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My first short story in over 20 years, “The Birthday Story” won 3rd place in the 2016 Ventura Country Writer’s Club Short Story contest and is published in the VCW 2016 Anthology.


Delaney stopped picking at the skin on her pimply nose to give me the stink eye in the passenger visor mirror. She’s Mom’s accomplice, but after their fight this morning, who knows.

“Lily Bear,” Mom said. “I can’t believe you’re nine years old today. Has your mustache started to come in yet?”

“Funny Mom. No one gets a mustache when they turn nine years old. Especially girls.”

Mom looked at me in the rearview mirror like I’d told her I had a cough or a splinter. “I can’t believe Delaney didn’t tell you. Ask her. Girl mustaches are silvery whiskers, sort of like a cat, you can sense danger with them. She made us shave hers off.”

“Really Delaney?” I said. She threw Mom a glare, then stuck her tongue out at me, which either meant Mom lied again or Delaney didn’t want to tell me the truth. I hated Mom’s lies. She added in enough truth, so I never knew what to believe. Like the time she told me my blue birthmark was a permanent ink stamp from when I arrived as a baby on a cargo ship from Madagascar. I’d never met anyone with a blue birthmark, not one with squiggle lines in the shape of a ‘3’ and a ‘W’. Maybe I wasn’t born in Connecticut, but on a mysterious island with friendly lemurs and those giant trees that look like carrots growing upside down. Sometimes I wished her stories were true.

“That’s your idea of a birthday gift, Mom? Dragging her around Ventura for the hundredth time on your made up history tour and freaking her out about facial hair?” Delaney said. I closed my eyes, waited for mom to comment. I heard Delaney whisper, “Fail”. The car moved faster.

I ducked my head behind the front seat, pretended to pick something up off of the floor, touched my fingers to my top lip. Smooth like velvet. No prickly hairs. Liar.

“Get ready,” Mom said, raised herself up in her seat. “We’re coming up on the first stop of our Magical Ventura Tour.” The groaning sound from the steering wheel made me think maybe the car didn’t want to be on the tour either.

“Mom, can’t we do something else for once?” Delaney said. “We know all of your ridiculous stories already. I bet Lily doesn’t even want to be here and it’s her birthday.”

“Lily Bear, is this true?” We sat curbside in front of City Hall, the engine coughed like a bear with a cold. Mom rammed the shifter into park, peeked around the front headrest at me. I turned to the window. The weird smiling marble faces carved all along the front of city hall laughed down at me. I hate birthdays. I wished Dad were with us.

“No, it’s okay,” I said. “Tell the story, Mom. Reminds me of when we moved here.”

“Well, few people know this but Ventura City Hall was built on top of an ancient Chumash burial site.”

“Not true,” Delaney said. “I asked my social studies teacher, he’s from here. He said ‘no’.”

My stomach hurt. I thought about my cake in the fridge with my name written in blue cream cheese frosting. Dad and I both loved carrot cake.

“Mr. Carver?” Mom said, brushed Delaney’s bangs out of her eyes.


“Honey, Mr. Carver drinks. He can’t be trusted. Grab yourself some Midol from my purse. You’ll feel better.”

Mom turned back around to wink at me. Delaney sighed like a movie star, crumpled into a sulking pile.

“Anyway, Lily Bear, the city planners built city hall on an ancient Chumash burial ground, then carved the faces of the Franciscan friars who founded the mission on the outside of the building. They did this to honor the men who wanted to civilize the native Chumash right out of their own culture.”

“What’s wrong with civilizing someone?” I said. Two girls in my class, Annabel and Janie, were in cotillion. When I asked, they told me they went to dances to learn how to be civilized. I tried to imagine the Chumash natives ballroom dancing together in grass skirts and white gloves.

“Depends on your definition of civilization. But the Chumash people got revenge. Know what they did?”

I did know, but I wanted her to tell me like she did every birthday. Mom started the Ventura “Her-story Tour” the first year we moved here, on my fifth birthday. In first grade, I had to write a special report after I told the class pirates put up Serra Cross, not missionaries. Mom made me a cross birthday cake that year, with vending machine toys baked inside.

“Nope,” I said.

“They cursed the land. When the rare blue moon rises in the sky, those friar’s faces come to life and tell all the secrets kept within the walls of City Hall!”

