Tag Archives: love

Pilot Light of Patience #Parenting


We were on our daily walk to school this morning. He was quiet. Noticeably so. He almost forgot his backpack, he was so distracted. About halfway down our driveway, I asked him, “You’re quiet, you alright?”

“No.” He said.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“Art. I don’t want to do it. We have a stupid assignment using stupid scratch paper.”

“What’s the assignment?” I asked.

“Abstract art. We have to make something out of nothing. I hate abstract art. I hate scratch paper. It’s all so stupid.”

I suggested that he draw a dog. He loves our dogs.

“No. I stink at drawing dogs.” He said, his voice becoming more pressed and uneven by the syllable; each step we took got us closer to his school. His breathing was shallow. He was in the art room, with the scratch paper, his heart speeding up, his face beginning to pinch in places so it wouldn’t betray his feelings of failure.

Failure before he even began.

Failure before we were even in the school.

Failure before he even considered it.

I could feel my own body tense up. My walls were going up. My brain started down its familiar path of “Oh no. Oh no. Oh no. Can’t do this. Can’t do this. He’s going to get emotional. He’s going to get emotional. Must stop him from crying… I CAN’T HANDLE HIS DISTRESS….” I started to fail him.

I began to fail him before I even spoke.

I began to fail him before I even got in touch with my own feelings of failure and the fear of disappointment.

I began to fail him because I couldn’t face myself and those sticky places in the heart where we feel absolutely worthless.

I said, “Nooooo, you’re GREAT at drawing dogs… why that cat you drew from those books you love… that turned out GREAT! You can DRAW a DOG….”

But before I even finished … I knew that was wrong. I was dismissing his pain. I was failing, even though I had heard him, I was still failing him.

I realized, I had to go back to my first days on the couch. I had to mirror him. Quick, I had to do something that told him I heard him, that I felt what he was going through, that it was OK, and that he was safe. That’s all we need, to feel safe expressing ourselves.

I had to access my pilot light. Somehow, I remembered my pilot light.

I told him to take a breath and I could feel my own body do the same.

“Let it out slow this time… Can you breathe in 3-2-1…?” I suggested as we continued our walk. “Let it out 4-3-2-1…” My body relaxing as I unconsciously (mostly) joined along. I needed to come down from the wall I was building.

We were almost at school. Quietly talking and quietly breathing together.

As we crested the hill, where all the student patrols gathered, and the sun was shining, no longer obscured by the leafless tall trees surrounding our path, I realized: He doesn’t want to fail this assignment. He doesn’t want to disappoint me. He wants to please his teacher, me, his father… his bubble of society.

I stopped us in our walk and I put my hands on his shoulders, gently pulling down to help him unfurl himself.

“Look at me.” I told him.

“Ok.” He sniffled.

“You’re feeling pressure right now. You’re feeling like you have to get this right. Perfect even. Abstract art is not at ALL about perfection. It’s about your perception: how YOU see things in a different way…. There is no RIGHT or WRONG.” I said.

“Mmmmk, but our teacher says we can’t…” He started, and his voice began to tremble again. Fast and shallow breaths fighting their way out his mouth.

I had to think of something else. Another tack. Pilot light… Deep breath. Feel him.

“Ok. I want you to understand something. I don’t care what your final art looks like. I don’t care if your teacher says you’ve failed it or not. I don’t care. You’re twelve. You have a whole life ahead of you. I want you to NOT CARE about this assignment and to JUST get something down. Just start it, and you will be on your way. Can you do that? Can you NOT care about it? I love you no matter what…” I said, defiant. I wanted to protect him.

“Ok. So you think I can just use shapes to make my drawing? That it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t LOOK like what it’s supposed to?” He asked.

“Yes. Remember when we studied Jackson Pollack… That dude DID NOT CARE about ANYONE’S opinion, and people loved it. He was fierce in his art. Be like that. Own your art. Who cares what anyone else thinks?” I said.

“Ok.” He said, standing taller and his eyes a little brighter.

“High five. Fist bump. Be bad.” I said.

