She's Six

Dear Lucy,

In doing some research on your name, the etymology – Lucille is a diminutive of the Latin, Lucia. Keep digging and Lucia is the feminine of Lucius, which is derived from Latin Lucianus, an offshoot of the Roman Lucius — also known as "light."

From the beginning, I’ve known this: you are light.

What a perfect reflection of the six year-old you have become. Radiance that turns into prisms, the soft Autumnal shine that filters through trees bleeding their colors into winter – the kind of light that flickers and shimmers, light so bright it stings the eyes. Lucy, you are all of this and more.

This past year has been a series of remarkable events and moments, many that that have shaken our understanding of the footing we held. We were so cavalier. Kindergarten, bowled you over, and took me down too. And we are not out of the woods yet. This new place that holds so much promise has intimidated and frightened. It is not the familiar space where you reigned so comfortably for the past five years – where everyone literally knows your name, and you know every smile that has cared for you. Kindergarten is too big right now, and we are slowly chipping away at the scary. Sometimes this looks like happiness stepping off the school bus, and sometimes it's nights in tears begging me not to leave your side because you, “will miss [me] so much tomorrow at school.” So we’ve taken a step back, and I lay next to you, my hand on your back, whispering encouragements, and sometimes nothing at all – just being present with you, and existing in the fear,  in tandem. By your side I remain, as much as I can be, until the sun orchestrates a new day, and you are left to square up, once again.

The weight of this new challenge comes on the heels of an incredible summer. Dare I say a storybook couple of months. You’ve nearly nailed down the skills to swim, moving longer and longer stretches across the skin of the pool and beneath. You love the water, Lucy. We went more times to the pool this year than in any summers past. We traveled, hiked, climbing mountains in Colorado, touched waterfalls. You became my assistant on photography shoots, for which you charge $5. And to be quite honest, you’re immensely helpful, holding the reflector when need be, and getting the attention of easily distracted little ones. There are moments when you even pipe up and suggest a shot! It’s fabulous to see you thinking in terms of light and composing a frame. And the camera – it loves you. You remain my favorite muse.

Gymnastics has fallen by the wayside, and currently you’re not involved in anything. I panicked for half a second, worried the absence of organized sports or activities would lead to your eventual downfall, but then quickly righted my thinking: You. Are. A. Child. You need not do anything but explore, and play, and exist. I suspect you’ll eventually find something, but for now, we’re all okay just living the day to day.

Current favorites include The Amazing World of Gumball, Nailed It, Sugar Rush, and Portlandia. Yes, Portlandia. Taylor Swift is often requested, purple and turquoise are colors of choice, you’re all about expression through makeup and hair (dyed pink just before school started), and you chose to have your ears pierced. Crafting and drawing drive your creativity, and there’s not an empty paper towel cardboard roll that stands a chance against your scissors. Empty toilet paper rolls become bejeweled bracelets worn as high fashion. You love spending time with Daddy outside tossing the ball, and you’ve become friends with neighbors Nick and Charlotte, both three years your senior. Occasionally you lament being younger, only because you wish you were in their same grade at school, otherwise the age difference is irrelevant. Your reading skills continue to progress and you can now sound out short simple words, on your own.

The thing about light is, it will always find the seam through which to shine. In your ability to make it through this phase, I have no doubt. These tough moments are what build backbone, and while painful to experience (and to watch as your Mama), are necessary. Today you are six and tangled among all the changes that have recently occurred. You are slowly navigating your way through, and I watch, as always, in awe at your resilience and simultaneous fragility. My little Libra, searching so hard for balance, wanting to do what’s right, and yet taking risks. Clouded under confusion, with moments of brilliant clarity.

Nothing good is built with hollow stones. Each milestone is a brick placed on the foundation to which you’re constructing – the eventual woman you will become. No matter the burdens you’re tasked to shoulder, remember always, in me, Lucy, you’ll forever have a space in which to rest and renew your spirit. 

