magic on a Thursday.

Thursday morning before school we went to a coffee shop for breakfast. We sit upstairs there. My kids use the time to look at screens just like most of the adults do below. I use the time to look at them. I like seeing them take the big steps, turn the corner and scale the second set. I like seeing them hang their jackets on a chair back, climb up, have a conversation with each other about the wi-fi password. I love being their mom. I've never loved anything more.

I walk down to grab some water. A cute barista is toasting a marshmallow for each saucer of the kids' cocoa. Her excitement started this. The magic.

The small torch, a hot flame—a shift in some usually meaningless experience, opening the door between ordinary and magic. A toasted marshmallow.
A hot summer afternoon, myself as a kid, laying on the front lawn. Waiting for anything to happen. A car drives by blasting good music. Simple, but it’s something. A connection. I watch the car until it's out of site and then I go back to the quiet that makes me notice I'm alive, I do exist.

We wait.
I watch my kids, sometimes they look up to see me looking at them and I smile. I smile so hard. They smile back. We hear my name.

The girls help me bring plates of toast and cocoa upstairs. Hannah gets the easy job. She picks up two plates of toast and cruises up the stairs. 

The barista, Ada and I each carry a cocoa and I grab the other two plates. 

I ascend the stairs two at a time and turn the corner. A college aged boy is holding back a laugh and I follow his gaze.

Hannah is wiping the floor with her jacket. It's not even her jacket, she borrowed it from Ada. The floor is now lightly dusted with cinnamon and sugar. There is a freshly buffed spot in the middle, butter.

She sees me and quickly hangs the jacket up on her chair back. She knows I’ve seen and now she waits. She stares at me and waits. I can't tell if she is nervous or proud. 

She watches me, seeing if I put the clues of this mystery together. The toast in Ada’s place looks different from the rest. 

You can use napkins for things like that, you know that right? 
She smiles. I know.  

I trade Ada's plate with mine. And I don't care that I'm eating floor toast because I love Hannah and I love that she would use a jacket to clean the floor. I love that she is seven. I love that she tried. I love that she is clever and silly and weird. I love being her mom even when it's hard because we don't always see eye to eye. She is growing and that means she doesn't tuck herself under my wing as much anymore. She is learning to fly. She is cleaning up after her mistakes, with a jacket that she borrowed from her sister and I would not change a thing about that. Ever.

The magic wasn't the barista's excitement, it wasn't the toasted marshmallow. It was Hannah. A child, in the wild. My child. My magic girl with her sweet smile and sparkling eyes wearing a cinnamon sugar jacket.


kind of like punching a mirror but not really.

I've thought a lot about her. Doubted her. Misunderstood her. Confided in her.
I've thrown her under the bus. Saved her. Excused her. Abused her. Feared her.
I’ve written about her. Dreamed about her. Dated her.
I’ve forgiven her.

She left me. 

She left me at a diner in Idaho. She left me on the side of the road in southern Utah. She left me at the top of a peak in Arizona. On a bus in Austin, Texas. Miles from a marina in the Pacific Ocean. She left me at Union Station. She left me in the Rocky Mountains. She left me following a late-night phone call and on that first tear filled night that followed. She left me a year ago.  

She is the girl who watched her dad hammer those nails into the rug on the stairs of her childhood home. Peering from behind thick lenses in bulky plastic frames. She is the one who spent a lot of time as a child staring into a mirror. She wondered what was happening in that world, the one she was seeing on the other side. She is the one with whom I became aware of my world. My inner voice for most of my life. Sometimes still wondering what was happening on the other side of the mirror. She was there when I got married, but not when I divorced. She was there when my first child was born but not when I fell in love with motherhood.

She left me when I stopped giving second chances to someone else, and gave one to myself.


I am that driver in the morning on the freeway, the one who hesitates while changing lanes. Slows down on the on ramp, so you get on the freeway behind your new friend who’s going 35 miles per hour. I am that in boxing, not on the freeway. (You’re welcome.)

My feet are glued to the ground, my body is stiff. I need to turn my hand, use my hips. I need to lift my elbow, loop the punch around. Protect my face. Protect my face. Protect my face. Widen my stance, shorten my stance, adjust my stance. Move around and most importantly, protect my face. I can feel the hesitation, my mind locks up, what is five? Move my feet, protect my face. The bell rings. Start a new combination. Remember the one from before and think of all the ways to improve it.

