Tag: Bravery


Earning My Hippos

Easter 2012 Part 2 (Part 1 here)

I woke up this morning feeling like a hippopotamus had plopped down on my head at some point during the night and promptly died. I wouldn’t have woken up at all had my husband not groaned for me to look at the time. The clock said 8:38—precisely 23 minutes after the final bell for Natalie’s school. I said a bad word. The hippopotamus said nothing. I never feel precisely energetic in the mornings, but this was a whole new category of tiredness. Post-vacation tiredness, I suppose. Post-THIS-vacation tiredness. In fact, I would bet that this morning’s mammalian fatigue started last Tuesday when I brilliantly decided to take the kids to the zoo. In Naples. By myself.

As with nearly all our vacations, we planned last week around one of Dan’s work trips, which meant the girls and I had a couple of days to kill on our own. Seeing as how the city zoo met my one stipulation—must cost less than a cheese pizza—and the owner of our Airbnb rental offered us a ride there, my decision practically made itself. After all, I had a lot of fiscally-rejected zoo trips to make up to my girls, and what better way to while away a free day together?

Skeptical Sophie

As it turns out, the zoo was only really large enough for whiling away an hour, an hour and a half tops. Anything beyond that took imagination, patience, and snacks. Even little Sophie, experiencing the grandeur of tigers in cages for the very first time, remained underwhelmed, and every last snack was gone by 11:00. Fortunately, we still had imagination and patience. Even more fortunately, the zoo was overrun with peacocks. I’m talking dozens of them, gloriously free-range.

Peacock introductions

We introduced ourselves to peacocks. We adopted peacocks. We chased peacocks from one end of the grounds to the other. We imitated peacocks. We probably would have provoked every other family at the zoo to wrath had we not been, well, the only family at the zoo. Come to find out, the local schools let out later than ours for Easter Break. I’m not sure if it was more liberating or more unsettling to be the only humans in sight, but we certainly took advantage of the space. When the peacocks became old news, we played hide ‘n’ seek in the shrubbery and hunted for four-leaf clovers and swept the sidewalk with palm fronds. The advertized attractions of the zoo—read: animals—barely held a candle to the fun of its vegetation.

Hide and Seek

However, by 3:00 in the afternoon, we had exhausted our combined powers of self-diversion. The zoo was set to close a few hours before Dan would be able to come pick us up, and we were a good half hour’s drive from the city center. My grand plan for the day suddenly seemed much less brilliant. However, I had a smartphone, and my husband was working with helpful souls, and a new plan was hatched to get the girls and I across the city to him using public transportation. Now, I didn’t grow up with public transportation. When we first moved to Italy, carless, five years ago, I was terrified to take the bus; something about the unfamiliar streets whisking past the windows and me without a brake pedal turned my confidence into quivering mush, and I still exhale with relief each time the G2 deposits me safely in our neighborhood. Being asked to cross an enormous, unfamiliar tangle of a city on a succession of subways and buses with two little girls in tow felt like being told to bungee jump off an uncharted cliff. But my other alternative was… um?

Driving by Napoli

Some days, being a mom requires more than snacks and a few hours’ worth of imagination. It requires bribery (Ice cream for anyone who can walk a whole kilometer without crying on their own legs at all!), speed (“The tickets will be €3.40, signora, and I believe that is your train about to depart from the farthest platform up the highest flight of steps”), and strength (not to throat punch every last man who casually draped himself over an entire row of seats while watching me struggle to balance a sleeping four-year-old on the train). It means repainting my own anxiety as adventure and letting one child swing from the bus handles while I cuddle the other back to sleep and pray I’ve understood the driver’s thick accent. It means scrounging up my last few cents for a bathroom stop, steering my girls safely around a street fight, and delivering us all exhausted but intact to my husband’s waiting car.

Public transportation

It also means waking up more than a week later to a condemning clock and a deceased hippopotamus on my skull and, instead of going for my old self-flagellation routine, remembering that I have earned this tiredness and earned it well.