You are light.
And because of this, I know you will be okay.

I know you wish / You had a brother who had blue eyes just like you / I know you wish
You had a sister you could tell your secrets to / Maybe we'll miss
Having four sets of china on the table / But I guarantee you this
You mean more to me than branches to a maple

Pink painted walls / Your face in my locket / Your daddy and me
Your tiny back pocket / Mama's first love / Last of my kind
You'll always be my only child

Happy Birthday, my sweet Lucille.


Sunrise, Sunset

Dear Lucy,

I wrote the following while on vacation this summer:

There is comfort in resting my ear against the fingered tines of your ribs, my body next to yours, sleeping - so small in this moment - curled into the blankets, like a seashell found buried in the sand at the shoreline. This is me, listening to the air moving in and out of your lungs - it's what we do sometimes, us Mothers. We listen to the breath of our children, the rhythmic pull and rush, like waves rolling in on themselves, steady and even. There is solace here. And what I hear, the rush-rush of your breath, is juxtaposed to what I'm seeking against the rainbow pajamas you chose because they're cooler, and summer nights spent sleeping in Nana's sewing room are warm. It's this rush I want to moderate, measure out in half beats so that I may inhale all of who you are and were, who you are becoming amidst the thief that is Time. If there was a way to rewind your body into the velvety soft bundle smelling sweetly of some illusive combination of talc and milk and spit up, rewind you into the cradle of my elbow, when we spent long snowy days together, your body tucked neatly into the curve of my arm - I would. 

But this is not how it goes, my love - this rush is not to be damned, impossible. This is all you, rushing, rushing away, and into your own person.

We have spent a magical summer together, so many adventures, each one better than the last. Everything from airplanes, hiking to incredible heights, baking cakes, swimming, and sleepovers. 

In a few short days you will begin Kindergarten. The uniforms hang neatly, a new lunchbox and backpack await, a small desk area has been prepared, you chose to pierce your ears, and dye your hair a wildly fabulous hot pink.You have memorized mine and Daddy's phone numbers, our address. You are ever so close to reading, and you love "plus" and "minus" numbers. Your vocabulary will blow them away.

You are ready.

But I am not.

I was not prepared for the overwhelming wave of emotion that has grabbed hold of me. I wrote to my superiors letting them know that I'd be into work a little late on your first day, as I would not miss sending you off on the big yellow school bus. And when those doors close behind you, swallowing you whole, I know you will do well. In your education, I have full confidence - you will be fine.

It's all the other parts of school that are terrifying to think of. Ad nauseam, I have repeated that it's your soul I want to protect. That self-worth and confidence we have worked so hard to nurture - will it remain intact as the world of school and friends do their thing, sometimes so painfully cruel?

Did I do enough? 

I have learned to let others love you. It started with the morning I dropped you off at daycare, entrusting your care with those wonderful women as I returned to other people's children. It began then, I know. But this feels vastly different.

My Blueberry Girl, I hope you know, deep in your bones, that you are loved fiercely, that you remember all the times we told you, you were brave, and strong, and kind, and generous, that it is okay to fail, that you will fail, that struggle is necessary, to stand up for yourself, speak out against the bad, and compassion for others goes a long way - that you believe all these for yourself.

This is my wish for you.

I hope I have done enough.

Love, Mama.



Every year, when I teach AP Literature & Composition, I begin with Shakespeare’s tragedy, Macbeth. In order to gain a deeper level of understanding of the story, students are instructed to follow various motifs throughout the play, one of which is sleep. For the most part, sleep symbolizes innocence, purity, and peace of mind. Sleep, as it pertains to Parenthood, is remarkably similar.

When our babies are wee little newborns, daily life revolves around the clock and sleep, or lack thereof. It comes to no one’s surprise, after having gone through the trenches of this early stage, how potent sleep deprivation is as a form of interrogative torture. Sleep is a keystone in any discussion involving newborns, either by way of ruminations from an exhausted parent, or a well-meaning inquiring mind – How is she sleeping?

