Dear 16-year-old Me

This is an exercise Jen does at her retreats that is eye opening

What would you write to your younger self? Here is what I wrote to mine:


Dear 16 year old me,

What the hell? Seriously?

I don’t mean to be harsh but I had to get your attention. I have a secret for you that can only learn via a Delorian in a lightning storm.

Time isn’t waiting for you or me.

You make everything so complicated and you are wasting all these moments, all this time!

Yes, older, wiser you might seem to be a little bitchy but you mistake my urgency and passion for harsh reality. You aren’t ready for that, so I guess that’s why you skirt around it as if it were an ice rink.  You could use a little tough love, in fact, you could use a whole lot of it and thank God you meet some people along the way that love you the hard way. Continue reading “Dear 16-year-old Me”

The God of Second Chances

FullSizeRender 15It’s early morning. The sun has yet to break through and the hush of a world still asleep keeps the quiet while I stand watch at the window. A thick blanket of fog completely blots out the orange urban glow and the stars are sparkling over the rooftops of the world. I’m awake having been the dream soother for my 7-year-old who woke with a nightmare–a role I treasure, these moments being some of the only times he is still enough to hold the way I did when he was small.

It’s my favorite time of day but today seems particularly beautiful with the fog and the stars and despite my exhaustion, I have that feeling of life surging in and all around me. But still this underlying anxiousness stirs in my heart that I can’t completely place and I use these few moments of silence to focus in on why, before everyone wakes up and the usual chaos of daily life ensues. I sit in the quiet and think about exactly what it is that has been keeping me from sleep.

There is the always present back pain that I can count on to keep me from being comfortable, and although I wake with my usual aches, this morning that isn’t what disturbs my slumber. Continue reading “The God of Second Chances”

What the F@*k Do I Know- Lessons from the Page and Beyond

IMG_1315“Write what you know.”   -Mark Twain

Good ole Mark Twain. A fellow Missourian with which I feel a certain camaraderie having visited his childhood home too many times to count on elementary school field trips and having walked through the very caves in which Tom and Huck ventured into trouble time and time again. Being a farm girl, I even spent an entire summer whitewashing a fence (true story).

When people hear my voice, they always ask me where I’m from. Midwestern accents are so varied and hard to pin down, unlike places like New York, which run so deep my 7 year old has picked up the sound of Brooklyn in so many of his daily phrases, all from his father and grandfather’s left-over accent.

I often jokingly pronounce Missouri, “Misery”, because my time and experience there is more aptly described that way. Not that I knew I was miserable then or that I endured such horrible hardships there, although I would be lying if I didn’t say I always wanted to leave and see the rest of the world, much to the dismay of my family who would have rather kept me close.

But sometimes clarity only comes with time and distance, and thankfully sunny California has afforded me that.   I realize only now as embrace my adulthood,  how powerful our subconscious is in recalling the dream I once had as a child in which a tornado came, picked me up, and whisked me off to California. It must have been those highly anticipated annual fall picnics on the living room floor to watch the Wizard of Oz that planted the storyline in my head and where both a life-long love for the movie, and a yearning to see more colorful worlds was born.

California was my Oz and Missouri was my Kansas.

I just didn’t know it yet.

I really didn’t know much of anything yet.

And here, now, I still feel like I don’t know much, that I don’t know what I know but I keep coming back to Mark Twain’s words, “Write what you know.”

I had the pleasure (I’m still giddy, in fact) of getting to chat with author Cornelia Funke this weekend at the premiere of the music storybook, Angel Heart.  Cornelia wrote the story for this first of its kind masterpiece, created by my amazing sister, soprano Lisa Delan and composer Luna Pearl Woolf, which combines music and story together like never before. It is a heart-stirring story woven into a tapestry of exquisite voices, cellos, and mandolins that takes us on a journey as an angel finds a way to mend a girl’s broken heart. It’s full of beauty, pain, metaphor and meaning. It speaks to the premise that we are the most who we are when we are small. It has that ageless wisdom good writers always convey so clearly, that I covet the ability to express. I just want to know as a writer.

How do you do that?

I tend to be the introverted type, in keeping with the writer stereotype (apparently my psyche knew I was a writer before I did). In social situations and especially where celebrity is involved, I am not one to assert myself.
I feel like I would be a bother, like a fan girl,  
like I would be so annoyed at me if I were you.

In my world, musicians and authors top my celebrity hope to meet them someday bucket list. Yes, I’ve been known to be embarrassingly and surprisingly star-struck like when I met my bass idol, Flea, from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  I have stayed silent and speechless because of all of the above stated reasons not to assert myself. I’ve missed my opportunities and spent every day since then kicking myself for not asking the questions I really wanted the answers to.

So despite my discomfort at engaging myself in these types of situations and having vowed to not ever let celebrity keep me from asking questions when the opportunity presented itself, I found myself longing to pick Cornelia Funke’s brain about writing, about her secrets for just a little peek into the life of a real life author.

