Emerging, ready to share again

I haven’t written publicly in some time because—once again, and much differently than I might’ve drawn it up if I could’ve—I’ve been going through some stuff. So has almost everyone else I know (mad props to ’em), so I know I’m not special, even though my mom and dad laughingly proclaim I have had the year of all years, but here’s some of my latest meanderings nonetheless…

Embarking on a hardcore regimen of weekly therapy for several months. I wanted to revisit the landmarks I blew past in my sprint to survival following the separation. I retraced my steps. I looked at everything I missed. My therapist encouraged me to “sit with my feelings” rather than immediately look for the silver lining that would make sense of stuff that made no sense. I saw and felt things I can’t believe I dismissed as I was dashing to make all the pieces of my new life fit together. It was painful as eff. But I finally came to the finish line, a freer, more grounded, wiser person.

Navigating an evolving social circle. Assimilating to the glaring void of raucous social gatherings with couples and families was a thing for me. With the change in marital status, one or two of my social circles changed drastically. It was a little lonely sometimes. Not just for me, but for my boys. Thankfully, my dearest friends never left my side and I discovered new ways to be social.

Searching hungrily for single moms who’d “get it.” Couples and families comfortable enough to hang out with just me and my boys while my life looked heaps different than theirs…that was hard to come by.

Working very un-summery hours. Not ideal, but my Kindle peops show me deeper layers of their awesomeness daily. Someday I’ll write an entire blog post on that.

Reconnecting with my first love, for whom I’d longed over the course of my lifetime, only to discover that once we candidly revisited all our long-lost feelings as well as those that lingered, our connection was much bigger, much purer, much more powerful and much more about lifelong divine friendship than about meeting at a California beach house for a steamy weekend rendezvous.

Deciding to end my frivolous yearlong dating bender. I intended to create space for something bigger. (The dating life couldn’t have been more indulgent and fun, but it was time, almost exactly one year to the day.)

Meeting C. Sure enough, I met someone bigger—so much bigger—approximately one very intense, self-reflexive, heated-conversations-with-the-Universe month after I asked for it.

Falling in love. And clearing myself for reals of some major blocks to true intimacy.

Finalizing my divorce. Even though we hugged before, during and after the proceedings, that shit sucked. Super ouchie.

Embracing the unicorn. Opening my heart, mind, life and family to a wonderful man and his wonderful son was a big, big deal. (Note: He’s even better than I hoped he’d be—and thank goodness he doesn’t own a yacht or a hedge fund. Soon after I wished for that in the Bahamas, I discovered first hand on a few persistent dinners with ostentatious bottles of wine and bombast to beat the band that those dudes are insufferable.)

Leaving the house. Moving out of the home in which I became a mother, fought hard for a marriage, surrendered the marriage, and struck out on my own as a single, working mom… Tough.

Apartment living. Moving into a two-bedroom apartment with window a/c units and coin laundry in the basement.

Never fucking having enough quarters.

Also, becoming pregnant.


Boy, does life surprise me sometimes.

I’ll spare you the details, but the baby all up in my uterus courtesy of my beloved is one determined human. I’ll be honest, it felt downright biblical at first. I could almost hear God’s (really deep, booming) voice saying “Emily, you thought you would never do this again, but you are going to have a child. My will be done.”

The weekend before I found out, I said a special, very intentional prayer:

“Please give me the courage and the wildness to embrace the magnitude of unknown blessings on their way to me now.”

I knew something big was coming and, sight unseen, I knew I wanted the strength to receive it. That’s what I get, I suppose. Nonetheless, I spent a couple months agonizing very ungraciously in what I call Freak Out Town. I had some furious, incredulous, bargaining words with God; I pushed C away; I retreated into my own self-reliant world; my tummy was always upset; I was exhausted and withdrawn; I cried a LOT.

Then something clicked and…

  • I allowed my enthusiastic, supportive, delighted, in-countless-ways-magnificent, prayerful, tuned-in, awesome father, top-of-the-line-luxury-model babydaddy  more completely into my heart, into my life, into my sons’ lives and onto the path we are now unconventionally forging together with our conglomeration of children.
  • Second, I stopped trying to understand God’s plan and simply concede to it.

With both of these moves came joy and contentment like I can’t describe.

Like any recently divorced, pregnant, yet unwed, flying-by-the-seat-of-her-pants woman and mother, I have my moments—for example I would really like to give fewer fucks about what people think about me over here, but the creepy hard stares at my belly and the mouth-agape responses to my unexpected news sometimes do bother me.

