Sunday, January 16, 2022


Last week, a friend recommended a new meditation app. I usually I use Calm but he recommended "Ten Percent Happier" based on a book by Dan Harris. I haven't read the book, but I thought I'd give the app a try.

I loaded the app on my phone on Friday, but I didn't try it until yesterday afternoon between eating my Top Pot Donut treat and before I went shopping for a new oven for the condo. I was really stressed about getting a new range. I called my friend Ellen to talk about it. She just moved and is remodeling her new place. Within the past few weeks, she's bought all new appliances. I told her I get overwhelmed looking at appliances, comparing features and specs and price point and consumer reviews. Really. It freaks me out.

Ellen suggested I listen to my heart to see how I should go about picking a range. 

"How did you pick your appliances?" I asked. 

"I pick the pretty one," she said.

To mellow myself out before I went shopping, I listened to one of the basic meditations on "Ten Percent Happier." I'm always a little nervous to try something new. I prefer the tried and true, the comfortable.

This meditation was about intentions.

May I be safe.

May I be happy.

May I be at ease.

This should be nice and easy, except it wasn't. I started arguing in my head with the mediation leader about happiness. Should I really wish to be happy? Isn't that asking for too much? I am with being safe and at ease, serene and sane. But happy? I read in a bunch of parenting books that you shouldn't want your kids to be happy, you should want them to grow up to be independent. Happy implies never making them upset or angry or disappointed. Life is full of pain. The challenge of life is to embrace the pain without being consumed by it. 

Then I started to think that there is something wrong with me for not wanting to be happy. In some twelve step programs, they talk about being happy, joyous and free. What is the opposite of happy joyous and free? I don't want to be sad, miserable or trapped.

Today I was talking to some friends and the conversation came up of what would you do if you had unlimited courage. The question was harder for me to answer than it should have been. 

To be honest, the first thing I thought of was to get season tickets to the Seattle Sounders. Why? I have no idea. Maybe it is because it takes courage to have fun, to be in a large crowd again. Sounders games are fun. It is cool to cheer for your team.

Maybe I want to have the courage to be happy, joyous and free.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Donuts + Pineapple

I started a job last March in the middle of the pandemic. Since I've been working remotely, I haven't gotten to talk to my co-workers very much. Yesterday, I broke down and booked a half an hour on my calendar with a woman on my team. I was going to tell her about a project I am working on and ask her opinion. Instead, we shot the shit, which was perfect and wonderful. 

We talked about taking care of ourselves, as middle-aged women are wont to do. She has abandoned sugar in her diet.

"I used to eat so many donuts. I had donuts for breakfast all of the time," she said. "At work, I would go to Starbucks and get vanilla lattes. It was the worst. Then I started reading about sugar and how awful it is on your body. "

I told my new friend and co-worker I know about sugar and carbs. My dad has Type-2 diabetes, which he manages through diet and exercise. Recently, my dad had to take a short break from exercise. He asked a nutritionist what he could do to manage his blood sugar if he couldn't ride his elliptical or lift weights for a few weeks. The nutritionist told him to meditate: it drops the cortisol in your body and drops your blood sugar. I knew meditation was spiritually and emotionally good for people, but good for your physical health, too? Who knew? Talk about win-win-win.

Anyway, today I was out and about and I all I could think about was donuts. The power of suggestion. My friend and I didn't talk about the goodness of kale and quinoa. We talked about the badness of donuts, which made me want a donut.




I don't even like donuts that much. I prefer croissants and scones and eggs for breakfast before donuts. 

Yet, there is a soft spot in my heart for Top Pot's Double Trouble--a chocolate cake donut with chocolate glaze.

After my morning meeting, I booked it over to Top Pot and got not one but two donuts! I ate half of each which is a whole donut. I finished it off with a mocha. 

Oh my god.

It was so good. 

I ate the donuts with a side of pineapple, in a very lame attempt to add balance to the universe, as if the pineapple will cancel out the evils of the donut. I think in some olden days, people could buy off sins if they donated to the church. Like, Yeah, I stole from my cousin but I bought new pews and a stained glass window, so in the eyes of god, I am good, right?

