The Evils of Facebook

This is the first day of a 30 day writing challenge that I’m trying. There’s a prompt everyday. The prompt for today is five problems with social media.

I’m torn about this, honestly. Social media, primarily Facebook, has been the way I’ve stayed connected to my friends and family since I left NYC for Ohio. Without it, I would’ve lost touch with hundreds of people and never connected with about 2,000 of my former classmates, colleagues, and students.

Still, there are certainly drawbacks to social media in all its incarnations. It is a tremendous time suck. There’ve been countless times that I’ve gone on Facebook for “5 minutes” and stepped away from it 2 hours later. I had other things to do, but I fell down the rabbit hole and got caught up looking through the list of “people you may know”. Tablets and smartphones make checking one’s Facebook timeline far too easy and many of us (myself included) check in more than we should. I’m guessing I look at the app on my phone upwards of 10 times a day.

Surely there’s something better I could do with my time.

At last count I had nearly 2,600 “friends” on Facebook. Wow. That’s a lot of people! Do I know them all? Surprisingly, I know most of them. I’ve been fortunate to teach over 1,000 students in the last 25 years, and many of them are friends of mine on Facebook. I’ve also been lucky in my work to have hundreds of colleagues and fellow musicians around the world, many of whom I do know well. Still, there are a lot of folks who pop up in my timeline whom I don’t readily recognize.

Facebook turns people into numbers. Our relationships on Facebook are most often superficial and casual. We “talk” to the same few people everyday and rarely have contact with others on our list. We know people, but we don’t “know” them. Facebook is an artificial construct that simulates human contact and takes the place of it. It is virtual, not actual, friendship.

The Internet has become a place where people feel able to say the nastiest things without any thought or fear of retribution. Racism, rape, violence, and anti-Islamic rhetoric are all over the Internet, and folks on comment threads are the most common culprits. Trolls spew out their fiery negativity and then sit back to watch the world burn. Facebook is no exception to this foolishness. It saddens me to see the things people say when they think no one can correct or reprimand them. All their manners and reason fly out the window, as well as their ability to tell actual facts from what they’ve “heard”. Hearsay is NOT knowledge, yet it gets ignorantly spread around like a pound of butter on a slice of toast. Sometimes it’s humorous, sometimes it’s maddening, but mostly it’s just pathetic.

Then we have the spoilers. Sometimes folks will see a popular movie and talk about it in detail on Facebook later, with no regard for those of us who haven’t seen it yet. Or there are the folks in the UK who get to see Downton Abbey seasons before those of us in America. Social media is a great forum for discussion, but we need to be more careful where and when those discussions take place. It’s hard to be that vigilant all the time, but it’s worth it in the end. I know quite a few folks I’d thank if they were more discreet.

Finally, I need to make a confession. I am an over-sharer. My Facebook statuses are loaded with stuff about me that maybe – just maybe – you don’t want or need to know. The temptation to use Facebook as a type of confessional is real. Sometimes my confessions are funny or cynical, sometimes touching or sentimental, and sometimes far too revealing. They are the children of an impulsive mind. But that’s the lure of Facebook. It gets you to post things without thinking because of its immediacy. It’s all about what you’re thinking NOW. The catch is that you can’t get those thoughts back once they’re out there. Anyone can see them: future spouses, former lovers, and future employers. Without thinking about it we often post today something that will bite us in the ass tomorrow. Why not? Facebook tells us it’s okay.

If we don’t think about it, Facebook is a fun and harmless past time that connects us to friends and family all over the world. That’s not so bad, right?

When we do put our minds to it, Facebook is a place that merits more than a little care and consideration in its use. We must be mindful of who we are seen to be, not just out in the world but in the world of the Internet as well. It may be called social media, but it lacks manners and social graces — unless, of course, we remember to bring them with us to the party.



Dear Daddy,

It’s been more than two years since you died.  I’m still pissed at you.

You left me before we could figure out how this relationship was supposed to work.  You left me before I could prove to you that I was a grown-up and not the little girl you insisted on seeing when you looked at me.  You left me to deal with Mom, knowing that you were the only thing that kept us from fighting constantly.

Daddy, there was so much I wanted to say to you.  I wanted to tell you that I forgave you for all of the silence and absence.  I wanted to talk with you about the drinking and the legacy of pain and resentment it left behind, and how I was able to let all that go as I walked my own path to sobriety and recovery.  I wanted to be honest and open after years of secrets and lies.

I wanted to tell you that I loved you in spite of it all.  I’ll never have that chance now.

You’re missing so much, Daddy.  You never got to meet our dog Michael, which we got just a few weeks before you left us.  Now we have a girl doggie named Lola.  The kids love the dogs so much and so do John and I.

You missed two summers of your grandson playing baseball.  He’s not very good, but he finally got a hit toward the end of his second season.  The team gave him the game ball.  He was so proud.

You would’ve been too.

Iain cried like a baby when I told him his Granddaddy was dead.  He was devastated.  He loves you so much still.  You are still a powerful presence in his life.

You’ll miss your granddaughter’s high school graduation next year.  She’s worked so hard.  You missed her school plays and her second trip to Europe.  You missed violin recitals and orchestra concerts.  You’ve missed the growth spurt that took her to nearly six feet tall.  She’s more beautiful today than she was as a little girl.  My baby, my firstborn, is almost a woman —  and you’re missing it.

Mom misses you too.  Her grief was huge and overpowering.  She almost wouldn’t let me see you to say goodbye.  She lashed out at me because she was angry with you for leaving her so close to your 50th wedding anniversary.  I had to hold her together and keep my grief locked away in my heart until I nearly exploded.  She was mean and selfish and cruel to me, but I promised you that I would take care of her — so I did.  I hated you for leaving me to deal with her.  I hated you for dying.

In my heart, I still don’t believe you had to die.  I think you were stubborn and proud and it killed you.  You should’ve gone to the hospital.  You shouldn’t have refused help.  You weren’t tired.  You didn’t need to rest.  You were bleeding internally and you needed help.  Why, Daddy?  Why did you have to be so stubborn?  Where is your pride now?  It’s gone and you along with it.  It availed you nothing.  It took you away from the people who loved you the most.

Your pride deprived me of my first true love and the most complicated relationship I’ve ever had with a man.  It’s been said that pride comes before a fall.  Yours was one helluva fall.

Your pride sucks.

I’m sorry to still be angry after so long.  I hurt more than anything else.  My heart hurts because I miss you.  Your death made me a member of a club that no one wants to belong to.  I hate that I feel this way.

