Risk and Renewal

The waves crash up and onto the rocks, the sound of their roar a steady thrum that has become part of my heartbeat. When I write about something it is usually after the experience. I need time to fully digest a moment, an adventure, an event before I can fully realize it into words. I am not talking about journal writing that is something wholly separate. Journal writing is a conversation between God and I, where the rawness of who I am becomes my clarity.

No, today is different. I am writing while I am within this space and it feels right.

This adventure started because of a Top-Secret meeting.  A whirl of planning and thinking about the roadblocks. The roadblocks felt big, the most worrisome the wait for my test to come back. It did and I was negative. Next were my fears. The one looming over me, its shadow casting doubt on my decisions, was the idea of driving somewhere far.

“WHEN DID THAT START?” I yelled at myself.

I am shocked that I have had to grapple with this considering that I have driven great distances before. Not to mention the times that I have moved to towns far from anything I was accustomed and the fact that I knew no one. This shouldn’t have been a roadblock considering all the other things that needed considering –Money, Kids, Day Job Projects, chores. Life doesn’t make way for dreams and adventures.

I saw an Instagram story where an author was making fun of people who post inspirational quotes and title them with” THIS” (I am guilty of this and it hit home!) to which he added, …and then they do nothing to change their life.

I pulled the trigger and went for it. I want to certify within myself that I am willing to do what needs to be done to achieve my dreams. In order to do this, I must sacrifice, take chances, be silly, be willing to change, meet roadblocks with perseverance and courage, and have faith that this is God’s plan for me.

I went into high gear trying to ignore the fear. One of the first leaps of faith is that I needed to pack light. This is big for me. I usually pack for every occasion, trying to plan for it all. I didn’t do that this time. I went with my gut and hoped for the best recognizing that packing everything, including the kitchen and bathroom cabinets wasn’t going to amour me against mishap. Shit happens.

Each time the anxiety about my decision to go made my chest grow tight I reminded myself that the bills are paid and no matter my weekly syringe full of Amazon (I AM AN AMAZON ADDICT and I am on board to fight this addiction) our needs are met and I have been responsible.

As I pushed enter on the reservation, I thought of all the times that I settled for less because I had to or because I was too scared to spend more. OR because I was afraid of being disappointed and every time, I ended up with something disappointing.

SO, this time, I went for it. SOLD: Room with a view, spa tub, and breakfast delivered COVID-19 fashion to my door.

I stayed up late making sure I remembered all the important things: boots, laptop, book, chargers, manuscript, and my Adventure Journal ( soothe.com makes the best journals ever and no, I am not sponsored and paid to say that…it is the truth).

I woke before Smokey, whose ears appeared at the end of the bed peaked with astonishment at the idea that I would be awake without her persistently purring and walking all over me.

 I grabbed my down comforter, my pillows, and after the 6th trip up and down the stairs the car was loaded. I gave kisses and hugs, got in the car, and…




I sat behind the wheel, the lights of the dash giving mixed signals, looking through the windshield into the darkness. I had prayed right before hitting send on the reservation, Please God if this is not the right thing to do send me a message.


If it was, I was fucked. Too late to cancel the room, the meeting, everything.

This is just a roadblock; this is just a roadblock I repeated as I fiddled with the wires on the car battery and then attached the cables hoping it was that one wire that comes loose from the battery because of the bumpy back country roads. I had been on a lot of them this last week as I was out in the community doing my best to Car-Test our ESL students.  

After 4 tries, several prayers, and 45 minutes behind schedule the ignition turned over and the car roared to life. I was on my way.

 I met a wall of fog, impenetrable as far as the eye could see, which was about 2 feet…maybe. I drove slowly and stayed behind big trucks when I could. Thankful for their mass especially as the two-lane highway I was inching along made Head-On Collision headlines every other week.

Hope burned and brightened. I shied away from focusing on it directly. I didn’t want to jinx it into being swallowed by the dread. Rather, I let it blaze to cinders the doubts and dread, leaving a space for what was to come.

