Not so small wins

She would be the first to tell you, life has not been so easy for the Alice the past few years. Suffice it to say, her world has shrunk down to a space that feels rather limiting for the time being. And for such an expansive soul, that has been a hard, hard lesson. And as it is her story to tell, not mine, I’ll leave it at that in this space.

Still, she’s got an irrepressible spirit. The way she can find a way to carve out some light and hope and agency, a sense of possibility, an idea of future, even from what can feel like a relentlessly oppressive present. She said, “mom, let’s do reading journals this year.” Ok. I read about a dozen “real” books last year (I don’t count the books I won’t even admit to on my Goodreads shelf. Those ones that are like candy – consumed in a day and forgotten in about half that time). It was a stressful year and you really see it in my reading. So I’m game to do better next year. Reading is one of the places I’m so keenly aware of the finiteness of our time on earth. So many books so little time, as they say.

So I pulled out a journal and wrote a header: 2023 book goal: 25. And numbered 1 to 25 down the side so I can write in my books as I read them. I guess this is how a left brain person tackles such a task. Done and done.

My artist had a different idea. She scoured the internet for inspiration, and this is the start to her reading journal. As usual, she blows me away. My sad little list vs. this meticulous and gorgeous creation? I declare her the winner of a contest she didn’t even enter. No matter how many books she reads.

I know New Year’s resolutions are at best considered trite, at worst vaguely unhealthy, but I still love setting a goal in the darkest time of the year that says at least I have the hope for Something in the next year. When life feels impossibly small, setting even a small big goal can feel like a lifeline. So here’s to 2023, hope and many more books to read.

T-5 days

Margaret is starting to turn the mountain of ikea and garbage bags full of her stuff that was brought home from her apartment into our den into a single suitcase to take to Seoul for four months. I suggested she think of it like writing a paper and this is her first draft of packing but before I could even get the word “revise” out of my mouth she cut me right off “Mom, that doesn’t work for me, my first draft is always my last draft.” She is self aware, this one. She may not have any socks for four months, but she will know why. T-5 days until she is off!


The last few years we’ve created a little hummingbird oasis in the backyard by planting salvias and putting in a feeder to entice them into our yard and now if I’m sitting out there for any length of time, one or two always seem to come to visit. Recently, John added a bird seed feeder of which approximately 90% appears to feed the squirrels that have managed to figure out how to get to it, but the remaining seed and the seed they scatter on the ground with their antics has brought some songbirds to the yard too. I know literally nothing about birds and it is one of those things I find myself wanting to get more curious about. I want to feel more rooted to the natural world around me, rather than always passing through in a fog of my own stress and inner dramas. My default has always been to be very inwardly focused and I think I’m almost weary of it now.

A pair of what I was calling “speckled browns” have been visiting us, and this morning I was able to snap a few pictures and do approximately eight seconds of googling to find that they are a Swainson thrush. They have the loveliest song. There is a giant fir in the neighbors yard that is full of all kinds of birds, but now that I know what to listen for, I can pick out these gentle, happy thrush songs.

It’s nice.

So long, lake

We had a wonderful week doing very little. At some point every day we swam and paddled. We read. We napped. We snacked. In the evenings we conducted a vacation film festival – this year was Keanu Reeves movies. Speed, the matrix, Point Break, and of course Bill and Ted. Movies I had either never seen or hadn’t seen in years and the girls had never seen – it was perfect. We had some of M’s friends out for the day or for dinner which was also so nice. I felt guilty at times of how little we really did but I think this was the vacation we needed. Beautiful, peaceful, relaxing, and lots of just hanging out together. Here are few pictures for the scrap book. (Mostly pictures of me and the dog, but I swear we were all there, the celebrities who live in my house refused most pictures.)

