Today I am forty years old.


One of my favorite authors, Joan Didion, explained her personal purpose for penning words: “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”

Most of my friends know me as a gregarious, bawdy, ridiculously unfiltered figure. Rules, in my world, exist on a sliding scale. I prefer to ask for forgiveness.  I am the thrill-seeker, the comedian, the one who says all the things. Recently a colleague joked that no one would ever be able to “one up Marshall” because I don’t subscribe to a definable line in the sand. I own, entirely, my enjoyment of pushing boundaries and buttons, walking the tight-rope between what is acceptable and what is inappropriate. For better or worse, I’m that friend and colleague and I’d like to think everyone needs someone like this in their lives, if not for simply to add some color – but that may just be me rationalizing my, sometimes, less-than choice antics.

Friendships are very important to me; I rely on them heavily. For those whom I count as the inner circle, I am ferociously loyal and protective. If ever a moment has occurred where I feel I’ve made a misstep, I am wrecked. Not just sad or apologetic but riddled with anxiety until the air has been cleared of any transgressions. Beyond this, the friendships that I hold close are immensely fundamental to my life. I just got back from having spent three nights in New York with my local tribe and it was nothing short of fabulous. These women and their friendships are infinitely validating and what sustain me. They are the constant when other parts of my life have gone, or go, haywire. 

At my core, I am hard-wired to be an athlete. Over the years, athletics have manifest in various iterations. At six, I began gymnastics. I was certain I was going to be the very next Mary Lou Retton, and cartwheels I turned, relentlessly on our front lawn. There was a brief stint on a swim team – breast stroke and freestyle were my jam. At thirteen I donned my first pair of soccer cleats, and I was hooked, riding the sport all the way into college on a partial scholarship to a Division I team.

I started on the field as a defender, made my way up to an offensive half-back, and just as my skills were becoming laser sharp, I tore my ACL. After recovering from surgery, I was put into the goal as a way to preserve my knee and as it turned out, the position came naturally to me. The acrobatic skills I’d acquired as a gymnast, served me well. And I was a bit of a kamikaze.

My senior year of high school, I blew out my knee, again, busted my ass to come back from that, and then months before graduating, I tore my shoulder on a dive. Because of the shoulder injury that required surgical intervention, I had to red-shirt my freshman year of college. By the time I made it back onto the field, my sophomore year, I was running on steam. In one of the hardest decisions of my life, at the end of my sophomore year of college, I chose to relinquish the scholarship, and turned in my jersey.

Never have I ever won an MVP award. Never. But – I’ve won, more times than I can count, “Most Inspirational.” In high school I became comfortable in my role as the underdog, always climbing my way back from some injury, some surgery – in fact, I got really good at it. No bigger was there a challenge than rehabbing reconstructed knees and shoulders. I love physical challenges, and it’s precisely why in the years that followed soccer retirement that I ran a marathon and competed in sprint triathlons. It’s why, today, I’m running consistently again, and lifting weights. I completed a half marathon in May, with, as it turned out, undiagnosed pneumonia. I thought I had a bad cold. My bad. It’s tempting to do another half, but I haven’t committed to it just yet; to keep things interesting, in September, I will be participating in a Tough Mudder. You know – for fun.

It is clear to me now, more than ever, that I have enjoyed the struggle – the climb. Making progress, and showing measurable advancements is incredibly motivating. I’ve never been a first-place finisher, and frankly, I’m not interested in winning races, but instead completion and working towards personal bests. I have nothing to prove to anyone but myself. If a mile takes me twelve minutes one day, and nine the next, so be it. At this point in my life, sustainability is the brass ring. Setting an example for my daughter as a woman who takes care of her body, who runs and lifts because it makes her feel good – that’s where I win.

