Out of My Control

Posted on January 25, 2015

Last summer we visited a farm in Yakima. There were goats and cows, geese, chickens, horses, ponies, bunnies and quail. The girls poked about completely undeterred by the smell or the heat. Finley picked up a quail egg that had dropped. She looked up at me, the egg cupped in her hands, “Fix it, mama. Help the little baby.”



Parenting is so much like that, parents further along the path know how many times they won’t be able to fix it, people on a farm know that life begins and ends every day.

“Oh, sweetie, I can’t,” I said.

The older brother of the boy she was standing with said, “Wanna eat it?” I flinched, Finley’s eyes grew wide, then she shrugged and said, “Not really, but thanks.”

I hadn’t expected her to accept that the shell was unfixable or the baby beyond saving. This is how it goes, again and again the girls show me that they have grace and strength far beyond what I’ve tried to teach them.



Tonight as an egg was tossed aside blithely, cruelly even, I winced. My hackles went up and I braced as the surge of adrenaline to try and fix it coursed though me. I longed to still be on the side of parenting that believes everything can be righted. There was no fixing and I knew it.

I wanted to hiss and spit and rail against the circumstances, but I didn’t. People won’t always operate in ways that are fair or even make sense; thoughts of they ought to or you’d think that…get us nowhere. You wish for more character, you can imagine how you would do it differently, but there it is—it went down like this and it’s shitty.

Sean and I talked about it later and I shook my head softly. We were starkly split in how the night settled, but firmly together in our support of our girls. It isn’t a good feeling and I don’t quite know how to resolve it. The girls are fine, plowing ahead like seasoned farmers.

Funny how very many Taylor Swift songs come to mind as being the perfect advice. Guess I better take my cues from the girls for a bit and shake it off.





Prayer for King

Posted on January 19, 2015

I worshipped my grandfather. At first it was the way he looked at me with unabashed delight, later it was for the way his skin creased like a blanket, and whiskers grew, but never hurt my face when he kissed me. Later still it was the careful consideration he gave any topic I asked about—homosexuality, abortion, racism. He listened to me in ways that other adults didn’t. He sent me sermons and passages from scripture, offering religion-based support for my positions or, if not that, then examples of how the Bible did not support the opposing view.

Several times a year I search his name, sometimes with a key word, other times not. I take solace in knowing that so much of his teaching and writing is still relevant today. I miss him less and more each time. Discovering this prayer for Martin Luther King was no different. Today I offer it as so many are remembering great man even as we wonder how we haven’t come farther since he worked so tirelessly and fearlessly.


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More than 2000 people walked in the March of Sorrow in memory of King.


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Dr. King had preached at Stanford, his last time having been on April 14th, 1967, when he said that black power and riots may be the results of the much-discussed “white backlash” instead of its cause. Riots, he said, are the “language of the unheard.”

Prayer For King

(The following is the prayer offered by B. Davie Napier, dean of the chapel, at the noon memorial service and at the end of the march up University.)

Eternal God, Lord of life and death, to whom black and white are alike, to whom man is man. … we confess that the words of conventional piety escape us now, that we cannot honestly say, except in irony, Thou hast given, take thou away; blessed be thy name. We protest with they servants of old, Jeremiah and Job and Habakkuk, that thou hast engaged us in an unequal contest, and thou, Giver and Taker, hast prevailed. But we protest in thy presence, and in thy hearing, and with such faith as in thy grace thou givest us.

If we are outraged, or cynical or bitter in our loss, or frightened, or in despair, we are nevertheless grateful to thee, the author of life, that Martin Luther King was; that as long as we who admired him, loved him, believed in him, rejoiced in him— as long as we live, he is; and that indeed, in his own faith and that of many of us here, he may yet be, in thee, in thy life, in thy love.

