Tag Archives: self-improvement

Goodbye, Terra Centre


After 13 years of near daily walks to our elementary school, it has finally happened. We are no longer part of the TCES community; we have “aged out.”

It started in 2003, when my oldest began kindergarten. My youngest was still inside me; he had a few more months to bake. Save for those early postpartum winter weeks after my youngest was born, and about 30 days to use Kiss & Ride on “weathery days” I walked my kids every day to and from school.

The path to school is gorgeous.


It was perfect to quiet the mind and give the body just a little jump start to the day. Often it was leisurely and we did see all the things in the images above. I am not a huge believer in stressing out being late to elementary school. What do we miss? Perfect attendance? Or the little TV show they broadcast each morning which announced the cafeteria menu, the weather outside, TC birthdays, and anything else of note … but … please. All of my kids say no one ever listens to that broadcast. I could often be overheard saying to the boys, “It’s not Harvard. We have time. Look around the path… look around this place…” And we would.

Once the final baby came along, so came the daily use of the double stroller, that godsend and albatross. I remember grabbing the leash of our faithful golden, Maggie, wrapping it round the handle of the stroller and pushing off for school as she would keep perfect pace with me, never wavering from her parade. My middle son who is my mirror, often made the experience more melodious than many people were likely ready for so early in the morning. Because he wasn’t a student there yet, he saw little need in going to school to drop off Big Brother. We disagreed daily.

We had a song for him,

Oh I won’t ride my stroller to school
I told my mommy I’d walk
But now my mommy won’t pick me up
So I’m gonna screech like a hawk.

More often than not, we were just on time.

Our first year at the school, around winter break, it was struck by a Norovirus outbreak. Norovirus is a vomiting illness. I was walking home the first morning back from break and a TV crew was outside on the main road leading to my house. A well-known female roving reporter, Gail Pennybacher, asked me if she could interview me. With her cameras. I was a new public school mom, recently postpartum with Thing 3, and she wanted to talk to me about the outbreak.

“Are you a parent at the school over that way?” she asked, pointing to TC which you could see now the the trees were bare.

“Yes… what’s this about?” I asked, I’m sure.

She talked about her intentions.

I had no clue about the outbreak. It was over. I guess there was some form of communication from the school before it opened after winter break but I was barely functioning.

I noticed that the disgusting low-pile industrial carpeting was replaced by shiny linoleum tiles, but that was all I knew. Gail told me about the outbreak and asked me if she could film my then-kindergartener son and me washing his hands. I said yes, immediately followed by the caveat that my student son wasn’t home and that I had to put my kids down for a nap. It being a Monday, a half-day back then, I assured her he would be home in three hours.

But I felt weird, as though I was betraying the school. Being a new mom and knowing NOTHING about FCPS and Terra Centre from a parent standpoint (plus people can be assholes), I didn’t want to make enemies over there. During the meantime, I reached out to the principal to let her know that the news crews were stalking the neighborhood.

That was my first interaction with that principal. She called me back and asked me for intel. She said I sounded like I was someone who was media savvy. She was gooood. I said I had worked in PR and was a freelance writer. She said I would be helpful to her. She prowled up to her saucer, got down on her haunches and wrapped her tail around her hips, slowly lapping. “Tell me more…” she said. I told her about me, and then she asked me how to handle the news crew.

That night, the news was on and I saw our segment. My jaw hit the floor when I watched that woman OWN that reporter. She played me. I was so naive. Over the remaining nine years, she and I barely spoke. Outside of the Carter administration, I considered her one of the least effective leaders I’d ever witnessed. I learned over the years that parents had tried unsuccessfully to oust her at least twice before we got there.

I made friends through Terra Centre. Some I still know, others have faded away or moved away. But while I have faded some, I have not moved, which is an oddity here, in one of many communities referred to as the Pentagon’s bedroom.

Most families who roost here are military or somehow entwined with the federal government in public service, civil service or as a contractor.

Once again, my team is an anomaly of two anomalies. I do not hail from a government family, nor does my husband. His family, I think a third-generation Washingtonian tribe, was in private business and my family was in journalism. I feel confident saying there are not many of us around here, those who’ve been here consistently as long as we have.

We moved into this house in 2000. I met this home when it was under contract.

“It’s under contract and it’s higher than your range. Forget it,” Barb, my ever-enthusiastic realtor said.

“I don’t care. I have to see it. Get me in there.” I said.

Barb used her keypad and we were in. I felt dirty, as though I had to whisper everything I said and thought. It was like breaking into a bank vault.

The house wasn’t well-appointed, but it had my requirements: a fenced flat backyard and a basement. It also had other things I didn’t know I had to have: hardwood floors, a playroom, a main floor bedroom with full bath. It didn’t have what I really wanted: a garage, but I’ve found over the years that those just get stuffed with crap no one uses.

“It’s under contract. You can’t be here…” a little woman whisper-shouted in broken English from the top of the stairs. I remember her to this day: graying hair in a bun, half glasses perched on her nose. A floral quilted housecoat. She thought she was protected by the UNDER CONTRACT sign on the post outside her house.

