Coping during COVID-19 wave one

During normal times, I consume a lot of research. I enjoy dissecting not just the result, but how the analysts got to their answers. What biases can I find? What assumptions could we remove, to create a different, perhaps better study? Playful puzzling of questions and answers made science fun when I was science-ing. It makes work fun in my current kind of working.

But I learned about myself, that when times aren’t normal, I consume research voraciously. In unhealthy ways. I read all day, and most of the night. I take notes obsessively and maintain a bibliography.

Like, in case a friend asks me what I think, I can cite my sources kind of bibliography? Yes. That. And also so I can go back if new information emerges, compare the two, and either merge them or discard one.

Looks (and smells, frankly) a bit like informational OCD.

Readers from the back in the days when blogging was a thing and when I rather enjoyed making it one of my things, may recall that I’ve observed this behavior veering from curious learner to compulsive data-gulper through my life, and that have one way of coping: write a paper synthesizing the research, calling out the flaws and gaps, proposing new research or fresh insights.

Some people eat their feelings. I cram them into densely-researched think pieces. In effect, I try to nerd my way out of fear and sadness. Nerding feels better than feeling big feelings.

Unsurprisingly, the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 has burrowed into my brain, and planted a need to understand, to source, to cite, to compare, to interrogate, and to adjudicate data. I researched myself into a ball the past few weeks, until I remembered to solve paralysis by letting myself process the possible scenarios, unknowns, inflection points that would change the landscape.

And I delivered (to a group at work) a document that lays out what we know, what we don’t, what it means, and what to plan for.

So now I’m sitting, exhausted, with a headache, not doing anything. The boys are with their dad, so the house is still. My list of projects is too long, too boring, too adult, and will likely go untouched. Multitudes of unwatched shows and movies aren’t compelling. Birds outside are loudly and defiantly proclaiming that THIS virus, at least, isn’t their fault, and that they fully intend to continue nesting in the house’s eves. Good for them.  Steve the hamster sounds as though he’s secretly snacking, but refuses to emerge even when I sing him a new, heretofore unreleased song about being a hamster who comes out to play in the day. The cats are catting. Who knows where they are, unless they REALLY NEED LOVE RIGHT NOW FOR 30 SECONDS and then go away to wherever it is that they ignore me 99.98% of the time. The neighbors, and their dogs and cats and kids and partners, are all inside. My friends are on my phone. My family is on my phone. I’ve muted my phone.

This phase of our life, suspended and upside down, has made me uneasy in waves of hope and of loneliness. Whether it’s temporary or part of a new normal – it’s unnerving. None of the joys or sadness feels normal, and it’s all vaguely nauseating.

The community has come together in sweet ways, offering each other help, and trading in rare goods (I dropped decaf whole beans on the porch of a neighbor last week; someone else brought us raisins when we realized out oatmeal:raisin ratio was, honestly,  unacceptable this early in a pandemic). Yet the intentional social ties people are weaving to ameliorating the physical distancing has come together in ways that are annoying, including trying to schedule online school and online birthday parties and online drinking. Blerg. If life isn’t normal, I don’t want to make a fake normal. I don’t want to conference call meals. I don’t want to pretend anything is going to be okay.

I want to get through this, ideally in about eight hours of sleep, and then just be goddamned done.

The people around me are getting grumpy, too. Neighborhood walks that, in weeks one and two of the lockdown were replete with smiles and 6 feet of distance have become much less friendly. No smiles. 12 feet of distance. Walking heads down and faster. Most people seem bothered, scared, and tired, and are potentially having as hard a time as I am with some part of the emotional toll of distancing.

I did feel better about potential outcomes for most of humanity once I’d contextualized everything, and gotten it out of my head and onto paper. But that doesn’t mean the prospects are good. Hospitalizations and deaths, economic shut down, waves of infections and ICU admissions, industries collapsing, people out of work and hungry, ill people unable to get treatment, marginalized populations in prisons, homeless encampments, retirement homes, and immigration centers essentially abandoned much too quickly for a society that claims to be civilized. Why did I feel better about humanity’s outcomes? Because the unknown is more scary, even that what’s going on. Spreadsheeting my way out of panic is ludicrous. But it helped.

A little.

What we’re going through now (and let me state the obvious that entering week four at home is quite different from states that are at different stages) is not a few weeks’ or months’ worth of massive life changes. This is generation-defining, things-will-never-be-the-same, two years of pervasive lows and fewer highs.

And I’m not sure how to cope next. Because unlike the other times I’ve spun myself in circles of data consumption and methodological-moral-superiority, we’re still in it. This crisis, this trauma, isn’t over. This isn’t a fire that rips through our community and leaves us to rebuild in its wake. This isn’t a car crash or friend’s death that marks a moment of trauma that changes a small circle of people, creating a touchstone and memory that colors with months and years. This isn’t the loss of someone that spurs a stronger community than before. Those are all moments in time, and reactions afterwards.

This is still going.

And going.

I don’t know that more research is going to help. And I don’t know if writing addenda every two weeks will do anything at all. And going for a walk just doesn’t seem as though it’ll solve anything.

I don’t know what to do or where to go from here. I don’t think many of us do. None of the answers are wrong, I know. We’re just doing our best. So caulk around the tub or go back to bed…doesn’t matter in the long term. Handle some of the paperwork, file stuff, move the living room furniture around…doesn’t do much to stave off panic or stoke hope. So I’m not going to try.

Being productive has historically been one of my things. I pull myself out of bed with ‘should,’ and checklists. And we can set aside for later whether that was ridiculous, denial of mortality, distract-oneself-from-existential-dread-level coping, more adulting than human-ing. Later. Bigger fish to fry, and whatnot.

More to the point: if productive isn’t a thing that I either want or need, for now, and calculating odds and modeling potential options is kind of done, for now, what to do?