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

No Pomp, Just Circumstance

Claire-Adele finished college this week. I would say she "graduated," but there was no ceremony. All graduation activities were canceled due to concerns about the omicron variant. Last Thursday, Claire-Adele got an email from the university saying "with a heavy heart," everything was off. The keynote speaker was supposed to be Jeff Kinney, the guy who wrote the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series and graduated from University of Maryland. Actually, he graduated from the University of Maryland first, then wrote about the "Wimpy Kid," a story about a hapless middle schooler and his family. It is pee-your-pants funny, right up there with Captain Underpants by Dav Pinkey.

Claire-Adele has been through two stages of grief, so far: sadness and anger. She cried and sobbed when she found out. She was so upset she dropped a couple of f-bombs. "'We are sorry for the inconvenience,'" she said, reading from the UMD email. She found their wording insufficient. "'Inconvenience' is when the wifi is down, not canceling graduation." She got really salty when she got another email saying they were selling tickets to a basketball game in the same venue.

It was confirmed that selling basketball tickets while canceling graduation was a bad thing. Yesterday, I was walking through Logan Circle in D.C. and I was approached by a guy from CNN filming a segment called "Ask the Ethicist."

"Hypocrisy!" shouted Norm when I told my my daughter's tale of woe. "It is unfair! These institutions are so big that they aren't connected to people anymore. They don't see people's faces when they make decisions. Plus you spent thousands of dollars to travel here! They don't know the impact." This Norm guy was all over it.

"What are you doing for her instead?" Norm asked.

I drew a blank. The notice of the canceled graduation was so short we didn't think of an alternative plan. Neither did the university. There was no Zoom graduation with the kids' names scrolling by, no speeches by the university president designed to make parents cry. We came to Maryland anyway, not knowing what else to do. Claire-Adele said she will go happily to her kids' graduations at some distant date in the future, knowing she missed her own.

Yesterday afternoon was the originally scheduled date for the graduation. Instead of going to the ceremony, we walked around a very quiet campus. The last day of finals is today, but only a few kids were around the campus studying. A few kids walked around in their caps and gowns getting pictures taken. Others were moving out. Others were with their parents, hitting the campus bookstore, buying gifts.

Claire-Adele made a reservation for dinner at a campus bar and grill. She wore a white dress along with her cap and gown, hair done, make-up on, as if she were at her real graduation. It was strange for all of us not have had a ceremony. There was no moment marking before and after, no moment of her marching across the stage as they called her name. It just was. 

Claire-Adele starts a new job in January in D.C.. She is very excited about the role and the position pays well, well enough for her to live in the big city. Even though she could afford her own place, she will stay in her campus apartment through the spring, and then will move. She will be off the family dole next month. For that, I am grateful. She has been growing towards independence, and now she is free.

I didn't take any pictures of her in her cap and gown. We don't have any group or family photos with her. I don't have a picture of her walking across the stage with someone handing her a diploma.

Instead, I have a picture of her in my mind. I see her back, marching out of the bar and grill ahead of me with her bare legs, high heels and gown flowing. Her head was high, ready to take on the world, no matter what it dishes out.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Why Can't I Want What I Want?

The other day, I was at community group event that had a silent bake-sale silent auction. The committee members baked holidays cookies put them up for sale. I bid on a bunch of stuff that looked good, but on the first pass, I didn't bid on the chocolate covered popcorn, a favorite holiday treat. 

Why didn't I bid on it? I bid on cranberry bread and cookies and whatnot, all of which looked delicious. My body wanted the popcorn, but my buzzkill brain said no. What the heck? It wasn't like my brain was vetoing the Bellagio* at the Cheesecake Factory. My brain should have said no to that. That is why I have a brain. But chocolate covered popcorn wasn't any more or less healthy than any other bake good on the tables. And I was willing to bid on stuff that I didn't prefer as much, so I wasn't saying no to the whole bake sale. My brain was saying no for the sake of saying no. On my second pass around the table, I bid on the popcorn. The rest of my body vetoed my brain's Grinch.

Yesterday, my brain pulled this same veto trick while I was shopping. I found this cute place where a woman makes leather goods, like purses and wallets. In the shop, a beautiful robin egg blue portfolio for a composition book caught my eye. Like, "Wow that is cool." I use composition books all the time for work. Having a nice portfolio would be fun. "That isn't practical. I should get a tan or black one." 

