This has been a month in which I’ve considered quitting many times. I’ve thought about quitting the challenge, I’ve thought about quitting running, I’ve thought about quitting my job.

Yesterday, a friend posted an article from Psychology Today on Facebook. It was billed as “8 Ways You Can Tell That It’s the Right Time to Quit” – so many capitals, so much expert advice! Sadly, predictably, the 8 Ways aren’t quite as cut and dry as you’d wish. But some words stood out to me:

“Despite the cultural mantra, quitting an endeavor or relationship which is no longer making you happy, is failing and cannot be fixed, or which no longer meets your needs is a healthy response as long as it’s the first step toward a new goal and destination.”

Here’s the thing about the writing I’ve done this month.

It has made me happy. It’s been hard and imposing, sure, but I’ve always felt glad to get my words out there in the world. I’ve enjoyed reading your writing, and commenting on it, and then hearing back from you when you comment on my own writing. I’ve been made happy by feeling a little more connected to the world.

It is the very opposite of failure. The brilliant and kind women of Two Writing Teachers have made failure impossible. They have wrapped this work in support – checking in on all of us regularly, providing daily reminders and inspiration, linking us through welcome wagons. Which is not to say that some days a post goes unnoticed, and taht sometimes we might miss an entry, but that’s really not the same as failing.

Most of all, it meets my needs. It teaches me. It impacts me. It puts me in all my minds – daughter, wife, parent, teacher, student, coach, citizen – at once. It tells me that there are a great many people out there engaged in really hard work to reach their students, even when they don’t have classrooms themselves.

I’m learning how to quit, how to say no, but here, in this case, in this moment, I’m so glad I didn’t.

Fabric of our Lives

My husband slept with a blanky until he was in middle school. I still sleep with my blanky, which is at this point a blanket only nominally. I also had a “silky”, a bit of my grandmother’s slip that I loved to rub on my face. So when Nathaniel skipped blithely over the milestone months when he might have chosen a special lovey, I was a little blue.

Then, Sebastian came along. And around about his 2nd birthday, we upgraded from our queen-sized bed to a king-sized bed, to accommodate his desire to crawl into bed, lie sideways, and kick us in the ribs. Of course, this meant all new bedding, and so we pulled off the comforter, and the sheets, and the pillowcases, and stacked them in the hall to take up to the attic when we were ready to brave its draftiness.

That’s when Sebastian discovered pillowcases. We walked into his room to discover him wearing a sham pillowcase on his head. And then he’d toddle down to the kitchen, trailing the pillowcase behind him. Soon, at bedtime, he’d cry and scream, “Where’s my DACE!!! Where’s my DACE!!!” Finally, we realized his dace was his pillowcase, and we made sure that green sham pillowcase was never far from sight.

Soon after that, he discovered he could pull the pillowcase off his pillow, and “blue dace” and “animal dace” were added to the mix of needs for sleep any given night. And Thursday night we woke up tangled in his bedsheet, which he’d pulled off overnight and carried into our bed with him, and green dace, and blue dace, and animal dace.

This morning, Sebastian woke up later than the rest of us, in his own bed (a minor miracle). Just as I wondered where he was, he toddled out into the hall, arms stretched to their limits with blankets, sheets, and pillowcases. “There’s Sebastian,” my husband laughed. “With all his fabric.” Our little love, wrapped up in loveys.


“I’m going to swim like a dolphin!” Nathaniel chortled from the backseat as we drove to a swim party for two of his friends from school.

Now, swim like a dolphin may be a bit of an exaggeration. More like “swim like a jellyfish, completely at the mercy of the water and occasionally bobbing to the surface.” But, one way or the other, he spends most of his time in the pool underwater.

This was not always the case. Last June, we signed him up for his first set of swim lessons, and he proceeded to spend that session, and the next, and the next, in the very bottom group. While other kids mastered splashing around sufficiently that they moved up to choppy little strokes, Nathaniel kept working on just splashing around.

It wasn’t that Nathaniel didn’t like the water – he did. He’s just so small, and bony, and lacking any semblance of body awareness. He’d go to float on his back and he’d hold every muscle in his body rigid…and sink. He’s pull to the side to kick his legs and heave half of his body up on to the side of pool, then leave his legs to flail about at the water.