That’s why I came here.

I write. To think, to connect, to process, to be. I write to think and connect and process.

I did. And I do. And I think I will.

We Will Go On

My dear little boys.

When you went to bed Tuesday night, begging to see how the election would turn out, I told you we’d find out in the morning.

Well, I need to talk to you, babies.

Here’s the thing: you know how we talked about how a lot of Americans are full of hope and love, but that some are scared? They don’t know what’s true and don’t get good information? Americans without jobs who don’t know how to get them back? Americans whose schools don’t teach them science or how to think about stories that might not be true? Americans who get their news from the Internet, where we know anyone can say anything and it might not be true?

Those scared Americans had more voters than the people who believe what we do. More people voted for him than for her.

I know it’s scary, baby. I know what you’ve heard. You’ve been asking for months if the awful things you’re hearing at school are true. They’re not true. He won’t do all those things that are against the law. He can’t.

And I need to tell you something.

We’re still a family. You’re still safe. We still know all people are equal, that women can be anything men can be, that religion isn’t what makes someone good or bad. We still know we have to be allies, stand up for people who aren’t being treated fairly. We still know, boys. We do. Our family.

We still know that you can’t grab another person or hug them or kiss them unless they say yes. We still know that you can’t tell someone to stay out of the country for what they believe or for their color. We still know that what that man says and does is wrong.

But half of America decided that they’re too scared to care if he’s wrong. Some think he’s right.

So here’s what we’re going to do: we’re going to keep being our best selves. We’re going to treat people well, and work hard at school, and I’m going to work hard at work. I’m not going to lose my job because that man was elected. We’re going to have the same house, the same landlord, the same city laws, the same county laws, the same state laws. We’re going to have the same family, the same soccer teams, the same teachers. Your school won’t change. Your lives won’t change.

I know, boys. I’m scared, too.

What we’ll do? Is focus on gratitude. On what’s good. On how we can help others. Remember that man I told you was my favorite from when I was little saying, “look for the helpers”? There will be a lot of helpers because a LOT of people believe like we do.

And if things go okay with this man as President, then I was wrong. It’s okay to be wrong. I’ll say I was wrong. I won’t say sorry, because I didn’t do anything wrong, but I’ll admit I was wrong. If things go okay. And I hope they will.

If things don’t go okay, we’ll vote again next summer and next fall. And the summer and fall after that. And after that. And you’ll keep helping me vote until you’re old enough to vote.

And when you can vote, you’ll vote for experience not ignorance, for thoughtful not hateful, for women and men of all colors and religions and shapes and sizes.

Maybe we’ll vote the same way, and maybe we won’t. Because the fact of being able to vote is that some people disagree with you.

Right now, it feels like everyone disagrees with what we think is right and good.

But they don’t. Half of this country agrees with me. With us. More than half the world agrees with us. We’re not alone. We’re together, as a family, and we’re a family with the world.

We’re going to be okay. I don’t know what that will look like. But I know that it will be okay.

‘Tis the Season for Adulting

To spare you from hearing this in November and again in December, I’m going to say it now: I need a break from people.

Work has been creeping into every single corner of my week, and when it’s just projects, it’s fine. But when it’s people and feelings and complaining and petulance, it sucks my very will to live. (Yes, some grownups are annoying to work with. Now you know. If you happen to be reading this as an adult and don’t know some adults act like children, now you do. You’re welcome. Life’s great, people suck.)

Single parenting sucks. It just straight up sucks. I’ve spent two years telling myself that this is better, that the lack of conflict is worth the challenges, for me and for the kids. That extra time with my boys is the reward for grown-upping, in the way I now choose to grow up. But this month, especially, it’s just weighing on me. Nobody to talk to when I come home. Nobody to help in the morning or at bedtime. Passing kids back and forth between houses, between parents; panicking while at work (50 miles away) that I might have forgotten a change in the custody schedule, realizing that my solo weekend has two soccer games and a school carnival that I don’t want to miss, parachuting me into yet another work week without reserves, without coping skills, without having recharged.

Interminable. Treadmill on high.

I have lost the will to even. It’s not that I can’t even. I don’t want to even.


Ugh. Work. I am over this particular obligation of adulting.  I took the job because it’s exciting and intellectually stimulating and fun. Now I’ve been beating my brains out giving this company 55+ hours of my time every week, for what feels like no good reason. If I’m not there, someone else will do this shit. If I’m not there, other people will do their jobs, or not, and I won’t care. I’m burning myself out for people who don’t notice, and, quite frankly, wouldn’t notice the difference if someone less engaged, less passionate, less competent took the job.

So what am I doing? If it feels like you’re wasting your time and your energy, chances are you’re adulting. Yeah, I know. It’s called adulting because it’s what adults have to do. But I thought adulting is feeding children and taking out the trash. Adulting, I thought, is paying taxes and reading all the initiatives on the ballot and sending money to Haiti to help with hurricane relief. Is adulting really killing yourself to prove you’re good at something when it doesn’t freaking matter?

So as I grapple with all this, Halloween decorations are slow in coming and Christmas crap is already in the one store I went into this month. Dread. Fear. Bah Humbugishness. The holidays are usually, for me, too many activities with unrealistically high expectations. Now feel as though they’ll be a welcome break. We will see young family members in a play. We will eat, drink, and fight with each other because of all the stress. We will spend time outside, among friends. I will second guess everything I say, and will loathe myself for losing my temper at least once.

But there won’t be a powerpoint presentations about it.



So finally, my gratitude comes from the things that matter. If only I can adult long enough to get the reward of all our efforts. I’m holding out hope that, if I don’t have a major breakdown in the next couple of weeks, we might have a really lovely November and December around here.

How about you? Dreading the holidays? Excited about November and December? Both?