Braving Together

Seth and Amber Haines have been sharing letters to each other for the last few weeks, hanging the hard work of marriage up as art, and their love story never fails to inspire the writing of my own. This week, patience:


Dear husband,

You don’t know this, but I spent half an hour on my hair this morning. If any day of the year is worth the extra effort to look sexy and glamorous, it’s Valentine’s Day, right? I knew I was ridiculous for pulling out the ruby-tinted lip gloss before breakfast, but date night was already smoldering on my mind, and you know well after nine years that my whimsy is nothing if not ridiculous. It also has good taste in lip gloss.

By 8:30 a.m., all signs were pointing a hot lovin’ kind of day. Only, when I walked out of the bathroom, you said, “I’ll wait to make the coffee until you’re done getting ready.”

“Come again?”

“I mean, since your hair is still pinned on top of your head from doing your make up.”

I suddenly felt very slow. “So… you don’t like how I fixed it?”

Oh, my dear one. I could hear your face buckling from the impact of the realization, and you scrambled to salvage an unsalvageable situation. “It, uh… it looks very pretty… in the back… I mean…”

I’d seen that expression once before, on the face of a friend’s fiancé who had just asked me when my third child was due. It’s the look of a man without a time machine.

I don’t make these things easy on you, I know. I retreat from hurt feelings as instinctively as I do from conflict and controversy and furniture placement decisions. For a man who connects best through brave words and open eyes, it must be especially difficult navigating marriage with an emotional turtle.

Yet you do it so well, husband of mine. You have never tiptoed around the dark parts of our relationship, but you don’t take them by force either; you wait until I’m ready to talk, and then we march into the dark together.  It is this willingness to hold out for together, this inexhaustible patience, that has turned me into a woman who comes out of hiding. You make me brave.

Brave enough to grin as I shake out the hair pins (loose hair is its own kind of sexy and glamorous, yes?) and let your intentions speak louder than words. Brave enough to reapply ruby lip gloss after my coffee. Brave enough to go out this evening with open eyes and unhidden words for the man whose patience won me over a long time ago.

It’s going to be a good date night.



Above Expectations

My first reaction to sleeping in this morning was anger at myself. I feel like I’ve had enough post-trip adjustment time, and I had stored up big plans for this week, big deadlines with equally big hopes, big expectations of myself. Prying my groggy limbs off the mattress at 9:30 this morning? Not part of said expectations.

My frustration continued as I scrambled eggs for a family breakfast, fuming all the while at the steady ticking of time and my own weakness against it. But then, probably certainly thanks to the sanity-sparking effects of coffee and an unhurried chat with my husband, the truth began to dawn on me—this is what I had been so afraid of wanting.

During our time in the States, I let my boss know I wouldn’t be returning to work. There were a variety of reasons why I couldn’t continue at my teaching job, but it was still an extremely hard call for me to make. With Dan freelancing now, mine was the only guaranteed source of income, and I surprised myself by how reluctant I was to let go of that security blanket… even if it was only the size of a handkerchief.

Our lives needed some major changes for the new year, and even though leaving my job was a clear step, I had to do a lot of soul-searching before I found the courage to turn my resignation in. What finally convinced me were the guiding values I wrote about here: flexibility, generosity, authenticity, beauty, courage, creativity, community, intention, art. It would take every one of these to make it in an all-freelance, all-the-time household, and I was terrified of what could happen. But at the same time, my soul began to soar every time I imagined unrushed days with the freedom to let my fingers loose on the keys and opportunities to love well.

Days pretty much exactly like today.

 Freelancing(It’s hard to stay frustrated when you’re soaring.)



Choose Your Own Dust Storm

2012 for our family has whirled in like a dust storm. For all my hope that we would receive some sort of cosmic prize package for making it through 2011 intact, we’re still in the gritty thick of uncertainty. The positive side is that there’s no better time to evaluate core values than when nothing else is guaranteed. The less positive side is that we’ve simply had no time for self-evaluation.