Truth is I’ve had a little writer’s block lately, now that I have publicly declared that I’m a “writer” in front of Facebook, so essentially, the whole world.

So, instead of my usual wallflower routine, I broke out of my shell and seized my opportunity for the incomparable Cornelia Funke to impart her wisdom and perhaps a bit of her amazing writing mojo on me. I lamented to her that I couldn’t conceive being able to write the imaginative things that she writes. That I have only been able to, again, in Mark Twain’s own words,  “write what I know”, which lately, doesn’t feel like much.

My conversation with Cornelia wasn’t long but it only takes a sentence sometimes. You know how good writing is (do writers speak in printed sentences?) I envision the words coming out of her mouth, each letter a click of the key of an old manual typewriter until it arrives at the end of the sentence complete with a period and a “ding”.

“Well, what you know is different for everyone.”

Wait, what?

I don’t have to know what everyone else knows?

I always felt like I was missing some essential element required for me to be a legitimate “writer” because despite doing a great deal of it as a child and adolescent, this writing thing still feels new to me. My wings are still tender and fragile and I’ve been afraid to fly too far out of my comfort zone. I have declared myself a writer while some part of me holds this notion that I can’t be because I’m ………

Fill in the blank with all of my insecurities and reasons I tell myself I couldn’t possibly be legit, oh, you are just a nurse, or just this or just that. Putting myself in a box like we so often do.

You mean I can just know what I know and that’s enough?

Being what I already am is enough?
This is revelatory.

How can something so simple become so complicated? Well, maybe I have a history of complicating things but now that I know that I don’t have to know everything, it means it’s ok to know a little. Enough to know that if I can’t write about anything I can always write about writer’s block. Borrowing words of wisdom from Charles Bukowski, “writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all”

So here I go.

I’m writing, Charles Bukowski. I’m writing, Cornelia Funke. I’m writing, Mark Twain. Dani Shapiro, I’m still writing……

And in doing so I realize that what I know is— I haven’t been reading.

In becoming a writer and facing my first bout of block, I have discovered all these “things” that I should be doing. Getting a good chaise lounge, writing what I know, and oh, there’s the reading thing, which I have become increasingly bad at as my sleep debt continues to accumulate, evidenced by the ever-darkening circles under my tired eyes.

So I keep trying to direct my sails, to fill them with the wisdom of writers that have come before me. Maybe this is why I love quotes and poems so much (the likelihood of me falling asleep reading them is small).

But my Amazon account has had a big influx of purchases recently as I start to crave the visceral sensation of a physical book in my hand. Having had Dani Shapiro’s new book, Still Writing, on my preorder list for a month, I was thrilled to finally receive it (it’s beautiful!) and to crack it open. To find it chock full of the same wisdom imparted by Cornelia, and Charles Bukowski, and by my beloved Mark Twain. Oh, and it does not disappoint and I’m only 92 pages in (sure to be my writing Bible).

Writers that have paved the way for those of us who have no idea how this is done are showing me what I know. It’s not the same as what you know, or what they know or knew.Perhaps it’s the same secret Cornelia was alluding to. That it’s in using all these things we know collectively that something special is spawned.

So what is it that I’ve come to know in my 39 years? It isn’t the distant lands that I’ve dreamt of. It isn’t munchkins and poppies and wicked witches, although I have known a few of those. It’s the things that we all share that I know. I know regret and sorrow, pain and loss. I know joy and bliss, and love and longing.

I know I have a weakness for sweets and a confusing Missouri accent.
I know that when I write I sit at the kitchen table in my favorite and slept-in Radiohead t-shirt and drink cold coffee and feel blissfully happy as my children build things out of legos and distract me at my feet.

I know I can’t stay awake to read a book but I will keep trying because it’s making me a better writer. I know I never want to stop evolving, to stop growing. I know I don’t want to put myself into a box, or be labeled, or label myself with things that I never was, or no longer am, or ever want to be. It’s the human experience that I know.

It’s through the life I have lived, as words tumbling out onto the page after having been trapped inside for so long.  It’s through letters, made into words, made into sentences strung together to the rhythm and music of clacking keys that I’m experiencing my life in color for the very first time.

I didn’t find it over the rainbow because I never made it there. I didn’t need to. It’s right here on this page, literally and ironically as life so often has it. Right here.

In black and white.

Lost in Translation- My Induction Into the Dead Poets Society

IMG_0650I have so many half written ideas, parts of essays, chapters, and poems floating around in Word, it looks like a spare parts yard where nice words go to find their mates. Maybe it’s a bit of a mirror representation of the state of my mind most of the time, as long as we are confessing over Sunday morning coffee. My documents have become a jumbled mess of sentiment, awaiting a clear and focused mind who can sort through and make sense of it all. I’m still searching for some way to ensure that nothing gets lost in translation.

But when you are easily distracted and trying to write a book– it’s sometimes hard to know what direction to go.

This morning, the poets and sages of yesteryear were reminding me of where my passion has been hiding. It isn’t where it used to be. I think I must have left it in the tree house in the backyard when I was 9.

