just keep falling

Things fall apart in the fall. We start with leaves and end at everything. How the light teases through spiderwebs in a whole new way as though there was no such thing as silk until mid-September. Their construction, a completely perfect collision of intricacy and intention; it's nearly impossible to love them as much as they deserve. And you can hate spiders and still be hard pressed to find anything wrong with the way a spider builds their home between two branches at the very angle where it is the most beautiful thing sunlight has ever passed through at 11:32 am on a Wednesday. 

I'm not sure how to wrangle all the words to tell you this as if you didn't know, but these are complicated times. Marked by various truths so violently before us, it's as though life has just taken all its clothes off and is parading itself around completely untethered to what it once felt it should hide. And if you're anything like me - and by me, I mean sensitive, at the very least, you might feel like you are nursing some kind of emotional whiplash - and by emotional, I mean, a wild ocean of all the feelings. From fiery hot ones to detached nebulous ones that blur edges and create confusion.

And while the fall asks us to shift toward the end - before that, we must begin the task of closing up what we've opened, and this was a year so brilliantly about opening.

Opening, deepening, seeing and being. 

Opening up our eyes, for one. I mean, as a woman now in my forties I feel like I am relearning things I never thought I had so wrong. Like a million shards of glass, I'm trying to reconstruct what it is I inherited by virtue of being part of something infinitely larger than myself. And yes, it's hurting a bit. But as I try to build something recognizable, something of my own design, I step more fully into each day as myself. As an unapologetic version of myself, and as a person who has made many a relationship appear to thrive around the notion of pleasing, crossing into this new frontier has been, at times, a deeply uncomfortable and herculean task.

And in my ever-contradicting dance with permanence, I got a new tattoo recently.

I've never actually sat and counted how many I already had, but as it turns out now, I have seven total. I got my first one when I was seventeen, just before I graduated high school. A friend of a friend was friends with a tattoo artist who had a shop on Telegraph and 40th and I went with the friend (I'd tell you his name if I could remember it), got drunk, and told the artist I wanted two naked fairies floating above the Gemini symbol. My 17-year-old logic was airtight. I would always be a Gemini so this tattoo would always be relevant and reflective of a part of myself that would never change. He whipped something up, created a stencil and carved it into my skin with a needle. I managed to keep my new artwork from the adults in my life until after graduation until one day when I was with my dad and it was too hot not to wear a tank top. I knew I had to tell him before he just spotted it himself, and when I did, true to form, without missing a beat he made two fairly casual comments. The first was to double check that I saw them clean everything and use new needles, the second was, "well, at least it's on your back so you don't have to look at it."

"The girls," as they've been referred to over the years have lived over my left shoulder ever since, and I've fallen in and out of love with them over and over again.

My dad had a point I guess, but we can only hide from the inevitable for so long anyhow, so in a way, he didn't. 

When I got my most recent tattoo, I did things a little differently. I'm historically a pretty impulsive and fearless person who chalks my big feelings, ideas, and reactions up to just being part of this ride I'm on. I try my best to learn from my mistakes, but make new ones as I go. I believe wholly in the beauty of falling down and getting back up, like a mantra, a poem, an anthem - a way of life. 

So this last tattoo, I worked with an artist who created something for my forearm that was composed of some of the most treasured elements of my life as it is right now - and will remain. There was about a month's time between our design session and the actual tattoo, and I could not have been more excited. About two weeks before our appointment I unexpectedly started a very intense process with a job opportunity. I had been headhunted for a position I was not looking for necessarily but made a very good argument for itself. Never one to shy away from a little challenge, I went headlong into the experience to see what I might find.

And what I did was glorious.

I was knee-deep in negotiations and interviews with this job when I pulled up to the tattoo shop. Things had come to a head in my car and I was crying. I didn't even really want the job, though it reflected back to me a great opportunity doing work I am very familiar and experienced with. The offer was really good, they kept agreeing to my terms, I wanted to continue to pick Rafi up from school on her minimum days when she gets out - that time was non-negotiable to me, and they said OK. I wanted to work from home at least two days a week, and they were fine with that. They said I was their top choice and could I commit? I needed to sleep on it, they asked if I could call them the next morning, I said OK.

I walked into the tattoo shop and Joy was there waiting for me. She showed me the design she'd created and my heart sank. I was in the middle of a moment. My husband was admittedly upset that it was only that morning that I told him about the tattoo - upset not because I was getting one, we'd gotten many of ours together, but because he hadn't been a part of this one. This job process was eating away at me. While on paper it offered a lot and would seem foolish to turn down - it also meant giving up on everything I've built on my own. The work I love, the clients I adore, the relationships I've nurtured and the opportunities still unforeseen.

And while Joy was lovely, as one would expect of a Joy, she wasn't there to help me process these disparate yet entangled feelings I was having. We went over some of the design elements, toyed around with placements and I just drifted further and further from my body. I was way in my head. Typically, this would be a situation, me at a tattoo parlor, when I would just lean in and go forth. But nope. I vacillated, driving everyone there crazy, I'm sure.

And while the pleasing person embedded in my being ticked nervously away trying to figure out how to get a tattoo on my arm I wasn't 100% certain about, the woman in me remained there for it all, trying to hear what it was I actually wanted on my body.

I knew what to do. Thirty minutes later I was back in my car with something I'm sure of on my shoulder.

The next morning I respectfully declined the position and never looked back. I felt as though an anchor had been surgically removed from my core. My eyes were lighter, my mind clear, my creativity, like a bright sky full of a million stars. 

I'm like a hunter when it comes to clarity. I search in the wild for its tracks. I don't spare a shred or ever waste it - and what I've learned, is that it travels in packs.

I'll be relaunching my workshop in the new year, and with it so much more. In the meantime, I'm sorry for any inconvenience, this fall is for the harvest, and I've got a lot of work to do!

PS- I've got just a few writing coaching and Book Doula spots available until the end of the year. If you've been wanting support with your writing, let's talk - it's time to harvest those big, beautiful stories and ideas...


Falling for fall: Join me

When I fall, I fall hard - no matter if we are talking down the stairs or into love. I've always been that way. It's at once some sort of comedy routine and a Greek tragedy (the drama!). And maybe, while this is likely a farfetched entanglement that my mind is doing it's best work to map, I've found that the grayer my hair gets (and it's very gray) the more gray space I notice taking up residency in unexpected areas of my life. So, as you can imagine, discovering that where I was certain there were only edges, lines and certainties, that there are infact expanses of softness and tons of mystery. 

And fall gets me every time. The slight light shift from August to September, how the days creep slowly back into the night, how yellow turns to gold. And, I've got so many stories I want to share with you, so many I'm twisting around the turns of my mind, and, I'm reasonably certain that you have them too. So, here's an idea: let's share them.

Back in July, I gave a talk to a wonderful group at Hipline of all kinds of writers (creative, professional and everything in between) on how to design a sustainable creative practice, and it was an incredible experience. Once I settled into standing in front of the group with my powerpoint presentation, some serious flow took over, and it got me thinking - and, let's be clear, sometimes when I do lots of thinking some wild ideas come to mind. But this time, what came forward was a supportive, productive, inspiring and writing workshop to unlock your inner writer, and it's happening soon, and you can sign up here.

Curious if this is for you?

Maybe you moonlight as a storyteller, a poet or have been dancing with the idea of penning a memoir but have never really thought of yourself as a writer by day. I see you, and I want to set those powerful, essential and magical stories and words free. I've worked as a writing coach for years with clients whose writing pursuits cover the gamut, empowering your craft, supporting your practice and ultimately helping to activate your innate abilities as a writer. I believe in the power of the narrative, I believe that it connects us, teaches us about one another and it heals us, and so I could never deny helping someone discover theirs.

But you don't have to be a closet poet to benefit from this workshop. 

