These days…


I woke up around 3am this morning in a state of panic. “Something bad must be happening,” my brain was saying. I had been dreaming of solvable problems – my babysitter had canceled when I had dinner plans, I was out of milk… I watched myself walk comfortably about my dreamworld, knowing I could ask my cousin to watch my son and that the other Whole foods would most certainly have the organic whole milk I like to buy. These were problems I could solve with ease.

But when I awoke at 3am, there were seemingly unsolvable problems cluttering my mind. A flood of random thoughts flitted along my neurotransmitters and in the spaces between the various lobes in my brain… Will that text I sent to ACT really help secure stricter gun laws? The mom of the veteran who died in Vegas lost her only child. What if my son gets hurt? I’m not going to the Chicago Marathon because I’m not really into crowds right now.

As a therapist, I make my living by helping people manage their fears, anxiety, grief, and sadness. I know the skills and I practice them. So, I practiced them at 3am- I took deep breaths and recited some mantras and eventually managed to fall back into a sweaty, fitful sleep with one of my feet pressed firmly against one of partner’s, as if the mere presence of his toes next to mine would further strengthen my mantras and calm my thoughts.

I feel scared, helpless and somewhat hopeless. But I will keep calling my representatives. I will keep texting the random words to the random places that supposedly will help the random people I want to protect. I will keep having difficult conversations with people to raise awareness. I will vote in every single election. And I will look at the faces of the victims of this most recent act of senseless violence, pray for their families, and pray for change.



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Sucking the Marrow Out of Life and How I Finally Might Understand H.D.T.

I subscribed to Thoreau for a while in high school. I dipped my toe into Walden Pond and found that it gave me some of the life force I needed to get through. Get by. To navigate the spectrum of my life which at one end was “cool” cheerleader and at the other was how-to-be-a-nerdy-thoughtful-old-soul-type-person. In the middle was a kid with divorced parents who sought meaning, connection, and purpose.

Back then I thought living life “deliberately” meant retreating to this field that I’d discovered where I took pictures of plants, wrote some poetry, and alternated between having a good cry or making out with my boyfriend. Then I would return to the world to do the best that I could. Which was, in retrospect, pretty good-it was fun and meaningful-ish.

Today, living life deliberately often means something else completely. Older. Less dramatic. Mundane, perhaps? It means that tonight I did something I do quite often these days-I watched a movie. In tonight’s movie, Mr. Keating did something so suddenly deliberate and so incredibly inspiring when he climbed up on his desk simply to see the world in a new way. And then-all of a sudden, I found myself standing on my bed and looking around my bedroom.

The room looked different from up there. The discarded belt on the floor had a different sort of kink in it and the white noise machine that lulls me to sleep sounded more echoed. The pictures on the wall had less of a glare than they do from my side of the bed. Mundane? Yes. Dramatic? Yes! Perhaps these observations had a bit to do with the martini I was deliberately enjoying, but they had much more to do with where I’m at in life right now.

The dreams I’ve recently decided to conquer with loud gusto instead of bury in “quiet desperation” stood me up on my bed tonight.  A few months ago I was scared. Then hesitant. Now, I’m hopefully sucking the marrow right out of life and smiling at my young self in kind humor, reflecting on how I thought I understood it all then and how I might be on my way to figuring it out a bit more now.

Thanks, H.D.T.

Thanks, R.W.


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A Good Reason to Make Heart-Shaped Sandwiches

This morning, my son was overtired. He was terribly whiny and melted down when the table was in the “wrong spot” and when his Daisy Duck figurine wouldn’t stand up (which she never has). He tested my boundaries and my patience. I took many deep breaths this morning.

This afternoon, we ate lunch with Raffi’s “Every Child” on in the background.  Listening intently, J stopped mid-bite and said “Mama, come here”.  As I leaned my face close to his, he looked me so directly in the eyes I think he saw through to my heart. He put his hands on my cheeks and whispered “I love you, Mama”.

And that is why I cut his sandwiches into hearts and dinosaurs and work my hardest to make that Daisy Duck stand up-even on days when he’s devastated by basic house rules. That sweet face that smiles into mine with love makes me want to try my hardest, take deep breaths, and reach for that cookie-cutter.


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Think Kit D31-Stepping into New Territory

I have some attentional issues, so I’ve become pretty skilled at breaking down and organizing tasks that need completing in life. I love lists, order, and I make a concerted effort to focus on whatever my next step is lest I become overwhelmed and do nothing at all.  This said, I was glad to see a prompt asking me to identify one step I need to take to support a goal I have for 2014.  Not only did this directive fit into my life schema of productivity, but is relevant to my last post about resolutions.

