new year’s eve…


I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape. 

Something waits beneath it; the whole story doesn’t show.

-Andrew Wyeth

Well, my friends, here we are again. We are entering into that end of the old year/beginning of the new year holding pattern at the airport of life, waiting to land and disembark into the foggy future. We are ready to let go of the stale air we’ve been breathing all year and take in the fresh sights and sounds of  2014.

I have always liked even-numbered years. I have great hopes for this one. Even so, I admit it’s hard to get excited about the New Year in the middle of the gray Chicago winter. The view outside my window seems to work against that overall “hopeful” feeling I’m meant to employ this time of year.

The first full winter we spent in our Chicago bungalow on the north side of the city, my husband and I decided to stay in on New Year’s Eve. Our house sat at an odd bend on a “cut through” street so though we were snuggled in close to our small, wood burning fireplace in the front room of that bungalow, we were privy to each wild reveller who staggered down the sidewalk and each drunk driver tearing down the street. We turned off the lights in our house once our daughter was in bed and we sat, warmed by the fire, watching the action outside. The snow had been piling up all day and showed no signs of stopping. By the time midnight drew near the snow lay as a thick carpet on the road and the sidewalks. Cars tearing down the road began to slow a little, just a little, sliding along that odd bend and we watched from the safety of our house set back just enough from the road.

When, finally the magic midnight hour had passed, we made ready to get to bed. Just then a car came careening down Manor avenue. We could hear it plowing its way through the thick, compacted snow on the street, cracking under the weight of the car, brakes squealing and failing, tires locking. The mid-sized vehicle hit the snow bank opposite our house, not being stopped by or entering into the bank but, rather, seeming to climb it. It came to rest, for the most part, on top of that 5 foot bank of snow. It was suspended there, the driver and passengers of the vehicle making no move to get out. The driver spent some time trying to back his way off that snow bank but it was no use. The car was taken in by the snow bank, picked up, embraced and adopted. After a short time, the car wobbled a little as doors opened and four men tumbled out into the waiting cold. They were laughing and swearing, teasing the driver who seemed completely flummoxed by the situation. They were most likely drunk and most certainly amused. It surprised my husband and I to see them turn quietly, all at once, and walk away from the car once they began to feel the cold and the falling snow. It was as if a switch was thrown and they were given orders to move from the place.

The night was quiet then, maybe a car or two drove slowly down the street, perhaps a plow or a salt truck, slowing down to see the wrecked car taken hostage by the snow bank. In the morning the car was still there, residing in all the white. It was a banner storm. The tow truck showed up a day later when the roads were clear. We were never really sure of the whole story there. We would invent scenarios in the coming days to amuse ourselves, imagine the conversations that came in the wake of that event.

I don’t know exactly what it is about that story that begs me to write about it today, on the cusp of this New Year. It may be the strangeness of it, the unexpected nature of things, perhaps prophetic to where we’re find ourselves in the coming years as we struggle with seeking out peace and embracing the chaos that’s bound to show up despite our best efforts to stave it off.

It’s life. It’s just like that and we take it as it comes, whether we’re the ones in the car climbing the snow bank or in front of the fire witnessing it. The story stays though. It remains in us, waiting for the telling.

Many happy returns, lovely readers!


Am I a bad person?

Sometimes late at night when life is stressful it’s hard to shut off all the running dialogue in my head. When it’s been a particularly hard day, it’s the highly critical voices that keep jabbering long after the rational and kind voices have fallen asleep. I lay there in bed thinking, perseverating, contemplating but it’s fairly useless a process because no matter how much I turn it over in my head, no matter how I try to counter the criticisms I hold over myself, no matter how bright the future is apt to seem the next morning I cannot shut it off.

I recently had a rough interaction with someone I’ve known for a long time. We were friends, I suppose, depending on how one defines that. For myself, I consider someone a friend based upon the conversation we have, the deep moments (online or offline) we share, how well we respond to one another in vulnerable times. Some friends are those people I call when I have to get the voices to be quiet. Some friends I won’t burden with my blatant insecurities. It all depends on how safe I feel in that friendship. This friendship was, I thought, filled with fairly deep moments and a great deal of vulnerability. We are divergent opposites in nearly every way but we’d been able to find our common ground over the last 10 or so years and that’s encouraging. Unfortunately, the rough interaction ended our friendship and though my instinct, generally, is to pursue and repair relationships, in this case that’s not possible. This friend has no interest in being in relationship with me any longer.