“When’s the blue moon? Has anyone ever seen them come alive?”

I felt the familiar thrill rise up inside. My mother’s magic held me.

“I have a question since you know about all things secret and mystical.” Delaney’s voice jabbed at our mother. My palms started to sweat. Unlike her usual pouty, dramatic self, a new Delaney voice came out.

“Where’s our father?”

Dammit Delaney. It’s my birthday! You need to do this now? Awesome.

“Excuse me?” Mom said, her voice like a policeman instead of a tour guide. She turned, faced Delaney head on.

“Our father. The one who used to live with us but one day never came home again. Where is he? And no more made up stories. How about some truth this time? Where’s our father?”

I stopped taking full breaths, picked at the scab on my elbow. The sun poked out above the trees. I felt the beams burn on my shoulder, but unsticking my bare legs from the car seat meant ripping at my sunburn from yesterday, so I stayed still. I made a birthday wish my window wasn’t stuck closed. We never talked about Dad, just like we never talked about earthquakes, the great white sharks spotted around the river mouth or the drought.

“Your father is out to sea.”

The car rolled away from the curb.

“For three years? How does someone go out to sea for three years?”

I can remember a lot from when I was six. I remember one time Delaney sat on top of me after I had eaten a bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream, tickled me until I laughed so hard I puked all over her legs. I remember Tommy Leone from down the street threw my green Matchbox car into the sewer drain. And I remember when I won my goldfish Percy at the school carnival, even though he only lasted a couple of days. But as hard as I try, I don’t remember what Daddy’s voice sounded like.

“He got on the wrong ship,” Mom said. “He was supposed to be going out for an overnight fishing trip to Santa Rosa, but instead he got on a ghost pirate ship. This ghost ship was disguised to look like all the other fishing boats. Not his fault. Now he’s sailing around the world.”

We sat dangling at the stop sign on the top of California Street, below the sea stretched out like a silver blanket in front of us. Floating in the mist like scoops of whipped cream, were the Channel Islands. How fast would we have to go to fly out over the pier and the sea, to get to those islands?

“They say sometimes the ghost ships return to their original port, but I don’t know if that’s true. Your father always wanted to see the world. I guess this was a wish come true.”

We moved down California Street, headed for the beach.

Aside from wishing the car window open, I had also birthday wished for a new bike, a puppy and for Daddy to come home. I asked God to cancel the earlier three and put all my wish juice towards Daddy.

“No Mom.” Delaney’s voice sounded stretched like a balloon filled with water. “The truth this time. We don’t want any more stories. Please.”

Mom yanked the car over to the side of the road, we skidded a bit when the tires hit the sand. Thrown into park the car jerked forward.

“What exactly do you want me to tell you, Delaney? What do you want the truth to be? Does it feel better to know City Hall is built on nothing more than dirt? The truth is cold and boring and doesn’t ever go away. I don’t know where your father is. He told me he was going fishing, a man who never owned a fishing pole mind you, decided to go on a fishing trip with a suitcase in his hand. Then I never saw him again. There. Does that feel better or any more real than he’s on a disappearing ghost ship?”

Delaney burst out of the car, ran toward the massive sand dune in front of the water. Mom said the ‘f’ word, kicked her door open and marched across the sand toward Delaney.

When I caught up to them at the bottom of the dune, both of them sat in the sand. A scrunched up Delaney sobbed in Mom’s arms, Mom whispered into her ear, stroked her hair, rocked her back and forth. I wanted to pop the heavy empty bubble inside of me, so I squished myself in between them both.

We came up for air, a wet, snotty, sniffling mess and I birthday wished a box of Kleenex for us all.

“Come on,” Mom said. “The sea wants to give a girl a birthday kiss.”






As my daughter and I got ready for the swim around the pier, the final test prior to graduation from the Junior Lifeguard program, she confessed to me that she was terrified. “Please Mom, don’t leave me,” she begged as we walked with 50 others into the shore break. I promised that I would not, that I would never.

As we crossed the surf and started kicking through our first 100 yards, she started shouting encouragement.

“Come on, Mom! You can do this! Just imagine we’re dolphins and this is where we live.”

I’ve never smiled through a swim workout, but I did that day.

Afterwards, I thanked her for her inspiration and told her it was the best part of the entire experience. I then asked her why she decided to cheer me on for the entire swim.