We who are white acknowledge in shame our white apathy, brutality, arrogance, or indifference that makes us all participants in his death. At the same time, we acknowledge thy great goodness in this finished life, magnificently and courageously lived and now without bitterness surrendered. We thank thee for thy servant Martin. We thank thee for thy gift of his life, for all the short time in our years that he gave to all of us his own gifts of counsel and strength and unparalleled compassion. We commend to thy compassion his family and all those bound closely and intimately to him in love. For Martin Luther King, now taken from us all, we give thee thanks.

Daily photo by Roke Whitson A PRAYER — B. Davie Napier prayed the prayer above over a bull-horn at the end of the two-mile march up University Avenue which ended on the lawn in front of the Quad. •Joel Smith, dean of students, (left) was one of several University administrators who met the marchers.


*Large passages of this post are republished from The Stanford Daily, Volume 153, Issue 36, April 8th, 1968.

Choose Your Own Adventure

Posted on January 18, 2015

I remember when my imaginations about life as an adult pulsed with the promise of choices. I never believed that there would be doubt. I didn’t know about joy’s undertow of regret and guilt. I also didn’t realize that the difficulty of some decisions would bring unexpected rewards.

My younger self doesn’t need to know things and this isn’t something that I need t condition the girls to know. The awakenings and compromises that come with being an adult aren’t to be feared or warned of, they are an exquisite privilege of living.

I wrote about conflict and peace this morning. You can read it over here.


Marriage, Hurt Egos, & Good Intentions

Posted on January 14, 2015

Last year Sean and I collaborated on several posts about marriage—it’s been a while and it felt like it was time. Here is how I introduced this 2-part, I write/he writes approach before: I usually keep marriage along the periphery of the stories I tell. The silos of parenting and life are not as concise as they can seem in storytelling, they aren’t silos at all; they’re brush strokes sharing space on one canvas. Marriage, two sides, a post in two parts—first, what you’ve come to expect here, my words and emotional take on something that happened; second, words from Sean, his perspective on the same thingIt’s personal and revealing. 


Sometimes marriage feels like…



he fresh snow squeaked beneath me as I walked to the back of the car in the robotic heel-toe, heel-toe way of ski boots. I was a self-avowed ski hater for decades, retracting that is still strange. The sky overhead was a brilliant blue and the sun shone bright despite a bite in the air. I smiled behind my goggles and took a deep breath.


The effort to get everyone geared up, not to mention fueled up, tangles me in sweaty, frustrated knots. Rationally I know that we will get through it and that after the grunting and sweating, and pinching of fingers in buckles, we’ll sit on that lift, take a deep breath of fresh mountain air and everything will be all right. Sometimes it just takes so damn long to get there.


Sean was retrieving the skis and poles from the case he made for my car after one particularly brutal episode of “If I can just get this one—“ CRASH. I was keeping one eye on the girls; no matter how many times I say, “Stay close to the car. People aren’t paying attention or expecting kids and it’s hard to stop on ice,” they drift away from the car in utter oblivion to the world around them. I was trying to get my foot in a boot, looking very much like a cross between Lucille Ball and Bambi on ice.


“Here, let me get you,” Sean said bending down to hold the boot. I shook my head and muttered, “Fourth daughter.” He looked up at me with a twinkle, “I’ve got you.”


Once my boots were on I helped the girls tighten their gloves, arrange their goggles, and buckle their boots. Sean helped too, but no sooner had we gotten one girl set then another said, “Can you redo this? I had to scratch my ear.” We’d begin again.


I waited until everyone was set before I snapped the chin-strap on my helmet. Pinpricks of sweat stung in my armpits and my neck hurt. “Hold it together,” I said to myself, “Almost there.”


Sean had begun to walk toward the mountain with the girls as I went to close the hatch door of my car. I reached up and then tried to pull down the gate. I cannot explain how it happened, but I brought the corner of the door down on the edge of my helmet. My goggles flipped off, my teeth crashed together, and my head knocked into my shoulder. I shrieked.


Sean turned in my direction. “What happened?” I was so angry and frustrated I wanted to bag the whole thing.


“I slammed the door into my head.” He paused for a second and then said, “Good thing you had your helmet on.”