Now that you’re gone and there’s nothing to be done about it, I’m glad that I am finally able to tell you all this.  Perhaps now you can hear my words in a way that you never could in life.  Maybe now we will finally understand each other.  I hope so.

I am comforted by my faith which tells me that we will meet again someday when it is my time to leave this life.  Then you and I and Grandma will all be together again, laughing and eating as we once did.  Then our love for each other will have no conditions or obstacles.  It will be as perfect as God’s love for all His children and as Jesus’ love for His father.  That is a great comfort to me and it eases the pain of your loss.

Daddy, I don’t want to be angry anymore.  I don’t want to resent you for leaving me behind.  I want to accept that you’re gone and only hold on to the good things that remain.  I would not be who I am today without you: the loud music listening and occasionally foul-mouthed North Philly girl who survived and got out.  I want you to be proud of me.  It’s all I ever wanted.

I want you to rest in peace.  I want to live in peace.

I love you, Daddy.  I miss you.  And I’m sorry for everything that was ever wrong between us.  I really am all grown up now.  Thank you for loving me as a little girl and helping me grow into the woman I am today.

You are always in my heart, Daddy.  Your memory truly is eternal for me and I will keep it alive for your grandchildren.

Goodbye, Daddy.  Until we meet again with the angels.


Jesus Birthday Season

The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is always difficult for me. It brings out a lot of my character flaws: judgement, shame, fear, depression. I hate the commercialism. I hate that so many people focus on Santa Claus and forget what Christmas really is. I hate the sales and doorbusters, and the long lines of people desperate not to miss the “big deals” at 7pm on Thanksgiving Day. Most of all, I hate the deep feelings of inadequacy I feel because I am not financially well off and can’t buy all of the things I’d like to for my family and friends. Money has always eluded me somehow and this time of year is a constant reminder of all I don’t have when I should be grateful and thankful for all I do have.

I feel a lot like Charlie Brown some days, wondering if anyone can tell me what Christmas is really all about. Every year, in a desperate fight to remember what I already know to be true, I struggle against all I see around me to hang on to what’s really important.

Christmas is Jesus’ birthday.

Behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy. For unto to you this day, in the City of David, is born a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

And He shall be called Wonderful counselor, Almighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

O, thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, arise! Shine! For thy light is come. And the Glory of the Lord is Risen upon Thee.

Emmanuel. God with us.

Christmas is the day that the world receives God’s greatest gift to us — His only Son. Jesus is not born into wealth and power. His parents are turned away from any proper and comfortable place to stay, and forced to stay the night in a stable. Jesus is born among animals and laid in a feeding trough. There are no festivals or trumpets at a palace to announce the birth of His greatness into the world. His birth is announced by angels to the surrounding shepherds and foretold to the Magi by a star in the East. Only the Magi’s gifts to Him signify our Lord’s future: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Jesus came into the world as we all do, born of a woman and helpless. He became one of us to save us. He took on our human form to make us more perfect in our humanity. He was and ever shall be Emmanuel: God with us.

The Christmas decorations in Costco in August are bullshit. The decorations put up before even Halloween and taken down the day after Christmas completely miss the point. The anticipation of Christmas has become one long and drunken cluster fuck. It’s gotten to the point that we don’t know what we’re celebrating or why we’re partying anymore. We’ve become so preoccupied with maxing out our credit cards to buy shit we don’t need for folks we barely know that we don’t remember that’s not the gift giving that Christmas is about. The greatest gift we can give is ourselves to each other. We can give our time to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. We can offer shelter to the homeless and comfort to the sick and dying. We can be the light that shines in the darkness of someone else’s life, just as Jesus was the light of our world that had descended into evil and darkness. We can strive to be more like Him because He became like us to lift us up.

God became man so that we could become more like God. That is love, pure and simple.

There wasn’t much under the tree this year. We had a lot of unexpected things pop up and drain our already strained financial resources. Money has never been tighter for us, but we are still standing. We have all we need: food, shelter, clothing, transportation, and employment. We are paying now for mistakes we made with our money years ago, and that is only fair. Our children are doing fine and have all they need. Most of all, we have each other and we have love. Love is all any of us needs. The rest is all gravy.

Each year, I watch the Charlie Brown Christmas special as I have since I was a young child. When we first married, I watched it with John. We introduced it to our children in anticipation of their first Christmases with us. Now we have it on DVD and our kids have watched it enough to memorize it. Even though repeated viewing has made it less “special” than only seeing it once a year like we did when I was a kid, the show is still relevant and timely in its message. I see myself in Charlie Brown’s struggle to find meaning in Christmas despite being surrounded by materialism and the outward trappings of commercialism. Most of all, I see my husband in Linus and hear John’s voice speaking the words from the Gospel of Luke. I hear the words and I remember. The tree doesn’t matter. The decorations don’t matter. None of the lights or piped-in muzak matter. The only thing that matters is the greatest present of all.

Jesus was born. He is, truly, the real reason for the season. The day after Christmas is not the end of the season. It is the beginning of the celebration. God is with us! Let us rejoice and be festive. Let’s turn on the lights and have our parties now! The twelve days of Christmas that we sing about don’t end on Christmas day — they BEGIN that day!

Our need to commercialize Christmas has turned its true meaning on its head. We have turned it around to rouse people into a frenzy of buying and drinking. Spending has replaced praying. There is no sense of wonder and anticipation anymore. Christmas has become a big letdown, a sigh of relief from the orgy of overspending, overeating, and reckless indulgence. Our economic drive to spend more during the “Christmas season” than any other time during the year has caused us to forget what we’re even supposed to be celebrating. Money has become the God we worship. We are too embarrassed and ashamed to even acknowledge God during one of the holiest times of the year. Christmas has become some twisted and perverted shadow of itself. That’s why we have to ask what its true meaning is. How pathetic is that?

It almost seems that Christians are ashamed for all the wrong reasons and proud and cocky for all the wrong reasons. We are mocked and ridiculed because we don’t even see the hypocrisy of what we’ve become. In an attempt not to offend anyone, we’ve watered down our faith to the point that we don’t remember what being a Christian really means. We bear the title and expect the accolades without understanding the responsibilities or wanting to be held accountable for our shortcomings. How many of us even remember what Jesus said and did, or what He wanted from us?