Do you have some old wounding around writing but have to for professional or personal purposes and bump up against major blocks when you sit down to write, anything? I get in there with you to rebuild confidence and undo old and unsupportive writing patterns.

Ok, so let's say you are a writer and wondering how a writing workshop could support you - well, the one I've designed meets you wherever you are in your practice. If you have an unfinished masterpiece locked away that needs coaxing and some TLC, we address those, creating space for inspiration, flow and feedback. 

If you are looking to define your tone and style as a writer for your business or Social Media, we work to clear the path to your most authentic voice. Our goal is that your ideas meet the page without both the unique sets of blockages you might harbor or the ones we all tend to face.

Just wanting to develop your writing practice? This is also for you. 

This workshop is a dedicated space for your writing. We work on practice, craft, consistency, productivity, while also creating space to create. I believe in fostering confidence and empowerment. There will be weekly feedback and one hour one on one with me to be used over the course of the workshop included in the cost of the workshop for editing and/or coaching (specific times TBD). 

You can go to the link here or read more below for all the details. And please, If you know of anyone that you think might be interested, please share this newsletter or the link. Spaces are limited, this is an intimate workshop setting at Flight Design Studio in East Oakland - a beautiful and creative space that generates tons of inspiration! There is secured parking included and easy freeway access.


Unlock Your Inner Writer

An intimate workshop for writers (yep, you).
Who: All of us. Whether you are a seasoned pro or looking to develop your unique practice, style, and tone - this workshop is for you. Designed to create space for creativity, inspiration, productivity and empowerment, this workshop is both guided by me and self-guided by you. Each session is built to get the most of our time together, touching on craft, practice, pain-points, fostering community amongst the group and putting our pens to paper (or fingers to keyboard, depending on how you like to get down).

Why: Well, we all write these days; emails, posts, profiles, poems and tomes and often we need support (but aren’t sure how to get it) in our personal, professional and creative endeavors.

Where: Flight Design Studio, an inspiring space that sparks creativity in East Oakland. Complete with easy freeway access and secured parking.

When: Thursdays from 1pm-3pm beginning 10/4-11/8

What you need: A pen, some paper or journal, a laptop, an open mind, and your water bottle - that’s all.

What you get:

  • A dedicated space to create and write.

  • Time to share, explore and feel inspired.

  • A safe, supportive, productive and facilitated workshop environment where your work (if desired) can be shared and developed within the workshop community.

  • Weekly feedback.

  • Attention to voice, style, tone, creative practice, craft development, empowerment, and confidence.

  • 2-hours of workshop time for 6-weeks.

  • 1 hour of coaching or editing time with me over the course of the workshop, times and details TBD.

Cost: $295


  • I am offering one sliding scale spot; please feel free to send me a note about yourself or share this with someone who you believe this workshop could benefit. The person who takes this space will be kept confidential.

  • If there is anything you’d like to ask me about this workshop, please do not hesitate to reach out via ali@alilawrence.com


it's all for you

I totally lost it on my birthday two weeks ago today. Think, full baby cry on the ground. It was intense, ugly, messy, full of truth, chaos, constellations of heartbreak and frustration and it was totally amazing - it may have even unlocked this very writing I'm doing right now, I can’t say for sure, but something did.

I cried as though I were made of the ocean. 

I cried for the impossible nostalgia that I fail to prepare myself for each year that wells up like a tsunami, and then I drown. The memories of joy, loss, fear, bravery, freedom, abandonment, connection, magic, laughter, innocence, pain, contentment, the ways in which each have nestled into my bones, or is it how they've taken to the ether around me? Time as the captor, as the container. The gratitude for it all which can only be measured by infinity, like the horizon, not ever really knowing where it begins or ends. The time I hitchhiked on the back of an old red pickup truck from the edge of a tiny fishing village in Costa Rica at eighteen, where I had been living alone, into the jungle and safe bungalow of a kind soul. How she fed me and listened to me, how it was a full moon, how we howled and danced, and how nobody, except her, ever knew about that moment until now. How nearly fifteen years later I went back to the very same place and had the urge to disappear into the memory of that certain galaxy of freedoms, so powerful, that it nearly swept me away. How there was no reason and every reason to worry, and how from here, everything is sand.

Because memories are their own afterlife, and are as much paradise as they are disaster. 

And now nearly ten years after I returned to my life as it was beginning to resemble now, I write into the echo of a new moon in Gemini that calls us (me) to communicate from our hearts. How I go mining the channel between me and the world for the words to hold us close. And then also, today, it's Luna's second birthday which fills my heart up with emotion so primal and so proud that I want to tell the world about what a precious fate it is to have a person like her in my life. My teacher who brings with her lessons on magic. Born at 5:24 am, the memory of her birth waking me up just then today, so I could trace the folds of time with my fingers before the sun rose above another day. I do all this while winding around an uncertain terrain, as we do, finding the path of most forgiveness, because, what I've learned best of all so far, is that love is the anchor, the levity, the gravity, the ground and limitless sky. It's the sick and the tonic, it's all we need and also can be so hard to have. 

I don’t know, I’ve spent a lot of time in this life trying to get it right by the desires and ideas of others to find that I am so bad at it; I don’t conform well. Like, I generally feel like an alien when it comes to standing in line or filling out paperwork. But what I am learning to traverse now is the field from which our memories and our present moments collide in our collective pursuits to connect, grow and create. And to trek with self-love, compassion and the allowing we need to be our best selves, perhaps not all of the time, but at the very least, often enough so that we can look back in order to look forward while feeling it all, and sometimes, we will feel more than just fine.

Happy Birthday, dear Luna. I love your light and I love your dark.


La Luna Made Me Do It

Let me just begin with the requisite: It's been a long time since I first got down. 

Because, I mean, it has. According to my archives, it's been a little over four years since my last blog, but let's just say that I have some pretty solid excuses, two in particular. 

But I'm back at it and it's pretty major. I'm happy to be here and I've missed you. 

From what I can gather, Mercury Rx (if you're into that sort of thing and if you're not, maybe it's time to consider your cosmos) is not the super scary monster we've all made it out to be. But in fact, a great time to review - and in my case, rewrite.

So, in the spirit of spring, rebirth, renewal and return, I've got a little story on a big edit.

Luna was born into the legend of Rafi's birth. She rewrote all I had known before her and brought understanding into a place wrought with confusion and frustration, loss and a deep sense of failure.

Before Rafi, mostly what I knew about my body was that if I tried hard enough, I could basically do anything I wanted to. I've always been unafraid to push myself, so naturally, when I got pregnant the first time the only imaginable outcome I was working with was a healthy, joyful and magical vaginal birth. I took a 12-week course on natural childbirth into which I submerged myself, and because of what I knew about my mother, who had always described both of her births as magic, I just assumed that there was no reason that mine would be so very different. 

But it was. 

Before it finally ended in an emergency c-section with a side of blood transfusion, we went through nearly 48-hours of ups and downs and twists and turns. And after our wonderful Rafi was born and everyone and I mean EVERYONE, said to me in an effort to console me, "what's most important is that you and the baby are healthy," I was not consoled. Let's just say, even with the best intentions, their words rang hollow and thud onto the floor. I was hormonal and exhausted. I felt broken and alone. I was a mess, and it took a very long time to put myself back together.

And trust me, putting yourself together at all even under the best of circumstances after having a baby, is a lofty goal in it of itself.

Because writing is my medicine, nearly a year after Rafi was born I was in the bath thinking about my scar. Traversing that wild first year of her life and her wild passage into the world; I wondered how I would ever tell her about her birth. My Rafi, for whom I am grateful for every moment of the day. Her heart that holds us all so close, her empathy that understands humanity far beyond what we would ever expect, her humor that is so unintentionally hilarious, and her curiosity that inspires her to wonder about everything inside and outside of her world. 

