All My Friends…

She claims she doesn’t remember saying it. But she did. I remember the moment. We were sitting in her unfurnished new home and every word we spoke echoed through the open space bouncing off the walls back to us. It was like sitting inside a really bad stereo.

She was making something to drink and the words rolled off her tongue and changed me forever.

“All my friends are strong women…”

I can’t tell you what she had said prior, I may not have been really listening. I have no idea what followed because those six words clogged my ears and brain.

What does that mean? I asked myself.

We finished our time together, said good-bye, and I crawled up in my jeep.

“All my friends are strong women,” I said as I turned the key in the ignition. “I have no idea what that means – but I think I should!”

I repeated this bold statement to family members at dinner. They seemed unaffected by it and all agreed with it.

“What do you mean it makes sense!” I shouted in my head. “You can choose your friends?” Now my words hit me just as hard as her had a few hours earlier. “I can choose my friends! Why didn’t anyone ever tell me?!?!”

A few days later we were at dinner with friends and I was still contemplating this idea.  I repeated the story; “…and she said, ‘All my friends are strong women.’ I don’t know what that means.” I confessed. “But I sure want to!”

I sensed I had comrades across the table. Our friends looked at each other and I recognized their expression. I had the same the moment I heard it said.

“Did you know that?” I asked. “You can choose your friends! Go figure? You don’t have to have a relationship with everyone you meet!”

I now repeated this proclamation every day (and several times though out.) The idea that I have the power to choose who I let into my life, who I invest my time and energy in, and who I intend to build strong relationships with has rocked my world to a new level. It seems silly, even childish, but it’s not.

It’s giving me a measuring stick and a way to evaluate my relationships. It’s given me a new standard to live from. It’s given me a new appreciation for those I call friend.

What’s also just a little weird…(I’m lowering my voice in case someone else is listening)…since I’ve been making this proclamation…I’ve met several strong, interesting, intelligent people and it feels as if we are already old friends.


Sitting in ashes covered in soot

Have you ever looked closely at the story of Cinderella? It’s a terrible story. Mother dies,  father marries a bitch, two evil step sisters arrive, father dies, and Cinderella’s only hope of escape is a fairy god mother or a prince.

What are those chances?

Children grow up is situations that are less than perfect and for some, the only way they will survive is to go into a – survival mode. But when someone remains in the survival mode for the rest of their life, there’s a problem.

That is why I was shocked when after I had reached my pique of a frustrating, I heard myself say, “I’m done playing the role of Cinderella!”

I gasped! Who said that? I looked around in disbelief.

“I’m not Cinderella!” I exclaimed to myself. “I like my mother! I’m not waiting for a Prince, I’ve got a Hoppie! I’d be okay if a fairy godmother granted me wishes, but I’m not sitting on my ashes waiting for her to appear.”

So what part of this story was my inner self speaking to? Could it be … (dadadadaaa) … the two ugly step sisters? (I like to say ugly because it makes them less scary!)

YES!! I do that!! I know I Do!!!

When they walk into the room I shrink into the dirty, bucket carrying, ash shoveling, servant girl, who talks to birds and hopes someone will take pity on her. When the bully speaks up my first instinct is to meet their challenge, but the Cinderella in me shuts me down. When the unkind accuse, I want to make it right, but suddenly I’m covered in soot and feel unworthy.

It’s a role that seems so out of character, yet, it’s also second nature. How have I not realized this in the past? Why hadn’t I turned the survival switch off?

Many of us play those roles. Either it’s the victim orphan, or the victim of a unloving parent, a victim of limited finances, or a victim of bullying. And some times, we continue in the role even when our circumstances have changed.

It’s time to flip the switch and turn off the flashing neon sign announcing our victim-age. Let it flash and buzz and flicker until it goes dark. It’s time to choose new roles, new characters that have fun, who live life, and aren’t willing to sit on their ashes covered in soot.

I’m happy to give this particular role up. I gladly walk away. And going forward, the announcer in my head will loudly proclaim, “The role of Cinderella is NOT being  played by …. ME!”

Put down the shovel

Ever feel like all you do is shovel other people’s shit?