“I understand. I had to see it. I’m compelled to be here. I have a son, he’s 2 and I’ve got another one on the way,” I said, patting my newly swelling belly with the same hand holding my toddler’s wet sticky palm. He flashed his enormous green eyes, long lashes and deep dimples at her.

Her shoulders softened. Her voice warmed and she descended the stairs to just three from the main floor. She was Filipina.

“My name is Corazon,” she said.

“That means ‘heart?’ I said back, smiling. We nodded.

“If the contract falls through,” I said, “Please call my realtor. She’s leaving her card. Please. I need to be here.”

Corazon gestured to the kitchen and said, “the yard … for him.”

For them, I thought to myself. Peering through the windows, I agreed, “it’s lovely.”

“Shade,” she said.

I continued out the kitchen door on to the “deckette” to look at the flat fenced back yard, feeling a little breeze and cooler air than the front. We were nestled beneath a canopy of Oaks, Dogwoods and Sugar Maples. I tried to keep my composure. I needed to be in this house.

It was August. We were still in our bright and airy seven-year-old townhouse. Well, sort of.

Y’see, we don’t have much luck with real estate endeavors. Long story short, our first buyer was under-qualified. I knew it when I saw him cross the threshold late during our open house. When you’re pregnant, you don’t ignore your gut. They wanted to close within 30 days. They were hot to trot. We hadn’t found a house yet. So we got cooking.

Most of the houses around here don’t last long on the market, but it was a weird time. The ones that lingered were absolutely horrendous, smelly, dark and dreary as though the people in them were having to leave against their will. “Aren’t these people motivated to sell?” I would ask my agent, shaking my head and feeling lost every time we unlocked a door.

After living here, in Burke, for almost 16 years though, I get it. People DON’T want to leave here.

Eventually our townhouse sold. It might’ve even been larger than the house we’re in now. My husband likes to think so. I heartily disagree. Doesn’t matter. The first buyers of each house fell through. Our buyer was a cabbie. I knew it was him and he was a cabbie when I saw him drive by in his work vehicle and slow down in front of the house, indicating to his riders (I think his mother and wife or sister) that this was going to be their new home.

My stomach fell out of my body, My vision honed and I got prickly all over my skin witnessing his gestures and sitting there in front of my house under the hot sun. There was no way they had the money. I panicked. I called my husband, he was certain I was wrong. I called our agent, she was telling me I was pregnanty-nervous. She used to be a nurse. I’m really glad she got out of that gig, she had no empathy skills. She listed “weight lifting” as one of her hobbies.

I knew it would fall through. It did. It fell through likely about two weeks after our contract on this house was accepted. The good news is that I wasn’t nuts and pregnanty-nervous. I pointed at my husband and chided my agent. The bad news is that we were effed.

The first buyers of this house walked on the contract because of a Radon issue. Two days after we dropped our card for Corazon, they walked. Her agent called my agent at night. My agent called me. The next morning we went to put an offer on the house contingent with Radon remediation, which she had a contractor there installing that afternoon. My husband hadn’t seen the house until we wrote on it.

Our agent was all “this school and that school… and oooh and shopping and oooh metro… and banks and conveniences…” and I was all, back yard. Shade. School? What do I know of schools… It turns out we landed in a really good school district.

I remember when my husband first stepped on to the tiny deck, “Land!” he said. It’s not a lot, but it’s ours. The kitchen is modest. When my children were very busy and smaller, it was manageable. We did finger painting and conducted general mayhem in the kitchen. Now that they’ve grown, it’s a little tight a lot of the time, even after our renovation. They “eat” (it’s more of inhaling and grunting) at the breakfast bar. We don’t have as many family dinners as we used to. I have two man-childs and another one, the one who just left elementary school, burgeoning. Soon though, the biggest man-child will be off to college so it will be less man-childs.

I’m not sure I’m ready for that either. It feels like it’s all happening so fast.

Terra Centre used to be underground. Well, not really underground, like sub-level, but it was covered in grass. We used to call it the EduCave. But it’s been renovated and that renovation came with a new principal who is leaving…. TC teachers are strong, many of them have been there for at least 10 years and despite the administration being yet again in flux, I have very few reservations about TC’s promise. The class sizes rarely hit above 28 because our neighborhood is 30+ years old; all gross residential development is over. It’s a good school. It’s so good that it’s hard as heck to find a house in this ‘hood.

The other day a realtor came to talk to me about the house next door to me that sold in 4 hours. I had met her clients when I was staring down my sprinkler. They asked me questions about drainage and the walk to the school. They didn’t win the bidding war and the husband was in tears. They loved the house. They loved me too.

The walk to Terra Centre, for me, was part of my routine too. It is 1/3 a mile door to door. Going there and back twice a day ensured I saw other people. It meant exercise, community, sisterhood. I volunteered at the school to assist the teachers, absolutely, and to help the children, no doubt. But I also volunteered to improve my life. To not feel like a failure for not having a job, and for not sitting on my ass eating bon-bons.

I’m not a nostalgist in the least. I’m a “GSD” (Get Shit Done) person. But I am sort of taking my time here. I think that makes people nervous: when someone like me, who’s normally driven, Type A and a go-getter, decides to sit, feel and write and emote… it can be off-putting. Luckily for me, my boys know how I value feeling the feelings so we can process them and get through them. They know I’m not going to run off to the basement with a bottle of vodka and deny myself into oblivion.

