stop us! Case in point, this Chuang Tzu quote. Just when I was feeling as though the unknown were about to engulf me, this quote stops me in my tracks with its freakin’ logic and wisdom. How dare you, Chuang Tzu. Of course I don’t know what’s going to happen! No one ever knows what’s going to happen and any sense of that idea is an illusion. But I embrace that illusion! That is my happy illusion!

I think it’s funny how often little gems such as this fall into your path just when you need them. Or maybe we notice them more when they pertain to what’s happening in our lives. Who knows. Either way, it made me smile. And breathe.

livelaughlove_vases Apparently this was my lesson for the day. Thank you, Chuang Tzu. I will try to stay centered and I will work on acceptance.

I will not accept, however, that my house is smelly. And if it is, it’s my stench and that of my most beloved. But I will consider cleaning out the bottom of the toaster oven—just in case.

clutter is not the worst thing that can happen

Not cleaning made my life better. BR_mess2 That makes me sound gross which is not entirely accurate. Clean bathrooms, clean kitchen—totally. I HATE crumbs and sticky food messes—they seriously gross me out. And nasty stuff in the kitchen sink drain totally freaks me out. But that’s not what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about is your average, day-to-day crap pile. Mostly, this will be from the kids. If you don’t have kids, it will be from your husband. If you don’t have a husband, it will be from you. I haven’t really covered all the possible living-arrangement scenarios, and I strongly believe in being all-inclusive, so please simply insert your own configuration here, confident in the the knowledge that I embrace all of you.

That average, day-to-day crap pile used to make me raving nuts. Mean Mommy. Grouchy Wife. Seriously grumpy. I would reach the end of every single day and grudgingly, angrily, hostilely clean up that crap pile. Put everything back in its stinkin’ place, resenting every moment it took.

Then I chose not to do that anymore.

(You can do that, too, you know.)

messy_living_room Nothing bad will happen if you only clean that crap pile every 3 days or so. I swear—I totally ignore it most of the time. Trying to get the kids to help was more work than cleaning it myself. While I believe it’s important for kids to understand their responsibility to the home, I also believe that will naturally ripen as they develop. You live the behavior you want to nurture and you encourage them and you keep your expectations low when they are little, lest you find yourself wanting to toss them and their crap piles out the window.

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is only so much you can achieve each day. And peace of mind and body should be one of those things. To give the best of ourselves to our kids we have to recharge. Better to ignore the crap pile and take some time to rejuvenate to ensure you have the best to give.

I did help myself out by cutting back on the clutter that I could—the knick-knacks, the amount of stuff out on the kitchen counter—and I seriously purged in general. I went rather cuckoo—stuff I didn’t really need or care about, duplicate items (do you really need 4,200 towels and 5,300 kitchen gadgets? No, you don’t), all that stuff you keep “just in case” (of what?)—GONE. And it worked—we have space and no more crammed closets and cabinets. That kind of simplifying makes day-to-day tidiness easier to maintain.

BR_mess1 And the crap pile? You clean that every few days. You let it go. Someday the kids won’t drop everything on the floor and throw their stuff around as a matter of course. They will outgrow this behavior. You can let this one go. I swear, you really can.

Easter_candy Speaking of cleaning up, please tell me what the hell I am going to do with this enormous bowl of sugar? Seriously. This is the Easter haul. That is a large-ass bowl pictured right there. There is no way my kids are going to consume all that. Any takers? I will mail it to you. I could stretch this pile out all the way through June—I am notoriously chintzy on doling out the sugar to my little ones. Their idea of a “treat” might shock some in its skimpiness. (But—ssshhhh—they have no idea I’m a cheapie.)

Keep the bar low—it’s how I roll.

holy crap i almost bought a $50 trash bin

Holy crap I almost bought a $50 trash bin. fancy_trash_bin

It never made it out of the van.

I woke one day and decided our white plastic Rubbermaid flip-open trash bin was too ugly to reside in my kitchen any longer. (That’s how it happens—I wake one day and certain things are no longer tolerable. Could happen to almost anything around here. I do suggest Steve watch himself. I mean, I can’t ditch the kids—you can’t just run around being a bad mother. No, I have to keep them. But bad wife really doesn’t carry the same stigma.)

