Love In-Between


Sometimes it feels like we jump from one special occasion to another, as if crossing a creek, hopping from stone to stone.  Halloween, for example, will be the next stone for our family this year.  My 11 year old started counting down to Halloween when she began planning her unicorn costume sometime in June.  Next, it’ll be my birthday, then Thanksgiving, other daughter’s birthday, and then, Christmas.  You get my point.

We mark life with major events, like weddings, births, graduations, job promotions, relocations, and deaths. I do think it’s important to acknowledge these with revelry, gifts, showing up to celebrate, and for the last, appreciation, love, and support.  What about all the other time, though?  The waters of life that flow briskly by as we plan for the next stone, awaiting the next big happening?

This, I would argue, is where, when we take the time to notice and savor, we find so much love.  Not the big, romantic, write-home-about-it kind of love, but the love that sustains us and makes us content with our lives.  It’s in the flow that we discover moments that fill us and carry us forward with no fanfare, but often, a quiet and profound appreciation.

I’m talking about waking up to the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee made just the way I like it, because Rad knows, and he’s also put my favorite travel mug and coconut milk out next to the french press.  It’s the sound of my dog’s claws moving along the hardwood floor at a frantic pace, excitedly anticipating our morning drive to drop off kid 3 at school.  It’s the cool fall breeze kissing my skin as I walk outside.  And the Snapchat from kid 1 living across the country, assuring me that 1) he’s alive; and that 2) he remembers his mom; and 3) he’s smiling, so things hopefully are going well today.  It’s the excited tone in kid 2’s text sharing that her english teacher is delighted with her writing ability.

It’s the click-click-clicking game the squirrels play to torment my frantic dog, eager to climb the Oak to reach them.  And the hug from an old friend as we run into each other while grocery shopping.  A passage in a book that brings tears to my eyes because it’s so true and so real and so magic.  My weekly hula class where I have learned to bravely chant, learning and holding close so much I somehow missed earlier about the culture in which I was raised.  Cutting into an avocado and finding it just the right ripeness, yielding just enough to my touch.  Causing happy surprise by helping a stranger on the street. Or sharing a compliment, guerilla style.

There is so, so much love in the water between the stones.  Allow yourself to slow down and immerse yourself in it.  Let it bathe you in gratitude and joy, and wash away all that other noise that depletes you.  There is, after, all, so much love in-between.6tdqIcWtRiO3mia0ehedTQ

A Personal Reflection of Charles Bukowski’s Poem, Bluebird




My dad. I’m fairly certain he had a bluebird in his heart, so deep down not many knew of its existence.  He passed away 5 years ago, alone, in the bedroom he rented from a minister who ran a “sober” house.  A house in which 4 men, all strangers, each inhabited a bedroom and shared the common spaces.  Like college roommates without any connection to each other whatsoever.  And minimal conversation.

Of course, when I called my sister to join me in saying goodbye to his body, stiffened in an upright, seated position, we noted that his blaring tv was set to a sports channel, and we wondered what he had been watching for his last moments.  He hated sports.  We sent him off, packaged in an awkwardly shaped body bag to the the local medical school, and emptied his room.  There was a backpack tucked deep in his closet, filled with emptied Jim Beam bottles.  He had a couple drawers of clothes, and a laptop.  And, propped on his dresser, a framed photo of us taken during our childhood.

Our mother was forbidden from visiting.  She was, as he claimed all too often, “an asshole.”  Theirs was not a civil divorce.  His girlfriend of 15 years had evicted him a month before he died.  He clung to his cell phone, undoubtedly hoping for her call during his last day.  She never phoned.  I could only imagine the drama they had shared.  God knows, we witnessed 20 years of it in our own house.  The angry silences, the excuses after his late nights, half-concealed bruises on my mother, the slurred rants, plates smashed against walls, the tears.

Clumsily moving aside these images, I choose to focus on others.  The drives to school, windows rolled up, cracked open just a touch, so that the cigarette smoke could meander up and out, but only after leaving us with its stench.  We carried the lunches he prepared for us . . . the mini pizzas accented with added mozzarella and slices of lunch meat.  We didn’t have the heart or courage to tell him that by noon, the cheese and meat would have congealed into a cold mass.

He would sing sometimes, eyes closed, head tilted upward, smiling and feeling every word of Bridge over Troubled Water.  When we scattered his ashes in the ocean, my sister and I anchored our canoe, shared stories, and sang his favorite Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel songs.  We knew song was how he allowed his bluebird to appear.

I wondered how long in the past it was that others could see that bluebird as well.  So many secrets that, like the bluebird, peered out every once in a while.  Secrets that forced my dad to guard that bluebird fiercely from a childhood spent moving from family to family after some hushed abuse, mysterious not-to-be-shared time as a sharpshooter in Vietnam-era Southeast Asia, countless fights, a lackluster attempt at self-employment, and failed relationships.

Somehow, I have a confident knowing that today, my dad’s bluebird is perched next to him, both of them singing wholeheartedly and with so much feeling.

Peace, please. Surviving summer.


I am a big fan of summer. More time just hanging out and connecting with my kids, instead of herding them to school on time, policing homework, being a safe place to unload stress. Summer is a different, happier kind of busy. Until it’s not.

It’s not all laughter and sunshine. (I’d say rainbows, but rain is scarce here in California right now). All this togetherness also means more negotiation, mediation, coordinating, and, wow, driving. Okay, a lot of driving. Oh, and getting my work done in the process.