It leaves me hanging, then, suspended and questioning. I envy people who can move on after friendship break ups. I lay awake at night and wonder where I went wrong, perseverate about things I said and did, regret this, regret that, justify this, justify that. In the end I am laying awake and wondering, “What if all the worse things someone believes about me are actually true? Am I a bad person?”

Now, before you rush to tell me I’m not a bad person, it’s important that I tell you that this questioning isn’t about tearing myself down and wallowing in guilt, or at least I don’t want it to be. I realized the other night as I considered all of the relationships I’ve had to walk away from, that I can count them on one hand and that’s saying something. Instead of patting myself on the back about that though, I do think it’s important to take seriously the gripes that those people have issued about me and about my character. Am I controlling? Am I divisive? Am I insincere? I ponder those questions because I sincerely want to avoid being those things. I don’t want to dig in my heels and just feel better about myself. I want to be better than I am.

I don’t take these criticisms into me. I don’t let them take up residence in me but I do listen to them, like I listen to the Jehovah’s Witness who comes to my door and catches me at home. I listen and try to understand. I listen and nod my head. I listen and question with people with whom it’s safe to question but I listen. I have to ask the hard questions. As much as I thrive on affirmation I know it’s important to engage the criticism, I know it’s wise to listen and hear and then answer in the best possible way. In the end I can only respond with love and sometimes the loving thing is to walk away from that relationship. It doesn’t mean that the gripes weren’t rooted in some truth and it also doesn’t mean that I’m a bad person.

The reality is that relationships are always messy. They are a mishmash of personality and injury and history and vulnerability. I am not going to friends with everyone and probably it’s not terribly healthy to try to be friends with everyone anyway. But I can ask myself the hard questions in the wake of the “rough” times and if I’m doing it right, I can silence the insomniac voices in the night by responding with love, for myself and for those lost friendships.

What about you, dear reader? Have you ever had a friendship end suddenly? What did you do with the feelings that were left on the table?

Life is short, have an affair.

The subject line of the email got right to the point. There was no question it was junk mail. I had this strange, conflicting set of reactions when it popped up in the list of unread emails: first, disgust at receiving the email at all and second, some admiration for the directness of the subject line.

Once, many years ago when email was new to me, I got a spam message that included an image. Back then, spam filters were fairly crude and mostly worthless and I opened the email from an innocuous sender and generic subject line. I’m no prude but the image that popped up in my feed is still seared into my brain. I can never un-see that picture and believe me, if there was a process like one described in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” that would offer me the chance to erase that memory, I’d take it. It was that bad.

So, I’m a lot more careful now about opening emails. I have a system in place and a much better spam filter. Probably most of us have that. It’s much easier to get rid of sneaky spam. I marvel, though, at the outright junk mail. The best sexy junk mail subject I ever got, I think, advertised, “Hot, Nude, Librarians!” To be honest, I very nearly clicked that out of sheer curiosity. I mean, in case you didn’t know it, getting that Library Science degree takes some doing. I hear it’s no cake walk. You have to give props to “sexy, nude” Librarians, right? Thankfully, the above mentioned previous experience all but cured me of that curious leaning where spam is concerned.

Until now.

The subject line was direct enough to catch my attention. The fact that my junk filter didn’t gray it out was interesting because just one email above this one the spam filter had labeled two other messages as spam, one from Gerber Life Insurance and one from Priceline. Go figure. There were no attachments and it came from what seemed like a fairly legit email address. Though I could recognize that is was, in fact, spam, I had to highlight it to move it to the junk mailbox and report it as such. There wasn’t much to see, just a quick paragraph about housewives looking for sex outside of their marriages, quick trysts, “just for sex” and nothing more.

Online Married Ladies Seek Immediate Offline Boinking*

News flash: More and more women are jumping outside their marriages in search of no-strings-attached sex. All it takes to find a willing partner? An Internet connection and an account on a site like

*And not by their husbands

Please Click Here to unsubscribe.

