She had to ask


Standing at street’s edge; waiting for the light.

A dynamic, vibrant, bustling world class city.

Next to us a young woman stands, waiting.

Poised, stylish, together, confident in her own skin kind of way.

An unlit cigarette in hand.

The signature scarf worn in that effortless and elegant way;

the way of Parisian women.

We catch a moment’s contact of eyes

and then return to our impersonal, stoic forward stares.


I sense movement to my left and turn.

She leans in, so subtly in her graceful way.

Parlez vous Francais?

She had not pegged us as tourists.

There was the chance.

She had to ask.



But my eyes said more.


Merci beaucoup.


it just keeps getting better…

those rocks that tree

When you don’t do something for awhile, it can seem unfamiliar and the starting point anything but obvious. So, somewhat recently on Live & Learn, when David shared three lines of a poem in the midst of one of his posts, it stopped me in my tracks. Not just because the words were just spot on truth for me. Not just because I found myself wishing that I had been the one to assemble them in the way the author had so eloquently (and seemingly so effortlessly) done. But because those three lines capture what had been elusive to me: what I needed to get this post started.

The three lines by poet John O’Donohue posted on this blog read like this…

Unknown to us, there are moments

When crevices we cannot see open
For time to come alive with beginning

and reminded me that much as we try, we can’t know what is to come.

In months that have somehow managed to have sped by, under the hood has been an ongoing process.  An examination of not my conscience, but rather my very consciousness and a riotous path of change and growth. Big things have ended, little things have cropped up and simmered right back down and all along there has been an eyes-wide-open-deer-in-the-headlights-bring-it stance on it all.  I like to think of it as beginner’s mind, which for me is any time we find ourselves in some degree of both amazement and trepidation – and often, dogged determination – in some kind of new or changing time.  But beginner’s mind cannot last forever, for eventually a beginning moves to somewhere in the middle. Yes?

There is the saying that all good things come to an end.

I think perhaps that is not always true.

And, on the contrary, it can actually get better.

However we slice it, in review, it might help for you to know that as I cast my glance in the rear view mirror, I see a marriage that ended, and necessarily so; and subsequently I see a rift in a family for a young and yet so wise and resilient young boy; I see a move to where less truly became more in ways so unexpected and a brand of co-parenting of which I am proud of for my son.   I see professional hurdles and challenges and just a whole lot of unpleasantness that are best described as hanging on tightly to a ship’s mast out on a stormy sea. I see a bank account that some days had more question marks than dollar signs.

But in the midst of all of that: endings, upsets and so many unknowns, there has also been grace and goodness, and so much understanding and without question,  many unanticipated lessons.

wrong roadI have navigated these last few years, with my kiddo and I, bolstered of course by our magical friends and family, in an intentional and optimistic way. I found a way to go at it at my own pace and in my own way.  I wanted to – I had to – go through the pain, not around the pain.  I wanted to understand, and to admit where the wrong turn(s?) have been made and why. So, the kiddo and I, we have laughed, we have logged miles, we have sat side by side on the couch checking off episodes of our favorite TV shows. We created our signature ‘funk-food-dinner-and-movie nights‘ (sometimes, mama’s in a funk and can’t find her way around the kitchen…). And, we have done our own thing – he with his friends, me with mine. Sometimes that happens all together. I dipped my toe in the dating pool. Murky waters I tell you.  But that is another story for another day. Or not.

With this in mind, almost exactly a year ago, I took a few days away to reset, and continue this re-evaluation. I went up to the mountains, a place that I consider a second home.  I spent nearly a week: I went driving around the entire lake, hiking, sitting, walking, and chasing sunsets.  And thinking. A lot.  And learning. For example, one night the power went out. All of it. Guess what I learned? That I really am a little bit afraid of the dark!  Who knew!?  

I learned something else equally important.

On my last day there, I positioned myself at a stunning location facing west and since the summer rush had subsided, the beach was nearly left just for me. And my glass of wine.


I sat in wait and I was not disappointed.  The sunset was literally spectacular. And slow. And evolving.

Like we are.

I savored each moment as the sun performed right in front of me.