(Steve knows I’m totally kidding. Or am I?)

I considered decoupaging the trash bin—even found instructions on Pinterest and bought a jar of Modge Podge. But then I thought that project might be too crazy even for me. At any rate, that ugly trash bin had to be relegated to some other, less visually obvious duty—such as laundry lint collection—and a new bin would have to be procured. But those stinkin’ fancy stainless trash bins are expensive. And their purpose is to collect trash—I am not immune to that irony, people.

Typically, I try to find fun, frugal ways to solve dilemmas such as suddenly hating a trash bin I’ve lived amongst for several years in perfect but suddenly defunct harmony. I am hesitant to declare that I’m cheap, but I’m kinda cheap. I like bargains, I like consignment shops, I like finding discarded items on the neighbors’ lawns. But that ugly white trash bin had to go and I happened to possess an expired Bed Bath and Beyond coupon! Pretty frugal right there! I called them up and Chantal, who answered the phone, promised to honor the expired coupon and I set off to peruse their glorious inventory of beautiful—not ugly—trash bins. Shiny and sleek, they seduced me, they beckoned with their come-hither loveliness and I chose a stainless beauty with rails to be secured inside the cabinet. That glorious trash bin would swoosh in and out and I could almost pretend there was no trash bin! (Except when I had trash to dump in it.) The measurements were perfect. Clearly, this was fate. I carried it to the counter, lovingly held it close, presented my expired coupon (which the good people at Bed Bath and Beyond did indeed honor) and $54.99 plus tax later, I placed my pretty trash bin in the back of my van and as I pulled away from the store, I suddenly thought Holy crap I just spent $54.99 plus tax on a freakin’ trash bin. Luckily, Target is in the same shopping plaza and I went right in there and bought a white plastic trash bin whose dimensions could be accommodated under the sink (that part of the idea was still good) for $4.97 plus tax (a lot less tax) and returned the shiny one the next day lest I seem nuts having just bought it. I prefer to exhibit my brand of crazy in more subtle, less conscious ways.


Look how gross the floor of my van is. Popcorn, anyone? It's covered in dirt and filth and dead bugs. Yum! Kids just have a knack of knowing how to enhance everything.

This trash bin triumph leads me to relay a less victorious moment. I mentioned a few weeks ago that I had entered my novel, The Mosquito Hours, into a writing contest—big prize, publication with Amazon, waves of accolades. The book made it through the first round, 2000 entrants down to 400—not too shabby.

But that was as far as I got.

I spent about a half hour telling myself it was all over, maybe I was simply no good, I should give up all aspirations and hopes. It was a pitiful 30 minutes.

Then I readjusted.

And that’s what I want to tell you, good people. There is no failure—there is only readjustment. I don’t intend to get all sickly sweet here on you, but one of the things I keep reading and thinking about in all my homeschooling learning and experiences is that there is no failure in homeschool. In homeschool, when you don’t yet know how to read at the age of 7 like you’re “supposed to,” there is not failure in it. There is no comparison. There is only tomorrow and tomorrow to keep on doing. Doing the things that will lead to the reading. There is doing, observing the outcome, doing more.


Do or do not. There is no try.

Where there are no expected outcomes, there can be no failure.

Failure is merely another word for fear. Master Yoda also said, Named must your fear be before banish it you can.

This writing life of mine—this life—is an adventure of doing. I cannot fail. I can make plans, execute them and observe the outcome. I can make adjustments. There is not one singular, right, exact way to do this. There is no try. There is do. I am doing! Look for The Mosquito Hours for your summer beach reading pleasure! It’s happening, people! Fear of failure, hereby banish you do I!


I don’t need the shiny bin, the flashy prize. All I need is to do, readjust, observe and do some more. Place trust in the power of doing.

And never, ever spend $50 on a trash bin.


it’s not an 80’s metal video, people—it’s a baptism


My new red sparkly shoes. They glitter like Dorothy's!

When did it happen that women’s dress shoes started being produced only with heels that topple out at 6 inches?


I attended a baptism this weekend, with the honor of being made godmother to my friend’s son. And I needed some freakin’ shoes to go with the pretty dress Steve gave me for Christmas. The dress is navy with white polka dots and totally adorable.