So, in the spirit of the season, I implore folks to remember what Christmas really is — not to be exclusive or intolerant, but to hang on to what we truly are and stand for. Turn the focus away from money and possessions and go donate your time and talents to feed the homeless. Give toys and clothes to community organizations who give presents to children from families in need. Remember that our true riches lie within ourselves and our spirit. To give of ourselves freely is the greatest gift we can give. We are all — old and young, physically fit or disabled, rich or poor, and every other distinction — made in the image and likeness of God. Let us pay our respects to our fellows by seeing them as such. We are all equal in the eyes of the Lord. Who are we to put ourselves above our equals?

Give of yourself. Give more than you think you can and more than you think you have. Give even if you don’t think you have anything of value to give. The inn keeper probably didn’t think he had much to offer Mary and Joseph, yet he is remembered for his generosity and his stable is remembered as the birthplace of our Lord. It is not always for us to know how our gifts will change the course of someone’s life, so give anyway.

Whatever your faith, or even if you are not inclined to believe at all, may you find peace and joy in this time of reflection and celebration. May your spirit be restored and your strength renewed. And may you share the best of who you are with the world. Spread joy and love wherever you go. Love is something we can all believe in.

Merry Christmas to all, and best wishes for the healthiest and most prosperous New Year.


I have struggled with this particular post for a really long time. Telling my grandmother’s story is a daunting task. She lived a long and rich life marked by poverty, tragedy, and adversity, all of which made her remarkably strong and resilient. There was no way to tell the whole story in one shot without leaving out some pretty important stuff. No draft looked right to my eye or seemed to do her real justice. So I decided to talk about only one part of the story — the part with which I am uniquely familiar. I decided to talk about something that is at once really painful and really wonderful.

I’m going to write about the day Grandma died.

There is some back story to all this, so please bear with me a moment.

I am almost the age now that Grandma was when I was born. I grew up in her house until I was 13. I saw her nearly every day of my life until my parents and I moved to a new house in 1981. She taught me about unconditional love, but she also taught me how to be tough and strong. She doted on me and spoiled me. She told me I was as good as, smart as, and capable as any man. She told me nothing mattered more than my getting good grades in school and going to college. That was my biggest goal in life. I wanted to go to college more than anything else in the world, because it was what she wanted me to do. I would’ve done anything to please her.

My Grandma loved me with all her heart and it showed in everything she said and did. There was no one else in my life that I loved or counted on more. Grandma was my everything.

So, I finished high school and graduated high in my class. Grandma was at my graduation. I went to Oberlin and did well. Grandma was at my graduation. I went to Juilliard and did well there too. Grandma was at that graduation. It was the last one for me, but I was so happy that she could see them all. Her health had been so fragile that I wasn’t sure she’d make it, but she did. It was so amazing to see the joy and pride my accomplishments brought her.

Grandma was at my wedding and she adored John nearly as much as I did. Once again, her face was alight with happiness. Every picture of her from that day shows a gleeful little girl smile. I’ve never been sure if her happiness was for me or for herself. I was living the dream she had for me, and she was living to see me do it.

Soon after we found out we were having our first child, John and I drove down to Philadelphia to tell my family the good news. I had asked my folks to gather at Grandma’s house because I had news to share with them. Once we’d spilled the beans, everyone was buzzing around and chatting noisily and congratulating John. Grandma and I were sitting quietly with our foreheads together, crying and laughing and commiserating. John later told me that we were alone in our own little bubble, completely oblivious to everything going on around us. As it was so many times in my life, it was just her and me.

Grandma got to see Imani after she was born. Her heart expanded to love my little girl as much as she’d loved me. Once again, there was the look of incredible joy on her face and the joy in my heart. She had lived to see her great-grandchild. It was so wonderful to bring her these gifts of life and watch her smile.

When Imani was about two years old, my Grandma suffered a series of small strokes. She was never quite the same after that. It was the beginning of a long slow decline that slowly took her away from all of us. My little family was living in NYC and we rarely got to go down to Philly to see my family. Every time we did, I could see how she was changing. She didn’t recognize her own family members much of the time, but she did recognize me. By the time Iain was born, she was mostly gone, often speaking clearly about utter nonsense. It hurts me to think that she wasn’t able to know my son. I can only imagine how much she would have loved him too, and I hate that he was robbed of the opportunity to be loved by her.

When my Granddaddy died in 2004, my Grandma wasn’t really sure what was going on. She sat and smiled through the whole funeral. She looked confused. Later she asked where “Peaches” (my grandfather) was. She was rarely lucid and often mean. She was still alive in the body, but her mind was gone. My dad, her oldest child, was in complete denial which was equally painful to witness. Grandma was the glue that held our family together, and her deterioration was tearing us apart inside and out. The pain was sometimes excruciating for me, but I tried to remember that it was more important to honor who she had been to me rather than dwell on what was happening to her now.

About a year after my grandfather died, Grandma fell and broke her hip. She had been living alone with her niece who was also elderly and was suffering from cancer. Grandma had been taking out her demented rage on her niece and my family was turning a blind eye to her decline. Now they couldn’t deny how bad things had gotten. Grandma went into the hospital in 2005 and then went into nursing care. She never lived in her house again after that, though she did visit once or twice.

I visited her in the nursing home a few times, when I could. It was hard, but I needed to do it. I owed it to her for all the love she’d given me. One of the last times I saw her, after the memorial for an uncle of mine who had died, she couldn’t speak. She could only giggle. She looked at me and babbled incoherently, smiling the whole time. The staff served dinner while I was there, in the dining room with Law and Order on the TV. In true Gladys Berkley fashion, she tried to feed her dinner to me. Instead, I helped feed her. In that moment I realized that I was the adult now and she had become a child again. It was my turn to take care of her as she had doted on me for so many years. I fed her and I wiped her mouth. I tried not to let her see my tears as they tumbled down over my smile. I saw the handwriting on the wall.

I didn’t know how much time she had left, but I knew it wasn’t long.

By July 4th weekend, she’d been hospitalized with pneumonia and MRSA. She was released from the hospital just before John, the kids, and I arrived to visit her. She lay motionless and quiet in the bed with a breathing tube down her throat. She could say or do nothing. It was awful to see. I felt so helpless. I wanted to shout at her to get up and make us all something to eat, if only to feel normal again. But this was our new normal. She was making her way to a place I couldn’t go. No, not yet.

We went home and waited for news. We waited a few weeks. Around July 20, my dad called to say that my uncle was coming back to Philly from Afghanistan where he was setting up a women’s hospital. Uncle Vincent had medical power of attorney and was responsible for being sure her wishes were being respected. She was on a breathing tube for the pneumonia, but the pneumonia was now gone. The tube needed to come out. I had to be there. I knew what was coming. I needed to say goodbye.