I almost blew it. I almost sent him to school with this knot in his belly and a sense of woe and failure before the day began. I almost checked out. It was a balance. I had to check in. I had to hear him, all of him, to help him. In the end he helped me.

We do this all the time, forgetting to check in and remember what it feels like to feel small, worthless, fearful, and so alone. If you’re a parent, you know what I’m talking about. If you’re not a parent, try to remember those feelings and honor them: checking in is the way out.

Thank you.


When Love Walks In….


Valentine’s Day was a blast when I was little: school parties, cupcakes, chocolate, candy, feeling warm despite the cold of February in Buffalo, N.Y.

When I moved to Virginia, it was in the midst of the ubiquitous “Virginia is for Lovers” campaign designed to boost tourism.

Being from New York state, I took offense to that because I felt 1) that Virginia was stealing the super-popular “I ❤ N.Y.” campaign, and 2) that Virginia was for traitors to the Union.

It was those Virginia Februarys in which I learned about the “ice line” and how disappointing winters here can be: cold as fuck (certainly not Montana cold), but no snow. Just dry, gray, bitter bone cold.

After I moved to Virginia, I didn’t like Valentine’s Day much.

For my first Valentine’s Day in Virginia, I was 14 (oy vey, I do NOT miss that time) wondering what love is all about and witnessing a fair amount of discord in my parents’ marriage due to various disappointments in my mother and my dad trying to find his social niche after the move.

So I went looking. Not in a hopeless way, but as a true wonderer in doubt of the point of it all and thinking that it really didn’t exist in an obvious way; that the movies and TV shows were wildly exaggerating. That didn’t stop me from wondering if a small percentage of it were possible, somehere, in a distant land or maybe in the house next door: this perfect love, a love which was as Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians waxed, “it does not boast, and is patient” (I’m loosely paraphrasing) and that “it endures all things.”

I would add that to me, love also meant that it showed up when it said it would, that it would follow through on a promise or even a threat, that it would inspire silence when criticism would be waiting at the ready, finger on the trigger; and that it would simply wait until I softened.

I had to wait a long time before that kind of love stepped into my life, and when it did, I still was suspicious of it.

Before all that, and even in the midst of it, I lost enthusiasm for Valentine’s Day, especially as a mother. But I will admit that I am turning around. What I object to is the capitalization of the day, and the necessity for jewelers and Best Buy to get in the act. It’s the IN YOUR FACE, mandatory YOU MUST SHOW YOUR LOVE bullshit that turns me off, and has for at least 10 years.

The kids don’t bring home their handmade valentines anymore; my youngest is 11. Dan and I held each other this morning when Jackson Browne sang “Sky Blue and Black” on Pandora. The boys ask us about Valentine’s Day, expecting us to go on a hot date with chocolates and flowers, but that’s not how we roll. Especially with the kids now. Love isn’t dampened, it’s just more reserved. Maybe that’s a bummer. Diamonds don’t tell me how much my husband loves me, his being here day in and day out, helping me with everything and me helping him is what tells me he loves me.

I was chatting with some online friends and we agreed that Valentine’s Day is about family right now. I followed one of my friends’ leads and I’ll break out the china, crystal and sterling tonight for dinner. We will use the dining room.

My sons are good to me though. Thing 3 made me coffee this morning, just how I like it. Thing 2 kissed me on the forehead, he’s almost taller than I am now, and told me he loved me. I could feel his razor stubble from his upper lip. My heart leapt and sank because he’s so big. Thing 1, a master of satire, said “this Valentine’s Day, my 16th, I am still single. I will spend the evening in the basement crying, as I have all the years before.” Yesterday was Murphy’s seventh birthday; his face is whitening and he’s a little slower on the uptake yet he brims with love every time he torpedos my crotch. Charlie is Charlie, chewing on something, pulling on Murphy’s mane.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

I went with my husband to see “American Sniper” two weeks ago. The first show we tried to see was sold out. So we went to an early dinner instead. Over our coincidental orders of warm goat cheese and spiced pecan salads we started talking about my parents’ relationship and his parents’ relationship and how hard it must be to be our remaining parents, because he lost his father just last summer and I lost my mother nine months before that.