Nonetheless, the prevailing sensation in all of this—and in my family, coworkers and close friends—is marvel.

Also love. So much love.

72 ways to show real love now


I’ve been learning whole lot about love, in all its many forms, in the past year. Thanks to lots of you, I have a broader picture of what love can look like, as listed below.

Here are 72 ways to show someone love today.

  1. Bring them homemade peanut butter cups.
  2. Pass along a book you’ve read and think they’ll love.
  3. Give them your recent Us Weekly
  4. Tell them you love them.
  5. Suggest they do something that’s good for them.
  6. Book a flight to go visit them.
  7. When they mention it’s been an emotionally intense day, respond by saying “Oh, how exciting!” in your most sarcastic voice. And laugh together.
  8. Pray for them.
  9. Teach them something you know how to do.
  10. Ask them to teach you something.
  11. Be warm and kind to their children.
  12. Send them a text when you’re thinking of them.
  13. Offer them homemade soup.
  14. Give them space to say something important and potentially heartbreaking to you, and treat them lovingly even if it hurts.
  15. Boldly say something important and potentially heartbreaking to them. Be there for them after if it hurts. Why? Because, delivered with love and with a golden heart, truth can heal.
  16. Give them a symbolic gift to assist them in their journey.
  17. When it’s the right thing to do, release them.
  18. Comment positively on their Facebook status.
  19. Enter their messy house and make yourself comfortable.
  20. Let them talk your ear off. Ask questions. Remain engaged even if you’re (justifiably) tired of talking about it.
  21. Call to check in. On the phone.
  22. Compliment them on the delicious dinner they’ve made you. Repeat.
  23. Tell them they need more sleep. Suggest they go to bed earlier.
  24. Hold them.
  25. Take something off their to-do list just because you can.
  26. Turn on Drunk History because you know it’ll make them laugh.
  27. Make them a cup of coffee or tea. Just the way they like it.
  28. French braid their hair.
  29. Let them be uncool around you.
  30. Whatever it is they geek out on (we all have something), ask them questions about it.
  31. Scratch their back.
  32. Beam at them.
  33. Make fun of them in a good-natured way.
  34. Keep their secrets.
  35. Hug with vigor. Hold on tight.
  36. Send them a long-distance song dedication over email, text or social media. All the better if it includes a lavishly produced hip hop video.
  37. Bake something and give it to them.
  38. Sing them a song.
  39. Remind them how _______ they are. (insert the most called-for adjective.)
  40. Let them take care of you in some way.
  41. Make plans to get together.
  42. Call them on the phone to request they actually pretty please do come to your party even after you’ve RSVPd that you won’t be there.
  43. Share something really deep and really personal with them. Trust them with the knowledge.
  44. Ask them for help.
  45. Share a poem that makes you think of them. Bonus points if you can’t find the translation, so you send it in its original language.
  46. Watch their kids.
  47. Tell them the truth.
  48. Surprise them with their favorite treat.
  49. Introduce them as someone who’s important to you to someone who’s important to you.
  50. Go for a walk together.
  51. Share a story about a way in which they impacted you positively—one they may not even remember.
  52. Ask them how they’re doing, and stand by for the response.
  53. Like their instagram pics. Better yet, say something nice in response to one.
  54. Show them your real, true, unveiled self, inside and out.
  55. Let them see you without your makeup on.
  56. Say glowing things about them behind their backs.
  57. Share their business, blog or favorite cause on social media.
  58. On their birthday, let them know how happy you are they were born.
  59. Make your favorite comfort food from childhood and share some with them.
  60. Teach your baby how to say their name.
  61. Invite them to share in a holiday with you.
  62. See their greatest weakness, and then guide them to see where they are strong.
  63. Be up for hanging out even when you know they’re down.
  64. Hold their hand.
  65. Review their resume. Offer honest feedback.
  66. Ask them to review your resume.
  67. Get them home safely.
  68. Pat them on the back.
  69. Brag about them to your friends.
  70. Give them a nickname. The best ones are those that make the person feel like a goddess or a king or like they have some kind of superpower.
  71. Tell them something you appreciate about them.
  72. Look them in the eyes. Smile from your heart.

What’s in your internal box office? I try giving it up to God and get huffy when it doesn’t go MY way.

My husband has a great expression he uses to explain the conservation of energy for the things you really want to do. “Fun tickets.”

Basically, he says, you’ve got a finite amount of energy, aka fun tickets, to use in a day, so you can choose either to use them up all at once, or conserve them for later.

