31 December 2014

good reads

In 2014, I read...
  1. The Gifts of Imperfection  (B. Brown) -- 1/8
  2. We are Water (W. Lamb) -- 1/10
  3. David and Goliath (M. Gladwell) -- 1/12
  4. The Rosie Project (G. Simsion) -- 2/17
  5. Bringing Up Boys (J. Dobson) -- 2/21
  6. Purple Hibiscus (C. Adichie) -- 3/8
  7. *Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone* (J.K. Rowling) -- 3/8
  8. *The Husband's Secret* (L. Moriarty) -- 3/18
  9. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (J.K. Rowling) -- 4/11
  10. *I Remember Nothing* (N. Ephron) --4/14
  11. The Hunger Games (S. Collins) -- 4/25
  12. I Feel Bad About my Neck (N. Ephron) -- 5/2
  13. *Catching Fire* (S. Collins) -- 5/12
  14. Mocking Jay (S. Collins) -- 5/20
  15. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (J.K. Rowling) -- 5/20
  16. Heartburn (N. Ephron) -- 6/1... ehhh.
  17. The Rest of Us (J. Lott) -- 6/22... yuck!
  18. Every Last One (A. Quindlen) -- 7/23
  19. Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls ( D. Sedaris) -- 8/8
  20. The One and Only (E. Giffin) -- 8/15
  21. The Heart of the Matter (E. Giffin) -- 9/2
  22. *The E-Myth* (M. Gerber) -- 9/10
  23. *The Abascal Way* (K. Abascal) -- 9/19
  24. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire -- 9/21
  25. *The Boys in the Boat* (D.J. Brown) -- 11/6
  26. *Me Before You* (J. Moyes) -- 11/15
My 2014 fiction book of the year is...

And my 2014 non-fiction and all around book of the year is...

30 December 2014


It's been a good year. 
Thank you. 

10 December 2014

catching fire

It's raining cats and dogs outside. Although my space heater purrs on the far side of the room, my hands still feel cold. I'm wrapped in my blanket poised to write. 

Gratefully, there's wood in the wheelbarrow right outside the door and dry kindling in a large feed bag. I strike a match and shortly thereafter, the kindling ignites. 

I return to my chair, to my blank screen -- a world of infinite possibilities. I read a few page in my book, take notes in my journal, and return to the empty page. I check email, update photos, send a couple texts, then gingerly place my fingers: A,S,D,F *space bar* J,K,L;

Tap, tap... tap, tap... tap, tap... Percussion, rhythm, flying fingers. I free write. Anything that comes to mind, I put down on the page. Nonsense, Jibberish. Random thoughts come freely. What wishes to be written, I ask the question I've asked a hundred times before. I could write about this, I could write about that... I feel cold. My fire has fizzled. Silence.

I place a second firestarter and strike another match.  My belly growls, a flame flickers. I cut up an apple, scoop up some cashew butter, and return to my chair. Delicious. 

Tap, tap, tap, tap... more nonsense, no substance. The fireplace has quickly grown cold once more. 

I pad across the room in fuzzy blue slippers -- my blanket brushes the floor behind me. I open the back door, step outside and a gush of cold air grabs hold of me and won't let go. With more kindling clutched in cold hands, I kneel before the wood stove for a third time this rainy, writing afternoon. Carefully and methodically, I stack kindling, place logs, strike a match and shut the door. 

I return to my chair, open a new window, stare at the blank screen and wait. What wishes to be written, I ask again and again. 

A rush of frigid air sneaks up behind me; Paul is home. His cheeks are rosy, his eyes sparkle. He sits down beside me and tells me about his day. He grants me the gift of an extra hour to write, then leaves to pick up the kids from school. "You started a fire," he notes with gratitude on his way out the door. 

I started a fire. 

Glowing coals rest at the base of the stove, and ribbons of red and orange wrap and dance and sway around charred logs. The stove hums, the wood crackles. It's a beautiful sight to behold. 

Finally, I feel warm.

19 November 2014


I've had trouble writing recently, and somewhere along the way, I've picked up a bug.

Just show up to the page, I've been told before. So I’m here. And I’m stuck. Stuffed up. Bogged down. Running slowly. Frozen. Staring at white space and waiting. I am willing, yet the words are slow and stubborn. Agonizingly slow.

The lights are low, my mind is muddled, my head heavy, and it hurts to sit erect. Crumpled Kleenex litters the floor, I ache and my nose is stuffy. I've been moving through this morning like molasses. If given the opportunity, I’d gratefully pull a cap over my eyes, a quilt up to my chin and get back in bed.

But I said I’d be here. So I’m here. The screen freezes.

My computer ponders and processes. A wheel spins around and around and around and around. With neither my prompting nor permission, a new webpage opens. Then another. Then another. I can’t close them quickly enough. I can’t back up. I can’t proceed. I can’t shut down. I’m stuck on this page of popups and warning messages. Of blinking lights and frenetic, flashing text.