How could I not celebrate the moment she came into our lives?

But then, slowly, before my eyes, the lens began to change and in my mind, I started to craft the exquisite story of her birth, free from shame, and full of glory. What began to emerge was the version that would hold us both, the story that was full of love and determination, fearlessness and ultimate selflessness. And from there I dreamt up my beloved birth-story writing service called Bear Tales, from the belief that there are other women like me who want to tell the incredible story of their baby being born, but desire to reframe even the most difficult parts and hold them to create a version that illuminates the beauty and triumph, even during the most difficult times.

And when I finally sat down to write my own, it was as cathartic as it was healing, and our story was epic.

So when we found out just a little under two years later that I was pregnant again, I knew immediately that in order to prepare my mind and body to try and do things differently this time, some deeper healing was still in order.

And for the remaining months, I went all in. 

Luna arrived on June 13th, 2016 and with her came a healing so great, she wrangled a certain chaos into calm that I had been carrying with me since Rafi was born on October 25th, 2013. Her little body, like a candle burning, brought a glow, and when I hold her, I feel at peace - even during my stormiest days, and even when she is doing her finest impersonation of a feral animal.

I wrote Luna's Bear Tale as a birthday present to us both just before she turned one. At the time we were approaching, with trepidation, the halfway mark of a terrifying first year of this atrocious administration. My heart was weighted down for the future of this country, and for all of us living here. 

But Luna, my little light in a dark sky, with her warmth, depth and fierce little spirit, has this way of brightening up the dark path ahead, just enough so that I am always hopeful that we might find our way through the shadows, despite how lost we might be.

Her Bear Tale, like everything I write, was long and detailed as I did my best to capture the magic of her birth. The pictures placed throughout the story captured my pregnancy, the three of us before Luna, and the four of us, complete with her. I gave it to her on her first birthday and it sits sleek and strong on a bookshelf in our house, holding the tale of one the two moments in my life that have defined me most as a woman, guiding me into my most cherished role: being a mother.

So, a few weeks ago, when a very female-experience focused online and in-print magazine that I follow, posted a final call to submissions at 3 pm on a Friday I rushed to my computer and dug out Luna's Bear Tale and another piece I had recently written on a completely different subject: #metoo (more on that another time). 

When I brought her Bear Tale up on my screen it took me right back into every fiber of that experience and it was glorious. I swept the doc for tiny edits to make sure it was in tip-top shape before I hit send and did the same for the second piece. And because life is never particularly spacious these days, I moved onto to something else almost immediately. 

The next day I woke up to an email from an editor from the magazine telling me they loved both pieces and asked if I could edit Luna's, which was over 3,400 words, to 1,200, their maximum word count. 

If you didn't know this about me already, I'm in a deep relationship with editing - it's pretty serious and, well, we're soul-mates. I work with businesses and individuals all the time on taking their first drafts into final drafts, perfecting their messaging and writing so it's at its best out there. I love this stage in my Book Doula work and love it when I get to deep dive back into my own writing. And what I've learned is that often there is little else in this complex, frustrating and gorgeous world we live in than editing, that takes to do-overs with as much grace.

And in the spirit of one of the most symbolic edits of my life, I dove in and sculpted, shaved and scrubbed one of the most significant stories I've lived into a smaller, but still robust, version of itself. 

So, a little shout-out to editing for getting a bad rap often for being the tattle-tale and sometimes black sheep of the writing family, when really, it's the hero. 

You can read my piece, By the Light of the Moon here, published in Harness Magazine. 

And tell me, if you're an editing enthusiast like me, what do you love or find most frustrating about the process? I'd love to hear all about it...





it's something of a rococo. a hot pink, over the top sort of thing. i swim the gathering of all the feelings. you are my near death.

you. are. mine.

it took until the dark early morning quiet, baby breathing, four months to the day, both unslept to say something.

at sixty days we were flooded in early afternoon light. we stood in the center of my dear friend's brand new store. something about the glass, brick and sunlight made the sound of my voice crest like a wave. wearing baby, squirming. just under 2 months old, in a front carrier.

the words, like an olympian, charged out of my body, "i thought i knew what love was," they seemed cheap, already used, sloppy. they rattled onto the floor. i needed a shapeshifter. a game changer. i needed something to gallop on the beach with. other than a word. perhaps a pantomime.

i needed to be greek. they have more words. better words. they have four kinds of love.

i followed up with,"i almost died." my body leased an echo. the room filled with everything and then went back to being a room. i began to sweat, still unsure of my own breast feeding. it had all become the most wonderful and most awful at once. what was that word? it had been a death to reason. until then, i searched other's stories for familiarity. lost in the sleepless string of days spent giving what was left of my body.

a robot. a flower in full bloom, browning.

before her, the last time i had been outside as my former self it was oakland and it was an overcast day surrounded by unseasonably warm days--even for our Indian Summer. i kept singing the same lines to a song from my childhood:

"we were married on a rainy day, the sky was yellow and the grass way gray." and changed them to," you were born..."

i kept. waiting. holding. aching.

and everything they say about paradise is true.

we slipped away in tandem and were brought back apart. the minutes became hours, and the hours became days. and when the gurney became a sea cave, the other side of a curtain announced the inside of my body.

it was a girl. my girl. we all cried.


i met her in a dream 21 days earlier. the dark of the morning note i wrote myself read:

"dreamt that i woke up with cholostrum on my shirt. i had had the baby. i was home in bed. Fonz and mom were there. i asked what happened, they told me that the labor took an hour. i slept through it. my whole body hurt, i was so tired. asked mom if the baby was a boy or a girl, she paused. it was a girl she said and took me to her in another room. i picked her up an she smiled and we fell in love. we named her rafi (rafaela) right then. chubby cheeks. she looked like fonzy."

I don't know how this middle of the night got me to write again or in the throes of its hot-quiet-baby-breathing-still-nothing-else-in-the-world-lightless-fog, how there is any room to feel anything else, let alone feel so much more. It has a sensible desperation to it, a forgiveness I had yet to feel when it comes to writing. It rained today, a brief delight against this dry and warm winter, and every song makes me want to cry. They say it's the hormones and while I know now to step aside when they come racing, mouth open, poised to swallow, I can't give them all the credit. I had a baby. A baby girl for that matter. She is everything they tell you about having a baby and more. The way the heart opens a new valve. How my body's room for her while growing was a small and slight shadow against the space I now need to hold the tremendous love I feel for her. So much love that I don't recognize myself sometimes. She lies in front of me discovering the world in small pieces, so small that I can't even see them. I read something and then i read something else that helped me to recognize those separate yet symbiotic feelings I have for her and the feelings I have for my body. How they can coexist. Still unharmonious, but less shrill. They put in the place of my scattered, erratic, overwrought, conflicting, and often fragmented feelings, actual words. I held them with both hands and rolled them around in my fingers until they became so familiar that I thought they were my own. They are not my own. I'm finding my own. Like anyone that has given birth, when put together, the story, makes for a long, hard, sometimes sad and then so beautiful mosaic. I haven't been able to find all those words yet. Something about sleep deprivation has left me with just a handful of language that I spin around and over and back again. I expect that one day my brain might grow back and then I might sit down and find that my very own birthscape floats within reach, not just dust suspended, drifting above us, unnoticed in my baby's sunlit room. and then maybe I'll find a way to set it free back into my body, and then up into the sky.

and to my southern scar, i will no longer avert my eyes.

i am a writer because i have stories to tell.

full moon safari

it seems to me that a deceased 17 year old boy was on trial for his own murder a month or so ago, and was somehow, much to my own (and may others') heartbreak, confusion and frustration, found guilty.

it felt like falling a million feet.

