100 Random Thoughts and Memories of a first time mom – 1 of 100

“I guess he’ll have to figure out someday that he is supposed to have this dark side, that it is part of what it means to be human, to have the darkness just as much as the light- that in fact the dark parts make the light visible; without them, the light would disappear. But I guess he has to figure other stuff out first, like how to keep his neck from flopping all over the place and how to sit up.” ― Anne Lamott, Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year

At the end of last year, I again ponied up the $100 or so I pay to keep this site aloft. Sometimes I have to ask myself why; last year I posted a measly eight posts. Eight! My thought had been to turn this into a blog about adventuring in the Canadian Rockies. But you can’t force these things. And then we had a baby.

I’ve been following Elle Luna on Instagram since she published her amazing essay The Crossroads of Should and Must on Medium. “Should,” she writes, “is how others want us to show up in the world — how we’re supposed to think, what we ought to say, what we should or shouldn’t do…Must is who we are, what we believe, and what we do when we are alone with our truest, most authentic self.”

I followed her 100 days of Self Portraits last year and this year, I read as she posted the outline for the 100 day project. You commit to repeating one action every day for 100 days. What did I want to do? What MUST I do?

As April–the start of the 100 day project–approached, I was in the very early weeks of motherhood- I was overjoyed, exhausted, overwhelmed. Baby took up approximately 97% of my brain. If I had anything at all to write about – it was baby.

But my experience was so, um, normal. Everything I’m experiencing is something I have heard before–I’m getting no sleep and I’m the most tired I’ve ever been! Baby cries and it totally sucks! etc. And, besides, did I want to be a mommy blogger? Am I one of those moms who has nothing to talk about but her kid? I shuddered at the thought. (My my, the ways we overthink and judge ourselves! How we defeat ourselves before we even begin.)IMG_2992 Oh, and then the beginning of the 100 day project came and went while I was in Florida with family. I had three drafts saved here – and none posted. Now, I’m 15 days behind. But here I am, I thought, at the crossroads of should and must. I must write now. I must create terms under which I can really succeed.

Meanwhile, I was reading Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott. I read it while James slept in my arms. Between feedings and crying fits and diaper changes, six million loads of laundry and all the other wonderful things and tiring crap you do when you’re on maternity leave. It taught me to have a sense of humor at the moments I felt the most desperate and crazy. And although it was about her first year of motherhood, it was also about Life. Operating Instructions

I read a review of Some Assembly Required, which Lamott wrote with her son Sam about his son, her grandson, Jax. The review recounted how Sam considered Operating Instructions the greatest gift of his life and how he wanted to do the same for his son. What a beautiful gesture – to write a story as a gift. None of us remember our first year of life – we have a vague idea of a few stories that our mothers tell us. If no one else cared about my cliche thoughts and memories, Dan and James would. DSCF3164 So what about 100 Random Thoughts and Memories of a first time mom – written over the course of my son’s first year? This one–these 100–are for Dan and James – and anyone who finds them reassuring, amusing, distracting or whatever else they may be looking for.

P.S. I wrote this on Saturday morning and it is now Tuesday morning. I’m having the hardest time getting myself to get over the start line – I am so afraid it is stupid, that I will fail, etc. Fear looms so large I can’t even tell you. So, friends, here goes nothing.

Maddy getting married in Boca Grande

Boca Grande, Florida. It’s a place most people have never heard of but that I consider a second home. On the Gulf Coast, it’s seven miles long with one long road running the length of it. I want to tell you how awesome it is but I also want to keep it a secret…to bob in the Gulf of Mexico…


to walk on the beach…


to watch the sun set


to grab an iced coffee in the morning and then shuffle around town…to eat only seafood and yellow rice and beans… and watch for sharks and dolphins and manatees and pelicans…DSCF1199  to fish with these silly boys.DSCF1201My sister got married. My little sister! DSCF1391It’s surreal how time goes by. Maybe that is why we take pictures, to try to grab onto the moment. DSCF1374

There was champagne and there were toasts…and there were all the in between moments. My beautiful momma and dapper dad:


I had been looking forward to this trip for so long. I can’t believe it’s over. I can’t believe my sister is married. There’s all this bittersweet-ness wrapped up it in all that I can’t quite explain. There’s more that I want to say. About beginnings, about time, about being with the people that you love the very most in one place, about love and marriage, about the places that hold your story. But sometimes, a picture is enough.

DSCF1473Congratulations Maddy and Laurent! I love you two so much.


My parents were visiting this past week. We spent three glorious days skiing in Fernie.


