Category Archives: Personal

Trail of Tears

I can hear Harper crying in her crib. She’s angry. She doesn’t want to go to sleep. She doesn’t want to be held. She wants to explore. But I’m tired and sad, and the day is over and I need her to give me this space. So she will stay in her crib and she will be angry.

There is no time to be sad and so the tears pounce when they can. The trail of sadness continues at the Morley house with yet another loss — a coworker of mine.  A fellow educator who was tragically killed in a car accident on the first day of school.  None of it makes sense.

When somebody you love dies at an “advanced” age you are sad, but you are also grateful that they lived such a long life and had the opportunity to either fulfill or come to peace with their dreams.  If someone dies from an illness, regardless of age, you are sad, but illness and death go hand in hand and seem a natural and expected way to leave this life. But when somebody has their life stolen from them – when their dreams are ripped away by another person, either by purpose or accident, there is no sense in it.  There is no way to make those pieces of information fit together in your head.  No matter how hard I try I can’t.

Keye’s killer was arrested.  A crack head with a history of robberies and thieving.  He will be brought to trial and I have confidence he will see justice. We cheered that an arrest had been made but it is a hollow victory because the one thing we all want we can’t ever have.  This man, this thief of life, can’t give us Keye back.

I miss them all.

The irony about being a person who writes, studies writing and loves good writers is that you learn that the best writing comes from the strongest emotion and the strongest emotion is pain – not love.  We, as humans, feel more alive when we hurt than when we are happy.  We are more aware of our delicate human nature, of the value of the things around us, when we are in pain.

I drove to work this morning in an epic downpour. As I slowly made my way down the expressway with 18-wheelers and teenagers and guys on their cell phones I thought of how quickly something could go wrong and I could be dead.  But nothing went wrong, and I’m not dead.  Instead, I’m sitting at my kitchen table, listening to the fire crackle and shedding tears for those who weren’t quite so lucky.



How was your holiday season? Filled with presents and family? Really? Yeah, I hate you.  My holiday was overshadowed by death.  The ultimate party pooper. I’ve avoided writing this post because I know, in the end, I will be an emotional wreck and wishing you all could just read my mind (which would make blogging so much easier).

My Uncle Marty died.

He wasn’t really my uncle, but since I wouldn’t know my actual uncle if he came up to me on the street and offered me free chocolate or a cruise to the Caribbean, Marty was it. My mother and Marty had grown up together – gone to the same high school.  He married my mother’s best friend; Sandy.   My Uncle Marty and Aunt Sandy had two children, Sue and Rich. Rich was my age and I can’t really remember a time in my life when Marty, Sandy, Rich and Sue weren’t a part of it.  They have always been my only relations on my mother’s side.

Aunt Sandy & Uncle Marty

Marty was a man who was larger than life.  People say that, I know, it’s cliche. However, in Marty’s case it was true.  He was loud and passionate and angry.  He didn’t just say “hi” in a calm, gentle fashion, but would grab you, hug you, kiss you and embrace you with the feeling that this was the first and last time he would ever see you.  He gave generously and hurt deeply.  He would tease you, chide you and poke at you, but always with a smile and a twinkle that told you that he loved you.

Marty was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer about a year ago.  It sucked. He’s gone now, and it isn’t fair.

But life isn’t fair and this was made abundantly clear to David and I when on Christmas Eve we received the news that our dear friend, Keye Ratley, was shot and killed.  He was 35.

Keye, his girlfriend, his brother and his girlfriend, were all leaving a night club together, when Keye’s baby brother got jumped by two muggers.  Keye ran in to pull the men off of his  brother when the muggers turned around and shot Keye in the abdomen.

Keye Ratley

Keye had a quiet confidence about himself.  A gentle demeanor that belied his wicked sense of humor and creative spirit.  He was a friend to all and an enemy to none.  He was a slave to technology with an absolute obsession with FourSquare and Facebook that left every person feeling like they were a part of his life. He was also a man who knew how to wear a handlebar mustache. David spent three years sitting right next to Keye at work, eating lunch together, talking about the latest Apple products.  Only hours before Keye’s death David and he had been exchanging text messages about a new iPhone app.

We buried Keye on Tuesday – his family, friends, coworkers.  David and I have cried a thousand tears and I know we have thousands more still yet to come. It sucks.