Here’s a snack-sized recap of the past three weeks: We’ve traveled over 8,500 miles, mostly by car. We’ve celebrated a holiday each with Dan’s whole family and with mine, and we wish we could have spent more time with both. We’ve seen dear friends and missed getting to see others. We’ve made our traditional dash  to Urgent Care and added Natalie’s broken arm X-rays to our vacation album. We’ve procured a new driver’s license, a new passport, and one precious visa, and we’ve woken up on Italian time for many mornings in an ongoing attempt to get the other.

We still have a little bit of buffer time here in the States, but it’s not certain that I’ll be able to return home when Dan and the girls do. This week has been a unique exercise in balancing anxiety with trust that all will turn out for the best. Not to say that I’ve successfully gone all Zen Master, but I’m grateful for the perspective that comes with derailed plans, and I’m glad to finally have a bit of time today to take stock of what I’m bringing to the new year.

I don’t have any word or mantra picked out for 2012, and I haven’t dared yet to think of goals beyond the immediate future. However, the day that my Kickstarter project ended, one possible version of this year misted out of sight and another began to come into focus. It’s hard to fill in the details without even knowing which country I’ll be in come February, but I’m discovering just how important flexibility is on my list of guiding values. This year, I need to have space on my margins, the grace to enjoy life through its unpredictability instead of rushing from one source of resentment to the next.

It’s also on my heart to embody generosity this year, not so much with finances as with my time and attention (though being able to give more in a traditional sense would be great too). Of course, this will require me to reclaim my time and attention so that I can give them to the things that matter, and some heavy decisions are involved.

Unfortunately, there’s no PA system booming down from heaven to tell me what I should do this year. This is more like a choose-your-own-adventure novel with further direction on hold until I pick a page. I’ve never cared for those books, but there’s something to be said for being an active participant in your own story, isn’t there? Plus, I have a pretty good idea of the values I want to help guide my decisions this year:






…and this—creativity, community, intention, art, whatever name writing takes on any given day.

I’ll keep you posted as the dust begins to settle.


A New Way

It’s twenty to midnight, and my footsteps are splashing far too loudly on the asphalt. An urban legend I once heard about attackers hiding under cars with razor blades sweeps over me as it does every night when I’m the one locking up the offices. It won’t help to worry, but I grip my car key with bone-white knuckles and don’t breathe again until I’m on the road, headlights washing over empty parking lots and prostitutes with umbrellas. Their eyes haunt me all the way home, my prayers grounded with exhaustion. I pull myself upstairs, peek in on my sleeping daughters, and set an alarm to startle my next workday into motion six hours later.

This is not the way.

[Join me over at The Sacred Life for the rest, would you?]


Now or Never

I am absolutely positive on this one point: I had no idea what Dan and I were getting into when we started this Kickstarter project. Of course, had I known, I would have waited for sometime when I had a month off work, excess energy, and aligned stars guaranteeing our success, which would have been never. There’s definitely something to be said for just squeezing your eyes shut and taking the plunge. Things get done that way.

But goodness. The past few weeks have taken an industrial-sized ice cream scoop to my insides and scraped up every last speck of energy. Every. single. day. Through the giddy fun of setting up our fundraising page, I failed to see that it would become our full-time job this month—managing websites, editing media, socializing, networking, writing, writing, writing, and asking people to exchange their hard-earned money for our dream. I don’t use the word “our” lightly, by the way; the only way this campaign has been possible on top of my teaching schedule has been sharing the load with my nerdy rockstar husband… who is also keeping up a day job. We haven’t been sleeping much.

If you want to know the truth, though, the most draining thing so far has been the emotional effort of all this hoping. I dearly want to see this gamble pay off, so every new minute sends me swinging between elation and despair. The hopeful calm in between feels as impossible as the $10,000 I’m asking for. I can’t help comparing my project to some of Kickstarter’s wild success stories and then slumping lower because I don’t have their thousands of Twitter followers or their corporate sponsorship or their professional video shoot. I know jealousy isn’t attractive, but this is me, real.