The fact of all of this is that I’m a little blue. I feel like I’m losing a part of myself. And I guess I am. Will I get over it? No, I will get through it. I don’t want to “get over” anything; I want to process things.

Undoubtedly, people tell me to think of the happy memories. That change is good! That I should remember to concentrate on the tremendous growth the boys have achieved. It’s hard to witness it all, frankly. There was a time when I felt that their growth meant I stagnated, but I see it now, we’ve all grown.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: EVERYTHING and EVERYONE we encounter is our teacher. Sometimes they are teachers reminding us to hold our ground, and other times, they are teachers telling us to get our shit together. Terra Centre taught me about service, friendship, neighbors, boundaries, and duty.

I remember early in my volunteering that it had occurred to me that I wasn’t much of a volunteer. I sort of got down on myself a little about that. I grew up in a largely narcissistic environment, so I was conditioned to deal with and for myself because, well, that’s how a kid survived narcissists. You had to be a narcissist… When in Rome…

But I also gave myself a pause. How do we change? By changing. So it was at Terra Centre. It was the first time I was a mom of a student somewhere. At the preschools, they’re all about getting moms out of their houses and out with others: shopping, doctor appointments, taking care of themselves. They are purposely short days 3-4 hours apiece so the kids don’t get antsy and the moms can maybe get a nap.

I was nudged by a neighbor to volunteer at Fun Fairs (think mini carnival populated by  drunken toddlers). She is a child of service members and married to one. I learned that Fun Fair isn’t my jam. So she suggested a dance. Tried it. NFW. Movie night. Nope. I realized eventually, while jumping through the proposed hoops, serving on the PTA, presiding over the PTA and other involvement that I’m more about GSD than telling kids to stop running or to “put that down” and getting other parents to see me as a performer.

While I’m an extrovert, when it comes to getting shit done, I’m a silent partner. I bought a tiger suit for the school mascot. Either they hadn’t had one in a decade or they never had one (since the present principal at the time arrived). So I bought one and the PTA paid me back. I’ll never forget the first day I wore it. It was after school. The Friday before Columbus Day in 2008 and a young teacher was walking the halls and I was in the tiger suit. She screamed and JUST ABOUT passed out. She almost fell down running away. She left the school after that year. I want to say TC Tiger had nothing to do with it but … phobias be powerful… The story is that got engaged and moved to Ohio…

I had no idea she actually had “masklophobia”: a real phobia of people in costumes / mascot suits. She told me about it later. She wasn’t around to see me when I took the tiger head off my head and said “It’s OK! It’s ME! It’s Molly!”

I wore that suit for school events for little over a school year. It didn’t fit me. I looked like a malnourished fake tiger. “TC Tiger” was the mascot name and the kids simply could not get enough of TC Tiger. I was ready to pass the baton despite my obsession to make sure TC Tiger was well-handled: you can’t see less than 4 feet in front of yourself in a mascot suit and so accidentally mowing down a kid is entirely too possible.

Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 6.15.07 PM

This is me in the mascot suit the day it arrived: the Friday before Columbus day 2008. It’s from an album titled, “TC Tiger Visits School and Molly Loses 4# in the Process.”

The funny thing about being inside that suit is that you’re smiling but people can’t see you. So when tiny children run away traumatized but you’re in there cooing and making “It’s OK Toodles, it’s just me, Molly,” faces, they can’t see that. All they can see is a giant head, fangs and a stupid smile and huge hands trying to hug (NOT GASH) them.

The principal at the time wasn’t too thrilled with the PTA being so “school spirit-y” she felt that was her job. Sitting in her office, hiding most of the day, biding her time until retirement. She was lukewarm to TC Tiger. Or maybe it was me she was lukewarm to. It was most likely me… By this point, I think all three of my kids were in the school and she and I had cooled from that first encounter when she gaslighted me after Norovirus. Often she was content letting the school be “cleaned” by employees who’d rather be hanging out smoking at Starbucks across the street… Truth. We had issues with that. Hence, the Norovirus.

I learned that exercising my talents: writing, public relations, empathy, awareness of our connection to others, art, rallying for a cause to benefit all, enthusiasm for other people, their right to live on Earth and their promise, is really what works for others and what makes me hum. Doing all the volunteer stuff I was talked into doing didn’t further anythig of any value, for me or them. I learned to advocate and get the attention of the County on important matters such as hygiene, safety and communication.

At Terra Centre, as in any school environ nestled in Power Play central, the real work can be in dealing with adults.

Now I’m talking about the parents… persons with multiple degrees, fancy letters or abbreviations before and after their names, ranks, and connections. I also learned about projection, inadequacy and self-esteem issues, drama, need for excitement, and the predilection for some of those parents to stand on the narrow shoulders of or behind the gentle chests of their children.

The children? They taught me kindness and patience. They taught me boundaries. You have no choice when a little girl grins at you through her gapped teeth, “I GOT IT I GOT IT” when you try to help her with her milk carton.

