Safe Passage

I left work and started walking the streets of downtown,

unsure how to feel.

I imagined myself walking wet streets with melting ice for hours,

and then settled on the need for food.

Hungry, tired, bored, thirsty:

Don’t let yourself get too much of any of those things.

I settled on Mother’s – not because of the deep sense of symbolism or irony –

but because they had sit-down service six blocks from my office.

I thought about the times I’d been here before: with work teams, with my mother-in-law.

These walls see birthdays, anniversaries, reunions.
The chandeliers celebrate, the velvet wallpaper the perfect wrapping.

I sat with tears so impossibly welled in my eyes.

English breakfast tea, omelet du jour.  Wheat toast.

I returned to my breath, thankful for its grace and compassion.


I entered the house like I had one hundred times before.

Her eyes, impossibly welled, reflected my own back to me.

Slow-moving supernovas, the room spun out in every direction.

Staring straight ahead on the sofa, slumped in a kitchen chair.

The bodies here all alive and miraculous; doing their best.


Hospice calls it “the active phase.”

It is the phase of actively dying: when the body has begun the work of shutting down each system.  Sympathetic systems go first, followed by parasympathetic.

Fluid pools in the lungs and leads to the death rattle.

That’s what they call it.

They, who work closely with the dying, have words and phrases for each phase.


We simply be together.  In our uncontrived messiness and our imperfections.

Some of us are too loud, and some of us can’t bear to enter the room.

Some of us have been swallowed whole by this world, by this cancer, for fifteen months and can’t hardly recall life before the chemo, the surgeries.

Some of us will bury our children, our mother, our best friend since childhood.

Some of us will whisper as though she cannot hear us, and some will sit silently and gently by her side, adrift in the gape of her drying mouth.

And some of us will say: Go on now.  Your work here is done.  Have a safe passage home.  I’ll talk with you again soon.





December 26th.

Fall came and went.

It’s winter now.

God, how I’ve been looking forward to winter.


I’ve had a difficult time going as deep as I want.  I’ve been preoccupied with surface demands.  Moving here during Mercury retrograde meant that there were a lot of extras that needed revisiting.  Our house wasn’t move-in ready.  Our belongings were lost in transit for more than a month.  We needed new everything: voter registration, car title, registration, driver’s license, insurance companies, bank accounts.  My cell phone was in disrepair.

All of this, and work didn’t skip a beat.  Our social life didn’t either.  Wedding planning is happening in the background.  We celebrated our anniversary, her birthday, and every holiday.  We had a ten-day vacation back east in there.  We’ve hosted 4 house guests.  The demands of my job have been absolutely off-the-charts. I was struggling with foot pain, then hurt my back, then had an ear infection, then a cold.  I went to Salt Lake City for business.  Plus…family.  Always family.


I have been selfishly looking forward to this for a while.

I should have known it was going to take the next Mercury retrograde cycle (12/19-1/8) for this move to feel resolved.



And here I am.

Achey. Contemplative. Restless.  Eager.  Wisened. Optimistic.  Hopeful.

The hustle of moving is over.

The holidays came and went.

This week, I reconnect with purpose.  I slow down.  I recalibrate.  I rest.



The next one hasn’t begun yet

It just got clear to me: I’ve left one phase, and the next one hasn’t begun yet.

This space between is lingering.  I’m getting different information and feedback here. Some of this information has been from others: Harold and April told us all about the new neighborhood and when it floods and how long everyone has lived there.  Some of this feedback has been from observing my own internal process: like when Denny asked if we are excited to be back in Portland, I felt myself ineptly reach for words to try to express that I don’t feel excitement and I’m trying to be neutral about that.  I’ve been struggling to answer questions about how I’m doing.  The words feel clunky when they come out, but I haven’t known how to fix it yet.  

I think people are graceful to let me off the hook – or quick to take my words as they are.  Either way, I’m sure some can tell by the look on my face that I’m tits up in transition – ha.  Note to self: when you encounter others in transition, just be loving.  That’s all you gotta do.

I think sometimes we hesitate to leave one chapter because we haven’t figured out the next one. We fret: how will I meet my basic needs? We ought to spend more energy contemplating: how do we want to be?

Speaking as someone who has left a chapter and is suspended somewhere in the in-between, I can tell you that it’s easy to get lost.