i go back to twenty years ago and how the world was a different shape through a different set of eyes. the urbanscape casting shadow and light into different places, making moments and places look new, larger, smaller, safer or more dangerous than they appear. and i can't seem to reconcile anything about loss anymore. it's too unfair. too sudden. too violent. too sad. too uncertain. too predictable. too familiar. too alien.

i was a wild teenager. i kind of stayed wild for awhile, and was kind of wild to begin with. my mother (like many others before her) wished onto me furiously on more than one occasion that "i should have a child just like myself one day," and here with each belly kick, i think maybe this tiny dancer (boy or girl) doing back flips and somersaults all day might just be. riding a rapid of internal streams of consciousness linking and winding i am taken back into that rabid fold like a ghost of adolescence past.

i've made tons of mistakes and have done so many things wrong.

i've run when i should have stayed and kept still when i should have got going. i've whispered when i should have shouted and been too loud when i should have been quiet. pushed when i should have retreated and held back when i should have fought harder. cried when i should have laughed and laughed when i should have cried. been careless when i should have been cautious and been too careful when i could have let go. refused help when i really needed it and accepted it when i could have done it all myself.

and in the throes of looking forward--i keep looking back.


it's been done forever. babies (which then grow up to be people) come into the world via the most elusive yet known path. i really had no idea. sure i've read some stuff, heard some stories and known some people but none of it aligned until it began happening to me; i'm a hands on learner of the purest kind. and now at eight months along, i am certainly no expert. i am well aware that i am just approaching the starting line of what is sure to be the ride of my life, and i am not going to attempt to articulate the dorsal constellation of physical, emotional and even spiritual complexities i've experienced so far because i'm not sure that i can, and i'm not so sure that i should.

in a word, however, it's been powerful. each of my senses resting on a fault line of an earthquake that acts like a volcano that erupts at unpredictable intervals each day. sometimes i'm my very own cyclone and sometimes i'm like a glassy lake shell reflecting on a million years of erosion, mirroring the mountain at both ends. sometimes i'm in love with a bowl of cereal and sometimes i look at my husband and i can't imagine how lucky we got. to be able to have a baby seems like the easiest thing in the world to take for granted, when truly it's the most generous gift nature could give.

and then the largeness of the world comes back into focus and i am panting trying to wrap my arms around the exquisite beauty along with the tremendous sadness folded into each day. wanting to prepare myself to teach someone else how to make sense of the vast paradoxes that line our lives like trees on a street.

and then i think, maybe a tiny dancer this belly kicker is not. maybe we've got a poet wading. busy writing tiny poems about what it's like to be a fish in its very own universe or about what it's like to hear about another world in another language and still find sense in everything that goes missing in translation.

it's been passed around for weeks, but that won't stop me from sharing George Saunder's  commencement speech to Syracuse's graduating class of 2013. what a perfect message to us all, and to those approaching the world on a pivot, no matter at what stage. if there was a church of kindness and nature, you could find me in those pews and i would consider that speech a sermon, and one for the good book.

these days you can find me somewhere between moments. i'm awake in the space between the synapse; feeling and thinking and so on. waiting in vain for the planet to spin on its side so we can shake it up a bit, and tirelessly pulling for the good guys to win.

i am a writer because it saves me.

and, we're back...

it's been a long time since i first got down...


so, i was deep in the quiet, trying to string together the right letters, a little washed ashore on words. there's always material, in surround or muffled beneath the pillow trying to catch some air. but it's hard to write about an ocean while you're learning how to swim. so i decided to keep quiet, to be in the field collecting data and not at my desk telling stories. but then the radio silence got pretty loud. i set a few writing goals. unmet. i kept thinking, if i write, what's it going to be about? i thought some more and then realized i had thought too much.

last year there was a clear path to the narrative. a lighthouse guided me through each anecdote. i worked at working and worked at understanding why and then i wrote. i drew from the immediate and felt that i could write my way through anything.


this year i checked my pockets and they were empty. i looked to places i had gone to before for inspiration but they had been ravaged by a huge party or some natural disaster. i felt like i woke up in someone else's city and there were no lights. i broke out my bag of tricks but the locks had been changed.

i could see that i was more adrift than lonely, and more watchful than engaged.

i have decided to share a little secret i've been keeping:


i like to tell my version of stories. i like to take my clothes off and dance around the room. i like to not have to care who sees.

i am a writer because i am an artist and sometimes   that means there are no rules.

i've missed you, it's good to be back.

project light bulb


the rain a couple of weeks ago reminded me of panama. i counted the seconds between the lightning and thunder and i wasn't certain that it wasn't crashing down much further than the edge of my backyard. my emergency kit leaves a little to be desired, but cocooned in my bed, looking out the window, i felt safe.

i have a habit of second guessing myself. it's so boring. i mentioned the ferocious meltdown  i had a few weeks ago, the one that flung me upright into a new attitude. up until then i had been disjointed, unfocused, and clumsy with my time and energy. yes, wedding planning is a shockingly saturating experience, but clarifying as well. through the planning process i have learned things i had no idea i would. some harsh realizations have occurred, but some really comforting ones as well. and because everything i needed to know, i did not learn in kindergarten, i get schooled, constantly...

it's probably happening now.

several years ago i was fortunate enough to live in a friends house in panama for a few months. the house was built by him into saigon bay, a body of water surrounded by mangroves on a tiny island shaped like an 8. the house lay on the bayside, in the center of the isthmus, where the caribbean was a short walk from his pier up a path and across the street. i packed a bag full of books and bathing suits and flew 4000 miles to a small archipelago about 4ooo miles from san francisco, where i had been living until then.


i was in the middle of a storm. my life had just changed in significant ways and i was lost. it was the first time in years i felt i had no reason not to leave for awhile, so when an opportunity to go somewhere presented itself, i took it, and fast.

i had been to panama before, in fact i had been to panama many times before. when i was 18 i lived in costa rica not far from the panamanian border of which i crossed every three months to get my passport stamped.  often times, if oscar was working the immigration kiosk, i would pay him $20 to forfeit the mandatory three day stay over the border and just cross right back that day instead.

another story, for another time...

going back to panama was the first time i had ever lived alone. i would have to remind myself that i could act, say, or do anything i wanted to and there would be no one to offend, annoy, or to which to cater. it was amazing, both because that was a conscious thought i had and that it was true. at the time i remember being pretty certain that there may not be another opportunity like this in my life again, so i did my best to make the most of the experience.

there was a night shortly after i arrived when i could have sworn the lightning was crashing into the water beneath the house. everything was moving. the rain owned the sky and i was alone on a dock in a place where i knew no one and nobody knew me. i had no technology to rely on for help, no link to the outside world other than my thoughts about it. i laid in bed watching the rain, measuring the distance between my own fears. at some point during the storm, i thought about the transparency between loneliness and being surrounded. any control i thought i had was an illusion so i stopped being afraid and i decided to enjoy the show.

my life changed in many ways down there. my life was changing down there. and the experience itself is one i cherish beyond measure.

so, after that nostalgic storm the other day before the sun returned and traffic was restored to its usual pace, i had a moment. i was in a dance class and i was thinking about the truth about things. i was mid-routine, where clarity of thought is sharp and pure but fleeting. i was probably going the opposite direction as everyone else, when it occurred to me that i've made an incredibly faithful choice about my future.

there is a lovely hugeness to any type of investment when it come to matters of the heart.


in an instant i can go from the depths of confusion about so many things to a profound wholeness that encompasses my entirety: i have everything i need in order to survive and actually be happy. i can laugh and cry throughout the day about the same things. i love and am loved. while my life was much wilder at some point, i am still on my toes most of the time. and when i think i've got it under control that's usually when i catch a gentle sucker punch.

but truthfully, there isn't much, if anything, i would change. i am a writer because i started this post last week and ten million things have happened since then, but the song remains the same...