“Did it help you feel less afraid if you concentrated on cheering me on?”

“No, I just wanted to help you make it through to the end.”

“But I was fine. I wasn’t in trouble, that’s just how I swim”

“Sorry Mom, but you swim like you’re in trouble.”

Three weeks later, and a week after the triathlon, I was in the emergency room waiting for the results from the first of two chest xrays. Seems eating garlic, breathing in the equivalent of an entire eucalyptus tree and imbibing in every other natural remedy under the sun will never prevent what is meant to be. The day of the tri, I had a full blown chest cold where I sounded like someone unwrapping candy from a cellophane wrapper every time I breathed in. But I had come too far and tried too hard. I was fine, it was all fine, I could do this.

My daughter came to me the night before the race, and declared herself able and ready to participate. Despite the fact that I was fully prepared to race solo, she felt compelled to be by my side, to not let me go it alone. She wanted to take care of me. I was so proud.

The only reason that I finished is because my daughter helped me to do so. During the swim, the fluid in my chest overcame me and it was all I could do to take a single breath. My confident and incredibly brave 10 year old talked me through all 500 yards, shouting encouragement and guiding me when I was swimming off course, since I had to resort to swimming on my back. Her spirit buoyed me physically as well as mentally.

The rest of the race was a celebration of us. We sang as we biked up hills, high-fived the traffic cops and shouted, “We’re doing a triathlon!” as we zipped past racing down the other side. We talked about life as we walked the final two miles, even though I kept secretly trying to get us into a jog, because yes, I’m just that insane. And we sprinted across the finish line, crossing it together.

I have learned so much from this experience of pushing myself beyond my boundaries and trying to take my child along on my journey with me. I learned that I should always examine my motives and then let it all go and just do what is right for me… maybe others will follow suit, maybe they won’t, but in the end if I do it for myself then I will never be disappointed. I learned that maybe we just look like we’re struggling, but really that is how we get ourselves to the next point, and rather than needing someone to swoop in and save us, all we need is a little encouragement.

I was sick with a respiratory infection for four weeks after the triathlon that kept me from taking even as much as a long walk. The first day I was able to exercise I tried to take a little jog, just one mile. I couldn’t even make a half mile, gasping for breath with aching legs, it was as if the four months of training never existed. I was back to square one. I was overcome with disappointment but I kept at it, and over the next several weeks I was back to running two miles again, shopping for a real road bike and researching upcoming sprint triathlons. You know that indelible spirit of my daughter’s? I think I know where she gets it.

Recently, a friend asked me, “Why do YOU want to do this challenge?”. Initially, I agreed to participate in this triathlon in order to prepare myself for an epic journey that I will be taking in the fall. This adventure is going to challenge me both physically as well as mentally, so jumping in and accepting this challenge seemed like the promise at gunpoint I needed to make myself actually get off of my ass and do something. Not one to ever feel comfortable wasting money, once I paid my $100+ registration fee, that was it; the deed had been done.

In thinking about her question, I realize that there is so more…

1. I am becoming addicted to being uncomfortable. Sounds totally odd, I know, but I had this realization while pushing out 15 miles on the bike the other day. Moving to California turned our worlds upside down. Plucked from our cozy little farm life in upstate NY, and a lifetime spent on the east coast, we flung ourselves across the country from everyone we knew, and plopped ourselves into a time zone, culture and surroundings that we had very little knowledge or experience with. After the shock and adjustment period was over, we looked around and felt like superheroes. We had done it! We took on Goliath and kicked his ass. We steamrolled over our fears and are now doing the Rocky dance on city hall’s steps. If you have ever attempted rising above a seemingly insurmountable obstacle and find yourself the victor, then you know the feeling of euphoria and immortality that just such an experience casts off. That feeling is addictive, and I wanted more. I wanted another adventure that scared the crap out of me, one that made me feel alive (like I was DOING something) and would push me to see the world differently, awaken me to new perspectives, conquer more of my inner darkness. (A part of that darkness is the ego boost that comes with telling people, “I’m doing [insert exciting adventure here] ,” or bitching about something that makes me seem big and important, and the illumination of how addictive that boost can be. Still working on that one.) I have learned so much more about myself when I was uncomfortable, freaked out and just plain terrified, and from those places I have found more strength, discovered more abilities, and enjoyed more inner peace. Let’s just say that I like pushing out of the cocoon only to learn that I can fly.