Brain -- you are killing me! Why wouldn't you let me want what I want? Why do you try to talk me out of something beautiful that would bring joy to my life? Why is the first impulse when I see something I like to say no? This portfolio was $60 -- not a bank breaker. I don't already own fifteen portfolios and you are trying to stop me from hoarding. You were just saying no for the sake of saying no. Why?


Is there some deep seated psychological root to this? Is this a habit that I have developed on my own, no one else to blame? I am so afraid of spending money that anything with a price tag causes me to pause? How long have I been subconsciously--and perhaps consciously--saying no to beautiful and lovely things?

Now that I am aware that I am doing this to myself, I am going to explore this phenomena. But first, you might want to know how the story ended. 

I won the popcorn and it was as delicious as I imagined. And I bought the portfolio.

So far, so good. Let's see what else happens when I learn to say yes.

* I don't know if this is still the case, but the Bellagio used to be the highest calorie meal (2,000) at a national restaurant chain. 

Thursday, December 9, 2021


Today was a rough day. Yesterday was a rough day. Monday and Tuesday were rough days.


For the past six weeks, I was focused on one part of my personal life, and this week there was a break through were things are looking up. There are a few minor set backs, but overall it looks good. This area had demanded a lot of my attention, and everything else was shoved to the back burner. Think of cooking a meal, let's say shrimp and rice. Shrimp are hard to cook because they need to be cooked all the way through so they aren't raw, but nor much more so or else they get rubbery. I was really focused on not overcooking the shrimp. Once I felt confident the shrimp was right, I checked the rice and it was a mess.

Today I cried about the rice. I cried and cried and cried. I probably cried about my worry about the shrimp, too. I talked to Ellen. I talked to my dad. I talked to other friends. And I cried. Before I cried, I had been really anxious and jittery and unable to focus on anything else. The weird thing is I used to live like that. All of the time. I was talking to a friend in my recovery program about anxiety attacks, where you just get spun up. I can't say that I've specifically had panic attack in my life before, but I could relate to her experience.

"I used to think that living like that was normal," I said.

Now I realize it wasn't normal, or at least I was tired of living that way.

When we get in ruts like that, it is easy to think that crazy is normal because we are used to it, and we don't know how to change, how to get better.

The first I needed to do was cry. I didn't want to cry. I wanted to rant and pace and be anxious, but I didn't want to cry. I couldn't hold it back any longer.

When I was done crying, I felt so much better. I was crying about cooking the shrimp and cooking the rice.

When I talked to my dad about crying, he said it doesn't solve the problem and it isn't a solution, but it clears the path so you can find you way out.


Thursday, December 2, 2021


I've been talking to my dad more recently, and I am becoming aware of how much he swears. I had never noticed it much before. I knew he wasn't a guy who didn't swear, but holy cow! Maybe this is where I learned how to express myself using a variety of four letter words.

Or maybe he learned it from me? 

Oy. I am a bad influence on my son and dad? Pedro swears like a sailor and I certainly know where he gets that from.

Maybe I really need to clean up my act and drop the swearing. That would take a significant amount of discipline. I'd rather not eat sugar, get thirty minutes of cardio every day, do my pre-ski season leg blaster exercises and lose twenty pounds before I give up swearing.

I don't swear (much) at work. When Pedro was little, I told him the key to swearing is knowing your audience and intent. 

  • Swearing among your friends -- okay
  • Swearing at your friends -- not okay
  • Swearing with your friends during class -- not okay
  • Swearing in front of your mother -- okay
  • Swearing at your mother -- not okay
  • Swearing in front of your grandmother -- not okay

He understood right away. He managed it so well that his paternal grandfather after a week of visiting tried to teach Pedro to swear. It was delightful. 

Perhaps I need to revisit my own audience list in general. Maybe my early New Year's resolution will be to stop swearing. I wonder how long I could go, and how I could track it. I swear so much, I don't even notice it. And I'll need to find more creative ways to express myself. I don't want to say "crap" instead of "shit," or "dang" instead of "damn." I need to say "That is frustrating" or "That is annoying" instead of "Bullshit."

Bridget Jones would start each diary entry with how many calories she ate, how much she weighed and how much she drank. (Bridget is the best literary creating since Elizabeth Bennett.) Maybe I'll do a Bridget Jones where I list at the top of each post how many times I swore in a day. 