I got in my car and I drove from Oberlin to Philly. I drove like a crazy person. I drove like a woman possessed, on a mission to get there before she was gone. I had to be there. Deep in my heart, I knew she’d wait for me.

I drove straight to the hospital and saw her laying there, again motionless. My Aunt Mary Ann was there already, putting lotion on my Grandma’s feet and legs and talking to her. She’d been there everyday for a week, coming after her long work day. Mary hugged me and we sat and talked a while. She knew too.

I went to visit my uncle before I headed off to my parents’ house. My cousin Andrew was there. It was so great to see them after so long. I only wish it had been under better circumstances. I hadn’t seen them since my Granddaddy died six years before. I wondered to myself why it was we could only get together when someone died. Sad how that happens.

Saturday, July 24 was spent going to funeral homes and making potential arrangements. No one knew for sure how long she’d survive without the breathing tube, but we wanted to be prepared in case she didn’t last long. My dad was nearly catatonic. My uncle was all business and charm. My aunt was pissed that we were planning her mom’s funeral before she was even dead. Andrew looked pained and awkward. He was only 19. I was 42. I’d had her all my life and lived with her for a lot of my early years. Andrew and his twin brother Matthew had grown up in Arizona and only seen Grandma once or twice a year until she went into nursing care when they were about 14. I could see the pain on his face. I knew that pain. While our dads and their sister bickered about their dying mother, I took Andrew out for coffee so we could grieve our grandmother.

We gathered at the hospital that evening. Her morphine drip would be increased over the course of a few hours before the breathing tube was removed. My mom and dad were there. Mom hadn’t seen Grandma in over a year. Mary Ann was there. Uncle Vincent and Andrew were there.

I was there.

It was a long night. Mary left first, unable to watch the tube come out. My parents left next because my dad, also in ill health, was really tired and stressed out. When the tube came out at around midnight on July 25, only Uncle Vincent, Andrew, and I were there to witness it. We stood there quietly as the machines were turned off and the tube was taken slowly from her throat. Then, an odd thing happened. Her lips began to move. It was almost amusing to think that Gladys’ salty tongue was cussing my uncle out for taking that tube out. There were no words, but her intention was clear. Trying to kill me? I’ll fix you!

Something inside my mind spoke to me clearly: this will take a long time, so sit down and rest. I sat in the recliner in the corner and closed my eyes. She was speaking to me: get some rest, baby girl. Close your eyes and sleep. Every couple of hours, I would wake up and look at her vital signs on the monitor. Having worked in a hospital in my teens, I knew what I was seeing. She was stable. Nothing had changed since the tube was removed. Her vitals were pretty strong and very stable. This was going to be a long night.

Once I woke up and saw that Andrew was asleep too. My uncle was sitting up, holding my Grandma’s hand and talking to her — telling her it was okay to go. Her vitals were steady as a rock. I closed my eyes.

I awoke again when the nurses came to bathe Grandma and kicked out the two boys. As the female member of the party, I was allowed to stay put. I looked at her vitals again. No change. Steady as she goes. I closed my eyes.

I awoke for the last time around 6 or so in the morning. Her vitals had stayed steady all night. Perhaps this wasn’t the end. Maybe it would happen while I was back in Ohio. It was Sunday and I had to go back home that day. I was exhausted. What was I going to do now?

The nurses changed shifts. My uncle and cousin needed to go back to their hotel. My uncle needed to sleep and Andrew needed to catch a plane back to Arizona. Uncle Vincent said he would call someone to come relieve me of our vigil so that I could go home to shower and change. He was happy that I would stay until he could come back. They left around 7:30.

I typed on Facebook, chronicling how strong and stubborn Grandma was. I called John and some friends for moral support. I chatted with the nurse who had been there Friday when I arrived and was back again on Sunday for her shift. The nurse from the previous shift hadn’t left yet. They had both been amazing to me while I was there. They really took care of our family in addition to caring for my Grandma.

At one point in my small talk with the arriving nurse, she and I both turned to look at my grandmother. We had both noticed that her breathing was getting slower and becoming more labored. I knew what this meant. The nurse checked Grandma with her stethoscope. I said to the nurse, “please let me know when I need to start calling folks.”

Now, she said. Do it now.

How long?

A minute or two.

Suddenly, shit got very real very quickly. I put on the hospital gown and gloves required when dealing with a MRSA patient. I called my uncle and told him to call everyone else because this was happening now. NOW. Right now.

And then I did the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.

I held Grandma’s hand and talked to her while the doctor monitored her. Only the doctor could officially pronounce her dead. I stood there feeling like a lost little girl and the pain and sadness and grief all hit me like a tidal wave. I said what I knew to say. I told her it was okay to go. I told her I knew how hard she’d worked all her life, but that she could go on to be with Granddaddy, her parents, and her siblings who had all gone before her. I told her that her work was done here and she could rest now.

I told her one lie. I said that she could go and that I would be okay. I knew it wasn’t true, but I said it anyway. I wanted her to go in peace and not hang on for anyone she was leaving behind. She had worried over us long enough.

While I was talking to her and sobbing in horrible agony, the doctor told me she was gone. It was secretly exactly what I had hoped for. She waited until it was just her and me. Once again, we were in our own little bubble and the world went on all around us. This was her last gift to me, her last lesson to teach me. I had stayed with her to the end. She was always afraid to be alone. She had not died alone and I had seen to that.

The nurse who had just gone off duty came to hug me. The doctor asked if I needed a chaplain. Suddenly, I was the focus of their care. They could do no more for my Grandma. I sat and cried tears that were bitter with the deepest grief I’d ever felt until then. The other nurse asked me what I needed. My reply was simple: a shower, something to eat, and my Grandma. I wanted my Grandma back.

Most of the rest of the day is a blur. My uncle and Andrew arrived. Uncle Vincent went straight over to his mother’s side. Andrew ran straight over to me and threw his arms around me. He knew. He understood. We had lost our grandmother, but I had lost my life’s guiding light. He asked if I was okay and he tended to me for the rest of the time he was there.

My parents came. My dad was desolate. My mom kept trying to boss me around and be the center of attention. I am not proud of the fact that I swore at her, but she wouldn’t leave me alone. She couldn’t understand what I’d been through. She kept asking when I was coming back to her house to get my stuff and drive back to Ohio. Didn’t she understand?