Before I explain, I need to make a little adjustment. You see I grew up in a house where we ate chicken chests and we wore top underwear. There were some words such as breast or bra that were just not appropriate. So the idea of writing about shoveling shit is well beyond my mother’s comfort zone. Out of honor and respect for this lovely and proper lady, I will now refer to shit as bananas.

Ever feel like all you do is shovel other people’s bananas?

I did. I was great at it!

 If you are a manager it’s basically your job description. Parenting requires it; kids produce a lot of bananas. Bad relationships demand it. There are some individuals whose purpose in life is banana production. 

I didn’t realize until recently just how often the banana shovel was in my hand. It may have actually become attached along with the yellow cape and rubber gloves. Someone would make a mess of their life and I was ready to report for duty. Bad decissions being made at work, I could fix it. If you produced them, I was ready to shovel them.

Not sure what the trigger was, but during a marathon conversation I was having in my head, I boldly announced, “I’m done shoveling other people’s bananas!” 

It was as if I had stepped on the handle of the shovel causing the other end to fling up and hit me in the head. In doing so, covering me with peelings and banana mush. Why was I waisting so much time and energy shoveling bananas when I could be…at the beach!?

It was surprisingly easy to set the shovel down. I removed the yellow cape and rubber gloves as well. I took a shower and scrubbed off the mush and residue of a life of banana shoveling. Then I got in my jeep and headed to … the beach. 

The shovel is still laying where I left it. It beckons me. It sends me messages of encouragement of how brilliant of a banana shoveler I really am. I says it misses me.

At times I’m tempted to pick it up and get to work – saving the world from bananas. 

When I feel overwhelmed with the need to shovel, I am thankful that there is a booming voice in my head that thunders, “Ma’am, step away from the shovel!” 

Lemon Limes or Lime Lemons

It’s been almost nine years since we moved to California. A move that was never part of the greater plan, but a plan that we’re so grateful happened. Shortly after we arrived we bought our first citrus tree, a Key Lime Tree. So excited we put it in a big pot, set it in the sun and waited for it’s fruits.

IMG_3293We waited, and waited, no fruit, just pretty little white flowers. It’s not hot enough here to grow Key Limes. So we bought a Lemon Tree. We put it in a big pot, set it in the sun and waited for it’s fruit.

IMG_3289After our first harvest of three lemons, we figured it needed a brother. So we bought our first Lime Tree. We put it in a pot, set it in the sun and waited for it’s fruit.

The first year I picked a beautiful green lime, cut it open and bit down with great expectations. It was disgusting! Bitter, dry, with a thick rind. Each year I let them get a little bigger but it never helped. IMG_3292

This year I forgot about them. It actually rained here and we were so busy watching the radar that I let my sad lime tree go.

One afternoon I walked to be the back corner of the yard to sit in a rare appearance of the sun when I noticed my sad green limes were turning yellow. “What the….?”

I let them go another month or so and to my great dismay, all my little green, thick rind limes, grow to enormous size and all turned yellow.

Go figure, it’s been a lemon tree all this time and we’ve been forcing it to be a lime.

There’s a really deep amazing life lesson there, but you’re smart enough to figure it out.



The term marginal has been used a lot lately. Typically it’s used to describe those who are different, or have specific needs, who are not the norm. There is a very distinct group of people that come to mind when I think of those who are marginal.

If I step back and look at all the people who could be classified as marginal, it’s the majority of the world. It’s much easier to describe those who aren’t marginal, that would to be white, males, who think they make a lot of money.

A short time ago, someone listed women in their list of marginal people and I was taken back. “Hmmm, never thought of it that way, but I guess you are right.” And for two weeks I began seeing myself as marginal. I was discriminated against, I had less career options, I wasn’t born a boy…

It was for two weeks and only two weeks, because that’s how long it took me to want to throw in the towel, slit my wrists, and give up ‘cause I was born a girl.

Enough with that! Other women may be marginal, but I’m not.

If you close a door on me, I’m exceptional enough to know you’re most likely not worth the trouble. If you say no, I’m intelligent enough to figure out another way. Stay in the box, what box? Boxes can become coffins.