It goes back to his days when he summered as a roughneck on drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico in order to winter in Aspen as a ski bum. It was the early 1980s, where, if you felt like it, you could dance all night beside a glass coffee table laden with overflowing ashtrays of white powder. However, if the other kind of white powder was falling, he forewent the Don Henley lifestyle and went to bed early to make sure he had enough fun tickets for the mountain. After all, even as a young buck, you only have so many fun tickets in a 24-hour period. You can borrow from the next day’s stash, but you have fewer to work with once the sun rises. Reliably, being the first one down the hill on a fresh powder morning was his preferred buzz.


(photo caption) This is my man back in the 1980s and 1990s, when he cashed in a lot of fun tickets. Back then, he was known by his initials, BQ. His Copper Mountain employee ID is cool, but the real gem is that guy in the teeny shorts, presumably just after he moved to Maui. There’s no shortage of shirtless-BQ-with-fish pics and feather-haired-BQ-embracing-gleaming-feather-haired-woman pics in the big black bag where he keeps his photos. Gotta love a man with a rich tapestry. I know I sure do.

Are there other kinds of tickets?

If homemaking and motherhood have anything at all in common with recreational drug use in the eighties and life as a ski bum circa Hot Tub Time Machine, it’s that your body only has a limited number of fun tickets available.

Same goes for perfection tickets and nice tickets, among a legion of others in our internal box office. If you’ve ever run out of nice, you know what I mean.

Let’s extend this ticket metaphor to the topic of preparing for a home appraisal, which my former ski bum and I have been doing this week, in which case you might discuss “meticulous” tickets.

I am plumb out of them.

Just ask the Universe

Earlier this week Kip came home with one of those rainbow loom bracelets all the kids are into these days. If you’re not as hip as I am, these colorful bracelets are made of a million tiny rubber bands looped together in a formation similar to the shape the old jelly bracelets once took on when I forced them into my mouth to pretend they were a retainer. At least here in Chicago, it’s a wrist-side sensation among the elementary set. Kip’s little buddy made one for him, which filled his heart with joy. And made Charlie cry. “I want one of those bracelets…” he immediately whined, lips contorted into that about-to-wail face.

“Ok, buddy. Well, first, it’d be really nice if you told Kip that you like his bracelet and that you’re happy for him he got one from his friend,” I explained over his sobs. “Next, why don’t you just tell God and the Universe you’d like to have one of these bracelets? And open yourself up to the possibility that one of your pals may make you one.”

“Oookay, Mommy,” Charlie sniffed. “Universe, I would really like to have one of those bracelets.”

The appraisal

The next day, yesterday, we had our home appraised, very hopefully at that, for a potential refinancing that, by our calculations, would’ve made everything awesome. So, a few days before, we got busy. Sprucing up paint, hanging hooks, cleaning the back yard. We don’t have house cleaners (chief among my WASP-y woes) so we pooled our respective resources of meticulousness and turned our house into a museum for a day. (for some magical people, the museum house is life. For me, it’s no-effing-way-could-i-do-this-everyday-and-still-get-enough-sleep-to-do-it-again-the-next-day.)

Banking on the first-impression factor, we even washed, dried, folded and put away ALL the laundry in our house, a feat never before achieved. It was a lot of work. We were manic. No home of two kids, three dogs, one untidy man and his right-brained wife was ever so sparkling.

Ok, I understand that an appraisal is different from a realtor’s showing, for which you’re required to make would-be homebuyers believe you live in a catalog (click here to treat yoself to my favorite ironic website of all time, Catalog Living), but we wanted everything to look nice nonetheless. You know, like we take care of our stuff, which we do, but if you walked in on an average Tuesday afternoon, it might not be apparent. I even sent the appraiser off with some homemade granola for his family. So gracious I am. It’s the little things, you know?

I don’t have to tell you we didn’t get the loan. The appraisal came in way under what we needed, as a result, per our real estate agent, of faulty comps the appraiser pulled from the neighborhood. My numbers-genie of a husband, our heroic real estate agent and our family CFO (read: deft financial advisor) are on the case for a rebut. Me? I’m sitting here thinking, “But I thought… Damn. And I gave that guy some of my granola. What is up, Universe?”

Rainbow loom of abundance

Not 10 minutes before I received the email of our unfortunate appraisal, on the walk to the car after picking Charlie up from school, Kip’s little buddy silently removed all the bracelets from one of his wrists and handed them to Charlie. Not a peep from Kip’s friend, His Blond-Locked Highness of Three-Year-Old Generosity. Just a humongous smile as he handed them over. How did he know? Charlie was joyfully incredulous. As he put them on his own wrists, he looked like Scrooge MacDuck swimming in gold coins at the beginning of Duck Tales. (Forgive me. These bracelets really take me back to the nineties.)