We also started talking about us, naturally, and I had to ask him, “Why? Why did you marry me?” I wasn’t seeking bullshit and “because you’re the best…” answers. I really wanted to know, because in my estimation, I am a giant pain in the ass. And when we met, I was a total hardass: I was funny, but rigid in my standards and I was jaded.

He simply said, “Because you are strong and you made me laugh, like no one else I know. I loved you very much and I knew, that as we got older and I might need you more than ever, that you would take care of me, you would have my back.”

Oh boy… is he in for a surprise.

Just kidding.

But sort of not, because who knows? Who knows how I will be when that time comes. Maybe I will be incapacited. I would hate to do that to him. But this is the gamble, isn’t it?

My husband is one of the kindest, gentlest, sincerest, effective, patient people I will EVER meet. This is my version of Dan:


om-nom from “Cut the Rope” — he’s one of the sweetest little creatures there is.

And he married me. This is who I think I am compared to him:


This is how I feel about myself from time-to-time. (I didn’t draw this; not in a million years. But I wish I could find the source for it.)

But he walked into my life and now he’s stuck with me.

I had a very small request of Dan when he proposed to me. I said “yes” obviously, but I said to him, no lie, “You must promise me that we will always pay the utility bills. If you can’t promise me that we will never lose power, or water or heat in our home, then I can’t marry you.”

Quickly nodding and with an understandably quizzical expression, he said “Sure.”

He never asked why, but over time I explained and he gets it. I didn’t have that kind of reliability growing up.

And here we are.

People, especially newlyweds and those intending on matrimony need to get this very basic understanding not just clear, but deeply knitted into their psyches: marriage and love is more than living together and playing house. It’s beyond the toothpaste cap being left off and piles of receipts and baseboards that need painting. It’s terribly loud, and unnervingly quiet. It’s about nasal hair and laundry duty; missing tools and body odors; it’s about running the sink for no reason and silently wondering when it will be turned off; it’s about turn-signal neglect and sore throats; about rescue dogs and emotional transferrence; it’s about too many pens and junk drawers; debt and stupid purchases; expensive dinners you regret but paying for; biting your tongue; it’s about endless sports or Bravo TV; about careers derailing and supporting anyway; it’s about saying stupid things and begging for and allowing clarification; it’s about hair in the shower drain and stubble in the sink; about buying the wrong thing and being cool about it; it’s about fears, secrets and shames hemorrhaging in unexpected ways; about psychotherapy and patience during unexpected growth patterns; about miscommunication and apology; about false praise backfiring when you really should’ve been honest; about parents dying and not knowing how to deal; about expensive hobbies and foolish ideas; about driver’s seats not being restored to the primary position and obvious domestic inertia when you walk through the door; about excessive amounts of exercise equipment when a simple daily walk will do; about crazy in-laws and amazing in-laws; it’s about conspiratorially watching an inappropriate YouTube* video away from your children’s ear shot and dark chocolate because it’s healthy; it’s about ratty t-shirts and health changes; sharing your interest despite a prejudice; mood swings and confusion, a cup of tea showing up just because; asking for advice and taking it; bad food choices and nocturnal flatulence; blanket thievery and tulips by surprise and so much more and maybe less… the one thing we do know about love is that we don’t know all about it.

When children are added to the mix, it’s especially essential that if you haven’t already, that you get your head out of your ass and put their needs ahead of your wants. I recently read that Pope Francis said that people who choose to not have children are selfish. I am digressing, but just for a sentence: No, no they are not selfish; what’s selfish is having kids and then treating them like garbage.

I’m back.

Valentine’s Day isn’t a gimmick to me anymore, the way I see it, we should do what we can not just celebrate love, but to recognize it in all its imperfect perfection.

*Gilbert Gottfried reading “50 Shades of Gray”

So on this day, of all days, thanks for reading. You’re good eggs. Here’s a Valentine doodle I sincerely totally made for you:


Thank you.