Great Gray Owl

i had a tectonic meltdown last thursday and it wasn't pretty. later that same day i got on a red-eye to florida to visit my radiant grandmother who is turning 91 any minute. out of san francisco we were slightly delayed, but just enough so that a good portion of those of us on the flight were subsequently stranded in los angeles for the night after missing our connection to orlando by five minutes. it wan't pretty.

we boarded at 7am the following morning after spending a few hours at a place called the "hacienda" near the airport, the word meaning, "estate," in spanish, but more like, "dump," when translated into what sort of accommodations that united airlines offers when they try to destroy your quick bi-coastal travel plans.

nevertheless, the miracle of flying is not lost on me.

that cold morning i could barely wait to get poured into my window seat for the next five plus hours. i shimmied into my spot and watched bags being loaded into the bottom of the plane. pretty soon my row neighbors arrived. they were two rather large men, one for the aisle, one for the middle. i felt a little guilty about my window seat but apparently not enough to say yes when the middle guy offered me cash to switch spots with him.

i can't believe i said no. i was clearly sleep deprived.

six hours later we touched down on another coast and into my grandmother's arms i went.

the weekend went in a series of moments i felt so fortunate to have. whatever had been raging inside me before then passed with the brief tropical storms that drifted above us.


i have been home for a few days now. the weekend spent with my family already carefully folded away for safekeeping, three thousand miles from this minute.

while i would say that, yes, i am made up of mostly water like the rest of us, i think i am part elastic too. water, bones, muscles, elastic, big hair, and disparate thoughts. that being said, i have a few things i do besides eat, drink, and work in order to survive, and one of those things is hike.

i get hooked on trails. there is one i go on as much as four or five times a week for the last fifteen years. i'd say we are in a bit of a relationship now, it's pretty serious. we've been through a lot together...into its dirt i've laughed, cried, fallen, gotten back up, dodged rattlesnakes, seen sunsets and sunrises, deer, and sweated a lot out. while i have proclaimed my undying love for it time and time again, yesterday we might have reached soul mate status.

as i climbed the hill, the light descended into its final hours above the horizon. i marched upward following the path snaking through the eucalyptus and noticed a couple of other hikers stopped on the trail. as i got closer a nice man with a baby on his back pointed with his chin to a crook in a branch of a tall tree just across from us. my eyes searched and focused; there was an owl.


a tidal wave of excitement passed through me. if i could either say with a straight face, "spirit animal," or have one, i'd like for it to be an owl.

i couldn't tear my eyes away. i can't be sure, but what i want to believe is that we were in a tandem gaze and somehow something inside me completely lifted, shifted and was so moved by that strong face looking back at mine.

it was hard to turn away from something so beautiful and continue my climb to the top of the hill. with only a chance that the owl would still be there on my way back down, i pivoted out and knew how lucky i'd been, how lucky i am, and sometimes that's all i really need.

i am a writer because owls make my heart beat fast.

something like a phenomenon


oh hey there, spring, you're back. 

it's no secret you've been hovering around for awhile, teasing us with your feverish wiles. how you usher in something soft, something that we've missed, a newness and the next. and because i accidentally let my mind wander around your orbit, i began thinking about everything again. there is always so much to consider, can i get a witness? our lives are full of simultaneity, hugeness, and an overwhelming amount of minutia.

and here in the western hemisphere the sun has gently reminded us of the moment in which all that littleness happens. yes, the cherry blossoms have been dressing the streets for weeks, their break neck beauty seducing traffic. yes, there is jasmine growing along the edges of fences and the like. but isn't it how the sky cleared and restored the light back into the day, reminding us that there is less dark, is that what breaks us down and builds us back together the most?

i have written two unsent letters to two very different people in the past week.

the first one was written out of frustration and a need to feel heard, if not understood. my fingers went wild on the keys and then when it came time to send, i froze. i slept on it and woke up the next day with less of a need to outwardly extend those feelings. i decided to just feel them for myself, and let them dissolve on their own.


the second letter was more complicated, vulnerable, harder to articulate. the message was sincere, absolutely honest, maybe even a little too transparent; sometimes i don't know, maybe i'm doing a little too much thinking...

in any case, i spent a lot of time crafting the message, making sure that there was a purpose to each word, that the t's were crossed and the i's were dotted. in the end it when it was lost it was one part my subconscious cold feet and another fate. when saving it as a draft, i accidentally erased it instead. along with my time, hopes, and efforts, those carefully worded sentiments, vanished.

when it was without a doubt that the letter had gone into the great nowhere, i was relieved. i knew i couldn't rewrite it and ever feel the same sort of satisfaction or certainty that i had originally, not because my feelings had changed, but because that unfettered access to them had been compromised.

those lines had ascended into the ether. an outer hemisphere where things like, what you wished you had said in the moment, and lost socks go, and are never recovered.


and so my sense of letting go was restored, like i drug that i can't possibly get enough of.

i don't wonder how i will ever say those things again, i only wonder what their worth really ever was in the first place.

i am a writer because i have spring fever.

hematoma galactica


i didn't realize until i was heading into the shower the next morning that the middling pain i felt was coming from a huge heliotropic bruise in the center of my belly. i stood in the mirror and in the same instant i remembered how my shoulders had been earnestly painted in light blue by a woman in a black afro wig who gave me psychic reassurance about my future. i let my eyes follow the blue toward the white vine-like and sparkling design that spread to my collar bone. my hair was slightly pressed against the side of my head that i had slept on and my lips were still stained pink.  i'll be 35 in a few months and it's been awhile since i had to go around my bedroom collecting clues from the night before, the morning after; nothing important had gone missing. there were other centers of pain. i had a bruise on my knee, one on my shin, and on my left hip, the other hip, on the bone, an unfortunate location; one that reaches outward more than you would think. i could have drawn lines connecting these points, a constellation mapping one of those nights that line up ahead of you, instead of you, before the main event. a perfect little resource, like an alarm clock or a fossil.

a couple of months ago when getting married mostly felt like planning a wedding, someone asked me what i was looking forward to most in the process. without a breath i said that it was spending time with the women in my life that i love most. i had been getting lost in the details, all the facts, and what i couldn't change or dress up around or over. it was getting messy, if only beneath my own hair.


i use being a poet as an excuse, a lot. i use it to explain how i feel when i'd rather be writing. i say that i am just being, "poety," as an act of diffusion when i can see the reflection of my own emotions getting the better of me on someone else's face. if i really could act, i don't think i would ever have to write.

i sat at the head of a long table this past saturday lined with certain key faces of women that i share my life with. i knew that this would be one of the more fortunate moments i've ever had. i was overcome. every time i tried to address the group i stumbled across my own words. i tried to tell a story about mixing up names and i mixed the names up so that they weren't mixed at all, the point getting lost in my own confusion. i think i feel that way a lot. earlier that day i had been shuttling my thoughts through the maze and was lovingly told by a dear friend to talk less and write more.

so when i tripped over something later that evening and sailed downward in my four inch heels i found myself remembering that moment slowly while so many others were let go. as i hit everything on the way down, i wished that instead of feeling the corner of the chair, the edge of the table and the floor--i could have stayed slowly in those moments that, for whatever science, seem harder to hold onto. how my slipping is bigger than my constant falling and why all those other moments that compete for center stage, can drain each space, flatten the light, and turn rooms into ruins, have ever had even temporary residency at all.


and now that the planning has evolved past stressing, i am planted firmly in excitement for this next phase. i can't wait to take these next steps with the man i love. still, there is no shortage of material these days, and it still remains a tricky balance between writing and talking. knowing that i am less apt at the latter and not particularly gifted at holding it in, we'll see what makes it onto the page.

i am a writer because there are volumes and i don't believe in hoarding...