Walking to the car, I reminded Charlie of our last conversation about these bracelets and his face shone with 10,000 candles. “Oh yeeeeah,” he grinned. “Wow. Thank you, Universe.”


(photo caption) After coming home, Charlie pronounced the bracelets “itchy” and placed them just so beside the Halloween cat on our front hall chest.

Falling from Cloud 9

I was on such a high. Following the uncanny answer to Johnny’s prayers for a bracelet and an awakening session with my energy healer Monday, I was more faithful in miracles and the magic of the Universe than I had been in a while.

So it was interesting to observe how the news of the appraisal brought my vibration way down.

In an attempt to recover the high, the boys and I baked cookies. I suppose I could’ve turned on the TV to distract the kids while I snuck away to meditate or journal, but baking brings about an instant, affirming comfort. It makes me feel motherly, generous, cozy and safe. Baking also gives me something I can control. Mix this. Stir that. Bake this. Eat that. In the face of uncertainty on our home loan and confusion over why it didn’t work out as I’d planned, I wanted to feel like I was directing something.

These cookies are the bomb. (Thank you, back of the Trader Joe's oats package.) But what's really crazy cool is what time it was when I took this photo. If you know a thing or two about angel communication, this 4:44 was one timely and welcome reminder to me in the midst of my appraisal tailspin.

These cookies are the bomb. (Thank you, back of the Trader Joe’s oats package.) But what’s really crazy cool is what time it was when I took this photo. If you’ve studied any numerology or angel communication, this 4:44 was one timely and welcome reminder to me in the midst of my appraisal tailspin.

Oh, but how many times do I have to be reminded that I’m no director? I accept the title of co-creator of my life, but not director. As co-creator with the Universe, I’m the “idea guy.” I come up with a vision and walk in my desired direction. God is the one who brings my dreams about in ways that far surpass what I ever could have envisioned or executed.


(photo caption) For example, what human could ever fathom the task list that starts with the above event, progresses to childbirth and culminates in a living, breathing, sperm-and-egg drawing human being who decides casually to make this fancy little picture while coloring quietly on the floor at your friend’s cocktail party?

Have you ever experienced this sort of magic in your own life?

Most of the time, God and the Universe, which are synonyms in my mind, have much grander plans for us than we have for ourselves. And God, masterful fixer that He is, knows how to make stuff happen in ways we can’t even imagine.

This is no time for sulking. I turned it over to God long before I gave that guy the jar of granola. Who knows what’s at play? All I know—because I have faith in this truth—is that all is as it should be. All will unfold just as it’s supposed to.

And now I may be out of meticulous tickets, but if I check my stash, I have a refreshed supply of faith tickets and I think I still have some fun tickets left. Just in time for the weekend.

Happy Friday, all!

Trying to find the sun amid the storms


To see the sun on these days of gray, I must make my own light brighter.

I woke up scared last Thursday night to a tremendous storm. Lightning flashed through the skylight and thunder shook my window. Two frightened dogs nuzzled my body, trapping my legs in a cage of down and my husband slept beside me. Rain pelted the roof. Wind howled. Water rushed in our gutters. For the first time in years, I was scared of a storm. If my boys had woken up crying, I’d have told them, “Come here. I got ya. It’s just a storm. Snuggle in beneath our covers and just fall asleep. I got ya. Everything is ok.”

But they didn’t wake up and I didn’t get to say those words. Instead I tossed about in pillows and sheets and dogs feeling a sense of ominousness. Is everything ok? I fell back to sleep. Eventually, around 5 a.m. with the storm still raging, Brian rose for the day and went downstairs, leaving me deeply asleep in bed. Is everything ok?

Bombs explode, Congress ignores me, the cold continues, grayness pervades, the marriage challenges, blogs go unposted, work remains unaddressed, the night seems so angry, the dreams are nightmares, the basement floods.

Is everything ok?

I want to bake brownies with mint chips for comfort. I want to buy myself a massage, or a pedicure, to make myself feel better. I want to flip on the TV and submerge my brain in someone else’s story. I want to eat chips fried fresh and the entire can of Herdez salsa casera. I want to escape from this moment, this sogginess. I want to see the sun.

I call my mom, because she loves the sun, too, and she has tricks for finding it when I don’t. She tells me to go to the store and buy something bright and springy, so that every time I look at it, I’ll be cheered. And so I get two cans of silly string, which the boys spray all over the patio with gusto, and I pour a glass of wine while I make Texas chili.

