The Willingness to Say “I Love You” First

One of the questions that someone recently wrote in was, “Is being in love anything but guaranteed insanity?”  I know this was a serious question, with real perplexity behind it.  But it made me laugh.  Of course it did.  Chris Rock says that if you’ve never wanted to kill someone, you’ve never been in love.  And maybe I’m starting out this post with a somewhat comical tone, because questions about love between long-term partners, and the question, “Are you willing to be the one who says ‘I love you’ first?” scares me almost to death.  Because I’m pretty sure that I’m not.  Maybe sometimes, but not as a rule.

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You All ROCK!

I’m blown away by the questions that you emailed me in response to my last post, and to be perfectly honest, they confirmed a secret suspicion I’ve had, one often confirmed by all the writing groups and workshops that I do: one person’s questions are everyone’s questions.  We are so much more alike than we are different. 

So today, please take a few minutes to read through the questions that you were all brave enough to share (in the comments section of the last post).  And, if you so inclined, maybe you’ll even respond to some of them.  They are beautiful, heartbreaking, human, real.  And we ALL have wisdom to share–this is something I’m 100% sure of.

As promised, I will choose one (but it’s definitely NOT going to be just one, because you’ve given me WAY more material here–yay!) to write about for next few posts.  I love you all for your courage, your wondering, and your willingness to stay on the quest. 

Anyone who hasn’t sent a question in, you still have the chance! Email me at and I will post your question anonymously…go ahead, you know you want to! 

Love, love and love!  You’re the best readers EVER and no one is as lucky as me to be someone that you take the time to read!

Lesson of the Orchid

Happy Monday, everyone!  Today I have sort of a Monday-type question for you (in other words, one that you probably won’t really feel like answering because you suspect you will have to admit something unpalatable about yourself if you did).  But don’t worry, we’re all here together, and I promise not to leave you on an uninspired note.  Anyway, here’s the question: do you have something, or a variety of somethings in your life, something about yourself, something you want to stop doing, or need to start doing, but you don’t, and what’s more, the way you are going along is simply making you more and more miserable (or you have the suspicion that it is, when you spend a moment to look at whatever the situation is out of the corner of your eye), and yet you keep doing it anyway?  Well, I do.  I have one big something and a variety of small somethings, and I can’t seem to get any real traction on dealing with them.  Most of the time I feel like I really don’t have what it takes to do what it takes.  But then yesterday afternoon I fell asleep and had this dream…

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Yes, Yes, and a Thousand Times, Yes!

Happy November, my friends!  Now, before I start, I need to say up front that this post is going to upset my mom, who, as my mom and my first official blog subscriber, deserves special consideration.  But you know, I’m over 40 and all, and can decide what to do with my own body, even though my mom always insists on coming into dressing rooms with me and checking things out (don’t deny it, Ma’am–we were in Marshalls together not too many months ago and they ain’t no spacious dressing rooms up in there.  I saw what you got hanging out and you saw what I got).  AND she was going to find out at Thanksgiving anyway, because my sophisticated world-travelling parents are coming to see us out here “on the prairie,” as my father calls it (i.e. one of them there “fly-over” states, so we’re gonna try real hard to pick the straw out our teeth and kick them chickens out the yard so we can all have a good old turkey day together.   But anyway, this is a good story.  So here we go. 

Continue reading “Yes, Yes, and a Thousand Times, Yes!”

Why Everyone Needs a Superhero

Halloween at Gabe's daycare

In the dark early hours of the morning, I saw a shadowy figure in my bedroom, and my first thought was that it was Jesus.  I’d been reading some Anne Lamott the night before—the part of Travelling Mercies where she describes what she later came to believe was Jesus’ presence in her bedroom as she was struggling alone, drunk, strung out, through the aftermath of an abortion.  Anne writes that she could feel the presence so strongly that she got up and turned on the light to see if someone was there. 
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As Cool as the Air in a Redwood Grove

One of the chapters of Anne Lamott’s Travelling Mercies is an account of a health scare she had with her son Sam.  Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, depending on your perspective (and mental health), we had a similar experience this week with Gabe.  But before I tell you about that, I want to show you this picture by Toni Frissell, a female photographer in the 1940’s and 50’s. 