Echo Chamber

I’m trying to figure out, on this fine Fall morning, whether wildly uncomfortable loneliness is part of the human condition, or just part of the Venn diagram I occupy right now: management, active-stage divorce, and sandwich-generation friendships.

And can I fix it?

That’s all, really.  Analyzing loneliness. Because feeling it is less fun than picking it apart with tools, trying to understand, then FUCKING FIXING IT. Why live with uncomfortable feelings when I can crowbar them into a powerpoint presentation and make sure all the bulleted lists are mutually exclusive and completely exhaustive?


Knee-deep in the Truckee River, 20 minutes into a work call. Work-life balance, we call this.

I’ve been bouncing around (since 6am because I was too anxious to sleep) between reading the paper (which is making me anxious), work (which is making me very anxious), work-conflict machinations (which are upsetting me to the point of stomach-churning distraction), divorce details (which are making me anxious, upset, and anxiously upset) and false-start phone calls in which I realize I can’t talk to anybody about most of this stuff.

I have exactly 10 hours today without the kids in which to figure out three major work conflicts, eliminate household clutter, finish four work projects due Monday morning, wrangle all my divorce documents and decisions. And if possible, plan and begin meals for the week. And maybe attend to a Netflix disc I’ve had by the TV since March. No joke. Small potatoes, but seriously? That’s a $70 disc by now. So the time pressure to figure all this shit out, while self imposed, feels real. There’s no way to get any of these issues to 100%, but I will not settle for less.

I need to go running. Half those problems will become “just deal with it next week” if I go running.


But here’s the point of why I’m blogging not running: lonely makes me want to write. And not leave the house. And eat and pout and walk in caged-tiger circles.

Self-awareness is allegedly the beginning of a solution. I find it just makes everything feel worse.

My divorce is just as lonely as my marriage was, and is just as much work. I feel just as crappy, powerless, and lonely, but now there’s nobody to talk to. Work is just as lonely as consulting was, and there’s way more to do. And for that I have one or two mentors to talk to, but I can’t overburden them or call on Sunday morning about the things that really matter. Besides, they aren’t in the same company, so a lot of it is lost in translation. And so on a few work issues from this week, there’s nobody to talk to. Parenting is in some ways more lonely than being child-free, because despite having lots of noise and hugs and laughs and togetherness, the time is generally directed at taking care of other people, energy spent getting them what they need, addressing their concerns, stopping their fights. I find satisfaction in that, but not partnership or camaraderie or support. Inspiration, joy, and perspective, sure. But still nobody to talk to.

There’s no right audience for the loud cymbals clanging in my head. So I’m writing. And when I finish I’ll likely read what other people write about either work conflict, divorce, parenting…or loneliness.


So instead of figuring out smart places to turn for mentorship and authentic dialogue, I’m turning to words. It’s a habit and a touchstone to which I turn, but which inevitable leaves me more lonely than I started. Articles have helped some with the work problems, some with the divorce issues, some with the family issues.Writing will likely feel a bit better, too.

But is it actually human to wallow in words, when there are things to do?

Really, what I probably should to do, is just put my head down and try things. And live in the lonely, and get shit done, and do my best, and rest well with that. Being human is being lonely. That’s a fact.

But I don’t like that fact on this fine Sunday morning.

So I need a plan.

I need a plan with people to bounce ideas off. Human connection. I need a plan with a lot of talking.


Doesn’t surprise me that most of my photos have no people. I’d prefer a world with no people. I bring this up in my post about being lonely. I’m confusing.

I could call friends whose perspective I enjoy, whose wisdom in these areas might make me feel less alone in my problems, but that feels like I’m foisting my problems upon them. They’re busy. They’re working on other things. The two with the most relevant work experience have left the corporate world to write. I can talk to them about being lonely, since they’re both divorced and had more than their share of crap in corporate jobs. The three other friends with most insight into human interactions, who can help me understand why other people insist on having human reactions to life instead of just being knowable and reliable…actually, I have no good excuse for not calling them. I want to hear what they’re dealing with lately. Always feels better to know our problems aren’t the only problems in the world.

That is, of course, why I started blogging. Because I didn’t have friends in similar situations, and I wanted to know my problems weren’t different from anyone else’s. But blogging this year feels like whining into the wind, because I already know my frustrations aren’t unique. It feels ridiculous to use this space to complain I have nobody to talk to, so readers old and new can shrug and say, “Yep. Welcome to being human.”

Ugh. Being human is the worst.

I’m going running now. To come up with a plan for addressing problems. And then I’m calling my friends. Because it’s Sunday, and I can talk to them while I declutter and cook.

May all your days be merry and bright, yo.



Golly gee, I miss theater

I went to see a friend’s one-man show at the SF Fringe last week, and it was so lovely. All of it. The play, the performance, the music, the audience, the lighting problems, the crappy neighborhood, 99-seat black box, the dingy old seats, the props, the compromises, the costumes, the sweat, the tears, the waiting, the request for donations.


Every minute of it.

Because theater is so much of who I used to be, because I’ve loved this particular show since it was an idea five years ago (then as a rough-draft, then at a reading, then at a staged reading, and now as a fully produced show). Well acted, well directed, well attended. The place was sold out for every show, he was named Best of Fringe, and the audiences and critics loved my darling friend, his writing, his acting.

The evening was lovely because it belonged to my Michael. Wholly.

But also because I fucking love theaters.

The thrill I get when walking into a black box theater exceeds my excitement at walking outside on a gorgeous Saturday morning, headed with my boys to the local bakery. It’s true. Tell their therapists, I don’t care. I love dingy, dusty, moth-eaten theaters. And opulent, gilded, soaring-ceilinged theaters.

Every theater has something thrilling, weird, something gross, something secret, something special that makes it different than all the other theaters you’ve been to. It’s true of tiny basement spaces and huge, professional opera houses. Backstage feels like a pact. Front of house feels like a privilege. Onstage feels like magic.