For a few hours, I feel better. And then night again falls.

Kids are in bed, I brush my teeth, I wash my face and I dawdle in the bathroom trying to avoid the room across the hall, the room where I meditate. The ickiness is back and I swear my hands still feel waterlogged from the morning of bailing debris out of our drain. In this moment, at the end of this damp, water-flooded day when everything seems drenched in hopelessness, I know I have one tool to make everything be ok.

I can meditate. I’ve been avoiding it lately. A few weeks ago I felt something indiscernible that scared me. I started feeling like certain prayers were being answered, and that scared me. And so I pulled the plug. No more asking God to use me. No more asking the Universe to make me more aware of God working in my life and through me. I’m not ready, I said. I’m not ready. I’m afraid. No more. I need a break.

I took a break, if you could call it that. A meditation moratorium, a spiritual time out. “I’m not ready,” I told God. “You understand, don’t you?” During this break I’ve dreamed of whales. Whales bringing me trash from the deep, whales inviting me to sojourn with them in the depths, whales stealing children from the seashore, whales accompanying me through shark-infested waters like bodyguards, whales telling me it’s ok, whales swimming with me, whales surrounding my kayak and escorting me to safety…

Nonetheless, I have avoided my meditation practice like the plague, for fear I’d have to continue on the path I was on, the path toward higher consciousness. I haven’t sat in my usual space for longer than two minutes. I haven’t followed the full extent of my practice in weeks. I haven’t made time for the exercise that makes my body feel vital. I’ve had very little mindfulness of what I’m eating. Everything does not seem ok.

The funny thing about spiritual living is that it’s a lot like falling in love. Once you’ve fallen in love, you cannot un-fall, despite your best efforts to take it slow, or even to stop it from happening. Once you hop on a spiritual path, you’re on it and you become like a surfer on a longboard, riding forever. If you bail, the board follows you, because it’s tied to your ankle. Forever.

And so, recognizing there’s no escaping from my sincere search for God and love and oneness with all things, I sit down to meditate. I do so begrudgingly, but it’s my last resort, so as I sit down, I close my eyes and stare hard at the place between my eyebrows. I’m ravenous for a solution. A few moments in, I know. At least for right now, I know.

Making my own light brighter is my best hope of seeing the sun.

It’s everyone’s best hope.

If I take care of my body, if I fill up my spirit, if I honor my heart, if I do what I know I need to do to make my light brighter, then maybe I’ll have enough light and love not just for myself, but for others as well. What if my sun is bright enough that someone who hasn’t seen the sun in forever suddenly catches a glimpse of it? What might that do for a person? If I genuinely feel that everything is ok, maybe someone else will sense it and believe everything is–or will be–ok, too, no matter how cold and gray it seems.

Wracked with the dis-ease of our nation, I’ve been praying for an answer to the question, “What can I do to help?” Apart from making donations, how can I help?

At least for today, it’s clear that I am to do the simplest yet hardest of things:  Make my own light brighter.

If we all commit to giving ourselves the very best in self care, thus making our own lights brighter, maybe everything really will be ok. You never know who you may touch, how God may use you today, tomorrow, every day. You can help. Each of us is the world’s greatest hope.

A prayer

Dear God,

We pray for Your revitalizing light to shine upon all people of the world, particularly on those wounded in any way in Boston and in Texas, and on those caring for them in any capacity.

Place in our hearts the knowing of exactly what it is we can do as individuals to create peace. Inspire us that we may be courageous enough to ask the question, “What can I do?” and to act on Your answer.

Reveal to us the part that’s ours to play in bringing heaven to Earth, no matter how small or grand the scale. And show us where and how we can heal ourselves, our neighbors, our nation, our world.

Bless all humankind in Your transformative love.


Family vacation


Lounging at Drake’s Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore. How long it has been since I’ve done this. How luscious to have bare feet in January. How welcome the splash of freckles across my cheeks from this moment.

When you don’t get away for a while, you forget what a good vacation can do for you, for your family, for your marriage.

Brian and I laughed so much during the trip, which was plain awesome. Did we hit the "it" vineyards for wine tastings or have dinner at The French Laundry while we were in Napa? No, ma'am; we had two little kids with us and Brian doesn't even drink wine. But we did visit Thomas Keller's garden, which the boys loved. (Ok, and we also stopped in Bouchon Bakery because I'd been plotting a pastry smackdown for some time. It was indeed everything I'd hoped it would be.)