News flash – the sleep issues don’t necessarily end with the newborn stage. They evolve into considerations of bed-sharing, then maybe getting littles into their own cribs, then out of baby jail and into their own beds, keeping them in those beds, and so on and so forth. We won’t even get into the challenges of time changes. And just as frustrating and mind numbing as the world of sleep can be during this period in life, so too, can it be the most incredible.

One of the most cherished images I have of me and my daughter is a picture I snapped on my terrible faux blackberry, when she was just a week and a half old. She is nuzzled on my shoulder facing me, peacefully sleeping. If I close my eyes, I can almost conjure up the way the weight of her tiny body felt in my arms, the sweet smell of her head, and the tiny baby breath sounds she made. I am literally awash with contentedness just thinking about it. Her skin against mine conducted a symphony of oxytocin through my veins, a glorious orchestral sonata from which I hoped never to hear the end.

It's quite easy to forget the poetic rhythm of these moments, especially when all I’ve wanted to do was sleep peacefully myself. Fear, too, is an immense force: fear that she’ll not figure out how to self-soothe, fear that she won’t ever sleep in her own bed, and the fear that she won’t learn to stay in that bed, because my goodness, all the stories circulating, the ones you hear about and selectively fixate upon when you’re knee deep into sleep-training, serve only to highlight what you can’t get your own kid to perform successfully.

But one day, the knot untangles, and she figures it out.

Hard to say if it’s because of the fairy you invented and convinced her lives in her room to protect her, or whether it was the rewards chart, or if it was the militant week you spent returning her to her bed a la Super Nanny, hour after hour, night after night. She got it. She understands now that in our home, her bed is for her, and ours is for us. That her five year-old body doesn’t quite fit as comfortably as it once used to, and her sprawling ways generally end up smacking someone in the face. In fact, she’s often more comfortable in own bed because of this. She realizes now we all sleep better this way.

I’d be a fool to tout some cavalier belief that all our sleep challenges are long behind us. That would be laughable, because occasionally, she has a rough day or evening, and requests to sleep in our bed. We oblige when we see fit, but these happen less and less. Nestled there, though, lies the quandary, the double-edged sword I now find myself learning to handle.

I miss her body. Her smell. Her breath. This is not a constant, but rather an interloper hiding in the shadows of our days. When the feeling crests, it is visceral. I can’t always name it, I just know, impulsively, that I miss her. Sometimes the decision is easy – no, you need to sleep in your own bed tonight. Other moments, there is a physical beckoning, something beyond and greater than my own control that wants to say, yes, you can sleep in our bed tonight because I need you near me. These are fleeting, I know – not my need to be near her, but her wanting to be near me. I expect that as we broach and dive headlong into the teenage years, she won’t be asking much at all. Because of this it is my personal goal to try to pay attention to these moments, to remember that now is now. There will come a day, I presume, when we've circled back around the sun of teenagedom, and she will be all grown up and out of the house. Her body will not be near mine - at all. 

The other day I’d spent entirely away from her, in a studio photographing mothers and their children. I was struck, once again, by a fierce compulsion to be with my daughter and wrote the following:

Once upon a time, so many sleeps ago, I did everything I could to get you into your own bed and out of mine. And here we are, on this night, when all I want to hear is the rhythm of your breath, singing me to sleep.

She’d had a long day and was particularly whiny and overly emotional. As we were lying in the dark, drifting off, my hand around hers, I said, “I love being your Mama.” She didn’t say anything back - just squeezed my hand for several seconds.

There she was, lying next to me, purely innocent, and I was peaceful. The recurring motif in our little world. I inhaled all I could of her.

She’d not asked to sleep in our room - I volunteered the offer.
Because I wanted it.
Selfishly, I wanted my daughter next to me.

I needed her there.
With me.



Last summer you read your very first words: hero and jumbo. You were excited, I was electrified – we were both proud. In that moment we both pulled back the curtain ever so slightly, peering out onto a stage illuminated with infinite possibilities.