Every space in which I haven’t yet performed is a thrilling portend of the moment the lights will come up and audiences will collectively gasp; and every stage on which I have is mine, mine, mine, mine, mine. I remember every laugh, every awkward pause, every piece of dust floating in the footlights.

I can count on one hand the number of theaters I’ve been in since Peanut was born. And in all of those theaters I was there to watch, not to perform.

I haven’t auditioned in over 15 years. My headshot is shockingly young.


I haven’t performed in 2 years, and that’s only if I’m counting conferences at which I presented. I should count karaoke, too, but I don’t. Because I do actually know the difference. The last time I was in costume and makeup cleaving to a script was in 2000.

That hurts to write. I looked for the old review, and it’s in a paper that features an article on Napster. Yes, really.

The last time I did stand-up was 1997. Twenty years ago. Open mic at BlogHer’s Listen to Your Mother session doesn’t count. I did make a couple of people cry, though, so that was worth the mic time.

I could excuse this gap in my theatrical life by explaining that theater is for night owls, and I’ve had to be up early since I had kids. But that’s 11 years. What happened to the other 6? I could blame it on work. Or grad school. Or being a grownup trying to make a living.

But none of that is true. I always meant to go back. When I was moving toward things, it made sense to prioritize successes in different arenas. Now that I’m restless and floundering, auditioning takes way more courage than I have.

I miss the theater. I can’t audition right now, because I can’t accept any role I’m given, unless we rehearse only every other Sunday. And perform every other Sunday. Not likely, unless the show I’m doing is liturgical. [Don’t think I haven’t considered that. Maybe a little choir to get back into performing. A little open mic. A little…]

Actually, there are possibilities. There are several. I think it’s time to look into the local open mic scene and The Moth schedule.

I’ll let you know.

More important: congratulations, my dear friend Gaff. What a lovely show you wrote and what a stunning performance you gave!



Skipping through Fields of Daisies

I don’t often use this space to twitter about boundless joys. For just over eight years, I’ve blogged to find community, and, generally, my need for connection stems from frustrations, sadness, or observations borne of my disdain for what humanity, as a collective scourge, is doing unto itself.

But I’ll be damned if this isn’t the finest weekend I’ve had in years. Decades. This might be the finest weekend ever.

Set the stage? Sure. I’m in up to my eyes at a great job, slogging through a friendly divorce, and raising two amazing human beings who drive me freaking crazy and make my heart ache all at the same time.

There. All caught up.

Now…this weekend. I planned this a few months back, as summer stretched before me in a long string of work, childcare machinations, family trips, and school-free lack of ritual. I decided that a couple of family trips were not serving my Q3 goal of restoring some of what wall-to-wall kids and work having been doing to my brain and soul.

Yes, I actually have a formal, quarterly goal to chill the eff out. I’m too motivated by formal goals to do anything not on the list, so I put myself on the list.

It’s like I’m growing as a person. Kind of.

I asked my BFF if she wanted to spend Labor Day weekend holed up in local spot by the ocean and hiking trails. Our relationship is anchored in 25 years of enjoying each others’ company but also in being fully willing to wander off by ourselves. We don’t ask each other permission, we don’t mince words, we don’t need to be together a lot, and we don’t get too easily annoyed by each other. We get SUPER annoyed by other people, though. We’re gonna be the best single old ladies, ever.

Like these ladies.


So we spent late Friday to late Monday in a tiny corner of the world right under the Golden Gate Bridge. I picked her up after a meeting at the mediator’s office, where I wept through a discussion of how important revokable trusts are in a divorce, because from here on, the state will assume that my almost-not-husband and I want each other to burn in a fiery hell of destitution and legal disempowerment even regarding our own children. My weekend companion and I took several calls for work, powering through an afternoon of work in half the time, setting up our teams for wild successes next week. Friday ended about 3pm, and my dear friend and I drove across the incomparable Golden Gate Bridge to check into the hotel.

We supped, we read, we ran, we slept. That was the whole weekend. On our own terms, in our own time, at our own pace, for days and days, on repeat. Eat, read, run, eat, read, sleep. In perfect weather. With gorgeous views. In silence, most of the time, but also talking about things small and tall.

There was only one problem: I’m not used to luxuriating in wall-to-wall “there is no wrong choice.” I’m used to cramming little bits of sanity and health into giant gobs of should and must and have to and hurry up.

So I woke panicked because I missed my kids and was sure something was wrong. (There is nothing wrong. They’re healthy and happy and three days without me is a vacation for them, too.)

And  I woke panicked because I’d forgotten two things at work. (Whatever. I’ll add them to the long list and get to them as priorities dictate. The work is never done. Ever.)

And I woke panicked because the trip is coming to a close and I still have book and work and handwritten letters to finish. (Yep. That’s as small as it sounds. Cost me three hours of sleep, though. Midnight panic, 3am panic, 5am panic. Super useful way to spend the last night in a quiet, solitary space.)

What a glorious gift, to have nothing to worry about except where and when to eat, run, sleep, and read. It doesn’t get much better.

Most people don’t get this. They can’t afford to take vacations. They can’t leave their children with someone else. They don’t have the time off work, especially with multiple jobs. I’m incredibly lucky that working my brains out and being in the middle of a divorce means I can take vacation.

And I’m immeasurably lucky that I have a friend who makes the whole process exponentially better.

May you all have something like this, and so much more.


Will you give me a nickel if I just post all the stuff in my draft folder? One draft a day? For 143 days? (Yes, seriously. I’m a hoarder, hypercritical of my writing, and used to be prolific. Put ’em all together and whaddya got? Well…143 drafts, that’s what. Pretty sure I just said that. Try to pay closer attention. For once, this is a short post.)