As the sun sank lower and lower, and aware that I had parked somewhat far away, I – so reluctantly – left in time to get to my car before darkness set in fully (I’d  already completed my Intro to Darkness course, successfully, I might add). I walked along, hopping over some boulders, looking back to catch every last possible glimpse. I wanted that image printed in me as much as in my camera’s SD card.

We all see sunsets, it’s nothing out of the ordinary. Right? The sun sets every day. It has to.

I thought I’d seen the last of it, but the sunset had changed once again.

It was like it had one more act, an encore perhaps?

I found myself smiling, relaxed and leaning up against a railing on the boat launch and muttering to myself, ‘it just keeps getting better’. And then, I thought to myself, huh, and nodding, and thinking, realizing…

…it’s all going to be ok. It just keeps getting better…

I was smiling.


I’m not going to lie.

The last few years have been enlightening, maybe you could even say “exhilarating” at times. But not easy.

But, I realized what I was saying. Out loud.

As I heard myself, I smiled bigger as I realized, yes, it does. It just keeps getting better.

It’s true.  There have been moments unbeknownst to me where things were at play and I had no idea.

My kiddo is doing awesome. He continues to teach me and surprise me.   His resilience is not just comforting; it’s affirming. At work we have a new captain of the ship and while you cannot turn a ship on a dime, it seems the seas have calmed and we are headed in a better direction; I am excited to be starting a new academic year, energized and maybe somewhat overwhelmed, but excited.

Colleagues have said to me, “I’m so glad you hung in there…”

And, I met someone. Someone most special. In the most unexpected of places.

People keep telling me, “You look so happy, it’s good to see you smiling again…”

It just keeps getting better.

Kiddo and I mixed it up this summer and instead of hitting the road, we jetted off through the friendly skies to enjoy our annual summer trip. Let’s just say, it was monumental.

So lessons learned:  Don’t get stuck in the dark. And it can definitely get better.  Sometimes we just to have to trust the wisdom penned by John O’Donohue.

And a ps…to the ‘nudgers’, you know exactly who you are, and thank you.  You have no idea…


Abundantly Inadequate


We are all readers or writers here, and in some cases, both.  In short, we are no strangers to words. Their power, their play and their partnership when we need or want to express ourselves in some way. We write blogs, books, poems and songs; we pen memos, letters, missives and lists. Daily.  We engage in witty banter, endless text threads, singing song lyrics and reciting movie lines.

But, sometimes we come face to face with a situation where it seems that the right words, or any words for that matter, are on par with the amount of water here in California.  Simply not enough.

We’ve all been in the situation with someone who’s facing a tragedy, or they have received terrible news, enduring a heavy load with no end in sight, or grieving, missing and mourning when someone is no longer. Simply lost.

Face to face with these moments, we are moved. We feel deeply and when our emotions course through us and rise up out of the belly, we can find that the words are absent. Simply not there.

A light bulb flickered for me this morning while getting ready for work. A different way to think about this. While standing in front of my bursting closet I had that all too familiar and frustrating feeling of, I have NOTHING to wear!

emptyFor all of the infinite possibilities afforded us by the English language, sometimes it’s like that feeling of standing before your first-world over-packed closet.  Hanging there are all of those blouses, cardigans, shirts and pants.  In those fraught face-to-face moments, hanging there are all of those verbs, nouns, adjectives and prepositions, yet somehow it feels abundantly inadequate. Simply not enough.


A Little Bit Back to Center

As with most of us, the weeks in between Thanksgiving and the holly jolly holiday can be likened to either a sausage or a can of sardines; in either case too much is constrained in far too small of a space.

Work demands seemed to ratchet instead of dwindle and we lost a bright shining star long before he should have ever gone shooting across the sky.  Losing a dear and trusted colleague is never easy, and especially the peak of the season.

On the home front we switched from cleats to high tops and a whole new game schedule.  I really need the coaches to check with me before signing up our team for extra scrimmages and tournaments.

As such, it was a push to get Christmas on the table, so speak.  A naked tree stood vulnerable in my living room for too many days before it finally got it’s well earned bling and blitz.  The flour and sugar and mixer remain tucked away in cabinets this year and I did not support the US Postal service this go-round….

(I was kind of feeling like the elf who barely made it in for the night and just kind of hanging on….)