And then, we got him goggles – fancy, one piece goggles. They weren’t terribly expensive, but with their one-piece eye cover, his slim little face didn’t have to fit those single eye cups anymore. From that moment on, we’ve struggled to keep him above water. I spend most of our swim sessions alternately assuring concerned lifeguards that he’s OK and being terrified that he isn’t.

So, today, at the birthday party, Nathaniel’s primary interest was keeping himself underwater. This doesn’t necessarily translate into great “party” activity – in that it’s almost inherently antisocial. Whenever I could catch him above water, I’d urge, “Nathaniel, why don’t you go see what your friends are up to?” “Nathaniel, want to go in the lazy river with your friends?” “How about you go in the little pool with your friends?”

He’d look up at me through those big lime goggles, fill up his tiny cheeks with air, and disappear under the water. And as much as I hope that, one day, he’ll figure out all those social norms and cues and niceties, right now, I can’t help but cheer him on in his solitary pursuit of underwater greatness.

Out of Words

I’ve been looking, for days, maybe weeks, for the words to tell someone that their words, meant only to praise and shore up instead wounded and belittled me.

I’ve been looking, for weeks, maybe years, for the words to tell someone that their words, meant only to support and honor instead abandoned and ignored me.

I’ve been looking for words to say a lot of unsayable things.

The words aren’t coming.


Every Friday morning, the “Instruction and Innovation” department, of which I am a part, launches with a brief meeting, the purpose of which is to allow us time to hear from other sub-departments about their work. Today’s focus was norms and operating principles for our group as a team.

Following that meeting, some of us specialists were convened in a workspace that’s bursting with people – to talk about how we’re going to add more people. My boss posted a parking lot that we can add to over the next days: Things that are working for us, and things we need.

The third thing that happened this morning was that my colleague and cubicle-mate, Sharon, brought me a very delicious, specially-imported from Vancouver, BC, chicken bun. You know, those soft buns you get a dim sum, but instead of being filled with barbecue pork, this had a rich and delicious chicken filling.

The day before, Sharon had turned around in her chair, and said, “Do you like that thing from dim sum…”

“Yes!” I answered.

“The thing, what’s it called…”

“Yes! I like EVERYTHING from Dim Sum. Except I’ve never had the feet, because I’m too white for cart ladies to offer me the feet. I think I’d like them. But yes!”

Sharon was laughing at me now. “Shu mai!” she said. “Do you like shu mai?!”

“YES! I told you, I like EVERYTHING.”

“Okay,” she said, as if that solved everything. “Tomorrow, I will bring you one of those buns we get from Vancouver, but with a chicken filling that tastes like shu mai. That’s the kind my family all prefers, but I brought you the pork one the other time, because everyone loves pork.”

If I am able to list the thing I think is most critical in a workspace, the norm and operating principle nearest and dearest to my heart, it’s this: Have a desk buddy who not only teaches you, mentors you, listens to you, laughs with you, and cries with you, but also brings you delicious, delicious shu-mai-chicken-esque soft dim sum buns.

Thanks, Sharon!

Playing Hooky

If we don’t, sometimes

  • Take 20 minutes away from our computer screens to walk across the street, bask in the sun, and order birthday Frappuccinos
  • Say yes instead of no, and spend the after-work time chasing around the park, visiting with friends, never mind the wood chips in our flats
  • Go out to dinner, again, even though we had pizza last night and are going out with friends tomorrow
  • Have two thin mints for dessert, instead of one

Then what’s the point?

Family: A See-Saw Poem

So close.

So far.

Two blocks away, close enough for my three-year-old to scooter their on his own power.

Two thousand miles away, far enough that my three-year-old has to pause to think when I mention his uncle’s name.

Meals together every Tuesday and Wednesday, lapsed after just a few months into routine and predictability.

Meals described on Skype at big holidays, lushly described and imagined, fanciful.

Conversation full of fun facts, latest news, interesting updates.

Conversation full of family gossip, honest questions, and easy laughter.

In my head, I know that these people love my husband, love my kids, love me.