Reading has underscored my whole life. I devoured books, often at such a breakneck pace, that they couldn’t be purchased or checked out quickly enough to keep up with my insatiability. As quickly as I could get my hands on one, I was turning the last page and searching for the next. When I became pregnant with you, many daydreams involved reading to you as an infant, and then cuddled next to you at night taking you on adventures of magic where owls deliver messages, into the Big Woods of Wisconsin with Laura Ingalls, and through wardrobes where White Queens reign. I filled your shelves with stories I loved, and hoped you would love, too. And you do. We read nightly, always two stories (one long, one short). 

Letters make more sense now, and the concept of stringing them together to make sounds is becoming more and more familiar. It’s there, Lucy – you’re so close. Words are also something with which you’ve been fascinated; fragments of a kaleidoscope you constantly want to make sense of. So many times you’ll look up from your iPad and the benign garbage you’re watching on Kids YouTube and ask about a new-to-you word – Mom, what’s mercury? What’s similar? What’s quizzical? What’s tender mean? I never tire of these kinds of questions, and I’m always in awe of your ability to remember what the words mean, and how well you put them into use soon thereafter – Mom, Lady Gaga and Gwen Stefani look very similar when they both have the blonde hair. Sometimes, at night, after we’ve read our stories and sang our two songs (currently “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Blackbird”), you ask me to tell you a story, and I am challenged to come up with something in the moment. It’s fun because you’ll pepper my narrative with plot twists your feel are necessary, or names of characters that seem to fit best according to your five-year-old fancy.

Last night I was upstairs reading, and you were downstairs watching “CHiPs” with Big Red, and I overheard you ask him, a few times, what the words on the TV said. In that moment, as my eyes slowed on the words in front of them, I set down my book and tried to imagine what it’s like to be you in this moment – to see letters and understand them as individual markers, to recognize a handful of words, but not be able to truly read. That the letters strung together are just fancy patterns, something to be admired, but a talisman not yet discovered.  
Photo by Pamela Salai Photography

You are Dorothy, Lucy, inside the ramshackle farmhouse, your hand on the doorknob. What awaits you on the other side is a world of Technicolor and enchantment. A seamless road that begins with words, and in which the in-between is colored by your imagination. There is no end, Lucy - only more.

You are so very close, darling. It’s all right there in front of you – the curtain begging to be drawn back, the stage revealed.


She's Five

Pamela Salai Photography

Dear Lucy,

Today you are five years old. Half a decade. A whole hand. If you look up numerology, five is described as being the most dynamic and energetic of the single digit numbers. 

My gal, you are just that.

This past year you have grown in ample strides. Intellectually, your need to understand the world around you is insatiable, your ability to hear, remember, and put into use new vocabulary, is remarkable, and your independence has touched every part of our lives. You are growing up right before my eyes.

Like a rolling stone, milestones this year evolved at an alarming pace as your neared your birthday:

·         You can now draw stick figures that actually resemble people, and have created several family portraits of our trio.
·         You conquered your fear of being submerged in water, and now freely jump into pools, and swim below the surface.
·         You can take care of your basic hygienic needs, including successfully showering yourself.
·         You read your very first words: “hero” and “jumbo.”
·         You can get your own snacks and glass of water.
·         You know how to work the TV and access your favorite shows on Netflix.

What is most memorable for me was the summer – you and me. It was, by far, the most enjoyable summer as your Mama. In the past, I often struggled to come up with activities that we could both enjoy, that you would be able in which to participate, and that were appropriate for your age. This summer blew the lid off of all those previous parameters. You are old enough now that the activities we can do together are fun for the both of us, and the places we can go are with minimal preparation, and your willingness to experience new adventures is awesome.