Leonard Cohen said,

“Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash. “

Well apparently it’s something you can smoke.

Dammit, Leonard Cohen, why didn’t I know this when I was perched up in my tree house looking for some way to be a farm girl version of a West Village beatnik poet in a cool hat, life burning to ash between my fumbling fingers? Continue reading “Lost in Translation- My Induction Into the Dead Poets Society”



את לא לבד

You are not alone.

It’s the Hebrew phrase that kept ringing through my ear where I attended my first Jennifer Pastiloff Manifestation Yoga retreat over Labor Day weekend in the oasis of Ojai Valley, California.
It was a weekend packed full of that which we later dubbed “The Jen Pastiloff Experience”. Complete with all sorts of awesomeness: karaoke yoga, delicious love-filled food, surprise soul-stirring live music, insightful writing, new friends that felt like childhood besties, epiphanies, life-altering conversation, heart-wrenching stories of love and loss, poetry, natural wonders, a little wine, deep talks around the pool about diamonds and time transport of the Whovian persuasion,  and a midnight swim or two under the brightest stars I’ve ever seen (not to mention a handful of shooting stragglers from the end of the Perseid meteor shower that peaked a few weeks ago– which for geeks like me is heaven)
I could go on all day attempting to describe what we did there and still not capture all that was the magical time we spent in Ojai. You know how words so often fail where the heart is concerned.
Oh, yes, the heart.
I found mine pounding at the thought of facing my fears –the biggest of which was the fear that I would somehow find myself alone amongst all these people. Virtual strangers.

Continue reading “Ruptured”


There is so much blossoming going on around here, one would think I have a flower garden.

Not that my barren flower bed looks like one, because unfortunately, between my back and my poor watering schedule it looks more like an abandoned graveyard where flowers go to die. Where I leave my bachelor buttons to bake to a crisp and over water my basil after first dehydrating it, leaving it a shriveled, soggy, soupy mess. (We did get to make a pot of marinara and some caprese before I killed it, however, marking the first thing I have grown from seed to table since I was a child).

The only thing that did make it was the marigolds.

The bulletproof, brown-thumb-proof marigolds.

Now I understand why my mom always planted them (I mistakenly thought they were horribly ugly and stinky as a child).

But if children were flowers (they are)

buds are unfolding everywhere despite my inability to make my garden blossom. Continue reading “Marigold”


handsMy daughter turned 4 years old last week.

In my usual fashion of course, I had a good cry about it.

This time it was in the bathroom stall at the movie theater. Staring down at the popcorn peppered floor, I thought about how the last 4 years slipped by me so fast.

I thought about why it is that time seems to go exponentially faster the older we get and the more we realize that every single one of our moments is only there for a flash, a blink, a mere blip on the cosmic screen.

Our lives condensed to a movie trailer of moments. Milestones. Birthdays and anniversaries; celebrations and occasions of all kinds–the mile markers by which often we often measure the distance of our lives.

Measures of the many moments I must have wasted on stupid shit over the course the last 4 years (and all of my years for that matter) and how I would never have them back or live them again.

Attempts to slow down the light-speed acceleration of my children as they keep zooming forward full speed, knowing that my efforts are futile and in the end, only a waste of those precious tick-tocks of the clock. How can it be that I blink my eye and I’m there again with her in that delivery room with her Daddy holding her for the first time and the falling in love and the new baby smell and swaddles and dresses and bows.

I have to stop myself now or I could go on grasping all night.

Grasping for just one more moment—just another feel of the downy soft blankets between my fingers and baby kisses and sleepy nursing in the night. The first smiles and riding so high in the swing it takes your breath away.

First steps and new toothy grins. Pencil markings in the door jam; the ladder from where we started—climbing the rungs up to where her curly head will rest higher against the molding as I mark another year,

another inch,

another pocket full of memories.

Oh, if I could scoop you up in the palm of my hand! All those moments I never want to forget……that feel like they are slipping through my cupped hands no matter how tightly I squeeze them or pray that they hold what I can’t let go of but can’t hold onto.

It feels like forgetting. Grasping feels like forgetting. I don’t want to forget.

Her green binky.

His lovey made from Daddy’s old t-shirt.

Tiny fingers grasping onto comparatively giant digits and the way it seems impossible that every finger and toe is perfectly formed, perfectly tiny and pink and new.

The way my husband looked at me when he held our children for the first time. That first night in the hospital when our son was born that we couldn’t sleep despite our exhaustion, staring at him in wonder and awe; of the miracle of life of which we were now co-creators, a life that we now held in our hands.

And the instinctive clasping onto our fingers for new, yet somehow familiar full-grown versions of their own tiny digits, one finger being more than they can hold in their entire hand.

The synchronicity of the Universe never ceases to amaze me. Back from my cry in the theater bathroom tonight, as I returned to my seat and my daughter took my hand, I immediately noticed something different about the configuration of our hands.