I had queued up my favorite podcast of late, #amwriting, and pressed play. Mile by mile, the landscape revealed itself. First the road, then the vehicle in front of me. The fields on either side made their appearance as the sun unfurled its gaze, making the fog translucent. By the time I reached the Wildlife Reserve just before Pacheco Pass, my faith had started to take root in the soil that had been rejuvenated by the burn-off.

I had stepped out and let go and now I was flying.

I had gotten a miraculous 9am check-in and I had a meeting set for 10:30am, so I was anxious to get into my room and unpacked. I wanted to experience the day and come back to a room fully ready to greet me.

My hands were steady on the steering wheel as I raced up the pass, down the other side, and through the country side. Fields lay splayed out ready for planting, ramshackle houses, roadside stands, old machinery passed in a blur.

The sea air sailed through the window long before the ocean came into view. The houses dotted along the dunes hinted but only their back yards could be seen, the secret views saved for their personal use.

Two lanes gave way to racing traffic along multiple lanes with exit after exit until my own curved me into the cypress and down unfamiliar roads too tight for my Tahoe. A tricky left turn brought me onto the property where I prayed that my SUV would clear the garage and I backed in…if there was a repeat performance of this morning, I wanted the ovation to be face forward for the tow truck. I prayed hard that I would be spared this humiliation.

My mask hid my smile as I know it hid hers though I am sure my excitement sparked from my eyes as I processed through check in.

I huffed and puffed my way up two sets of stairs and I took stock. Warm light flooded the room and a fountain tinkled a welcome. Faux cobblestones led to a fire place and a wall of sliding glass doors covered in sheer curtains. I stepped onto the deck and took a deep breath, slowly expelling it into the sultry sea mist.

The horizon was a dusty blue and the surf was white against the rocks and shore. I just stood there trying to accept that this was my reality. I felt like I was dreaming and that I would wake up at any moment and find myself walking downstairs to do the dishes and load the washer.

I turned back into the room and suddenly I just wanted to lay down and sleep, stretching to the four corners of the king bed. The exhaustion from the week, work, people, and most of all—from being brave in combination with the serenity of this space made me want to curl up and fall asleep to the surf.

But bravery was still required.

Excitement rode just under the surface of my fatigue. It took 3 trips to unload the car. I changed my clothes and headed out to the meeting.

Here’s what I will ask of you. Wait, breathlessly. Pray hard that I will realize my dreams and that I will get my books published. Shall we leave the mystery in place for the moment? Let the mystery roil with promise and suspense and dreams come true.

Then next thing on my agenda was to go for a hike on a beach trail and my BFF who is staying in town had made us spectacular plans rife with trees and guided by my favorite dog. We met up and I kept ignoring the warning signs of pain, easy to do as it has such a big place in my life. But today it was my leg. It had been uncomfortable during the car ride and stiff when I got out of the car. I pushed the pain to the back of mind, used to the low ebb as part of my daily existence. But the throbbing slowly and steadily got stronger.

I don’t talk about this pain yet it is a part of my daily existence. Even my closest friends do not know how debilitating it is.

It started 22 years ago, two years after my oldest was born.  The doctors tested me for rheumatoid arthritis and several other things. They put me on a steroid that I took for two weeks and weaned off of just as quickly because the side effects were scarier than the pain. 

Joints swelling, sometimes chills, nerve pain. Over the years, it has gotten worse but in such a way that I just became accustomed to it and so I learned to deal with it like everything else. I learned to battle it with weightlifting, eating fresh fruit and vegetables, minimizing sugar and processed food, and lots of water. This really helped. But over the last couple of years with my job becoming prominent in my life, the time I could dedicate to my self-care diminished. Quick meals, missed exercise, and less water. Then the pandemic hit and there was no gym, no time, and the anxiety and fear really took its toll.

I won’t go any further on this. Just to say, I have missed out on a lot of my life because of this pain. I try to move through it as best as I can. Dealing with the nights and days when it is too bad to hide and then, I go to my bed and grit my teeth until it is gone.

How could this happen today? WHY? No amount of brain screaming is going to make this different nor will I be able to lie to her, for if I do, my friend will think there is something else afoot. Yet, I know with certainty that this is going to be one of the bad times and that I can’t go further.