See the other boxers, see the ones who are good. See the ones who make it look easy and wonder if they started out just as fucked up as me. Loosen up, keep my feet moving, throw some punches, land one good one. Drink some water. Unwrap my hands. Roll the wraps. Want to be better.

Apply that to everything. Accept the work. Learn to love it, learn to acknowledge little improvements. Appreciate the rewards. Most importantly, protect my face. And move my feet. One step at a time. Get better at something hard, make it become something easy.

Most importantly, set a good example for my kids. Show them what a persistent, hard working, confident woman looks like.

Focused. Powerful. In control. Deserving of respect. Knows the beauty of silence. Not a victim. Not anymore. Never again.


magic on Saturday.

Some days time and my mind pick a pace that lines them up perfectly. 

The gray days. Something about that shadowy/light box affect, surrounded by majestic mountains with a lid of cottony gray clouds, it just does it for me. 

We drive into the city so I can run an errand. This drive is short now that we only live across the bridge and I make sure I drive past the basketball arena. I want to take Otto to a game, his eyes will be on the court and mine will be on him. 

I show Ada symphony hall and the gold railing. I show Hannah the planetarium and an art museum. 

We’re driving around looking for a place to park, Hannah is my helper. Her eyes are open, Otto says they’re peeled because he heard that once from his grandpa, the same one he would later tell me he goes to the barbershop with all the time (that’s why he’s not afraid of haircuts, by the way), my dad.

I give Hannah a break from being a parking spot seeker,
Look out the window those women crossing are ballerinas, they do that for their job. They travel all over and they perform down the street. 
Hannah’s eyes light up. Otto turns a full 180 as they cross and then turn. 

I find a spot after a couple of laps. Parallel parking and me, absolutely terrible couple. 

We start to walk. Let’s see how they do. Crossing the street Ada turns around, looks at me like wow and just grins, blinking, two or three times, with her long dreamy lashes. Her hair bouncing as she hops along. A giggle almost ringing the bell at the top of one of those carnival games, I can see it rising in her chest. 

I’m here. I’m happy. I’m with my kids and I’m finally at a point where I am starting to feel like myself again. 
Stop. Look at that car. Do you see the driver? You’ve got to look right at them so you know they know you’re there before you cross.
Something tells me I need them to understand this. “Mom, remember when I fell down and my hands were in my pockets? That hurt really bad but getting runned over would hurt worser.”
Yep bud, it sure would
His voice, it makes me smile, I don’t know what sound he’s going for but it’s like he’s in tough guy mode. His lips flare out the tougher he tries to sound but he hasn’t polished his l’s and r’s yet. I absolutely adore him. Among the many names I wanted for him was Rocky, it would’ve been a fit. 

Otto is a full on kid now. Sometimes a baby version still tries to get that last little bit of existence in. And I get mad about it. I know, what the hell? “You’ll miss it when it’s gone.” But at the same time, it’s nice to hear “Mom I’m tired/mad/hungry/sad” instead of being hit with a fit out of left field. The “Mom I’m happy/I did it!/I love you” doesn’t get old either. 

Later, “There they are mom, the ballerinas” They are different people but they are ballerinas too. I’m glad to know she is observant, my Hannah. 

Reflecting now, I think Ada smiled that time-pausing smile earlier because the train was rolling by. As we were walking she asked if we could ride it. I told her we could some other time. But as soon as the period finished my sentence,
Actually, yes we can ride it today. Even if we pass the car by a block we’ll just walk the difference. 

When we walked onto the platform I made sure to let them all know to stand clear of the edge. Things I think they need to be told right from the get go. Let’s get the obvious out of the way. The girls listened. Otto asked why.
Because you don’t want to be that close to a moving train...because it moves fast...because I told you no.
His age man, it’s such a distinct teeter between baby and child. They either get it or they just don’t give a fuck. 

The doors open and the kids find seats, they got that one figured out. Oh shit, I can feel their excitement. They are riding a train and they are pumped. 

Every day I see this go on. And the magic is lost on so many. One of my favorite parts of being their mom is seeing the magic they see. Their enthusiasm to ride a train makes me feel grateful to be breathing this stale train air along with them. 

