We March

My family marches today for people with disabilities, our LGBTQ community and family, our new immigrants and those wishing to become citizens.
We are marching today because we want those left behind to be caught up and to feel a part of our country and democracy.
We are marching today because hate has no place and empathy should rule.
We are marching with our boys so they know participation makes our democracy great.
We are marching today as we did in 1989 and 1992 in DC, for women’s rights and control over our own bodies.
We are marching not to protest one man or a government body, but to express our Constitutional right to raise their awareness and hope they hear.

Love Will Win
Fired Up, Ready to Go

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Wanderlust

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Gabon calling, Libreville to be exact. An opportunity to go off the beaten path. Extra rooms, a mango tree, a temporary resident who writes weekly updates to his long contact list, about the world he inhabits right now. Africa is on the list, but not specifically Gabon, though now that we know, French speaking West Africa is demanding attention. Attention grabbed by surfing hippos, primeval rainforest and national parks that potentially rival those in Kenya, Tanzania or Botswana. Maybe Gabon because it is less known or because it perhaps could provide tourism in a less structured form; maybe because it could be a little precarious. Suddenly Gabon is igniting my wanderlust.

imageI hiked the trail with a bunch of naturalists. Naturalists who share my genes and who gently share their knowledge and genuine woods worship. They know lichen, moss, sand cranes, bugs, mushrooms, rocks and rivers. They know deer prints, poison ivy and the importance of a longish stop for trail lunch to refuel. For them a foot dunk in an icy river is more than a cool down, it is a brave trail ritual. The Naturalists make the importance of this place understood and make us appreciate its wild generosity, even though we innately know this already. We celebrate a hike well done with alert minds, challenged limbs and ice-cold beer out of the cooler at the trail head, and preliminary chatter of the next hike.

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The loon came overnight, reversing his springtime path. He glides low in the water, with his long neck and sharp beak, dwarfing the nearby mallards. For a week he will rest on our Lake before heading south to his far away winter home. A week of lukewarm sun, chilled deep dives and lots of shore admirers. Knowing he will for certain come back a few weeks after the ice goes out in April gives me added hope that the winter will be snowy, but quick, and that the loon’s return trip north is not so impossibly far away.

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Everyone is Invited

I am frequently on the receiving end of eye rolling from my young sons. A few weeks ago I not only got eye rolling but also a new shower of ten year old ranting about how I was mean and crazy and totally unfair. We are still at the stage where kid birthday parties happen and as we were planning, and Son Number One was going through the class list, picking and choosing who should come and who should not and why they shouldn’t, I made an executive decision to invite the whole grade, all 60 of them plus some neighbors, hedging my bet that most wouldn’t come, but hoping that many would. Son One was pissed.

As the weeks before the party passed, we talked a lot about who was coming and why I wanted this party to be more about EVERYONE versus just about his BFFs. I explained a conversation I had with a couple other moms about the cliques starting at school and the beginnings of behavior that makes me squirm; talk of people being weird, pointing out differences, people bugging you. And from a former “weird” kid and sometimes deemed “different” adult, this idea of inclusiveness hits especially close to home.

I know people will challenge me that this is how kids learn to navigate the cruel world, but I am crying BS. Inclusivity should be the norm, not the exception.

25 RSVPs came in, mostly boys and most of the BFFs, a big handful of the girls, and some kids from other schools who knew no one. We had ice cream and pizza, played kick ball and ran around the park by my house. I sat on a bench as they played at the park and watched these kids group off and then shift groups, laugh out loud as they reached new levels of swinging height, run and spin and climb and I listened to the continuous ten year old banter that included many voices I hadn’t heard before and it made me feel hopeful. Hopeful that, despite some young son feedback, doing things a different way with the idea of fostering little changes is important and pretty easy, especially on a beautiful summer day with ice cream, pizza, a park and a bunch of really great kids.image

Travel Gene

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We discovered an aquarium in a not so odd place but a place we could have easily missed. At the end of jutting concrete, around a corner, hidden, in a way. It wasn’t fancy but held curious, contained creatures from the sea below the pier. Some odd looking and most I would have been frightened of finding

in the actual water below. We were killing time, done with work, eager to get home but delighted to have a few hours in this lovely place and its sun and its vast, unending ocean. Surfers on the surface below waited for not so big rollers, knowing they had an audience on the pier. Miles of empty volleyball nets waiting for the early evening migration to the beach for a few rounds of ball. A local oyster bar and a wide walking path lined with beautiful houses and desert gardens. My companion, a young man on my work team who is curious about places like me, and a couple hours free that add non-work worth to being away from home.

