Accepting more than Expecting

champagne-and-chocolates1On Valentine’s Days past I have written about loving oneself, one’s friends, one’s family, one’s pets. I have written – convincingly, if I do say so myself – about how love is all around. That we don’t need flowers, hearts, champagne, and chocolates from a spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend/partner to make us happy. I wrote these things so well that I believed them year-round – for a decade or more.

Until this year.

For some reason this year, I expected well wishes to come pouring in. I thought I’d have some flowers. A champagne toast. At least an overpriced Hallmark greeting. Nope. Didn’t happen.

Perhaps it was the 50th birthday induced hangover? Lots of well wishes there, so the same would surely continue? Well, that’s not what happened. Dad and Mom sent a chocolate treat. Nothing from the sons. Nothing – not even a text – from a couple of friends who I thought would send a greeting at the very least. And, for the first time in recent memory there was a person from whom I really hoped for a greeting. Nothing doing.

I fell into a funk. A pretty deep funk. My disappointment was aided by the fact that I have had a terrible cold that has morphed into what seems to be the flu. My discouragement was enlarged by the fact that being sick has prevented me from going to the gym, so endorphins are nowhere to be found. This whole bummer of a holiday was compounded by the fact that youngest son decided to be a full-on teenager today.

So, what happened? Why, after a decade of preaching the virtues of treating myself and loving my friends, have I found myself in tearful disappointment at the end of the day on Valentine’s Day?

I had a friend in college who spent every Valentine’s Day – classes or not; frat party or no – in bed all day in her sweats, crying. I don’t clearly remember why. A broken heart, a returned ring, and general abandonment all played roles in her yearly depression. I don’t know what she thought was going to happen. Did she have a Gatsbyesque hope that the past would repeat itself and all would be set right? Was she waiting for a fairy godmother to wave a wand and cure whatever ailed her mid-February heart? what-screws-us-up-most-in-life-is-the-picture-in-our-head-of-how-its-supposed-to-be

It was all – for her back then, as it was for me today – a matter of expectations. And, if you are finding yourself in a Netflix and no champagne Valentine’s evening, perhaps it is the same for you. Did you expect something that didn’t happen? Was someone supposed to treat you and failed?  If we expect things that we can’t make happen or if we are unable communicate those needs to someone else who wants to make things happen, we set ourselves up for disappointment.

America has a thing with holidays – especially those that mean consumer indulgence. America has a way of making sure that we all know that someone else is having a better, bigger, happier holiday than we are. Most of us tow that line, buy into the commercials and the competition. I feel like that’s what I did this year.

For whatever off-kilter reasons, I expected things from the world on this February 14; I made up scenarios rather than living life. I constructed a way it was supposed to be, and that was my recipe for disaster. Now, as soon as I get over this cold, I will get to the gym, adjust my outlook, and go – as my mom used to say – onward and upward.

Until then, remember that I have been right in the past:  Love yourself. Love your friends, family, pets, and neighbors. Tell them you care. Show them you are there for them. Make every day one filled with more accepting and less expecting.


More than a Blue Moon

More than a decade ago, my sister called me before she left for a professional conference. I wasn’t home. She left a message. I heard the message, and I decided I’d just talk to her when she got back from the conference.

Yesterday was my birthday. Along with all the Facebook-prompted well wishes, I was the glad recipient of other birthday greetings throughout the day. Friends sent texts. One friend sent flowers. Another sent balloons. Yet another took me out to lunch. I received chocolates. Youngest son tagged along tolerantly while I wandered through my favorite book store. There were a few presents, some cake, a flute too many of champagne. It felt good to realize that people were thinking of me; that others cared; that some went out of their way and incurred expense on my behalf. I felt special.

blue-moon-treeThen, as I am wont to do, I got to thinking. And then overthinking: why don’t we do such things for others that we care about on a regular basis? Why should well wishes, Facebook-prompted or not, be limited to a birthday? Don’t we want our friends and loved ones to know what they mean to us? To feel special?