I tilted my head. I may have actually imagined him as a bullfighter waving an annoying, red, silk scarf at me. He waited in that unmistakable married with kids stand off—you really going to do this now?


“It really hurt. Jesus,” I spat as I stared back. The girls fidgeted. Sean just looked at me.


“It’s ok, I’ll shake it.” He started walking away with the girls in tow.


I was seething, the layers of resentment that hover on a daily basis, waiting for a weak moment, leapt at me. Laundry, lunches, cat litter, pet food, coffee, bills, rehearsal schedules and permission slips.


I knew, even as the flurry of I-do-it-alls danced around me, that the tally of unrecognized details that I manage is matched by a litany of things that he does without thanks from me, or recognition from any of us. There is no barb that could ever make me feel better for having thrown it.


Trudging behind them I actively worked to stifle my foul mood. I wrinkled my nose as I realized all the things I was so ready to spit at him were things that I insist on doing. As I caught up to them I tried to separate my skis, they stuck stubbornly. I shook them and my finger got pinched so hard my eyes watered. I heard the click of each girl’s boots locking into skis. I felt Sean looking at me. “You ok?” his face read.


“Yup,” I said as I thought, “No, I’m not.”


There are moments when a marriage ending or continuing seems based on the sum of the times we’ve sucked it up, said fuck off, or realized that sometimes we both need to hold our tongue while the other one figures their shit out.


Friday night we sat at a table with a divorced friend who said, “Jesus, you’re married like 11 years and you hold hands at the table. Unbelievable.” Twelve hours later we’re having a spat on the side of a mountain.


I think marriage is a mixed bag of fine, white sand and jagged, cut glass. Nights like Friday are reminding me that from the outside we all look like it’s all smooth sailing. Days like Saturday are helping me get a handle on when I’m intentionally stomping on the shards of glass, reveling in anger. I don’t think the saying should be love conquers all, maybe try conquering it all for love.






I thought for certain I’d heard her wrong.


We were all but finished with the pre-ski gauntlet of gloves, helmets, zippers and latches. I’d even started toward the mountain with the kids, and after outfitting the three of them—which amounts to about nine minutes of request, rinse and repeat— I was ready to start moving.


“You what?” I asked, wondering if it was the insulated ski helmet or early hearing loss that made it sound like my wife had said that she’d shut her head in the car door.


“I just shut my head in the car door.” She said. Again.


My first thought was: “I’m not going deaf and that’s good.” Second thought: “How does that happen?” Immediately followed by a third thought: “Do. Not. Laugh.” Amanda was rattled, clearly. And after having just met everyone’s mitten-based demands I doubt a concussion was what she’d hoped for.


I didn’t laugh.


I tried to make her laugh—still uncertain about whether she was really hurt or had just surprised herself. “Good thing you had your helmet on!” I pointed out—knowing that if that comment resulted in a nod, or a laugh, it would mean she was fine. If it got no response, or an angry look, the plan for a morning on the slopes might change very quickly.


As it was, her response was somewhere in-between. Which wasn’t much help at all.


I wonder if other married couples develop their own sort of communication shorthand: throwing out a statement that begs for a qualified response. Test the waters. Proceed with caution.


I stood there, 20 feet away from her, slowly understanding in that tortoise-like, husband way, that it was serious. She was hurt or—possibly worse—angry.


I had all three kids with me, in a busy parking lot, and both arms were full of poles, skis and layers of Gore-Tex. A modern-day Saturday Evening Post cover. I should have dropped it all on the gravel and run over to her, but I didn’t. Amanda was embarrassed and already out of her element at a ski resort. She’s a gifted athlete and in perfect shape, and a respectable skier, yet she claims to be in over her head on the mountain. I didn’t want to make a bad situation worse by, well, being myself.


Husbands and fathers want to take care of their own. Keep their family safe and sound. Fix whatever’s broken. The longer I’m a dad the more I realize that I can’t fix everything, and, after 11 years of marriage, I know that space can sometimes be as beneficial as attention, when the situation is right. Er, wrong. Whatever.


She sighed and said “Go ahead, I’ll catch up.”