We did so much!! Most notably, we took our first “girl’s trip,” where we drove down to Pigeon Forge, TN, to meet up with my long-time friend and her daughter. It was a lengthy drive down, but you managed like a seasoned pro, exceeding all my expectations. My girl, you were in fact, good company. We listened to stories on a CD and discussed what happened. We laughed a whole lot. Our visit to Tennessee was incredibly fun, and you made fast-friends with R, who is several years your senior. From Tennessee, we headed to Asheville, NC, for a couple days and you continued to enjoy the adventure just as much as I did. When all was said and done and we were home, we both decided that an annual girl’s trip was going to have to become our tradition.

At five years old, your love of music continues, and you thoroughly enjoy artists such as Imagine Dragons, Lady Gaga, Camila Cabello, and Taylor Swift. I see a concert in your near future, darlin’. With music comes dancing, and you are often twirling and creating routines. Crafting is your go-to pastime, and the table you occupy in the living room is often happily covered in markers and remnants of whatever picture you created or construction paper you’ve cut and glued. A slight obsession with makeup has developed, and this one has been a challenge for me. It’s not that I believe makeup is bad; I have grown to love it as I’ve gotten older. I just don’t want you to ever feel the need to wear it, to hold yourself to some unrealistic and unhealthy standard. For now, we allow you to play with some makeup, but when you exit the house, for the most part, we don’t allow any. For special occasions, a select almost translucent eye-shadow, with some sparkle, is allowed, and perhaps a touch of lip gloss. I won’t pretend to know that I know the best way to approach makeup in terms of developmental appropriateness; I’m trying very hard to tread the line with what I think is acceptable, and not squelch the fun you have with it. When asked the other day what you wanted to be when you grow up, you said, “A hair and makeup lady.” Frankly, I think that’s fabulous, and I will champion this path should you someday actually walk it.

You tried out soccer for the very first time, and decided it wasn’t for you. Totally fine. I’m not seeking a legacy in you, nor do I care if you ever love soccer. My girl, I just want you to find something to love, to be passionate about - something to make your own. Gymnastics continues to reign as the desired activity. We took a break for several months, partly because I did not want you to be over-scheduled, but mostly because I wanted to give you an opportunity to try a new sport (soccer), and I wanted to be sure that your participation in gymnastics was because you wanted to be there, and not just because Mama had enrolled you. It’s clear you enjoy bouncing and flipping around. Our living room has become your personal gymnasium, and I chuckle when I see you flip onto the couch, almost knocking the picture frames off the wall. Lucy – it’s as if I’m looking at my past self – I did the very same thing. You have learned how to do a cartwheel, and are working towards a solid handstand.

Pamela Salai Photography
You are so well-immersed in your current pre-school setting; you’re top dog - but the concept of kindergarten has found its way into our world. It’s right around the corner.

This is your final year as a pre-schooler, and while I know you’ll be more than ready to enter the halls of traditional schooling, I understand it’s a little terrifying. You have asked on more than one occasion, “What if I don’t know what to do in Kindergarten?” I try my best to explain that a teacher will be there to help, and that you are a wise girl, and will figure things out as they come, but also that asking for help is all part of the journey.  Next fall will bring big changes, and I will ride them out with you as much as I can, but for the most part, it will be on you, big girl. You will have to navigate new spaces, new friends, and new rules. It won’t all be easy, and some of it may be quite trying. My Mama heart aches knowing this fear floats around inside of you, and I wish with everything to absolve you of this pressure, but I also know it is necessary, and will be good for you. My sweet girl, we only grow when we are pushed outside of our comfort zones.

A month ago I broke my ankle participating in the Tough Mudder. You asked why I had to, “do the race.” My answer was that I do these races because I enjoy challenging myself – this to which you replied, “But you don’t need to challenge your body anymore, because you get boo-boos.” It was sweet and I understand it’s uncomfortable for you to see me hurt, but I needed you to know that this is a fundamental part of who I am. I explained this to you, explained that the fear of getting hurt should never stop you, as it has never stopped me. If I stopped “races” then a part of who I am would cease to exist. I know in your young mind this doesn’t make total sense, but at the very least, I hope you see a Mama who put herself out there, fell hard, and came back to be even stronger. It’s not the fall, Lucy, that defines who we are, but rather the way in which we rise afterwards. We are strong women, cut from the same cloth. We are here to blaze through this world, both warrior and woman.