I could use a night of dancing,

A candlelit meditation,

A yoga class,

A day with my feet in the river,

More beer,

A trip to the beach. 

In the bath this morning, I thought about one of my favorite quotes from Mark Nepo.  I posted it here before – when it first struck me.  I come back:

“To journey without being changed is to be a nomad.

To change without journeying is to be a chameleon.

To journey and be transformed by the journey is to be a pilgrim.”

I’m optimistic.

Tomorrow, the packers arrive. 

For this move, I’ve been trying this crazy thing called trust.  I’ve chosen, all along, to believe that we’re being somewhat divinely guided and protected.  And I’ve noticed that this belief seems to have inoculated me in some ways…

It’s not realistic to say I’m not stressed.  I am stressed.  I am pushed to my maximum threshold for amount and intensity of change and stress applied to my system.  My body, my emotions, are okay but it’s sort of like driving at high RPM — eventually you take your foot off the gas, shift, or your engine explodes.

In no version of events will my engine explode.  I know better.  I am better.

Despite the stress, however, I notice something different than moves prior: a lack of panic.  Maybe it’s because I’m moving home, or maybe it’s because I’m REALLY SUPER NUMB (I don’t think that’s likely)….  but I am not feeling panic.  And what I notice is that the moments that my mind reaches for panic feel both inauthentic and well-trodden.

It’s like the neural pathway is well-lit and cleared out and really easy to walk down (fancy that), but a larger part of me just knows in her bones that it’s simply not the path for me.

Which: my god.  It’s been a battle to get here.

There’s a lot of scarcity thinking out there and it’s contagious, you guys.  I’m left wondering: what do you do when you’re not panicking?  Panic takes up a lot of space, and so I find myself a little more restless and listless than usual.

I’d love to relax, but my mind seems to think I SHOULD BE ACTIVELY DOING.  My hope for the next few days is to embrace constructive rest – whatever form that can take.  To appreciate the value of zoning out.  To honor this time by laying down in savasana and breathing.  And maybe floating — more floating.

I was reminded recently of a premise that I love — that we are the only ones who know what we want, and how badly we want it.  That we are the only ones who can truly know our inner selves, and so it’s up to us to represent that inner self in the outside world with the most tender care and love, kindness, and joy.

So here’s to us. Here’s to our inner selves serving as anchors for our outward facing selves.  Here’s to seeing the pathway to panic and choosing differently.  Here’s to more floating, and believing it’s all going to pan out like it’s supposed to.

One bite at a time.

This past weekend, I was able to cross states #43 (Minnesota) and #44 (North Dakota) off my list.  It feels so good!  States remaining:  Alaska, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.

Our time in Illinois is coming quickly to a close.  I am thrilled that, in the end, we’ll have spent 22 months in Tennessee and 22 months in Illinois.  When all is said and done, it just feels right that each place gets an equal amount of time  – I think it fairly reflects the significance of each place on this crazy journey.

I’m currently waist-deep in another in-between phase.  Our move date is set for July 30th and I know roughly how that will transpire because it is yet another corporate relocation.  What is uncertain – or yet to be revealed, in any case – is what our new nest will look or feel like.  

In response to any anxiety over this uncertainty, I am deploying mantras, and prayer, and asking for help.  I’m getting acupuncture weekly and trying to take more salt baths.  I’m also taking herbal tinctures, using essential oils, sleeping as much as I can, and indulging in a regular yoga practice.  I am leaning on the helpful shoulders of others who say nice things to me, and make me laugh, and offer me the reassurance that indeed, all will be well.  

I’ve started to notice repeating numbers again – a lot of them throughout every day.  And I’ve had a dozen dreams with richly felt symbolism, and I’m running into animal medicine every which way that I turn.  I’ve received the message lately to   s l o w  d o w n    and to keep my belief that everything is working out as it should.

On the flip side: my body is holding stress and tension.  The muscles in my feet are increasingly sore, and I’ve realized that I am going to need to visit a doctor if this persists – there is no yoga pose that seems to grant relief.  My gut is swarming with sugar from indulgent food choices.  My skin appears a little dull, and my energy is definitely bloated and sluggish.  To find optimal healthfulness through this time, I will need to plan more efficiently around my nutritional needs.  I’ve got a history of eating my feelings, and so I know on a cellular level that food will temporarily numb pain or angst.  Thankfully, I also have a history of eating well, and so my cells also know that healthy, balanced eating will help clear my mind and body. 