I’m trying, but give me a break! It feels impossible to write, when being prodded, pushed back and provoked. Sequential and relentless, pop up messages declare – your computer is unprotected.  Your computer is unprotected. YOUR COMPUTER IS UNPROTECTED – OKAY!!

Treat your craft as you might a lover or a friend, I've also been told. I need to blow my nose.

This relationship feels strained. I promised and I’m committed, but my head aches, and these little buggers are bothering me. I feel frustrated and befuddled. A virus has seeped in, and it’s shutting me out. I feel doubt. I feel smothered and stuck, and I’m unsure how to get out of this muddy mess.

Step back? Step Up? Shut down? Get help?

Writing means the world and matters to me. Somehow, someway, I’ll find a way to keep showing up. I have to believe that this too shall pass. There is always a way, and I’ll find it. I’ll sniffle and sneeze and trudge through if I must. And I’ll trust that the view along the way will make the aches and stains worthwhile.

Until next time.

12 November 2014


"This life is just as it should be."

05 November 2014

is this seat taken?

Fifteen minutes prior to showtime, the overflow lot was nearly full. The theater was atwitter with anticipation. 

"Is this seat taken?" I asked. It was. 

I scanned the room, noted a spattering of marginally familiar faces, then located an empty seat. Over and around a course of legs and bags, I settled in. I stuck out like a palm tree in a desert of white faces with fifty shades of grey hair. Undoubtedly, I was the youngest person in the room -- by decades. 

This morning, the Friends of Langley Library presented librarian and author, Nancy Pearl

I've been looking forward to her visit for weeks. 

Two weeks ago, I invited a beloved girlfriend -- an in-pencil friend -- to join me, and she accepted. I invited her knowing that she has a big heart, she makes big plans fueled by good intentions, but follow-through isn't her forte. My friend worries incessantly, bears the weight of the world on her shoulders and often feels unwell. I never use ink to mark down our dates, and I only assume I will see her when I actually do. I have a handful of friends such as this. And another handful otherwise.

So 45 minutes prior to showtime, on the heels of a forseeable cancellation, I sighed with a mixture of disappointment and relief and decided to go solo.

Another friend and I spoke earlier this week about loneliness. She described a dull heartache and longing for her person. Although I tried to empathize, she explained that my brand of lonely is not the same as hers. "You ALWAYS have someone around in your world," she said. "If you ever feel lonely, you can roll over in bed and have someone to talk to." True, but crammed in the theater this morning -- a nameless book lost in a library -- I was reminded of our conversation. 

Yes, I am currently writing this post during the pauses in a conversation with Maya about Greek Mythology, while Cole happily crunches on his afternoon snack and interjects the details of his day. Yes, I have shared my bed with Paul for 13+ years, and felt secure that if I ever need to roll over and talk, I almost always can. Nevertheless, I too have cried hot, sloppy, achy tears. Some of the loneliest times in my life have been in the company of both family and friends. 

Silently, I sat in the hum and hullabaloo of conversation around and about me this morning. The librarians with front row seats whispered in one another's ears. A woman cackled, the man beside me leaned across my lap to make small talk, two women waved and called out to their tardy companions, and the taken seats in front of me were filled. A lonely situation, indeed, however I felt anything but. With notepad in hand, I took note. 

An empty stage. An area rug. A vase with fall flowers atop a tall black table. A microphone in its stand... 

I thought of my friends -- my persons of present and of old -- and I sighed. Oh, how our friendships have changed. The connections -- most fewer and farther between -- they are quiet and different. Such is this time and this season. 

I giggled when I looked around this room full of mature strangers, each of us gathered mid-morning with something important in common: a love of books. My people. And as the over head lights dimmed and a soft spotlight warmed the microphone, I thought of my closest friend of late, whose company I covet and quite enjoy -- the sore thumb sitting in my seat.

"The books I recommend rarely have anything in common," Nancy began. "But in this year's list, I would say there is a common thread. It is connections."

22 October 2014


" Believe in what you don't yet understand."

15 October 2014


It begins. 

A magnificent maple tree towers in the expanse of our backyard. Mighty arms stretch skyward, and offer fists full of chestnut, gold, green and tangerine to the clouds. A raging gale blows, leaves pirouette from above and fall to the ground below. A bountiful harvest of hand prints scatter green grass until it is no longer so. Soon we will rake, and we will rake, and still the leaves will fall. 

A storm returns. A flame is kindled. A bittersweet glow from the hearth, breathes warmth inside while heavy rain thunders upon the roof. The cleats, socks and shoes that once littered the front porch -- now soaked through -- rest beneath the wood stove. A cornucopia of laces, canvas and leather patiently wait to be warm and dry once more.

Night falls midday upon this sleepy Wednesday afternoon. The rain abates, tall trees sway, the windows rattle, the doors wiggle, a distant siren wails, and I'm reminded how kept and surrounded we are. With a rustle, a shimmy, a twinkle, a glow and then a shift, this day most certainly declares, autumn indeed has returned.  