30 Days of “A Year of Living Your Yoga” — Day 3: Accept Your Ability to Hate


Welcome to Day 3 of my new blog series. This series is based on Judith Hansen-Lasater’s “A Year of Living Your Yoga.” While the book has 365 quotes, I picked only 30.

I chose the dates in the waiting room of my kids’ dentist. I rolled dice and arbitrarily chose dates based on the numbers that showed up with each roll of the dice.

I also had the pleasure of sitting with a Turkish grandmother who didn’t speak any English. We managed to communicate in a female, maternal way that transcended any real words. I used a “bee buzz” sound to describe my middle son, a steady hand / ocean wave motion to describe my youngest and oldest sons and then we “spoke” effusively about the World Cup. “Keeek! Keeek ball! Futbol!”

I will try to keep these posts to less than 500 words. (These words don’t count — ha ha, nor does the quote.)

Here is the quote:

September 2 — If you want to be loving, first accept your ability to hate. Love and hate are the opposite ends of a pendulum swing and are related through passion. To allow yourself to love fully, today resolve to accept your ability to hate. Do not act on that hate, but rather notice it as a part of you, and let compassion surround it.


Thanks for reading. Goodbye.

I am glad she has said this. And that she has a PhD. For so many years, I’ve said to my children when they yell, “I hate you!” that they can’t say that word, “hate.” It’s not a nice word, no one likes to hear it, and we often tell people to stop saying it when they are really feeling that deep and profound dislike, quite powerfully. I think now, and I will allow it in myself, that the kids can say it, as long as they understand that the emotions behind the word are ephemeral.

I feel like, when I say that word, that what I really mean to say is “hurt.” That I am so hurt, and sad and feeling so raw and exposed that the only thing that can come to mind is the opposite of the sense love that I want so badly to feel instead.

I have known, personally, that hate exists. I have felt hatred for people. Then it softens to annoyance and then pity and then I think maybe, forgiveness. Forgiveness is important. But Lasater isn’t talking about forgiveness. She’s encouraging us to feel everything, not act on anything, and then surround all of that feeling and non-action with compassion.

That will take some time, Judy.

But she’s on to something. Hate’s a pretty freakin’ strong response.

We say it all the time, as much as we say “love” probably; “I hate that guy… ” or “I love those shoes…” do you really? Do you really hate that guy? Enough to cast him out all alone forever with no one to speak to or relate to? Do you really love those shoes as much as you love your pet, your SO, kid or your spouse? Would you rather be with them and forsake all others, should the proposition exist?

You can’t have hate if you don’t have love. I know this to be true. My heart has been broken many times, and it’s only the hate that comes on when I know my love has been trashed. But then something happens, the memory fades, the hate turns to what it really is: sadness and then I accept it and can move on.

It’s important to allow the existence of hate though; otherwise we end up living in la-la land. Evil people and hatred exist. They cloak fear. They are what gives fear legs.

So before you decide to hate something, ask yourself, “What is making me so sad?” or “What am I so afraid of?” It’s that deep-inside stuff, those real feelings, the kinds that make your gut churn… those. Listen to them, they are begging you to hear them and let them come out. “What is making me so upset?”  Own it. Then you can begin to move on.

Thank you.

I Have Two Teenagers Now. How to Stop the Madness.


My second son, Thing 2, turned 13 today.

For some reason, I’m not totally blown away by it. Probably because he has been prepping me for it for about 12 years.

I don’t like to really write about my kids on my blog; I like to write of them; there is a distinction. My children have their own stories to tell and I don’t ever want this blog to be a reason why they would feel exploited or have them be the pedestal or shoulder upon which I stand to be seen, heard, noticed.

I write to my dear second son, who is so unique and special in our family.

Dear Thing 2,

The world is in a state of flux. In your lifetime’s small window terrorists have attacked our country and we theirs; we have been in a war as long as you’ve been alive and more and more people are dying of gunshot in public places. Just yesterday horror struck a shopping mall not an hour from where we live. The day before that, three teenagers who were minding their own business walking alongside the road were struck down by drivers who were bent on drag racing in the middle of the day on a busy suburban street; they too lived in Maryland.