Late last week, I predicted that my focus would pivot after this weekend.  This was the last pleasure trip booked for our time in Chicagoland; all that remains is a wedding in Dubuque (!! Hooray!) and a trip to Portland to find housing.  I am hoping that redirecting some energy toward this relocation will help to bring some calm and clarity. 

It will all get done.

No matter how it happens, it will all get done.

One cycle completes and clears, and gives way for another to begin to take root.

Perhaps the most important thing to me, at this time, is to stay present, to practice self-compassion, to extend gratitude in all directions, and to love this life + everything in it while I have a chance.

How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.

Update: Progress on Chicago things

Mischief managed

  • Art Institute — Valentine’s Day 2016
  • Architecture Boat Tour — with the Kristens
  • Chicago History Museum — thanks, Groupon!
  • Little Goat Diner! -2015
  • Chicago Pride! — 2015
  • Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade/River Dye — 2013
  • Field Museum — with the Fitches
  • Christkindlmarkt — with Hill + Tallulah
  • Hancock Tower (best brunch!) — with the Fitches
  • Cloud Gate — February 2015
  • Navy Pier  — with the Kristens
  • Frank Lloyd Wright tour — with the Kristens
  • National Museum of Mexican Art — March 2016
  • The Plant (tour) — March 2016
  • Garfield Park Conservatory — March 2016
  • Lakefront Trail — June 2012 
  • Buckingham Fountain — June 2012
  • Haunted History tour — Thanks, Pat + Steve for the Christmas gift!
  • A day in Andersonville — April 2016
  • Swedish American Museum — April 2016
  • Weiner’s Circle for a legit Chicago dog — April 2016
  • Harold Washington Library – May 2016
  • The Rookery – May 2016
  • Museum of Science and Industry *June 2016
  • Adler Planetarium*June 2016
  • Shedd Aquarium*June 2016
  • University of Chicago, including Harper Library and Rockefeller Chapel
  • Pridefest – 2016
  • Cubs game — thanks Mom and Jake for birthday tickets!!! 

Things to do:

  • Chicago Botanic Garden – free (parking is $$$, open 7-9pm)
  • Bahá’í House – free (open 6-10pm)
  • Northwestern University (driving tour)
  • Food Planet Tour *Gift certificate in hand! Need to schedule 🙂

Trips to take

  • Madison to visit friends
  • Milwaukee for the art museum
  • South Bend, Indiana to visit Notre Dame
  • Michigan lakefront weekend
  • St. Louis, MI for the botanical garden and friends
  • Kansas City, MO for the art museum and BBQ
  • Racine, WI (for fresh kringles)
  • Detroit + Ann Arbor for the beer
  • Fargo, ND to cross North Dakota off the list
  • Minneapolis, MN because it’s the Portland of the Midwest

Things I think we’ll run out of time to do

  • Chinese New Years Parade
  • Chicago Big Bus tour with Chicago Architecture Foundation
  • McCormack Bridgehouse and Chicago River Museum
  • Chicago Cultural Center
  • Lincoln Park Conservatory and Zoo
  • Museum of Contemporary Art
  • Second City ((blast!!))
  • The 606
  • Bears game
  • Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Door County, Wisconsin
  • Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan
  • House on the Rock, Wisconsin

Know that I have known love

(Inspired by the recent events at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.)

If I were to meet my untimely death:  Know that I have known love.

I have known the love of my mother, who held me tightly in her arms in our front yard the first time I learned about loss.

I have known the love of my father, who insisted that I ought to be a professor not because he knows anything about academia, but because he believes so deeply in my gifts.

I have known the love of siblings, who have grown alongside me in dark times and in light.

I have known the love of grandparents, whose only response to my coming out was: if you’re happy, then we’re happy.

I have known the love of extended family, and honorary family, and in-law family, and come to understood that what binds us together is our common humanity, our hope, and our dreams rather than our fear or anger or sadness.

I have known the love of friendship, earned over miles of late night laughter and forged as a safe house from an injust world.

I have known the love of my body, which has served as my most dignified vessel.

I have known the love of another, in this lifetime, and in the last, and the one before that, and the one before that.

I have known the love that comes from connection to our deepest self, our most magnificent divinity.

If I were to meet my untimely death: Know that I have loved each of you completely.