Say My Name


Me at 5 with my name.

I took my name back today.

When I got divorced I checked the box that granted me “permission” to reclaim my name, but made the decision to keep my married name while my kids were still in school.

Truly, I never wanted to change my name and in a way, I never really did. I added my married name and legally went by two last names, no hyphen. Let me tell ya, does that ever confuse people. And did it ever bug my ex-husband, who complained I was making things “complicated.” Not only did the Y in my first name throw people off, now I had to explain that it was “two words, no hyphen, and you might find me filed under B, or under D.”

What is unreasonably complicated: GETTING YOUR NAME BACK. Social Security wants proof that you are allowed to go back to the name you were born with. DMV, same. No matter that it’s on my birth certificate. No matter that this is MY NAME. These dumb federal entities need boxes checked and fees paid. Whatever. One more federal (passport) to go, then it’s just the little stuff –but I am officially the name I was born with as of today.

Though of course, I never wasn’t.

Since my brother didn’t have children, my surname ends with me. And I really hate that somewhere along the line we decided to organize society around men’s last names, effectively erasing entire family names–and erasing women. My son carries my last name as his middle name, and my daughter has asked to add it to hers, and that’s special, for sure. But that won’t carry the name on.

I guess names would get pretty long if we just kept adding names on, though, so I understand instead we might all be ten names long.

Still. I like that I got not just my name back today, but also my dad’s. As I write this, I am at his bedside. He is dying. And if anyone is deserving of me carrying his name—our name—it is him. A tribute not just to him but to the family he and my mom created.

I love you Dad. And I’ll always be your girl. 💙


Forgive me…


Maya Angelou famously said, “I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.”

This quote is something that has resonated for me since my twenties when, as a teacher just starting out, I had a particularly rough year. Not only did I have the most difficult kids in class, but the parents they came with were a huge pain in the ass.

I tried in vain to make everyone happy and I still ended up with a parent who, no matter what I did, was decidedly not. At a conference to discuss a poor grade her son had received on a written assignment, the woman yelled at me for a solid minute. I looked at my principal for help but he just sat there, unable to placate her or defend me. Shaken and wanting to do what I could, I offered the student an opportunity to redo part of the assignment for a better grade.

When the work he subsequently turned in also didn’t meet the rubric for a higher grade, the parent requested another conference. I agreed, and I made it clear that I wouldn’t be making another offer to redo that assignment; it was time to move on. Mama literally climbed across the table and yelled in my face. I closed the folder, looked at the principal and said simply, “I’m done.” Then I got up and walked out of the room.

I don’t know where I got the courage to do that. I was twenty-six and in my second year of teaching. I was a good teacher, and I had landed a great job in a district that consisted of equal parts wealthy white kids and not as well-off migrant kids. You can probably guess who the demanding parents were.

In between that first scary conference and the second, the Angelou quote had crossed my desk and I thought about how much time I spent catching. All my life, really, I had shown up at every conflict I was invited to. Not because I craved conflict or drama – but because of the opposite. I wanted everyone happy and joyful and content and took some kind of responsibility for their contentment. Therefore, I felt I had to be an audience to someone else’s drama or crazy or perceived slights. I bent myself into a pretzel trying to see my part and fix it.

That’s not always a bad thing – we need to be able to see our part, if we have any, in creating conditions that lead to conflict and to take responsibility. But that is what is at the heart of Angelou’s words. Keep one hand ready to catch and one hand open, ready to throw back the crap that isn’t your doing. Feeling like you are the center of everyone else’s universe is just as problematic as blaming everyone else for YOUR issues.

It would take me many more years to really, solidly grow into this concept. The glory of my 40’s has been the ability to really and truly know I’ve done the work. To own my own Bullshit and call myself out on it, or hear it when someone I respect calls me out. And – to know when someone just needs to fuck off.

I have let people who meant something to me go without any closure, accepting that the relationship had run its course – even when that acceptance hurt. I have deleted toxic people from my life and felt lighter for it. I have refused to engage with those who have wanted to drag me into their drama, their negativity, their screwed up narratives…and the freedom in that is glorious.