08 October 2014

Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.

It was Spring. And I was in fifth grade. Or maybe it was sixth.

Early in the week, my friend Allison invited me to go to her house to play Friday after school. I pleaded with my parents to let me go, and they said yes(!!). 

All week long, I looked ahead to Friday with expectation and great anticipation; it couldn't come quickly enough. And once Friday finally came, I was ready. I picked out the perfect outfit for the occasion. I suffered through the school day, then hastily set about the kid-sized hallways of my elementary school to find my friend. 

Allison greeted me with a smile as I approached, then she explained that plans had changed. She had invited our friend Michelle to come over instead. I saved face, said it was no big deal and walked home alone. 

In the safety of my house, I dropped my backpack and crumbled to the floor in tears. I felt heartbroken, devastated and so, so sad. I cried and cried and couldn't stop. I gasped for air, then cried some more. 

My dad returned home shortly after I did and found me in a puddle of tears.

"What's wrong?" he asked, and I sobbed in response. 

Eventually, I choked out words to explain what transacted in the space between the school bell and our stairwell. My friend -- I thought she was my friend -- chose someone else instead of me. My dad hugged me awkwardly, wiped away my tears and told me not to cry.

"It's okay," he said, and he wiped away the tears that followed. 


It's Fall, and somehow, I'm 37. 

In the dark of this morning, I stir from sleep. My nose and toes are cold, and I hesitate to pull the covers off of my head. Should I or shouldn't I, I consider, then peel my comforter back just a bit. 

Four fifty-five, I read in fuzzy red numbers through bleary eyes. Paul is on his way out the door; he's up early. Me too, I guess.

I find my paper and pen, push up pillows and rest against the headboard of my bed. I turn on my light, and I write down sloppy, jumbled thoughts that weave in and out of this and that. 

Nightshades... a dull headache... a workout... my to-do list...  my reunion -- it's this weekend, and I've decided not to go. "I'll definitely be there for the 30-year," I write. "My kids will be in college. Holy shit."

And then, out of nowhere, my stream of consciousness and random train of thoughts stop at rejection. Julie. Emily. Joy. Lynn. She chose someone else instead of me... and then I'm on to the next topic. 

But the dull ache of this early morning remains in the low clouds of this afternoon. And in the warm and cozy of my blanket and my life, tears prick. I'm reminded of the heartache I endured one Spring afternoon nearly 30 years ago. And in the years that have followed, I have been both chosen, and I have been passed by. 


I went to the gym this morning. 

I've gone 3-4 days each week for the last month-plus, and doing so has brought me great pleasure and joy. This morning, I ran and jumped and pressed in and pushed through. I heaved and sweat and worked some things out. I left the gym with a smile on my face, with a little self-love and with expectation and great anticipation of my return on Friday.

And the funny thing is, although my family and I have been members of this club and swam at the pool for the last several summers, it's only been in the last month that it even occurred to me to workout in the gym. 

I visited this gym one fall morning four years ago and left in frustration. It felt dark and old, the hours were all wrong and... I'm not even sure. But that morning, I cut my workout short and immediately looked for an alternative. I paid for a subsequent membership to another club and then another, because at the time, this one wasn't quite right. But this morning, and for 3-4 mornings each week over the last month-plus, it has been exactly right.

I read a meditation in bed this morning that could have been written just for me. "Leave when it's time to go," its author, Melody Beattie, writes. "Trust the rhythms and cycles life," she implores. "You don't have to hold onto messengers after they've taken you where you were trying to go. You don't have to stay in a classroom after you've learned the lessons and finished that course... Say goodbye with love and gratitude in your heart. And go on down the road."

This life is ever-changing, ever-expanding. It breathes, it grows, it dies, and it returns to life with new vitality, creativity and gusto. Seasons come and go. Friends do also. We inhale. We exhale. We repeat. Things that once fit, won't always, and things that didn't fit, may someday. We may not know it all, but we do know this, and we can take it to the bank. And perhaps in so doing, we can trust a little more, let go, choose love and surrender. 

One Spring morning just over 10 years ago Maya and I were back in Denver to see my dad. We went with him to visit a church he had never attended before. My dad and I sat side-by-side with Maya sleeping in her car seat beside me. We sang, read, prayed and listened through the service. And when the time came to turn and greet your neighbors, the two women in the pew before us, turned around to say hello. 

"ABI?!" the younger woman inquired incredulously. She beamed, bear-hugged me, and when she finally let go, she explained...

"It's Allison!" 

24 September 2014

chop wood, carry water

Three weeks ago, I was dirty, sweaty, smelly and beside myself with joy. 

Right now feels like that too.

My kids are at school, my belly is full, my dishwasher runs, the heater at my feet is almost too hot and this sleepy, sloppy chair couldn't be any more uncomfortable. 