2. I want my girls to know that they can conquer anything, and the only way to teach that principle is to live it. I want my girls to grow up saying, “I’ll try”, rather than, “I can’t”. And so, for them, I’m going to push myself to do things I’ve been scared of my entire life and I’m going to be honest about it with them. Essentially, I’m tri’ing.

3. When I was enjoying a recent lament over the training (with a heaping dose of sarcasm, ego and some humor) another friend reminded me that it isn’t that I “have to” do this, it is that I “GET to” do this, and she is right. When I’m out there sucking wind, what an awesome reminder it is that I am blessed enough with the health, the means and the opportunity to challenge myself in this very friendly, easy way. I now carry that gratitude with me and send it back out into the world as best as I can.

4. I’m ready. It is hilarious and pungently ironic for me to type this as the race is 4 days away and I’m ingesting every cold remedy known to man in order to prevent the inevitable race day wake up with blown out sinuses, but I am, I’m ready. I feel that I have finally arrived at a point in my life, where I have acquired the confidence, insight and tools that help me to conquer just about anything tossed my way, and the realization that I can do it with a smile. Doesn’t mean I’m going to LIKE whatever it is that I’m up against, but I highly doubt that it would break me, as it could have or even possibly has in the past. I decide what it means to be in this triathlon, and I’m not only going to rock it, but I’ll be the one sporting Sharpie marker tattoos and glitter from her kids, singing and smiling all the way.

The other day, while on a training ride, I ended up biking amidst runners completing a marathon. At first, I didn’t say anything, and just rode past, handing out the occasional smile but not wanting to intrude on their concentration. Yet it seemed just too serendipitous that I was put in the midst of all of these people pushing themselves to live better lives and not help them along, so I started cheering them on, shouting out, “You go, Ladies!” or “Keep going! You’ve got this!” as I pedaled. Not annoyance, but gratitude is what I got in return, time and time again. After I left them, I continued to shout greetings to the workers in the fields, who all happily replied in turn.

And in that moment, I knew what I would say as I cross the finish line this weekend, and yelled it above the traffic on the highway as I peddled,





Do you remember a time in your life when fear just never entered into the picture? The summer I turned five years old, we visited a friend’s pond; a murky hole in the ground that was teeming with soupy rich greenness. Being upstate NY in July, it was beastly hot and humid, so submersing in more moisture was surely the best answer for finding relief. We were told that the only way we could enter the water was on a float, because it was home to several snapping turtles. (Yeah, looking back upon that concept really colors my childhood in a whole new questionable hue.) Not really understanding what a snapping turtle was, or how that possibly could be a bad thing, I eagerly accepted a ride sitting upon my teenage friend’s back, on the float. (I’m not talking the sturdy water crafts of today that are tied off to docks and boats across upstate NY. This was 1977. Half deflated and covered with Pabst Blue Ribbon emblems, this raft was less floatation device and more flagship for a drunkard’s folly.)

We paddled out towards the middle, leaving behind the oppressive climate of the shore, and the casual concern of our parents.

About 10 feet offshore, the raft tipped over. Looking back upon it now, I’m not sure what is more surprising, the fact that no one anticipated this or that I was in the middle of a snapping turtle infested swamp, practicing Cirque du Soleil-like feats and did not know how to swim.

(Seriously, I need to take a minute here. This is the first real good think I’ve donated towards this memory. Where in the Hell were my parents? I know it is the 70’s and all, and surely I don’t expect a helmet or safety harness, but my God!  Would it have killed them to strap one of those inadequate styrofoam eggs to my back at least?)

As I sank to the bottom, I remember feeling only one thing. The sounds around me went silent and as I looked up towards the green dappled surface, and felt the sweet coolness of the water around me, I felt completely at peace. I wanted to stay there below the surface, bubbled in this womb of nature, but before I knew what was happening, I was being yanked to the surface where heat, blindingly bright light, and shrieks of terror reclaimed me.

As children, our innocence prevents us from being swallowed by our fears. Often times we aren’t afraid because we don’t know any better. Then as we walk through the world, we encounter obstacles that tend to come with the stories, anxieties and failures of others, which then become fears of our own. If only we can remain in that innocence, and simply view each experience, each obstacle, as new and separate from every other moment, fear wouldn’t stand a chance.