I went to face her and told her the barest of facts. I stood there feeling a thousand pounds overweight, a thousand years old, a thousand times at fault for what was happening to my body.  

I mumbled and tried to keep the weight from my leg, each minute needed to be off my feet. Each second knowing that I needed to get some pain reliever in me. That I needed to get warm.

Saying this truth out loud, however the bare minimum was so damn hard. This took so much more courage than you may realize. Here I was on an adventure. And I felt like I was opting out as I so often did when this happened to me. Inside me I pointed the finger at my inadequacy and that voice derided me. My body felt so burdensome and ugly.

I hobbled to my car after my insufficient apologies, barely able to get into the car seat.  I mentally slapped myself once, twice tears welling. I wiped them roughly away, there was no time for a pity fest. With a heavy sigh, I started the car and drove back to my amazing room.

Moving took all that I had and as with all the other times, I smudged my way through time and distance, my resolve the only thing keeping me going. I was almost to the bed when I remembered the complimentary Kimono and the SPA TUB with JETS. One of the ways to get the pain to go away quicker is to take a really really hot bath. I know, weird. But, if it works, it works.

I turned on the water and thanked God that I had brought my vanity into the bathroom. I had packed lotions, face treatments, oils because I had wanted to bask in the luxury as if I was at a spa resort. I pulled out the bare minimum and grabbed the dark wash cloth labeled Make-Up.  All the while my lips pulled, my jaw locked, my teeth gritting I lifted my leg into the steaming water.

Jets on, I whispered my prayers of thanks with each sigh. I stretched my leg out in the water letting the heat work into my core.

 I got out and took stock, I was at an 11 down from a 20. Defiantly I pulled on the  kimono, determined to keep the experience going.  The big windows overlooked the bed and I just lay there for a long while continuing to breath in and out, hoping to expel this bad fortune. My eye lids dropped, my body relaxed into the bed, and I slept.

I woke and the pain felt like an 8 and I was famished. I would order dinner delivered to my door. YES> I> WOULD. I wouldn’t worry about the cost.

Spinach, a lovely Sole in lemon, and a chocolate cake. MmmmHmmm I would conjure my way back into the magic of my adventure.

I went out on the balcony to await my dinner. The glory as the sun slowly set, the colors changing the shore line’s clarity to an artist’s charcoal thumb stroke. The trees and buildings, silhouettes against the ocean’s slate of blues and greys, its surface as smooth and taut as fresh linen.

The decent into the horizon felt like a movie premier. The sky put on a show that made me weep. The burnished hues of an oil painting mixed with lavenders from Monet’s own box. The clouds moving like a sonata into the vastness of sky, melding with the azure until all was one. I sat there in my kimono thanking God for every single breath. Each minute a miracle leading to the next. This was magic but not mine. This was a power beyond mine, beyond comprehension and I felt the magnitude fill me with the light of healing and renewal.

A discreet knock, and abracadabra, there sat my dinner. I pulled out the Burrata, the Fish Special, and the cake.

“It is very good tonight. “, he had said over the phone.

 “Yes, that. Please” was my quick reply.

Each mouthful felt like my first, a luscious experience of living. My tongue sparking as the capers melded with the lemon and the white fish cooked to perfection. Seasoned, exactly right. The spinach left to its glory was a perfect companion bite.

Oh, I scraped those boxes. The Burrata and the tapenade silky on the crusty, oiled bread.

A dreaminess came over me and satiation took a large bite out of the pain and the disappointment.

I pushed the cake aside, pretending I could wait. Nevertheless, I took it to the bedside table to wait while I lay reading. Yet, interspersed between paragraphs the siren song of the cake drifted its seduction song.  I rolled over, propped my leg, and took the first glossy spoonful.

LOOK. I am no stranger to chocolate. In fact, I am super picky. So, I rarely order it from restaurants. But the man from the restaurant who took my order responded with such certitude

“Should I have the lemon tart or the chocolate cake?”

Without pause, “No, I like my chocolate cake”. His confidence was persuasive.

 “Okay. Give it to me.” Without preamble, without question.