And in the way I often do, I've sunken into this chair in search of the little red, common threads that hold these things together. 


I went for a walk one morning while we were camping. 

Halfway through the walk, I stopped at a dock to do sun salutations overlooking the lake. I remember thinking thank you with my arms held high, drinking in the utter bliss of that single moment in my life. I felt it over and over again that week -- sitting around the campfire, washing my feet in the lake, systematizing my little camp kitchen, watching my kids play cards with new friends, scrubbing dishes in the dark, and waking up to the sunrise. 

While we were in Chelan my life was simple. There was nothing to do, but to feel my dirty feet on the earth beneath me and to be there. My daily chores made me happy, and to breathe fresh air all day and all night, was heaven. I feel weepy just thinking about it. 


I woke up early to pounding rain, an hour before my alarm and just shy of sufficient sleep. While it was still dark outside, I scratched out my morning pages. No rhyme, no reason, no structure, no syntax, just words on loose-leaf pages. I read for a while, then went to work out. My kids were ready and dressed when I returned home, and we traveled together to school. 

My friend, Tohnia and I walked and talked and even cried a little in the rain. We hiked up hills, breathed fresh air and moved our legs. I stopped to pee in a port-a-potty (gross), and then we walked more. Tohnia gave me a book and a hug before we parted, then I returned home to a hot shower, a warm lunch and my space heater.  

This week, I've had meetings, met with clients, packed lunches, scrubbed toilets, folded laundry, made dinner, chauffeured children and on and on and on. And right now, I'm sitting here -- still. I've sunken into my chair in the midst of a crazy busy week with so much before and so much to come. Right now, it's just me and my laptop, and I have that feeling once more. So content and connected I could cry. 

Chop wood, carry water, my friend Elly often says. 

Elly speaks of the daily chores and the simple, constant things we do as we move about our days and our lives. We chop wood, we carry water, and we stay connected. I love that. And as I think about that lake and about that walk and about this day, I can almost feel the common thread between the tips of my fingers. I feel connected, awake and alive.

06 August 2014

am I wrong?

I was supposed to be at dock yoga this morning.  

But Cole is home today. He sits across the room with sad, blood-red puppy dog eyes instead of in the woods with his sister and his friends at Marimba Camp. For a fourth day, he woke up to slime in the corners of his eyes, goopy eyelashes and crusty eyelids glued shut. Consequently, both his and my plans for this day, for this week have been derailed.

Last week, I shared the dock with a travel writer for Sunset Magazine. She was charming, grateful and kind -- in town doing a story about the Island. 

"I hear you are a big-time, fancy writer," our instructor spoke up after class. "You know all kinds of people say they are writers, but I heard you are a REAL writer. You've even sold stuff to the New York Times?" She had.

And this week, I've been in the company of another real writer, a great writer (the New York Times even says so) -- David Sedaris. In his book I'm reading, he writes, "States vote to take away my marriage rights, and even though I don't want to get married, it tends to hurt my feelings. I guess what bugs me is that it was put to a vote in the first place. If you don't want to marry a homosexual, then don't. But what gives you the right to weigh in on your neighbor's options? It's like voting on whether or not redheads should be allowed to celebrate Christmas." 

Well, should they?

A friend of mine called me a loser recently. He was having an impromptu gathering at his house -- fresh crab, tons of people, community, conversation... I opted out to eat dinner at home, alone. I read and wrote and went to bed early.  "It was so cool," Paul and the kids exclaimed the next morning. Oh, what a feast you missed out on, they scolded. And I've been scolded before. 

We were created to be in community, I've been told across coffee tables, from pulpits and even in bed. And in spite of my preference for the couple over the crowd, I've been reprimanded more times than I can count because of the parties and potlucks I've skipped. 

I skipped yoga this morning, stayed home with my kid and went for a walk instead.

"Jesus, name above all names..." a siren sang in my ears as I walked in the crisp, cool of this morning. I felt moved, and I cried. How can one name level me to tears, I contemplated as I walked an old familiar road and listened to that song. 

I thought of a satirical essay I read in Mr. Sedaris' book yesterday. It made me laugh and made me sad and made fun of that same name. A name that has changed my life, made me weep and taught me love, kindness, compassion and sacrifice. A name that has also been used for judgment, arrogance, ignorance, and hatred. So misused and misunderstood.  

I think my feelings hurt, but gratefully, my eyes don't.

23 July 2014

bingeing and purging

We're nearly halfway through the summer, and as luck (grace) would have it, each of my children is at camp this week.

I thought about cleaning house as I often do on Mondays, but the sun was shining and my book suddenly got good. So that was that. 

Yesterday, I walked and began with ballet. I beheld breathtaking views of the Seattle skyline from Kerry Park for a long while. With eyes wide and mouth slung open, I huffed and puffed and hiked the regal neighborhood hills of Queen Anne. I went gallery hopping and sipped a latte in Pioneer Square. I returned to the Island, watched a bit of soccer practice then went to yoga outdoors. I spent a blissful day on my own, on my schedule, at my pace and left to my own devices. Blessed solitude. 