I find my valuable quiet time slipping away some days. Which leads to me feeling a bit less patient, less kind, and less present. (Telemarketers and “me first!” drivers, beware). It’s not how I want to spend this time, really.

So, back to my rising earlier than the others. Back to my quiet solo yoga, or listening to mellow music, or just writing while the sun rises. Back to noticing the sound of birds. I’m counting on peace to help me back.

Back to Life after 5 Days of Extreme Self-Care


I recently took unprecedented action in my life.  It was the opposite of being on one of those reality TV survival shows.  I removed myself, for the first time in the 15 years since becoming a mom, from taking care of anyone but myself.  For 5 days.  Okay, that was kind of a lie.  Honestly, I was cared for.  Well, I still had to brush my teeth and shower.  Does that count?  It ROCKED.  The icing on the cake?  I engaged in this being-cared-for practice in the mountains of Umbria, Italy.


This was my work.


I was more relaxed than I’ve been in I-don’t-know-how-long. Ever, perhaps. Seventeen other women and I were sequestered away, freed up to meditate, express, dance, cry, hug, reflect and connect.  We showed up three times a day to savor delicious, fresh food lovingly prepared by a chef as we talked, laughed, and soaked in the views of lavender, rosemary, cyprus tress, surrounding mountains and abandoned, far-off castles. We walked and ate wild blackberries.  We made fresh pasta.  We tasted wines. We even had a day of shopping.  Oh, and we had massages.

Everything was planned and provided.  Really, I’m not sure a girl can be in a more nurturing environment than the one in which our lucky group of women was immersed for almost a week.  Heaven.  Our two lovely leaders, Christine Arylo and Kristine Carlson, teamed up their very different styles to help us identify and surrender those things that deplete us, and to receive more of what buoys us.  They helped foster a safe sisterhood that made us feel supported and connected.  I left that retreat full of energy, love, and optimism.

So, here I am, in the process of re-entry.  My precious family, who cheered and showered me with affection when I walked in the front door after returning, is back to a bit of bickering about chores and critiquing my choice of family meals.  Four days after returning from Italy, I got back on a plane with my 13 year old daughter and her two friends to see One Direction in concert at the Rose Bowl.  It was so fun to watch the girls bursting with joy and melting over these coiffed boys, but really, trust me when I say I probably paid sufficient penance for my time savoring quiet and relaxation. I’m not a great crowd person.  I may have even dropped a few quiet f-bombs in the middle of the pushing and shoving of that teenage estrogen-fueled frenzy.

Image 2

Do you feel the contrast in energy from the above pictures?

What’s a girl to do?  I don’t want my spirit to start rolling up into a cocoon amid the rush to get to appointments on time, less than cheery news stories, and the treadmill of busy to-dos of everyday life.  I want to live open and joyfully, despite and, perhaps, especially with the darkness that lurks in our world.

So here’s what I’m thinking might work for me.  As a regular practice, I’ve decided to:

1.  Make space.  Space in time and in environment.  I bought a sparkly watch while in Italy to remind myself that I am allowed to set aside time for ME.  In my life, this looks like waking up before the rest of my household.  It means taking time each afternoon before school’s out to break out my yoga props and drop into a restorative pose.  20 minutes should do just fine.


It also means to keep the clutter to a minimum.  I don’t know about you, but nothing sucks the happy out of me quicker than a pile of stuff on my desk.  That nagging reminder that I have bills to pay, papers to file, invitations to answer is not ringing with joy.  I aim to clear out for a few minutes each day and make space to live presently without the burden of have-tos.

Another way I make space is to sit in my backyard and commune with our big old oak tree.  Its strength, stability, beauty, and patience soothes my soul in a way that’s hard for me to explain.  If I lived next to a creek, I know the sound of water would do the same for me.  Nature, nature, nature.  Always there to remind us that life goes on, even when an unanswered jury summons remains on the kitchen counter.  Life is bigger than our everyday tasks.  Finding a bench, a walking path, a flowering plant in our surroundings where we can go for just a few minutes each day can provide a gateway into our bliss.


2.  Connect.  Yes, it would be nice to have our closest, most unconditional-love-filled people available to us at any moment.  Having these people on speed-dial is a great idea, but the reality is that connection can and should happen on so many different levels all the time.  It makes my day to hit the grocery store check-out line and know the name (and kids’ names) of the person helping me.  I love running to the dry cleaner and talking about family, life, and whatever comes to mind.  This week, my acupuncturist/therapist/friend and I laughed so hard during my session that his colleague had to shush us.  This is the stuff that lifts me.   Connection provides such healing energy, even though it’s rarely about baring your soul in a protected space, holding hands, and hugging.  Although, don’t get me wrong, I do love those sacred moments, too.  Especially the hugging.


My guaranteed sources of unconditional love.

3.  Breathe.  (Does this fall into the space category?)  I always come back to this tool, but it always works.  Pause, breathe, and feel tension melt away.  Slow it down regularly.  It’s hard to feel inspired and joyful when you’re gunning it to your next appointment, fists clenched around the steering wheel.  Slow down and breathe.  Chances are you’ll get where you need to go just as quickly, and you’ll bring way better energy with you when you get there.  Which then helps you to connect.  And, it’s a lot easier to notice beauty in life when you slow down and breathe.  It’s there, at the ready to soothe your soul and dose you with joy.


So, here’s to occasional get-aways that remind us how peaceful life can be.  And, here’s to creating some of that slowed-down, nurturing feeling in the every day.  Cin cin!