Yesterday, I brought the nine year old and the six year old to an indoor rock climbing gym for the first time. Imagine a warehouse sized space with multiple two and a half story high walls built out in various gravity taunting formations, dotted with a series of shaped holds that appear to be made from Play Doh. In the middle of the gym was a structure meant to resemble a boulder, standing 15 feet tall.

As we entered the space, the palms of my hands instantaneously began to perspire. Despite having spent time in the quarries of Massachusetts and the rock formations of New Hampshire climbing in my youth, I could feel my pulse quicken and my breathing shorten.

My daughters, who had never seen such a spectacle, were mesmerized. To them, I couldn’t sign the documents declaring them able to throw themselves to the wolves of gravity fast enough.

Within minutes of donning the equipment, the nine year old had bouldered her way (read: climbing guide rope free and thereby giving her mother another reason to drink on a Thursday afternoon) to the top of the 15 foot structure. The six year old was complaining that she wanted to remove her safety guide line (the belay) because the tension of the automated rope was competing with her tiny sparrow-like frame, and preventing her from being able to get close to the wall.

For them, there was no hesitation, only excitement. For me, there was a litany of emergency room menu items scrolling through my head. I tried my best to keep my anxieties to myself, and gently guide as opposed to aggressively scream. I did see my six year old pause once, as I reminded her when she had bouldered her way three feet above my head, that there was no guide rope and I couldn’t come get her down. She retreated down the wall, only to chalk up her hands, immediately remount and make her way the full five feet above my head so that she could loudly declare me wrong from her perch.

Recently, The Universe was kind enough to call me out on my nightly prayer of wanting to be shown my path. Apparently there is this notion that I should be writing a book. To further back up this cosmic plan, a famous and well documented journalist has been placed in my circle, near enough for me to reach out to, ask for assistance, and firmly solidify this next evolution of Mikko Cook.

My palms are sweating, my pulse is racing and I’m finding it difficult to breathe.

Thanks to the lesson of living in oblivion from my children and my own youth, instead of hitting ‘ignore’ when I see The Universe pop up on my caller id, I’m going to set aside all of my ‘what ifs’ and my ‘remember THATs’ and take the call. I’m going to take this new experience for what it is… new and to be experienced. Sure there is so much that can go horribly wrong (don’t think I haven’t been calculating it all out since I took that initial call), but now what if I pretend that I don’t know otherwise, that humiliation and rejection are like snapping turtles to a 5 year old… something that exists, nothing more.

Guess it is time to dig out my chalk bag and begin my ascent.


I’m sitting here, envisioning brain cells popping like bubble wrap under a 6 year old’s thumb, as I breathe in the sickeningly sweet aroma of an insecticide impersonating as Febreeze. I have won the battle against my cat’s fleas, and in that victory, I have lost.

Not really sure how in the Hell this got so out of control. We had an outdoor cat, who amongst other nefarious parasites, probably had a flea or two in her lifetime. But then, she was in the woods more than out, so really who could tell? We treated her for the gamut that any wild creature naturally carries about, but needs to leave at the door before cuddling with me on the couch, and never really had any issue with it.

Then we were moving to California. No longer on a 14 acre stretch of wilderness, we were going to be boxed in by neighbors on all sides, complete with their ark of pets, not to mention a whole new variety of wildlife.

“But the cat has to come with us!,” my children begged.

“But we would have to keep her indoors,” I explained.

“But it would break the children’s heart,” my husband countered.

“But she craps in the houseplants, finds the spotless litter box beneath her, and we’re moving into wall-to-wall white carpeting!,” I growled.

“But she is a part of our family,” he reminded me.

And that was that.

So Puck, appropriately named for her wandering out of the wilderness and into our lives, creating much midsummer’s mischief by disemboweling many a woodland sprite on our doorstep, became a west coast house cat.

We all learned to adapt. After two weeks of sleepless nights, we finally realized that playing with her during the day would help her sleep at night. (Yeah, I know, “Well, duh!” Clearly, we had never been real cat owners. We were more like an alternate food source for a feral beast.) We treated her to toys and special attention. It was bumpy, but we all seemed to be getting along.