I have NEVER TASTED CAKE THAT GOOD. I mean this. Succulent mousse, some sort of subtle crunch, and a chocolate glaze. Most restaurants use such vile syrup that I always avoid so I wasn’t expecting much. Yet here I was swiping each bite and swirling it onto the cake, a tender swirl on my tongue.  UUUUMMMHMMM.

 Yes. That good.

I read after dinner, classical music blending with the sounds of the surf. My book, Snow by John Banville, a lovely surprise.

Banville unfurls his prose with a mundane beauty that belies its power unless you look closely. And you will feel compelled to look closer. It is a mystery set in the harsh winter of Ireland. Death, intrigue, secrets. A really good way to avoid thinking about pain.

I fell asleep reading. Is there any other way?

I awoke thinking I was late for work. I sat up and the present moment patted me on the shoulder, its okay. AND as with the way this thing I have works, the pain was gone. My body felt ravished but rested and I gingerly rose from them bed, each movement questioning. Is it really gone? Each step a blessing, the steadiness of my stance a gift.

I washed my face with warm water, my face a mask of the night’s travails, sweat gleaming from the exertion of finding peace.

I went out on the balcony after getting the coffee going. Excitement welling within me. Carmel Valley Roasters is one of my favorites when I visit and I had bought cream to prepare. I dragged my comforter out on the balcony, the dark alive with the sound of the waves rushing at the shore.

I heard the swiftness of seagull wings as their calls ebbed and flowed with the waves. They circled a tree as the dawn of a new day expanded, putting the stars to rest. Dawn unfurled her robe of lilac and denim blue. She stretched and opened her arms revealing the orange and yellow of the sun. I felt as if my mother’s hands were laid upon me. Her fingers combing through my hair, stroking my brow. She held me softly as the sun filled my eyes and my heart.

The sunrise cradled me for a long while and I lay in her embrace watching the seagulls go from shadow to clearly defined. Their feathers brisk against the pale blue sky. Wings outstretched, soaring over and under the newly birthed skyline. Alighting slowly, they would sit in the trees or the roof tops to watch and plan.

I let myself fill up with the wonder of this life. I will hold it close and try not to spill any as the demands of the day come about. I will drink in the pleasure slowly. A sip here, gulp there—when I can’t help myself.

I will try my best to seek the places that renew me and remind me that every time I rise, I breath, I walk, or I cry is a gift.

I am grateful for today.

I am grateful for my courage.

For the risk,

the folly,

and the Wonder.


I dreamt of jump roping last night. Fitting, I suppose, for my last dream of the year. My sisters swung the ropes (Double Dutch not to be confused with regular Jump Rope. This is an important distinction as all Double Dutchers know) the ropes slashing through the air. “C’mon” they yelled their impatience signaled by speeding up the ropes.

 I was on the cold slab of cement of my present-day garage with my speed rope.  Just beyond the Cybex were the birch trees of long ago, the one place I have ever called home. Catkins littered the exercise mat their small bodies squishing between my toes as I jumped. My rope whisked past my ears and my breath stayed steady like I was 10 again. The Birch Trees started to fade and my sister’s calls melded with the purring of my cat. Then it was all gone.  

I woke feeling happy. My thoughts raced through memories of two Square and playing Jax as I sucked on the end of a dandelion. A vivid picture of my skates- White, red wheels, pock marked from use, the laces hanging on by a thread.  Nothing fancy but they were the best skates in the world. They withstood the ridges on the left side of the driveway and the collisions with my sisters. They rolled over shitty sidewalks and rough roads and kept going.

I started to cry for my skates but really about my lost childhood. This happens a lot.  My subconscious is all about that loss. It is and has been at the heart of me since I was 5.  Then my conscious, so tired of the whininess of my sub, put the kibosh on a cry because happiness is so much better than the grief.

Take it from a GRIEF QUEEN. It is addictive—such a sad state of affairs. This addiction is subtle and you don’t realize that you are an addict because it is couched within valuable and justifiable events. Which is the worst kind of problem. It allows you to revel. A sneaky subterfuge over the years but comforting and therefore goes unnoticed. If you have seen Leaving Las Vegas there is a part where he is puking his guts out in the literal sense. The early morning light shows the pale scrub of his face, his stark profile a wretch of bone. Yet, he walks into his kitchen and pours another drink and drinks is down. This has been me with the tragedy of my childhood. I have emptied my stomach, my bowels, my veins and this pain has poured out. Yet. Year after year, I have revisited it. Drank it whole, unvarnished—craving the pain.