Having true friends who have your back and will reflect the truth back to you is important. I have several such friends and count myself lucky – I know they support me and trust they will respectfully call me out when necessary. You need a friend like Andrea, who gives great advice. Her best golden nugget:  sometimes, all you need to say is “Off they fuck.”

Someone tries to blame you for the problems she created in her life?

“Off she fucks!”

Someone isn’t mature enough to look you in the eye and say why they stopped talking to you?

“Off he fucks!”

Your girlfriend cheated on you with your best friend?

“Off they fuck!”

As you can see, there are many variations, and all are useful. But don’t get carried away. The key here is to have enough self-awareness to know the difference between when you have actually been a twat and need to take responsibility, versus knowing when you have zero responsibility for someone else’s issue. They can skip right on out the door with their bullshit.

Certainly, it should be said that we need to lead with compassion and empathy. We have a dire lack in today’s society of those vital qualities. And I know we have to dig deep at times to tap into those emotions, especially when we are at odds with others. But that does not mean allowing toxic, negative, irrational people to affect you. By refusing to engage them, you deny them any power or influence in your life.

Truly, if 2020 taught us anything, it’s that life is too short and far too valuable to waste time expending energy on petty people. I spent too much time being hard on myself in my “post-expectation” era of my life, after everything I thought I was entitled to was blown up. And thank goodness it did. I’ve grown, I’ve cultivated a happy life, I have become myself – fully. I know my short-comings. I accept that I’m a work in progress. But what I don’t need any longer is anyone else’s version of the story. In short, I don’t need anyone else’s understanding of my life. And I certainly don’t need anyone’s forgiveness or permission to be happy.

So. Forgive me. But Off. They. Fuck.


All in This Together…?


This morning, some students at my son’s high school left a bag of cookies and a note on our porch. They were driving around looking for the #classof2020 #allinthistogether signs our community created for seniors, and for every one they spotted, they left a little care package.

I was so touched by this act of kindness that I started crying – and I couldn’t stop. I got to the point of almost needing to sit on the floor and just wail with the big heaving sobs normally reserved for, you know, grief.

Now, truth is, I’m normally somewhat easily moved to tears, but this was an extreme reaction, even for me. Getting a little misty eyed would have been a more reasonable reaction, but I was overcome with emotion.

I don’t think it takes a genius to figure out what’s up. Nothing is exactly normal at the moment for any of us. This is an unprecedented time, and we are all rightfully scared and feeling a bit untethered. Most of us have gotten pretty comfy with the idea that we are in control most of the time (not true even a little, really, but it’s what we tell ourselves). But along came the Corona and if that wasn’t bad enough, we now also have murderous wasps and I better not hear anyone ask 2020 what’s next because I *think* she’s shown us she isn’t playing.

I recall during 9/11 the way our country came together. I had probably never cried more, but I was also never prouder to be American than in the days after the towers fell. Our collective heartbreak and grief brought us together in a way I don’t think I’d ever experienced.  People showed up, you guys. They really did. It’s like everything that divided us melted away. The stories of strangers helping strangers – that’s the America I believe in. I’ve seen something similar happen when wildfires have ravaged my home state of California – people show up, community comes together and we take care of one another.

I thought something like that might happen now – that maybe being stripped of our differences by this indiscriminate killer would mean we’d come together. But instead, it seems we are so divided that even a VIRUS has become political. I don’t know what to do with this – do you? I think most of us truly lie somewhere in the middle on the political spectrum when it comes right down to it and yet there are men with guns charging at capitol buildings, an employee at a store was shot for telling someone they had to wear a mask, and suddenly wearing one or not identifies you as right or left?

I understand that fear is a powerful motivator. And we fear a whole host of things – for our lives, the lives of our loved ones, for our livelihood. The fact is that right now our physical and economic health are BOTH AT STAKE. We closed the economy to save lives, and closing the economy costs lives. We can’t “just open” because many people will die and if we don’t open people will die, both from the virus and from causes related to the economy tanking. There are no easy answers.