I don’t intend to walk through this life carrying the MARGINAL banner. I most likely won’t spend much time fighting the cause either. I’m a doer. I’d rather create a life from which I can help others.  A life others want to be a part of. Some may says that’s marginal, but to me it’s the full page.

If you find yourself in one of those marginal categories, I would highly recommend that you step out of the margin and on to the page and begin writing your own story. You can be whatever you want, even a white, male, who thinks they have a lot of money.

The best part about writing your own story – you get to set the margins.

She’ll only risk the chance…

My mother grew up in Chicago and in our childhood instilled the love for the Chicago she knew. There is, and always has been, one magical place that we too share her love for. That is the city block building with green majestic clocks on each corner that was once known as Marshall Fields on State Street.

Eight stories of every lovely thing you could ever want to own. On the seventh floor of this magnificent place was the fabulous Walnut Room. This is where you lunched! A giant dinning room lined with dark, rich, walnut panels. Servers who worn black. Linens on the table and white linen napkins so large you could use as a bath towel.

Every Christmas, the Fields Christmas Tree sat in the middle of the room. This was no ordinary tree! It was at least two stories tall and so wide that a dozen tables encircled it. Nothing said Christmas more than lunching in the Walnut Room, gazing at the tree, and watching the ice skaters across the street from seven stories up.

Marshall Fields also offered a delicacy that makes my mouth water just thinking about, they are called Frango Mints. Small cubes of chocolate and mint, sitting in white paper wrappers, and lined perfectly in the long, green, rectangle box. We don’t lunch in the Walnut Room anymore, but those green boxes still arrive every Christmas thanks to my mom.

A few years ago our grandson Liam discovered Frangos. After our box of chocolates seemed to vanish, I asked mom to send him his own. The next year she did. His very own personal size box. It was wonderful to be able to hide ours away to savor well into the year.

This year our granddaughter Emery discovered Frangos. Unfortunately, she didn’t have her own box and I had to share.

Last week Liam was standing on a stool looking in the cabinet of my kitchen for snacks. I watched as he reached far into the corner and retrieved a rectangular box still wrapped in christmas paper. “Can we open it?” he asked grinning with delight. His little sister took no time to be at his side ready to assist. I gave them my approval.

As the final wrapping was removed and tossed on the floor, I reached for the box. I removed the cover and the aroma of chocolate and mint filled the kitchen. “Nothing smells like Frangos,” I said to my audience. I sat the box on the counter as each kid took their position on either side of me. Reaching in, I set one in front of Liam and one in front of Emery.

“One at a time please. I don’t want to see two, (looking at Liam) or three of them in your mouth at once (not that it’s ever happened…did I mention these are really good!) “Frangos are to be savored.”

A minute or so later I looked down at the box and five empty white wrappers looked up at me. So did four big eyes and two sets of chocolate covered lips. It was a scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. “Who ate all those?” I shouted.

“I had two,” Emery admitted.

“You had three?” I said looking at Liam. He nodded and gave me a chocolaty toothless grin.

“What am I going to do with you?”

Without looking up, Emery said, “You could hide them way up high where we can’t find them.”

Liam shook his head. Reaching for another delight responded, “She’ll only risk the chance that I’ll get hurt crawling up to get them.”

Need I say more….

Paddle boards, muscles, and memories

I got on a paddle board for the first time just about a year ago. It was thrilling. Something I’ve wanted to do since the first time I saw it. With my daughter and husband along side we headed out, kneeling in the middle of our boards, paddles in hand.

I watched as my daughter successfully made the transition from kneeling to standing. I watched in amazement as my husband did the same. With all the courage I could muster, I leaned forward, squatted, and stood. Instantly, my legs became Slinky legs and the board trembled. After a few short minutes of watching the board vibrate in the water, I knelt back down and decided that kneeling was just as good as standing.

On my second time out, I mentioned to the young woman who was setting us up that I couldn’t stand – but that kneeling was just as much fun.

“No,” she sweetly said, “that won’t do. Tell me again how it felt.”