There was a link to their website and nothing else. No, I didn’t click the link, don’t worry. I’m not interested in having an affair. Which, it seems, according to this “News Flash” puts me into a different category than their intended audience. I was impressed by the asterisk to explain more precisely what they meant by this “boinking” (who even says “boinking” anymore?) and also with the opportunity to “unsubscribe” by clicking on a link, which I declined in favor of reporting it as spam.

Here’s the thing about this email; the subject line made me want to open the email and argue with it and that’s an odd experience to have. “Life is short, have an affair” is quite a command. It implies a lot. I don’t doubt there are a number of women and men who would feel that indeed, if life is short, getting “no strings “boinking” is a goal. I guess after 20 years of marriage and settling squarely into my 40’s I just don’t see that making it to my list of “things to do.”

I’m inclined to revert to a whatever floats yer boat kind of thinking. I’m inclined to just report the spam, have myself a moment of clarity and a brief chuckle, place this one the virtual shelf of head scratching and mildly amusing junk mails I’ve received but it stuck to me today and I try to pay attention to those things. My best reach on why it stuck to me is that it reports a real unraveling of life. It speaks desperation disguised as solution. It feeds into that autonomous, individualistic notion that all I need is to get “mine” and I’ll be fine. “Life is short, have an affair” because why not? What’s the harm?

If you’ve ever known someone who has been in a relationship where one partner has had an affair you may know immediately the fallacy of this thought. If you’ve lived long enough to see marriages break up over it, or not break up but struggle through it, then you know that the two thoughts don’t even belong in the same sentence. I try not to be judgmental, I really do, and yet I cannot think of one instance in which I’d offer this as sound advice. And the reason it felt important to post about it today is that it occurs to me that not everyone has a friend who’d point out the fallacy of this thought. They might believe this, call it “truth” because it feels right someplace not so deep in their psyche.

So for those people who might think there is some truth in “life is short, have an affair” I’d offer some other possibilities before trying that one. Try all of these first and then see where it takes you.

Life is short, love your neighbor.

Life is short, hug your children (mother, father, aunt, friend, grocery store clerk.)

Life is short, wear your seatbelt.

Life is short, read more books.

Life is short, eat delicious food.

Life is short, be mindful of the moment.

Life is short, have integrity.

Life is short.

Choose wisely.

walk alongside…

I have a new post up on Ruminate Magazine’s site today. In a way it’s not new, it’s a further reflection on things I experienced and then wrote about a number of years ago. The decision to revisit those words and emotions comes as I look over the Facebook pages of friends who, only 5 or 6 years ago were still waiting, still struggling, still walking alongside. Time is so interesting. Maybe that’s what makes Facebook so compelling for me, to be able to see the progression, the steady march of time as it crawls up my newsfeed. But we have a better measure than social media, a long term measure, that comes in the friendships we make and nurture and keep.

Time has shown me how hard it is to keep up, how rough the waters can be, how much loss and how much love are possible in any given life. Time shows me the mistakes I’ve made and whether or not I’ve learned anything at all in the wake of them.  We depend on time, always marking the passage of it like lines on the wall to show how high the children have grown or marking the days on the calendar before vacation or a wedding or the hope of a baby being made. The Rolling Stones were wrong by saying that time is on my side. It’s not. It’s outside of us. Time is indifferent to our weird little struggles, it just keeps moving along and yet it’s necessary for that measure of our lives.Time is out of our reach even as we try to gather it in, even as we try to store it in our bellies and our brains. Inevitably, I suppose we hope that time simply shows us we are better for our struggles after all.

So, digression over…take a moment to saunter over to Ruminate today. If you have experienced miscarriage or walked alongside someone who has, this post is meant for you. I hope you’ll share it if it hits you in the right place today.




Stream of consciousness…grab a paddle…

WordPress informed me that it was just around 7 years ago that I moved into this space. It’s my 7th blogiversary and rest assured I hate that I just typed out that non-word.

