I’m done with bad days, I made up my mind about that today.  I’ve decided instead that some days I might have to work harder than others to see the beauty in the world – to see all the signs that are all around me.  Today was one of those days from the moment my feet hit the floor.  I knew it would be.

Two years ago today, a dear friend of mine died.  I describe him as a dear friend – and I am certain that if any of our other friends read this, they’d use a similar descriptor.  Eddie had a way about him that made lots of people feel like they were in his inner circle.  It wasn’t contrived or fake; it was authentic and amazing.  After we left the Exeter area, my  monthly, at minimum, Friday night calls from Eddie were how I stayed connected.  I would ask how he and his family were doing and he would share stories about Jeanne and Morgan, then ask about my family.  Eddie had a knack for not only listening to my stories, but enjoying them.  His laugh was one that made you feel liked you earned something special.  I’ve seen that in only a couple of other people in my life, but that was something I first noticed in Ed.  He was a gentle giant with a heart as big as his personality.

We shared a classroom for most of my time at CMS, but it was during my last year that I realized just how carefully he kept tabs on me.  Eddie was a worrier like you read about, especially about those he cared for.  Often we’d arrive early and sit in our classroom getting ready for the day.  He always arrived with at least one vat of iced coffee for himself…and usually a tray of coffees for his pals.  He knew everyone’s order.  In that last year, I was pregnant with my son.  I told my team before anyone else; they were my people.  Eddie, for his part, started to worry.  He was overjoyed, but worried.  No matter where I went in those early mornings during the first few months of my pregnancy, Eddie was fairly convinced I was sick.  Other friends would stop by and he’d gesture to the bathroom…or shrug and say “I don’t think she feels good.”  I’d pass that person on my way back from the photocopier (I was never actually in the bathroom…I only got sick once in my pregnancy with Cappy…and it was at home in my bathroom…lucky, I know) and get a strange look as I said my usual, trying to be cheery “Good morning!”  It took me a long while to figure out what was going on, but once I did, I loved it.  Poor Eddie spent a solid month thinking I was heaving my guts out every morning…and I was just photocopying papers.  It’s still one of my favorite memories of him.

Ed was a phenomenal special educator.  The kind who is held up as exemplary by colleagues, as well as the families he worked with.  The kind who wins awards.  The kind who inspired students to say “He changed my life.”  He had a way of holding kids accountable and loving them dearly all at the same time.  He believed in them and loved them like nothing I’ve ever seen.  Take the most challenging, hot mess of a student and Eddie would find a way to reach them.  That isn’t grandstanding, that’s truly what he did.

So, this morning was tough.  I thought a lot about Ed’s family and the hole I know they feel so acutely.  I was okay until I started putting my make-up on and then I got a text from a former colleague who was on our team.  And then I texted another.  Even after all these years, we’re still a family.  Eddie was on a lot of minds.  I cried through all of my make-up application, which I’m fairly certain defeated the purpose, but there it was.  I knew if Eddie could see me, he’d tell me I was being ridiculous and to pull it together…but he’d hug me as he told me that.

I didn’t want today to be a ‘bad’ day.  So, that’s when I decided that today would be a day when I might have to work a little harder to see the beauty around me.  But I knew I could do it.  I saw it in the face of a student who struggled mightily during his first quarter, turned it around in the second quarter and who sat with me today to tell me the steps he’s making so he can graduate.  My gosh, he was so proud.  Thank you, Eddie.  I heard it in the words of the man at the café who said to the baker “It must be so nice to be able to create something like that.”  Thank you, Eddie.  I felt it in the words of a couple of friends who, without knowing why, could see that I was a little fragile today and they handled me with a little extra kindess.  Thank you, Eddie.  I saw it in the face of Lou as she opened the door for me when I got home and I heard it in the laugh of Cappy as we talked before he went to bed.  Thank you, Eddie.

For you, Eddie – who I miss more than I will ever be able to express – thank you for continuing to teach me the important lessons:  “All men have stars, but they are not the same things for everyone. For some, who are travelers, the stars are guides. For others they are no more than little lights in the sky. For others, who are scholars, they are problems… But all these stars are silent. You—You alone will have stars as no one else has them… In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so, it will be as if all the stars will be laughing when you look at the sky at night. You, only you, will have stars that can laugh! And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me… You will always be my friend. You will want to laugh with me. And you will sometimes open your window, so, for that pleasure… It will be as if, in place of the stars, I had given you a great number of little bells that knew how to laugh.” -Antoine de Saint-Exupéry



The Unexpected Yes…

Tuesday night was date night in my house…for Cappy and me.  We went to dinner at my work, where I promised I’d spend the evening as Mama, not Dean…and I held as true to that as I ever have.  On a pre-dinner walk through campus, Cappy found an apple that one of the students had tossed, intact, into the bushes.  Leave it to Cappy to mastermind a science experiment with that apple and the hill.  It was pretty straightforward, he rolled the apple down the hill, noting number of bruises, estimated speed, and trajectory…I noted his smile and curiosity.  By the time we reached the bottom, we had a pretty banged up apple, but his curiosity wasn’t yet satiated.  He decided we should roll it into the huge storm drains that line the road next to campus – to see if it would traverse one drain to the next.  He thought about speed and angle, then launched the banged up apple into the tube.  Despite his best pitch – a curve ball if I’ve ever seen one – our experiment thudded to an abrupt end, halfway down the first drain.  We wandered to dinner and ate too much cake at a hi-top table for two in the back of the dining hall.  Afterwards, he challenged me to a game of foosball.  I said okay, certain that I’d be licking my wounds within minutes.  To my surprise, I pulled out a 5-2 victory – which he was ever-so-gracious and complimentary about…especially given the fact that I absolutely celebrated far too loudly.  (I am the most competitive, non-competitive person I know.  See, I’m even competitive about that…)

On the way home, Cappy asked if we could stop by the lake and swing while we watched the sunset.  I paused long enough for him to brace himself for a ‘no’ and as I started to speak, he said “It’s okay, Mama.”.  But I’d already decided my answer was yes.  In my mind, I was already laughing with my guy on the swing…and when I was actually there, it was just as super as I thought it might be.