But everyone wants to feel like they have some control and everyone  – EVERYONE – wants to blame someone. It’s the governor’s fault, it’s Trump’s fault, it’s China’s fault, it’s your fault. You make me wear a mask, you’re a “libtard”. You want to open the economy, you’re a…is there even an equivalent for “libtard”?

We all have our opinions, I get that. Some people want to adhere to science and listen to experts. Some want to just go on as usual and let the chips fall where they may. While it’s likely this virus will infect all of us anyway and at some point even needs to for the sake of immunity, there are reasons backed by science to slow the spread down (and closing the economy in order to do so has been done historically in times of pandemic – that’s not a new idea). Unfortunately, the  opinions we each hold tend to fall within a range of other beliefs and values that people determine place you squarely on one side or the other.

Have we lost the ability to see grey area? Have we lost the ability to have a conversation that starts with “I see your point, you want to save lives. So do I, but I also need to pay my mortgage. What do we do?” Does it really need to come down to guns and libtard and right versus left? Can I not want to save lives AND feed my family? Can I not want to open the economy in a safe way and still grasp that for many, that will mean illness or death and have compassion?

So I am chagrined. Just add to CORONA and MURDER WASP my fear of an all out CIVIL WAR. Because I kind of believe that’s where we are headed. I wouldn’t think my choice to keep myself, my family and YOUR family safe by wearing a mask and gloves at Costco would warrant an eye roll and an exaggerated head shake from the man in front of me – but it did. Or that being asked to wear one would lead to people being so outraged they’re going to boycott Costco. I wouldn’t have expected to hear that a friend got physically assaulted for wearing a mask, or that an employee was murdered for asking someone to wear one – I mean, really America? REALLY? I thought we were so much better than that.

The fact is, this corona thing is likely coming for all of us. And many of us will be okay, but many, many of us will NOT be. And we don’t get to choose who gets it mildly and who dies a horrible, lonesome death. When I wear that mask and gloves, I am doing it as much for my daughter and my parents as for yours – and I don’t care if you believe the same things as me or not. The other fact is that even if we open the economy tomorrow – seriously people, it’s not going to be magically fixed. It’s going to be a painful road back no matter when we open again. And we know for a fact that opening too soon will mean more people die. The virus isn’t going to disappear like a miracle and this won’t be over soon enough – no matter how much we ALL wish it to be.  

In other words, there is no magic bullet. Everyone is doing the best they can with the information they have in real time – and I’m tired of the political back and forth. I have my opinion about our current administration and how they handled things at the outset and since. But, at this point it’s neither here nor there. This just isn’t about if you’re red or blue – it’s about human lives, and yes it’s also about the economy and no one can quantify for anyone else which is the more pressing concern in each person’s life. For some, staying closed means they or someone they love has a better chance of staying healthy. For some, getting back to work means life and livelihood. For some, it’s an even more impossible choice, I’m sure.

A patriot is defined as a person who “vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors”. But I fear that we are now a people who cling so hard to what being red or blue means that we are unable to differentiate and just be good citizens. The virus is the enemy. Not each other. Not a person who wears a mask or who doesn’t. I fear that if the virus doesn’t kill us, we will kill each other. Can you really not put on a mask because it goes against your “rights”, even though it means that the person who works at the grocery store is less likely to get sick or take the virus home to a compromised family member?  If you are more concerned about your right to not wear a mask, of all things, than the health and well-being of others, you’re not the patriot you claim to be. Full stop.

I know my little essay is unlikely to change any of this, and it’s not particularly hopeful. Which is probably why cookies on my doorstep from a couple of lovely high school seniors made me weep – because I need to believe that in our hearts we are still united, and that somehow the spirit of what it means to be part of this great nation will rise up. That we will, each of us, decide to be more than red or blue – that we will come together and be what we need to get through this.



To Honor a Decade


My reflections on the year behind me usually work their way out in the form of a journal entry, but this year I was inspired to do a little more because – in case you missed it – it’s not just the end of a year, People.

I myself kept forgetting that this year was not just the end of a year, but a decade.

While I was falling asleep last night I started to walk through the memories, really thinking about all the beginnings and endings of the last ten years. And well, it seems worth noting what stood out for me the most each year.