2014-12-17 20.34.03


…and the gift list was whittled and all through the house; this nearly bah-humbug mama slowly began to exhale.

An almost stolen (but not) purse, a few unusual conversations and all the requisite daily pushes and pulls, and the edges began to fray.  I found myself needing to respond to a particular situation, make an important decision, and I realized that I felt so far from center. So far from my own self that finding the inner voice of reason and the all-important gut check seemed akin to the journey to the center of the earth; a really long way away.


Last night, kiddo and I spent the evening with dear and long time friends who came into town for the holiday.  To help welcome them, the friend hosting them also hosted an evening gathering with friends and family who also wanted to be with them.  There we were, the atypically warm December night found the women gathered on the generous front porch sipping wine and talking like there is no tomorrow, the kids running free between basement and front yard and the men tossing back a few beers in the kitchen. And of course, any mix and mingle of all peppered the evening.  Before I knew it, jackets and santa hats donned, wine glasses re-filled, we walked the neighborhood which some would liken to a modern day Mayberry and took in the light strewn homes, horse-drawn carriages transporting families and friends doing the same as us, and pick-up trucks filled with carolers. As we walked, conversations were easy, natural and changing depending on who walked next to whom. Kids ran front, center and in between.

At one moment, while I had the three biggest kids in my reach, I let them go ahead a bit, and ahead of them were the smalls and other adults.  I hung back, I lingered, wine in hand, and took it all in.

I exhaled deeper. A lot deeper.

Bright lights in my periphery. People I love in direct view.

Cheerful sounds filling the air.

A sip of my wine.


This. This right here. This is Christmas.  I exhaled fully and smiled.

I caught up to my kiddo and draped an arm around his shoulders, not far below my own now,  and said, this is good, eh?  We are good. We get this.  He was quiet and I said, this is a moment to just be.



This morning, as I woke, I thought of last night.

I realized. That was a little bit of coming back to center.


Merry Christmas. Holly Jolly Holiday.  Blessings.

My wish for you, each of you, is that moment to just be.

To exhale. To find center.


Peace & Joy





In recent months,  Northern CA experienced a 6.1 earthquake – the pressure built and the plates moved. Earthquakes are usually caused when rock underground suddenly breaks along a fault and this sudden release of energy causes the seismic waves that make the ground shake.

It was definitely noticed.

It rocked and rolled.

In our own lives, big disruptions come along and create fissures, changes and cracks in our lives. It’s impossible to not notice these. Things feel bumpy, chaotic and unstable.  Life rocks and rolls without harmony.

But, we have to remember –  earthquakes don’t come out of nowhere.

According to scientists,

‘…The surface of the Earth is in continuous slow motion. This is plate tectonics–the motion of immense rigid plates at the surface of the Earth in response to flow of rock within the Earth. The plates cover the entire surface of the globe. Since they are all moving they rub against each other in some places, sink beneath each other in others, or spread apart from each other…’

Things are constantly happening, even if ever so subtly.

But this is not a science lesson, I could certainly not be so presumptuous. But rather a moment of understanding – it made sense that internally, most of the time, there is movement under the surface, adjustments happening all the time, even when we don’t notice.  Or think we don’t.

I have begun to notice. A shifting of sorts. One that at times is nearly imperceptible.



decisions so small.

changes so subtle.

choices hardly noticeable.


wishes only thought.

desires barely whispered.

strength always growing.


leaving some things back.

choosing what holds value now.

knowing the difference so quietly.


choosing carefully.

trusting purposefully.

listening always.


resolve clarifying.

courage emerging.

boundaries appearing.


almost imperceptibly.



Yes. Things are constantly happening, subtly.


Pieces | My Symphony



To live content with small means;
to seek elegance rather than luxury
and refinement rather than fashion;
to be worthy, not respectable,
and wealthy, not rich;
to listen to stars and birds,
babes and sages with open heart;
to study hard;
to think quietly,
act frankly,
talk gently,
await occasions, hurry never;
in a word, to let the spiritual,
unbidden and unconscious,
grow up through the common.
-this is my symphony.