I see Ada about to laugh. Double pointing with thumbs raised, out the window, there goes my car. She thinks it’s funny. I do too. 

We walk back and I stop for a small coffee, the kids climb on stools to talk and wait. The girl behind the counter says “I didn’t know kids still played that,” referring to some game they’re playing. It’s one of those magic school yard traditions, passed down; myths, legends, cats cradle, the song that never ends, all discovered while standing with a group of friends by a fence at the edge of the lot or under the biggest tree. In the lunch line. During the frosty, cool mornings, waiting for the bell to start the day. She said she played it when she was little. 

When we get back out on the street Ada tells me about the game and for a few seconds I’m standing under the big willow tree from my childhood in the school yard.   




old bridges that don’t get used anymore.

We live near the city now but I kept the kids in their school. So we wake up early and that is something we have accomplished surprisingly well in our first few post flu days here. Something about driving toward the capital each morning puts a smile on all of our faces. Ada likes seeing it lit up. I like seeing her eyes light up. 

I like to see my kids look out the window at the trains and the yellow-green hills. I like to point out the artwork painted on our street, the Mexican restaurants we’ll try, the street signs so they understand where we live, even the ugly oil refinery and always, “do you see the building where I work?”

This morning it was raining. The sky my favorite gray. Easy on the eyes. Easy for my mind. Fitting for my sad mood. A good friend of mine called me and in good friend fashion gave me some perspective that I needed. Some tough love. 

My life a year ago is gone. I told my friend “I just wish things were different” and I guess that’s when the suspension bridge spanning that life and today’s life kind of appeared out of the fog. A bridge built out of denial. 

I don’t want the pain, the anger, the sadness. I hide that from myself. I dilute it with excuses. I drown it out because I feel bad about being angry, as if I’m not allowed to be. Deep down I don’t want to believe that my marriage was not a forever one, my reality was warped. When I do feel the pain, the anger, the sadness, I want to cut that bridge. I want to watch it fall a great distance and I want to hear the planks shatter. I want no way back. No way back can be scary if you’re in denial like me. 

Today, I’m standing on the other side of a year.

Driving back to the city, admiring the gray, I looked directly at my life, first time in a decade having friends of my own and time to grow those relationships. Ten years since I’d been on an airplane, first time on a sail boat and a passenger train tracing the coast, first time I’ve ever traveled alone. Lots of solo hikes. A lot of time sitting on a therapist’s couch and holding hands with a group of strangers praying for serenity, courage and wisdom in some church after hours. I just bought my first house. I just bought my first tools. It hasn’t come without struggle but I’m proud and anyone looking to cut that down is probably standing on the bridge. The bridge that is no longer my concern. 



sick and sad.

A year ago was the last time we shared a bed. Tonight, I’m a day out from the flu, my three kids are snuggled in bed with me, snoring in a way that strangely compliments the trains I can hear outside. 

A year ago we had just moved. Tonight, I’m in a new place. This time a place on my own.

A year ago my drive home was aimed at Mt Olympus. Toward a family with a husband and a dog. Tonight, it’s under and over bridges toward a few more boxes left to unpack and a cat. 

I know this day won’t always hurt. But tonight it hurts. It hurts like hell. And the next few days will too. I know I can and will make new memories and things won’t hurt as much. But it’s still too close and it still hurts too much. If I could pour an ocean between now and then I would, but I’d probably drown trying to swim back to then even though I know I can’t and it wouldn’t change a thing.

Separation, divorce—ending the year from when it all started with the flu in my new place. Life is sure a fucked up ride sometimes. 

I plan to keep riding it though for as long as I can. I’ll just be sick and sad for the next few days. 



Scheduled break.

When I’m not with my kids I have time to really consider my relationship with them. And the times that I’m with them, I am grateful for those. Not to say I didn’t get it when I was married. 

That role exhausted me, the way I went about it. I was always going, trying to be the best wife. The best mom. All I was met with was exhaustion. And I mistranslated that exhaustion to mean I was a disappointment. There were never enough minutes in the day to get done what I needed to do so I would really be the best.

Basically, there are people out there more suited to balance that and I bet the number one thing they have in common is that they take care of themselves. They schedule time with themselves. I was not one of those people. 

The time I scheduled with myself went more like this: sporadic thoughts that were meant to keep me on some track to be better. As if I wasn’t enough. 