In my bones, I know that these people love me, love my kids, love my husband.

So far.

So close.

Happy Birthday

I remember my 10th birthday clearly. We had a “ten” themed party, where everyone brought 10 of something small as a birthday gift. Mostly, I remember that the party was sandwiched in the middle of a month in which I hardly saw my friends other than the party, after a bout of strep, which yielded a fairly intense allergic reaction to penicillin, and was followed shortly thereafter by chicken pox!

So, I know it wasn’t for my 10th birthday that my parents gave me a bag of groceries, but it can’t have been much older or much younger. Either way, the bag of groceries contained the 5 foods I’d declared earlier that year as my personal five food groups.

1) Chocolate, preferably milk

2) Pickles, exclusively Ba Tempte Half Sours (a solid entry in the “vegetable” category)

3) Pretzels, any kind

4) Brie, the fancier the better

5) Root Beer, with a slight preference to A&W, which look so much like my initials AGW

My parents, either lacking inspiration, or perhaps rightfully inspired, went to the Giant and presented me on my birthday with my very own grocery bag full of the 5 food groups. It was such a hit, it was replicated for at least the next two years.

I’ve been asked as an adult how my list stands up over time, and I gotta tell you, I think I pretty much nailed it.


There are very few benefits from living on the opposite coast from your mother, at least if you have the kind of mom that I do. No chicken soup when I’m sick, no spontaneous babysitting, no little trips to the mall or the movies or a show.

One of the benefits, though, is that the 3-hour time change means that she is almost always home when I’m driving between work and daycare, and so I can count on 23 to 27 minutes to check up almost daily, and certainly whenever I feel like it.

It is my routine to dial her number as soon as I get in the car, so that her voice pipes into my bluetooth just as I’m about to back out. This means that our conversation starts in one of two ways:

1) “HELLO?!”
“Hi, Mom.”
“What’s that SOUND? I can hardly hear you!”
“It’s the car mom. I’m backing up.”
“Oh! It’s SO LOUD!”

“Hold on! Hold on!” (Fumbling to get bluetooth properly activated) “Ah! There you are!”
“Well, of course I’m here. There I am. Where else would I be?”

I have worked in this job, with this commute, in this car, for nearly three years. That means we’ve had this conversation, conservatively, at least 400 times. On good days, I roll my eyes and think, “Oh, mom” and mentally file it away for a late night hashtag one of these days, one of those cute little “My Mom’s So Bad At Technology” stories. A funny little story to ease out of the tension of the day.

But on bad, it’s the most irritating irritant to ever irritate anyone, in the way that only great moms can be. I can practically feel myself transform in those moments  into my teenage self, all frizzy hair and indignation at the world’s refusal to get me. The start to our conversation will be clipped as I hold back and judge and make her do all the work. I tell myself she’s just, like, the dumbest, and that I can’t believe I’m forced to suffer such foolishness.

And you know what? Pretty soon, we’re back to normal, talking about my sister and her chickens, or my kids and their attitudes, or her dogs and their injuries. And before long, the sludge of the day is forgotten, and a pearl has built itself around that little irritant, shining and precious and treasured.


Like most mornings, I woke this morning tangled up between my boys. As we stirred, drifting towards consciousness together, Sebastian said, “Mommy, where are we going today?”

“Nowhere, baby,” I mumbled. He was quiet, and burrowed around a bit. His little feet dug around between my legs, heat-seeking.

“Mommy,” he asked, “What do girls have?” Ah, 3, when every possible moment is a moment to embark on a conversation about the difference between boys and girls. At least this one was taking place in private.

“Girls have a vagina,” I mumbled.

“What do boys have?”

“Boys have a penis.” He was quiet for a bit.

“Yeah, girls have a ‘gina. Just like my story.” My ears perked up. Just like his story?

“What story, baby?”

“Knuffle Bunny!” Now, I don’t know when the last time you read Knuffle Bunny was, but it certainly does NOT have anything to do with human anatomy. Then it came to me. Knuffle Bunny Free, in which Knuffle Bunny is left behind on the plane and heads for…

“Do you mean China, baby?”

“Yeah, China!”

This is one for the baby book.