Please meet Jim and Sally

The first night, Dad and Dan and I stayed up and had a bottle of wine and talked and talked in the ski lodge. There were heated games of Euchre. Delicious dinners. More wine. Skiing.

I came back early because I had an interview. I couldn’t sleep the night before and in the morning I sweat right through the dress I had picked out so I raced around the neighborhood trying to find an appropriate outfit.

When Mom and Dad came back to town we went to the radio station and they told stories about my childhood.

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I heart San Francisco

Sometimes, I miss San Francisco.

Dan can get annoyed when he can tell I’m getting wistful–and start listing off the reasons we left–but I can’t help it. I’ll always miss her. Like an old friend, like a first love–she’s a part of me.
We had a friend over dinner (hi Sara!) and she asked: “Should I visit San Diego or San Francisco?” and of course my answer galloped out of my mouth before she even finished the question. Could explain to her why?
There are the obvious things–the beauty. The food. The Golden Gate Bridge.

But its the magic that I miss.

Sometimes I would run through the Marin Headlands on a sunny day after the spring rain, the hills would be so green and the ocean would just stretch on and on and I would think: this must be what heaven looks like.

Sometimes I would go down to Ocean Beach with a friend or a lover and a six pack at sunset and watch the sky turn orange while a plump harvest moon rose over the city. I would be so bowled over that I could just do that–watch the sun set over the Pacific on any old day.

Sometimes I’d see this girl hula hooping with headphones in–but she was really hooping, jamming out like no one was watching–in Washington Square Park. People really know how to hula hoop in San Francisco.

Once I walked down the street in the mission in a yellow skirt and a yellow ribbon in my hair and a man called out, “Hello yellow, I’ll be your mellow fellow!” and we both burst out laughing and kept walking in our opposite directions.

On one weekend in May, you’d find adults dressed as pirates or salmon or in tutus or painted gold or downright naked at the train station and just smile and shrug.

I always had a reason to wear glitter and plop feathers in my hair.

You could just head out toward anywhere and find a totally unexpected adventure. I mean there’s a dutch windmill, a field of bison, and an indoor rainforest within half a mile of one another. You can watch the Blue Angels, see Emmy Lou Harris, and then slap on your fur and party with Burners over the course of 24 hours. My friend once called it “the San Francisco playground” and that’s really what it’s like–a playground for adults with all these crazy characters and things to do and rides to take. When you live there it’s like you and everyone around you are in on this great secret and you wink at each other and sometimes you hug a stranger because you both just. Get it.

I could go on forever like this.

One time, Dan and I went down to Ocean Beach for sunset. It was the weekend of Outside Lands–the huge music festival in Golden Gate Park. We could hear Thievery Corporation thumping behind us. And just as the sky blushed pink, humpback whales started breaching offshore. That’s the kind of magic I’m talking about–where somehow Thievery Corporation, an ocean sunset, and humpback whales come out to play in your backyard. It’s so beautiful it’s impossible–and yet there it is.

Of the stars

This week I’m thinking about friends.

The ones I always think about, but the ones I was really close to when I was younger and who drifted away for whatever reason. There’s been this very moving coming together since Katie passed away last week. I feel like I’ve gotten really close to this part of my life that I don’t take the time to think about all the time. It’s nice to know that memories are floating around for us to pluck out of the sky when we need them.

And. Simply, I don’t know what I would do without my friends.

And speaking of friends, my friend Laura Lee has this wonderful blog called A Tad Bookish, and I loved her post this week. Please read it here.  It ties in with this beautiful book about work that I’m reading called Crossing the Unknown Sea by David Whyte.

After months of working in the Galapagos as a Naturalist, he’s contemplating what’s ahead of him and he writes,

I thought of the old Latin root of the word desire, meaning de sider, of the stars. To have a desire in life literally means to keep your star in sight, to follow a glimmer, a beacon, a disappearing will-o’-the-wisp over the horizon into someplace you cannot yet fully imagine. A deeply held desire is a star that is particularly your own; it might disappear for a while, but when the skies clear we catch sight of it again and recognize the glimmer.

A star that is particularly your own. I could dwell on that image all day.

Take care my friends. I hope that disappearing will-o-the-wisp is pulling you right along.


A friend of mine died yesterday morning. She was 32 years old.

Last May, she sent out an e-mail telling us she had a rare form of liver cancer. Something that usually affects older people with a history of drinking and smoking. This woman was one of the healthiest, greatest athletes I’ve ever known. Sometimes life just makes no sense at all.