-William Hendry Channing





As we become curators of our own contentment on the Simple Abundance path… we learn to savor the small with a grateful heart.” Sarah Ban Breathnach

The Edges


“There was a wall. It did not look important. It was built of uncut rocks roughly mortared. An adult could look right over it, and even a child could climb it. Where it crossed the roadway, instead of having a gate it degenerated into mere geometry, a line, an idea of boundary. But the idea was real. It was important. For seven generations there had been nothing in the world more important than that wall.
Like all walls it was ambiguous, two-faced. What was inside it and what was outside it depended upon which side of it you were on.”      ― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed

 When you think of a boundary, do you think of what is kept in, or what is kept out?


/ˈbaʊndərɪ; -drɪ/
noun (pl) -ries

1.  something that indicates the farthest limit, as of an area; border

When my mother died, one of her closest friends was one of my very few living links to her; this woman comforted me and brought my mother back to life in fleeting moments when we recounted a memory or allowed ourselves a moment of our shared sadness. This woman became incredibly important to me and I relied heavily on her in this context.  Later, as our conversation continued and we grew into our own friendship, I confided in her, something I needed to pursue.  She was conflicted about my pursuit and interjected what she thought my mother would feel about it if she were still alive. Much as I loved this woman, much as I had come to need her, this particular area was not one she understood nor did she realize my mother and I had discussed often over the years.  I came to understand that she was projecting her own fears and concerns regarding the matter and so I took more time to explain and share; all the while I remained steadfast.  It was in the midst of this conversation, not feeling supported or understood, that I realized something important  – the matter was core to me and who I am and that I was willing to draw a line in the sand for what I knew I needed. I noticed an important shift within me and that I was willing to stand my ground despite her inability to come along with me.  My need for truth and authenticity became greater than my fear of disappointing her if it meant not pursuing something so central to who I am.  As with an invisible fence, a boundary was activated and it both surprised me and scared me.

Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.
– Brene Brown

Setting boundaries is not easy. In fact it’s hard work. I look around and from where I sit, it can appear so easy, so natural for others and it’s easy to wonder if I’m somehow missing something or struggling unnecessarily.  Being perfectly honest, it has seemed, that of late, the Universe signed me up, unbeknownst to me of course, for a Boundaries 101 course. Complete with a ‘text book’ of sorts.

From the book, How the State Got Their Shapes it is written that The 50 states in the U.S.A. are easily recognized by their shapes, their outlines, their silhouettes. Their boundaries. Their furthest limits. Colorado and Wyoming are both rectangular in their shape and are therefore hard to differentiate. The value resides not in knowing their shape but why. Asking why a state has the borders it does unlocks a history of human struggles, it’s history. It’s story.

Co and Wy


The more we look at borders, the more questions those borders generate.

Is it the same for us? 

That  the more we understand each other’s boundaries, the more we realize we should know about each other and our stories?  And, subsequently, the more we do learn about one another?

A state border is both an official entrance and a hidden entrance. 

Couldn’t we claim the same truth?

I draw a boundary based on what I know I need to feel safe, secure, seen, understood and strong. If you know, and understand, and accept what that is, you gain ‘entrance’.

The official entrance is the legal threshold to a state. But it’s hidden. Entrance beckons us into the past.

Is the same true for us?

Our own edges, can at times seem somewhat hidden, but if understood, and respected, beckon others in.


Our story.

Our selves.

Our past.

Our hurts.

Our scars.

Our quirks.

Our disappointments.

Our fears.

Our regrets.

Our dreams.

Our hopes.

Our future.

Here at the state line we can come come into contact with struggles long forgotten and now overgrown by signs saying things like, “Welcome to Nebraska. Please drive carefully.”

Couldn’t we say the same?

Welcome to my heart. Please drive carefully.

It’s easy to consider drawing boundaries as keeping something out, but what if we change that to keeping in that which what we value while at the same time also building strength?  And yet, it is circular, we can’t draw a boundary until we know what we need and want and desire, on the inside.

We know from what has hurt in the past, what hasn’t felt good. We know when someone bumps up against our edges. It’s fear. It’s disappointment. It’s feeling invisible. It’s feeling dismissed. It’s too much at once.