In June, just a few weeks before I turned forty, we did a photo shoot together. We had such a blast, and I’m so grateful to Pamela Salai Photography for creating and capturing such stunning images. I hope in these you see how good this life really is, how fierce and exquisite you are, and just how much your Mama loves you.

Pamela Salai Photography
You’ve recently taken to falling upon me, hugging and kissing me, and saying, “I just love you so much, and I never want to let you go.” As if my heart could not swell any bigger, I find it doing just that. Growing exponentially, five years and counting. 

There is an image that Pam captured which perfectly encapsulates parenthood. You, twirling in all your tulle and moto jacket glory, and me, your Mama, just slightly behind, looking on in admiration at the remarkable girl you have become.

Someday you will let go, and move on to your own life, but I will always be there. Giving you space to create your world, but always within reach, championing your radiant spirit, always ready for hugs and kisses. And baby, I will always believe you. Always.

Happy Birthday, my sweet Lucille - love, Mama


Just Because.

Have you ever wanted to do something, just simply, to do it? No significance, no story behind the act, no meaningful symbolism. Have you?

I have.

I have always wanted to shave my head for no other reason than to experience what it feels like and see what it looks like. That’s all. Honest to goodness. Girl Scout’s honor.

Hesitation and doubt have been my nemesis for years; the social repercussions to doing something so dramatically drastic, too, have echoed in the back of my mind. Is she sick? Why would she do something like this? It looks awful. Is she having a midlife crisis? Biggest mistake of her life. Whatever sense of beauty I have of myself, I have had to ask – is it locked in my locks? While I mostly don’t care what others think of what I do, worrying about whether or not I could pull this off – held me back.

And then it occurred to me, as many things have this year – WHO THE FUCK CARES? If it looks horrible, the good news about hair, and my ability to grow it at a reasonably rapid rate is just that – it will grow back.

And that’s where this started; it’s not where I ended, because I changed my mind. Free will, people. Instead of channeling Natalie Portman via V for Vendetta, I kept some length. It gives me something to play with and color. But don’t get it mixed up, though, I was still crazy nervous. Going from so much hair to almost nothing is a dramatic change.

This year has been a year about acceptance and giving myself permission to become the most comfortable in my skin I’ve ever been. I have been privately criticizing and scrutinizing myself for the better part of my life. It ends now; I owe myself the love I so willingly and generously give to others.

I recently read Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness, and she writes that, “We must sometimes stand alone in our decisions and beliefs despite our fears of criticism and rejection.” Unnerving to say the least, even for the most confident of souls. But if we look a little closer, isn’t it mostly about control? Brown writes that, “…because we can’t control…what other people think about our choice…it turns out to be the place of true belonging, and it’s the bravest and most sacred place you will ever stand.”

So, I’m going to stand in the sacred, in backing out of my original plan, in embracing my final choice, and relinquish the rest. And believe me, I get the triviality of all this - a haircut. On the continuum of life, what matters and what doesn't, this is but a tiny privileged first world blip in the world.

It’s not a shaved head, but damn – it’s short! Lucy says I look like a punk-rocker. Thanks darlin'. And, as it turns out, I am not Samson. I feel no less powerful, in fact, I feel MORE powerful. Seems like most of us live two lives; the one in which we participate on a daily basis, and the one that resides quietly within us. What stands between the two is fear. In squaring up against my own doubt, the experience of cutting off all my hair has been exquisitely empowering.

However I am perceived and deceived,
however my ignorance and conceits,
lay aside your fears that I will be undone,
for I shall not be moved.

This was simply an act for me, read no further.

I shall not be moved.



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 for 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 talking to 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.