I almost typed People Like Me…as if I have an edge over other people on grief. That’s the sway, the hitch, the draw that keeps me at the well. This belief that my grief is so much bigger and better and deeper than yours.

I can tote out at any moment my childhood, my twenties, my thirties. My GOD, my first relationship. AND don’t get me started about my marriage with its infinite pool of ragged, weeping wounds of deception and disappointment. I have been drunk on that for 20 years.

No. If I have learned anything this year, I learned that my grief was over.

Because the grief that I saw on the faces of those ravaged by the loss of their loved ones, well…It was hard to dwell within mine anymore. Not to say that the things that happened to me aren’t valid and that there will be moments when the pain will come. But, like this morning, I choose happiness.

The people who saw their loved ones shot and killed senselessly. The mother’s who worked hours and hours and hours taking care of someone else’s child unable to see their own. Scared to see their own. Every. Single. Essential. Worker.

I have saved my tears for them.

This year had me whirling in every direction. Jumping at the slightest sound and headline. One of my resolutions for poor 2021, which really has a lot of expectations on its already beleaguered shoulders: NEVER EVER CLICK ON ANOTHER BREAKING NEWS link. EVER.

Do I need to remind you about the Never Say Die piece of shit that continues to squat in the White House? He broke in, showered and shit—in that order and you know how that goes. He has continued to eat other people’s food, steal their money, use their Health Care, rifle through their intimates, and take over their remote controls. He doesn’t pay for the house or the utilities and certainly doesn’t mow the lawn—but calls it his now. Yeah. You get where I am going, so I’ll move on because there are far too many word counts dedicated to that piece of shit.

Okay, I am back. See what I mean about the jumping. A whirling dervish.

This year, as I sheltered in place, I scrolled and saw people show casing their projects. People were productive. The cleaned, they minimized, they baked bread, and they read books. I was so jealous of all those drawers getting cleaned out.

I could barely muster getting out of bed on my weekends. There were days that I didn’t step outside the house but I clicked on each and every nature foray like a glutton. The RV’s alongside rivers and steaming coffee under the canopy of the Redwoods. My guilt and covetousness strangled me.

There I was in yesterday’s panties draining Netflix, Hulu, Prime, and even Apple. (Ted Lasso, though…LOVED THIS SO MUCH!)

I did read books because, well that’s my auto pilot. BUT it took me many months to be able to read without checking for news every other minute. Shanyn got her groove back in October when hope seemed within the grasp of the American People (-74million, can’t forget those assholes) I read books in devouring batches interspersed by working 10-hour days and worrying about everything.

Terror filled me every day.

Last January I had known about the pandemic for months but at that time it was some mysterious pneumonia or flu that was spoken of in twitter whispers by accounts that couldn’t be verified. I was gun shy after all the Russian Bots that helped hack mofo into the White House. But, if you are like me, I follow and read things that don’t agree with my personal viewpoint simply because I AM NOT ALWAYS right and I like to be proven wrong.


Because, it is healthy to challenge your viewpoints, your belief systems, your conclusions. If they don’t hold up under scrutiny, I find the loophole and fix it.

I wake up everyday trying to better than yesterday or at least I used to. 2020 had me waking up every day just hoping to get through the day without someone I know dying.

I live in a county that is predominantly conservative and this Bay Area Girl has never felt at home here. EVER.

I went from open windows all the time to AC and hiding from the sun. Leading up to the 2016 election life became unbearable so by the time the reign of terror really started I was already on my way to becoming batshit crazy.

So, 2020…well there was a silver lining. It was that I was the normal one.

In March my family was already wearing masks and I will admit. GLOVES. Everywhere. I was ridiculed at my health club for going in and freezing my account for 6 months. People laughed at me at the store and made fun of me at work. Subtly, of course.

Here’s the thing. Due to my history, I am used to being different. To not fitting in. So, it never stopped me from cleaning my groceries while the neighbors scoffed. But it had been a very long time since I was terrified.