I think about the world I am leaving you. I have a long time to go before I leave you, as far as I’m concerned, but I still wish things were simpler.

This is sounding rather depressing, isn’t it? Well, I don’t mean it to sound so sad. Despite what I say, research has shown, somewhere (and statistics can always be shown in one light or another to benefit someone) this is the least-dangerous time in recorded humanity. Piffle.

What I want it to do is to remind you that when all the world has lost its shit (I can say that to you now), that you can stop the madness. You have a light inside you, dear one, that can bring you peace and that can make people smile. You can be and already are a beautiful human being. Friends will come and they will go. Don’t try to save a friendship that has done all it can; learn the lessons you can from it and thank it for enriching your life. Romances fade; love is eternal. Stick with your God-given talents; they will take you far and will always be there for you.

I think about the day you were born. I can’t help it on a day like today: it’s cold out like it was then. The sky is confused. The sun shines behind me but I see gray skies behind the bare trees which stand so tall outside the windows of our cozy house on our little street. This is the first place you’ve ever lived. This is the only place you’ve ever lived.

When you were born, you almost flew out of me you were so ready. I know, “ew, MOM, DON’T…. UCH…” but I will. You were one eager son-of-a-gun. The doctors caught you, just in time, and immediately, you started to howl and curl your tiny body. You were so strong, and so fierce. You reminded me of rope that sits on a dock beside an ocean liner. Your voice, full and real and sweet was so alive, so strong that there was no doubt that you would not only make it, but that your passion would be the biggest part of you. It’s ok though — you are a soul, just like I am and just like everyone else is — and you were just trying to find your way then, as you are now.

Your skin is gorgeous and smooth. Your eyes are bright like copper pennies and your love you wear on your sleeve. Your smile is ready and your kindness knows no bounds. Your imagination gets you into trouble on this one-dimensional world; be sure to keep it alive but also try to tolerate we less-evolved persons who inhabit your planet. Owning our shortcomings makes us bigger people.

You move like a cheetah on the soccer pitch. When you think no one is listening, I hear you sing with passion and a sense of tender gentleness that I didn’t think your body possessed because you live so largely and you feel all your feelings.

The world is a crazy place, young Thing 2. Being 13 just means you’re going to hear more about it, but don’t let it get you down. Do what I do: go inside your beautiful head, say a few prayers for the crazy in the world and then go out and make people smile. Tell a joke, make a friend, sing a song, dress like Batman for no reason and wave at the cars passing by; do the things you already do. Don’t listen to those who want to bring you down to meet them. 

I realize now that what I think is an education is actually a burden for you. Your brain is not wired the way the school system thinks it should be. You are still that piece of rope on the dock — you have so much energy inside you that I know, when you set your mind to something, you will achieve it. Just make sure it’s legal and ethical. That’s all I ask.

Cure cancer. Bring an end to poverty but keep capitalism alive. Make a video which makes people laugh. Write a song that brings people to their feet or to their knees. Keep it real. Be real. Keep evolving, never stop growing and learning.

There’s a song I love. John Mayer’s “Stop this Train.” It’s all about life going too fast. On days like today, when you, my middle child begins his teenage years, I want only to jump on the tracks and stop the train.

I am left with only one more son to hit his teenage years and then that’s all we’ve got… besides new puppies and marriages and babies you might make, this is what I have to look forward to in terms of my engagement as a mother on this planet. It’s not that I’m sad, it’s that I want you to live your life so fully, Thing 2, that I want all your fears removed and when you kick them to the curb, I want to take them and put them in a black velvet bag, stomp on it and push it into a cannon, the old-fashioned kind they have on Bugs Bunny versus Yosemite Sam cartoons and light the fuse and shoot it toward the moon, where Marvin the Martian, like on your hat, can vaporize it with his Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator before it gets there.

I love you Thing 2. Never stop being you.


Thank you.