In May, my youngest banished me from the walk because he wanted to walk alone to school for the last three weeks. A helicopter parent, I am not, but the kid seldom gets out on time, and I like the exercise. We also use that time to chat about stuff. He banished me from the walk home back in November, “I’m 12 now…” so … yeah. There was no excuse / little brother onto place my interest. He was the excuse. He was the little brother.

So we made a deal: he gets out of the house by 8:27 and he could walk by himself. He did alright. But on the last week, I pulled rank. I told him I would be walking with him on the last day of school. To and From. He didn’t balk. I think he got it. For 6th graders, the last day is traditionally a “recognition” ceremony. The kids get “certificates of achievement” of being a student at the school and passing 6th grade. Other awards are given out — it’s lovely actually.

The morning of the last day, it rained, so his dad drove us. The walk home though… I was not giving that up. I would NOT make the day before my last walk home from school. I did not give up a career in corporate communications and PR to miss this moment.

Here’s how it went:

If you watch that video until the end, you’ll see he turns around to look at me. The fades in the video were not my doing, it was the light coming in as we left the shade of the path. The house in my comments is not mine.

At first I was self-conscious about doing it but I quickly put that away. As you will see, our walks to and from school are Rockwellian. I’m good with the video now. I didn’t discover his backward gaze until I watched it last night. That it’s 1:43 in length, “143” being our code for “I Love You” makes the capture all the more lovely to me.

In a sense, I grew up here at Terra Centre. I learned that persistence overcomes resistance and that a gaggle of noisy parents who give a damn can effect real change on a busy over-traveled street. I learned that school principals are just people too and they come with their own dreams, fears, alliances, and hesitations. I learned that rational people can run a school and that kids needn’t be afraid of principals.

Most of all, I learned about myself. I learned that it’s ok for me to miss the school. After 13 years, I felt like family. To my kids, it’s a place they where they learned to tie their own shoes. To me, it’s a place where I liked to walk. I always appreciated my walks to Terra Centre.

I will miss it very much, and so I get it when I see moms of kids in high school or college or medical school or living in Manhattan on their own with a family walking their dogs with the moms of kids in third grade… just to see a little kid again or to mosey beneath the shade on the way to another day to ourselves.

Thank you.

30 Days of Brené Brown — Day 4: #imperfection #worth #value #relationship #community #struggle


Welcome to Day 4 of “30 Days of Brené Brown” wherein I will take the top 30 quotes as determined by Goodreads. Who is Brené Brown you ask? She is a research professor at the University of Houston, author of several books on emotional health and authenticity and all-around bad-ass when it comes to shame and vulnerability research. But more importantly, she is my “if you could have dinner / evening out with anyone you don’t know who would it be…” -person. Go here to learn more about her. In each post I will try to limit myself to 1,200 words.

Today’s quote:

You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.
― Brené Brown


This reminds me of the Declaration of Independence. Y’know, the real one. That awesome document that ushered a war and released us from the bondage of British Imperialism and freed us to become the Americans we are today!! Who’s with me?!

‘Cept when I look at America now, I’m not so sure we know what we’re doing.

mine. please don't steal it. make your own.

mine. please don’t steal it. if you use, then cite me.

So let’s narrow our view back in and look at our basic selves and our core group of people and how we interact and interrelate with them all. I’d like to break down this quote, as short as it is, even further:

“You are imperfect,” — this to me is like a license for experimentation. I like to think of children, how we can’t (or shouldn’t really, for a whole host of neurological and developmental reasons) walk before we can crawl. Before we walk well, we fall down a lot. We are meant to fall down a lot, hence the next part of Brené’s quote:

“You are wired for struggle,” — which basically means: count on having a shitty time every once in a while at this stupid game of life. I see this as a good thing: if we weren’t wired for struggle and adversity then we’d also not be prepared for greatness and success. We would never know when we are successful. When we are successful we can enjoy ourselves, we can trust ourselves, we can love and be part of a tribe of …

But … oh.

That’s the essence of the next part of the quote isn’t it?: “But you are worthy of love and belonging.”

We need to give ourselves that permission to belong — did you read my Declaration of Imperfection above? You’re already a member of the human race! You’re already in! You already belong! We all just need to remember to be kinder to ourselves and firm in our love so that we accomplish what we are here to do!

So, yay! Right?

The good news is that you’re worthy of love. The bad news is that it’s likely gonna mean hell must happen first before you realize it. Are you in hell now? Are you struggling? Well, get in line.

Every day millions of people — very likely all people, even the brand-new ones, no! especially the brand-new ones — experience a crappy moment: loneliness, confusion, isolation, heartbreak, loss, desolation, fear, anxiety, regret,  frustration … but on the same coin, there are all the same people (just not the babies because they don’t get it) who, thanks to perspective and reason possess the ability to turn that negative energy inside out and try all over again or … if they are willing and able: to reach out, maybe share their story and meet compassion. Even if it’s from a complete stranger and it lasts five seconds!

Case in point:

Friday after Thanksgiving, as I walked to my car from the CVS after getting alcohol wipes for my niece’s blood sugar reader, I saw an elderly disheveled man leaning against his old pick-up. He was in bad shape emotionally from what I could see. When I approached my car’s door to open it, he looked over, seemingly ashamed of his condition. His eyes averted mine, but I stood for a moment and waited for him to sense my hesitation. He looked up at me, with his own hesitation and I smiled and said, “Hello, I hope you have a good day.”