I told her of the Slinky legs and the tremors. “But kneeling is great! I’m OK with it.”

“No,” she said again. “The reason your legs are doing that is because they’ve never done this  before. You don’t have any muscle memory.”

I leaned in, trusting that she was going to tell me how to create muscle memory for something I’ve never done. After all, kneeling was fun, but it wasn’t paddle boarding.

“Here’s what we’re going to do.” (Yes! Please! Let’s do something!!!) “I’m going to give you the widest board we have. When you get out, away from the rocks, I want you to stand up, kneel down, stand up, kneel down, stand up, kneel down; at least 5 times. By that fifth time, you’re muscles will remember what they are to do.”

It worked. The Slinky legs became rubber legs that became stick legs and finally paddle boarding legs. I had created muscle memory and I was a paddle boarder.

These past two days, I accompanied my daughter to LA for a few doctor appointments for my grand daughter. There have been many, too many, doctor appointments in Emery’s short six years in this world. We have lots of memories; and I’m sorry to say, many are not pleasant.

“It’s time to make new memories,” I told my daughter when I offered to accompany them.  “We’re going to make this a girls night out in LA!”

I’ll admit, as we started out, my level of excitement was less than explosive. The four hour drive was uneventful.  Entering LA Children’s Hospital took courage. “Muscle memory,” I kept repeating. “All those old memories can leave, this is a new day, a new experience.” I repeated those words as I walked to the front desk. With my visitor sticker in place, I walked toward Imaging, taking deep breaths and exhaling bad memories, sad memories, hopeless memories. They left my body like billows of black smoke.

An hour later and the Slinky legs became rubber legs that became stick legs, and finally we were having a girls night out in LA!! – that just happened to start at the Children’s Hospital. Another appointment.  Tossing the Kush Ball in the courtyard. McDonald’s play ground which was full of water, but that didn’t stop the fun. Dinner with an good friend. Jumping on the kingsize bed in the hotel. Watching the Micky Mouse Clubhouse in our nighties. Eating pancakes. Walking on the pier. Driving to the next appointment. Reading the Eye Chart and having lunch two blocks off the beach.

We made new memories, good memories. We had to kneel down and stand up many times but eventually we were paddle boarding.

After all, kneeling might be ok for some, but it’s just not good enough anymore.


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Making Mojo

It’s a simple equation; negative energy fuels negative energy.  Doesn’t matter if it’s on opposite ends of an argument or coming from opposing opinions; negative energy fuels negative energy.

Remember your parents saying, “You can’t fight fire with fire!” This time they were actually correct. Fighting fire with fire –  usually creates a bigger fire.

I heard it explained that the reason the election went as it did was because both sides become so negative that the negative forces joined and became more powerful than the positive. We’re still feeling it. I can’t remember this much unrest since I was a kid watching the riots in the late 60s early 70s.

But it’s not easy to turn all this anger, frustration, and fear into something positive. That’s because there isn’t anything positive about anger, frustration, and fear. Allowing those emotions to control us is not only hurting us, it’s fueling the flames of the negativity we’re fighting against.

“WHAT! I’m not adding to it, I’m fighting it!!” I can hear you yell at me. If that makes you feel better,  go ahead and believe it. But it’s not true.

Even the peacefullest protest can add sparks if it’s done out of anger and resentment for what is, rather than a desire for good, justice, and what’s right.

So how do you balance negative energy? That’s also very simple, create positive energy. However, positive energy is not simple if you are drowning in the pool of muck of negativity. Just saying words that sound positive, when it really isn’t felt or believed, still equals negative energy.

“So basically we’re screwed and the whole world is falling apart and I need to buy guns to protect myself and build bomb shelters and stockpile food and stay home from work to watch the news and write nasty things on Facebook…” (I can hear your thoughts)

No! That’s what weird people do. When we find ourselves angry, fearful, and frustrated, it’s almost impossible to turn those situations positive. We have to be willing to unclench our hands, turn off our phones, change the channel,  ask our diner guest to leave, and begin thinking on things that are good, that make us happy, go to happy places where we find joy.