I couldn’t leave Grandma alone. I wasn’t leaving her side until they took her from the room. I had promised I would stay with her until the end and it wasn’t over yet.

Mary understood. She had been alone with Granddaddy when he passed. She knew the anguish like no one else around me knew. She stayed with me.

I helped remove the tubes and IVs from Grandma’s body. I helped clean her up and put her in the body bag. I zipped the bag myself. Closure. I didn’t leave her. I kept my promise and stayed until the end. It was all there was left that I could do. I watched as they wheeled her away.

The blur of grief continued in the next week as I went home and prepared to go back with my family to Philly for the funeral a week later. I sang “Grandma’s Hands” while my cousin Matthew played guitar. I played solo Bach as a prelude. I broke down as I followed her casket out of the funeral home. The preacher was reciting Psalm 23. It was the first Bible verse Grandma had taught me so many years ago. I watched John carry her casket to the hearse, just as he had done for my grandfather six years before. I fell down and wept and my heart broke to pieces. How could she leave me? What was I going to do without her?

Go on. Just as she had, I have gone on. She had shown me all I needed to survive. She had seen me grow up, marry, have kids, and be happy. Her job was done, just as I’d said to her. I may have lied when I said I’d be okay, but she knew it was true because she’d given me every tool I needed to be okay.

Grandma isn’t really gone. She’s with me every day. I see her sometimes, smiling at me. I hear her laughter. I hear her voice coming out of my mouth so many times. She lives on in me. She lives on.

There are no words to express the love she showed me. All I can do is love those around me as fiercely as she loved. All I can do is keep trying to make her proud. That is the only thank you worthy of her love for me and mine for her. After all, it’s what she taught me.

I love you, Grandma. Memory eternal. Be at peace.

Losing the Race

I have struggled to write anything coherent in the last few days. I’ve started and choked on a few posts that never made it off the ground. I’ve become self-conscious as a writer and made the mistake so many writers, artists, entertainers, and performers make — I worried more about pleasing my audience than telling my truth.

Not today.

A few nights ago, out of nowhere, I found myself in an argument on Facebook with someone whose friendship I had recently been questioning. This person sent me a private message regarding a post I’d put up earlier in the day about the Tamir Rice shooting in Cleveland. Without thinking that someone might take my comment in any way other than what I actually said, I posted that his death hit me close to home because he was 12 and my son was almost 12. Apparently, that comment was a problem.

The message to me said, and I’ll paraphrase, that I didn’t have to worry about my son because he looks white and the police wouldn’t shoot him.

Gobsmacked. Completely. Gobsmacked.

I’m still not really sure where this came from, but I know it floored me. Is Tamir Rice’s shooting supposed to matter less to me because my son is light-skinned and therefore “safe”? Is the racism I face, or the racism my kids face, somehow less valid because of the lightness of my skin? The conversation that ensued left me feeling damned if I do and damned if I don’t. All my life, I’ve dealt with people of my own race pushing me aside because I wasn’t Black enough, or saying that I was turning my back on my race if I didn’t say or do things in a way that met their approval. Somehow some folks with darker skin assumed two things about me: that I thought I was somehow better because I was lighter, and that my experience in the world was so different that I could not possibly understand what really being Black meant and that I should just keep my mouth shut and enjoy the privileges my skin color bought me.

Bullshit. I’m calling bullshit. And the bullshit is flying from all different directions, from people of all colors, and hitting me square in the face. I’m sick of this shit and I’m tired of having to deal with any of it from anyone. Enough is enough.

Will my son experience the world the same way that boys with brown skin will? No. I never claimed he would, nor should I. Does this mean I can’t be upset that young Black boys and men walk in fear in this country? Does this mean that I think my son is somehow at an advantage to these other boys? Black lives don’t just matter to me because I’m Black. They matter. Period. All of them — mine and my children’s included. Black people’s experiences of racism are different based on skin color and I would be a damned fool not to acknowledge that. However, just because it is different doesn’t mean that it’s better for me.

Here’s a news flash: White people say dumb shit to me too. In fact, I think they say dumber shit to me because to them I don’t look, talk, act like, etc. the Black people they think of as Black. So, in acts that they either think of as compliments or don’t think about at all, they strip me of my Blackness, absorb my identity into their own, and assume that the lives of my darker brothers and sisters are meaningless to me. Then, when I bristle at this or say something that pointedly reminds them of who and what I really am, I am branded: angry, defensive, sensitive. I become confusing to them because they, like so many people, make the assumption that lighter skin, “good” hair, education, and exposure to “culture” make me less Black. So, I gain the world and lose my soul and become a part of the white wash and I should be happy to be a part of this little club of acceptable Negroes.

In short, I’m not Black enough to be Black, but I’m definitely not White. I am clearly losing the race on both sides.

Black people, haven’t we been divided long enough? Isn’t it time we stopped making assumptions about each other and came to the understanding that our experience of racism is multi-faceted and deeper than most people know and understand? Isn’t it time we stopped invalidating one another’s experience of the world based on skin color? Surely, we need to put down the color distinctions imposed on us from the outside with the express purpose of separating us and causing dissent among us to weaken us. Surely, we need to stand together because we will all surely hang separately if we don’t. We need to listen to each other. We need to be able to speak our truth to each other freely. We need to stop blaming and shaming each other. As Wanda Sykes puts it so well, “White people are watching us.” And they are laughing. We are the same to them — NOT White. The distinctions we draw for ourselves don’t help us. They hurt us. And our pain doesn’t matter worth a damn to anyone else if we don’t make it important to ourselves.

The loss of any one Black boy or man should matter because a life has been taken. I wish the world were that simple, but I’m not naive enough to think it is or ever can be. The loss of so many Black males is a tragedy, and it should be everyone’s concern regardless of color. White mothers don’t worry that their sons are targets for the police because of the color of their skin, but I am overjoyed to see that some of them are standing up for the value of the lives of the sons of their counterparts of color. Their concern is no more or less valid because they are White. It’s important because Black lives should matter to us all. Because Black people — men and women, boys and girls — should matter as much as anyone else to everyone. All our children should be precious to everyone. This is why I get pissed off watching the news about yet another (innocent, sweet, etc.) little white girl who’s been abducted, raped, or murdered, but all I see of my own people are criminals who are big scary monsters to the “respectable” world. Where are all my little sisters who’ve been abducted, raped, and murdered? Why don’t we hear about them? Why don’t we see their parents clutching photos and pleading for the lives of their precious children? Why? Because we don’t matter. How do I know that? Because the media tells me so.