Terrified was for those late nights many years ago when I had no where to go at 2am. When I slept in parks and cars and hoped to find a shower somewhere. A terror so deep that one day I sat in a park on one beautiful summer day and planned out a bank robbery. Gun. Costumes. Seriously. I did that.


  1. I didn’t like the odds.
  2. I didn’t trust my partner
  3. My grandma used to take me to this bank when I was little and I felt bad.

I will tell that story another time. MAYBE.

When I look back over the year all I see are the walls of my home office. All I can smell is bleach and alcohol.

I feel like I can’t breathe when I look back over 2020.

I hear people talking about 2021 as if there is some miracle that is going to happen at midnight and suddenly everyone will be able to pay their bills, go back to work, and hug each other again.

I shudder. In normal years it always takes me until at least March to understand the lessons of the previous year. That’s usually when I assign a word to my year and try to live with it. Last years was Balance and Magic. (I am still trying to unpack the ramifications of these words in my life,)

I do know I found gratitude. In great big gulps that made me feel like I was drowning in my own guilt.

As I worked 10 hours days others were losing their jobs. As I caught up on my bills and shopped prodigiously on Amazon, others prayed to pay their utility bills and hoped God would hear their prayers about the rent that was coming due.

Not only did I have a job, my job is a nonprofit that helps people. Yeah. I know. I am a fucking spoiled bitch.

Mixed in with these blessings was that my marriage ended in shards of glass, more ugly words than I thought was possible (especially after 20 years of them), and then of course me taking him back.

Let’s take inventory:

Good job. Amazing boss. Dedicated colleagues.

Kids who did awesome at virtual learning

Bills paid.

Worst marriage ever

I will talk about my babies. My oldest got COVID-19. BAD.  But she is okay now except for the aftereffects. I worry for her future health but I am so glad that she is here and that I get to hug her, which I do as often as I can.

My other two ended their school year and started their new one online. They were left alone most of the week while I went to work. This resulted in them getting the first B’s of their lives. AND you will be disappointed to know that I was disappointed in this. My kids are GATE and Honors kids. I had and still do in many ways, get my feeling of accomplishment from their astounding intelligence. They make me look good at report card time. GOOD MOM is what Gold Honor Rolls says.

I am not ashamed to say this because there will always be a part of me that is super proud of my kids smarts. Their drive to do well. It fights off this 8th grade drop- out’s inner demons.

They struggled and are still struggling with this format which means those that have a harder time with school must be flailing. I am so scared for those kids and think of them every day. All those children, their parents feeling powerless and scared too.

There were a lot of changes in my kids lives and my anxiety has me losing sleep trying to figure out a way to be in two places at once so I can right the ship.

Going into 2021 I have ZERO RESOLUTIONS.

What I do have is good equipment for the journey…



A greater appreciation for frozen foods from Trader Joe’s

A Realistic view of myself

The satisfaction that I was right about wearing fucking masks before it became a mandate.

A satiation of staying home and not doing anything that has resulted in a fervor for a life lived.

I refuse to put parameters around my growth and my journey for 2021. I refuse to expect or ask of 2021 anything miraculous. Because, we don’t need miraculous so much as we need hard work, science, and integrity. Instead of placing impossible demands on 2021, we should be placing demands on ourselves.

As I tell my children.

Ask yourself the hard questions and answer honestly.


As I consider the upcoming year and how that reflects on America…it looks more and more like the Garage Clean up that looms every couple of years at my house.

Some of you know what I am talking about. The one that starts in the garage but ends up involving scouring the house for crap that is then piled for all to see in front of your house, on the curb waiting for pick up. (There are of course those hours , maybe days, in which you despise every person in your household and most of all yourself for the mess you’ve made.)

At the end though, there I stand with hair frizzed out of my pony tail, dirt smeared on my face, and my back aching like I am 80. There is pizza or juicy hamburgers and delicious drinks of iced elderberry tea. There is that book you’ve been looking for and that lamp you didn’t know you had. There are hugs and high-fives. There is camaraderie and a sense of unity.

The culmination is a restructuring, a remaking, a re-do of your space.

This is what I expect from 2021.