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Apparently, on the day that your firstborn turns fourteen, amidst a week of back-to-back high school tours, you march into a salon and insist on having all ten inches of your hair chopped off. Once home, realizing your cute Greta Gerwig style was not achieved, you take scissors to yourself and begin cutting… but consumed by panic stop mid way. You have removed clumps of hair (trying to achieve “wisp”) and added 1/2 bangs to your $45 salon style.

“I can fix this,” you think and dig out big earrings and dark eyeliner, trying to re-create that semi-Goth look you rocked in the 90’s. You manage to achieve a Courtney Love look, but less “Nirvana days” Courtney and more like “heading to a rehab retirement home” Courtney.

“Music will make this better,” you decide and start scrolling through Spotify, where you stumble upon the first Cranberries album you ever owned and turn it up full tilt. Whirling about in your living room, close to tears, you are wailing the lyrics to “Zombie” to two guinea pigs who clearly don’t know what’s in your head.

Sinead, Garbage, Ani, Tori… it’s a dark and slippery slope, one you haven’t been on since before you had kids, and it makes you feel powerful and sad and angry and young. For an instant, you wonder why you never smoked clove cigarettes. It isn’t until you Google “Piercing Parlors”, that the rush begins to fade and you remember you have kids to pick up from school with a sink full of dishes and yard full of dog poop. You throw on the Cowboy Junkies for one last song before you get back to listening to, “Being Mortal” this month’s book club selection.

Grocery list in hand, baseball cap on, you climb into your van, early enough to make a stop before you hit the car line up. At the last second, you glide past the Shop and Save and pull into Paul’s Piercing Pagoda.

Happy birthday my sweet child. In just a few more years, you and I will be the same age.

(Parts of this essay may or may not be true.)


Two families wait

A mom in her 30’s cradles her son
Two elementary school girls sit by her side
Silent on the concrete bench
Hair pulled back tight
Pale pink lace dresses, two pairs of new sandals
One red, one white
A miniature white button-down man shirt on the baby
Tucked into pint-sized pressed navy shorts

Baby boy bounces from knee to knee
Tiny fingers pop bits of cereal into hungry mouths
Immaculate, contained, quiet

Greying father and mother sit in the front
Two pre-teen girls sit with their chocolate puppy behind
Parked at the curb in their restored vintage van
Hair wet and stringy tossed everywhere
Damp bathing suit underneath a faded junior lifeguard sweatshirt
A cat t-shirt stained with spots of paint and food
Over outgrown blue shorts
Hand-me-down flip flops, bare feet

Dog wrestles in the back seat
Hands shove sandwiches dripping with shredded lettuce and mayonnaise into uninterested mouths
Relaxed, loud, bored

Both families wait for permission slips to roam over borders and return home

Numbers are called
One family enters
One walks away
One White
One Latino

Which is which?

Water temps are in the 70’s, air temp in the 80’s. Seminyak has sprawling flat beaches with a break that was Beginner Land one day (2-3′), and a Boyfriend Beater the next (10′). Mostly handfuls of daring tourists trying to sort it out. Rivers of mopeds with surf racks flow through Canguu, outpost of the tragically hip. Unlike Seminyak, where the shores are lined with beach resorts, Canguu has surf shack after beach bar standing side by side next to the water temples. A chance to find God in the curl of every break or at the bottom of every bottle. There is a three tier break: a big daddy in the back that rises roughly 2′ higher than two juniors curling closer to shore. This father/son combo separates out the rank beginners from the seasoned veterans nicely. Longboards rule these slow, curling sets lined with ghostly white Australians bobbing up and down in matching rash guards.

Uluwatu Surfing Beach was a play on words: all surfing, no beach. After descending many steps into the jungle, surfers come into a limestone cave, and must navigate crashing waves, craggy boulders and ripping currents if they want the quickest point of entry.

The rest of us climb out to the best seat in the house (complete with fresh coconuts and Bintang for sipping), perched cliffside to watch the spectacle below. Above us sits a line of cameras with million dollar lenses, the telltale sign of surf talent in the house. Uluwatu’s break is fast and hard, splitting in the middle giving surfer’s the option to go left or right. The water cave entry and the intermediate break weed out the novices, so everyone shreds, or gets pounded spectacularly. Truly stunning to watch.


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If Hawaii and Nepal could have a love child, it would be Bali. Clove cigarettes, incense and French perfume mix with thick, moist air, petrol and the lingering scent of a sea we can’t seem to find. Walled passageways lead to closed carved doors and a surprise encounter at every turn. Like hot Australian surfers, packs of ‘taksi’ drivers hovering in the dark or Michael Jackson bouncing off the bamboo walls of an open air club. We’ve only been here a handful of hours and the love is taking root.

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Ready To Fly?

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

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I’m a sucker for religious art. Might have something to do with turning the metaphysical into the physical. In any case, I’ve been itching to paint something… which says something because I don’t paint.

This is the Hand of Fatima. In Islam, the Hand of Fatima is named for Mohammad’s daughter, Fatima Zahra and Christians refer to it as the Hand of Mary, for the Virgin Mother, yet the symbol predates both Islam and Christianity, back to Mesopotamia. The Jews also subscribe to the symbol referring to it as the Hand of Miriam, referring to the biblical sister of Moses and Aaron. The symbol of the open right hand is also a mudra (or hand posture) of teaching and protection of the Buddha.