During my first National Blog Post Writing Month (which is actually easier to type out than to abbreviate NaBloPoWriMo because the latter fights every bit of my literal and linear mind) I threatened to dig out old drafts and polish them up for posting.

But that was when I blogged several times a week. Now that I’m down to twice a year, or so, I’m looking for anything to kickstart my writing again.


How about that nickel?

Okay. Enough.

So I’ve recalibrated, and held fish (to remove their unwanted hooks and slide them back into the water), stopped to listen, and focused on a new pace.

And I’m done.

I don’t do relax well. I don’t do chill well.

I tried. I found stuff. Here are photos.

Now can I go back to wifi and deadlines and alarm clocks?

I mean, I don’t need to go back to back-to-back meetings. Or traffic

But have I earned my chill badge? I mean, seriously, I photographed hummingbirds for an hour. Surely that’s some kind of Type A record?


I’ve followed the kids as they invent things to do. And I eavesdropped and read while keeping them in earshot.

But I’m powering through Franzen, with all the frustration that involves. (Seriously, ugh with that guy and his hatred for his characters.) And I’m only running two miles a day, back and forth between the driveway and the almost-fence-line, because out here everyone has property-possessive and stranger-averse dogs.

So I photograph a lot. I mentioned that?


Cool, right?

Now please give back my email.

Dear Henry, Dear Liza: the therapy years

Interior, evening, therapist’s office. Couple sits on couch, several large, fabric pillows rest between them. Across the room, by a bookcase and desk, is a woman sitting slightly forward in a large, leather wing-backed chair.

Therapist: So. Why have you come to see me?

Liza: Not sure where things started going wrong. But we know we need help.

Therapist: What do you think, Henry?

Henry: She’s right.

Liza: [sniffs} Well, that’s the first time you’ve said that in years.

Therapist: What do you feel you need help with?

Liza: Communication.

Therapist: Can you say a bit more about that?

Liza: He doesn’t seem to hear what I say. He doesn’t listen.

Henry: I listen just fine. I hear you.

Liza: Well, you don’t act as though you hear me.

Henry: I answer, don’t I?

Liza: If you call those answers.

Henry: I do. I call those answers. You ask questions and I reply. That means I answer.

Therapist: Can we try an exercise? Let’s try to rework a conversation you’ve had recently. Can you think of one that went particularly awry?

Liza: The bucket.

Henry: What happened with the bucket?

Liza: Dear God, man, do you remember nothing? The bucket. There was a hole.

Henry: Oh, right, right. And you were snippy.

Liza: I wasn’t snippy. You were daft.

Henry: I beg your pardon.

Therapist: Hold on. Let’s back up. Let’s have the conversation just as you remember it.

Liza: Fine.

Henry: Do we have to?

Therapist: It’ll help see how you’re communicating and how we can give you both some tools to handle conflict.

Henry: Fine. [turns to Liza} There’s a hole in  the bucket.

Liza. [shrugs and inhales deeply] Then fix it.

Henry: With what?

Liza: I don’t know…with straw, I guess.

Henry: The straw’s too long.

Liza: [sighs] Then cut it.

Henry: With what?

Liza: Jesus, Henry, I don’t care. With the axe, I guess.

Henry: The axe is too dull.

Liza: Then sharpen it, for fuck’s sake.

Henry: With what?

Liza: I’m going to venture a guess on this one, Henry: the whetstone.

Henry: Easy for you to say. The whetstone is dry.

Liza: Are you trying to piss me off? I have work to do, Henry. Wet the thing and leave me alone.

Henry: With what shall I wet it?

Liza: Heaven help me, Henry, you can’t be this stupid. When I married you, you were clever and wonderful, and…Fuck! Wet it with water.

Henry: How will I get water?

Liza: The same goddamn way we always get water, jackass. With the bucket.

Henry: Yes, that would be logical. But as I said before, there’s a hole in the damned bucket!


Therapist: IS that how it ended?

Liza: Yes.

Therapist: And how do you feel about how that conversation?

Liza: It enrages me just to hear the word ‘bucket.’ He does things like this just to make me mad. If he knew there was an irreparable hole in the bucket, why fucking ask me?

Henry: To see if you could help.

Liza: Oh, bullshit. You wanted to make me feel bad.

Henry: Nope.

Therapist: Henry, how does it feel to hear Liza accuse you of trying to make her feel bad?

Henry: Sounds about right.

Therapist: You mean you want her to feel bad?

Henry: No, I mean she says that a lot.

Liza: Because you do.

Therapist: Liza, how do you know Henry’s intentions?

Liza: Because they’re obvious.

Therapist: To you, or to him?

Liza: To me.

Therapist: Let me back you both up for a minute: let’s talk about the bucket.

Liza rolls her eyes and sighs.




Everything is relative, of course, but it seems as though there’s no oxygen at 8,000 feet.  And everything is relative, of course, but it seems as though a rural vacation is considerably less work than charging hard at moderate levels of adrenaline six days a week to prove my worth at work. 

This week, I’m paying off my nostalgia for summers in the high desert, sharing with my boys the quirks of tree-line living, of rural rules and assumptions, of the city mouse’s game “what was that noise?” and “what kind of snake is that?” In between explaining about well water and deer vs elk, I’m taking some deep breaths. 

Not just because there’s (relatively) no oxygen here, though. Because everything is different. At home, there’s a busy street 50 feet from our front door. Here, there’s a pond 50 feet from our front door, so stuffed with fish that they throw themselves into the (relatively) thin air to catch grasshoppers. At home, the subway is three blocks away. Here, three blocks is not a recognized form of measurement. There’s here and “about an hour from here.”

We drove four hours from the airport to get to a spot populated by tractors, heron, and large toads.