Since that role for me, at that time, did not include me taking time for myself I had no capacity to really feel grateful. Not how I do now. Now I have all the time in the world from the minute they hop out of my car and wave as they run away to their dads place to the minute I get to stick my tongue out at them and make faces as soon as we make eye contact through the car windows.

My alone time has now really become a time for me feel the real and whole feeling of gratitude, not the fleeting gratitude that used to be glittered through my exhausted mind. This time it’s different, I get to spend a lot of time with it.

With the divorce, I’ve also had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with grief this year too; the pleasure of spending time with self care. Even spending time observing, listening, has become more meaningful.

If you can relate to this exhaustion I’m telling you, take a break. Even if it’s as simple as scheduling a time to q tip your ears once a week or splash warm water on your face and give yourself a good look in the mirror. Start as small as you need to just to get it started. Then one day you’ll be sitting there on your scheduled time with yourself and you’ll feel a genuine feeling of gratitude that will just fill your whole world with a new hue. 

You don’t have to be a single woman like me, without your kids, alone for days, either. Because when you schedule time with yourself, there could be people all around you, but the most important one holding your attention is you. And when you allow yourself to be considered important, every bit of what makes you you struggle and what makes you great gets noticed by you. You get to know yourself through and through. And when you know and appreciate yourself, you suddenly find yourself grateful for what you have, and have had, because you are important enough to have had it. 

Bonus points if you can hang with who you are right now, flaws, follies, scars, struggles, failures, losses, frustration, bravery, courage, curiosity, creativity, the whole damn beautiful person you are right now, just for a shortly scheduled break with the best date around. 



Spare change.

Change. It happens every single day, every minute. Every time your eyes open from a blink, even. The subtle ones are easier, they feel comfortable, they’re smooth. You’re looking into the eyes of your baby, then you’re looking into the eyes of your child, one day into the eyes of an adult, the growth is subtle, you only see it if you look back. The bigger ones, they cause doubt, sometimes fear. You don’t need to look back to see them because they are in your face, no amount of avoidance or numb works. Sometimes they are a rush, other times they feel like free falling; the pit growing in your stomach because you aren’t sure what you’ll meet at the bottom. Feather pillows or piercing rocks, or something else, maybe there isn’t a bottom. Maybe you’ll get wings while you’re falling.

In a month, last year, my normal world changed, the big kind. What I took for granted, what I resented, what I loved and what I hated all changed. It went away. And I chose that. I fell away from my path.  

Nearly a year later, it’s still scary. It’s hard. I am working toward that self-reliance I so loved from Emerson’s essay.

This year, I climbed metaphorical mountains and I got metaphorically lost and I made real mistakes and I learned real lessons. I ripped my broken heart away from its normal home and I too easily gave it away, not entirely realizing old habits don’t care about change. I keep it for myself now, for myself and my kids. All the knots in the string tied around my heart have to be undone, or just let go of, or cut.

My kids’ and my ex-husband’s lives changed too, not just mine. Despite losing a whole family and group of friends I’ve kept moving forward on my new path. My kids, holding hands and making sure to stay in front of me, just like I’ve always told them to, they’re on the path with me, giving me inspiration; sometimes still turning around for guidance, for the way. I’m happy to point it out, even happier when they can navigate it.

Early on, telling my kids the change would become the normal, until it did. Watching them adjust, watching them struggle, hearing them ache, comforting them, watching those tiny beings claim their own thoughts and adapt beautifully, sometimes awkwardly, sometimes with resistance, other times with strength, they have absolutely amazed me, they make me proud. Their resilience is inspiring. Sometimes it’s my fuel. It’s all I can do to keep going, just to keep up with them, to be there for them.
Your goodness must have some edge to it, —else it is none.

All of this, this change and the path it put me on, has taken me to a place where I can finally dwell in my own mind. When I was too afraid to go there before, I seek that now.       
It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

The knots aren’t so many now, the anxiety not so strong. The fear not so dark. The depth gives me perspective. The path forward is welcoming. The desire to predict my future has nearly diminished because if the change has taught me nothing else, I am in control of myself, not anyone or anything else. And that is a very beautiful thing.  
But do your thing, and I shall know you. Do your work, and you shall reinforce yourself