I simply wanted a basic black pump with a normal sized heel. 6” heels are not so much in order when you are in the moment of becoming a godmother. I’m neither a prude nor a particularly good Catholic, but when you’re in church, you gotta at least look like a godmother and not Tawny Kitaen in a Whitesnake video. (Yes, I did just watch every Whitesnake video available on youtube. Once you start, it’s hard to stop.) Also, I seriously doubt I could walk in those things without looking like a badly produced CGI character. Jar Jar Binks comes to mind.

I did find some cute red pumps and they looked even cuter than black would have. But they were the one pair of shoes I found that did not render me the tallest person in the room. Apparently I am grossly out of the loop on current fashion trends. If you could see what I normally wear—plain long-sleeve shirts, yoga pants and cardigan sweaters—you would most likely not be surprised.


Don’t my sparkly red shoes look pretty with the the socks I happen to have on today? You can’t tell, but I’m wearing a plain long-sleeve shirt, yoga pants and a cardigan sweater. But these shoes do dress things up. Think I’ll go roll around on the hood of the car.

Anyway, my kids had a stomach bug about a 6 weeks ago and then sort of a weird mini-nausea experience the week before last. Didn’t result in barf, just a barfish-feeling. Enough to entirely freak out one of my little girls. It’s been 10 days and she is still carrying around the barf bucket, to which she refers as “the frow-up bucket.” She keeps it close and insists on a towel in her bed at night. She is eating as much as ever—where this little 40 pound kid puts it, I do not know—and is clearly a-okay, yet the bucket persists. She is also suddenly preoccupied with the idea of death. The other night after all the bedtime stories and songs and hijinks and ensuing parental threats of what might befall if they didn’t just GO TO SLEEP, she called me up to inquire, “When am I gonna die?”

Seriously? snow_lily2_2_26

The ever-present bucket.

I recently read Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm by Thich Nhat Hanh. I am well-acquainted with fear myself, most often referred to as “worry” by us grown-ups. The book talked a lot about not fighting fear, but rather embracing it tenderly. When you rail against it, it only gains power. Thich Nhat Hanh—a Buddhist monk—also reminds us to be mindful and present. This is hard work—harder than almost anything, really. At least for me.

Right now, there is a black void of time sort of stretching out in front of me. A long stretch of the unknown. I can picture my life in July—by then we most likely will have moved and I can see us at the beach. Often. (We really like the beach.) But it’s only early March and we have this house to sell and my husband’s employment situation is in flux and therefore our income and I’m not exactly sure when we’ll move or even how I will get everything done that needs to get done in order to place the house on the market and so many things—big and little—are just entirely uncertain right now. It’s all very dark and I can’t even wedge a narrow beam of light in there to get a glimpse of what I might expect. Being present is difficult.

I heard about this thing called “Schrödinger's cat.” I am no physicist—but I watch reruns of The Big Bang Theory from time to time and they talked about Schrödinger's cat on an episode I watched the other day. In a nutshell—with my very shaky understanding of physics—Schrödinger's cat refers to a thought experiment in which you imagine a live cat in a closed box. Now, there is a vial of poison (or something like that) in the box with the cat and at some unknown point in time the poison will have been released, or not. So, until you open the box, you can presume that the cat is both alive and dead since you have no knowledge of whether or not the poison vial is intact or broken. (At least this is what I gleaned from Sheldon’s explanation.)

So, here’s what I think. Life is like Schrödinger's cat. Could be one thing, could be another. Sometimes there is darkness and sometimes there is light and you simply put one foot in front of the other, you breathe in the moment (thank you for the wisdom, Thich Nhat Hanh), you dream your dreams and you smile at your fear.

My little girl and I are going to make it—we’ll navigate our own black corridors. I’ll help her out, since that’s what mamas do, and we’ll travel with the bucket for as long as we must. We all need our talismans, our lucky charms, that which brings magic to our lives. Maybe I’ll wear my red sparkly shoes, dare to dream, and hope those dreams really do come true. (Click, click.)