there is something inherently poetic about leap year. an entire day that appears only to disappear and go unaccounted for until we've cycled through space again and again. its faithful, distant, and clockwork return reclaims unfortunate and special birthdays, filling back up that empty space on the calendar.  i've always found it hopeful, an add-on, a perk, something that returns to us, making the shortest month breathe for a bit longer until we turn the page, pay our bills again, and go further into the year. how it rests differently into the corner of the second month, and how the second month seems to have more of a crash landing than the first. janauary has shock value while february is quick and to the point. take a breath, but make it fast, while everything still happens and the light tilts toward spring, even if earlier in the week it felt like summer, and today it's cold and raining.

and i know i wasn't the only one to notice that this february had a little more bite to it, if not shark teeth. this made me consumed with finding the place where i could turn away from that feeling. my thoughts were on a loop. i wasn't myself and it was, in addition to becoming claustrophobic, boring.

since i've come up for air, i've been on a mission to do something about my own attitude, perspective, beliefs, and feelings. i've searched and searched for somewhere to hide or a place to pour out what was scratching at me.

and then i remembered leap year. what a perfect nook to tuck anything away.


sure, there is all kinds of  trouble a phantom day can cause. its ability to fold in and out of routine has a mischievous quality, but what it lacks in continuity it makes up for in surprise.

who doesn't love a little surprise? well, if a surprise isn't your thing, what about change?

i've been searching hi and lo for a change in my bridal attitude, and i found it. i was able to name what was in my way, and now that i have, i've turned the beat around. it was a process and i couldn't have done without a few helpful pushes in the right direction, some of you know who you are...but moreover, it was a conscious choice to identify what was weighing me down, embrace it, and then let it go so as to make room for more productive feelings...dismantling the roadblock was tricky, but there is definitely a little more leap to my step.

there is still time to sign up for an exciting workshop on changing our stories. ariana of simply living coaching and i are co-hosting, there are only four spots left-- sign up here to join us!!

basically, i was my own guinea pig. i am a writer because i like to experiment...



i'm blogging from bed with a cold/flu. terrible timing and all, since inception, it's only gotten worse. it started while grocery shopping. i was losing it, overwhelmed. i wanted to make soup but i was already hungry. i wanted a cupcake, but it was 10am. i cried on the way home about the largeness of wedding planning. my body was cinching my capacity for dailyness way in. since then i've managed to accomplish a few things in the haze, things i can hide inside my computer while doing. my attitude about being sick has never been healthy. i tend to push myself, or question the validity of my symptoms, usually finding myself shattered, in a rugged and avoidable collection of ailments.

actually, i'm categorically awful at being sick.  i tried to exercise twice yesterday and it took me at least the whole morning to admit to myself that i wasn't going to be able to do any good work until today, maybe. i hadn't planned on this, so it doesn't fit into my schedule.


but mostly, i've been split by the part of me that needs a respite and the part of me that naturally goes full steam. and already, the cherry blossoms have been winking at me. they bloom two weeks each year, and i have loved them always. i hate to miss a moment of their breezy shine. it's desperate and irrational. their uneven loveliness lining the streets, anywhere, as though it is now spring, just because they've arrived. those twisted branches: dark, knotty, and then that full pink reaching into the sun.  they've always had my heart. i keep thinking the word: glorious. i want a better one. they are goddess like and hopeful, they are complicated, elusive, and slightly untrustworthy. they make everything an atrium, blushing, magical, and bright.

i am off the charts, emotionally. always grateful, but one minute defeated by what i cannot control (a fruitless effort) and another filled with certainty for what is here now and what lies ahead. meanwhile the word perspective and i are in a very fiery relationship. it's reactive, immediate, and pretty passionate. i always thought of myself as an optimistic, upbeat, and dust yourself off and go, type of person. as i hold more, i have sensed a paradigm shift with my attitude. it's heavier and thicker and i have a harder time freeing myself from my brand new go-to negative view.


it's an act of mindfulness for me to undo. a rewriting of each story that burdens my usual enthusiasm or fearlessness with the anchors of "what if," "i can't," or, "this or that won't work." i am in the salt mines with my own panorama right now, building alternate pathways to my own beliefs. as i write this from bed on a beautiful morning, not sure if my hip is healed, how sick i am, or if my heart broke a little along the way, i am changing my story, rewriting, revisioning, and shifting perspective every moment i can wrangle myself around. i am a writer because i will always try to.

come join ariana of simply living coaching and i on march 4th for a re-writing workshop. we'll be fixing our stories up together!

it's complicated


because valentines day has a way of excluding those who aren't being wined and dined by someone that gives them butterflies, i've always preferred to see it as a day to spread the love. if it's about anything at all, it should be about disbanding the lonely hearts club and making it about everyone important to you, not just your date.

programming note: i think i have become a temporary wedding blogger...it seems to come into focus each time i sit down to write and i just can't help myself...

and so here goes my broken record spinning: planning a wedding has brought each relationship in my life into a bright white light that hides nothing. i still love all the same people, but in some cases our relationship status is whatever, "it's complicated," is, on 10.

and if my wedding record wasn't completely on repeat already, here it goes winding around and around: i've got daddy issues, and guess what, planning a wedding hasn't solved them. in fact they have officially become the elephant in my brain.

i was never the kind of girl that, "played wedding," when i was little or made drawings of some cream puff fantasy dress or knew what song i'd dance to with my prince charming. my parents split up when i was about 11 and nothing was ever the same again. family and marriage took on a completely different shape. they both became scary, uncertain covenants, and grown-ups seemed a little less all-knowing as a result. from there i became a little more guarded and  less convinced of  fairytale endings despite the fact that in many ways i am living one now.  i always felt a little like an alien next to girlie-girls whose hair was perfect and who knew how to do their makeup just like on 90210.

and in a way, spending a little time early on envisioning my wedding could have saved me some trouble now. up until pretty recently i have been at a complete loss with the whole wedding thing. i have been blindsided by planning and pleasing. i think i can see clearly now, and my fiance and i have managed to patch together a sincere reflection of what's important to us and how we choose to celebrate that...and with each day, we get closer and closer to closest.

about ten years ago i was catering an event in the neighborhood i grew up in. after my parents split there were all kinds of interesting living arrangements.  my father, who chose to stay in the house, didn't move until i was a senior in high school. he remained there, reinventing his life, for what felt like the entire world to see.

i didn't realize until i got to the client's house that the address i has scribbled down was that of a family's that we had known in our past life, quite well, before, during, and after the storm. i braced myself as i parked around the corner. feeling the cracks in the sidewalk was surreal, let alone the familiar stairs beneath my feet as i walked through their front door. the mother of the house had a tendency to gossip and upon seeing me her face lit up. "ali!" she said, "how arrre yooooooouu?!" she searched my appearance, had i survived, she probably wondered. her insincerity was piercing, loud, dangerous. i took a deep breath and said smiling through my teeth, "great, i'm great, thanks for asking."


i was sweating, terrified. every person i had remembered pumping me for gossip as a girl about my family were all there, lurking in every room. i was completely exposed, vulnerable, and serving them hors d'ouevres. needless to say i was mortified. i was working with a new company and with people who are now my close friends, but at the time i barely knew.

at one point the hostess approached me while standing in a group of familiar ghosts and asked me three of the most inappropriate and insensitive questions about the other three members of my immediate family i've ever been asked. i was in a cold sweat, i had been hit. my tongue was paralyzed, i could barely breathe. my colleague, and now dear friend, terry, was within earshot, completely horrified at the behavior of this woman. i backed my way out of the lion's den and terry convinced me to take a minute to re-collect in the concealed area in their backyard.