But then she started scratching. And my kids started scratching. And my husband started scratching. I tried to convince myself that the state that barely sells bug spray has more insects than upstate NY in the summertime. Reality wasn’t postponed for long.

We have fleas. I say ‘we’ because fleas, like the joy of sexually transmitted diseases and foot fungus, is a community experience.Trying to contain fleas is like trying to contain a sneeze two seconds after it has already happened. A much more likely proposition when the host animal lives a majority of the time out of doors and rolls about in dust on an hourly basis. However more like Mission Impossible when said same host now lives on your bed 12 hours out of the day, and when not snoozing, is rolling about on the wall-to-wall carpeting.

I work all of the natural angles that I can muster. I vacuum so much that my biceps are bulging. Everything is a little smaller now because it has spent multiple cycles in the dryer on high. Our house smells like an exotic lemongrass tart, as I was dousing everything with the most natural and pleasant weapon in my arsenal.

And none of it is working.

I am coming apart. Shit like this never really got to me, but now I feel as if I’m peeling apart at the core and running up under my skin – like an inside out onion. Fears, frustration and utter exhaustion is just bubbling up to my surface; blind panic when I recall our past lice infestation, angst that I’ve thrown at others when they’ve had similar situations, rage against being forced to bring a cat against my wishes and never feeling heard in the first place, guilt for wanting my cat to disappear, even though all she ever does is want to cuddle with me – it is an ocean of negative waves, each one washing over me and it is all I can do to remain upright at the surface.

I find myself standing in the insecticide aisle at the store. The colors of the boxes and cans are bright and cheerful. They make promises that I’ll find the peace that I’m searching for. I don’t have to wait that long, either. In just a few quick steps, it will be all over.

When I get home, I light a candle and sit to meditate. I let the sadness and despair wash over me, through me.  I sit with it, just letting it take hold and hoping it will move on. I sit as long as I can before my mind is too filled to ignore.

I put my meditation cushion away, and pull out the insecticide.


My coffee mug has a picture of a black dog on it.  Not just any black dog, but the iconic image from The Black Dog bakery and cafe in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.  I drink coffee, tea and even the occasional red wine in this mug.  I love that it is old school, diner shaped, porcelain and that it is heavy enough to feel like I’m drinking something substantial.

A friend gave me this mug over a decade ago when she was embarking on her own west coast adventure.  It was of no use to her any longer.  She wanted to untie the bow lines and this mug was left behind.  She has since returned to the east, but has most likely forgotten about the cup.

Looking at the worn but famous type, I remember a visit to the bakery. I was on my way off of the island, hoping to never return as I had just experienced jail as well as my first in person hurricane, all at the tender age of 20.  The memory makes me smile.

This image on the mug is the same image that I once drew on the side of a canoe, the second major expenditure that my then boyfriend, now husband, made.  It represented our love of the island, the ocean and our adoration of our first major expenditure, our chocolate lab puppy, Graham.

That dog has since passed, but the mug remains.  Friendship, mischief, love… how can a simple coffee mug hold all of these things?

Because we attach our emotions, our energy, our stories to our stuff.

It was amazing to me, as we began the process of moving ourselves to California and determining what to get rid of, how heavy my stuff became with the memories and emotions that they were a part of.

At our wedding reception, my husband and I sat in two unique, red chairs – one velvet, one faux leather – like a king and a queen.  The chairs were a last minute addition to a very eclectic, self designed backdrop.

On the day that we walked about our house, deciding what to throw away, my husband immediately offered up the chairs – one broken so badly only the cat was able to still use it, the other forgotten all but as a depository for unused blankets.

“You can’t get rid of our wedding chairs! That one was my wedding gift to you!”

(I had found the red faux leather one on the side of the road, cleaned it, repainted it, and offered it up as a token of my undying love (and limited financial budget) to my betrothed.)

“Yeah, that chair is horrible to sit in, but we can keep it of you love it.  You only get to keep one.”

And there it was.  Those chairs were my wedding day, my love for my husband, my need to feel unique and artistic.  To me, they weren’t chairs, they were a part of my identity, a contrived one, but still a part of me.  To him, they were just chairs, mostly useless and uncomfortable.  To him, they were furniture.