I know: life moves fast. The news bombards us. Traffic stalls. Budgets are tight. People get sick. Dogs have to be walked. There’s laundry to do. And supper to plan. Cats throw up.  Oh, and work. The kids need transporting. I own a vacuum cleaner for a reason. I need to make summer plans at the beginning of February. And, youngest son has a vocal concert. Then . . . then . . . then . . . sometimes I have so much to do that I do nothing. Still and all, it’s easy to be distracted by the tyranny of the urgent.

But maybe you’re different.

You likely think of others more readily than I. Maybe you make the unexpected phone call because you want to hear a smile. You send greeting cards on time for anniversaries and birthdays.  Are you the person who picks up a scone for a colleague who you know is struggling?  You might even be one of those grand romantic gesture people, standing outside with a portable stereo over your head a la John Cusack. Perhaps you simply answer the phone instead of checking to see who is calling and groaning and hitting the “decline” button.

We all want to feel remembered, answered, cared for: it’s natural. I wonder if I can do a better job of this: caring for others in the way they need. I wonder if I can listen to people’s hearts better. Might I help someone feel special? Maybe I can take a breath and really hear what someone is trying to say to me.  Can I return calls promptly instead of spending time crafting an apology about why I didn’t call back?

Maybe I can.

Maybe I won’t miss anyone else’s last call.




There is a dark at the end of the tunnel of this week for many of us. The looming transition of power worries or horrifies 4245115019_68ff9e4355many people in our country. I have read real news; I have seen the memes; I have watched some speeches. I’m among the scared and horrified. There is a scarcity of joy in much of this country; even for much of the world as January 20 approaches.

There isn’t anything I can do to stop January 20 from coming, but I can do things in real life. I can engage in purposeful activities to manifest joy for others and for myself. I can make a difference for my community; I can be a source of comfort for friends and neighbors. I can make choices.

I am part of groups: a writing group and an activism group. Both address equality, creativity, social justice, understanding, and the power of voice. By conversing with and learning from others, I can check my perspective, broaden my horizon, engage with others in social justice. I can also support others in their creative lives.

I have signed up to get training (not sure a 20 year teaching vet needs it, but…it’s required, so okay) to teach English and assist with cultural information for refugee populations in my community. I have lived abroad, and it’s not easy when you choose do this, much less when you flee for your life to a country where some neighbors may not want you to be there. I choose to help marginalized families.

Poverty is everywhere, and I can’t solve that problem; but years ago my sister and I gave my parents a Kiva loan as a present, and I continue to reinvest it in women’s businesses.  Our measly contribution has been reloaned in five different countries to support five different businesses, including a bar and a sewing shop. I have a friend who sponsors and visits two children in other countries. Choices to support others in our world.

From an early age, I learned that love is love. It doesn’t matter who you love. People are damn lucky to find someone to love who loves them back –  gender, shape, color, geography, culture – none of that matters. I celebrate your love with you, and I will fight for your love with you.

bbd9a73ca9d14cf9647799c6d308a325At any given moment, I can make a choice to make someone’s life better. I can make a choice to speak out. I can make a choice to support others. I can make a choice to love.

Can I let someone with two items go in front of me at the grocery store and then pay for my 23 things? Yes. Would I make a road trip snack pack for a friend who is traveling to take care of an ill parent? Sure. Will I support my friends’ successes and happinesses without envy? Yep. Might I sit in the hospital room while you doze and recover from surgery? Absolutely. Should we hold hands and talk earnestly about what matters to us? Always. Little things perhaps, in light of the world’s precarious situation, but every bit of good helps.

As David Foster Wallace suggested, the day-in and day-out of adult life is filled with frustrating crap  – regardless of and sometimes because of who is in Washington – but, we can choose what we do.

What are you going to do?






On Going to Pride: Outsiders and Disrupters

Let me introduce myself.

I’m a divorced woman.

I’m a poet and writer.

I’m a dog owner.

I’m a mother.

I’m a book reader.

I’m a sister.

I’m a broccoli-disliker and a nacho-lover.

I’m a music listener.

I’m a college graduate.

I’m a cat owner.

I’m an aunt.

I’m an educator.

I’m a traveler.

I’m a daughter.

I’m a TV watcher.

I’m a car driver.

I’m an exercise avoider, but I try to do it anyway.

I’m a grandma-to-be.