I want this book to happen. I want the chance to work from home this winter writing it. I want to be present for my little girls again instead of dashing off to work every day. I want to follow my creative impulses and devote my time to what gives me life rather than what saps it away. So many wants… yet the word itself makes me cringe at my own selfishness. Only the thinnest line has ever separated gratefulness and guilt for me.

However, I can’t agree to live without hope, without reaching toward what matters even when that hope feels undeserved. This book is part of a larger vision for our family, and dismissing the idea because of misplaced guilt would be like coating a kaleidoscope in concrete.  So we’re doing this now, knowing that the other option is never and clinging to color for all we’re worth.*

*Which we hope is at least $10,000.


This Calls for an Apéritif

Once upon a time, my husband suggested we pack up our preschoolers and drive to Ireland, and I made the mistake of laughing. Several thousand kilometers, one hurling match, and a collection of impossibly beautiful memories later, I had to concede—the man knows a thing or two about dreaming. (He also knows a thing or two about teasing his pessimistic wife until she can’t remember what she was protesting in the first place.) The next year when he suggested we pack up our kidlets and drive to Scotland, I remembered not to laugh, and I hardly blinked when Portugal showed up on our road trip radar this summer. We wouldn’t have experienced any of our family adventures to date without Dan’s creativity and optimism, and I’ve learned better than to doubt his big ideas.

Not that I don’t still try.

For example, when he recommended I give notice at work so that I could devote the first half of the new year to writing a book, I laughed. After all, we’re a two-freelancer household now, and as delightful as it sounds to trade in teaching for typing, we wouldn’t last long on a one-freelancer income.

And when he suggested raising the funds to make it possible, I rolled my eyes. I mean, we’re barely a month away from 2012 (!!!!) , and these things—if they are actually possible and not just hopeful delusions—take time.

And when he insisted that we could launch a website and a Kickstarter page the same weekend we were hosting Thanksgiving dinner for a houseful of friends, I choked in an extremely dignified and ladylike way on the cheesecake batter I was swiping. Because……no. Just no.

Evidence A: 31 lb. turkey

Evidence B: Chronic fear of taking risks, relying on others, and/or getting my hopes up only to have them dashed against the cold hard face of reality

It turns out that the moral to this story is the same one which Dan has been gleefully reminding me of since Ireland: “Thou shalt not doubt thy husband.” For all my skepticism and worry and spontaneous freak-out sessions, I am completely thrilled (and probably more surprised than anyone) to be announcing…

Aperitifs and Sippy Cups

(I’ll wait while you check out the video; can you tell it was a blast to make?)

In case you’re not familiar with how Kickstarter works, we have until the evening of December 23rd to raise $10,00 in support. ($10,000 because that’s the minimum I’ll need to replace my current income for half a year, and December 23rd because we’re insane.) If the total pledges meet our financial goal by its deadline, our book will be funded, each contributor will receive rewards and lots of warm fuzzy feelings, and creativity will live long and prosper in our household. The mere possibility of it is buzzing like caffeine through my veins. I am so excited about writing this book that I’m having trouble focusing on other, less important concerns right now… such as food. And sleep.

I’ve already waxed epic about the book’s background and content on the Kickstarter page and our shiny new website, so I’ll let you head over there in a second. I just wanted to end by thanking all of you who have relentlessly encouraged my writing over the years, all of you who are willing to pre-order a book on Kickstarter (or simply spam everyone you know with constant and increasingly annoying reminders to check out our project), and all of you like my husband who see awesome possibility where I would just roll my eyes and continue eating cheesecake batter. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And now, it’s about time I started getting my hopes up.

© Copyright 2015, all rights reserved.
Site powered by Training Lot.
Password Reset
Please enter your e-mail address. You will receive a new password via e-mail.