As if my life were on the screen, I flashed back remembering the moment I first noticed the same phenomenon with my son, now almost 7. Lying in bed one night at bedtime as he took my hand, it quietly slipped into a comfortable spot it had never found before. The weaving together of our hands in a way they had never known before.

I never noticed until he slipped his little fingers between mine and squeezed them with all his might, that we had never held hands in this way because his hands could not yet stretch or reach; his fingers could not yet bridge that length—

Until that moment he had only found comfort with his hand hidden inside of mine, with me hanging onto him like I would never let him go.But now, her hand has found that same comfortable place, with her fingers locking between mine, bridging the gaps between yesterday and today and holding me in this moment right now. This one here and now. Where her fingers interlace with mine and are no longer so small.

Maybe that’s what our hands are really for.  They were never meant to hold our memories in (that must be why they slip through our fingers like sand).

I have often sat and pondered the miracle of our hands. Their structure, their function,Their sensory and motor significance in our life and everything we use our hands for (nearly everything). But even more than that, the way they fit together with another hand (any other human hand). The way they interlock and connect. The way they draw together and complete the circuit.

So if grasping feels like forgetting—then maybe the keeping, is in the letting go.

Perhaps our hands are made to grasp the hand of another so they won’t be empty when we have to let go of our moments. When we open our hand and let go of the balloon.When we let go of all the moments filled with cheerio-scented kisses, and giggles and Goodnight Moon. So our hands are never empty and our hearts are always full. So here’s to not grasping onto things I know I cannot hold. Here’s to keeping what I have in my heart, by opening my hand–

and letting go.

Singing Silver Buttons: Finding holiness in the washing machine and other things rabbis say



I am absolutely over the moon to share with you my essay–chosen by Jennifer Pastiloff and Emily Rapp, bestselling author of The Still Point of a Turning World –for Jen’s 5 Most Beautiful Things Contest!!

Thank you for such an honor and the opportunity to find myself among the dryer lint and dirty socks. There is no more beautiful place to find yourself than where you are right now, even when it happens to be a pile of laundry.


You can also view the essay on Jen’s site at


Before I was even aware of my deep love for words and the tapestry we weave with them, I think there must have been a knowing that someday I would meticulously mold the letters that would spell out the words waiting to set me free. That is now if only I could stay awake long enough to find a way to pick the lock where I imprisoned them long ago.

Being a mother of young children I have trouble keeping my heavy eyelids open to wade knee deep in chapter after chapter of carefully chosen and perfectly placed words. I remember the hanging on each word– savoring books for hours when I was a kid. Nights of devouring a book in one sitting, unable to control my hunger for more until I finally closed the back cover in a blissfully warm word coma. Those words that change and morph inside you when your eyes absorb them, incorporating them permanently into the fabric of your young and buoyant soul.

Sometimes that now older, less buoyant soul starts to sink a little.  Now my nightly mantra is— “Oh, tonight I’m not going to fall asleep putting the kids to bed.”  But I have to keep it real and to what I know I can stay awake for given my child- induced narcolepsy.  Nowadays I read and write in bits and pieces in the middle of the night on my iPhone.  The truth is, I really haven’t done a lot of reading or writing since I was in high school—that is until Jennifer Pastiloff lit a fire under my ass about what seems like every single thing I have ever avoided in my entire life. So I guess you could say, I have been easing back into my literary self in small doses; trying it on for size.

Bits and pieces and small groupings of words, phrases, quotes—-poems, essays; somethings scribbled on scraps of paper.

I love reading snippets of thoughts and dreams and musings of those wise and unorthodox souls who dared record their observings somewhere, someday for someone to discover and say I’ve never looked at it that way before.

I suppose I’m looking for the answer to some secret of sorts. The secret that each of us brings our own perspective, our own beauty, our own truths waiting to be revealed to us in the most mundane, or pragmatic, and sometimes most profane of ways.

But I keep searching for my muse. Some days I wait for her to show and she comes silently, hiding amidst the lonely unmatched socks somewhere–forcing me look in every pocket and zipper; every buttoned-up, inside-out bundled-up mess. Today I found it in the washing machine.

What started out as an attempt to win my chance at a coveted spot at a Jennifer Pastiloff yoga retreat, turned into a total and complete shift in my paradigm. And ironically it wasn’t the obviously beautiful things that were responsible for this tectonic shift. During the course of my commitment to find beautiful things a lot of decidedly not so beautiful things happened….

After losing 3 weeks worth of writing and photos in a tragic hard drive crash (including what was to be this essay), I tried my best to see the blessing in the pain. I told myself that I could get them back, but I knew that they were gone. Like your favorite lip balm you realize you left in your jacket pocket only after its been in the dryer on high heat for an hour. The container is still there, but the contents are empty and there is a stain all over your clothes.

It’s so weird that this computer, this machine, my writing companion, was alive and breathing with my words running through it’s code one day — and pronounced dead the next with all those pieces of me now locked away inside of it forever.