I’m straight.

I’m going to Pride today.

To the LGBTQ+ community: I am attending your event because I support everyone on their path – in love, life, career, safety, and community. Pride is not about me nor is it for me per se. I get that. To be really honest, I probably would not come out today on my own. My middle school son is gay, and he wants to come. So, I’m there to support him. I have college-age son who is gay, and so I’m there because I want him to be safe everywhere: on campus, in a club, walking down a street.

I read a couple of articles this week that suggested that because I’m straight, I do not understand what it is to be gay. Right. That’s true. As is the reverse. Being whoever you are is unique to you; we are lucky or blessed to find communities in which we can be ourselves and feel safe in doing so. And, for LGBTQ+ persons, that experience is rare, especially inside a society that finds it easier to look on those who are “other” as some kind of zoo exhibit. I am there (and I’m sure there are others) as a straight person who cares about the kind of world we have now and for the future.

To the would-be protesters and disrupters: Stay the fuck home. I would be willing to bet that the last community event that was held for a group you are a part of, no one protested or disrupted. When was the last time a group of anyone bounced into your gathering with mean-spirited signs, rude gestures, and yelling? I’d be willing to bet it was never. My mother and grandmother used to say, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”  And, yeah, I get the tiredness of that cliché, but that doesn’t make it any less.

You are protesting who someone is. Think about that for a minute. No, really. Pause and think about it. You have actively sought out people in order to protest who they are. Your intent is what? To intimidate them into being who they are not? To drive them underground? To assuage some sort of undefined fear you have? How about I seek you out and protest that fact that you are heterosexual? Shall I throw epithets at you because you have brown hair? How’d you like threatening signage to greet you in your community because your family is third generation from Norway? Think about it. Stay home.

To everyone: if you have read this post, you realize that I am not digging into the myriad of serious issues around Pride and the LGBTQ+ community. I do not have authenticity of voice to do that. Sure, I could spend some sentences whining about how I’m an ally and now I read that the LGBTQ+ community objects to my being at Pride or wants to devalue me in some way or even downright doesn’t want me at Pride.  Wait, so if I feel marginalized and not included for who I am and how I’m living . . . whoa, did I just have a second of actually walking in someone else’s shoes?

Look back at my introductory list, you will find that whoever you are, you probably have more in common with me than you think.

Regardless of sexual identity, we all have things in common. And, if we can start with the things we all love and care about, I want to hope that the differences will fall away like so much dross at the end of the day.

Let’s try at least. Love.

Happy Pride to everyone.



Gone to the Dogs

I did it again. I briefly ventured into the morass that is online dating. Interestingly, I saw many of the same faces, narrated by the same demands as I saw last year.

I read a good number of alarming sentences. “I spend a lot of time thinking about: the the-online-dating-ecosystem_50290b8d29fb4_w1500supper girl of my dreams.” No thanks, Hannibal.  There’s the vacuous: “I’m really good at: being with like-minded people.” No shit, Sherlock. How about Mr. Run-on: “Hi,my name is T, I’m divorced and am looking for a woman that will complete me,I enjoy the outdoors, fishing,I have a kawasaki 4×4 side by side to play in.” Paging Warriner’s First Edition. How about boring sexual innuendo man: “I’m really good at: wouldn’t u like to know?” No, no I would not.

Then, there’s the guy who messaged me who said he’s dominant, married, and just wants to chat with someone. When I told him to go chat with his wife he took umbrage to that. Still, he messaged me two more times; he was just begging to be blocked. There’s a host of scammers who can be spotted a mile away by anyone who took Linguistics 101 in college. And of course, those who use the same message for every email they send “Wasup?”; these guys occasionally get inventive: “Wasup? U dtf?”

Then, we have the screen names! Oh, the screen names! JoedaBoss. No, I was married to two of those. How about fordtuff? Nope, I’m looking for a date, not a car. Interested in papadan? I said date not dad. Niceguycr? If you have to say you’re a nice guy, I’m going to bet that you’re not.

image6So, yeah. The landscape is not that different than twelve or eighteen months ago. I closed the laptop and took my dog to the dog park. I walked around and Jasper frolicked with a boxer mix, two poodles of questionable parentage, a basset hound, and a host of mutts. Dogs of all sizes, shapes, abilities, and personalities sniffed each other, shared a water bowl, and ran around. They made friends. They grouped up and then dispersed. They were all happy. Oh sure, an occasional growl, but nothing that the breeze didn’t blow away.