When my son was about 9 or so, we were having a conversation that led to me saying something about respecting his boundaries.  The way he looked at me when I said that, I knew immediately that he had no idea what I meant.  I thought for a second about how to say it in a way he’d understand;  I said to him that boundaries are the edges of when we feel ok, and that when we bump up against the edges, it doesn’t feel good anymore, or it’s uncomfortable, or it’s too much and so we stop.

When we set boundaries, we own what scares us. That which makes us feel alone in the world. By knowing what to ask for, we also identify what we cannot receive. Rejection is hard on both sides of the street.

When we talk about boundaries, setting them, respecting them, we often think of it as drawing a line – a line in the sand so to speak.  Creating boundaries, however, is not only about protecting – keeping what is not safe on the OUTSIDE.  It can also be about strengthening and fortifying what is on the INSIDE.

I have found that creating boundaries – and then establishing them – is like building strong muscles. It requires discipline, diligence and a plan. It requires that we do things that sometimes we just don’t feel like doing. It’s not easy.

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote recently:

“I don’t like conflict. I aim for appeasement. I often dodge the chance to directly address problems early on, because I hope the problems will go away. I deny and I duck and I put my hands over my ears and say, “La-la-la-la-la.” And then, guess what? Sometimes those problems don’t go away. In fact, they blow up in my face… I am still learning this. I can see messy things that happened in my life this very year, because I didn’t want to cope with problems sooner”

“Liz, stay alert. Heads up. Start speaking your truth sooner. You’ve been put on watch.”

It’s work, this setting of boundaries. We have to accept the uncomfortable moments of owning our anger and understanding what lurks below its surface,  trusting our own instincts, facing the fear of conflict with someone we have decided is important to us. It requires that we stand ready to let go of something that has taken up residence within us, even when it’s not good for us. Because we get comfortable.

It dawned on me that setting boundaries and letting go are in essence, kissing cousins.

For when we set a boundary, are we also not at the same time choosing to let go of something?

$T2eC16JHJGMFFpfi!d7!BSe2vGu-Tw~~_32When we set boundaries, we have to know what defines us. What fits. What makes sense. What fills us in positive ways.  Learning to recognize when we are no longer willing to be uncomfortable or misunderstood for the sake of making someone else feel comfortable. Even when that someone is us, and for just a temporary moment.

Sometimes this process requires trial and error – as a toddler experiments with sorting shapes – and until we sort it out, we can feel empty for awhile when we only allow entrance for the shapes that actually fit. When we say no to someone or something – at first it can feel so lonely, but only then do we make room for what does fit.

Creating boundaries demands of us honesty with ourselves, being able to endure shifts in power, changes in dynamics. Sometimes, our own power has the power to scare the crap out of us. That’s nothing short of hard work, man.

In pushing our bodies in exercise, we endure the short term pain, discomfort and possibility of failure because we want something more. We want what comes when we have strong muscles; the definition, the strength, the knowledge and the confidence that come from knowing we are capable.  We work our bodies because we know that we want to be able to do the other things that require that muscle strength.

Isn’t the same true for our own boundaries?

When we work our boundaries, is it not because we know that we want more; more inner strength, more of what allows us to truly align with who we are, to be surrounded by others who understand and accept us? Authenticity. To be surrounded by others who truly see us, for all that lies within our squiggly, messy lines or our boring geometric edges. And love us.

The challenge, of course, is to not be too rigid, to find our balance with this line – we get to choose the amount of fluidity in the line, and we can only know that by being brave enough to start, to try.  Like Elizabeth Gilbert, we must start speaking our truth sooner. We must put ourselves on notice.

240099_567045576756225_2818715820781149113_oOn the back cover of the book, a review by the Wall Street Journal says:

“Give me the splendid irregularities any day. God Bless the panhandles and notches, the West Virginias and the Oklahomas.”

To that I say:

“Give me the splendid imperfections any day. God bless the vulnerabilities, the differences and the fears, the secrets and the quirks.”

For isn’t that the beauty of what is inside?



Ps…Why are Colorado and Wyoming are so similar in their shapes?

-Colorado – Money: gold

-Wyoming – Space: 7 degrees of width, coal & waterways & trails (Oregon, California and Overland Trails). Oh, and Utah’s involved too.

But, like with us, it’s way more complicated than that.