Brian and I laughed so much during the trip, which was plain awesome. Did we hit the “it” vineyards for wine tastings or have dinner at The French Laundry while we were in Napa? No, ma’am; we had two little kids with us and Brian doesn’t even drink wine. But we did visit Thomas Keller’s garden, which the boys loved. (Ok, and we also stopped in Bouchon Bakery because I’d been plotting a pastry smackdown for some time. It was indeed everything I’d hoped it would be.)

What has seemed like an impossible luxury since linking up with a mortgage, becoming parents of two and riding shifting career tides, at this moment, I go on record as declaring an official necessity. Travel and family vacations, be them close by and simple or faraway and more intricate, shall heretofore be enjoyed with regularity. All supporting rationale for our new family order can be found in this moment.

This moment, you come up over a hill and see a baby deer nibbling at a bush, or a roadside crawling with wild succulents, or a grove of redwood trees so tall and so magically like and unlike the skyscrapers to which you’re accustomed that you all whisper, “wow.”

Amazed in an ancient forest

Amazed in an ancient forest

This moment, you drop your jaws in succession because all you hear is the steady, mist-muffled roar of parallel sets of waves crashing into the shoreline below the cliff on which you stand. No words. Just open mouths and amazed glances.

Point Reyes

Point Reyes

This moment, you turn 360 degrees to find you’re the only ones within sight so, for miles around, it’s just you, your family, the decomposed granite beneath your feet, a bovine paradise of green hills and clear ponds spreading in three cardinal directions, the bright sky above, the cliffs dropping into the Pacific, deep blue for days and an unmolested deer family grazing just up the hill. This moment is no longer optional.


This moment, your oldest son shovels pasta hungrily into his mouth with his head resting on his other hand because he’s so tired from running literally everywhere he goes and then crawls into your husband’s lap to lean into his broad chest for the rest of lunch while you cradle your sleeping three-year-old and drink wine–a delicious glass of deep red wine–and eat pizza covered in burrata, mustard greens and bacon. And then you drink a cappuccino without even wondering if it might keep you up tonight.

This moment, your three-year-old stands up, brushes off his hands, vows aloud to protect the family snack from one bold seagull and takes off running like a soldier into battle, seagulls erupting all around him. This moment when you’re all laughing—and laughing together—it no longer feels like the indulgent luxury it seemed when you were worrying about how expensive flights were, how much a dog sitter would cost, how he could take that many vacation days and whether your extended family would be a little sad you didn’t come visit them instead. This vacation suddenly falls into the category known as essential.

We may now hike the beaten path, but we have a blast doing it together.

We may now hike the beaten path, but we have a blast doing it together. Here, we strike a silly pose. (Kip struck his right after the camera snapped.)

These moments, as I know after today, are family fuel. They make you roll down the windows on the highway and put your hands out the window, yelling, “WOOO HOOOO!” a car full of gaping smiles reflected in the rearview mirror because Mommy never ever does that. They make you pull over just to stare at a still-as-glass pond reflecting the landscape because, if you had a schedule, it no longer matters; this is too beautiful.

This pond gobsmacked us on a road somewhere between Napa and Point Reyes.

This pond gobsmacked us on a road somewhere between Napa and Point Reyes.

They make you do cartwheels in the sand, leap over rocks and chase each other around like puppies. They make you close your eyes to smell the pine-and-eucalyptus perfume wafting in from the trees along the snaking two-lane road. These moments make you and your husband latch the entrance to your hotel suite, turn the cartoons up loud in the sitting area, sneak away to your bedroom and lock the door.

This vacation, this bit of traveling, it’s never seemed like less of a luxury and more of a necessity. Where I sit today (listening to the surround-sound cadence of three sleeping Quinn men), I have uncovered the fact that travel must be a family value for us, a non-negotiable investment in our us-ness.

The beauty of this rare family adventure was so obvious to me there amid the redwoods that I had to ask someone to take our picture.

The beauty of this rare family adventure was so obvious to me there amid the redwoods that I had to ask someone to take our picture.

I vow not to let as much time pass between now and our next adventure—be it exotic, local, foreign or familiar. I’d forgotten how much traveling expands us, thrusts us out of our habits, and gets us away from laundry and dishes and all the other things at home that distract us from simply being together.

I will admit it wasn’t all perfect. After all, we’re a family doing family things with two boys under age five, so a “family vacation” doesn’t remotely resemble the fancy free, adventure-laced, grown-up getaways of yore.

You can only explore so much. With our little travelers, we knew we had  to make time for good old fashioned playground action.

You can only be adventurous for so many hours a day. With our little travelers, we knew we had to make time for good old fashioned playground action.