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I made an hour before work just to wander to a place that doesn’t totally feel like you are where the map says. It is a place of elderly homes, funny street names and honest hellos from people you don’t expect to say a thing to a stranger. The promenade is wide with benches to rest or to pause in the sun. The view is of tall, tall buildings across the river, that disguise the hubbub of the Chinatown on the street levelimage. It is a quiet place, it is green and breezy. You feel history here, a war story, a first president’s story, history that once you are here doesn’t seem that far away. At dark, I walked down streets Court, Henry, and Pineapple, Love Lane, with the proprietor of the business I came to support. We caught up and paused on a corner to FaceTime his wife, because she was sorry she wasn’t with us. He talked about how the future looks different at 65 but a good different, even if unexpected, a future still. A conversation that seemed written for the surroundings.

I have seen big chunks of the world and I have inherited the traveling gene from my parents. We went places as a family. We traveled on a budget, sometimes took Air Pakistan instead of Northwest and didn’t stay in big fancy hotels. We had to bring our own spending money and carry our bags and eat things that were not normal to us. We learned to live for a week or two outside of our normal comfort zones but zones that became the new norm and comfortable by the end of the trip. I joke that I could be dropped in the middle of the world, unfamiliar turf, no GPS or phone and could figure out how to get home. My sense of direction, food curiosity, people curiosity and a good ear and understanding of language all came from that travel. Things I use everyday, home or not. The boys are learning this too, they have it, the gene. They are good flyers, can work the security line, and sleep well in strange beds. In three weeks we leave on a bigger adventure, traveling in some new ways. Traveling so we can figure out how to make trips like this affordable more often, to show them the world, open it up, nurture the curiosity that will push them everyday, even when they are just home.

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Tu es le piquant qui rehausse la sauce. 

The Spice in the Sauce 

I traveled alone to a place that oozes another time. Wet cotton on the river front prevented Sherman from burning it to the ground, reclaimed architectural ladies with rounded, ghost preventing porticos loom over orderly French squares and giant, ancient oaks drip with moss. Dawn of the Dead helped me discover a cemetery with old and new Savannans, including confederate soldiers permanently facing South, Savannah’s favorite son singing Jeepers Creepers from six feet under and a place where the doomed celebratory lyric of plantation party goers still lingers two hundred years later. My guide told me that even a house consuming fire did not (and does not) stop the party in Savannah! A friend, whom I am convinced I met because the universe is aligned in ways unexplainable, for a short time, so many years ago, was there too, for his son and a celebration. A celebration, a friendship and an adventure that provoked a Monday morning text reminding me the right spice makes life’s sauce very tasty. 

The Swillers 

Last night we got religious. The conversation was loud at times, we didn’t agree, it became very personal and we could have probably talked for hours, but didn’t. Matzo and charoset, dates and grapes, bottles of red and white were on the table, in a nod to Passover. The group was only half, the living room cozy and personalities and opinions alive. Our conversation traveled to Amsterdam, the Middle East, Nazi Germany, Italy, visited St. Joan, St. John, St. Thomas, mulled divorce, annulment, men and women. It was personal and not protected and took on a more serious air, mostly due to the subject of our book but also because of our lives right now. As it always happens these nights, we move from the book, into life, to catch up and because our time and frequency is limited, the catch up is about the big things. Love, kids, work, the highlights, and low ones, the biggies that keep us connected. These women are The Swillers and technically we are a book club but really we are members of a life club. 

Shrimp Sawdust 

They came to me in brightly colored cellophane bags and don’t resemble prawns at all, though that is what the squiggles on the package say they are. They actually look like sawdust but with a potent smell that gives away their true selves. They are new to me, from a friend I know on Facebook, who, like me, shares a continuous commentary of her life, in that very public space. I don’t really know her in person, though that doesn’t limit our engagement. Because of Facebook, she knows I cook, she knows I explore, I know a lot about her and she of me. She also knows the surplus of shrimp sawdust seemed like something I would play with in my kitchen, something I probably hadn’t played with before. Carrots, lime, cilantro, chili, salty roasted peanuts, fish sauce, fried shallots and the shrimp dust merged in my striped ceramic bowl to create something I can imagine eating on the street in Mandalay and the book she sent to accompany the shrimp cements the fact that I will gladly be visiting Burma again. A joyous afternoon in my kitchen because of a very personal Facebook friendship. That may sound like an odd thing to say, though I am pretty sure that without that connection those dried shrimp would have never found their way to my kitchen. 