i had been called into battle, i wanted to defend my troops despite how we seemed to be fighting on different sides. i ducked into their guesthouse where we had stashed our personal belongings when we arrived to the job. i was covered in light from the glass ceiling, i could see the edges of everything around me. i called my mom and told her where i was and what just happened. she was audibly upset.  she wanted me to leave right away, and she may have even suggested that i break something on my way out. i told her i'd come right over afterwards and hung up the line. i felt a little better so i called my brother. i had to convince him to not drive right over to answer her spiteful questions in person. he was harder to get off the phone, upset and feeling very protective of me, as we said goodbye he said he'd be standing by if i changed my mind. i was starting to see a pattern, so i called my dad. he vacillated from wanting to run into her in a dark alley and then hoping, for her sake, that would never happen. he was the angriest and wanted me to know that i didn't deserve to be treated that way, that i had done nothing wrong.

i felt the light pass through my body where i was sure it was stone. i straightened my apron and held the light in. i realized that since things had fallen apart, that was the first time i had really felt like a family. like a bunch of misfits, we still had each other's backs and beneath that fractured wasteland was still something whole.

my mom is walking me down the aisle. and while i've had many years to accept certain truths about my family, there is still a little girl inside that is a little bit shocked. i realize now that while maybe the other girls were wishing on stars for the perfect dress or groom, i was wishing that things could be a little less chaotic, a little more normal, and that there was a sense of solidarity between my brother, mother, father, and i. as it was, in many ways, it was each man for himself.


there aren't any violins playing the background, this is no sob-story, it's just my story, one that i am in the process of rewriting. despite how gravity lets these feelings sink into us, there is always a choice. i am a writer because i believe in changing your story.

i try over and over again to convince my brain to tell my heart to feel something else, to hold onto less, and to behave more. but the heart is complicated. the best i can do is take these stories and spin them. where they are scary or sad, find the beauty and safety. own each moment for what it is and be grateful to experience the full range. finding the strength, light, or laughter despite the let downs is worth all the heavy lifting.  so i'll keep pushing those shadows until they bend and disperse, back into the sun.

it's your birthday


every year on february 1st my brother turns five years older than me. we get one year closer in age at the end of may, when my birthday is, but as of now, this moment, today, he's got even more of an edge. we've known each other my entire life, i guess that goes without saying, but it's easily taken for granted. nobody else can make me laugh as hard (even if it is at him) and no one else can make me feel like i have the power to set things on fire with my eyes. he's a much nicer person than me and seems to know everything about everything...

i have spent the better part of my life thinking about and trying to understand certain types of relationships and why they are so important. as a child of divorce (a couple times over) natural questions about consistency, reliability, and conditionality emerge. many of those questions don't ever get answered and life inevitably carries on, a little fractured maybe, but still with a persevering cosmic direction.

they say the things you can rely on are death and taxes, and i can't argue either. i sometimes wonder how we are able to do anything at all with the weight of losing surrounding us, always. i'm no fan of the taxman, but i get a thrill when i can do them myself, but that's mostly because i don't have a lot to account for.

but i do. i have so much.


the other day i found myself in a wedding planning rabbit hole. i was sitting in traffic, probably adding costs up in my head, feeling both ashamed for becoming what i swore i never would, and wondering  how wedding planning is, unanimously, a take no prisoners situation. and then all of a sudden, without even realizing it, i was dialing my brother's phone number.

since i've been engaged he's been incredibly supportive. he's happy for me and loves my fiancé. having always wanted to have a brother (and having only me, who aims to please, but doesn't quite cut it) he's embraced my fiancé and our planning for our future in a way i'm not sure i expected.

when he picked up the line, we exchanged a few pleasantries and then before i knew it i was knee-deep in a longwinded planning predicament. i was even boring myself but couldn't seem to back my way out once i got started. i was practically panting. his end of the line was quiet. i was sure he was checking his email or thinking about what he was going to eat for dinner. i kept going. about a year in, i checked to see if he was still there. he was. he was actually listening really intently. he may not have been interested, but he cared.

ET healing Elliot

while no revolutionary decisions were made or solutions met during our conversation, something much better was realized. we've been through a lot together, my brother and i, sometimes we didn't have each other around when we really needed it, and sometimes we were so close that we couldn't see past certain issues. he didn't take an opportunity to remind me of how, in the scheme of things, planning a wedding is not death or taxes, but instead he was patient, kind, loving, and funny where he needed to be. i got off the phone knowing that he's in my corner, that he'd probably try to learn how to bake my wedding cake if i needed him to.

so today especially, since each day is worth celebrating, i am doing it for my brother, jake. i am a writer because all i know is that i find, at times, the world a hard place to seamlessly articulate, so there are certain things i'm just going to have to leave to feeling.

happy birthday, jake. thanks, i love you, you're funny mostly because you're left-handed, and you are a really good person!

恭喜发财 enter the dragon


1986 was the year of the tiger. i was nine and still remember a lot from third grade. i was desperate for my brother's breakdancing hand-me-down's and i took a big yellow school bus to and from school everyday that i caught in front of my best friend's house. i was charlie chaplin for halloween and i lived for now and laters, playing outside until it was dark, and the muppet show.

i grew up in berkeley which meant that i got to celebrate every holiday from many of the 400 races attending berkeley unified that could also be found in any given classroom. my brother, four years older than me, had the same teacher when he was in third grade, which made her stock go up considerably.

third grade was the year our entire class pulled our tiny chairs around a tv in the late morning to watch a spaceship take off another coast toward the moon.  it burst into flames while still racing through the earth's atmosphere. the ocean swallowed the debris, burying it deep into the very planet we read fairytales at night on. it was the year i grated my finger while demonstrating how to make potato latkes, and when i first remember celebrating a whole new year twice in one month.


"gong hei fat choi!" we said to each other while making banners to stretch across the classroom in bright red paper. we used gold pens to decorate them, and took smaller pieces of red paper and folded fake money into their crease. we dutifully passed them out with wishes for good fortune and happiness in the new year.

i have chinese characters tattooed on my neck and one on my shoulder. at some point i fell in love with the beauty of the language and its storytelling.  like a house, each character contains so much. i lived in costa rica after high school on and off until i was twenty. i was back home at one point and it was raining. i emptied out my checking account, quit my job cooking at the cafe, went to the student travel agency before dropping out of school, bought a ticket back to costa rica, took the bus to telegraph ave., and had the chinese characters for, love, strength, and luck, inked into the space on my body between my mind and heart, like an oil drill.

i realize now what i may have loved most, while i have been hovering around the theme of new beginnings, start-overs and the like, it is the duality and ability to press reset so quickly on such a big machine. here we are, knee-deep in january, the year already shaping itself in its predictable and unpredictable ways, and then, just like that, enter the dragon, and we can start all over again. i am a writer because i was born the year of the snake.



i would love to say that 2012, the year i am marrying the love of my life, that my business took a huge step forward, and when i met each resolution with enthusiasm and triumph, started on a high note, but i can't. the holidays nearly ate me alive, the end of 2011 got so chaotic that i found myself teetering into a place of no control, which is my kryptonite. i still managed to convince myself that i felt great about everything in theory, but i was staring down the barrel of a big and complicated push.

we went on a hike the afternoon of the 31st, our tradition, to discuss what we are excited about for the year to come and what we'd like to work on. a convergence of events had us unusually stressed, our conversation seemed less hopeful and more testy. we still rounded it off with a mutual acknowledgment of the excitement for the year ahead, and a gust of solidarity and the notion that we make our own luck, something we have decided to believe.


on january first my fiancé and i had a lazy morning. my gut has always done a lot of the thinking for me, and i can't say that a funny feeling didn't lead me down the hallway toward the front door. he saw it first and froze. a little finch laid there at our feet in the center of our welcome mat, small and lifeless. we avoided staring into our mirroring gaze. before exchanging knowing looks, we each took a respective moment to summon a weak dismissal of what was surely a sinking feeling to us both. we share many things in common, one of which is a strong sense of superstition. what did it mean? i could see this random act burrowing a portal between us, connecting our thoughts of bad luck and the like. we never said anything.