I wasn’t Mother Theresa, but I wanted to be human with him. I wanted to have an exchange, no matter how fleeting, to let him know that someone, anyone, saw him and saw his struggle.

His face brightened for just a moment, almost in an obliging way and his posture perked up. He nodded and sniffled his nose. Then he gestured his hand and said something that I will admit was completely unintelligible and he turned to close his truck’s door and moseyed toward the ABC store. That completely bummed me out, it was an imperfect experience and I felt like Leslie Knope from NBC’s “Parks & Recreation.” Hopeful and idealistic, but ultimately crushed.

I wanted the story to be different. I wanted to say that he said, “Hey, thanks. Yes, I do too. And thanks to you, it will be because you were nice to me! Here’s a check for $500,000! Go buy those shoes you love!”

No. It didn’t happen that way. It barely happened at all, but I did what I felt urged to do — to see that man. I saw him because I’ve felt like how I think he felt: down, isolated and frustrated. If we don’t tap into our own shit then we can’t see anyone else’s. I won’t suggest that it’s my mission to find that guy and take him to an AA meeting because maybe that’s all I was supposed to do that day, but I suspect if I do see him again, I will be just as kind as I was last week.

I am imperfect. My house is not always clean, my moods are unpredictable, I don’t always like to cook, I have wrinkles now at 46 that I would really rather not have, my body is nothing like it used to be yet it hasn’t let me down yet, my hair is mostly gray I fear and I loathe being a slave to that nag of a colorist (me) and stuff is happening to my skin that you don’t wanna know about. But I’m here. I can choose to make my imperfection my anvil or my buoy.

As long as we have breath in our lungs, our struggles are not over; that’s OK. Who knows what will befall us? For me: as imperfect as I am and as allowing as I am about that imperfection, that if I don’t get the hell out of my own way, I will also be responsible for most of my struggles.

How did I get off track? (I blame the old man.)

Here’s the dealio: regardless of our imperfections and our struggles, there is community for us. Love is out there for us — all of us: wrinkled and old, or young and insecure, hesitant or confident and we do belong. We are here, on this planet — we belong on it. We belong here.

We have to be willing to put ourselves out there in order to feel the struggle and know our imperfections and succeed despite them — or maybe by virtue of them!

Count on being imperfect and bask in its flexibility! Allow yourself to be kinder to yourself! Thank your wrinkles because that means you’ve expressed emotions and have felt the sun’s warmth! Thank your gray hairs for they’ve stayed in your head! Know you are not alone — and even if when you look around after reading this, and you might still feel alone, know this: that at the end of a very long day, you really do belong to yourself and that’s the best declaration of independence I can think of.

Thank you.

Grief: A Status Update


I’ve gotten a few inquiries about my wellbeing lately. I suspect it’s because I’ve stopped formally writing about my grief.

I’ve heard it say that for every 1,000 people, there is one person who will say something; one person who will inquire.

So, with 7 billion people on the planet and seeing as how all of them know who I am, that would mean … take away 6, multiply by a factor of 4, add in daylight savings time, the rate of inflation by 9, and then add in that this was a leap year… I am guessing that three people want to know how I’m doing. (Just kidding — I know I am loved and I am so grateful.)

How am I doing?

Meh. Ok. Largely Ok. The grief is very well and alive but its highs and lows and mind-blowing sucker punches are totally unpredictable. At times, it’s bigger than I am. Laughing now feels more normal and less like a foreign experience or guilty pleasure.

The good news is that I have good perspective and an even greater sense of understanding of life and how we are supposed to live it. My mother lived her way and I have always lived mine. The one thing I can tell you though with complete assurance is that my days of being someone’s door mat and of doing things that don’t bring me some form of value (I’ll even take “hindsight is 20/20” as value) are over.

I’ve been grieving for almost 11 weeks. I feel indulgent saying “grieving” because it sounds so morose, but I guess the reality is that until a year passes, it won’t be a full cycle. “Feel all the feelings,” they say. I think that means all the feelings from all the seasons.

It’s been about three weeks, maybe more, since writing last about my grief and how it is being a member of a motherless society; we are a special group. It’s weird to say “my mother died.” Thanksgiving is approaching. Hallowe’en has come and gone. My birthday and my brother’s birthday were spent without her phone calls. The phone never rings from the house anymore, announcing: “Mimi and Dodo” in my son’s three-year-old voice. It’s really just totally weird. Place cards at the table… we will be one short. Thing 3 likes to make them. Secret Santa this year… her name won’t be written, a gift won’t be purchased or made in her name. It’s just incredibly “off,” like the earth is at an odd angle and you have to walk at a slant.