I admit I’m feeling a little weird today, not because I was reminded that I’ve been putting words up on this spot for 7 years but more because I delivered my first full length book to the editor last friday. I’ll get it back in the next few weeks/months of course, for rewrites and such but for the most part the bulk of the work is behind me. The process of publishing can be long and winding and, as I am discovering, a kind of emotional roller coaster in my case. The oddball feeling I have been sporting since I pressed “send” last Friday feels, strangely enough, more like grief than celebration. I told someone recently that writing memoir is like doing an emotional striptease, taking off one piece of protective clothing at a time over the course of months and months. I worry sometimes that perhaps I’ve told all of my stories now and I’ll have to wait another 46 years before I write a book again.

Which brings me to another chink in the emotional armor. Today’s my birthday. I’ve traveled round the sun 46 times now. I hope I’m getting better at it but honestly, I’m never really certain. I’d forgotten it was today until I woke to a chorus of affirmation on Facebook. I love that. Facebook birthday affirmation makes pretty much every annoying thing about social media bearable in my opinion. I’ll take it.

Most likely in the next few days I’ll see people live and in person. Most likely they’ll ask me what I “did” to celebrate my birthday. I’m not big on the “doing things” celebration aspect of my birthday, preferring instead to gather myself in, pile the in person and online affirmation around me like sand on the beach, letting it stick to my skin, some sliding away, some traveling home with me in my shoes and my hair.

Then issue of “self-care” sidles up next to my stream of consciousness canoe and I let it drift away, carried by the current. This might have to be the year I get serious about the care and keeping of me. It’s alright. We’ll catch up.

On the left bank of this stream of consciousness I see how the landscape changes, low hanging branches  dipping into the water give way to clearings and sand bars. I hadn’t expected all the transitions this year would bring-buying and moving into a house, delivering my first book to a publisher, sending all my kids to school, gray hairs…sometimes they show up in my eyebrows, long and wiry, nearly white. I’ll pluck them out with some curiosity, some precision and a little fear, a little anxiety. It’s strange to wake up and find that my body has been secretly aging without my noticing. The skin’s a little more saggy, the baggage under my eyes growing heavier, the effects of gravity becoming apparent, that downward pull, that aching back.

I drank three cups of coffee this morning. That extra cup was to work against the cold medicine hangover from last night. The process of the head cold never fails to astound me. It begins with that all over shiver, even on a hot day, head becoming cloudier than usual, a small tickle in the throat and maybe a sniffle, maybe not. By the end of the day I’m dragging, the virus having made its way around the whole of me, and I lay down and let my white blood cells gear up for battle. It’s my side of the battle that causes the material discomfort of clogged nostrils and headache and coughing. I try to remember that as I lay in bed and close my asbestos lined eyelids. I never nap. That’s how the boys know I really am ill. They pile into the bed with me, unafraid of the germs because in truth, that’s how the virus found its way into the house to start.

In the dream I am looking in the mirror because my teeth hurt. When I check my gums I find that they have receded so far that I can see the bone of my jaw and I panic but then I wonder about the miracle of modern dentistry and I leave it alone. I venture out to a writer’s conference with a friend and she tells me that we can enter the conference but that once there we’ll have to stay the whole weekend, we cannot leave “campus” for any reason until it is over. It bothers me but I go anyway. In the dream I am sitting with my daughter, we are out at a nice dinner and talking about life things- rough waters, calm inlets, tributaries and lagoons. We are both so beautiful. The moment is breathtaking and then I wake up.

I drank that third cup of coffee this morning to shake off the cold medicine hangover and it worked pretty well. I won’t take the medicine tonight, opting instead for hot steamy showers and eucalyptus essential oils- letting the natural cure bat clean up for a change.

It surprises me sometimes how few people still call me Angie.

It may be because I almost never introduce myself as “Angie” anymore. I guess I’m Angela now because I’m a grown up and stuff. Still, if anyone were to ask, I’d gladly answer to Angie. It seems like a long time since I thought about it. The idea only coming to me as I check my Facebook greetings again and count how many “Angie” and how many “Ang” and how many “Angela.” I’m all of these. I can almost date the length and depth of my friendships by the name I’m called. Almost. There are some exceptions- Dave still calls me Angela, as he always has done. My good friend Paula calls me Angela, usually when she’s laying wisdom on me in that way she has but sometimes I’m Angie to her, sometimes I’m Ang. She’s got all sides of me. That’s a comfort.