I love writing. In school, words made sense to me whereas math made me want to crawl under my desk and disappear. Since I was a kid, my sleep has been fraught with dreams that emulate alternate realities with character development, backstories, chapters, foreshadowing, and symbolism. The mind-movies I created when I was a graduate school intern working with people who endured complex traumas were unreal. Horrible, really. Those nightmares could’ve raked it in at the box office had a screenwriter gone all psychological thriller on them. My closet is full of ideas from these dreams, as well as a lifetime’s worth of journals and poetry. I’ve written some damn persuasive pieces that scored me good grades in school and led to a few changes of heart from my folks in their parenting decisions.

Ultimately though, loving writing and having good ideas are somewhat irrelevant to writing a great screenplay. I’m acutely aware that this is a totally different medium requiring me to learn how to write in a totally different way. New terms, new formatting, new ways of actively describing everything I see in my brain-all woven tightly together into a 110 page script. So, being that it’s the last day of this Think Kit blogging challenge, I’m signing off as a regular blogger and signing on as an aspiring screenwriter. Who knows if this film will ever come to fruition, but I’ll proceed with the philosophies I instill in my kid: trying your best is the best you can do and people are good at doing hard things. Heck, there’s no math involved, so there’s a chance this could go my way.


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Think Kit D29-Resolutions

I’ve never been one to make New Years resolutions. I always figured I can choose to better myself whenever I want, and hoped that I could find motivation to change independently of the calendar flipping to a new year. I asked my father-in-law what he thought about New Years resolutions (he was the guinea pig who walked into the room) and his response was that he used to make them but never kept them, so why make them?  I agree.

Still, I sort of feel like I could use a few. My back hurts more than a 35-year old woman’s should, the delicious London fare I’ve indulged in is hanging out around my waistline, and I have a screenplay in my head that won’t write itself. So, I’m going to take the plunge and challenge myself, despite the study I read that showed that 88% of people who make resolutions fail. So, my resolutions for 2014 are officially: 1. Take necessary steps to live more pain free in my skinny jeans. 2. Finish writing the screenplay that is burning in my brain.

That said, it’s only December 29, so I’m off to dig into some leftovers and play a mindless game on the iPad.


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Think Kit D28: Nik & Jam

My cousin Nikki had this light within her.  It was so bright that I admired her from the moment I was born. I admired her joie de vivre, her compassion for others, and her fierce determination to be only herself. When I was young I felt both important and fully seen by her, as well as a bit small in comparison to her large and wondrous presence. She was truly beautiful inside and out and I loved her dearly. I love her still.

When I was seven, I remember hanging out with Nikki at her parent’s house. We were playing in the living room at the bottom of the stairs. I was having so much fun and feeling so loving towards her that I shouted out excitedly, “Hey, can I call you Nik!?” To which she immediately answered with a smile, “As long as I can call you Jam.”

When I was nine, Nikki took my brother and I for breakfast at the Pancake House in South Haven, MI. When we left, I ran in flip-flops down the pavement hill home. Nikki ran behind me yelling, “Slow down, Jame, you’re going to fall!” No sooner than the word ‘fall’ passed her lips, I fell. My knee dug into and scraped across the gravel, blood spraying over the street, and then she was there. Picking me up, lovingly scolding me with a kind smile, “I told you you’d fall.” She carried me the rest of the way home.

Nikki taught me to have true love and adoration for elderly people. Not compassion or pity for people that are older, but genuine respect for those that have lived long lives and experienced many things. She gave me insight into knowing there’s a lot to learn from our elders. I now find myself in various life situations seeking out individuals in their older years because I find them to be interesting people with which to engage. I always think about Nikki mid-conversation and how she would have wanted to join in the discussion.

Nikki would sometimes tell me that she and I were too much alike. We shared a love for people and writing, as well as acute honesty and bluntness. Sometimes it worked for us and sometimes it didn’t. We had a complicated relationship with some growing pains in our older years. We always loved each other; it just wasn’t always easy. We had some years when we were distant. And mixed into those years we had some years where we were connected, when we knew about each other’s lives and loved each other well. Our relationship may have been challenging at times but it was always very real. I know I loved her and I know she loved me.

When I heard that Nikki was gone, a part of my grief was the loss of time. I’m sure we would have reconnected again and I know she would have wanted to see my son grow and know about my life. I know I will always long for one more swing with her in the hammock in South Haven. Make her some more lasagna. Sing loudly along to the radio together. Dance like no one was watching. I love Nikki always. I know she loved me. I love her still.

nik and jam nikkiwalk nik jam

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Think Kit D27-Skyline Mornings

When asked to reflect on a place that stood out for me this year, my mind landed on a very simple place-home. One of my favorite parts of our condo is the south-facing bank of windows off the living room, which has a direct view of the Chicago skyline. I’m proud to be a Chicagoan, and the morning sunrises over downtown always start my day off well.

Skyline 3  Skyline 2  Skyline 4  SKYLINE 1

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