From time to time, my head is flooded with

  • The Day of The Phone Call: the weather was gorgeous, I was on the deck reading blogs, trying to catch up from my crazy summer, it was Labor Day after all;
  • The Moments with Dad at Their House: it was messy, and the sun shone from the west through the front door, and the policeman was nice, he told us the news;
  • The Ride to the Hospital: I sat in the backseat frantically texting my cousin because I couldn’t reach her mother, between those texts I texted my friend to find my younger brother;
  • Sitting in the Conference Room with the Doctors: the table was clean and huge, the doctor was kind and factual, the carpet was blue and my dad was logorrheic but the nurse had patience fathoms deep;
  • Seeing Her Body There: Good God she is really dead, there she is… that is her shell, she has gone, her spirit has flown to God. …

It goes on and on…

  • Picking out Her Burial Clothes, The Trip to Buffalo, The Signing of the Check for the Cemetery Plots, The Funeral, The Burial … loop and loop.

But not all the time, thank God, and nowhere near as frequent or intense or as long.

I have a keen appreciation, now, for people whose mothers died when they were much younger. I also have a keen appreciation of knowing what it was to grow up with my mother, as challenging as things were, versus having her completely g-o-n-e -gone.

My thinking has had to shift.

There was never a time when my mother was not in the back of my mind. Even when she was at the forefront, she was still in the back. I figure this is because I was often left wondering where she was, psychically, if that makes sense. Now she is still on my mind, but it’s different. There is no more expectation, hope, curiosity, wishing or delusion about anything ever getting better. I suppose that’s a form of liberty and I know it is, but I’d be lying if I said I’d like just one more nose-squinchy, eye-squinty, silly grin from her. I guess that’s what photos are supposed to do.

People come to me with stories about her and I love it; I welcome them to replace my stories.

Time has literally been sucked away. If it weren’t for emails and photos I’d not really know where my summer had gone. I’d like to say that it’s always been like that — that I’ve always moved at light speed and all that, but when you experience and suffer through a massive loss like this, regardless of the tenor of the relationship, your mind is elsewhere, you don’t really know what it is you’re actually thinking about because those thoughts are fleeting yet repetitive and cyclical. You just know you’re wiped out and depleted.

There is no (for me at least) moment of, “why am I thinking of that again?!” -moment because each time I consider something I might’ve already considered, it’s in a new iteration; a new fold; a new moment. Why? Because every moment — Every Single Moment we live is completely different from the preceding one. Just as I am now typing new letters on this screen and you are reading them, you are not reading the ones preceding AGAIN.

So the context changes. And then so do the undulations of the thoughts and memories and smells. The angle of the sun these days: I find it delicious. I always have. I love how the sun is weaker but its light feels more white to me, as though it is crisper and it knows, in some odd way, that its strength is waning, so it tries a little harder to work.

I am sleeping OK. I am eating well. I have resumed yoga in class and at home. I am walking more. I’m outside, running errands more with less anxiety, I guess that’s what it is… I’ve been volunteering a lot at the adult’s rowing club and helping out where I can at school. It brings me fulfillment to help others. Humility is a wonderful driver to get us out of our own egos.

I think I have sciatica. I say think because on a scale of 1-10, I believe I’m dealing with a 2 or 3. It’s more of a nagging sensation rather than a pain. But at night it bothers me, just as I doze off. It’s like my hip, just at those dots we have on our lower backs, it’s punch-drunk… like a kid who doesn’t want to go to church or who has a hard time falling asleep in the car: it’s whiney and nagging and annoying and then I get irritated, which of course doesn’t help things.

To remedy this, I’m going to read John Sarno’s The MindBody Prescription again. I believe most of our ills are self-induced. If stress and anxiety can create heart disease, which can ultimately kill us, why can’t I create a nervous issue in my back? We’re not as binary and separate as we think we are.

I’m also reading another book, Lit, by Mary Karr. It’s her memoir of recovery from alcoholism and abuse and how she came into accepting a higher power in her life. She also came from an alcoholic background, her observations of her mother’s antics feel familiar to me.

Karr herself sounds familiar to me… I see similarities in our self-defeating thoughts; in our anger and its repression and our lashing out. It scares me a little. I could be like Mary Karr: I could’ve ruined the first half of my life with alcohol but something stopped it. I credit my pregnancies along with the brutal self-awareness that if I didn’t get my act together that I’d be continuing Mom’s cycle. Karr has a way of completely making me feel worthless as a writer though — she’s a poet and her words are so gorgeous.

What’s the phrase, “Compare and despair.”? Yeah. That.

The other night, in a moment of supplication and more humility, I was weeping for my mother and my history wondering about why these things happen, why was I born to such a tragic person, what was my lesson? Watching your parent slowly self-destruct for decades without nary a thought for the future or her own health, and who just (seemingly to me) blithely lived … that it was all going to be OK, was not only soul-stealing, but it was so very cruel; it took me with it at times. Her narcissism and self-destruction created a rage that engulfed me.

I am sad at times. It’s ineffable, this woe. It weighs on my head and holds me until I process it. I still weep at night, silently or as quietly as I can. I don’t want to disturb my sons. Thing 2 (12) seems to have the hardest time with my distress; he wants to hold me and quell me, but ALL of my years of therapy have told me: don’t stop a crier. Let the crying process, let it slow itself down and let it pass before you offer a tissue or a glance or embrace. When we go to a crier, it’s we / us — the witness — who can’t handle the emotions, so we subconsciously try to stop it. We think we are helping, but we aren’t. So that’s how it is at night sometimes around here. I cry in my pillow or sniffle into my sleeve.