Then it hit me.

We should take all the online dating sites offline and make dating parks in exactly the same model as dog parks. Large spaces to move around, sniff each other, and then move on or hang out a bit. We could walk around alone, in a pair, or in a group. We would all be required to bring a handler: you know, someone responsible to pick up our shit, make sure we behave, and put us on the leash if we act up. These handlers could walk a third of a mile track while the rest of us tried to make friends.

I know what you’re thinking: that’s a bar. Nope. This is outside. And only water allowed. If we have good handlers, they might bring training treats to give us if we come when we are called. And, at the end of the outing, everyone has to go home with their handler. No hookups allowed. Oh sure, you can exchange numbers or whatever, but that initial meeting is just that: a meeting. No overly contrived profiles. No screen names. No ridiculous cliches. No lists of demands. No promises of pampering.

Just people.

Meeting people.




What To Do

One of my children came out to me with a cookie cake. Another one made a pronouncement while I was in the midst of berating his brother about incomplete homework. The last one continues to tell me important stuff via snapchat, cookie cake, and occasional dance shows.

Lately, an inordinate amount of controversy, mud-slinging, conversation, hatred, and general being an asshole has surrounded gay marriage, restroom use, and other various and sundry social topics.

I don’t know about everything, but I can tell you what to do when your child comes out to you. But first, a quick primer: coming out can mean any number of things. Your child may come out as gay, transgender, or other labels that we have to put on people to define them so we feel comfortable. Your child may come out as a football fan, a curling aficionado, a surfer, a pizza maker, or even . . . wait for it . . . a Chicago Cubs fan.

Whatever your child identifies as, you have ONE job as a parent: love your kid.

That’s it. Easy.

It was easy enough for you when the blob emerged from the cut-open uterus or slithered out of your partner’s vagina or cuddled up to you in the orphanage lounge or caught your heart through foster care.

Why is it hard when the person you would give your life for defines his/her/their personhood? Why is it hard when your child does what you have always taught him/her/them to do: think for themselves?

Love your kid.

Your child may grow up to be similar to you. He/She/They might not.

It does not matter.

He/She/They are a person. Love your kid.

I am continually stunned by the number of otherwise normally reasonable adults who believe their children should be mini-mes. Maybe – just maybe – that worked in another generation – maybe, but I doubt it. Regardless, your job is to love your kid.

You might not understand everything. Love your kid. You might have trouble with pronouns. Love your kid. You might have objections. Love your kid.

Seriously. That’s all there is to it: love your kid.






VD: Time for a Little Self-Love

MCA little Valentine’s Day quiz. I am: (a) cuddled in bed with a lover  (b) looking forward to a romantic dinner with a partner (c) wistfully wishing for a lover and thinking about re-installing Tinder (d) none of the above.*

In the year 2016 in America, we have a holiday wherein we celebrate love – emphasizing romantic love. However, a cursory perusal of history sites and Wikipedia tells me that this holiday that carries the name of three martyred saints who became quite popular in England and France. Our holiday also aligns with a pagan festival  that involved animal sacrifices and slapping women with the bloody animal hide. Our celebration then, is of death and blood? Or love? It can feel like both, regardless of your relationship status.

Still, greeting card factories and florists need to make a living too, and so we forge on. I had a friend in college who spent every Valentine’s Day in bed. No amount of cajoling, sympathy, or even alcohol could get her up and out. I have a couple of current friends who bemoan this “holiday.” The women wail because they have no love to buy them flowers and treat them; the men gnash teeth because of societally generated expectations. (If that’s you guys – don’t forget about the holiday on March 14.)

I say dispense with expectations and teeth-gnashing and focus on the love. The love must always begin at home, with ourselves.