But it was in having to search for more inspiration to rewrite all that was lost that I found this gem, this diamond in the rough……

“Can you see the holiness in those things you take for granted–a paved road or a washing machine? If you concentrate on finding what is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.” – Rabbi Harold Kushner

Well most days, no, I admittedly don’t see the holiness in my washing machine.

I was still sitting shiva over my beloved companion, mourning the cool glow of it’s illuminated fruit when we lost all water pressure.

When we lost our power for a day and a half, and our water for 2 ½ days because our pipes burst, not once but twice. When I no longer had the privilege of a clean pair of socks, I began to understand the value of this little nugget of rabbinical wisdom I had stumbled upon.

I paid reverence quickly each time I turned on a switch and no light came on.  I realized how much I rely on the light when I want to see something clearly.

I quickly noticed when I tried to wash a load of the umpteen loads of laundry I needed to wash and the washer didn’t sing it’s usual pleasant little song when I hit the pretty silver button. But here I find myself, standing in a pile of dirty laundry the size of Mount Everest looking for something.

That thing. Looking for it like the 20 I know I left in the back pocket of my favorite jeans. That thing that I know is the thing I’ve been searching for ever since I remember knowing that I should be searching for things.

That essence of life that always felt just beyond my grasp because of this imperfection or that distraction. That something that could be maintained for fleeting moments when I was with my family, or in some majestic place, or if some shiny thing caught my eye. That intangible something that would always get lost somewhere between the moment and whichever of my insecurities happened to have its foot on my throat at the time, keeping me from fully inhabiting this shell of a soul. This body. This life.

Looking back, I know now I wasn’t living in my body at all. It was too painful with so much hatred for everything I was. It was more comfortable right outside of my own peripheral vision.  The picture light above my askew portrait with it’s dirty bulb blackened and yellow and burned. Colors runny and muddy, grey and all it’s variations but nothing black or white. Dusty oil brushstrokes laid down on the canvas of my life, splashed and spattered; hanging crooked above a dirty plaid couch in a basement somewhere. After having played hide and seek for so long I forgot what I was looking for, it occurs to me that I won’t find it here in this dark and musty place.

But now, stepping into the sun, I find it, pulsating on the ground.Waiting for me to pick it up and finally fully feel what it is to be alive.

I found it yesterday when my daughter was blowing bubbles. The wind caught a trail of her freshly blown bubbles and carried them in a spiral whoosh up the stairs. Gossamer purple and green spheres, caught in an invisible current, dancing like a DNA helix up into the air where a final gust popped her new fragile and shining baubles into nothingness.

She looked up at me with her huge blue pools of love, full of absolute wonder at what we had seen. And I was there for it.

It took my breath away.

I found it today when my son finished kindergarten. When he looked at me with such inquisitiveness about what he would learn in the 1st grade. When I listened to him read so fluently and effortlessly and he looked at me with such a sense of accomplishment in his eyes, my heart felt like it was breaking open spilling my mama-ness everywhere.

I’m homeschooling him. He’s a challenge, but of course he would have to be because he’s the freaking most amazing kid I know. He’s reminds me of everything it means to be creative and beautifully odd and happy.

He has taught me patience where I had none. Not that I don’t still need a lot of work so he always brings his A game, whether it’s just his extra-kinetic boy-ness or asking me difficult questions.  Explaining things so children understand them gives you a new perspective on how you see the world, and ultimately how your child will see the world.

I never considered myself a teacher, although in some sense I have been teaching  for a long time.  And here I find myself teaching the most important student I will ever have— my own child.

The responsibility on my heart is sometimes heavy with self-doubt and the unknown and everything that comes between, but the edges catch those gusts of wind and floating up I know that somehow faith will carry us through our unmapped journey and he will grow into the beautiful boy he is and will be.

It takes my breath away. The responsibility we hold in our hands and sometimes treat not so delicately. Not so sacredly. To keep seeking, to keep going, to keep looking for beauty when the world keeps telling you that what you see is somehow flawed or broken or sometimes too asleep to even notice.

Or when what we see is ugly. And it is sometimes.

Or when life is difficult, or you’re in a funk, or you want to be in a funk (I didn’t even have an awareness of wanting such a thing until this most beautiful things practice- What? Why would I want to be in a funk? Quiet observation showed me a number of reasons of which I may or may not have been previously aware….. I was lazy, or mad, or or I wanted to stay mad, or resentful, or tired, or because it’s someone else’s fault or …..  God forbid it’s because it’s what I always do ).

But the beautiful things. What are my most beautiful things? When you start to look, it’s the catch in your breath. It’s the pause at the previously overlooked everyday whatever, I’ve seen it a million times before. It’s most definitely the most astonishingly beautiful thing on the planet. This being alive, this being here, right now, with this awareness of myself and who I am and in this Eden we live in. Amokin this paradise that we sometimes regard as a slum; amidst the most beautiful people ever I’ve had the honor to share with

this time, this space;

and all the others—-those amongst the stars and stardust of those long ago born and those not yet birthed—those souls that somehow linger on the threshold of the here and the once was or the someday will be. And all those where are we goings, and what are we doings….. It’s those goings and those doings where you find your true beauty.