And today, it's raining -- the torrential sort. 

For the last six weeks, I've played and lazed for long days in the sun. I've spent a lot of time with my kids, and it's been mostly good. But in this momentary lull of today's tempest, it hard not to note an arrhythmia. For six weeks, I've also been a little out of sorts and unclear; I've been creatively constipated. 

Today, is the first full day I have been home with neither the constant nor eventual companionship of at least one of my family members. I woke up with no where to be, with no one to host and with neither obligation nor desire to spend the day out of doors. I rolled over in bed this morning and felt poised and compelled to write. 

I've never been more grateful for rain. 

But with freedom comes responsibility. And with camp comes the necessity of sack lunches, which I neglected to pack last night. So before I'd even brushed my teeth, I began this day with a lunch pail and ziplock bags... and with the laundry I neglected to fold and put away last night... and with the dirty dishes I left in the sink. Ah, blessed solitude. 

And Cole and I danced the getting-out-of-the-door dance -- Have you brushed your teeth? Did you grab your lunch pail? I think you might want your rain boots today. Will you grab your raincoat? Good morning and I love you, by the way. 

-- I can't find it, he says.

-- You can't find what?

-- My raincoat. (It hasn't poured rain in months.) 

-- OK, look in dad's car, and I'll check your room. 

And that's when I realized that this summer, I've also been in denial. 

The search for the missing raincoat this morning, took me to a sore spot in my home I have successfully avoided since Spring.

I wish I would have been of the mindset this morning to photograph what I found when I ascended Cole's stairs (it wasn't his raincoat). This is where I would insert the image to document the magnitude of the mayhem. Let's see if I can paint a picture instead.

Imagine -- if you will -- utter chaos.

The place was ransacked -- clothing strewn about and Legos littered everywhere. The floor, the bed, the chair, the dresser, the desk, the corners, the crevices -- they were covered in toys and trash and wrappers and crumpled papers... Empty hangers, hamper and drawers relieved of both dirty and clean clothes... A sleeping bag, a sleeping pad (why? don't ask me), an overturned lamp... another one. Books and magazines... Legos and more Legos... A half eaten sandwich. An unidentifiable smell. An unidentifiable stickiness... (marshmallows, of course).  

It was anarchy. Armageddon. Play land pandemonium. It was a jaw-dropping, stomach churning display of destruction and consumption far exceeding usefulness, anxiety invoking and sickening. I was speechless -- appalled and on the verge of dry-heaving -- as I came back down stairs.

-- Mom, I found it!! (It was in the studio -- naturally). 

Paul took Cole to camp, and I spent the next four hours of this perfectly good writing day in purgatory.  

Enough, I said through gritted teeth to no one in particular as I indiscriminately purged. With minimal regard to sentiment or frugality, I swept piles and heaps from the surfaces of Cole's room into 13-gallon black garbage bags. I'm not sure if I was madder at him or at myself. 

You see, this is not a first for us; these are the steps to another one of Cole's and my dances. For a long while I just picked up after him -- constantly. I would clean up, and he would mess up. I would get mad and stressed, and he would get busy at being a highly-spirited kid. So, I tried to teach the young man to fish (and blissfully unaware, he left the fish out in the sun to rot and die). So I purchased more containers, which he eventually upended and turned into galaxy destroyers. I have encouraged... and I have threatened... and I have desperately tried to teach my son the virtues of responsibility and respect along with cleaning-as-you-go and putting-back-what-you-bring-out. 

And I have realized the less time I spend in Cole's microcosm of chaos, the less mad and stressed I feel. So when I could no longer keep up, I backed up, backed off and assumed a hands-off style of parenting where that bedroom is concerned. (And clearly, that's working out really well for me). 

Twenty six gallons of waste, four loads of laundry and another 13 gallons to Goodwill later, Cole's room is clean, and I'm finally writing. 

To be frank, 1.) I feel clearer today than I have in weeks. I don't think I realized how much I needed a break and to play by myself and to write and to bring momentary order to the disorder in the bedroom above mine. 2.) I am at a loss. I know that what I did today was hardly a solution. It was like gingerly placing a band-aid on an infected war wound. 

But it's gotten me thinking. 

The longer I live, the more subscribe to the philosophy that less is indeed more. I've attempted to live this out and to impart it to my children. At times I have felt relief and found success, but other times, I have failed miserably. And I feel gross and full and stuck... and constipated. 

I have tried to stand up to the seductive voice in this culture that whispers, more, MORE. Believe me, I have tried to simplify in this age of bigger, newer, faster, sleeker and stronger alongside our generous family and friends who just love to give, and get rid of and to give more. Christmas, birthdays, Wednesdays... there must be another way. 

Because here's the thing: my son wears two shirts. TWO. He has (had) at least FORTY! This is a problem -- his problem AND my problem. 