Blacks lives matter is more than a cause and far more than a hashtag. It’s the truth. Our lives have always mattered. They didn’t begin to matter when White people came around to believing it. If we think that way, then we will cease to matter as soon as we are no longer the cause that is en vogue. We must not lose focus on what is really important: the importance of Black lives is about human rights. This cannot become a fad or a fashion. We are fighting for our lives. That is serious business.

For Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and all the other boys who will never become men, I say enough is enough. None of us win this race as long as we see it as a competition. Either we all win, or we all lose.

Lord have mercy.

(Wo)Man in the Mirror

There are many things I miss about living in NYC. One of those things is my commute. That may sound strange, especially in the car culture of North East Ohio. You have to remember, NYC is not a car culture — far from it. My commute was by bus, subway, or commuter train, and I was able to get a lot done. Over the years I got really good at putting on a full face of make up. I also graded a ton of papers, wrote a lot, studied a lot of scores, and knitted several hats and scarves. In fact, there were times when other folks commuting on a schedule similar to mine would comment on the progress of my knitting. Commuting was not wasted time, it was some of the most productive time of my day.

Now commuting is very different. I can’t knit and drive. I can’t read or grade papers and drive. While I’ve seen other drivers doing it, I can’t put on make up and drive (seriously, ladies?). The only thing I can do to calm my nerves and keep my road rage at bay is to listen to music. My iPod has become my co-pilot.

I have extremely eclectic taste in music. As a classically trained performing musician, I am extremely fond of symphonies, concertos, and chamber music. I also like music from around the world: Irish fiddle, Klezmer, Russian Orthodox church music, to name a few. I love popular music: everything from the show tunes of Gershwin, Porter, and Sondheim to the fantastically hip fusion of the Dave Matthews Band. Music is my life’s blood, my nourishment, and (in some ways) my religion. Nothing else (legal) in the world can transport so many people to so many different places and express everything from joy to despair. I consider myself blessed to be a musician. It has been a gift in my life.

So, you can imagine that my car rides are full of music. I tend to go on binges. I wore a grove in my Adele cd, 21. Then I played The Cars to death (“Here she comes again…”). The Police (“Don’t Stand So Close to Me”), Sting (“Seven Days is all she wrote”), and now my latest earwig — Michael Jackson. Michael takes me right back to my childhood, back to The Jackson 5 on television in those bell bottoms and news boy hats. Michael Jackson was this amazing little kid who could out sing and out dance all of his brothers. He was a star who stood out, even among the immense talent his brothers brought to the table. Michael was everything. His fans got to watch him grow up before their very eyes. He went from I’ll Be There (“Just look over your shoulders, honey”) to Dancin’ Machine — and THE ROBOT! And then came the solo albums, especially the early collaborations with Quincy Jones. Off the Wall, Thriller, Bad — works of pure artistic pop genius. That’s what I listen to in my car these days. It makes dealing with the insanity of driving in North East Ohio tolerable, but only barely.

There are very few songs I skip, especially on Thriller. Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’, Thriller, Beat It, Billie Jean, Human Nature, Pretty Young Thing (I will NOT make an ironic comment here, no matter how sorely I may be tempted…). I could hear them 100 times each today and still be dying to hear them again tomorrow morning. I was less familiar with Bad, which came out when I was in a decidedly anti-Michael Jackson phase (ill conceived, I know), but I’ve gotten to know that album better over the last few years. Of all the songs, my favorite — by a long shot — is Man In The Mirror.

I’m gonna make a change
For once in my life
Gonna feel real good, gonna make a difference
Gonna make it right

It starts so simply. You may not even know what the song’s about until the second part of the verse when he explicitly talks about the homeless. But that opening hooks you. “I’m gonna make a change” — who doesn’t relate to that? How does that change happen? He tells you: “That’s why I’m starting with me. I’m starting with the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to change his ways. No message could’ve been any clearer: if you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change.”

It’s so damn simple. I’ve been surrounded by this concept for years. Oberlin had a slogan that I love: “Think one person can change the world? So do we.” The Serenity Prayer talks about change: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” “It’s been a long time coming, but I know a change gonna come.” Change is hard, but change is inevitable. The hardest part is figuring out what needs to change, and then changing.

Even at the beginning of Joss Stone’s album, “Introducing Joss Stone” (which I had the pleasure of playing on), Vinny Jones talks about change: “I see change, I embody change… but the truth is, you gotta have the balls to change.”

In the last six years, change has played a pivotal role in my family’s life. We picked up and moved from NYC to Oberlin, OH, where my husband changed jobs and my kids changed schools. My life in particular has been marked by change — my hair, my weight, my career, my sobriety. At 40, I walked away from life as I knew it into an unknown life that I could not control. Change was, as I said before, inevitable.

Today, I look at the woman in the mirror and I ask her to change her ways. I want to make the world a better place, and I know it starts with me. I do believe one person can change the world. I do believe that change begins with each man and woman looking in the mirror every morning. We each need to ask the person in the mirror to make a change today. That’s the only way we will ever fix this broken world and get anywhere near where humanity should be.

The end of the song is incredibly emotional for me. The gospel choir implores us, “Yeah, make that change!” as Michael riffs: “You got to start with yourself, brother”, “gotta make that change today”, and “you got to stand up and lift yourself up”. By the song’s end, I am fired up and ready to be that force for positive change in the world. I am inspired. I am lifted up. I am ready to make that change.

At those moments, I don’t miss my old commute quite as much. I’d look like a lunatic singing out loud with this song on the subway. In my car, I don’t care who sees me. What’s most important is that I get inspired to go in to work and be that change. That’s what looking in that mirror does for me.

Like Michael says at the very end of the song: “Make that change.”

I believe we all can.


“But, I don’t think of you as being Black. You’re just Lisa!”

Yes. That’s been said to me, more than once by more than one person. And I’m supposed to smile and let it go. Heaven forbid I verbally challenge someone who is already challenged by my very existence. I don’t fit their understanding of what it means (to them) to be… you fill in the blank, so I’d better start explaining myself in a hurry. It is imperative that I make sense to them or else they won’t know what to do or say.