2010: I ran my second half marathon and discovered I loved it, even if I also discovered Plantar Fasciitis and an IT Band issue that never goes away, ever, and proves that even if my body doesn’t love running, my mind and soul seem to need it. I sold the home where my kids had grown up in one last effort to save a marriage that had been dying a slow death for years. A highlight was traveling to the coast of Italy (part of the same effort). We had a wonderful time, but upon coming home realized we were still we.

2011: Moved to SLO County. Kids began a new school year at a new school. And their dad moved out.  That was a tough one. I’d had surgery on the Plantar Fasciitis that day, and in my release documents, noted the part that said not to make any big life decisions in the 24 hours after because of the anesthesia. Guess what? I did. Finally, finally, the cancer had grown too large. We were over once and for all.  I felt sad for my kids but relieved for so many other reasons. I got a tattoo of a crescent moon with 13 stars to remind myself that I belonged to myself.

2012: My first year as a single mom. It’s a blur, really, but I know it was tough. Although, not really the single mom part, but the sticking to the divorce part. I knew it was the right thing to do, but my ex challenged that at every turn. There were sad, sad days. There were hard days. And, there were also bright spots. Like moving to a new house. Like running my third half marathon. Like connecting with other divorced people who told me it really would all be okay. And, the feeling of liberation I had. This was the year my life began to blossom.

2013: I thought this would be my lucky year: I like the number 13. I’d been married 13 years, a half marathon is 13.1 miles, and I ran my fourth half which was also my best. I thought it was my lucky year when I met someone and fell in love.

2014: This was actually my lucky year, even though I didn’t see that at the time. It was a brutal one. I experienced a painful break-up, was told I had to move out of the house I was renting (and LOVED) because the owners were selling, and I got sued. It’s very hard when you’re in the shit to see how that shit is necessary to your growth, but all of that shit was a blessing. The break-up? A blessing. The house? That let me clear out and start over symbolically and put me on the path to owning my own house. The lawsuit? Well, that sucked. Ain’t gonna lie. But, my divorce was finally final, and that was a good thing.

2015: And here’s where it started to get good. I ran another half. I attended my first ever Central Coast Writers Conference. Life changing. I started to practice the craft of writing. I figured out that I wanted to write for the sake of creating, because I love it, because it’s how I express myself and I need that creativity in my life. And, I started writing my book. I also took a trip to England and Scotland. Not bad.

2016: EPIC YEAR – I bought my own house! The culmination of all the strategizing, hoping, watching the market, and creative planning – plus some luck and a very, very good friend who helped in the final stretch. I sent my kids on a scavenger hunt leading to the keys at the house. We remodeled, doing almost all the work ourselves (aside from electrical because obviously) and had our Property Bros moment. I ran an Ultra Half Marathon (IT band didn’t care for that), and attended my second CCWC.

2017: I continued to develop my handiness, doing a lot of projects on my house under my dad’s tutelage. Found out I can do some stuff! And I love the time with my dad, who I think is a tiny bit proud of me. 🙂 Ran another half and decided to hang up my half-distance laces. Attended my third CCWC, but this time on the Advisory Committee. And I can’t begin to list the friendships that have grown out of this wonderful little conference. (Andrea, Jordan, Natalie, Peter, Teri – I’m looking at you!)

2018: Did I say I hung up my half-distance laces? Sure, except I did TWO this year. But in the form of a relay (eight out of thirteen miles) and an Ultra that I didn’t train for. I don’t suggest doing it that way – except it was a lot of fun. The first of an annual writing retreat with my dearest writing team.  My Tribe grew with CCWC, where I once again served on the advisory committee. And February brought a sweet beginning.

2019: A tough start to the year. But then I finished my novel! Yeah! A sweet personal victory was followed by a tragedy and an unbelievably painful loss of a precious friend. Something I thought was ending was actually beginning. Traveled to New York, pitched my book, grew my tribe. CCWC took on new meaning. I took my kids to Europe with my mom. I spent a night in the desert and grew something special with someone I love who loves me back.