The symbol represents protection particularly against what is known as the ‘evil eye’. I happen to know something about the evil eye because my Italian grandmother would spit on us occasionally to remove such things.

Not sure what is drawing me to this image now. I first saw it when traveling in Turkey and Morocco about 20 years ago, but never really cared for it. Now, I’m trying not to paint it on my front door.

Mystical message or moving neurosis? You decide.


And just like that, it is done. He’s out in the garage searching for the contractor sized garbage bags. We’ve opened a flood gate, and it’s broken free from its hinges and rushing downstream never to be seen from again.

We’re downsizing. In a big way.

Maybe it is this quote that I saw the other day that inspired me.

“I’m 82 and live on and with the barest of necessities, for the less I have, the better I feel. I regularly go through my small house wondering what else I can get rid of. Minimalism is soothing, aesthetically appealing. I sometimes fantasize about living in a cell like a monk – a cot, a table, and a window.

Knowing what I know now, if I had my life to live over, at the age of 18, instead of sitting around devising plans for a cluttered life, I would put a knapsack on my back and with my dog I would leave the house and just start walking.”

Or maybe it was this article that I read about living in a tiny space and making room for bigger and better moments in your life.

Or maybe, just maybe, it is time. Maybe I’ve just outgrown my things as I no longer want to be “kept” by them. Take my beloved books for example, years of collecting titles to fill some fantasy library, moving them from place to place… now just reminders of words I haven’t read, time that I just don’t have.

And for the books that I’ve read, that I love, that I’ll go back to again… how fair is it for me to keep them waiting on the “someday” where I might read or need them again? Or would they best be served on someone else’s nightstand, inspiring, encouraging, educating?

The other day, my 9 year old declared that she wants a bigger house, one with rooms upon rooms that we can fill with many things, and some that we can just keep empty. “As big as a hotel,” she declared, “so there is space for everything I want.”

I am horrified. Time for a change.

So, I’m sitting here trying to squeeze witty and inspirational drops of my brain out onto the keyboard and a friend emails me. Thank GOD! A distraction!! I read the email and she wants to know how I am… so I begin to tell her. I tell her I’m trying to squeeze witty and inspirational drops of my brain out like orange juice, with pulp, and how writing is my force majeure. Now, to be honest, I initially typed ‘force de major’ just hearing the words in my head. Not really understanding what it meant, I had to go look it up. This is what I found…

: superior or irresistible force
: an event or effect that cannot be reasonably anticipated or controlled — compare Act of God

And that is how it happens. This is how I write. I hear it in my head and it boils out of my fingers, usually faster than I can type it, and it makes something. I can plan a piece in my head, lay it out so that the 2’s follow the 1’s and it is a lovely little jigsaw puzzle that lays flat and formatted… but then I get to the keyboard. I start to type what I planned and something else entirely takes over. Most of the time, I had no idea that I even have these thoughts or opinions, but they make sense and deeply connect once I see them in print. Other times, the writing is shining a light into the darkness that I had no idea was even there anymore, something way back in the corner, underneath the bed and stuffed behind boxes of outgrown clothes and balls of cat fur, never really decomposing, just creating a stain on the floor.

Writing, for me anyway, is about getting out of the way. Truth be told (and bear with me because I’m figuring this out as my fingers find the letters on the pad) it is the same as meditation for me – pulling the constant chatter of my to do lists, popping up emails, status updates, piles of unfolded laundry out of the IN YOUR FACE part of my brain, sitting back and just letting the deeper, bigger part come forward. And this Other part, it is wiser, funnier and quieter. It is a whispering voice that is easily missed if not actively tuned into. It is kind and gentle and guiding. And it isn’t solely a voice in my head (Yeah, see what I mean? NEVER thought I was going to sit down and write about the voice in my head this morning. Hang on, this will hopefully get better.) Once the awareness is turned on (fighting the urge now to capitalize Awareness), there are moments and messages leading me toward what it is that I’m supposed to be doing, who I actually am, coming forward all of the time. The spontaneous use of ‘force majeure’ is an example. I have no idea when I ever heard that term (guessing I have heard the term… because if I never have… then how did it get in my head?) and yet, here it is to not only accurately describe how I feel about my writing, but it also delivers the clear message to me that yes, indeed, the act of writing can be compared to an Act of God (I’m only capitalizing here because it did so on the Merriam-Webster website).

I have subscribed to The Daily Prompt, a service of WordPress to inspire us bloggers to write by giving us a topic. Today’s is ‘What change, big or small, would you like your blog to make in the world?’ I want people to wake up and become aware as I have. I want them to recognize that perhaps all of the ways that we tune into the world – email, Facebook, smartphones, Twitter, television, Pinterest, even blogs – can actually tune us OUT of the bigger, wiser, funnier, even dire messages that we get from a bigger, truer source (again, fighting the urge to capitalize Source). I’m not condemning those services, those distractions, but rather encouraging everyone to recognize that perhaps those things take a certain priority that they shouldn’t. Paradoxically, (See? Just over here working it out as it comes again.) they also offer opportunities for us to wake up to the signposts all around us, indicating the Way to Go. (Seriously, tired of fighting the capitalization urge that is clearly being dictated by something other than the standard comprehension of the rules of grammar.)

And if this blog, if Riding The Margin never accomplishes this goal, this mission of illumination, that is okay too. Because ultimately, while it may simply entertain a few (who clearly all now think I’m an undiagnosed schizophrenic), it will continue to be my vessel that keeps me awake, aware and listening to that bigger part of myself where Truth lives.