Paddles in the water, floating over, moving on.

I wrote once about how birthdays are like little Easters and I do still believe that. I still cling to the idea that we’re getting better, that we’re filled with moments of redemption and restoration. Today as I consider my 46 years on planet Earth and the effects of three cups of strong brewed coffee on a stuffy head I find some strange degree of stasis, an even-ing out, cups balancing on hands turned upward, cups waiting to be filled, waiting to be served, waiting to be placed carefully along a long and winding road that runs along the banks of this stream of consciousness. Though I meander and muse and branch out like tributaries and inlets and lagoons I do arrive finally at shore to say that I am grateful, profoundly grateful. I sit on the sunny shore of this stream, listening to water licking and spitting along stones, making music and mayhem and wonder and I am struck by the goodness of this life I hold within me and around me. I close my eyes to drink this in and I locate this, I am grateful, tremendously grateful.

Letting go…

All four of my children will be in “real” school starting Monday. I’m having a bit of a freak out about that, I have to tell you. After receiving an email from the principal for my oldest son’s school, welcoming us, encouraging us, I broke down. It’s hard to let go.

We have been homeschooling in one way or another since about 2003. We brought our oldest home after a rough year in Kindergarten. She’s always been outgoing and friendly. She loved preschool and she liked Kindergarten, excelling in reading and math and general awesomeness but she got teased every day on the playground. She liked to play alone and the other girls in her school gave her so much grief about it she cried every day when I picked her up from school. Teacher meetings, parent meetings, long talks with my daughter, “grin and bear” it moments, all came to nothing. We’d already changed schools once going from the Montessori school to a school closer to our house. It was too late to apply or get into a third try for the coming school year, so we brought her home, always thinking we’d make a switch the following year.

All in all, it’s gone well, I have to say. As we added kids we just slid them into the homeschool routine. It worked well when we traveled, when we moved, when we were living on 18 acres in the middle of nowhere. We hung out, we asked questions, we made observations, we argued and we struggled and we cruised for a long time. For as long as I was holding things together it really was a phenomenal time and then life changed up and they all seemed to need different things, things I could not deliver with any expertise or consistency. Last year, my daughter, having been home for most of her educational life finally stepped into High School, real school, art school, as a sophomore. She loved it and it loved her back.

I wrote last year of my decision to send Henry to school. It was grueling. His way of learning was so different from my way of teaching and long story short, I was leaking out all over the place where homeschool was concerned anyway. I was losing my mojo, not keeping up with Henry’s needs, falling apart in the bathroom because I felt I was failing them. I finally enrolled him at the neighborhood school so that we could both get what we needed. He loved it and it loved him back.

We tried a “real” school with Chet last year too, thinking the “game theory” approached they offered at the Chicago charter school would be perfect for him but you know, there is no perfect and he had trouble adjusting. He did great with the work but the classroom was overwhelming for him and often the chaos in the classroom kept them all from doing the work, which was the only thing Chet really wanted to do anyway. He did not love it and it did not love him back so we brought him home and I spent last year swimming in the guilt of being unprepared, questioning everything I tried, worrying about the present and the future and the past and all the while poor Miles cruised along doing his own thing, a little lost in the shuffle.

As the youngest in our family, Miles has the cushiest position and yet the strongest opposition to falling into line. His reading lessons probably sounded like I was driving spikes under his fingernails because he hated it so much. I was already burned out and he was getting the dregs of what I had left to offer and the guilt about that gnawed at me daily. I knew I’d put them all in school this year and the pressure ramped up then to “get them ready” for it but the more the deadline approached the worse we seemed to do. It remains to be seen how things will roll when Monday comes. Even so, when I questioned him on it this week he said, groaning, “Geez, mom. I’ll adapt. I always adapt. I’ll be fine, you have to let go sometime.”

And so, there it is. I am letting go a little, reluctantly, expectantly, with great fear and trembling and excitement because I have no idea what this year brings for us all. I imagine it will be a new kind of struggle and a new kind of joy and a familiar struggle and a familiar joy too. I imagine we’ll have moments of great regret mixed with moments of great relief. I imagine that I will adapt and that I will be fine because I have to let go sometime. It’s what we do as parents. We wish for them and we hope for them and in it we are always teaching them how to be their own people in the world. Parenting is letting go, a little at a time- crawling to toddling to walking to running- hair blowing in the warm wind, face to the sun, into the future.