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Conscious versus Subconscious

(I haven't written any blog posts in November. Oy. Sorry about that. Hopefully I'll be back in business soon.)

I've been reading a lot lately in my downtime lately. Reading and thinking. In my diet app (which wasn't open in November, either), there was an article that stated the human mind picks up forty conscious details every second. The subconscious picks up two million cues.

Walk into a different room and it is familiar, right? Unless you have dementia, you will know that you have moved from the kitchen to living room. You won't walk into it and say "Where the hell am I?" Likewise, re-arrange your furniture and you will probably bump into it for a week. Visit a friend's house that you see regularly. You might not know where they keep the colander, but you probably know where they keep the tea mugs. You don't have to rack your mind nor did they say "This is where I keep the teacups. Can you remember?" You just "know" with no work required.

What do we do with those extra 173 billion cues we pick up in a day? The 63 trillion cues we pick up in a year? I saw an article in the New Yorker (that I didn't read yet) about how animals navigate when traveling. Think of the Arctic terns that fly from the north pole to the south pole and back every year. how do they know? Perhaps an individual bird doesn't fly alone, maybe they fly in flock, which brings us to another wonderful idea of hive mind, the collective conscious. I am guessing that these birds must use their subconscious cues to navigate, they tap into these cues they've picked over their fifteen to thirty-five year lifespan.

We invented the internet and cars and refrigerators, indoor plumbing and HVAC systems using our conscious minds. Very cool. But what are we humans missing out on by not tapping into our subconscious? 

"Trust your gut."

"The heart has reasons that reason doesn't know."

I've been practicing mediation for a year, and I find so helpful for staying calm in all kinds of situations. When I was struck with a fearful event a few months ago, my heart rate skyrocketed. Instead of doing my usual freak-out, I stopped and meditated for ten minutes. The short mental break gave me best use of my powers of reason and I could start problem solving. I didn't deny my worry or angst. Instead, I was able to deal with it. When I am not in crisis, mediation helps reduce my anxiety the next day. How do I know this? On days I don't meditate, the next day is usually freak-out city about things that aren't a big deal. Likewise, sometime meditation can uncover the bullshit in our lives, the unacceptable, the crazy, the toxic, the unfair. I've heard that meditation can sometimes trigger depression cycles. While that can be unpleasant, it can be a truth bomb that tells us we need to change, that the status quo cannot hold. I don't think that is a bad thing. Depression at times can be a messenger. Suppression of difficult emotions can only last so long before we explode. Or, we become so good at suppressing our feelings that we forget how to feel. If we can't feel pain, we can't feel joy. It is interesting how life works that way.

Why does meditation work? How does it work? I am guessing that at some level meditation allows our conscious mind to take break (like sleep, but different) and our subconscious mind can reconcile. 

What is prayer, then, and how does that work? I don't believe the usefulness of prayer to ask that UW beats Washington State in the Apple Cup. Instead, if we ask for direction, we are asking our subconscious to take over and help us solve the problem. I've been dipping into prayer lately. When I ask for guidance, insight will usually arrive in a few days. I might see new information that I didn't see before. My perspective might change so I can see things more clearly. Sometimes the direction is to talk to a friend, and listen to how they see things.

I accepted a new job in October. Before I did, I asked a friend if I should take it. He knew all about my job search, and we've talked extensively about my career. I thought he would ask me a bunch of questions about my goals and whatnot. Instead, he cut to the obvious: "Do you have another job lined up?" No. "Then take this one." Of course, nothing is so simple. He knew the job was a reasonable fit at a very good company. He had already ruled out reasons why I shouldn't take the job. He cut through the clutter, which I needed. His insights made what I thought was a tricky question simple. I knew instantly he was right. I didn't need to logic through it. My inner voice, subconscious, Higher Power, my gut, my heart, whatever, knew it was right without needing to get my brain involved. It felt right. I could feel it in my bones, I could feel it in my body, where my subconscious reigns.

Friday, October 29, 2021

After the Rain

It has been raining cats and dogs here in Seattle the past few days. Cats and dogs. Not drizzle, not light precipitation. Not like a little rain for a few minutes here and there, but a steady downpour. Like you need your windshield wipers going full blast. Not that I drove anywhere. It was too wet and icky to drive anywhere. I went swimming one day this week and I got soaked walking back to my apartment.