I turned toward the sound of cranking chairlifts and faced the girls, who had miraculously remained fully suited for battle. Their goggles and gaiters were in place. With ski poles at their sides they seemed like tiny knights ready for a crusade. I explained that Mom needed a minute, and that we’d get our gear on and meet her by the lodge.


Really, what mother doesn’t need a minute? Honestly, they put everyone else’s needs first, pack lunches, find the match to that darn sock, correct homework, remember the extra bag of coffee in the freezer, tie shoes, empty litterboxes, chew nails and spit tacks.


After all that, I’d want to slam my head in the door, too.


We’re trying to carve out time. To provide one another with a respite from family chaos, and work stress, but we need to keep trying, apparently. Physically closing the door on yourself is a pretty literal indication that things are moving just a little too quickly.


She caught up with us in time to see the older girls schralp off toward their first run. I clicked Fin into her bindings and stood to face her. There were tears in her eyes, but her jaw was set in a way that said, “We’re here now and we’re going to have fun, Goddammit.”


That’s as good a marriage mantra as any, I suppose. Have fun, Goddammit.


Just watch your head.



An Update: Stitch Fix—Imperfectly Wonderful

Posted on January 4, 2015

A while back I wrote a post about Stitch Fix. If it’s not your thing, I get it. I don’t listen to Serial or do Cross Fit, go ahead and skip this one if you need to. I just wanted to share why I still value Stitch Fix as a shopping resource and appreciate that I can use it on my terms.

I put my Fixes on hold back in November for a couple for reasons. The first reason being that I was sensitive to non-essential purchases as we moved into the holidays. I wanted the leeway to buy gifts for friends and family, putting this particular me-thing to the side felt good.  The second reason I did it was that I got a fix that disappointed me.

When I sent that last fix back I explained that I needed to be heard when I responded that I did not want to receive lacy or boxy things. Part of the problem may have been how I use Pinterest. When I joined Pinterest I named my boards whatever I wanted, not what might help them be found and followed. I have a board called Self, which I made to help me remember things when I get in a rut:


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I also have boards for Mileage (about getting out of your own way), DIY (but the kind that multi-thumbed, sloppy people like me can maybe do), and even one that the girls pin to called Daughters’ Picks. Back to my point, Stitch Fix uses your Pinterest boards to inform how they shop for you. I have pinned things on my Wear board because I thought they were lovely, but not for me, more like, “Damn, I am glad that she can wear that.”  For example:

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A week ago I got an email saying my Fix was on the way. I tried to remember what I had changed in my profile to try to re-synch what they were picking with what would actually work. The box felt different when it came, heavier. I felt the same: giddy to have a box addressed to me with surprises inside that I could keep or send back.


I carried my first fix of 2015 up to my room. It had a pair of pants, which at first glance seemed to be similar in style to the two pairs I kept from an earlier fix. There was a black top, with velvet trim that I loved at first touch, a grey top that looked boxy, a large skirt, and a bag.




I went immediately to the black top, pulling it over my head, and purring as it clung to my body in the coziest, most appealing way. Here it is in all the glory of our very high-traffic bathroom. I have a long torso and this shirt, even with its curves sides, covered the whole thing. It reminds me of a Free People thermal that I wore into the ground.



It also has extra long sleeves which have these delightfully, unexpected buttons. It also has a quirky little pocket, which adds no bulk. A seam runs diagonally across the body, which makes it fit like a second skin without the sausage effect.



This is the kind of shirt that I live in, but can rarely find when out shopping. I wasted no time in putting this guy in the keep pile. Here it is in my V-neck sweater stack, waiting to surprise me one morning with the rare, “Oh, my gosh, I get to wear this today!” closet euphoria. I’ve paid my share of $34 tickets on long sleeves shirts that I spend the entire day tugging down to cover my abdomen, or pulling at the sleeves so that the shoulders seams stretch across my shoulders. The shirt was $68, which when you account for the $20 styling fee that I would (happily) pay whether I kept it or not, it is sort of $48. Done.