Nearly right

On the long drive to Tennessee this week I was solo parenting. Dave had a meeting in New York and I volunteered to drive with the four kids all the way down from Chicago to Nashville while he flew in after his meeting. I thought it would be a cake walk. I like driving long distances. It relaxes me. I figured, the kids are past diapers and spit ups and stopping every five minutes, they all have electronics now to keep their brains occupied and when they don’t they can be really interesting conversation partners. So, I loaded up an audio book on my iPhone to listen to while they watched movies or listened to their iPods or played on their handheld gaming systems. I really thought I had it all together.


I held it together as long as I could in the face of their constant bickering, complaining and overall discomfort with all things car related. I listened and I mediated and I issued warnings and I made mandates and I might have even waved my hand toward the back seat saying, “don’t make me turn this car around!” a few times, which was a non starter because they said they’d rather be at home anyway.

After the last vestiges of my patience were gone, retreating to points unknown, never to be seen again on that car trip I began to mutter, because sometimes I mutter when I’m mad. I said bad things under my breath, I sighed heavily and a few times I got off the expressway and got out of the car taking deep breaths. “I do not like these people right now” I admitted out loud for my own benefit.

Eventually, after Miles puked in the backseat around Paducah KY, things settled a bit. We limped into Nashville as though we’d just been through the battle of the bulge, a little worse for the wear but still intact, still a family, still fighting the battle together, mostly on the same side.

I related all this to my nice friend, Carol yesterday as we lamented the slings and arrows of parenting. The thing we come to over and over again in these conversations is the deep realization that things get hairy and we get scared and tired, we say things we don’t mean to say out loud, we get out of the car and pace and mutter and in the end what we need most is to know that we’re all going to be alright. It helps, to have friends who have been to dark places and lived to tell about it. It helps us to limp along until we cross back into daylight.

Today my nice friend Carol sent me an email, a forward of something I sent to her years ago probably after a conversation much like the one we had yesterday.

When children try your soul, as they will,
When they cause you grief, as they do,
When they rouse your anger and provoke your
wrath, as is their way,
When they reduce you to tears and prayer
as often happens,
Love them.
Don’t bother about anything at all
Until you have first made clear to yourself
That your love for the child in question
Is holding firmly, swelling warmly in your heart.
Then, whatever you do will be as nearly right
As it is possible for human judgement to be right.

-Angelo Patri 19th century educator, New York City

I thank God for people who walk the road with me and for words like this that keep coming back time and time again when I least expect them.

good things…

NearlyOrthodoxThe manuscript for my book is now heaving a sigh of relief from my laptop in the corner of the room. After the last few months of staring at it each morning at 6am and typing furiously into the computer- sometimes laughing, sometimes sobbing- I hit “print” and then pushed the silver macbook aside. I’ll let it breathe there on the drive while hard copies come with me this week to The Glen and with Dave on his trip to parts unknown. While the digital master rests, rising like bread before baking, the paper copies will be subject to line edits and commentary and blue highlighter, because blue is my favorite color. All that to say that if I’ve been absent, ignoring emails or phone calls, silent online (it happens) then this has been the cause.

Hang tight, Lovelies. Good things coming.

-mrs m.


May 29, 1993Happy 20th anniversary to that guy I met on my golden birthday. The one I hired for a shoot by mistake.  I was 25 on the 25th of September in 1992 and I meant to hire Dave Cosby for that little half day shoot but I got caught in a bout of rolodex dsylexia.

I had avoided booking that David Carlson because I thought he was arrogant. He groused about the shoot the first time I’d called. “I’m taking my band to Brazil” he stated, “you’d have to fly me to the location.” “Well, I don’t need a rock star,” I returned, “I need a shooter and this crew is driving to the location.” I told myself I would not try to book him again. The misread on the index card caught up to me just after I confirmed the booking.