Hey, so if you haven’t yet had a chance to read any of the short story I have been serializing, I would love it if you did and appreciate your opinion. Here’s what has published so far:

“A Cool Dry Place”—part 1 “A Cool Dry Place”—part 2

Many thanks to you for coming here!

things about which i just found out AND meet my monkey!

Spotify. What!?

How awesome is Spotify? I could waste endless amounts of time with this. Most likely I will. I tend to discover things 500 years after everyone else has. For all I know, there are people out there getting around with jet packs or in fold-up cars or actually using Jedi mind tricks effectively—right now. Like I’ll bet there’s a whole information superhighway out there. I’m sure I’ll soon find out if it’s happened. (Or maybe I just invented something awesome! I’ll call it “cyberspace”!) But holy crap-a-doodle-doo, I could waste a lot of time on Spotify. And what about Pinterest?! How cool is Pinterest? I totally did not get the point of it and then one day I suddenly totally did and now I am wondering how I ever got by without it.

So, I have been giving a great deal of thought to my writing plans for 2013. I am hesitant to call these plans “goals” because goals are way to pressure-y. Plans on the other hand are malleable. Pleasantly jelly-like. Then instead of failing to meet your goals you adjust your plans. See how that works? (And, no—semantics is not a cop-out.)

I had everything sorted out regarding the publication plans for my novel, The Mosquito Hours. I mean pretty well sorted out—the bones of a plan. (I won’t bore you with the details. That’s what Steve is for.) So, I had these lovely plans beginning to coalesce, merge, jellify. Then I decided to enter a big novel writing contest (more on this as it unfolds—if it does indeed unfold) which sort of threw all my plans to chaos. And last night I stayed up until midnight to enter this contest at exactly the moment they began to accept entrants even though I was so wicked tired and I made the mistake of really reading the contest rules and it was rather confusing and I think I may have agreed to something unspeakable and then if I win I have to go to Seattle and that will involve, presumably, a ride in a plane and I don’t like that and do I even want a book contract in the first place and should I keep editing The Mosquito Hours or move on to one of my other novels-in-progress and this goes on but I will stop now just at the point before your ears start to bleed.

(You’re welcome.)

There is a concept in Buddhism known as monkey mind. Here I present an excerpt from Taming the Monkey Mind by Thubden Chodron (1995):

The monkey mind is a term sometimes used by the Buddha to describe the agitated, easily distracted and incessantly moving behaviour of ordinary human consciousness... Once he observed: “Just as a monkey swinging through the trees grabs one branch and lets it go only to seize another, so too, that which is called thought, mind or consciousness arises and disappears continually both day and night...” Anyone who has spent even a little time observing his own mind and then watched a troop of monkeys will have to admit that this comparison is an accurate and not very flattering one.

monkey1 Meet my monkey, dear reader! Isn’t she cute? (She’s not cute.)

After my monkey started going berserk last night, I couldn’t settle down. (Really? you say. I totally know you’re being sarcastic.) That stupid monkey tore back and forth around the joint and roosted in the rafters to throw poop down on any reasonable and calm thoughts that might happen to make their way through my vibrating gray matter. I finally fell asleep but had this terrifying dream that I was in a treehouse and was inexplicably filled with dread and doom and my husband had to wake me because I guess I was whimpering. Then I dreamed that I was lost and couldn’t get home and there was some really urgent reason why I needed to get home. Then some kid woke me by climbing into bed and kicking me repeatedly. Then I dreamed I was making out with this really cute boy. That wasn’t so bad. Then some other kid woke me. But that time I didn’t dream anything. And then my son woke me at 7:00 to ask me if I was awake.

I feel better today. My monkey is definitely tamer while the sun shines. The Buddha said to work towards deer mind. “Deer are particularly gentle creatures and always remain alert and aware no matter what they are doing.” So, I will work on my edits, take one moment at a time, see what unfolds and calmly and mindfully respond to whatever it might be. And cultivate deer mind.

monkey2 And occasionally, when the monkey gets to flinging poop, I will retreat into Spotify. It’s happy in there and very sedate. And you can make playlists of songs from the '90s when you were 20 and hot and one called “old timey mellow mix” with artists like Gerry Rafferty and Seals and Crofts.

Don’t worry. I’ll find what sustains me. We all will.

You've been as constant as a Northern Star The brightest light that shines