sitting with the last 357 days

I’m propped in bed surrounded by some yet-to-be addressed holiday cards, a community college catalogue dog-eared to a ballroom dancing class, my dog, and Rebecca Solnit‘s Men Explain Things to Me. My planned afternoon of errands and cooking hit a snag: aches and pains and exhaustion. But the pounding from our downstairs bathroom rehab project is keeping me from sleeping. What’s a girl to do? End of the year reflection, me thinks…

Lovely fleeting family moment:  Singing through ALL of 100 Bottles of Beer on the wall on our way to the rented cabin in Wisconsin with all three kids in back of the rental van and me propped at an odd angle up front while downing lots of ibuprofen to keep the pain from kidney stones at bay.

IMG_0685Humbling “my kid is way more patient than I ever dreamed” experience:  Tobey kept telling me again and again that his foot hurt. You’d knock him ever so slightly and he’d go into paroxysms of pain. I thought it was all a bit dramatic but finally took him to the doctor and X-rays showed that he had two congenitally fused bones in his foot which, yes, would definitely cause quite a bit of pain. In January, just as the Polar Vortex (two words that still send me into a PTSD scarred little ball of dread) was really ramping up, he had the bones broken and spent the next two months in a cast or boot. Given that his classroom is on the top floor of a 100+ year old building without an elevator, it was a long winter. But the guy hardly complained once. I was humbled by his attitude.

IMG_0705Best homecoming + best yoga class:  In February, I was reunited with my dear friend Mary Mayrick and two other friends from our yoga teacher training class at Kripalu. Just walking in to those hallows doors lowered  my blood pressure and calmed all sorts of parts of me that didn’t even know they needed calming. The two-day workshop with Erich Schiffmann was utter joy. A kinder or more groovy yogi would be hard to find. Practicing freestyle yoga in the Kripalu chapel with 70 other yogis … wow. Just wow.

5.14 Bella Bat Mitvah-65Mindfulness in Action:  One of my best teachers remains Bella Epstein. Last March, she placed in several events at the State Championships in swimming, but ongoing breathing issues and what we thought was an ankle injury (turns out she has overextended ankles) have slowed her down. She has stuck with it, showing up at the pool while reexamining what interests her and other passions. It’s never easy to get sidetracked from what seemed like your True Calling, especially not at 13. In May, Bella was bat mitzvahed and was the epitome of grace. On a weekly basis, she helps me to figure out weird containers that I can’t open or find a lost key – grace under pressure, always. (Unless it’s early morning; that’s another story.) One absolutely perfect afternoon was shared when Bella and I went to Los Angeles. I’d given her a list of things we might do and when I asked, “What would you be disappointed if we couldn’t get to it?” she promptly responded:  “Relax.” So one hot afternoon we took our towels to the beach and watched the big waves in awe before getting up our guts to wade in and allow ourselves to be bobbed about like corks. It was exhilarating to be shrieking in the cold water, side by side with my daughter in the Pacific – Mother Ocean, pushed and pulled by the saltwater, laughing at our aliveness.

Utter Peace:  Another watery moment. On that trip to Wisconsin, Chris and I spent a few hours one afternoon face down on air mattresses, holding hands as we slowly perambulated the lake. Two of our kids were jumping off the floating dock, periodically laughing or hollering at each other, but otherwise it was wonderfully still. The height of summer – dragonflies, pussy willows, fat clouds. And just us, our meandering conversation, the smell of lake water, and the sun beating down on our middle aged skin, reminding us of sunburns of our youth.

Movie Moment:  I used to keep a list of all of the movies I watched and all of the books I read. Both categories have shrunk considerably in the years since having kids, though I’m trying to re-stoke my habits. I did get away for one matinee all by myself (solo movie going is really sweet, I’ve always thought; a date with your best friend) and thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of Iowa City’s new independent cinema, FilmScene AND the very dear, spot-on Obvious Child, an unlikely comedy about abortion.

Adventures in the Imagination: As far as books go, I spent much of the last year grieving the characters from Telegraph Avenue. Wanting anything close approaching that awesome literary experience, I read The Amazing Aventures of Kavalier & Clay. It wasn’t sunny Oakland, but there were still some gobsmackingly good moments – including the entire detour to Alaska. Michael Chabon, you undo me.

Teaching in Order to Be Taught: Last spring, I was invited to teach a daylong workshop on creativity and writing to girls at a correctional facility south of Portland, OR. I spent a lot of time preparing my talk and a series of exercises – all of which seemed to go over well. But the experience of hearing the stories of the mainly teenage girls who live locked up was deeply moving.

Collaboration: Some times the best times are the unexpected ones. In this case, it came after getting to see Cirque du Soleil in Vegas (thank you, mom!) and then catching back up with friends and colleagues who had gone out after a long day of a workshop. Dave Gould, Eli Kaufman, and Joe Cilek and I had a wide ranging conversation about the future of education that lasted until the wee hours. No gambling, no booze, just the intoxication of creative ideas flowing wildly.

IMG_1573Blessed:  During two days at Point Reyes National Seashore in November, Chris and I saw a whale, dolphins, elk, and coyotes. We ate the best Rueben sandwich at a roadside deli and one evening’s meal consisted of a cold crab, champagne, and Cow Girl Creamery‘s Red Hawk cheese. Sitting by the ocean for hours, staring at the waves, we were blessed again and again, as though a mantra was being told to us anew. This place has completely captured my heart. I plan to spend my 50th birthday there in 2016 –  friends & companions welcome!


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