When I began college, I thought I wanted to be a pediatrician. Several bombed math and science classes later, I realized that while I loved the idea of working with kids, I did not love the science behind medicine. There was a brief period where I reasoned that teaching elementary school would fit me best. Laughable, I know. Late in my sophomore year, I heard author John Edgar Wideman, speak. During the Q&A at the end, he said something that would change my life forever – he said, “If you want to do something easy, eat bananas. If you want to be a hero, teach high school.” Done. I declared myself a writing major with the intent to teach high school English. And that’s what I’ve been doing for the past fourteen years. Beyond teaching English though, I do plenty of the less academic: I’m in charge of our social committee, so when babies are born, vows are made, or someone must bury a loved one, it’s me who makes sure that gets recognized. I’m also in charge of putting on prom. It’s not a role for which I win Staff Member of the Month, but every single year, I put together a beautiful party of my seniors and juniors. It’s a gorgeous evening, and it happens because of me. But the best and most rewarding facet to my career is getting to know my students – their lives, and who they are beyond the essays they write for me. There’s payoff in these efforts, because long after they’ve graduated, a handful stay in touch. Some have even thanked me. I keep those letters they’ve written close at hand; they are treasures.

Motherhood: I have waxed poetic, pondered, scrutinized, and emoted all over the page with regards to being Lucy’s mama. As she grows, I grow too. It has become clear there is no finish line, and the ravines are oftentimes steep and dark. The mama I aim to be to this stardust little girl, is a mama who recognizes her missteps, can reflect on them, and do better next time. I want to be the mama to give her space to climb the tallest trees and allow her to fall – to not catch her (even when my hands compulsively want to reach out), so that she learns the value in overcoming the break. But make no mistake, I want to arm her. My history is inscribed with #metoo. The stories, yes plural— I don’t tell often, not out of shame, but more so because they don’t arise in typical pedestrian conversation. The gritty details are unnecessary, but these experiences most certainly inform how I parent my daughter and the conversations we have about consent. Much as I want to shield her from the ugliness lurking beyond the walls of our home, I know I cannot. What I can do is make sure she knows that no one, man or woman, will trespass the geography of her body without her explicit consent. She will also know what it means to be groomed, and when she’s more emotionally capably of understanding, I will tell her of the red flags I missed, and I will watch for those with her, always an ally. The horrifying reality is even in doing so, I know I still won’t be able to stop all the monsters. I can only hope that if the ugliness should reveal itself to her, she has the wherewithal to recognize the situation and save herself. It’s a lot to ask, I know.

She has been the mirror into which I see myself, every flaw and virtue. The brilliant in her, is a piece of the best in me. The dark in her, are the shadows in me. Love is too precise a word when it comes to my daughter. We are messy, a calamity, unbridled laughter and tears. We are both I’m sorry and I’m scared. We are try harder and I love you most. Together we are Wonder Women. I repeat to myself, constantly, that she does not belong to me. She belongs only to herself. She will have her own ideas, opinions and desires. I cannot get in her way. What I wish to foster within her, for as long as I have any kind of influence, is a stockpile of grit, empathy, and confidence. The rest is up to her. And if she talks about smashing the patriarchy in first grade, well then, we’ve added a cherry on top – nolite te bastardes carborundorum, my darling.

Big Red. I don’t speak of him often in this space because he largely likes to remain anonymous, and while our story together belongs to me, so too does it belong to him. What I can say about the past eighteen years with this man is that it’s been about learning, evolving, and adventure. Like every other couple on the face of the planet, we experience a range in delights and misfortunes. He pisses me off. I piss him off. He rolls his eyes at my political statement t-shirts in which I express my love and support for those on the fringes and he braces himself when I propose crazy ideas. He thinks I’m bananas for waking up at “four ass early” to go running and can’t for the life of him understand why I’d lay down $100 to run a muddy obstacle course with my friends. He doesn’t stop me from indoctrinating our daughter of the importance of busting through the glass ceiling or ranting about the social constructs of bras. It’s cool. We’re two wildly different people. Listen, he may not bring me random gifts, or may falter with words of affirmation (my love language), but for eighteen years, even in our darkest hours, he’s never gotten in the way of me being me. He’s never once tried to change who I am. Never. He loves me in his own way, no flash, no pretense - and that’s not for nothing.