The first day we enjoyed several major projects. We wandered the yard catching grasshoppers and the boys fished with them, relying on their grandfather to both bait and release the hook from half a dozen bass and bluegill. We wandered the yard looking for antlers and found sun bleached bones from a creature who I’m willing to bet was a calf, and who, judging by the vertical leg bone we dug (with oak sticks) out of a deep hole probably  got caught in the mud, and who met her demise some time thereafter. 



The boys dug up all the bones they could find, and today we might try to reconstruct the skeleton (which seems to me lacking a lot of the fundamentals, unless cows these days are mostly leg.)
Today we will wander the creek. And the boys will whack down all the dried wild parsley they can find, bashing the weed that does whatever you ask when you’re wielding an oak stick. 

I think I’m going to name my band Oak Stick.

I don’t sleep well at elevation, because my sleeping brain is convinced that there’s (relatively) no oxygen. I wake several times a night hyperventilating. But I’ve been here before. From at least the time I could walk through preschool, and every summer since, I’ve been in the southwest, hot and dry days, chilly nights, trouble baking, and breathless. My dad taught me long ago to fight off nighttime oxygen panic by exhaling and only breathing when I actually need air. My brain is wrong. It tricks me.

Just like the panick at work. Self-imposed deadlines and a low-level standard urgency lead me to fly from meeting to meeting, call to call.

It’s not working for me.

Neither does fishing.

So I’m back to reading and writing. Exhaling completely and then forcing myself to wait until I really need a breath. Listening to what works rather than the stressful combination of “should” and “hurry” I’ve concocted. Recalibrating.

Summer, grant me peace

It’s 3:32am and I can’t sleep. I’m worried that the boys aren’t getting enough attention. I’m worried that I haven’t been kind enough. I’m worried I forgot two pages in a report I need to submit this week. I’m worried that we’ll all forget to bring back the library books. That we paid too little in taxes. That we paid too much in taxes. That I forgot to fill out healthcare forms. That the dentist is this week not next week. That the house is just messy enough to encourage my children to grow up into slobs. That I forgot to email a friend and that we’ll miss our summer window to get together. That I haven’t planned summer vacation for my kids yet.

By 4:07am I’m worried that I’m not getting enough sleep. Or exercise. Or vegetables.

And that I’ll sleep past my alarm.


It’s the last week of school. I am dropping off plates for the kindergarten potluck, hummus for the fourth-grade potluck, and petition for the dissolution of marriage at the county courthouse.

I haven’t read a book in four months. I haven’t fenced in five months. There’s just no time. I have crammed life so full of “should” that I can barely breathe. And I’m nauseated. Almost constantly. Wound so tight that I injured both sides and was barred from running for 6 weeks.

Not good for my mood, the lack of running and books and fencing.

I should really have a dance party with the boys before school today. Make a note. Remember that.

My life, through no one’s fault but my own, has become about list making. Planning, mandating, chastising, reporting events and discussions and thoughts. My thinking has become staccato, matter of fact. My writing feels terse. Shamed out of adjectives. I can almost hear the words I type begging for bullet points.

Please don’t waste words.



This is not just lack of writing time, single parenthood, lack of sleep, or overly intense focus on work, though it is, for the record, all of these. But in a bigger sense, I feel that I’ve become less of a person this year. Is it simply that there’s less to me than I thought there was?

It’s been two years since Spouse and I parted ways and tried to navigate the infuriating, heartbreaking, and complicated world of joint parenting. We haven’t bothered to figure out the logistics, again, through no one’s fault but my own. I didn’t want to add more tasks to my list.

But when I took the 10 hours it required to pause, make appointments, gather documents, make decisions, and participate in the first mediation session, I realized that I put the logistics off intentionally. No, I didn’t want to spend what will likely amount to 30+ hours of the Business of Divorce. But I also didn’t want to face the crushing disappointment of voluntarily ending my marriage. Twice during the mediation session I restrained myself from bolting out of the room. The whole two hours was physically nauseating. Not because we’re fighting, because we’re not. We’re agreeing on everything.

I just don’t want to be divorcing. I don’t want to be married, I don’t want to be in between. I just don’t want any of this. But I’m missing a lot while my life is in limbo, scrambling to be a full-time parent, full-time employee. I’m not making space in those double-time parameters to be even a part-time human.

I missed fava bean season this year, because I was too busy. I missed cherry season, too. I think. My two favorite markers for the shift from winter into spring, then spring into summer. Completely forgot to notice, to taste, to revel. Having the boys’ dad pick them up two days after school means I am not in the right place to stumble across the farmers’ market anymore. And instead of walking the kids to school every day, I’m driving at least three days a week. That means I only caught a few days of vine week in Berkeley, the time where the air is almost dripping with the artificial-grape scent of wisteria during the day and heavy with the scent of star jasmine in the evening. For two weeks, Berkeley smells like living near a nectar factory.


I missed most of that.

But school ends this week. And though I still have to work, it feels as though everything is opening, languorously, and extended without obstacles until September.

The paperwork is filed. Whatever step is next is just another step. Summer plans and work and divorce are all just steps. And I plan very much to put my head down and just step.

I’m cleared to run short distances, so this weekend the boys rode their bikes and I ran, to exactly the mid-point of what my doctor prescribed. We sat with a cold cup of tea and boba, discussing everything we could think of. And on the ride and run back, they found each others’ rhythms, for at least 20 minutes outgrowing the bickering and assumptions, falling behind each other or surging gently past, without cutting each other off, without discord. With grace and understanding.

I noticed their rhythm. I found mine. I celebrated not panicking anymore, not worrying that they’d hurt themselves or bump into someone else or ride off the sidewalk and into the street. I let myself notice the lack of worry, and to celebrate it.