I don’t have words of wisdom. I haven’t learned some great lesson from all of this. People close to me have died. They are gone and that is that.

When I Grow Up I Want To Be….

I’ve never wanted to be famous. I think it is odd how the generation behind me seems to be so obsessed with fame. What a strange thing to crave. Is it the money they want? Because honestly there are easier ways to make a lot of money than being famous.  Recently I have realized that there are certain alter life paths I wish I could have followed.

Path #1: Bad Ass Gun Toting Super Hero

Part of me has always longed for the ability to pull a gun out and shoot. Not that I would want to kill a person. No, I don’t think I would actually have the courage for that. However, I wish I had the confidence and lack of fear that a bad ass gun toting super hero needs to have. I would like to have the training that it takes to know that if somebody came into my house to do something bad I could take them down. A sort of Trinity from “The Matrix” meets Wonder Woman meets Word Girl.  Not to mention that looking good in spandex would be a plus.

Path #2 Stand Up Comedian

This is a rather selfish ambition because this has less to do with wanting to make other people laugh as it is that I just like to laugh. I like to be funny and I like to be around funny people. As a writer I’m plagued with adequacy. Regardless of profession the truly successful are driven to the point of extreme. Famous, successful writers write because they have books longing to be poured from their soul. Yeah, not a lot of yearning going on inside of me. Same is true for humor. I like to think that I’m funny and I have moments of funny but funny enough to make other people laugh? Not so much.  I have just enough ability at humor to make sure my lectures don’t put my students asleep, and even that is debatable.

Path #3 An Incredibly Fit And Comfortable With Nature Anthropologist

I loved anthropology in college.  I like to fanatasize that in another life time I might have travelled the world studying strange cultures and learning interesting languages.  What has prevented me from doing this is that I don’t particularly like to sweat, and bugs.  I’m  like a delicate lotus flower that would melt under the heat of a strange land and my personal disgust of large unidentifiable bugs (well, really anything larger than a cricket) is about enough to send me into a full blown anxiety attack.  However, if I knew that I would look amazingly cute in a pair of khaki field shorts and a tank top I might be willing to overcome these things. As things stand for now I can only dream about a life filled with sitting around camp fires talking with people in loin cloths.

Plans: Part II


Yeah, so life has been a bit…crazy? No, that seems cliche.  Overwhelming? Surprising? Unplanned? Yes, I suppose all of those things.  I’m a person in transition and well, a person who likes plans definitely doesn’t like transitions. I couldn’t be more uncomfortable right now if I was wearing a coat made out of human skin.  The other day David sent me the following text message: “When shit gets real you’re the person I want to be with”.  The shit has most definitely been real lately.

David quit his job. We then spent the next three weeks in a heavenly bliss of unemployment.  A mini-vacation into Hakuna Matata world where everything seemed like a giant rainbow and bluebirds were singing on our shoulders. However, contrary to popular belief you really can’t pay the mortgage with singing bluebirds. ( know, who could have guessed that?) David got a new job and I went back to teaching.


David’s  new job has definite advantages, including a 15 minute commute (this is much better from the 1 hour commute he’s had for the past 8 years of our marriage). He has returned to working with some dear friends and that is always nice. However, it is still work and it is still advertising and so that still means long nights and big projects. We’re adjusting.

We’re still living in a house that is in transition and at the end of the day I think this is driving me crazy more than anything else. I have books stacked — EVERYWHERE (#1 problem faced by English majors and teachers around the world: book storage. We don’t ever get rid of them).  I have boxes packed and stacked and the garage is a tumbled combination of new, old and garbage. Every room screams for a new piece of furniture, artwork, carpet or now a cleaning. Every wall is blank, every window bare, and I desperately want order.

David wistfully mentioned to me how much easier our lives would be if we didn’t have children. Indeed, life would be simple. My house would always be in order and clean. We would always have enough money. David and I would always have time to talk about subjects and things that interest us.  As we both laid in bed and reflected on that alternative universe the selfishness of it all made me sick to my stomach.  I recognize that many people are very happy being childless. I, however, could never be one of those people.