I have never jumped out of an airplane.
I have four tattoos (and an upcoming appointment for another, maybe two).
I have never been asked out on a date. Yes, really.
I love photography.
I want to be loved.
I want to be wanted.
I have a terrible temper, but a long fuse.
I have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
I love sushi and ice cream. Not together.
I do not embarrass easily.
My emotional side overrules my logical side, often.
I have no regrets, just lessons learned.

That has to be enough.
I am enough.

I am a walking dichotomy, more resolved than ever to be a strong and confident woman, feminist, mother, partner, and friend.  Forty years has amounted to a series of moments that, collectively, create my wondrous life. Magic, really. I don’t know what it all means, so I’m just going to keep on, keep’n on. One foot in front of the other, face to the sun, learning, and living my best life.

I listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.


Let's Do Something

I. Am. Angry.

You should be, too.

Americans should be incensed.

The entirety of media has been inundated with responses to the unforgivably horrid tragedy that befell Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Florida. The liberals are crying out for gun control, the conservatives have their crosshairs on the FBI for having missed signs of impending irrational doom from the murderer. Forty-five offered thoughts and prayers. Again.


Again - a school was targeted.
Again - students and teachers were murdered.
Again - an AR-15 semi-automatic style weapon was used.
Again - parents are burying their babies.
Again - a white male perpetrated the murders.
Again - vigils will be held.

As a teacher, I think, often of what I would do if a shooter entered our building. I could jump out of the window - two floors above the grass below. My students and I may break our ankles, or legs, but we'd still be alive. We have been through ALICE training as a staff. For those of you who don't know what ALICE is, the acronym stands for: Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Confront, Evacuate. How often do you have to consider these scenarios as part of your daily life? It's my reality. For fuck's sake, I went to school to be a teacher. To read books with students, to raise the level of articulation in their writing, to talk about how author's make commentary on humanity - and now some of you want me to be armed? I am a teacher. I TEACH.

I've seen the arguments. I've read the articles, the comments, the memes, the cartoons.

It's a gun issue.
It's not a gun issue, it's a mental health issue.
The second amendment; the only way to stop a bad guy with guns, is a good guy with guns.
Rules aren't going to stop bad guys; if they want to do harm they'll find a way.

It always comes back to the gun argument, doesn't it?

A charged and frenetic discussion, at that. Why is it that a pole has shown that *most* Americans are in favor of increased gun legislation, but nothing has been done? I know, I know - it's not a gun issue, it's a people issue. Gun owners are afraid that the government is coming for their firearms, and that "..the right of the people to keep and bear Arms.." will be infringed upon. And it's not like the US has an inordinate number of folks who live with mental illness. Girls also deal with mental illness just as much as boys, but it seems as though white males are the ones doing the harm.

So why do we have such an issue with mass shootings?

First let me say: keep your guns, folks. No one is trying to take them all away.

I'm all for responsible gun ownership. While I'm not a fan of guns myself, I don't think everyone should be stripped of their firearms - really. Go ahead, protect yourselves and your families with your handguns, shotguns, and rifles. Keep them locked appropriately. Practice gun safety.

What I'm for is common sense gun reform.

I get that most guns sold and collected in the United States are semi-automatic, firing a single shot with every pull, automatically reloading between shots. But gun owners - I ask this of you: Why do you need to own an "assault weapons" such as TEC9s and AR15s? Those aren't necessary to protect yourselves and your families. Why do these need to be available to civilians? And my goodness, a zero waiting period at that in some states to make such a purchase.

There is a steep mountain of gun reform to climb in this country, and it's going to take a whole lotta folks, knocking down some serious money-backed walls, and maybe even those who have remained silent. The ones who own guns, but perhaps don't agree with the NRA. Frankly, it's daunting to consider the idea of controlling firearms traffic in a country with hundreds of millions of citizens and almost as many guns. The students of Florida that are speaking out and pointing fingers at the adults in this country who govern our laws, are making waves. They are angry, and they are doing something. Let's not forget, as well, the tireless crusade of the parents turned activists, left devastated by the horror in Newtown. Who else is going to march, protest, write letters, call representatives, and join this conversation, willing and ready to DO SOMETHING?