I hope with everything in me that this is a beginning. For them, a beginning of a long, hilarious, exhausting, splashy, filthy summer. For me, a transition out of marital limbo and into a realm where I find spaces in which to be. Quietly, mindfully, not shoulding myself to death. For all of us, I hope this is a beginning, a new understanding of each other, with tools to make our family everything we need it to be.

All that from a date on a school calendar and a stack of papers with a courthouse stamp.





Ask and ye shall receive

Last night I was texting friends, for hours, talking about life and ads and politics and Alaska. About an hour in, I complained about my general chiastic feelings of gratitude and malaise. I told them what I really needed was a hug.


[I cut out the friends’ replies because nobody needs to think their texts are going to wind up on a blog. It’s hard enough to be friends with me that I feel I should spare them the public outing of their responses to all that typing. Suffice it to say they were supportive and not at all dismissive of my loneliness.Duh. They’re nice people and rather patient with me.]

Literally ten minutes later I got a text from a different friend, who wasn’t privy to my hug deprivation.



Please forgive the exclamation points. I was drinking and lonely.

And so I got my hug. I got four really good hugs, actually, but she didn’t know I was counting.

We watched Andie and Duckie and Blane, we ate caramel and drank red wine, we talked until 1:30am.

And it was absolutely heaven. I have no typographical tricks that wouldn’t cheapen both the absolutely or the heaven. But I have to reiterate: best movie ever, best food groups ever, best booty call movie ever in the history of everness.

I’m not proud of my whining about how rough my privileged life is. But I’m awfully glad I knew enough to say aloud what I really needed, and that I have good friends who are willing to listen, and to hug when necessary.

Best. Valentine’s. Day. Ever.

Hope yours was, too!

And but so then things happen

I’m engaged in another group reading of Infinite Jest. I said I’d blog about it.

But I haven’t.

I’m reading, mostly along with the group, and should be commenting on the boards and the threads and the things.

But I’m not.

This weekend, Pretty in Pink is back in theaters for the 30th Anniversary. And I really want to see it.

But I won’t.

Last week I was enthralled by Beyonce’s video and performance, and by the Super Bowl ads, and the presumption of people who wanted to tell everyone what they didn’t like and didn’t understand. I’m annoyed by those people, and I wanted to write about it.

But I didn’t.

I’ve been meaning to exercise more, and to eat better.

But I haven’t.

I can’t decide if there are Shoulds that I’m just neglecting because I didn’t choose them and therefore actively (if unconsciously) reject them, or if life is subsuming my best attempts to live it.

I doubt that I’m consciously choosing, really, anything. Until five minutes ago, I was standing in front of the TV, which was on for the first time in a week. Standing. Eating popcorn from a bag. Watching previews, waiting for The End of the Tour to come on. I saw it in the theater, cried for an hour, and pre-ordered the DVD that night.

Standing and eating from a bag. Thinking: I should blog, I should read, I should exercise, I should…

I’m tired. I should go to bed.

I’m tired of navigating a divorce and shared custody. I’m tired of doing my absolute best, at 200 mph, at work. I’m tired of all the shit that’s involved in being an adult…watching dishes while feeling helpless about racism and sexism and poverty and hatred and ignorance and fear. And laundry. That, too. I’m tired of laundry. And I’m tired of being guilty for being tired of laundry, when there are real issues in the real world.

I’m horrified by the food choices in The End of the Tour. That’s wrong, I know. Two humans painfully uncomfortable with their existence, trying to make a connection, trying to be understood and to understand. But I focus on the Pop-Tarts and cigarettes. Because seriously? Red Vines while discussing technological ways to dissociate from humanity disturbs me in ways I can’t, articulate.

As I eat popcorn from a bag. Finally sitting.

Can’t find words, or won’t. Can’t make food, or won’t. Is this what failure looks like? Exhaustion? Modern life? Low-level psychic pain?

Popcorn someone else has popped feels like a gift. I’ve gotta be honest. It might ruin the world, processed food put in a bag and trucked across the state…but I’d rather have food someone else made for me. Or, rather, made for millions of people. I’m willing to be one of millions. Nondescript. Boring. Average.

I worried that rereading Wallace would make me untenably sad. It has made me both happy and lonely, which is exactly what I remember. The pages feel different, in the way that reading Calvin and Hobbes as a kid and then as a 40-year old disappoints because you’ve grown, without noticing, to someone who identifies with the parents rather than the protagonist. The prose, the characters, and the situations still grab me. Predictably, though, I’m already teetering. I want to wallow in the book and the movie and the articles written after his death. I’m pulled, increasingly, by nostalgia. And hope.

“I think that if there’s a sort of sadness for people under 45, it has something to do with pleasure and achievement and entertainment, like a sort of emptiness at the heart of what they thought was going on. And maybe I can hope that some parts of the book speak to their nerve endings a little bit.”

There’s a thing, in human existence, called understatement. Just saying. Speak to my nerve endings a little bit? Ah…yeah. It does that.

I’m feeling clingy, and it doesn’t much matter what I cling to. I don’t want to blame the book, but it’s hard not to. Set in Tucson and Boston—two of four of the biggest cities in my life—filled with tennis and intrigue and menacing specters of helplessness and entertainment and death and life’s meaninglessness. Also at least 50% of my life, right there.

So, like, good times, but with existential crisis.

I should totally never post this. There’s no photo, no point, no story. Breaks every rule of writing.

And it’s all I have to offer. It’s all I have.


Not the only one

There is likely a reason that no other post, at all, on the Interwebs includes references to Bemidji, Winnebago, Ft. Defiance, Gallup, Sioux City, and Tucson. But this one does. And seriously, since this is the only one, I feel no reason to tell you why I googled those city names all together.

I just wanted to plant a flag in this space. This intersection. This pointless juxtaposition that is unnecessary to everyone but the five people (or so) who know why the heck I’d put those cities together.