Fragments, and slivers and sub-sets of what you think you are and that which you become when you glue all the pieces back together; the puzzle of your own broken and fragile heart now complete.

Invisible forces are acting all around us without our conscious awareness. The wind, the mind, the sun. A huge burning ball of gas searing it’s signature into our skin from 93 million miles away leaving behind remnants of days on boats, and rivers, and pools of anything else a young girl might find herself floating in on those days when the tar in the cracks of the summer asphalt bubbles up like black jelly. And the mind.

Oh the mind, run wild with weeds of unworthiness and the I’m a horrible person-ness and the I’m not enough-nesses.

The nesses.

I’ve so often put the weak in front of the nesses, I’ve convinced myself that my weaknesses are real and use them as an excuse for apathy, inaction; for the I’m too tireds and I’m too olds. Maybe it isn’t weakness at all.

Maybe what we call weakness is our inability to let ourselves be vulnerable. So what I used to consider my greatest weakness—-maybe isn’t weakness at all.

My soft heart, my inability to override the impulse when I feel it well up inside me; hiding my wet eyes when I look around to see no one else has been so moved by some seemingly small gesture, or word, or song.

Bringing me perspective each time I blink my eyes and wash away the film that is clouding my vision. Giving me pieces of that which perhaps we must keep seeking and searching for if we want to keep embracing this human life as it unfolds. To live it with all the breath in our lungs, over and over until we leave this dimension, this space, this nothing was ever the sameness; this nothing will ever be like this again-ness.

Perspective that comes from zooming out on your map, going up into the canopy as my husband always says, elevated where the air is clear; where you can see the whole picture of this bittersweet life. And when you do you see that even all the negative, horrible bad, mean, fucked-up-ness of this world pales in comparison to it’s searingly painful beauty.

Somewhere between finding my 5 most beautiful things and this newfound volition for doing things that make my heart pound with fear, I found myself. Waiting there in the corner, to be noticed; to be seen as beautiful among all the other things I found. How could I have known that I would be one of my most beautiful things?

This girl, (or rather, would be woman were I to label myself as such and I guess technically am but much prefer the youthfulness implied with girl—) who did nothing but hate myself for so long, now finding herself among the beauty. How did this happen?

By being pushed past my comfortable limits. Out of my safe zone and onto the ledge where I dared look over the edge to see my fears—some of the deepest ones at the bottom calling out for me to jump.

And my dear Jen Pastiloff, if ever I dreamt of skydiving (I don’t) —-but if ever I did—–somehow I think you might convince me to jump.

I decided to jump (in retrospect to leap, really) with these 5 most beautiful things, initially because I wanted to come to your yoga retreat (I still do).  But it didn’t take long for it to become infinitely more than that.

Jumping meant I would make a video of myself describing my most beautiful things that day despite the fact that I avoid cameras at all costs (perhaps it’s one of the reasons I stay behind the camera)

Jumping meant I would do it in one take and send it despite having not watched it (I can’t bear to watch myself) and my starting to cry at an unexpected moment in the recording. What with the being self-conscious and all about being vulnerable even to the point of worrying after people started leaving the most meaningful and beautiful comments under my video, about what I said on the video.  How I came across.  What others must be judging about me. The familiar reel of they’re not going to like me anymore when they see what I’m really like; when I’m not behind a keyboard making everything look like hearts and flowers.

But what really happened took me aback.  I realized that to this tribe of astonishingly beautiful people who were watching that video—-

I was beautiful.

When you don’t see yourself as any thing but flawed for as long as you have memory, when another recognizes your true beauty inside of this temporary housing— sometimes it’s only through the eyes of someone else that you can clearly see your own reflection finally free of the fun-house mirror image distorting your true self.

Jumping would mean that I would write my 5 most beautiful things without fail and thrust it out into cyberspace every day. It meant that the days I was in a bad mood and wanted stay in my funk, I would find my most beautiful things anyway. It meant that finding beautiful things didn’t allow me the comfort of my old sullen, withdrawn and depressed space in the corner. It kicked me out on my pitiful ass and told me to find a new place to dwell.

Or the day I was in pain and struggling and in a fit of anger erased my most beautiful things list — after which I felt ashamed and embarrassed wondering how many times I’ve erased the most beautiful things in front of me letting the deceivingly delible ink of self-pity scribble over my artwork, my muse, my life.

“The whole of the life — even the hard — is made up of the minute parts, and if I miss the infinitesimals, I miss the whole. These are new language lessons, and I live them out. There is a way to live the big of giving thanks in all things. It is this: to give thanks in this one small thing.”

― Ann Voskamp

So here’s to the infinitesimals.

To beaches and bubble wands and running water. And washers that sing when you press their shiny silver buttons. To standing in my most grounded pose, no longer a poser but a deeply rooted tree, in the wake of the Pacific — among the sun-baked and frozen loops of brown kelp at my feet. To looking out on the horizon that was dark when I began writing , now starting to glow behind massive mountainous shadows, and children laughing in their sleep.