Take a look at this graph: the X axis refers to guns per 100 people, and the Y shows gun related deaths per 100k people. Just consider it for a moment. Miraculous coincidence, or not? Point blank, we have an epidemic of violence in this country.

Gun control laws won't eradicate all problems - we'd be naive to believe so. But why not make things a little harder? Often I hear the argument that cars are lethal objects, and if we're going to strip folks of their guns, shouldn't we take cars away then, too? Where would it stop? Take a moment, though and look at history. As we have learned better, we do more. Regulations WERE put into place with cars. Laws were made about seat belt usage, speed limits, and now, even cell phone usage while driving. Does it stop everyone from breaking those laws? Of course not, but many people DO in fact follow those rules, and lives HAVE been saved. We as a country and society put limits on several facets of life, including how many animals one can own, what blood alcohol level is acceptable while driving, how many hours you can work as a minor, etc. We don't stop instituting laws and following rules simply because we know that not everyone will follow them. We don't throw our hands up in the air and yell, why bother! Good grief, by many accounts we are a civilized society, and we follow rules. Just read Lord of the Flies if you'd like an alternative version of life without parameters.

We ask folks to apply for permits, take tests, and seek licenses to own and operate cars - can't, at minimum, we ask that? How about:
  • Permits to own and operate all firearms.
  • Required registration of all firearms, that requires yearly renewals.
  • A ban on assault style firearms like TEC9s and AR15s.
  • Ban the use of bump stocks (or any other device that could be used to modify guns so that they become automatic).
  • Ban the sale of large magazines and armor-piercing bullets.
  • Extended waiting periods, and background checks on ALL purchases (close the gun show and private sale loopholes).
  • Require certification and tests that have to be renewed.
  • Do not allow those deemed mentally ill, or with a history of violent crimes, to own guns.

Listen, I don't believe in perpetuating the false dichotomy of, "If you own a gun, you obviously don't care about our children." 

That's wrong, it's unfair, and it doesn't enact change. 

Let's open dialogue, respectfully, and move to make this country safer, to make classrooms and schools, like mine safer. No one should have to kiss their child goodbye and send them off to school thinking, "I hope they don't die today." I should NOT have consider throwing my body in front of a bullet to save my students. 

We have a problem. 

Let's fix it - together.



Last weekend, I spent four glorious days with some of my closest girlfriends from college, and it was nothing short of fantastic. Three of us flew down to meet the fourth in Miami, and then we drove west to Marco Island where we checked into a modest little condo that sat a block back from the beach.

When I returned to work on Tuesday, several colleagues mentioned I had a “glow” and they wanted to know about the trip. My response was sincere and void of any hyperbole when I offered that the trip was soul-rejuvenating.

We met our freshman year in college; the fall of 1996. I knew not a single human when I stepped off the plane in Pittsburgh, having flown across the country to attend the University of Pittsburgh. These were the girls who had dorms on my hall, and somehow, we naturally just gravitated towards each other. Our collective friendship has run the gauntlet after two decades, experiencing lots of highs but as well, bouts of silence and distance. But – as I wrote in a post on social media: I met these girls 21 years ago; we were babies, unsure of the women we would become. We have grown up together, sometimes separated by distance, some spans of silence, but always tied together by those formative early years. These are the women who know my story, and who champion the person I have become. These past few days were belly laughs, and tears, and filling in the blanks of the past two decades. I love them dearly, and my daughter one day finds a tribe as special as this one.

And that’s just it – the idea of a tribe. The people upon whom you rely, whether it be in big ways or small, but the ones who know all chapters of your life, the women who have read your story, and continue to stand by you. Those are the ones you hold onto. The language of a female friendship is unlike any other. In fact, sometimes there is no language in the literal sense. So many times last weekend, not a single word was uttered before we all fell into a pile of tear-induced, side-aching laughter. That deep kind of belly laugh that washes over you. There were stories of marriage and divorce, miscarriage and children, despair, and success. At one point we all disclosed how much we earned in our respective careers, and you know what was beautiful about that conversation? When my pals, who all make more than me, said their numbers aloud, I was genuinely proud of them. Here were these women with whom I shared dorm rooms with, women I remember studying their asses off, and dammit – they deserve these amazing careers! The crawl in my mind was not one of jealousy but one of total happiness. I mean lets be real, my friends are total badasses.

