#lovewins #whatsnext

SAM_1911 What a week! My Facebook feed goes to rainbow and Confederate flags disappear from shelves. A little giddy and incredulous, we begin to contemplate a new paradigm. I find myself thinking: what’s next?

Not that bigotry is vanquished or that there isn’t much still a whole lot to do on these fronts. (Would that were so.) But, still, something is fundamentally different this week from last. Importantly different.

Today, in the wake of a remarkable Supreme Court decision, it is easy to say “Finally!” but, in fact, it wasn’t very long ago that a same-sex marriage equality decision was almost inconceivable, utterly unimaginable to most of us, whether we supported it or not.

So, I ask myself: what’s next? What is the next sea change? Under what current reality do we now labor that will someday seem heinously  Neanderthal? A friend remarked the SCOTUS decision makes him feel oddly old, like our grandparents, ringside for monumental social, political and technological transformation that once seemed unimaginable. I know what he means.

Contemplating what else might transpire is dizzying – and revealing. What’s your short list of what could or should be overhauled? An American ban on guns? Global attention to climate change? Total reproductive self-determination? The end of tribalism? Where we go with our ideas on change says a lot about how we regard the here and now.

This week, despite the hate and the ignorance and the work still to be done, love triumphed. Romantic love, humane love. Dignity.  Love won. Love won because people were determined it would. That gives me tremendous hope.

Where to?

Life Lessons

What Do You Want? How Bad Do You Want It?

Consider the story of  Aboriginal girls who, taken from their mothers and deposited in a “school” half a continent away, escape and walk 1,500 miles home. Twice. 

It’s hard for me to imagine having the savvy, let alone the fortitude, to survive such a journey, but it’s not hard to imagine the desire — the drive — the passion — the love — that would compel them forward.  Imagine wanting something for which you’d be willing to go that literal and figurative distance. Twice. 

I’ve been thinking about what I want a lot lately as I try ideas on for size, looking for what sparks my interest, tickles my imagination, makes my pulse race. Lots of things have proven to be fun or engaging or challenging or at least mildly entertaining, but there’s no burning urge. No psychic or emotional imperative. I wonder if such a thing will come.

Two economists are walking down the street and pass a Tesla showroom. One economist turns to the other and says. “I really want one of those!”  “Apparently not,” replies the other.

How do we know if we really want something?  Is being passionate about a cause the same thing as wanting? What if nothing seems quite urgent enough to warrant a Big P passion?

Like many women,  I’m not well practiced in discerning my own desires. I’m better at attending to, intuiting, and working–often fiercely– for the wants of others.

I have the opportunity to revisit that old training. I remain curious about what I will discover. I am grateful for the inspiration of others – including young girls a generation and half a planet away.

Life Lesson #15: Knowing is half the battle.


Back Story

A Love Letter to Fathers Everywhere

Much will be written about fatherhood today. Facebook will be awash in charming snapshots of the “best father ever.”  I’ll just pile on.

Writing from Rehoboth, I am drawn to the photo of our first visit here.  We’d just come from an enormous family reunion. One son had been very ill, hospitalized  for several days,  just a few weeks earlier. We were a bit ragged and travel weary. Finally settled into the garage apartment I had found for us, we made our way to the beach.  It was late. The life guards were gone, the sands relatively empty. The water soft and calm.

D. cradled two little hands and led the boys to the lapping water’s edge. Led them to the brink of an unfathomable sea. Led them into newness and adventure and years of family rituals and rites of passage.

That image is, to me, the epitome of fatherhood: taking hold of a small life and its even smaller hand; modeling curiosity, courage, conviction, caring;  love and awe.


Making a List

Life Lessons from Pigment and Paper

Well intentioned friends warned me, “Watercolor is so unforgiving. Do oils. You can push them around all day!”

“Cure for perfectionism” is how my teacher described it.

The fact that there was a teacher involved tells you I ignored the warnings.

Everything I knew about painting with watercolors I’d learned on YouTube. I figured it was time for an upgrade.  A rank beginner, I enrolled in a two-day workshop, invested in a lengthy list of supplies and headed off to class, my precious 3 sheets of  over-sized, 140# cold press Arches watercolor paper flapping in the wind beside me.

Two days later, I have (1) had a  lot of fun, (2) shown some improvement (with plenty of room for more) and, mostly, (3) gained an even greater appreciation for the form — not necessarily for the reasons one might think.

Painting the Negative Spaces

Less Is More. Watercolors don’t benefit from being over-worked. The less you fuss, the better. I think this is an excellent life strategy.

There Are No Rules, Only Consequences.  This was my teacher’s line and I loved it: she showed us all the ways we could really play with the medium — and then deal with the consequences. Having “consequences” dressed with a positive, playful mantle alone was worth the price of admission.