To learning to read and unlearning the unserving, To the tiny moments I count with bated breath, and those I longed for and lingered in, cherished and cursed.

I’ve learned a new language of Love, of beauty, of living, of giving thanks for all things; And a new sung prayer that whispers and echoes in my ear and it is this: In all of these moments, let grace be my muse.

These are my most beautiful Things.   IMG_1342



IMG_9017“You think it’s a sign?” my sister asked as she picked up the dragonfly paperweight sitting at the reception desk while we waited.

I smiled thinking probably not, not everything can be a sign, right? My mood was so foul that day I wouldn’t have seen a sign if it hit me in the face.

I had a wonderful morning doing an online yoga class with my favorite yoga teacher Jennifer Pastiloff.  Jennifer is no ordinary yoga teacher. She imparts a wisdom so simple, yet illusive to so many; being yourself and being ok with it.

Jen exposes her secrets and her experiences with no fear and teaches her students (she calls us her “tribe”) to do the same. And because she is brave enough to expose herself, we feel like it’s ok for us to let go too.  This day her theme was kindness (there is always a theme). Continue reading “Signs”

Scene of the Accident

IMG_0226I woke up this morning, as I do every morning to see my daughter sleeping beside me. The soft, chubby curve of her cheek pressed into the sheet. Breathing softly and steadily, her mouth slightly curled up at the edges as if she is smiling as she dreams about things 3 year old girls dream of.  The fresh scar on the bridge of her nose is still pink and raised on the edge.

While she is not even aware it is there, I can see that this particular scar is still tender and new.  I can see the swollen pink ridge right beneath the surface of where the skin has sealed over the wound.  This scar is still healing and not yet faded and I can’t help but notice it right at the center of her beautiful, pale porcelain face. I look at her perfect little cherubic face and that scar right in the middle starts a chain reaction.

Remembering my own scars, long since faded, I can still see the faint suture marks on my finger from an exploding glass Coke bottle when I was 4 years old, only one year older than my daughter at this moment. It was deep and I needed 6 stitches.

And then there is the tiny one tucked neatly into my eyebrow from a run in with a coffee table (isn’t it a rite of passage for toddlerhood?).

And there is the 5-inch surgical scar on my belly and small ones on my back and belly button where they cut me open to operate on my back and eventually to fuse my spine. Those have left me with the most physical pain and a disability I wasn’t quite prepared for.

But the deepest one of all isn’t visible on the outside.
I didn’t even realize it was there at all for the longest time. Lost in delusion I thought my self-hatred must be my fault and that at the heart of it all it was just because I was innately bad and wrong.

What is that quote from The Perks of Being A Wallflower that we accept the love we think we deserve? The love that I had accepted was lukewarm and half-assed because that is all I could muster for myself.

Two decades of self-loathing and an eating disorder later, I couldn’t ignore things anymore. My ostrich approach was not working.  I worked and toiled and did everything I could possibly think of to find my way out of the darkness of depression and bulimia- medication, therapy, yoga and meditation.

You name it. Anything to find the source of the self-loathing and rip it out by the roots so that I could watch it wither and die next to the bed of wildflowers I planted in it’s place.

So the behavior change was complete.

But the feelings were still there.

The source of the feelings that caused my eating to become disordered in the first place was not dispelled.  I thought by changing the behaviors themselves everything would take care of itself and I could continue on the same upward trajectory.


Promising myself I would not let my issues affect my kids (too late) I tried to continue to work on my “issues”. With a son, my “girl” issues fell to the side. But then my daughter was born.  was so wrong about being healed. I was just too numbed out to know the difference. On the outside the wound of self-hatred should be long healed.

But sometimes when I touch the bandaged place, it feels sore and infected- like I forgot to tend to it. I covered it and looked away praying that it would heal and I could move on. Turns out it doesn’t work that way.  You have to clean out the wound. A nurse should know better, right?

So it festered. I covered it because I couldn’t look at it. The product was a life consumed by self-hatred and the delusion “I am flawed”. It leaves you paralyzed and confused you and then abandons you to rot in your own self-loathing.

The signs weren’t obvious to me.

When my hatred for my body and myself started at the tender age of 10, I did not understand where it came from. Not understanding the basis for these feelings did not stop me from being acutely aware that those feelings followed me my entire adolescent and adult life despite not ever getting at the source. I thought it was because that I really was stupid, ugly, fat, unworthy, or any number of things that I had convinced myself that I was over all this time insert self-deprecating adjective here__________.

The list is endless. You know what I’m talking about. Insert your own_________.

We all have a list of things we think we are, don’t we? And we keep telling ourselves again and again,
“This is my story” I had to learn to love myself so that I could show my daughter how to do the same. If realizing your shit is going to affect your child if you don’t figure it out isn’t enough to motivate you, I don’t know what is. Somehow, though, I had this idea that it should end here.