This problem calls for moderation, yes? Isn't it a means by which to step beyond the ugly cycle of bingeing and purging? 

I'd love to hear for sure from the therapist, the mindful, the spiritual, the super-parent or the everyday anybody. I've lived and parented at unsustainable extremes, and I know for sure I'm done with that. Beyond that, I'm not so sure. 

my morrocco

I heard from an old friend. 
I'm not sure if you remember me, he wrote. 

Way back when, he was a senior in high school, 
and I was his Admission Counselor.
I know we weren't supposed to have favorites, 
but without a doubt, he was mine.
How could I forget?

He didn't have a lot, but I believed in him anyway.
I said yes when others said no. 
I fought for him.

And sixteen years later, he came to Washington. 

He told me that it mattered. That I mattered. 
He told me he is healthy and happy and traveling and in love. 
He told me he earned a PhD, and he is now a professor of Literature. 

And I wept. 
Oh, how I wept. 
It turns out I was right. 
And I couldn't be prouder. 

06 June 2014


Paul and I went to see Once in Seattle last night.

I enjoyed this musical immensely and felt intimately connected to the actors, to the musicians and to the story in spite of the majesty and magnitude of the theater. I've used words like spectacular, epic and stunning to describe most of the shows I've seen at the Paramount; invariably, these performances are larger than life. But this love story, while moving, was a whisper. It was beautiful. 

The transitions from one scene to the next were a highlight for me. The staging, movement and dance stirred me in their subtleties, and the melodies were sublime. I laughed and smiled a lot which felt so good on the heels of the sad news from earlier in the day. The actors sang and danced with one another, with their instruments and with my heart. I fell in love with music over and over again last night. Its fragrance still lingers this morning.  

I can't recommend this show highly enough. If it wasn't leaving Seattle this weekend, I'd definitely see it again. 

04 June 2014

a penny for your...

With a trash bag in tow, I open my door to a pitter-patter upon the rooftop and the front porch. 

Crunch... crunch.... crunch.... I pad along the walkway to the garbage cans on the side of the house. Teeny tiny black pebbles litter the front drive and a beard of furry creatures line the edge of the garbage can... and the side of house... and the walkway... and the guesthouse... and the gate... and the grass... and the ground. 

I feel a gag reflex come on strong, then quicken my step. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch... 

Pitter-patter, pitter-patter go the tiny pebbles as they fall from the sky to the rooftop, then roll down to the porch. More furry beards. More little pebbles. They are everywhere and all around. They are on the bench and on my car. They line the shoes beneath the bench. They are INSIDE the shoes beneath the bench. SICK. I think I might puke. 

My arm hairs stand on end, and I taste bile. Crunch, crunch, crunch... I hopscotch back to the house, tumble inside and clutch my hands to my chest in the refuge of indoors. I'm safe, but I feel dread over the prospect of having to face it all again in order to get the kids out the door and off to school. 

The leaves on the alders outside my window have already fallen -- but not because of autumn. Instead, they have have fallen to wrath of the fuzzy little critters who are wreaking havoc upon Whidbey Island and the state of Washington: the bloody Western Tent Caterpillars. 

I know what you might be thinking --- they're caterpillars, Abi. 

Yes, but you have no idea. THEY. ARE. DIS. GUSTING. These are no ordinary, hungry little caterpillars. And those little black pebbles are not your ordinary little pebbles. They are poop. CATERPILLAR POOP. And it's everywhere. They are everywhere. And when I say everywhere, I really do mean everywhere.

Case in point: Inspired by friends and exasperated by our predicament, I stooped to a new low this morning. I agreed to pay blood money to my children for their help in dealing with (drowning) our Springtime visitors -- a penny per caterpillar.

I know what you might be thinking --That's highway robbery, right? Child labor and animal rights, right? I'm a cheapskate and a contract-killer, and my children are suckers, right? Au contraire!!

In the fifteen minutes between handshakes and our departure for school this morning, my kids made $3.00. THREE DOLLARS. For those of you running the numbers at home, they picked up 300 caterpillars in fifteen minutes. FIFTEEN MINUTES!!

I realize there are far better and far worse things happening in the world than my little caterpillar problem. And I could be writing about any one of these things. But instead, I've chosen caterpillars. Yeah. 

Perhaps there is a lesson here. Caterpillars become beautiful butterflies, right? But no, not these ones. These ones will soon become moths (so I've got that to look forward to). Hmmm. Or... isn't this a mark of the end times? Caterpillars and their poop raining down from the sky? Or... was that frogs? Wait, I think that was a movie. Hmmm. I don't know. Perhaps not. 

All I know is that I have a bucket of three hundred caterpillars soaking on my front porch. Spring is in the air, summer's on its heels, and I'm too grossed out to go outside. HA! 

The kids will be home in three hours. And I can't wait, because I'm putting them back to work. I just need to get to my car first. 