Meltdowns, whining, brothers picking at each other in the back seat, walking the paved trail instead of the backcountry one, looking at the ocean instead of getting in it, irritation with one another, moments of frustration, it all showed up to our party. However, the challenges faded in the wash. Being together, being awed together, laughing together, talking together, playing together…this is some of the loveliest stuff there ever was.

Cheers to always, always remembering what travel can do for a person, and for a family.

Cheers to always, always remembering what travel can do for a person, and for a family.

(Emotional) hangover remedy

I ate a snickerdoodle in the bath tonight. That’s just the kind of day it was. The kind of day that demanded my comfort couplet, baths and cookies, never before enjoyed together at the same time. Till tonight. And it was brilliant, like hitting the double dose on a z-pack and feeling better hours later, but faster.

Today was one of those what-the-eff-is-going-on kinds of days that spawn an insufferable emotional hangover, marked by a slight head throb and dewy, reddish puffs for eyes the next day. And so, at the end of today, I took the baggie containing the last remaining generous-neighbor-baked cookie up to the bath. I got in, let the hotness lap my travel-tired body and I ate that snickerdoodle.

I emerged from the bath a little lighter. Then I sat for a while, wrapped in a towel. And then Brian came upstairs to say the magical, healing words, “Babe, I’m so sorry…”

I’ll still have the hangover tomorrow, but the emotion got its remedy.

The relief helped me recall the conversation I overheard between my two- and four-year-old sons today, which, if I reflect on it deeply enough, might just take the sting out of my tomorrow-eyes as well.

Me: Hey, guys. While we’re waiting for the computer to turn on, tell each other one thing you love about each other. Snuggle in and I’ll be right back.

Charlie: Kip, I love your heart and your love.

Kip: Aw, fanks! Charlie, I wuv your heart and your wuv. And your nose.

(Long pause. Then joyful laughter.)

If you feel so inspired, tell someone what you love about them today. Alternatively, apologize. If applicable, do both. And may you avoid an emotional hangover in the process.

Charlie and Kip are surprisingly receptive to my distraction method while awaiting an afternoon movie in bed. “Tell each other one thing you love about each other,” I suggest. They answer in the blink of an eye.

Oh, I forgot. Intention = reality. I’ve got it now.

Brian and I had a tough week last week. It happens sometimes.

No matter what we said to the other person, it came out sounding prickly. When he tried to connect with me, I was accidentally icy. When I tried to connect with him, he gazed at me indolently, which is the deftest way to spark my rage. As the week progressed, the wall seemed to be getting taller between us. In other words, “the masons,” which is our name for ego or delusion at work within our relationship, had been working overtime to keep us disparate.

Nonetheless, I’d planned a Saturday-night date for the two of us to go out and properly celebrate Brian’s June birthday. Honestly, after our week of missed connections, I was reticent about it. “I hope we have fun,” I said nonchalantly to the energy worker we see as a family.

“Wait a minute. How about you set an intention for you two to have a great time?” she trilled. Such sweetness in her sing-songy voice. “Something like, ‘It is my intention that Brian and I have a wonderful time together and that the events of our evening unfold in our highest and greatest good.’ How about that?”

“It is my intention that Brian and I have a wonderful time together tomorrow night, and that our evening brings about our highest and greatest good,” I said aloud.

And, do you know what?

It worked.

The details of our date are inconsequential, although the laughter-laced conversation and mix-your-own mojitos are worth mentioning, because the cool thing was that, even though my original plans fell through, we had the loveliest, most connected time we’d had in a long while. The off-course energy of the week was long gone, and our higher, more loving selves had returned. We’d morphed into a couple so relaxed and content together that we could’ve been anywhere, but the Universe provided one beautiful setting after another for us regardless. And I’ll be darned if Brian didn’t look an unreal kind of gorgeous sitting across the table from me at dinner.

This was an easy, but potent, reminder to me about setting intentions. Too often I hear myself saying, “I hope X,” “let’s hope that Y,” or “we’ll have to see what happens with Z.” No more. If I’m involved, I’m staking my claim on the “highest and greatest good” for all involved in the event or relationship. How could things go awry, delusion creep in, if you will the best possible experience to be your reality? Set your intention, put your trust in it and watch the beauty unfold.

Brian took this of me. I look pretty delighted, I think. And not just about the fact that I decided to order the ropa vieja for dinner. (although that did make me really happy.)