My house is chaos, but that is because it is bursting with life.  That much life cannot be neatly contained.  Life must overflow, squeeze out around the corners and fill every crack and crevice. There will be enough time at the end of my life to enjoy a clean kitchen.  For now, I’m just going to kick the Hot Wheels out of the way, toss the Barbies off the kitchen table and sit in the moment.

(editor’s note: I wrote this post about three months ago. I suppose it is a reflection of how truly chaotic things have been that I’m only now getting around to publishing it. However, I liked this post, and I feel that it truly captures what my summer was like).

The Best Laid Plans Are Crap

I turned 40 two weeks ago. It seems like I should be marking this occasion with some sort of wisdom or rite of passage. What would that be? The truth is not only do I not feel wiser I actually feel more stupid. 

When you are in your twenties your life is filled with possibility and uncertainty. We all crane our necks trying to peer over the fence into adulthood wondering what it is going to look like, unaware that we are already there.  By thirty we KNOW we are adults and are filled with the confidence and certainty that this self-awareness brings.  We’re married, we have kids, houses, cars, careers and life seems rather simple for those who know how to “follow the rules”.  But the journey from thirty to forty is tough and exhausting. 

At 40 I’ve realized that having a “plan” for life is the silliest most fruitless thing ever. Plans are meant for those who have yet to come to terms with the fact that life is not something that can be controlled.  All the idealistic and optimistic visions of my early thirties have been smacked in the head with reality.  In many ways my life is better, more fruitful, richer and painted with more vibrant colors than I was capable of imagining at thirty. On the other hand I’m also far more humble.  I’ve been knocked on my knees, fallen to the floor and wondered “what next?” too many times during my thirties. I know not to take the good times for granted and that the unexpected tragedy is the other side of the rainbow that fills our lives.

What’s next?

I plan on spending my forties enjoying the seeds I sowed in my thirties. I’m looking forward to watching my children grow up. I want to wallow in my new career as an educator and watch my students blossom.  Most importantly, I’m looking forward to countless evenings sitting with David on our front porch, watching the moon, talking quietly about our kids, our jobs,  and laughing at life.

Sacred Space

During a world religion class in college my professor talked about the difference between sacred and profane space, sacred and profane time, and how we as a society mark certain things, times, dates and locations as being sacred.  I loved this concept and I remember becoming acutely aware of my own sacred space.  Recently this idea has found its way back into my consciousness.

This past week our wireless internet connection got corrupted and I lost my internet access at home.  At first this seemed dire, frustrating and desperate.  However, by the end of the day I realized how much I had gotten done because I wasn’t distracted by the insignificant minutia that seems to constantly be demanding my attention on the internet.  This led me to consider the idea of consciously disconnecting during certain times of the day or week. What would happen?

My first experiment came Saturday night.  David and I were attending a “grown-up” party with alcohol and music and no children or even people who also had kids so there would be no swapping of kid stories. I turned my iPhone off and left it at home.  Think about that people. I TURNED MY PHONE OFF AND LEFT IT AT HOME. I WENT SOMEWHERE WITHOUT MY PHONE. MY PHONE WAS NOT NEAR MY BODY. Do you recognize the enormity of this ? Do you recognize the sheer craziness of me making that decision? Well, I did it. I went a total of four hours without access to the internet, facebook, email or text messaging.  And you know what happened? The world did not end and for once I wasn’t distracted by things that were peripheral to my activity but I was actually able to exist in the “now”. I made eye-contact, I talked with people, my mind settled and I focused on what I was doing.

This first experiment went so well that the next morning I decided to not bring my phone with me to church. Although at times I felt a small tug of disappointment that I couldn’t “check-in” with the world I overall was pleased at my ability to keep my attention on the people and things around me versus the “others”.

I like this idea of sacred space and have decided to start consciously marking sacred times in my life when I disconnect.  I don’t want to be checking my email while I’m trying to spend time with my husband, or playing a board game with my kids. I don’t want to hear the chime of a text message while I’m trying to have a conversation with a good friend.  Don’t get me wrong, I still am madly in love with my iPhone and I will not be giving it up any time soon.  But I’ve decided to reclaim my sacred space. I’ve decided to try harder at living in the now and not the later.