28 May 2014

but still...

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you? 
Why are you beset with gloom? 
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken? 
Bowed head and lowered eyes? 
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you? 
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you? 
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs? 

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise

Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise

I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise

Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise. 

Beloved Author, Poet and Inspiration
Dr. Maya Angelou
April 4, 1928 - May 28, 2014

21 May 2014

dear bully,

I've had it.

I woke up mad. First, I tried to free-write it out -- I mean the forceful, chicken-scratch writing on pages of loose-leaf paper riddled with exclamation points, triple underlines and innumerable *f-bombs.* The etchings and impressions of my heavy hand even marked the blank pages beneath the sheets I defiled. It didn't work. So I filed them away, and I tried to breathe it out. I sat for a moment in contemplative silence in an effort to meditate, to focus and to find my breath. Screw this, my mind screamed. 

I couldn't sit still so I decided to run instead; I intended to work it out. I cut through cool air -- praying, pounding pavement -- and I ran through a series of smart, forceful and biting responses in my mind. I considered all the things I could have said but didn't have the words for at the time. I pumped my arms and legs and pounded my fists in the air to the angry anthem ringing in my ears. Winded, thirsty and invigorated, I returned home. But rather than to quell the fire in my belly, my run only served to fan the flames. 

So I've decided to blog it out. 

A friend once told me that he loves to read the posts I write when I am upset. "It's your best writing," he asserts. Well, yay for both reader and writer today, because I feel frustrated, angry and annoyed. I'm pissed. 

Hers is that voice that remains in your head long after she's gone. You feel deflated, and you ache for tomorrow when she finally leaves the room -- of course she only leaves after she has presented as her own, the very thoughts that quietly proceeded from your mouth yesterday.

She is the pushy the little bitch on the playground with pigtails and bright eyes who never learned to share. She is a modern-day Veruca Salt. I want, I want, I want, she screams. It's mine. Give it to me -- NOW. And with little regard for anyone but herself, she takes her share and yours too. She asks for, expects for and demands for more. 

She sees wide open spaces, and she fills them. She is boisterous, arrogant and loud. Her voice -- the squeaky, relentless resonance of her voice -- consumes both peace and quiet. She assumes that no, you couldn't wish to be alone as your retreat and you choose to walk away. So she rushes to be by your side once more -- not to be your friend, but to keep an eye on your next move so she can do it too. She flaunts the fruit of another's labor in your face and only feels tall when standing on your toes. 

She is the girl who reads this far into my rant about MY frustrations but somehow manages to make it about herself. How dare you, she seethes. Are you talking about ME? she wonders more than once. Yes. Undoubtedly, yes. 

For a while, my reaction was to shrink and to question myself and my worth. And then, I began to check out, to throw up walls and to shield myself and my heart. And then I learned to walk away, to bow out and to turn the other the cheek. But today -- NOT TODAY. Today I choose to speak up and to push back. On behalf of the small, the meek, the introvert, the soft-spoken, the young, the insecure and the quiet, I am asking you -- no I am telling you -- to BACK THE FUCK OFF. 

I see through the smoke and the mirrors. And all the empty words. And all the broken promises. And all the bullshit. You -- you know who you are  -- you need to know that I see the truth, and today I'm calling you out.

You are small. You are a liar, a cheat, and a counterfeit. You have pushed too long and too far.  You are ugly, unkind, and I pity you. You have no power over me or anyone else except for what we have given to you. No more. No questions. I'm taking it back. 

I am not as loud as you are, and I do not and will not consume as you do. But if you think for a moment that this makes me weak, you are sorely, sadly mistaken. My strength is quiet, constant and strong. It comes from a well far deeper than you have ever had the courage to tap, and it will come when you least expect it. It is fueled by love, not fear. Cooperation, not competition. It is not about me and it is definitely not about you. This is about US

Hear me clearly today when I say I am done. 

It's on. 

14 May 2014

losing my religion, part 2

I've taken leave of my writing chair this afternoon, and relocated to the wonderland just outside my window.

A hot sun beats and warms my arms, my legs, a bright blue sky and the yoga deck beneath me. A chorus of birds sings around me, and together we're surrounded and kept by a lush and verdant fortress. Towering trees and freshly mowed grass swing and sway in a welcome breeze as it comes and blows. Even the space between my toes is damp with sweat. This afternoon, I feel like I'm in heaven. 

This morning I awoke to this glorious day, to thirst and to a ravenous hunger to run. I reached for my Ipod on my way out the door, but discovered it was dead. I considered waiting for it to charge, but this beautiful day beckoned, so I left my Ipod behind. 

I used to run without music frequently, then periodically. But over the last several years my Ipod has become my constant, chatty running companion. It took a while to settle into my run this morning without it. I felt a little out of sorts as I willed my legs to wake up and to shake off the gravity of last night's sleep. But I found my rhythm and tasted the sweet spot when running becomes meditative, timeless and effortless -- when I feel light on my feet, like I could run forever. 