That simple phrase, “I don’t think of you as (again, fill in the blank)”, is not a compliment. Do you not think of me as Black because you like me but you don’t like Black people? Do I not look or act like the Black people you’re familiar with (like the criminals, gangsters, rappers, or welfare queens portrayed in the media)? Are you afraid that knowing me will cause you to have to readjust the way you see the world? Saying that you don’t think of me as Black, or anything else that makes you uncomfortable, says less about me and more about you. It tells me you live in a very insular world that doesn’t include people that aren’t like you. It tells me you’re afraid of certain groups of people. It tells me that you enjoy a certain feeling of superiority because you aren’t like “those people”. It tells me that you are not only ignorant, you are willfully ignorant. You don’t get it and you are totally okay with not getting it.

It also tells me that I’m the one who has to change or conform in order to be okay with you.

Why? Is that fair? I have to contract myself into a little box rather than your having to expand your understanding to get me, and that’s okay?

I’m not claiming to be perfect, not by a long shot. I have character flaws that are mine to deal with, but they come from my being human and not from my being Black, female, etc. There’s stuff I need to improve — just like there’s stuff you need to improve. We are connected by our humanity. In that, we are the same.

Perhaps it is naive of me to believe that the world is a better place because we are all different. I for one can’t imagine a world that is all one race, one gender, one religion. I love this beautiful world of ours because it is a many colored quilt. We are better for our differences, not worse. The variety within human existence should serve to broaden our acceptance and understanding, not to narrow it. I believe we are all God’s children. Perhaps we don’t all understand each other, but God understands us more deeply than we know ourselves. He draws no comparisons and sees no distinctions. He loves us perfectly and accepts us completely. We have much to learn from that example.

So why can’t we accept each other as we are? How can one group of people justify calling themselves correct and condemn everyone else to either a life of conformity or exile? Who are we to do that? It’s not a question of right or wrong, moral or immoral. It’s about being secure enough in ourselves to believe that there’s room for many points of view. It’s about not being threatened by the “other”.

When you tell me you don’t think of me as being Black, you deny a huge part of who I am. I am a Black woman raised by Black people. My experience of life has not been one of membership in a privileged majority. Even the most economically challenged and uneducated White person can enjoy the privilege of being White, while there are Black men with PhDs who still can’t get a cab in NYC or face violence or death at the hands of the police. Don’t get it twisted: I am a highly educated person, trained to play an instrument at a level achieved by only a very small percentage of the population. Yes, I speak like an educated person and not in some stereotype of Ebonics that you’ve seen on TV. As a Black woman, I have learned to live in and navigate the world of the so-called majority. As comic Dave Chappelle says, all Black people are fluent in two languages: hood and job interview. I am of two worlds by necessity. But I am a product of the people and culture that nurtured me.

It is amusing to me that folks think that I am some sort of anomaly. Nope. There are tons of other folks like me, more than you would think. We read Shakespeare and enjoy the creative and scientific disciplines, but we also enjoy the ways and traditions of our people. I love Beethoven and Brahms and Bach, but I also really love Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” and Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power”. I have a Masters degree from Juilliard, but I can still appreciate the creative artistry of Usher, Pharrell, and Beyonce. I love ballet. I love Klezmer. I love African dance. I love the music, art, and scholarship of the whole world because I am a citizen of the world. My vision is broad and all encompassing and none of it frightens or threatens me.

I only fear evil, and that can be found anywhere at any time. There is no one culture or tradition with a monopoly on evil.

So, don’t tell me you don’t think of me as Black. It only makes you look bad. Expand the way you think to include all that you don’t understand. Believe in people, not in stereotypes. Look for the good in everyone, but don’t look for everyone to be like you in order to be good. Embrace me as your sister and don’t ask me to be anyone other than who I am. Don’t try to “figure me out”. Just accept me and love me. It’s just that simple.


I have always wanted to be a mother. I remember playing with baby dolls and doting over them as so many little girls do. I had a rainbow brood of blond haired babies and brown skinned babies and I called them all my children. Even as I got older, I knew I wanted to have children, even though I wasn’t convinced that I would ever find a life partner to parent with me. Thankfully, I was able to find the best partner in the world. My man is a wonderful husband and an excellent father.

John and I were thrilled to find out that we were pregnant. Well, I was thrilled. John was remarkably stoic about the whole situation when I told him. Actually, he was pretty even keeled about my pregnancy for a while, and I wasn’t quite sure how to take that. He is, by nature, an introvert. It’s taken me years to understand how a noisy woman like me, from a noisy family, ended up making a family with an inherently quiet man from a family that can only be described as reticent. For whatever reasons he may have had, John chose me, crazy noisy family and all. Together he and I created our two beautiful children and our journey as parents began.

By the way, John finally came around when I showed him the baby clothes I’d bought during the first eight or so weeks of my pregnancy (I was passing that Baby Gap anyway — so sue me…). There was a onesie and a little cap, but it was the package of tiny socks that struck John. He saw the socks and started to tear up. “We’re going to have a baby, and that baby’s going to have tiny little feet that will fit into these tiny little socks.” The reality hit him hard, but he was happy.

My early pregnancy was distinguished by one odd change in my appetite. I had never liked eggs much, except for deviled eggs. Before I knew I was pregnant, I decided one day to make deviled eggs. I called John to let him know, and he was thrilled (he loves my deviled eggs!). I used a dozen eggs, thus making 24 deviled eggs. When John arrived home there were 3 left. I felt so bad that I’d eaten so many and left John so few, that I told him I’d make more the next day. I went out and bought 18 eggs and came home to make the deviled eggs I’d promised. When John arrived home, he saw the 6 deviled eggs I hadn’t eaten. Later that week, John and I went to brunch after church. I ordered an omelette. John’s words were simple: “who are you and what have you done with Lisa?” I was as shocked as he was.

Somewhere in my 7th week, I got sick. Really sick. Ridiculously sick. I mean wall to wall, non-stop vomit sick. It lasted for 7 weeks and I lost 10 pounds. I was scared to death that my weight loss would harm my baby. I felt for the first time a feeling that I’ve become extremely familiar with. I felt helpless. There was absolutely nothing I could do but pray and wait for my body to set itself right. Eventually it did and all was well.

After our daughter was born, she had some jaundice and the doctor considered putting her in the hospital. Once again, that feeling of helplessness set in. It would come back many times over the years with her and then again with our son who was born five years later. The feeling would come every time my child was ill, or faced some adversity I could neither prevent nor control. Sometimes I felt only a little helpless. Then there were times when I felt it so much I feared my heart would break apart inside my chest.