It’s from an underwater shoot of models all wearing white, fluidy gowns.  To me, it evokes many things: surrender, descent, freedom, and something of the seductive power of depression.  It also reminds me of the scene in “The Piano” where Holly Hunter almost drowns because she lets her leg get tangled up with her piano when it falls overboard.  (Hunter plays a mute woman in the 1850’s who is sent to New Zealand for an arranged marriage.  Her piano is, quite literally, her voice).  She is very calm at first, quietly observing the water around her, gracefully allowing herself to be pulled down, down, down.  Then suddenly it’s like she wakes up and realizes what is happening, and she struggles to free herself and swim to the surface.  The camera shows her discarded boot sinking slowly deeper, while she swims up, towards a life that she is not sure she wants, certainly one she knows nothing about, but one she is not ready to give up. 

Continue reading “As Cool as the Air in a Redwood Grove”

Being What You Don’t Know How to Be


One of the most common pieces of writing advice is to “write what you know.”  It makes sense on one level, because the most compelling writing is typically the most authentic.  This advice has never worked that well for me though, because my first reaction is to immediately decide that I don’t know anything, and my second is to feel irritated and think, “If you already know something, why would you need to write about it?”  So with that not-quite-a-disclaimer disclaimer, I’ve decided to write about something that I know absolutely nothing about and yet feel very attracted to, and that is: living as an athletic person.  To that end, I’ve made a little list of 10 things to keep in mind if you are not an athletic person and wish to try being one.

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The Beauty of Transience: Our Collective Wisdom

Surrounded Islands

The artists Christo and his late wife Jeanne-Claude created some of the most extraordinary pieces of art in the world.  Running Fence, Surrounded Islands, Wrapped Trees, and The Gates are some of the best known.  They are enormous environmental projects that take up to 25 years to plan and create.  None of their exhibits are permanent. 

Running Fence

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“No Hidden Meanings:” A Redemption Story

“No hidden meanings” is #2 of the “43 Eternal Truths” in Sheldon Kopp’s Eschatological Laundry List.  I have no idea what it means.  None at all.  I do have a vague sense that to say there are “no hidden meanings” oversimplifies the reality of life, diminishes the complexities of our experiences and of the divine, and way, way overestimates our poor abilities to truly grasp how spirit works, and why things happen the way that they do.  But I could be wrong.

And anyway, this is my blog and I get to write whatever I want.  So I’m going to tell you a story which may or may not have something to do with hidden meanings.  I’ll let you decide what you think it means.  Maybe you’ll even write in and let me know.

A few years ago in our community, a woman who was drunk got into a car and got onto the highway.  She drove, in the wrong direction, into a van of people and killed them.  She survived and was sent to prison.  She was vilified. 

Sometime later, I was talking with a friend of mine named Lynn who has struggled for many years with alcohol and drug use, and is tentatively feeling her way through a stretch of sobriety.  She had gotten drunk, drove, was arrested, and because of her record, put in jail.  “The addiction counselor asked me why I went back out after so long,” she told me in her raspy smoker’s voice (“went back out” is AA speak for relapsing).  “I said, ‘I have no idea.’  He looked at me and said, ‘That’s actually the best answer you can give.  Most of the time there is no reason.'”

Lynn’s cell mate was the woman who had killed the people in the van.  Lynn told me that after talking to this woman, hearing her story, she knew, then and there, that she was finished with alcohol and drugs.  That she could have been this woman, that they were no different.  She promised herself that she would never use again.  And she hasn’t. 

“She saved your life,” I said, when she told me this story.  “She saved my life,” she agreed quietly.  “She saved my life.”

Oscar Wilde wrote, “Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.”  It’s one of the most reassuring quotations I know.  Our God is the God of the second chance. 

Hidden meanings?  I have no idea.  Maybe you can write in and let me know.  I would love to hear what you think.

Longing for the Great Transforming

In Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith, Anne Lamott quotes Lenny Bruce: “If Jesus had been killed twenty years ago, Catholic school children would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks instead of crosses.”

My respect for Anne Lamott was enormous before I started this Lenten blog, and now it’s pretty much expanded to such a measure that no word feels big enough, like numbers and the federal debt.  It’s HARD to write about spiritual issues, especially once you get past the easy-to-say stuff that is really more like “spirituality lite:” having compassion, being nice to others, and generally making an effort to be a good person.

Continue reading “Longing for the Great Transforming”

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