As someone who wears many hats, it was lovely that no one was requesting anything of me – no papers needed to be graded, no lunch needed to be packed, no appointments needed to be made, no bills needed to be paid, no photos needed to be edited. I was unfettered for a weekend, and it was, in fact, soul-rejuvenating. It came as no surprise that we all emphatically agreed to not let another two decades go by before hanging out again, and there may or may not be an impromptu meet up this fall, and perhaps another bigger trip in the works for 2020.

Finally, I realize that I am quite lucky to have been able to take a vacation, to spend the time and money on myself in this manner, and it has not gone unnoticed. Yes, I am owning my privileged. The time spent with these amazing, brilliant, and wildly successful women, while the kick off to my self-proclaimed Year of 40, was, in retrospect, sorely needed. I came back rested, happy, resolute in my belief of the importance of friendships, and ready to make the most of 2018. These women, this friendship, is necessary to my ability to live my very best life.

Sara, Pam, Erin (and Jenny): here’s to another two decades.


She's Four

Dear Lucy,

Today you are four. Four whole years old. At the risk of waking you this morning, I went into your
room and kissed your cheek, wishing you a happy birthday. Four. When I say it aloud it seems like such a big number. Four years of watching you, petal by petal, reveal the little girl you’ve become.

Last week, there was a day you and I went to the park. When it was time to go, we agreed to race home and you took off sprinting towards our house down the street. Your arms pumping, hair swishing back and forth across your back. Flying, you never looked back – until the one time you did and a tree obstructed your view of me. When I finally reached the porch, I discovered you’d been crying. Crying because you couldn’t see me and thought you’d lost me.

This is four. So desperately eager to be independent, yet still needing to know I’m there. This is where we find ourselves, daily. The pendulum swinging wildly back and forth between demanding to open the string cheese on your own, and dropping to the floor in tears because you don’t want to go out on the deck by yourself.

You have also really started thinking about some bigger concepts: life and death. You want to know
where babies come from and how they get into the bellies of mamas. You want to know if we get old and die. In all honestly, I’m much more prepared to talk to you about reproduction than I am of death. You caught me off guard the other day when asked if I would get old and die. My response was simple and direct – yes, I will get old, and someday I will die. We’ve made it our policy to be as honest with you as we can, at least meeting you in your level of understanding when possible. Your reaction to my honest answer what a dramatic downfall into crying and a true expression of fear. Through your tears you pleaded with me not to die, asking over and over if I would just please not die.

I did my best to reassure you of what I know: that I am here, now. That I do not want to die and leave you, and neither does anyone who loves you. This appeared to assuage some of those fears, but the idea has popped up every now and again. We do our best to explain death in simple terms, but I know your mind is whirling.

While you wrestle with some ideas about life, you are also growing a big heart of empathy. We were reading the story of Rosa Parks the other night just before bed, and your sweet little face furrowed at the idea that black kids could not be at the same school as white kids. I explained how this was how it used to be and you quickly pointed out that it wasn’t fair, and that there are black kids at your school, and everyone should be friends with everyone no matter what color they are.

It has been heartwarming to watch your developing relationship with Daddy. There was a time when you two had cursory interactions, but that’s the case no longer. You’re excited when he comes home and you love playing with him. You’ve even requested, on occasion, that he read you books at night –unheard of or tolerated previous to now. We have also recently begun to hear about the downside of finicky schoolyard friendships, how sometimes kids can say mean words, and how friends can become exclusive. This is uncharted territory, and we are doing our best to help you through it. We explain that sometimes friends need play breaks, that everyone has bad days, and that you should always stick up for yourself. These newest developments in the landscape of social navigation are somewhat daunting, and surely just the tip of what's to come. It appears that you are handling these new challenges well, because your response to one group of friends not wanting to play (according to what you tell me), is simply to go find other friends who do. And when you're feeling sad because ________ would not be your friend, we hug and talk it through, but mostly I just try to listen. 