It kinda sucked.

In the summer when it was hot and dry, I would have loved some rain to cool things down a bit, rinse the sidewalks of their smut, clean the air.

The past few weeks have been a bit of an emotional roller coaster, with both highs and lows. I was offered a full-time job at the place where I was contracting. Yay! That is welcome news. Claire-Adele is kicking ass, which is great. I've been connecting with friends old and new which has made the roller coaster less traumatic. One new friend -- who I deeply admire -- has such a deep practice of acceptance. I want to learn from her how to stay calm and stable while the rest of my world is upside down.

After the rain, I went for a walk. I was so happy to be outside. It was sparklingly beautiful, almost magical. No, it was just magical. The air was perhaps the cleanest I've ever experienced--it glowed. 

Bait chuckers trying to catch squid

See the splash between the railing and the boat? A giant fish grabbed something out of the water.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Parent's Weekend

I am off to Colorado to see Pedro for Parent's Weekend. It is now probably called "Family Weekend," or something, but anyway, I am off. (Siblings Weekend is a whole different adventure...)

I remember years ago when my parents came to visit me at Northwestern when I was a freshman. I was so excited to show off my dorm and new friends and new life. Look! Clean laundry! Except everything white now is a light shade of lavender because I didn't separate my dark colored clothes from my lights and my purple nightshirt bled over everything. I really loved their visit, even though when my dad was driving to the football game he nearly ran over this guy I had a massive crush on. (Sorry, Tom.)

Saturday evening, my parents came by the dorm. We were sitting in the dorm living room and my dad brought out a deck of cards. 

"Let's play poker," he said to me and a handful of other kids hanging out. They all stared blankly at him. These kids were at NU. We got in because we studied all through high school, not by hanging out at poker parties.

"Okay, I'll teach you," he said. Then, in one of boldest parenting moves ever, my dad turned to Byron. "Do you have beer in your fridge?" Byron's eyes popped open, not sure how to answer that question. Was it a trick? Was he going to get trapped by Lauren's father? My dad clarified his intentions.

"Go get me a beer," my dad said as he was shuffling the deck. And Byron did. At that moment, my dad became the coolest dad in the world.

What will it be like for me to be the parent now? I won't be asking Pedro's roommates for beer or weed. I can dance, but I don't think Pedro wants me crashing college parties with him. Maybe the prevalence of pot, maybe college don't have raging dancing parties where the music loud and the room is hot and smells like Bud Light and Screwdrivers and everyone is jumping up in down in time with the bass beat of New Order's Bizarre Love Triangle.

Parent's Weekend is after mid-terms, when kids have just made it over the first major college hurdle. They are tired and stressed and probably hating life. They may wonder "Why did I sign up for this shit?" What will keep them going? A hug from mom and dad, and weekend without dorm food. A gentle reminder of home, and where you came from, that the people you love and who love you are rooting for you, that they have your back.

And for the parents? What do they think and feel about the experience? 

I guess I'll find out.

Monday, October 4, 2021

"All Better" & Falling

When I skinned my knee growing up, my mom would clean up my wound, put a band-aid on it, and give me a hug and a kiss to "make it all better."

I did the same thing for my kids when they were little, giving them comfort when they were hurt and sad. How easy that seemed to be--almost the easiest part of parenting. Providing comfort is easier than setting boundaries and saying no to the candy aisle. It is easier than bedtime. It is easier than teaching table manners or how to ride a bike, though riding a bike is one way kids get skinned knees in the first place.

Then they grow up. When they skid out emotionally, I so badly want to be able to make it all better, to make the pain go away, to help them avoid suffering. Life isn't designed that way, without out conflict (inner or outer) or turmoil or stress. They have to learn on their own to handle stress and challenges.

This is the hardest lesson I've had in parenting--allowing my kids to fail, allowing them to feel their own pain, to feel the consequences of their own actions. It is hard to believe that all of that is necessary for parenting. When kids fall, they need to pick themselves up, whether they are toddlers or eighteen. This doesn't mean we as parents are heartless monsters, watching them struggle. Growth is in the struggle. Struggle builds resilience. Resilience means they can bounce back when they fall again. It means they know they can pick themselves back up, that they are confident they can pull out of a tailspin.