I haven't felt that way in a while. 

I have moved into the shade of a climbing Wisteria in the heavenly heat and beauty of this afternoon on my yoga deck. The sun is relentless, and I've been sitting here -- delighting in the rustle of leaves and the sweet soundtrack of Spring  -- for hours. A part of me wishes time would stand still, that all would be as peaceful and pleasant and simple as this. But the kids will return home from school soon with their backpacks and stories and hunger and volume. I teach tonight, and rain is in this weekend's forecast. 

The two rules I ran by in the past were 1.) I would get up and go no matter what, and 2.) I wouldn't stop to walk once I began. Eventually, I grew weary and tired of this; what had once been magical for me became mechanical, and I couldn't keep up. I ached for a slower, milder, different pace. So I slowed way down, and pulled way back and it felt good. I felt good. I stopped running all together for nearly a year, and I began to walk instead. I noticed details I'd run right past hundreds of times before. And it wasn't until I stopped running and pushing so damn hard, that I discovered how glorious a walk -- especially one smack dab in the middle of a run -- can be. 

I remember why I started running back in college in the first place: to lose weight. But somewhere along the way, while I was training for my first marathon, that all faded away. Sitting here on my yoga deck, I'm reminded why I kept running, why I stopped and why I've started once again. I'm reminded why I bask in the sunshine, why I raised my hands and wept in church, in a valley and on a mountain top, why I pray, and why I write: because in so doing, I have stumbled in and out of a sweet spot, where rules, ritual and religion have give way to freedom, love, grace and into the arms of God. 

This morning, I ran and walked and ran and walked, and I listened. 

I heard the songs of birds, the buzzing of bees, the breath of breezes blowing past me, the crunch of my feet on the road, the labor, then ease of my breath, the thunder of a truck driving by, the hum of the highway, the rhythm of my beating heart... I was unplugged, but tapped into something other -- to a different pace and a different rhythm. 

All of this reminds me of my faith.

Something remarkable has occurred in my life as I have turned down the volume of religion. As I have traveled these last few years without the constant companionship and perpetual noise of church and bible study, of small groups and devotionals, I have become unhinged, unplugged and unsure. I hear my breath and my heart beat, and I feel -- alive. 

From time to time I hear the rhythm, the hum and the timbre of something subtle and so sweet. A breeze. A still, small voice. It whispers, Come to me, and beckons me to stay. To rest. To walk for a while. I'm swept into a timeless serenity where there are no words. There is no beginning, and there is no end. And I want to stay there forever...

26 March 2014

losing my religion, part 1

"What devotionals or books of the bible have you been reading lately?" A dear friend, whom I've seen just in concentrated spurts over the last eight years asked me from across a kitchen counter yesterday afternoon. 

I've cracked my tattered, cover-less, heavily underlined bible just a handful of times since the last time I spent time with this friend; I haven't read a devotional in years. 

My mother took my siblings and I to church every Sunday morning when I was a child for as long as I can remember. When I was seven-years old, I responded to an alter call and accepted Jesus into my heart. I attended a Christian University, and during my sophomore year, at the foot of a cross overlooking the life changing, azure expanse of the Pacific Ocean, I began my adult relationship with Christ. I cried through worship services, which stirred my spirit and rocked my soul, in a grade school auditorium. Religion became a relevant relationship for me during those years, and God spoke volumes to me through a Holy Bible I purchased while studying with Christian classmates overseas. 

Six months after I returned from Germany, I was baptized by a young man with whom I could actually pray and talk about God; he would one day become my spouse. My first two jobs after I graduated from college were each with Christian schools. I got married, I became a mother, I left California, and I plugged right back into a small, contemporary church community, with its communion, candles, teachings, video clips and moving times of worship. I faithfully took my own children to church nearly every Sunday and spent a chunk of the other six days of each week in quiet time and bible studies and community groups. As an introvert, I even suffered through countless all-church potlucks, women's retreats and other social functions. 

When I became a childbirth educator and birth doula, Christ was still at the center of my work, and he was the God of the bulk of my clientele. Of all of my friends too. I was "encouraging women to labor, live and love by design," as my business cards so confidently declared. 

My family and I moved to the Pacific Northwest in August of 2009, and I attempted to plug right back in to do life and faith the same way I had been doing them for over 15 years. 

And I did -- at first.  

My girlfriend's question yesterday was right in line with the life we once lived together. I would have anticipated her question back then, and I would have responded quickly in the Christian language we both understood so well. Then, I would have followed up to find out all about the books she was reading also. I probably would have read them.

But yesterday, like most of the tank tops, shorts and short sleeved shirts, I packed away and gave away when I moved from the dry heat of suburban Denver to a cool coast of the Pacific Northwest, her question wasn't quite right; it no longer fit.

I struggled to find the words to tell my friend -- my sister -- that I'd rather eat sand than to sit through another church service next Sunday morning.