Wonder Woman reigns queen of your world, Moana has captured your heart, you love watching movies, you thoroughly enjoy music and singing along, recently getting into the work of Queen (We Will Rock You, We Are the Champions, Bohemian Rhapsody), and dancing. Gymnastics remains a weekly activity, and I’m seeing you become more coordinated and skilled. I know there’s a cartwheel about to emerge.

Kid – daily life is a tangle of overblown meltdowns and deep belly laughs. Your need to assert dominance and control, and my need to teach you boundaries and respect, while still making sure you understand that mama’s love will always be there, are definite friction points. I am your greatest champion, my darling daughter. And even when you are behaving in a manner that bespeaks the most challenging facets of your personality, I still love you. I still love you — we say this often, per your request after having been reprimanded. Mama, do you still love me? Yes, Lucy, I love you so much.

You are the little girl who, spirited by confidence and what I believe to be a touch of wildfire, sprints away from me as we leave the park, running as fast as your strong legs will pump, eyes ahead. You are pushing boundaries and growing and falling. And each time you get up, I rise with you. Because you push me and you knock me down – relentlessly. We are growing together. This is my pride and pain, my sweet burden as your mama. Ever so slowly, with each candle we add to your cake, you move a little closer to the edge of the nest, eyeing up the world and all that’s out there.

Happy Birthday, my sweet Lucille.


On the Other Side of the Door

Dear Lucy,

In March of last year, Big Red took down your crib and I transformed your nursery into a big girl room, the hallmark of which was a twin bed. You loved it. There were little, if any, bumps in trying to convince you to sleep in the new bed. In fact, I don't recall anything at all.

And then three and a half months later we went to California for two weeks in which the three of us, me, you, and Nana, slept together in one bed. Upon return to your room, you decided sleeping alone wasn't cool anymore, so into our bed you migrated. You stayed there until your third birthday, in October, when I created this elaborate scheme to get you back into your own bed. Luna your personal fairy arrived, replete with a fairy door, and a picture of the two of you together while you were sleeping (thanks, Photoshop). Luna also left you a letter in which she explained that she would watch over you as you slept, and that three year-olds are brave and sleep in their own beds. She also left you a new night light that projected stars on your ceiling.

It was a hit, and back into your bed you went.

Until the novelty wore off, and somehow I found you right back at my side again a few months later. Shadows you said. You needed me, you said.

You needed me.

To feel needed is sublime. To know that my presence has the power to cure all your fears is, frankly, intoxicating. You and I both love Wonder Woman, and it's in these moments that I actually feel as powerful. I was never ashamed of the co-sleeping, and I enjoyed sleeping next your warm body. It was equal parts survival and IDGAF. It was, for the time being, working.

Then it wasn't. For a while we dealt with the tossing and turning, kneeing Big Red, and landing elbows on my nose. We were losing sleep. And then it got dramatically worse: you decided the act of going to sleep, at all, was purgatory, and by doing so, took us with you into the pit of hell.

Every single night was an ongoing battle to go to bed. Gone were the calm evenings of stories and songs. In their place were tears and screaming. We bargained, we pleaded. In our worst moments we stomped away frustrated, we yelled. I became angry that I was losing my nights to your hysterics. My darling, I love you in ways words cannot even touch, and yet in those moments, I wanted to mute your cries, to teleport myself out of our sweet home and into someplace, anyplace else. Some nights I was able to call up the patience that you required, and I saw you for exactly what you were: a little girl who felt safe at her mama's side. I would repeat to myself, a mantra: this is what she needs right now, lay with her, it's just a phase, you'll miss this when it's gone. That would get me through a few evenings, but surely as still waters run deep, that ball of anger and frustration would gurgle and rise like a geyser. Again I'd be all rage and fury.

Earlier this month, Big Red and I spoke after a particularly difficult evening and agreed it was time to help you back into your bed. We would draw a line in the sand upon our return from our annual trip to California. I would be as transparent as possible, and we would hold our ground. And by golly it worked. The day you went back into your bed, I told you what would be happening, and true to form, you responded with angry tears and arms crossed over your chest. Proclamations of I WILL NOT! filled our house. I explained there'd be a prize for which to work, which seemed to help.