And please don’t think this is a colonial attempt to own the space, or an appropriation of any knowledge of the space beyond my own, or a claim about anything other than affection for the overlapping space among those six cities.

Finding the one outpost of the internet in which it feels as though I dwell alone, for now, does have me thinking how strange are the collection of experiences we all have. How many overlaps, how few “seriously, you’re the only one”s. It’s a crowded world. Genuinely unique is rare.

And for the record, I’m not saying I’m unique. I’m just the only one to type a string of words and hit “post” in the past few years. That’s it.

I always roll my eyes when people are excited to find they’re from the same generally large hometown. Or that they worked at the same big company. Or that they read the same obscure book.

But I would be impressed, I’ll admit, if someone else had a story that linked Alamosa, Holbrook, Arivaca, Acoma, Bemidji, and Sells, and Pocatello together in the same ways I have.

That’s all.

Talking to hear my own nostalgia. Thanks for your patience.



The Benefits of Having a Single Mother

All the depressing tropes of being single during the December holidays came knocking this year, but I beat them back with a big stick called “I got a lotta awesome friends behind me, and your cultural assumptions about how women can’t hack December on their own are welcome to walk right off the same pier that ol’ Donald Trump is headed for.”

 I had a single mom, I have smart and kind friends, and there was no way I will be beaten down by something as lovely as the Hanukkah-Solstice-Christmas stressfest. 


I don’t see in this water fountain a dessicated worm who shriveled under pressure. I see a worm who left her mark.

 You know how, in times of crisis, all the things your elders have said come flooding back? How when you see fire you remember clearly the visit in second grade in which the firefighters told your class, “In case of fire, use the stairs not the elevator.” And how when you’re packing your earthquake kit, you remember your grandma’s entreaties to “Please, whatever else you remember, make sure there’s water, and bags for the makeshift bucket-toilet.”

No? Just me?

Oh. Well. I taught my children candle safety during our Hanukkah week and I taught them why postponing our Solstice peanut-butter-and-birdseed pine cones because of rain made sense. 

And then I panicked a bit about Christmas. 

I  had a single mom growing up, so I benefitted heavily from her experiences. I remember keenly the year she cried because she couldn’t get the Christmas tree up the stairs by herself. 

“Would you like this tree netted, for an additional $3?”

Yes, yes I would. 

I remember the year she couldn’t get the tree into the stand because the trunk was too wide. And that, the next year, the trunk was too narrow and the stand’s screws couldn’t reach the bark, let alone enough core to hold the dang thing. I also recall that, after years of tree stand frustration, she  asked for the wooden stand, got the tree upstairs and realized that it was too tall. And already in the stand. 

“Would you like a stand? Did you already measure the ceiling of the room this will be in?”

Yes, yes I did. 

Christmas, I knew, made single moms cry. And I would not play those reindeer games. 

So we went to the cut-your-own farm with my darling sister-in-law. Third year in a row, but our first as two ladies with an agenda: make this Christmas about SuperLadies, the lady people who make the plans and do the things. With ease. 

I had the kids pick out a pre-cut tree, after we wandered the acres of drought-ravaged pine. They didn’t care I wasn’t cutting something down. Neither did I.  Selection: check. Cutting: check. Netting, so nine year old and five year old can help, but also so that I don’t cry when I can’t do it myself if they are feeling whiny: check. 

Hunky college guy making extra money on his break tossing the tree on the car: check. Just saying. Silver linings and Ho Ho Ho and whatnot.

The kids waited patiently for the six seconds it took me and my SuperMom partner to lace it to the car. 


By ourselves, yo. We are all under 5’4″, yo. And this bad boy is 7′.

Long drive home: cakewalk. Transfer from car roof to living room: so simple. Decorating: fast and peaceful. 

I did none of the seemingly miraculous feat myself. My mom taught me pitfalls. My sister-in-law provided moral support and heavy knot-tying skills. My kids helped and lifted and toted and watered and decorated. 


All the decorated tree photos are still in my camera, so just take my word for it so I don’t have to go in the other room to find and download them.

And none of it felt overwhelming or daunting or When Harry Met Sally pathetic. 

As with our famous hike and trolley episode, everyone involved with this tree felt the process was easy, everyone knows we can do stuff like this, and everyone feels better that divorce hasn’t killed any of us yet. 

So that’s good. 

As was hosting Christmas, by myself, for the family: a beloved and small group of 10. Potluck, and a decent outcome. I forgot to get a picture of us all together, but everyone seemed okay and well-fed and happy. 

So on the pop cultural single parent scorecard I was winning. Up too late wrapping presents, including one for myself, but still reasonably patient the next day. 


To me, from the garage. Because i found the present in the garage. Obviously.

And then the boys’ dad, who had come early to watch them open presents, took them to his place for the weekend. 

Saying goodbye to my children on Christmas evening might have been the hardest part of the split so far. 

I forced myself to go out, to a friend’s house for a casual Christmas evening of chatting and wine, so I wouldn’t just sit and sulk. Or clean and sulk. Or drink and sulk. 

And as I came home, to a tidy-ish home that smelled of chestnuts and butternut squash and Irish soda bread, I saw the twinkling holiday tree and realized everything is about give and take. That, all in all, the sacrifices I’m facing are relatively small. 

I couldn’t have actually done the whole thing myself: I had multi-generational help on the tree, the dinner, and the making of the family. The whole reason my kids have two houses rather than one is that I share them with their dad. I don’t get the perfect holiday because I didn’t play the game right; but if I can just learn to let go of them a little bit each week, then the new version of home will look just as beautiful as it is. 

Because this home is warm and loving, and full of us doing our best with a lot of emotional support. 

My reality isn’t what I’d hoped or what I dreamed. But it’s a pretty breathtaking reality, if I just allow it to be.