Dark Pear, Mystery Pear

Watercolors Are A Metaphor For Life. This is one of those activities in which things will go wrong — it’s a question of when, not if.  The art and artistry are all about making the most of what comes at you. I appreciate that – and love that I can use an art form to practice what I consider an essential life skill.

Colors! Fabulous Colors! Gone are the anemic ghosts of my youth. Real watercolors are bold and beautiful and vibrant. I gained a particular appreciation for good materials (paper, brushes, pigments) this week and will never look back. Even when we worked in “black and white” (our own mix of gray, created from our limited palette), the hues were lovely.

A Pair of Pears

Process Over Product. This was another line from my teacher. She cautioned us not to worry about looks, just to learn from the how. (For me, it may have to be about process over product for a long time. But that’s okay. Probably better that way.)

I Look At Things Differently. “No rules” notwithstanding, there are some basic techniques for painting with watercolors and I find myself looking at objects and scenes around me thinking, “How would I paint that?” Watercolors help me see my world through new eyes. What more could I ask?

Pushing oils will have to wait. First, I think I might want to learn how to draw

Life Lessons, UnComfort Zone

Remember When Barbie Said, “Math Class is Tough”? Yeah, That.

Comeuppance is the only way I can think to describe it.

Or maybe realllly rusty.

But no matter how I look at it, re-encountering the math in my Model Thinking course has been sobering.  I’ve never been so grateful for the video replay feature in my life.

Remember when Teen Talk Barbie was released in 1992 and one of her 270 randomly available sentences was “Math class is tough”?  Remember the uproar?  How dare they perpetuate the girls-can’t-count [read: girls don’t count] stereotype? I’d always been strong in math, always took a kind of personal offense to any assumption that this wasn’t or couldn’t be an area in which I might excel. Not only was I good at math, I liked math.

So imagine my surprise when I could not get my head around the mathematics in these first few lectures. The course description warned some calculus might help, but that solid algebra would be sufficient. I figured: no problem – got that.  And maybe I do, but it has clearly been in cold storage, if not a musty basement, for some years and things are a tad…sluggish.

It’s an uncomfortable parallel to muscular fitness: my once exceptionally limber body isn’t; my once sufficiently limber math chops aren’t. Yet. I am determined to regain my strength. Yesterday I made three humiliating tries on one fairly straightforward problem in the little pop quizzes between lectures. My notebook is full of the scribbling, charts and diagrams it takes me to get to the right answers. I am definitely “showing my work” — and hellbent on limbering up again, mathematically speaking.

As aggravating as it is, the rust is strangely gratifying. It’s giving me a reason to push, making me break a sweat, allowing me to experience a sense of accomplishment when I finally get it.

Humbling aside, the reframe is striking. What to do with my self-image of someone who is good at math when I’m struggling with the stuff? Am I someone who used to be good at math? Someone who might be good at math again, eventually? Do I even need a math identity?


It’s all such an interesting convergence of my recent musings on mindset and the power of words to describe ourselves and how we move through life. I remind myself of my admonition to the kids, it’s okay if it’s hard. That’s how you know you’re accomplishing anything. 

I should listen to myself more often. Struggle : skill :: lemons : lemonade.

Life Lesson #14: It’s okay if it’s hard.


Naming is Framing is Empowering, or Not

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

I beg to differ.

I’ve been paying attention to labels and language this week. And I’m here to say the Bard got this one wrong. It matters what we call things and especially how we frame ourselves in relation to them.

My community of reflection is focusing on our uses of “just” and any of the innumerable other ways we assault ourselves and our efforts with the micro-abrasions of diminution: I’m just a beginner. Well, I’ll try… as if our being new at something, or inexpert, takes anything away from the value and valor of our enterprise.

Do. Or do not. There is no try.

I think Yoda gets this one right, but maybe not in the way the Jedi master meant. Trying is doing. We diminish trying when we see and frame it as less than a genuine effort or opportunity to build strength or skills. Say “try” and mean “bravely enhance” and see how different that feels.

Name Your Frame: Incoming clouds spoiling the view, or spectacular sky showcasing a great adventure?

Rather than “I’m just a beginner”  I’m working on “I‘m bravely going where I’ve never gone before.”

Wanna come?


We Are Family

familyOf origin. Nuclear. Extended. Intentional. You name it, I’ve been soaking up a lot of “family” lately. Affirming affections, reflexive reminiscing, reinforcing familiarity — the rituals of family reunion are strong.

I never thought about the fact that family and familiar obviously share etymology. Of course they would. Yet even with common DNA, can we realistically have any expectation of familiarity with people we see infrequently or engage sporadically?

Basking in the joy and love and fun of recent days, I am reminded that family takes intention and outlay.

I am glad to have made efforts, grateful for others having done so as well.


illustration by Joseph Boggs Beale, kindness of American Magic-Lantern Theater