Over the months before our departure, I learned a lot about my relationship to my stuff, and how I create my identity through my things.  We all do it, even my husband.  (Right now, he’s wandering back and forth in the living room debating exactly what is the right positioning for our artwork… all symbols of our artistic sense and creativity.)  I did fight for one chair, and it wasn’t the one I refinished.  It would have been easy to throw some sort of tantrum around my gift to him vs. his love for me… but in realizing that it was just furniture, not a love token, I was able to let that go.  What was even better was that the chair went to our newly married friends who had attended our wedding and held the memory of that day for us. There were thrilled to add this chair to the budding interior of their own home.  In some way, we were passing on the love of our marriage to theirs.

I am learning that I am not my things.  By attaching myself to my material possessions, I am only weighing myself down with the past and a contrived version of who I really am.  If my arms of full of my stuff, I have nothing left to reach out with and grab my dreams.

Yes, in addition to a handful of things, I still have this mug and I still have that one chair.  I negotiated a full reupholstery of the chair, complete with brand new peacock blue tufted velvet.  I sit in it now and marvel at how regal it feels, even in a simple living room.

The mug still holds hot coffee and a few memories.  If it broke tomorrow, I’d be frustrated, but not heartbroken.  My friend, my mischief and my dog will always be a part of me no matter who I choose to be.

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

MlookingnextWant to hear something insane?  Something so ludicrous that I can’t even believe that I’m thinking it, let alone giving it the light of day within the written word?

I don’t want to be settled in.

OK, a little back story… Almost eight months ago we have this kooky notion to uproot ourselves and move away from my hometown, where all of my family lives, and where I own a business, rent out our house built by my grandmother and move across the country to a town we’ve never even seen.  I detach from the business, we give away the majority of our possessions, and we say good bye to our comfortable life that we had worked for years to build.  Last month, we climbed onto that plane and we didn’t look back.

Now we’re here, in California, the other side of our world.  School is in session, boxes are unpacked, swimming lessons are scheduled, drivers licenses are on order.  There is still the novelty of waking up in a new world – remembering where the post office is and trying to figure out just which neighbor said ‘hi’ to you today – that is exciting, but the newness is fading.  The adventure is becoming routine.  We are slipping back into comfortable.

I don’t want to be comfortable.  I don’t want to forget to be present in every moment because now that moment is easy and I can just glide through it.  I don’t want to fall back into step with the expected path, the easy path, the comfortable path and pick my head up years later and think, “How did I get here, again?”

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not one of those martyrs that LOVES the drama and the crisis.  I used to be, but that shit is exhausting and doesn’t get me anywhere.  Fun to whine about, ultimately a complete suck as to actually moving through life.  I’m so over that.

I’m talking about sucking the marrow out of life, becoming an adrenaline junkie for actually living as opposed to just phoning it in.  And let’s be clear, I’m no idiot.  Swimming lessons still need to happen.  There is a modicum of traditional life, of existing within the routine and the mundane, that must be fulfilled.  I’m into that.  I’ve learned to look within the ordinary to find the beauty that exists.  But I’m not about to sit around and curate the Museum of Ordinary.  Way too many others willing to step up for that job.

I have an itch and it is not fully scratched yet.  Moving across the country was just the beginning.  There is more coming, and although I have no idea what it is, I know that I have to trust that it will all be sorted out.  But I am an inpatient person, in an instant gratification obsessed world.  Can I remain uncomfortable and aware or will I succumb to weaving a cocoon of familiar routine?

A beautiful and very missed friend reminded me today that we are exactly where we are supposed to be.  I guess for today I’m going to learn how being patient and satisfied to be right here is all the adventure that I need.

I just hope this shit doesn’t take forever.


I catch myself just staring out into space throughout the day, no real conscious thoughts going through my head.  My husband must ask at least 10 times a day if everything is ok.  “Sure,” I tell him, “I’m fine.”

I feel like I have the iconic Apple rainbow wheel spinning on my forehead.


I wonder if everyone feels energy in the way that I do.  (Hang tight because we’re going to get cosmic here.)  There are many layers of what I feel, sort of like diving in the ocean… the pressure changes, the temperature changes, the sense of space above and below you changes… but you just sense it all, never really consciously noting it all down.  For the most part, my daily existence is rather like surface swimming… having conversations, participating in activities, moving from task to task … none of these things generally involves a deeper sense of energy awareness, unless of course there is a conflict, or an emotional exchange that generally takes things to the next level.