And for 2020, I will continue working on things that matter, I will make mistakes and learn and grow. Through it all, I have tried to focus on what I am grateful for and what I want to nourish in the here and now. That isn’t always easy – when you’re in the weeds, it can feel impossible to see the good that’s just around the corner. Looking back, I am struck by how I needed some things to fall apart so I could be here now. When I say my life blossomed, it’s not an overstatement. I love what this life has grown into and what it continues to promise.

In the words of Neil Gaiman, “May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness.” 

Art cred unknown.




Wide Net, Small Circle


I kind of have the blues today. I’d been ruminating on a blog post I wanted to write about friendship, an essay that was taking shape in my mind based on a situation that arose with one of my best friends. Why blue? Because my heart feels worried about someone I love. Specifically, that I may have done something to dishonor the friendship.

While it’s definitely true that my manner of living is to basically throw my heart into the world, I am selective about those I hold dear in my inner circle. I am fiercely protective of my children, my partner, and my closest family and friends.

My idyllic childhood meant I learned to trust easily. I grew up counting on my attachments and as I grew into adulthood, I had expectations around those attachments. As a kid, I had no idea what it was like for many (most?) people. Sure, I had friends with far less cozy home environments, but I assumed theirs were exceptions.

The single biggest WTF of my adult life was learning that those expectations I’d developed had heartache built right into them. The first friendship I had fall apart in college was truly shocking to me, but I am certain I took very little responsibility for it even as I suffered over its loss. And of course, the disillusionment I experienced around my less than happy marriage was rooted in these expectations.

“Disenchanted” is probably a better word for the kind of growth that came from those experiences. After all, freedom from enchantment is a gift.

When you have expectations from your attachments, there is a tendency to operate from a place of entitlement. There is little motivation to nurture relationships because you assume they can be taken for granted.

In losing a marriage, I learned that I want a partner, and I need to like him, which sounds like, well, duh. But I just assumed my marriage was bullet proof for so many years that I didn’t notice the disengagement until it was too late. From that loss I learned that love is a verb, and I can choose the (in my case) man I love every day. And that conscientious choice makes a difference.

In losing a friendship, I learned that I only have so much time and bandwidth to give, and I want to give that time and heart to friendships where the nurturing is a two-way street. But also, where there is a respect and understanding that we all have busy lives, and if I choose to spend my time with you, it’s because I genuinely value your presence in my life. I don’t have any expectation beyond holding space in my heart, and knowing the friends in my inner circle do the same. I make time for each friend and nurture those relationships because they matter to me. I have dear friends I see only once a year; a few I see even less. But their place in my heart is secure.

In walking away from a family member whom I’d assumed would always be part of my life, I learned that you do not need to be an audience to toxic people. You do not owe it to anyone to allow them to take more than you can give. It is not your responsibility to absorb their negativity, even if the person is family. You can choose to walk away, or establish a boundary with that person and stick to it.

In experiencing the end of friendships or relationships, I have learned that I will naturally be affected when an attachment I value is severed, because that is who I am. But I also recognize that there is no relationship that is bullet proof. This means I will do my best to honor relationships in my life that I want to keep. I will try to live with my whole heart and to be a good mom, partner, daughter, sister, friend. This doesn’t mean I’ll be perfect, but the awareness of the impermanence of relationships gives me a reason to value the close friendships I have all the more, in a way I simply couldn’t when I was taking them for granted.

Since recognizing some of my idealistic ways of thinking and letting go of entitlements around relationships, I believe my life has blossomed in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I have dear friends that go back thirty years, and one very important person I’ve only known a little over a year. The length of time is less important than the knowledge and acceptance of “choice”. This is oddly comforting, if not empowering. I still fear loss, yet choosing each other is also pretty sweet. Yes, I still worry, feel things too deeply, and struggle with anxiety over things I can’t control.

I still have far too big a heart than is probably good for me. But a decent chunk of this heart holds pragmatism and a fairly well-tuned bullshit-meter. Yes, an occasional bad apple has gotten through, but overall, I believe I have excellent taste in the people in my circle.

I am deeply grateful for the people in that circle. Thank you.


Featured art cred, Shawna Erback “Under the Tree of New Beginnings”