As the day progressed, I remind you of what would happen. That night we read books, sang songs, and chatted. You asked if I would be in my bed. I explained that I'd be downstairs with Daddy, but eventually I'd go to bed, just like you were doing, and I'd be on the other side of your door.

You have successfully been in your bed since.

The last night you slept in our bed, I watched you and was drawn to the pulse in your neck. The way the rush of blood, sweeping back and forth, made the skin leap up and down. I tried to remain as present as possible, not projecting what would happen the next night, if it would work or not, but rather just being your mama, next to you. You are a fiery, independent, strong-willed little girl, Lucy. In those moments as my eyes traversed the beautiful contours of your perfect face, I thought about how I could best support you. Not just in that hour, but as you continue to grow into yourself, whatever self evolves. I asked myself how to always remain a reflective mama so as not to stand in your way, to never unintentionally clip those dazzling wings. My girl, light always finds you, and I never want to be the one who casts a shadow.

As I wrote earlier, it's absolutely marvelous to feel needed. There will come a day though, when your need for me will change. But darling - you take the lead. I will follow as you are not mine to hold onto; you are your own. Know though, that I am always here, your soft place to fall, just on the other side of the door.

Love, Mama


Mother's Day #4

Seems as of lately there have been plenty of back-handed jokes along the lines of, “You’re in for it with that one!” The reference to that one is, obviously, my daughter. She is willful, and contrarian, sass-mouthed, and rebellious. We are, without a doubt, neck-deep in the quagmire of preschooler defiance.

And yet, the peanut gallery commentary cautioning us to prepare ourselves for her teenage years really irks me. In fact, while I laugh it off publicly, deep down, I get kind of ragey. This quip of an observation serves no purpose – not a single one. It’s tossed into the universe with a laugh, but falls like rocks on the shoulders of a mama who doesn’t see, like you, a future riotess. Why do the behaviorally appropriate actions of a 3.5 year-old immediately qualify her as someone who will cause so much trouble?

She’s testing the limits. Her identity is stronger now than when she was a baby, and therefor she’s learning to pull away from us in an effort to be independent. It has, for me, been the most difficult stage of her childhood to date (yes, even including the newborn phase). There are opinions to manage, and fears to acknowledge, likes to incorporates, and hard boundaries that rest on our weary backs after long days at work, and house care, and groceries, and cooking, and taking out the garbage, and existing.

It would be INFINITELY easier to concede defeat when she digs in her heals over what X-factor is important right this minute. So much easier. And while there are plenty of times that I weigh the worthiness of the fight (sometimes, many times – it’s not worth it), Mothering isn’t in the dealings of being easy. That became excruciatingly clear on day one. I take my role as her Mother, quite seriously. And like a lot of other mothers out there of strong-willed young ladies, we’ve realized we’re not just raising kids – we’re raising leaders and innovators, scientists and illustrators, chefs and moguls. We’re raising bookworms and senators, teachers and makeup artists, anchors and musicians. We’re raising writers and presidents, Elizabeth Warrens and Angela Davises, Frida Kahlos and Virginia Apgars.

But to get there, we’ve got to get through the riot right now. The arms-crossed, peanut butter sandwich demanding, foot-stomping, screaming tantrum time-outs of the day-to-day. We are traversing the landscape of Joseph Campbell’s well noted Hero’s Journey. The ordinary world is long gone (possibly forever) and we are into the realm of the special world where there are allies and enemies, ordeals and rebirth. Sometimes it’s hard to tell for whom the test is – she or me? My best guess is it’s for us both.

My position in Lucy’s life is not to quell that which fuels her, but rather help her harness that fiery spunk. Encourage her to discover what her legacy will be. Mark Twain is the author of one of my all-time favorite sayings: "The two most important days in your life are the day you were born, and the day you find out why." I can’t tell her what she is meant to do – that’s not my job. It’s her life to live, hers to figure out. I’m her mama, the proverbial wall against which she will bash herself, as well as hopefully, lean against when she’s tired. My singular premium for being her mother, for investing in her well-being, for championing her spirit, is, in simple terms –  to have the privilege of watching her live the life she wants. To see her smile the kind of brightness that radiates from a life fulfilled.