Underneath this surface level, much like a current, there is an energetic layer where I can feel the energy of others as they mingle with mine. (Told you, cosmic.)  Like when you dive beneath a wave and the water temperature drops, you didn’t necessarily notice it on the surface, but now the coolness is running from head to toe. Within this place of awareness, I can feel when others are spinning in some sort of emotion… anger, fear, sadness, anxiety… and it has taken me a long time to understand how this impacts me and how to remain neutral.

Sure there are other layers of awareness, not anything I’ll get into right now since it would be nice to live out a full two weeks in our new home without being committed, but lately, as my rainbow wheel spins, there is an overarching awareness, as if I’m suddenly swimming in that ocean, with all it’s layers and temperatures and currents, and now I’m also aware that I’m on a moving planet.  It is as if I’m literally processing, at an epic level, all that has happened in my life up until this point, and downloading new data to run the program that is “California”.  But none of it is conscious, and I couldn’t possibly begin to put words to what parts of me are leaving and what new parts I’m gaining.  All I know is that just staring off into space feels really good right now.  Sure, it is freaking the shit out of my husband, but the good news is he is a computer guy.  When he asks for the 11th time if I’m okay, I’ll just tell him…

“Yeah.  I’m just processing.”



“You don’t live at the ocean and not go to the beach everyday. What’s the point?”

This is what I told my mother this morning on the telephone. She agreed. For some reason she just figured you go once or twice and that is that, you simply continue on with your usual daily existence. But then, she doesn’t live near the ocean. She has never lived near the ocean. She has visited a handful of times, but then retreated back to her house inland, far away from a coast. You visit, you walk the beach, you get your fill and then you go home. That is her experience, and that is what makes the most sense. And I would have to confess that is probably what I thought too. Even when I went to college in Rhode Island, I didn’t go to the ocean everyday. Just wasn’t that big of a deal to me… well, at least, who I was at the time.

Not anymore.

Today marks the first full week of us living in California. Hard to even see those words materialize on my screen and believe that I’m actually the one typing them. There were so many moments in the last few months where pushing myself to put one foot after another, hell even breathing, was difficult to manage let alone comprehend, but here we are. We did it. We dared to realize a dream, and then we did the unthinkable… we made it happen. Despite the fear and anxiety of putting such a grand scheme into action, the world continues to spin on and no one has died. And every day not only do I get to wake up and smell salt air, I remember, “I did it.”

I would be lying to us all if I told you that I’m worry free. I would be lying if I told you that there aren’t moments where I’m gripped by paralyzing fear, where in a flash I think of a moment in my life back home that I’ve said goodbye to and realize that I will never see again. The wind gets sucked out of me as if I’ve been punched in my gut. Tears sneak their way into my throat and my head goes soft. I almost lose it.

But then I catch myself and breathe. Change cannot come without desire, without need, without a surrender or sacrifice of some kind. I wanted this, I needed this and all I have to do is live in the moment, not the past. I could no way hold onto those moments anymore than I could script the ones I have right now. So best enjoy what is passing before my eyes now or else time will flash past once more and I will be welling up all sad about this very moment and how it too has passed.

I also have moments where the What Ifs seep into the cracks of my happiness. What if the kids hate it here? What if the work dries up? What if I’ve fooled myself into thinking this is what I wanted all along? Again, the What Ifs are me projecting my worry into the future. Do my kids hate it right this minute? No. They love it more than I could have imagined. Is my husband still working? Yes, in fact he is the happiest I’ve seen him in years. Is this still what I want? Hmmm… let me think… kids happy? Check. Husband happy? Check. Me? Check. Ok, this moment works, let’s just ride this out right here, no past and no future. If I can stay right here, right now, then we’ll be just fine.

Upon arrival, walking through LA International Airport, my 6 year old turned to me and said…

“Mom. You know what? If I look around and say, ‘I live here. I live here.’ I get all scared, so instead I keep telling myself, ‘This is a trip. This is a trip,’ then everything feels like it is ok.”

I’ve taken that and applied it to life in general. This is all just one big trip. And why would I pay so much to be on it to not enjoy it now. Why wouldn’t I go to the beach every day?