Let’s talk about the skirt though. The note said that they saw something similar on my Pinterest board. I went back to look, and there is indeed a skirt in a pin about needing to “conquer the skirt and bootie look.” The skirt they sent was shorter. It’s the length that makes me look like how Rip Torn might look in a skirt. It hits about three inches below my knee. I looked absurd. However, if I were a skirt kind of person, I would appreciate the fabric. It was thick enough to not show any lines, but still buttery and fluid enough to have a lovely drape. It also had pockets! Alas, I am not meant to be the forever home for this one. Back it goes.


Next up, the pants. I am on the fence. These pants are very much like some that I already have. The problem that I have with these skinny, jeggingesque pants is that if the waist goes over a certain height I feel like my pelvis-into-mid section looks to be approximately the size of Wyoming. Here they are from the front. See how they kind of boxify me?



Ok, this one is hard to show. Here they are from the back. It’s not good. I’d have to wear something long and untucked and never, ever wear a belt. I like belts.



If I really wanted to try to make a go of it, these pants can give good ass, but I know myself. Even if they look ok, I will not feel good in them. I have tried to override this feeling before. One of those gifts about being 41 is knowing the things I cannot change about myself and accepting them. I know, I expected the wisdom of my 40s to be more noble. Nope. Hitting my forties didn’t make me a better or different person, I am simply more willing to admit that I know myself better. Back ‘em right into that return pile.



There is still the issue of the grey shirt. It had long sleeves and the feel of the fabric was nice—like the love child of a sweatshirt and a great t-shirt. The back had that split thing I can’t explain. Look at this.


I think that back flap is a neat concept, but rarely have I seen it work. It either seems sort of like a flowy, cropped kaftan or plain slutty. Neither are looks that I am going for, but I decided to try it. I had the grey pants on when I first tried it. The thing is, the shirt feels great. The quality of the fabric and the craftsmanship are both excellent.


I can’t wear it with these pants; it feels at once to be too much and not enough fabric. I tried it with a skirt that I haven’t been able to match with anything. I don’t blame this on the shirt. I think maybe my skirt is just a bust.



I am conflicted about the bag. I never buy bags. This bag is not a style that screams me, but it is kind of fun. Briar loved it, “Please keep it, Mom. It’s reversible. It could be so useful.”

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I tried it with my typical weekend or Friday outfit—jeans and a plaid flannel. It worked. This may be one of the times I need to lean on the part of Stitch Fix that is so fascinating to me. I never would have picked this bag, or even shopped for a bag, yet I often complain that I don’t have any bags that work with professional outfits. I think I’ll send the grey shirt back and keep the bag. This puts my total cost $116, with the $20 I was already charged for the styling fee deducted for a total of $96.


I maintain that after my holiday shopping experience and my increasingly complex schedule, having options sent to me is a luxury that scratches a necessary itch. I don’t have a great mall close by and what I can buy locally, I do. Like the plaid, flannel, Horny Toad top I bought at a friend’s shop. It has a buttons in the back that I can loop so that I can wear my weekend uniform and still show my waist. It looks great with the navy pants from an earlier fix, or at home in a pair of Alternative leggings from a local boutique.



I don’t go in for pedicures or blow-outs and I sometimes envy those who do. I think having a treat that you can swing financially and that makes you feel good is a very worthwhile investment. As I think about ways to take care of myself, Stitch Fix still falls squarely in the worth it category. I’ve loved hearing how friends and family have loved theirs too. You can adjust your price tolerance at any time to have less or more expensive items sent. Switch from requesting professional clothes to date clothes, to errand running stuff. You can rant to your stylist about what you received, or you can gush about how you are in love with a piece.

Here’s my link if you are ready to give it a try. Stitch Fix isn’t sponsoring this post or doing anything special for me beyond what I pay for in my subscription. I just believe in balancing my complaining with praise. If you end up using my link I will get a $25 credit, which is cool, but not necessary. Ultimately I just hope everyone finds a little treat for them, however that may manifest.



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