The chance to say an unexpected yes is an incredible opportunity; I need to do more of that.

Well For Gosh Sakes…

My 95 year old grandmother was in an accident last week.  I got the news as I hiked and with limited cell service, the only thing I knew for certain was that it was bad:  ten broken bones and a cut so bad that it couldn’t be stitched.

One foot in front of the other, unsure of whether I should tell those I was hiking with about a potential complication to our planned celebration afterwards, I thought about my Mimi.  To say she was an influence in my life sells her so short.  So many memories of my growing up are linked to her arms, her lap, the signature red and white gingham of her kitchen tablecloth, her post and beam living room.  She is incredibly strong, fiercely independent, and would give anything she could to anyone who needed it.

As a child, I was convinced I would become a doctor.  It was a serious reality in my mind.  If it was science-related, I put it on my birthday and Christmas lists.  One science kit came with a frog that was ready to be dissected, a tiny scalpel and a small road map of frog parts to look for.  I was beyond excited to cut into that little guy, but there was one complication.  Mimi loved frogs.  Her birthdays and Christmases were often marked by frog themed presents.  So…I did what any ten-year-old serious scientist with an incredible grandmother would do.  I gave the tiny frog in his tiny vial to Mimi as a gift.  For 27 years, that frog in his specimen jar has adorned a chest that sits in her hallway.  Anyone who walks to the bathroom at Mimi’s house has walked past my gift – quite an honor.

Mimi’s speech, not only what she says, but how she says it, defines her so clearly for me.  She has these signature lines that will only ever belong to her in my mind.  Laying in her hospital bed, she continues to deliver them just like she would if you showed up at her house and sat down at her table, still covered in a gingham tablecloth.  I visited her yesterday and spent most of the visit near the head of her bed.  It struck me, as I looked down at her, just how much I really do look like her.  She was always so much larger than life that I never took the time to notice; Mimi was always Mimi – no one could look like her.  But it’s there – the shape and color of my eyes, the shape of our noses, and even the size of my ears.  She looked up from her bed and we talked about a bump that I get when I’m stressed and, with a concerned look on her face said “Well for gosh sakes, Beeb, what’s got you so stressed out?”

To watch someone you love so much be scared, in pain, and unsure of what’s lies ahead is scary.  But to watch the strength and calm with which Mimi can face all of that – it’s humbling.  She’s going to make it home – she told me that yesterday – so the only thing I can do is support her until she reaches that goal…and try to keep my stress bump under control until she’s there.



Cheryl Strayed gets a lot of credit for getting me through some of the most challenging moments of the last couple of years.  She has a wonderful line in Tiny Beautiful Things:  “Real change happens on the level of the gesture.  It’s one person doing one thing differently than he or she did before…”  That line still makes me sit back in my seat because it’s so simple, but so true.

While I was paddling this morning, I realized that presence happens on the level of the gesture too.  I don’t bring a phone with me on the water, which means I also don’t have a camera with me.  It’s the quietest part of my day, the part when I most notice the beauty of what’s around me – and I have no way to capture it.

Presence is watching how someone’s body language betrays their words.  Presence is not taking photos and instead opting to watch the way the indigo of mountains contrasts the orange of a sunset.  It’s taking a minute to notice the feeling of another person’s hand in your own, rather than just rushing to a destination, hand-in-hand .

That presence is what creates our memories.  Science tells us that memories that involve multiple senses and emotions are the ones that we hold onto the longest.  Being present in a moment, though we may not have a physical ‘thing’ to show for it, gives us something much more.  It gives us a moment to go back to, in the quiet of our own minds, when we need it most.

The Courage to Ship

For the past several years, I’ve truly enjoyed any opportunity I could grab to edit for someone else.  A couple of times, that’s materialized into the chance to edit books – and I loved every word of it.  Meanwhile, I quietly turned an idea I have for a novel over and over in my mind, but I committed very little to the page.  I let myself get caught up in excuses like ‘I don’t know the character well enough to write about their story yet’.  But when I told a couple of people about a rough sketch of the narrative arc in my brain, no one told me it sucked.  They actually asked questions that seemed like maybe it was something even a handful of people might read.

During that same time, I quietly typed away at a private blog.  Though it’s been largely abandoned since I took my current job, 75 posts sit waiting on a shelf.  I insisted that once I had a proper blog title, I’d do something public.  But finding a proper blog title?  That could take an overthinker like me years…and it did.

Last week I had a conversation with a wonderful person that I love and admire.  The advice she gave was that I didn’t lack the talent, I lacked the courage to ship.  It didn’t need to be perfect, she assured me, it just needed to be a habit.  Something I gave to myself each day.

People close to me have rightly pointed out that I fritter away my words on social media, choosing to hide behind the narrative I create rather than do something of substance somewhere else.  And it’s true.  This blog is no guarantee that I won’t still spend words on Facebook, but it’s also a commitment to put my own voice into the world.