Don’t just SAY “Yeah, yeah, I know, I have to love myself, blah, blah, blah . . . ” but you must actually ACT on that. Maybe you need a day of couch surfing and Netflix binging to recharge; perhaps a long walk and fresh air; a chunk of time spent reading or journaling; maybe go build something, plan something, or putter in the garage? Whatever it is, as middle son says, take time and “treat yoself.” Because once you do that, you’ll be more willing and able to treat others.

Since it looks like we’re stuck with Valentine’s Day for the foreseeable future, we can at least do it right. Make it really about authentic love for our partners, our kids, our pets, our friends, but first of all: love for ourselves. If what we do is genuine, then this mid-winter shower of red and white might be less like a martyrdom or the pagan sacrificing of a a goat and a dog (for fertility and purification, respectively) on the festival of Lupercalia, and more like a moment just to celebrate the people we care about.

Join me.

(*answer: (d) none of the above: I’m having a cappuccino, watching the snow fall, and reading the Sunday NYT.)


All the Things

all the thingsOn the eve of the start of my fiftieth year, I will tell you all the things.

Adding age is good in almost every respect. It is easier to take care of oneself because the main opinion I value is my own. Whether I do kettlebells, wear make-up, listen Phil Collins, choose skirts instead of pants, eat potato chips depends on what I want to do. Not what my friends are doing – what Oprah suggests – or if my mom likes it.

Friends mean something. Friends are not just people to party with; they are the people who have similar hobbies, are free for a chat, make time in schedules. Sure, this can happen at any age; however, it feels a little deeper now than it did in my younger years. Maybe I just value this more now that work, children, car maintenance, yard work, and laundry can get in the way.

Things count. But not everything counts. Stupid or serious mistakes – from a bad haircut to a job you hated to an ill-advised marriage – all can be forgiven. Decide what counts for you and hold on to that until it doesn’t serve you any more – then re-decide.

Heartbreaks are real and can crack pretty deeply. The depth of emotion that I feel now is something I either denied myself ordying.morrie was incapable of previously. My biggest heartbreaks have had nothing to do with romance. Everyone’s heart breaks differently; be gentle with each other and with yourself.

Everybody gets to do their own thing. Debating politics, publishing writing, watching sports, making wine, hiking canyons, investing stocks, growing flowers, reading books, racing cars, playing music, fly fishing, stage acting, shooting skeet, watching birds: whatever. Everyone gets to do their own thing, and nothing is better or worse than anything else  – it’s just different. Respect.

Sharing joy is better than being jealous. In younger years I was envious sometimes, and it was hard to be not jealous when friends had things I didn’t have: a marriage; a bigger house; a vacation. Some years ago it was the fashion to say, “I’m so jealous” when someone had something good happened. Seeking contentment allows more graciousness and shared joy.

Maybe that’s not all the things – but, it’s some of them. Anyone who – at any age-  claims to know stuff for sure or have all the things under control might be a little delusional – fun to listen to perhaps –  but probably a little nuts. In any case, we all make our own way together.

Join me.





The One With Lots of Moments

“I would give up the unessential; I would give my money, I would give my life for my children; but I wouldn’t give myself.”

When my older two boys were young, Thursday nights were for pizza, Seinfeld and Friends, and Legos.  When middle son was home this past Christmas break, “I’ll Be There for You” played more than once. More than ten times, actually. Tonight I am sitting at home alone (youngest is at show choir rehearsal), and I have 3,439,656 things I need to do. What am I doing? Getting teary and watching “Friends” reruns.

calvin and hobbes.precious

Let me be clear: I am not going to tell anyone that the days when my boys were young were the best days of my life, but they were fun, messy, screamy, muddy, happy, sandy, wet, teary, wordy, joyful, sleepless, soccer-filled, sad, book-lined, Barneyful, and those days went by all too fast. Now, I am the mother of three young men.

Do I miss their little boy days? Not really. How about those awkward pre-teen years? Nope. The struggling middle school and high school years? Not at all.  All of those days define who they are now just as much they give shape to me. Perhaps now that our shared history centers around college breaks and text messages, I’m nostalgic.  Maybe I just now have had a minute to catch my breath and realize that certain parts of our lives are over. And maybe I’m a little sad about that.