Remember how I told you that we put a bid on a house and it was rejected? Well, the owner changed her mind and now – right now – as we head into the holidays and while I’m 7 months pregnant – we are selling our house and  moving.  I’ve already documented my delicate emotional state during this pregnancy and this additional stress has truly sent me to “crazy town”.  So currently, David’s day looks something like this:

7:00 AM wakes up to me reminding him to not forget about Max’s lunch and don’t fall back to sleep

8:30 AM – 6:00 PM After an hour long commute that can only be compared to a slow death march he arrives at work where his schedule is usually non-stop meetings peppered with people complaining that he isn’t in enough places at the same time.

5:30 PM – 6:30 PM Receives approximately 20 phone calls/text messages from me asking if he’s left yet.

6:00 PM – 7:00 PM Death march commute in reverse

7:00 PM is greeted by me hysterical about who knows what and the kids simultaneously talking and poking him in the tummy.  There is no dinner. I made mac-n-cheese for the kids. The leftovers are in the pot.

8:00 PM he puts the kids to bed which is probably the only time somebody is nice to him all day

9:00 PM he gets back on his computer and works for an hour or more. He catches up on emails or freelance work

10:30 PM He returns to the family room to find me asleep on the couch and he’s left to watch The Colbert Report by himself.

Why this man has not run from the house screaming I have no idea. Every pregnancy is unique and the emotional upheaval of this pregnancy is quite pronounced. David is worried that I’m going to go all crazy after the baby is born and will pull a “Dooce” and end up in a mental hospital. I’m hoping I will find my way to medication before I get to that point but yes, the emotional carnage of pregnancy is scary and I am as worried about it as he is. In the meantime I’m so, so, so grateful that I have an awesome husband who, for the most part, cheerfully puts up with my crazy.

Wiser? Or Just Plain Old?

It felt like it happened over night. I stood there staring into the mirror and there they were staring back at me. Wrinkles. Oh, they are small and some might call them “character lines” but no matter what flowery language you use they are still wrinkles and they are on MY forehead.  I’m 39 and 40 is the next block over.  Things are different as I look down the barrel of this milestone and not in the ways I expected.

From the moment David and I met I have always taken great pride in the fact that I’m not a jealous person.  I have entertained and fed more than one of David’s ex-girlfriends.  I have watched him attend bachelor parties, happy hours, and other events without me and have never thought twice about it.  He has spent days at photo shoots with professional models, and his office is frequently filled with beautiful single women.  It has never once bothered me.  Why? Well, I’m pretty secure with myself and in my relationship. I figure if David was really bent on straying nothing I could ever say or do would stop him.  And yet, without warning, things are starting to change.

Before you think that somehow my marriage has hit rocky ground it has not.  David and I are as solid and in love as ever.  What has changed, is me, and it has a great deal more to do with those suspicious wrinkles on my forehead than I’d like to admit.  It all fell into place when I read this recent article by Mommy Track’d. I am more jealous of the women my husband works with and the time he spends away from the house. Why? Because I’m no longer the young, 20-something, career minded, sexy, independent super girl I was when we met.  No, my body now wears the scars of two children and four pregnancies. I have stretch marks, and cellulite, and wrinkles. The circles around my eyes, that used to be easily gotten rid of with some ice cubes and good eye cream, no longer vanish over night – or sometimes at all. That high-power, high-paying career that I had forged for myself is now a victim on the sidelines of my life.  I can no longer compete with the women that my husband interacts with on a daily basis and at 39 I’m all too aware of it.

David assures me that those things are no longer important to him.  He laughs and scowls when I bring it up telling me that in place of those things I have provided him with a home, children, a foundation for him to build his life. That we always have been and always will be soul-mates fatefully locked together.  I know he is telling me the truth. I know he means all the words coming from his mouth.  But I can’t help but miss that 20-something young super girl and wonder if sometimes he misses her too? I’m not mourning the loss of my younger body (because lets face it, it was never GREAT), but I miss the confidence that the younger me had. I miss the seemingly bottomless pit of belief and passion I felt within myself.

Perhaps that is what getting older and wiser is all about.  You lose your unshakable confidence because you more honestly recognize your faults and misgivings.  You no longer need the shield of false bravado to get through life but instead gain the greater strength of seeing yourself more nakedly than you ever have before.  And this honesty, this unfiltered vision, brings with it fear of who you REALLY are not who you were trying to pretend to be the first 30 years.  And just perhaps that is true wisdom.