I’d get up and go to the basement and wail into a cushion but I’m too lazy, plus I know it will come back, so I may as well stay warm and drowsy.

. . . . .

You can not solve a problem from the same level of consciousness that created it. –Einstein

“Let go or be dragged.” That was the quote yesterday in yoga that our teacher read to us.

About a decade ago, I used to think that when something didn’t arrive when I was expecting it that it was late; and that its lateness was an inconvenience to me; it was a personal effrontery. I was like Kanga of Kanga and Roo in Winnie-the-Pooh books. “How dare …” and “Well! Hmph!” about those things. I fancied myself Mrs. Thurston Howell III I suppose. I internalized that I was somehow separate and better and above, when I was really nothing of the sort. Those affectations / coping skills were not nature. They were taught. As much as I can love my parents, they were/are probably some of the snobbiest people I knew… it came from feeling inadequate. I see that now. Snobs are the biggest ironies.

Mom used to say ironically of alcoholics that they are narcissists with self-esteem issues. That about sums it up.

I bring up my interpretation of something being ‘late’ and “letting go” because I ordered a DVD of The Sedona Method, aptly titled “Letting Go,” about three weeks ago from The Daily Om. I received an order confirmation, but no shipping information for about a week. So I inquired. They wrote back quickly and told me that it would be shipped the following week because it was out of stock and in high demand. “Great, that means with the Veteran’s Day holiday it’ll be even later…” I thought to myself, later smirking at myself: So much for even allowing The Sedona Method to start to trickle into my psyche.

I was intrigued by the DVD because I’m really tired of therapy. I don’t want to drive, sit, or share. I just want to be done.

This is a new therapist, for EMDR, whom I started with last spring because of reasons I haven’t disclosed until now: my father flat-out stopped talking to me in February because I laid down a boundary and effected a deadline of actions that he asked me to produce in order to help my mother. My boundary was quite clear: you asked me to do this and this and this. Here it is. Now, you do what you say you will do, based on this list, and then I will assist. My boundary was considered “hostile.” This is what you get when you deal with someone who’s not used to hearing, “No.”

It never was a game to me — to take care of her — and the patterns of my youth: to save her at all costs to myself, regardless of the toll it took on me (I failed 8th grade and then blew off some college), were rearing again and I simply couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t handle his abdication nor my mother’s agency in this crusade (I can feel my sciatica kick in now…) to save her. Her involvement was as much then as it always was: inauthentic insofar as any result outside of garnering attention. I feel in my heart of hearts that the request in February was highly ambitious, a bit fake and for me, too late. But my calling him out on it, my drawing a boundary and executing a clear directive is what enraged him. I was no longer a child. I was a mother, a wife, an adult and I HAD CHANGED CONSIDERABLY.

Dad’s silent treatment of me lasted about three months. It only ended because I took on the high school rowing club presidency and I had some questions about coaching for him. It wouldn’t have ended unless I ended it, perhaps it might’ve even gone until she died; I know this as we’ve gone longer years before, always because I’ve displeased him somehow and always because I’ve supplicated in the end. Mom tried, in her usual triangulating way to get us to talk, but I was clear with her about what and why I was doing what I was doing. She admired my concern for her, and never brought it up again. Often, my personal code of honesty and truth in all matters was very hard for her.

So I see now: that is when the ball started rolling which prepared me for her death and I am guessing my rebirth. I am fighting the rebirth. I like it here in my cave where I know nothing new is coming; but I know that’s how we stay stuck. So that’s why I got the DVD. And it didn’t arrive until I was ready to accept it. Today it arrived; after the quote in yoga, to ‘let go or be dragged.’ I must not be so näive: the ball has always been rolling, since way before I ever came into the picture.

I started to watch it today, while I was making Thing 3’s birthday cake. As you can see, I ended up laughing at myself — my inability to do one thing at a time enough to take a picture of it all:

I couldn't hear a blame thing he was saying. When I turned off the mixer I heard this, "... and so when you are fully in that state, you are ready to move on..." I think I missed something important.

I couldn’t hear a blame thing he was saying. When I turned off the mixer I heard this, “… and so when you are fully in that state, you are ready to move on…” I think I missed something important.

Admin notes: I have acquired a few new followers lately and I want to thank them for coming to see what I’m up to. Thank you! I’m in a transition. I’m trying to help me figure out what to do now that I’m all grown up. A few years ago when I first started this blog I was content to just let it be at that. Now I’m not so sure. Everyone has a shtick, a hook with their blogs: geek, humor, fitness, art, faith … I don’t have a shtick. This is who I am. But I feel a draw to do more with it. What? I do not know.

I know this was long and super twisty. I just wanted to touch bases with some of you.

Thank you all … 🙂

Missives from the Mat 7 — Mission Statements, Tuning In, #Intention, #Neutrality, #Business, #Management


If you think this post is only about yoga, you’re wrong. This post is about life, intention, and something we all need some help with from time to time: staying focused.

When I was on the retreat (yes, I’m writing about the retreat again as a point of reference), we “tuned in” with a chant every time we did something new or began the day or the session.