On Sunday I will wake up next to her sweet face (I need to sleep in your bed, mama) as she points to the window and announces that it's morning time, mama, and she will give me a card she made (it's a surprise so she's already told me so). Perhaps there will be a few other acknowledgements, and a sunny day spent together while Big Red grills some steaks. Me and my girl. The girl who made me a mother. 
I’m not in for it with this one.

I’m in it, proudly, with her.



Below is the letter I wrote to my daughter, the one I'd so hoped would be truth. And despite the outcome, there remains some truth. There is so much to say, but I can't wrangle the words. Instead, this is what I wrote the other day:

My sweet Lucille, this was not the morning to which I'd hoped you'd wake up. Our country is very clearly still living within the confines of a patriarchy. But - make no mistake - our knuckles have grazed the glass, and while we were unable to completely shatter that ceiling, there are fractures. Someday, my love, someday. Maybe it will be you. 

I sincerely hope I can pull this letter out in four years, and it will mean something in a way it didn't this year.

Dear Lucille,

Last night, Hillary Rodham Clinton, won the election and has become the President elect. At the turn of the year, Barack Obama, our first black president will end his tenure, and Clinton will become President of the United States of America. This is not a letter about whether I like her or disliked the man who ran against her. This, Lucille, is entirely about the fact that a WOMAN will now hold the highest office in this land. And that, no matter where you stand on party lines, deserves respect.

It is monumental.

Clinton’s road to the White House began long before you ever existed, and women before her have been quietly, and some quite loudly, paving the way for this very moment. We read a book called Rad American Woman A-Z, and some of these warriors are named. If you turn back the clocks you will find a remarkable reel of women that illuminate a bold future for you.

When you were born a female, a gender you currently express, you were born with an inherent set of challenges. Our culture places a heavy emphasis on the material, especially looks. According to magazines, and TV shows, and movies, and the pervasive noise that is our world, you will be judged, at least initially, on how you look. In your lifetime you will fight misogyny, sexism, expectations to be married and have children, rape culture, imposed body image assumptions, and a menagerie of double-standards. Lucille, I am working to arm you. To save you from the language of the crawl that has formed in my own head, the one I lived with, to something braver, something much more confident; we watch Wonder Woman and talk about how she is strong and saves herself. We read books about girls like Molly Lou Mellon who walk proudly while dismissing the judgements of others. We talk about the different shapes and sizes and colors of our friends, and how some families have two Mamas, and some have to Daddies.

The work of women is not done, my love, and we’re nowhere near eradicating gender expectations, but we are moving in the right direction. You and I are part of a gender history fraught with blood and toil, misandry, rape and murder  – but we are also part of a history bedazzled with the likes of Abigail Adams, Elizabeth Blackwell, Harriet Tubman, Clara Barton, Nellie Bly, Bessie Coleman, Jane Addams, Amelia Earhart, Shirley Chisholm, Gloria Steinem, and now, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Today, another giant crack in that ceiling has formed, and if you tilt your face up to that fracture, my dear, you will feel the rain serpentine its way through and fall upon your cheeks like a kiss. As your mama, I can say that you, Lucille, can one day be president. That’s what this is about. Today is a day in history that will forever be marked by progress for the women in this country.

Whether you add your name to that very public list will be your prerogative. Regardless, I will love you for all your failures and triumphs, whether you are known or unknown to the masses. You won’t remember today, not by a long shot, and Clinton’s tenure as president, however far it reaches, will be a blip in your history. But we women will be watching, fully aware of the public misogyny and sexist rubbish Madam President will face. I, as a woman and your mama, will be watching closely, hoping that despite the politics and policy, she continues to forge a road for us.

Today, Lucille, I just need you to know that anything is possible. And I will reiterate that sentiment for the rest of my life, calling upon the names of these women who have come before you, as you encounter whatever challenges may be ahead.

Lucille, a woman is President.

A woman.