He showed up wearing a black cap, his curly hair pulled back into a ponytail. He smirked and flirted shamelessly, then he asked me out for a drink. I showed up to Rainbow Club around the corner from my house with my posse of female friends. We closed the place after many cheap beers and deep conversations, the girl gang had gone home and it was just us. I would not let him drive me home, you know, because I’m all independent and such.

I walked home as he trailed along behind in his car at 3am in East Village back before it was filled with trendy bars and eateries, before Starbucks, before upscale apartments and fitness centers. It was an adventure.

I married that guy 9 months later, in a television studio in downtown Chicago in a ceremony we designed with electronic music, 15 lighting changes, three sets, poetry, live music and a fog machine and spotlight to usher me down the aisle. It’s still an adventure, an amazing and beautiful adventure. Happy anniversary, David Carlson. I’m tremendously grateful for you, for us, for all of it.


I did the math this week.

Since I left my parents’ home after High School I’ve moved 13 times. In college, it’s natural I guess, to move every year. One year was spent in the dorm, one year in a campus apartment the next year in an off campus apartment. After that I came to Chicago and moved just about every year again- Wrigleyville, Albany Park, Lakeview and East Ukrainian Village. Then I met Dave and moved to Bucktown, a year later, a different loft in Bucktown and a few years after that we purchased our first house in Chicago. We settled in Ravenswood Manor for about 5 years when wanderlust hit us. For reasons that still escape the both of us we pulled up tent stakes and moved our burgeoning brood to Franklin, TN. We lived on 18 acres in the middle of nowhere for about 5 years when we realized, suddenly, we were not country people. We needed the city so we did what we needed to do and got into East Nashville then a short year later we were back in Chicago, back in Bucktown area and back in a loft.

I joked to someone recently that I’ve moved so much in my adult life that I’ve gotten really good at it. I can pack and unpack a household in remarkably short time.

When I was a kid we moved only once. We moved from a house we loved to a house we loved more. We moved into our grandmother’s house when she downsized to an apartment. It was the house my mother grew up in so we had a special attachment to it. I still feel attached to those two houses. When I’m home in Cincinnati I drive by those houses, secretly hoping they’ll be for sale and that I’ll be able to walk through them. In some ways I feel that every place I lived has kept a small part of me, that I’m walking around the planet now having left something important behind each time. In some ways I wonder if this is what makes me feel homesick every once in a while. Maybe that is what makes me drive by those old houses and apartments and why I feel such grief when I discover a house or a building I’ve lived in has been torn down. It’s strange.

Now we’re house hunting again. It’s become so common an occurrence that my children hardly blink an eye when I say, “We might buy THIS one…what do you think?” They shrug their shoulders, offer a disinterested “looks good” and go back to their own interests. I have taken to saying outrageous things to get their attention, “Hey! How about we live in this underground cave?” “How about we move to Iowa?” “How about we just stay here in this apartment for another few years?” Regardless of what I say, they are not flustered. My daughter finally nailed it down for me yesterday, “Mom, we’re fine with whatever you and Dad find. We trust you.”

And still, there are moments in which I wish someone else would choose for us this time. There are too many variables now and it’s possible we don’t trust our selves to decide anymore. There are school choices, work locations, re-sell possibilities, house size, crime rate, yard versus roof deck…and now, having hunted for houses for the last 9 months having it come to naught…we’re weary of the process. We just want it to be done.

So then, here’s the homesick, the “if only’s,” the waiting, the rooting in a community, the friends we haven’t yet met, the restaurants we haven’t tried, the plants we haven’t put into the ground, the pictures we have not yet hung. The act of moving for us it seems has been an act of trust, an act of submission and sometimes escape but mostly, an act of trust, moving toward something new. There is a homesickness that comes in the wake of it, remembering all we leave behind and I’m struck with the loss and the grief even as I wrap the memories in newspapers, pile them into boxes and ready them for travel. I make a mental, emotional inventory of all we’ve discovered, all we’ve experienced, all we’ve lost, all we’ve found. It’s cathartic. It’s necessary. The homesickness is what we leave behind but perhaps, too, it’s what we unpack when we reach our new place. Here’s what we had, here’s what we have, here’s who we are and who we are meant to be yet, we have only the homesickness and then trusting the unfolding of what comes next.