Recipe for renewed joy

To get past an excruciating day and retrieve the peace and contentment of regular life, first you take a trip to a park in the early morning cold. And then you go to a favorite café, where you snuggle into a quiet corner for steamed milk with honey, coffee for you and apple turnovers for all. Then you go home and, when the residual stress is still causing your tummy to turn and your kid to bounce between emotions and furniture like a pinball, you go to the bathroom and cry. Let sit overnight.

Next day, you wake and feel a little better. Everyone feels a little better. You plan to meet a friend for a class at the gym so you can sweat and laugh and then, after the class, walk and talk. You dance. You laugh. You talk. You feel better. You get the kids from the nursery and they run with arms and mouths wide open, cheering, “Mommmmmyyyyy!!!” And you are literally knocked over by their love. Grabbing the big kid’s hand and throwing the little one on your shoulders, you gallop out the door, hearing cheers at your side and giggles up top as your hair is yanked gleefully and your gripped hand is swung back and forth.

Off you run into the sunny day, with all your imperfections, and all of theirs, gleaming in the midday light. And you notice how sweet it feels to have sun warming parts relegated to the shadows hours earlier. So free. So you sing at the lunch table. You snuggle and giggle under covers beneath the skylight during quiet time. You snack outside. Later, your kids find more kids and they all race up and down the sidewalk into the late afternoon darkness, when finally you notice how warm it feels and how good it smells in your home as you open the door to boots everywhere, baskets of unfolded laundry, boys whining for food and your barking, licking, wagging dogs, and all you can do is smile and hug them all.

Your oldest kid, the one who often screams at you for closing your eyes at this time, offers to say the prayer and, with his eyes open and his hand holding yours, he thanks God for his dinner, his brother, his dogs, his guitar, his jeans with the holes in them. They eat. They actually eat what you cook them. Then your husband walks in, your youngest kid gets on the floor and starts two-year-old break dancing, you craft a dance floor for him out of plastic tiles and soon, your kids are rocking out and you’re slow dancing with your awesomely hot husband and forgetting everything else.

Add story time, then sleep. Let marinate overnight. Then enjoy.

Teenage dream gets curfewed

I had a dream about Hector from The Electric Company last night and awakened feeling like a 15-year-old who just had her first kiss. In other words, awesome.

I googled Hector to see just how indecent I was for having impure thoughts about him, although our encounter was admittedly innocuous in the grand scheme of those kinds of dreams. Thankfully, I was much younger in my dream and he is actually 25 in real life, so I make out slightly less cougar-y. The dream was quick. We were sitting in the back seat of a moving minivan, or a car, when our hands found each other’s for the first time. My fingers danced around his palm, our gaze locked, his hand roved over mine and we eventually kissed. Softly, he placed his hands beneath my hair at the nape of my neck, looked at my face and he kissed me. It was so sweet and so simple. And unbelievably electrifying.

I miss those days.

It used to be so exquisite. A minor brush of a hand would send shivers up my spine and the mere idea of certain lips touching mine would take my breath away. I desired nothing more than a kiss to send me a mile high.

I still feel that way. But I’m six years of marriage and two kids past the point of such innocent excitement, not to mention a couple years of therapy and one spiritual path beyond anything extramarital. I truly dig my husband, I’m glad he’s my partner and I love him infinitely more deeply than I did when the hope of his kiss kept me awake at night. I actually even like him more than I liked my dream Hector.

Still, times get hard in a marriage. Young children take everything out of us. We know each other so well there’s no mystery. Sometimes, there’s actually even a formula. This lack of newness and comfy-style romance seems to be status quo among girlfriends in my comp set. Nonetheless, oh, how I would love a good old-fashioned high school make out.

And, here, very deftly, my higher self steps in like a bouncer and removes me from my adolescent reverie. Sometimes I get belligerent and the bouncer calls for reinforcements; sometimes my thoughts skulk reluctantly back to the straight and narrow; other times I’m so relieved someone steps in to save me from myself that I actually thank God for sending the thought bouncer and kicking out the Emily I don’t want around. She keeps me from being my highest self, and she prevents me from feeling grateful for all the wondrous blessings (read: a bitchin-bad husband) already around me. That chick can be a little bit of a lynx.

It takes some work, but I technically know better than to get carried away down the path of sense pleasure. I have a choice: I could loll the day away in search of adolescent passion, or unhealthy food in quantity, or gossipy conversation, or whatever the object in question. Or, I could chase the ever-new joy that comes with meditation. No contest. Where it’s really at is the God high. Nothing is more of a rush, albeit to the body’s higher—rather than the lower—energy centers. That’s the good shit. Nothing compares. Not even kissing Hector in the back seat of someone’s mom’s minivan.