Lake days

After sliding back into town after a 13 hour drive on Thursday, we packed up both cars, both dogs and all of the kids on Friday and headed out of town for a week to just float in all the ways that we so need to just float. I brought a suitcase loaded with books to read and somehow no underwear. Priorities. I drew the short straw (ok, chose the short straw and John owes me) and ended up driving both dogs (the old one and the carsick one) as well as the two passengers who least like long car drives. I distracted the unhappy people by letting them DJ the ride (how else will I discover new music?) and wonder of wonders, little dog did not get carsick once. Big win. First time I’ve let him ride without a crate and I think that’s the ticket – who wants to be confined for 6+ hours. Not me. Look how happy/terrified they are:

(Have ukelele, will travel)

Today was a strange start to all that floating – John rode a local hundred mile race (actually, he got off route of the poorly marked race so many times that he rode 113 miles, but 13 of them were accidental). Marg’s friend who is going to Korea with her came over to the house for the day and they had a zoom Korean lesson and then paddled out for an hour or so. The remaining people swam a bit and paddled a bit and then went off to meet the wayward father at his finish line. I left Margaret with him to drink a beer and sit for a bit while Lil and I went to get some sandwiches to bring back for dinner. We returned to a mortified Margaret who was still reeling over the fact that another rider asked her if she was John’s wife and I think the rider was equally mortified when she answered after a stunned silence, “No, he is my dad.” I told her she should have just looked at him and deadpanned, “yeah, he’s really rich.”

We ended the day with a sunset walk and then cuddled up on couches to watch that old cinematic masterpiece, Speed. Lily didn’t believe it was really Keanu Reeves, “the guy with the short hair? No mom, that is NOT him.” Yeah, Lily. I promise, it is. These are the days we’ll remember.


Just putting a few pictures for the memories of a crazy but wonderful 2 day trip to see my sister after three years of pandemic-related distance. Too long. I drove almost 13 hours each way for two great days and it was totally worth it. We hiked and ate and went through old boxes of mom’s stuff we packed up ten years ago and only now are starting to go through. We watched movies and puttered and it felt more like a week fit into two days. Even in a world where everything seems to change all the time, some things remain the same. My heart is full.


The “baby” turned sixteen last Sunday, and while it was a day that John had to work, it was, by request of the birthday girl, a family birthday. Lily and I were both up early so we went for an early breakfast at Tin Shed in what is becoming a new tradition of mom/Lily breakfast on her birthday. We had planned to go paddle around a local lake with Margaret and Alice in tow, but the weather wasn’t the best, so we settled on a movie which ended with Lily accidentally going into the men’s bathroom and her being utterly mortified while the rest of us were entirely entertained (ask me how many times I’ve accidentally done the same thing. A lot. It builds character. Or something.)

I made my every decade attempt to make a cake and it didn’t turn out awful – the cake was delicious and it even looked reasonably ok. Lily was happy and that was all that mattered. Summer birthdays are just hard with so many people coming and going, and sixteen has got to be the most overrated birthday ever invented, but I would say this one was a pretty good one. It did my heart good and I think meant a lot to Lily to have all the sisters together for this day. They weren’t even pretending to get along in the pictures. In fact, as we were driving to the theater at one point I reflexively told them all to stop arguing and they all protested – “we aren’t even arguing” in exasperation. I realized that I’m going to have to stop interpreting every animated conversation as bickering – after sooo many years of nearly constant bickering, it’s going to take some practice but that’s a nice problem to have for sure. Growing up is good.

Like mother, like daughter

My sophisticated 21 year old daughter, trying and failing to master the complex art of drinking while in public. I’d like to think if nothing else, I’ve at least taught her to be able to laugh at herself. If it’s not funny, what’s the point?

While we drank our tea, she attempted to write my name in Hangul (Korean alphabet), and then made me promise not to show this to ANYONE as she is positive it is horribly wrong. I’m sure this doesn’t count as showing it to someone.

We were just out wandering around, buying presents for Lily’s birthday (next post) and it was the loveliest day. I’d almost forgotten how nice it is to just wander with this one.

Lucky birthdays and promises not kept

Permit me a moment of nostalgia, please.

THIS is the gift I got on my “golden” birthday, when I turned eight on the eighth (except I didn’t call it a golden birthday – I only heard that term later. For me, it was going to be my LUCKY birthday).