  

Not still under the anvil

imageI am pretty sure Wile E. Coyote’s crushing million pound anvil has been sitting on my chest. Recently there has been a weight and break that I haven’t experienced before and that has made me question my seemingly abundant resilience. It is actually possible that I have been too resilient.

I lost a friend.  Someone who I shared significant time with, through massive amounts of change and heartbreak and transition. And just like when people come into your life sometimes for not so obvious reasons, they leave too. This one hurt. And in a tiny, quick window of clarity recently, I realized that this hurt was different. It’s weight and length and chaos, all new feelings for me, felt like they were taking over my whole existence.  And after months of using all my old tricks of long walks, good sleep, distractions and work, with no relief, I knew this was bigger than what I could take care of on my own. And it turns out that even though this particular loss seemed like the cause of my sadness, it really wasn’t.

The current hurt was legit for sure, but the way it was affecting me was disproportionately brutal.  And that was a big clue.  It turns out the current heartbreak was exasperated by all the other stuff I have never really dealt  with (think hard marriage, divorce, custody, cancer).  Instead of dealing completely with all of that, I stashed all that other hurt in a bucket, shoved it under the sink and got on with life. Seemingly resilient, feeling resilient, right?  And I didn’t figure this out, what was really going on, until I found someone to help.

For now, every week I go and sit on this lady’s couch and work through all the stuff that filled my heartache bucket to overflowing, not being able to handle it, levels. She calls some things in my last decade trauma, which sounds way too serious to me, though as I talk, I am starting to understand why she thinks that. She forces me to think differently, challenge routine thoughts and I can see that it is helping and I can feel The Coyote’s anvil falling off and I can feel relief and completeness replacing weight and heartbreak. She is helping. I am helping.

The point of writing this isn’t to garner sympathy for a loss or for the hard things I have experienced.  I am not unique, everyone has this same kind of stuff.  The point is that sometimes you need help and perspective and an outside point of view that is from someone who you don’t know well and who knows what questions to ask. The point is also that having a person like this in your life is just as important as having a good exercise routine, good eating and sleeping habits and solid coping skills. Having a person around who you can bump things off once and a while, just to keep you on track, who you don’t really know but who gets to know you, seems a very obvious part of a good plan to keep that bucket not so full.  So resilience, yes,  but maybe not so much of it.

That’s not so pie in the sky.

I am calling it the week of shrinking. We had a team meeting a couple weeks ago and my boss’s boss thought it would be a good idea for all of us to spend some time on the couch. To his credit, we don’t all know each other like we have in the past. There are several new people and some old people in new jobs. It has been a big transition time for us and I guess he thought bringing in a professional organizational behaviorist (aka shrink) would perhaps make us a tighter and more effective team. We all took the Myers Briggs test and then plotted our types on a chart that showed the 16 personality types. We used those personality types as a launching pad to more job related discussions. There were surprises and ah ha’s and an expressed need for black and white next steps and a desperate need for some to crawl under the table and hide.

I am generally pretty accepting of this psycho stuff. I spent a lot of time studying psych in college and have managed people most of my life and certainly think having a shrink in my back pocket once and awhile has been good for me and the MB test didn’t tell me much new about myself, it is the same as the last three times I have taken it. It is fair to say that I am way more worried about feelings, the long view and possibilities than I am about following the rules, sticking with what seems to be working, logic and analysis. My office mates now know why I have learned to sit at my desk with headphones on and escape outside over lunch and that I hate talking on the phone. I now know I have to rein in some of my pie in the sky thinking and I know that doing a spreadsheet once and a while won’t actually kill me. I also know why I make some people nuts especially because most of the people I work with are on the opposite end of the personality spectrum than me.  And if I am going to be 100% truthful, I make a lot of people nuts.

I am not sure yet what all of this analysis did for us as a team. It isn’t like suddenly we are going to change the way we operate with each other. We would need the shrink to move into our office for that to happen. But this knowledge is useful and for me knowing and learning more about the people I interact with the most and rub wrong the hardest, has helped. The biggest thing that I took away, though, after a week of soaking it in, is pretty obvious. We spend more time at work than we spend doing any other thing and it would probably really help us to know each other better than we do and to not just know each other but to really understand and interact with each other, with that understanding. Change a bit how we look at our differences and see them not as barriers but as assets instead. Think out of the normal box of how we think we should think and believe that thinking differently about each other is perhaps worthwhile. Think about what that level of understanding would do for a team. Think about what that level of understanding would do for us just as the human team!

Ok, maybe that’s a little pie in the sky.

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