Once we do – we must STAY THERE for as long as possible. Why? Because we are creating positive energy. Positive energy, no matter how, or where, or what it’s created for, is the only way to defuse the negative powers that seem to be taking control right now. And the longer you stay in that awesome, fabulous, joyous state, the more energy we create and smaller the pile of muck becomes.

So let’s stop allowing yourself to be sucked into the muck! How about letting go and thinking on  things that are good, pure, holy, fun, loving, beautiful, exciting, energizing, abundant, adventurous, joyous, motivating, magical, wonderful,…

Create some positive mojo and watch the negative lose it’s power!

Cause that’s all we got, right?

Perhaps this election is much more than who won. Perhaps it’s a wake-up call to show us the true state of our nation and that there is still a lot to be done to ensure all who call it home are free.

Maybe it’s to teach us that we really don’t believe the words written on the Statue of Liberty. Bring us your poor… They sound nice, they make us look empathetic, but we’re out of date, we aren’t guided by them any more.

Maybe it’s to shine a light on the fact that although we try to be politically correct when speaking about women and women’s rights, the acceptable language in the locker room is more exciting and sexy, and given a choice, most are more comfortable listening to it.

Maybe it’s to remind us that it’s not the popular vote that wins, rather the electoral.

Maybe it’s to show us that even when we nod in agreement that we love and accept those who are different from us, most really want everyone to be the same; white, straight, employed with health insurance.

Maybe it’s to prove that we still live in a world where the old, fat, white guy, who trades in his women for new models every so often, is disrespectful, arrogant, ignorant, and wealthy, can convince half the country he’s the right man.

In a text this morning, someone wrote; I’m going to stay focused on love and hope, cause that’s all we got, right?

Right! But never think of LOVE AND HOPE as the consolation prize. It has the power to change lives, to heal, to restore. LOVE AND HOPE keeps us from being sucked into the muck. Keeps us looking up. Keeps us excited about our future. Keeps us believing in a greater power. Allows us to forgive. Drives us to move forward. It calms our fears.

Love and hope, hope and love, it may be all we got – but it is all we really ever need!

The Pirate Boy

He swooped into our lives and stole the heart of our daughter. It wasn’t until recently that we learned he comes from a long line of pirates, French pirates who fled to Scotland. ‘French, Scottish Pirates’, sounds like something from Dr.

Unknowingly, we had been prayer for his arrival for several years. “God, send her a
engineer type who can support her and allow her to be whatever she wants,” was our prayer. The her was our daughter who is off the charts creative and intelligent and who, because of a few difficulties at birth, had to overcome challenging learning disabilities all along the way.

dscn0020“Someone who will appreciate her uniqueness, who will love her creativity, who can talk her language, who will support her in everything she does.” Enter Brian Patrick Ford. Today is his birthday and I want to do some shouting.

Brian sails through life quietly, gently, fixing things, building things, and taking care of those he loves. He’s like a gentle giant, a really, really smart giant. We watched him pack Austyn up and move her from Chicago to Colorado. A short time later they packed up again and headed for Alaska. Brian shares Austyn’s sense of adventure.

Child number one came along and Brian somehow managed to juggle new family, work, 181985_151537304902805_128046477251888_321576_5467106_nand school. Child number two surprised us all. Enter Emery Rain Ford. In those early months, Brian spent more time in the NICU than anyone. He studied books with big words and funny pictures that told him how to build airplanes while sitting with Emery.  He ran to hospital between work and his night classes. Through countless surgeries, dark times that seemed hopeless, he was the steadfastness that kept them anchored. He carried the financial load of medical bills and living expense without every showing signs of worry. Working long, exhausting days to make ends meet.

This past year their lives have changed! And we’ve loved watching every minute of it. New life, new job, new health, and new opportunities for this French Scottish Pirate Family. Brian remains calm, gentle, and caring, fixing jeeps when the need it, reviving VWs when they poop out, keeping computers on-line, repairing airplanes and flying a few, always ready to catch a few waves, and always grateful for what he has.



So here’s to Brian Patrick Ford! The greatest French Scottish Pirate King who ever lived!!

May this be the beginning of a voyage of a lifetime.