With the discovery that there is nothing inherently wrong with me. I feel like the awareness should be enough. It’s not. Despite no longer being visible, the scar remains. And it still hurts even though I don’t feel like it should. It is such an old wound. How can it still hurt like this?

Intellectually I know these things can’t hurt me anymore. I’m not afraid of the dark now that I turned the light on in the hidden recesses of my mind.  I know that my long-standing disdain for myself, only recently dispelled, is not real. It is unfounded. It isn’t me. It never was. I am whole just the way that I am.

There are no missing pieces.

Being broken feels catastrophic in the moment you are in it. It leaves you horrified at the tragedy of your fractured life, scared and scrambling to see if you still have all your pieces.

Even if I had some sense that all the pieces were still there – could I somehow gather them all up with a dustpan and broom?  Could I sweep them up among the fuzz and sand, and leaves that blew in when the door was left wide open?

And after I fished the pieces out of the dustpan full of dirt, would I ever be able to put them back together again?

That pervasive sense of not being ok, of being deeply flawed, of not feeling deserving of anything that I had been blessed with, continued to follow me through the twisty roads that I had chosen to travel.  The routes I concocted just trying to get where I thought was going (wherever that was), without a map, choosing which way to go in the dark- confused and fumbling, squinting to see the signs.Only to find myself then wandering around unfamiliar territory the next morning as the sun came up on the bad turns that I made. My mistakes illuminated until I could see them shimmering like shattered glass scattered on the road, the sun catching each piece making them sparkle like diamonds.

I remember finding a small chunk of busted windshield in a parking lot when I was a little girl. When I picked it up, it fell apart into dozens of tiny pieces. I remember pretending that the little pieces were precious jewels- holding them in my hand and rolling them back and forth. I remember being so excited at my discovery. I even remember envisioning a black velvet pouch to slip them back in to hide them away. My little fantasy was shattered when my Dad saw me playing with broken glass and made me throw it away.

And then it occurs to me.


Forgiveness is what transforms those mistakes when they begin to catch the light. Broken glass is transformed into diamonds in the eyes of a child, not because of delusion, but because a child sees beauty in things that we have forgotten were beautiful. Without forgiveness it remains broken glass.

Forgiveness of all those I felt slighted by somehow, carrying around their rejection like a chain around my neck. And by far the hardest one of all, forgiveness of myself. In finding forgiveness for myself I realize that I’m still that little girl, holding those pieces of glass in my hand like diamonds when all someone else sees is broken glass.

That is my purpose. To take something shattered and make it sparkle. And then I know.

We were never meant to be whole. Like the very atoms we are made of, we can all be broken down to our most basic components. And it is when we are broken that we find what we are made of. What we are capable of. Who we are at our essence. At our core. Our nucleus.

When I was a child, I lived for the time after a huge mid-western thunderstorm would rumble across the newly planted fields and accumulate in the little ditch just beyond the back door. Full of cold, clean, fresh rain I would jump straight in with my bare feet sinking into the soft, soupy earth until the mud in the bottom started to swirl like chocolate syrup in my little makeshift water hole.

I would let my heels sink in, alternating with my toes, rocking back and forth, feeling the cold, smooth mud squeeze between my toes. When you are a child, you don’t mind getting your feet dirty.

So today I’m stepping out the back door and I’m jumping in that huge puddle barefoot before I have a chance to think too much about how dirty my feet will get. The fact is, the mud will wash away in it’s own time. And when the mud is dry and the water washes over my feet and washes them clean.

I know that I’m ok in this moment.

This moment when I realize that it’s the mud that reveals true beauty. Our broken souls, shattered on the ground like an accident scene, sparkling like diamonds, scattering our light in all directions.

I remember the white peonies that flocked the perimeter of my grandma’s yard, and the soil they grew in, that she tended and tilled. The dense, soggy earth, wet with rain that gives rise to layer upon layer of those delicate, white, paper-thin petals.

Their intoxicating smell reminiscent of summers in June and everything that is beautiful to a child before the world tells you its not.

Oh, and that reminds me-  It’s Monday, when I put on my mud mask and do my own little DIY beauty treatment.  But today when I wash it away, I’m going to look at my reflection and into my own eyes and see the reflection of the little curly headed cherub with a scar on her nose that will fade in it’s own time until it is only a memory,

And the little girl holding a handful of broken glass, and into the striking brown eyes of my beautiful 12 year old niece whose light shines so brightly- already uncomfortable in her own skin before she even has a chance to grow into it and I’m going to look into the eyes of the little girl waiting for the rain to fill the puddle

and then I’m going to look into this now grown woman’s eyes in that same shade of blue, slightly muted with flecks of gold and grey- their corners now graced with soft and delicate lines.

I’m going to see all of those reflections and finally understand that their beauty is overwhelming. Like lotus flowers bursting into bloom with the mud as their medium.

Like diamonds catching the rays and scattering them into a thousand rainbows of beaming light. Let all that muck and broken glass and pain be the food that grows us into the fullness of our soul. Of that which we already are and were always meant to be.