As much as I love riding my paddleboard, I don't know how to get back on it if I fell off. I've watched a YouTube video where I watched how to get back on, but I paddle such that I don't fall in.

This is bullshit. 

I need to fall in in a safe and shallow-ish spot and figure out how to get back on the board. I would be a braver and more confident paddleboard without the low-grade fear I have of falling in.

Sports can be a good teacher, but sometimes those lessons aren't as transferable to regular life as one would think. Sometimes we can fall skiing, on a bike or off a paddleboard and get back up, but when life hands us lumps at school or at work, we might struggle infinitely more than we did on the mountain or on the lake. 


Why does fear vary so much? Why can someone feel safe on the mountain but not at a desk? 

I don't know. Today, I have no answers. Only questions. 

I guess the answer is there is no answer. I can't take away their pain or struggles, but I can listen. I can be the quiet person in the back while they process and think and feel, not necessarily in that order. I can bear witness, and help them feel less alone in the struggle. I can tell them I have confidence in them, even when they don't have confidence in themselves.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Grief & Growing Around It

I am part of a recovery group where our weekly topic is grief. My baby who died years ago was a major experiences with grief. Sending Pedro away for treatment for his anxiety and depression was another.

What is grief, exactly? It is sorrow and sadness and loss. My most recent epiphany is grief is how we feel when something big and important to us ending. It could be the end of a person's life, like Ada's, my stillborn daughter. It could be the end of a job, or the end of an important relationship. When the Boy left, it was the end of him living at home for the time being. It was the end of having him around the house.

When Ada died, I felt like most people do when a loved one dies: my entire mind, body and soul was filled with sorrow and loss. Her death was end of her life, but also the dream of what her life could have been. It was the death of potential.

There is a common metaphor for grief, that it is like a balloon in our hearts and minds that expands when we experience loss, making everything else seem smaller. When the grief subsides, other parts of our lives resume their normal sizes. 

I heard a new idea -- grief stays the same size, but we grow around it. We can grow stronger and taller, and healthier if we so choose. I like this idea better. It doesn't mean with need to rush through or wish our grief to be smaller. Grief it what it is, and we grow around it.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

My Daughter Dropped Out of her Honors College...and I Couldn't be Prouder

I got a call last week from Claire-Adele telling me she didn't want to complete honor's thesis this spring. She had a dozen reasons, but the most important one:

"I don't get excited about it. I just don't want to. I am not applying to get PhD, so I don't really need to do a thesis."

When kids are little, they are forced to do a ton a crap that they need to do "because" without any valid reason why they need to, like doing homework in kindergarten. Is that homework of coloring the apple red going to make them smarter? Help them advance in life? Probably not. Is it going to teach them some discipline? Maybe. But mostly they have to do homework in kindergarten because their teacher told them to, and they are supposed to listen to their teachers.

In other cases, they have to do things to contribute to their home, their tribe. We ask them to set the dinner table because we need forks and plates out if we all want to eat. 

Do kids have any free will in most of this stuff? Do they have a lot of choices? 

Not really. Kids are forced to slog along in the world because a bunch of adult humans made up a bunch of rules and things they have to do in order to be "successful" people. Do they ever get a chance to do what they want, to exercise free will? Not often while they are living on their parents dime. 

Claire-Adele is smart and ambitious and works hard, all of which is fine. Most kids like her are good at following orders. I heard a friend today talk about her people-pleasing and how corporations love people-pleaser who put the well-being of others way ahead of their own wants and needs.

At the tender age of twenty-one, Claire-Adele has figured out free will. She has figured out how to make decisions that will impact her own life, happiness, goals and well being. She is making a trade-off where she sees the value of graduating early instead of getting honors. Instead of working on her thesis this fall, she will be a research assistant for a professor in the business school. She will save her parents a semester of tuition. She will get a job, and then maybe apply to law school.

This is her life, not anybody else's. This isn't about her being lazy and copping out of an assignment. She is dedicated and works hard at whatever she sets her mind to. More important than her work ethic is figuring out how she wants to spend her time, what is important to her, and where her passions lie.

She is doing just that. 

I couldn't be prouder.