Don’t misunderstand. I am interested in the unique projects that eldest son is working on. I am happy that middle son is in college, doing well, and is busy if not stressed in his endeavors. Youngest son is in middle school, and he is blessedly in show choir rather than baseball. These are all good things.

As I think about the close my first half-century,  I am forced to re-examine who I am and how I spend my time. Refusing invitations and staying home with the boys was easy for me. Clinging to every day of summer and winter and spring school breaks came naturally to all of us. Now, by and large, it’s just me, and I get to see whether or not I gave up the unessential or if I did, indeed, give up myself.

Having the time and freedom to be and develop myself  is problematic and intoxicating. I know there are women who transition from being a mom of kids at home to a mom of college kids to grandma quite fluently – albeit not necessarily easily. In reality, I’m alone a lot – probably a little too much. The chaos of three sons has fled, replaced by the complacency of a jaded 14 year-old. Frustration sets in when I remind myself that I have only a few minutes until that kid goes off to do his own thing, too. But still, I’m exhilarated because right now is kind of like being a teenager who can drink, has no curfew, and can join any clubs she wants.

Really, there’s just as much to balance and participate in now as there was when the boys were little; it’s just different. A couple friends of mine have mourned when they had hysterectomies. They had no intentions of having any more children – it was just a lock on a door – no going back. Another friend mourned the sale of her first house; her family needed the space, but she knew the sweetness of the days in that house would never come again. Moments come and go, and it isn’t until they’ve gone that we realize they aren’t coming back.

calvin and hobbes.changesWherever we are, we might want to have a look around, wrap ourselves in the present, realizing that as soon as we get comfortable life will change. Children will grow. Marriages will be proposed. Houses will sell. Opportunities will show up.

Join me.





A Christmas Parable

Years ago when I was a child, a package appeared in our village. A box wrapped simply: brown butcher paper and a red bow. No one
knew where it came from nor what to do with it. There were long months of talk about the package. Priests said it was a harbinger of doom and should be destroyed; commoners suggested we should open it and allow fate – bad or good – to take its course. Scholars could find no mention of such a happening in the histories of any of the villages. Tradesman thought we might sell the package to buy goods. Arguments, gossip, and schoolyard banter swirled around the mystery.

Solstice came and the decision was taken to mark the occasion by opening the package. At the midnight hour we all gathered, and the elders carefully removed the wrapping and set it aside. The most perfectly faceted gem was lifted from the box, and as the icy air hit it, a red-purple light penetrated every soul. We were, from infants to elders, mute in awe the gift lifted from its ordinary container. A warmth that surrounded every person, an invitation to acceptance and pure love. We stood in wonderment.

The reverie was broken when someone lunged at the gem, knocking it off the pedestal. A scuffle mutated into an outright fist fight among men and women alike. Children bit and clawed alongside their elders. The light began to fade as the gem was knocked about in the dust, but no one seemed to notice. It was as if the entire village had a singular goal: to get the gem for themselves only. Greed and fear obscured the light and love that had embraced us just moments earlier. The brawl continued until dawn when a man yelled out, “It’s gone!”

As if on cue, the townspeople, bedraggled, cold, tired, and defeated saw the wrapping that had been set aside so carefully. It fluttered in the wind at the edge of the well. Hands grabbed, elbows flew, eyes were blackened, and the wrapping was torn. People went home with tiny bits of ribbon while priests took shreds of the wrapping to their temples, ensconcing them in protective glass behind locked doors. The gem was gone entirely.

Many years have passed, and there are those who have never heard the story of the package; but we hear rumors that the gem is still near our village. One fisherman told us he saw such a light in a shallow at the river, and as he dove to retrieve what he thought was the gem, he felt filled with kindness and love. But, he was unable to bring back the gem. Once a child said she found the gem under some moss in the forest. She told a fantastic story of playing with and talking to it. No one believed her then, and we labeled her simple. She still wanders in the forest, gathering flowers and talking to herself.

Now, the priests retell the story of the gem and reveal the remnants of the wrapping twice a year. In homes, the story of that winter solstice has been passed down, but no one dwells upon it; to do so would be to mourn the loss of the purity of the compassion and mercy we felt in the all too brief light.