by the 6th, his 35th birthday, it was apparent that the little bird at our door was right, this year was not going to be all fun and games. the first week had engulfed us in a series of events that turned us on our sides. heartbroken at best at the way the new year was shaping up, a pain in my right hip had crept in that i was prepared to ignore until it piqued into a body-shattering halt. something had to give.

it was as though my body was telling me to stop trying to climb this year already. that starting a whole new year wasn't as simple as replacing a calendar. we went to the doctor and they asked me if i needed a note for work; i should be resting, or the injury could get more serious. my doctor had very understanding eyes, i think we were similar in age, so i figured she understood when i told her that a note to me is what i really needed. that i could in fact really use a note written by someone else to tell me to slow down, to heal, to breathe, that the first week, day, minute, whatever, of a new year is just like any other week, day, or minute...she laughed like she knew what i meant and i took a few days off to focus on healing.


when i lived in sf i worked as a cocktail waitress in a very busy and popular live music venue for several years. on sold out nights i was a a fighter. i pushed and shoved my way through the crowd, i used every part of my body i could to create pathways through the wall of people drinking and dancing. often times when i was carrying a full tray above my head, an apron full of beer bottles and a six pack of beer in my other hand, i did a lot of hip-checking to get people out of my way. i had relied on my hips for years, and this time, my hip checked me.

so when we finally got to a place where we were laughing a little bit about the first week of 2012, i told a friend of ours about the bird. i was hesitant because i just couldn't bear any folklore about dead birds and new years day or anything else my imagination could conjure up. she listened as i poured out the dramatization of opening the door to a bad sign and just waited for her to respond with her interpretation like a bullet. she sat back for a moment and casually said, "oh, it was probably just that feral cat in your yard bringing you a gift." and just like that, the clouds parted and 2012 hasn't been looking so bad after all...i am writer because there is always more than one version of the story...

check engine


it's hard to believe that the holidays are five minutes away. the lights are up, the music is drifting through, sparkles, twinkles, toys, gifts, lists, cookies, calls, cards, plans, parties, cocktails, calories, resolutions, promises, parking, payments, and my check engine light is on. no, seriously, the check engine light in my car is on. well, actually, it's been on for awhile. but, sometimes it turns off for a day or two.

i love those days... on those days i am so together, better organized, "closing deals," appropriate, relevant, coordinated, and always a few minutes early to everything. i like to think that my dashboard is giving me a break, as though my car and i have an understanding...life is just too busy this time of year for car trouble and well, my car wouldn't want to impose. or that it's just my idiot lights way of telling me to take a deep breath, that everything is going to be alright...note: i am taking cues from "idiot lights." i know, i have to know better.

and then the light comes back on.

and i think, is this some kind of metaphor? and if so, i get it, but i'd rather put it off.  so let's just say it's that blaring metaphor, and this is the universe's way of telling me to slow down and check in. i would say yes, that sounds about right, but that seems too obvious, too heavy breathery... so, what's the message?

well, lately i find myself measuring things in very realistic terms. i am spread thin these days so there is inherently less of me to pick up slack. when i am firing on all cylindars my engine is like a v-12; i am hardwired to be more efficient the busier i am, if not slightly hysterical, and all kinds of manic. so i'm all revved up now, but there is a faint whirring sound as though i'm on the stretch before the screeching hault.

i suppose that's just it, things are wrapping up for the year--and just like everyone else i am seeing if i can't squeeze a few more things in, pre-resolution, pre-holiday meltdown, or pre-flu.


but as we tick away toward midnight i can't help but feel like i haven't done enough, given enough, learned enough, shared enough, grown enough and on and on. at best i have written this post (even if i started it last week) and told you thank you for reading this year, and i can't wait to get back in touch in 2012...

so i guess, today, i am a writer because i look at the dashboard of my car and see the words, "check engine," and that signals a million stories about speeding, working parts, mechanics, fixing, and breaking, and then getting fixed again.

and so you ask: why won't i take my car in? well, that's another story, maybe one for next year...

speakeasy: a tale of passwords


well past the days of prohibition, we are still mired in passwords. i have them for almost everything--of course it would have been nice as i was setting them up if i had made them all the same, alas...i have come to learn that i don't usually do things the easy way...

i am confronted with that most charming part of myself, often, and recently in a guest post i wrote that was featured on the Simply Solo (read it here) blog, i revisited a time in my life where i felt like i was met with doing things the easy way in a dark alley. i made it out unscathed, living to tell the story, but the one thing is: the story is hard to tell. there is a happy ending and all, but that's not why it's hard to tell. it's complicated, personal, not everyone wins, not everything goes drifting off into the sunset, and it wraps around so many lives that it's overwhelming to organize in any truly satisfying way. but it is cathartic to be brave and write it anyway, despite the audience, despite my own fears, and  despite the heavy lifting. writing can be a full disclosure practice. not every word is easy on your fingers. we are afraid of revealing, afraid of what our/the audience will think, what will they say? will i be understood, is it ok to write this or that?

we are never perfect. that's hard to swallow, even as ridiculous as it is to think we could be, we aren't, ever. or perhaps i should speak for myself. i am so not perfect. at a lunch meeting last week i got out of my chair as we were saying goodbye. i had hung my oversized bag that carries too much on the back and as i got up from the table, the sudden shift of weight flung my chair backwards into another patron. he grimaced and said he wouldn't sue--i thanked him for his kindness, and then dropped my huge scarf on the ground and bumped into someone else as i was picking it up. let's just say if it were a scene in a movie it may have been sort of cute or functioned in a less obtuse way. it wasn't, it was my real life. i was meeting a new client, discussing plans for some immediate and future projects. i was friendly, professional, and articulate all the way up until that moment where i would have loved an invisible cloak or some magic glasses that could have made me disappear. basically, after the chair fiasco, i looked like a lunatic who might live out of her bag.

i guess what i am trying to say is, our behavior is always relative to someone or something else, or subject to interpretation or maybe even gravity. the way we look, how we cook, create, write, speak, think, laugh, everything has another version that may or may not be slightly better, but never perfect. and then of course, there is good old fashioned slapstick, where slamming your head into something is the perfect way to tell a joke.

and as we go careening toward the holidays things inevitably get crowded and pushy, and behavior gets even more desperate. on my way home last night i saw four car accidents, one looked serious, someone was definitely, very hurt. i can't stop thinking to myself how out of control we get this time of year. me, personally, my emotions have gone completely richter. as i grow a small business, plan a wedding, and confront the big ideas of my future, i would rather be napping. it may seem lightweight to you, but there is so much more i am not saying. and that's the thing, we speak in code, saving our passwords just for our own privacy, never revealing what our real feelings are. instead, we avoid hurting others, showing too much, saying the wrong thing, and on and on. we like to appear together, all buttoned up, "nothing to see here," that sort of thing. and while it may be more convenient, and certainly polite, is all that smoke and mirrors necessary?

meanwhile you turn on the news and the world is at war, there is tremendous suffering, and the human condition has gone digital.

but this is the thing, while never completely perfect, everything is always moving along. last week i couldn't get my mind un(Occupy-d), and still there, things keep moving despite the rate at which we must face our own dailyness, without any naps.


i am still worried about polar bears and pakistan, i am not immune to the obsession i have with doing things right, or the fact that three of my dearest friends have moved pretty far away, how i have my own business now that needs more attention than i sometimes have to give, or the fact that i'm getting married in eight months and i've got some broken family stuff that needs fixing and i don't know where to begin. i am extremely grateful for it all. in this time of thanking, i am humbled by how fortunate i am to have all that i do, to know and love who i do, to feel as much as i do, and to have the opportunity to share all of it when i can.