The chant was usually “Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo.” If we’d already done that and took a break from a lesson but came back to the lesson, we’d do another chant, “Ad Guray Nameh” and that would be for the all-important purpose of: focusing, getting us all BACK on the same page, continuing the tone we set previously, and continuing the intention.

For the purposes of the yoga instruction, it’s not unlike the Pledge of Allegiance that is said in schools across the country. It’s not unlike the oath a witness takes with one hand on the Bible when in court. It’s not unlike “Amen” at church. It’s not unlike “to those about to die, we salute you” in the gladiator days. It’s not unlike singing the “Star-Spangled Banner” before a football, soccer, baseball, hockey game in stadiums and little league fields dotting America. Think: Henry V’s St. Crispin’s Day speech.


Doing all those things Sets The Tone for what we’re all about to do. That’s all it does. It doesn’t change your religion, it doesn’t make a radical shift in your already unique personality, it doesn’t mean you’ve joined a cult. It means you’re simply On Board with what you said you’d be on board with… it’s basically committing: putting your money where your mouth is for the purposes of what you’re about to do. Y’know, “checking your ego at the door.”

So while I was on that retreat, I realized about halfway through it that I hadn’t seen a mission statement for the organization I’d just begun presiding: the high school rowing team’s Board of Directors.

This was a big deal to me because I’m big on communication and intention and orientation: not only knowing what the hell we’re doing, but also WHY we’re doing it, it’s part of my 3 thing (see yesterday’s post).

The lack of the mission statement (to me) highlighted many of the previous Boards’ struggles: dysfunctional behavior, personal agendas, bias, the lack of neutrality, and a host of other really random, toxic and odd behaviors befitting an entire season of “The Office.”

So for the two days I was home between the vegan yoga retreat I’d closed and the bacon beach bacchus I was about to experience, I’d decided to come up with a mission statement. I had based it on the PTA mission statement I used as my e-mail signature and posted on my bulletin board during my tenure.

Having that verbiage kept me impartial, it helped me to remember, at the time, that my clients were people who couldn’t open their own milk in the cafeteria, or who couldn’t yet tie their own shoes, or who needed to ask permission and then get a buddy to go to the bathroom with them. I’d often reminded the past principal of her clients during one of our many heated exchanges and I often got the sense that she didn’t like that reminder.

So for the rowing team, I needed to keep my eye on the prize here as well. Who are my clients as the president of the board of directors that oversees and manages the high school rowing team?

Are my clients the parents? No.

Are my clients the coaches? No.

Are my clients the other officers? No.

My clients are the at-times gangly, pimpled, awkward, loud, self-conscious, diamonds in the rough we call high school students.

So when I’d proposed my mission statement to the other officers on the Board, I began with a simple relative comment, “All of you were informed that I was on a yoga teacher training retreat for basically 20 days, in total. If you’re at all familiar with yoga, you might know that many classes begin with a chant, ‘om’ before the work begins.” I got a couple weird stares, and a couple self-conscious snorts from some of my fellow officers… that was about them, not me, so I ignored them.

I continued, “I’m not here to make you do that. I have no expectations that any meeting ever will begin with ‘om.’ The purpose of saying ‘om’ at the start of a yoga practice, group or solo, is to ‘tune in’ to get everyone / your spirit on the vibrational level of what you’re about to do. I won’t go into the energy and the vibrational effects of chanting because that’s not what this organization is about, but what I am here to do is to create a mission statement to do the very simple-sounding yet difficult act of creating neutrality and inspiring all of us to work in the best interest of the rowers, not our children who happen to be rowers, but all rowers. Capiche?”

The awkward glances and snorts were replaced with seating shifts, focused eyes, throat clearing and “great idea.”

So the mission statement I’d created for the rowing Board is open for discussion, editing, critique, and intention with the other officers. We will vote on it at the next meeting after everyone gets a chance to process it and think of how it might need any changes. I’m pumped. One of my goals all along, in all of my life actually (as it’s becoming stunningly clear to me every day) is to clear the lines of communication; to encourage people to be more aware of the words they say and more importantly, to hear the words other people say.

I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face: 95% of all communication is nonverbal. That means eye rolls (contempt), shoulder shrugs (frustration), pursed lips (conflict, fear of speaking), pursed lips with puffed cheeks (‘you’re full of it and here it comes…’) dead stares (anger), fast nods (agreement, but rushing, ‘get on with it’).

I was speaking to my husband about this mission statement stuff this morning and we agreed that we should create mission statements for ourselves, on a personal level, to make sure we are honoring our own personal growth which will naturally affect the growth of the organizations we serve: our children, our colleagues, our neighbors, our friends, people in traffic with us, people in the coffee shop with us, people on retreat with us, our families of origin and … our Selves. Maybe when we get all that done, we can come up with a mission statement for our little team here at the house.

So, do you (at business, at home, on the street, in the car, at the water cooler, on the couch with your kid, in the bed with your lover, in the mirror with yourSelf ) have a mission statement?

What is your mission in life? To be world-class selfish or to be world-class awesome?

Mine is to be world-class awesome. As soon as I finalize it, I’ll share it.

Thank you.