I happened to go out to San Francisco around the time she had a major surgery to remove her tumor, and saw her in the hospital with two other high school friends. It was so surreal sitting there in her room–she in a hospital bed and blue gown, a spectacular view of Golden Gate Park, the bridge, the blue bay–four high school friends from Minnesota there in San Francisco.

We walked around the hallway, compared notes about having Canadian husbands and talked about the future. It was the conversation I would have with any old friend I hadn’t seen in a while. It was the last time I saw her.

I had a restless sleep last night. Dreams so intense they felt like being awake. When the alarm did go off, I couldn’t stop thinking: I can’t believe she’s not waking up to the world today. I can’t believe she didn’t brush her teeth, snuggle up next to her husband under the covers and kiss him goodnight. How can this day look like every other day?

I’m overwhelmed by how quickly things can change. I keep thinking about the things we don’t know about our future. And that all we can do is hold who and what we care about as close as we can and just love and love and love.

The other day, I stumbled onto this moving video of an interview between Terry Gross and Maurice Sendak. He says,

“I am in love with the world…
It is a blessing to read the books and listen to the music…
Live your life, live your life, live your life.”

It made me realize that I too am hopelessly, shamelessly in love with the world. It confuses me and astounds me–is it so unfair and random and beautiful–it inspires me, disappoints me, makes me sad and blissed out and angry and it fills me to the brim with wonder.

My dear friends, I want to say with all my heart- thank you for reading my little blog. I can’t tell you how much it means to me. Let’s go read the books and listen to the music.

P.S. This is a title I’m trying out. What do you think? This is a temporary re-design. I hope it will be prettier some day.

Thanksgiving. And time.

Well, dear friends, I am back from Florida.

It was hard to leave.

And not just because I was turning in beaches and sun and sand and sunsets for freezing temperatures and snow.


I had to say goodbye to these sweet faces too.

I’m getting sentimental in my old age. Thanksgiving makes me all gooey with nostalgia.

The boat ride we’ve made a thousand times.

My brother still making the Christmas Card photo session impossible.

Mom, yet again, cooking the perfect bird.

I don’t mean to brag, but we had the best Thanksgiving ever. Every year, we eat with old family friends, the Spencers, and this year, we added another family we’ve known forever and ever, the Bassetts. I’m doubly lucky because the eldest Bassett Peter married my cousin/best friend Meghan, and they brought their four-month old son, Gunnar.

I couldn’t stop thinking: aren’t we the luckiest?

The tradition was in full effect, with Ed’s fine wines flowing in abundance.

And each of us writing what we’re thankful for on a colored feather to add to the turkey.

Construction paper turkey with our Thanksgiving musings pictured here.

Plus, we had Gunnar. The cutest baby of all time.

Doesn’t this face just melt your heart?

There was a sing along to The Circle of Life. And then, dancing…


Also, this happened.
Surfin’ USA was playing!
In Florida, we’re all within walking distance. People would pop by for a glass of wine, a walk, a chat. You know those times when you are acutely aware of how happy you are? Doing something that’s nothing–like playing bocce or Smashball or just sitting around after the sun’s gone down–that’s really everything?

Or eating ice cream.

Maddy’s blissful anticipation of this bite just makes me smile.

I’ve been thinking a lot about time.

Bingo is one of Boca Grande’s hottest nightlife activities.

About how I’m two years older than my mom was when she flew to Boca for the first time with me, six months old, in her arms.

Look at Pat’s concentration. So heavy he can barely sit up.

About how even though our parents still refer to us as “the kids,” we’re really not anymore.

Dancing to the Boca Bande: my dad’s favorite Thanksgiving tradition.

It’s crazy how the years add up.

Please note hippie right behind me and Dan.

Dan and I had dinner with another couple on Friday and we talked about this–time, that is. She said when we’re kids we’re anticipating growing up, and so time stretches out and feels so long, like we’ll never get there. Once we’re grown, we ache for it to slow down, to remain where we are, and thus, it feels too fast.

He said that if all our days are the same, time races by. If we do things–adventures big or small–if something major happens–a big move, a life event–time slows down.

Indeed, Dan asked me if I felt like this year had gone fast. I told him no. Last Christmas seems ages ago. This year was full of new things–a new landscape, new adventures… a new life.

Sometimes I wish there was a sunset that lasted forever. Where we would sit on our beach chairs, with a glass of my dad’s cheap chardonnay and listen to him tell us it was most definitely a green flash kind of night, and watch as the sun just hovered there, the earth refusing to turn.