THIS gorgeous creature. The Sears Free Spirit with the rainbow banana seat. I had never before, and have never since, received a birthday gift that was so perfectly calibrated to the exact me of that exact moment. I had already built this birthday up to massive expectations. The only thing I can compare to the overwhelming anticipation of that day as an adult was awaiting the birth of a child, but even that’s not quite right because I had some idea (or thought I did) of what a baby might entail, and I had no idea what would happen on that birthday but I knew it would be amazing, tremendous, maybe even stupendous, but overall so lucky. Like a thousand rabbits feet. And I woke up that morning to the rainbow bike in the living room and the expectation seemed to check out.

Then I rode her. I jumped on (what is a helmet? like for a motorcycle or something? no, I don’t have that) and raced off down our street. I noticed briefly that our neighbors were having some kind of gathering in their front yard. These were not the nice neighbors that we knew – the Wolfs on the one side and Mrs. Kolodney on the other, these were New People who had only moved in recently. No kids, so basically invisible to us. Maybe I briefly glanced over and that is what caused what happened next. I’d love to blame them, but it was probably just my trademark clumsiness that caused me to very suddenly pull the handle bars to the side, bring the bike to a sudden and unexpected stop which caused me to launch over the handle bars and fall face first, mouth first, on the concrete curb. See that nice open space in the handle bars that I could easily fly through? 70s design at its finest.

I don’t remember much. I remember a flash that happened a beat before the pain. It was sense of the impact. And then there was the pain. And a lot of blood apparently though I didn’t notice at the time. I remember feeling really confused. What happened? What was I doing again? Why was my bike on the ground. My first worry wasn’t injury, partly because I don’t know that I apprehended yet I was actually injured, but my worry was leaving my bike. My main concern was that if I left it, it might be stolen (stolen bikes were concern number one at that time in my life even though I never seemed to know anyone who actually had their bike stolen). So I got myself to my feet, picked up my bike, and walked three houses to home. In my mind it took a long time, like I inched past the neighbors having their front yard party while they just gaped at me, and then somehow was in my mom’s arms being swept away from the scene and into the safety of home. In actuality, I’m sure it all happened very fast. The neighbors probably didn’t have time to rush over to help me because before I could get halfway home my mom was running to my side.

It was a pretty ugly scene. It looked like I had knocked my front teeth out but instead they had been pushed back up into the upper gums. There was a lot of blood the way there is with mouth injuries. But beyond the concussion and dental injury, I was ok. No serious lasting injury. My mom took me down the street to our dentist for an emergency house call (old time dentist who had his practice attached to his house). He was just back from a fishing trip and still stunk like fish but there was really nothing to do, he looked around a bit and said we would just have to wait and see on the teeth, and sent my mom home with instructions to watch for concussion signs. I felt and looked absolutely awful for a while. But over time, the teeth did come back into place (one chipped but both functional) and life went on. I even rode the bike again and fell in love with her all over again, because, look at her, how could I not?

This was…..43 years ago now. But it will always be one of those larger than life memories both for what happened that day (the bike, the accident) and what didn’t happen (the luckiest day of my life, aka the letdown of the century). I think about it at some point almost every single year. Usually out of gratitude of the quiet gifts of a quiet life. Sometimes out of respect for the hard lessons this life can teach us, the things we can survive. This year my quiet gifts are the fact that Margaret came home last night so now I have all three girls under my roof for my birthday. Another quiet gift is writing this while sitting in the backyard, early evening, John reading nearby, dinner made, flowers all around me, feeling simply “well” despite the fact that I had a bit of a grueling work day. That feeling of abundance when your needs are met and your wants are few. I told the girls that all I really wanted to my birthday was to wake up to a perfectly clean kitchen. There is a beautiful strawberry tart with my name on it that Lily made me. I am tired as hell (see below), but I’ll sleep tonight. The world continues to offer marvels and outrages and tragedies outside this small space and this small moment, but here and now, life is ok and that is more than enough today.