One such day was some time in June of 2006 when our 3 year old son was diagnosed with ASD. I’ve said many times in the past, I felt like someone dropped an entire house on my head that day. I had no idea what was ahead of us and what life for my beautiful boy would be like. The helplessness John and I felt nearly ended our marriage because we retreated into our default modes: he fell into a painful silence and I went into full mama tiger mode. We pulled in two different directions because we did not know how to get out of ourselves and pull together. The two people who had come together against great odds and in the face of outright hostility were being torn apart because we couldn’t face our fear and anger about what was happening to our son. We were helpless to do anything for him or ourselves. The outcome looked rather bleak.

We overcame the helplessness eventually and began to repair the rift between us. It took time and there was a lot of painful growing to do, but we are still together and we are still working to help our boy be the best he can be. Everyday we encounter a situation with the kids that challenges us. There are tears we cannot stop and friendships we cannot mend. Sometimes we can only sit back and watch the pain we cannot stop come barreling in on our beloved babies. We know they must learn their own lessons, no matter how painful they might be. But, we cannot deny that we feel their pain and long to end it. We hurt when they hurt and cry 10 tears for every one of theirs. Their anguish is a dagger in our hearts. We do everything we can and then… we wait for the events to unfold.

When folks talk about children separating from their parents, they usually refer to how difficult it is for the child. John and I have had to separate ourselves from our kids just as all parents should, and it has been tremendously difficult for me sometimes. I want to know what will happen to my babies — and they will always be my babies — and I want to help them every step along the way. Of course, I know this can’t happen. They have to learn to walk their own paths and live their own lives, and maybe have their own families. I can’t get in the way of that any more than I would have wanted my parents to get in my way. In the face of the dizzying helplessness I feel, I have to let go and trust that John and I have done our job. We have to stand together and watch them walk away into their future — without us.

I will feel helpless many more times before that day comes.

They came into the world through me, but they do not belong to me. They aren’t mine; they are their own. As long as I love them, I have to accept the helplessness as an unpleasant by-product. With the great love and deep devotion of having a family comes pain and sadness to balance out the joy. One takes the bitter with the sweet.

Almost 17 years after our baby girl came into our lives, I have no regrets and I wouldn’t change a thing. Whatever challenges may come, I am the best mom for my babies and I will be there for them no matter how helpless being their mom might make me feel. It’s an honor to learn from parenting them. I think John just might agree with me.


I’ve been feeling pretty low at work recently for various reasons, none of which I will go into here. Work has been slow and money is beyond tight right now. I suppose I’m just experiencing one of those phases where lots of things go wrong all at once. Perhaps later on I will look back on this time and see it differently, but being in it has been extremely challenging and painful. Times like these help me appreciate good times that much more.

So, yesterday I was teaching my high school students. I was almost at the end of a very grueling schedule and just two students away from a three day weekend. I was tired and there was very little fuel left in the tank. The student in front of me was a sweet young girl who I only recently began teaching. I could see how hard she was trying, but I could also see the wall between her and achieving her goal. Like so many girls her age, this girl was afraid to fail.

I saw so much of myself in her. I saw myself at her age and remembered how hell-bent I was on being perfect. I believed that perfection would shield me from the swirling insanity at home, the insidious emotional abuse at school, and the demons I was fighting on my own because I didn’t trust them to anyone else. Perfection was my protection against the loneliness, pain, insecurity, and deep sadness that I felt from age 13 until I graduated high school at 18 (then I traded in perfection for addiction).

I shared none of this with my student. My baggage wasn’t her problem. I’m the teacher in this situation, so I taught.

This is basically what I said, in a moment of blind inspiration:

It’s amazing to me that as we get older we lose the courage it takes to try and fail. We get older and we become afraid to try new things because we are afraid to fail, especially in front of other people.

When we were babies, we held our heads up, we rolled over, we sat up, we pulled up to stand, and one day we tried to walk. It was probably an unqualified disaster. Maybe we took a step or two, and then we fell flat on our ass. So what did we do? We LAUGHED! We tried, we failed, and we laughed about it.

How many times did we try to walk and fail? What if we had stopped trying after the first taste of failure? Where would we be now? As babies, we are driven to try over and over again until we experience the joy of getting what we worked so hard for. We inherently understand that repeated failure is the prerequisite for success. We are not embarrassed or ashamed of our failures. We take them in stride and keep moving forward until we achieve our goal.

How do we lose that? Why do we become so self conscious about failure, even when we know in our heart that it is necessary? How do we get back to the innocence that allowed us to fail repeatedly without caring how others saw us? We need to return to that mind set. We need to be babies again. We need to laugh when we fall.

As with so many moments in which I feel like my teaching flows through me rather than from me, I began to hear my own words echoing in my head. I could see with my eyes that my student was getting the point of what I was saying, but I could feel in my heart that my words were not just for her. Those words, those thoughts that were so carefully calculated to take advantage of a teaching moment, were the salve my own spirit needed. I needed to hear the words I was saying. So much of my teaching career has been made up of these moments of lucidity in which I transcend being the teacher my students need and I become the teacher I need. The truth within me becomes clear enough for me to see what I’ve been missing and needing.

These, for me, are moments of both mercy and grace. They are the answers to my prayer I say every morning: “Lord, open my lips and my mouth shall show forth your praise.” Every day I ask Him to use me to serve others. Some days, He uses me to heal myself.

Over the last six years, I have tried and failed seven times to achieve a goal that is near and dear to my heart and would be enormously beneficial to my family. Lately, that failure has weighed on me, embarrassed me, angered and saddened me, and made me feel profoundly and deeply ashamed. I have been angry with myself and with the people I saw as being “in my way”. Mostly, I have been angry with God because I don’t understand why no has been the answer to my repeated prayers. I have been a petulant child. I have expected to get things because I think I deserve them and I think it is “my time”.

Duh. Lisa, that’s NOT the way this works. This isn’t a transactional situation. Life is not that simple. Shit just happens and the clean up is messy.

Perhaps the greatest lesson I SHOULD have learned during my daughter’s early years is the one I remember teaching her most often. Character, I told her, is not a measure of how many times life knocks you down. It is the measure of how well you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep going. I should’ve listened to myself better.

Failure is only the end of the road if you let it be. I could easily sit and lick my wounds and decide never to try again. The only thing that guarantees is that I will never reach my goal. That won’t be anyone else’s fault but mine. If what I want is so important, then I shouldn’t let anyone or anything stand in my way. I have to believe that it can happen and I have to be willing to let it happen in its own time. His time.

Embracing failure may be an odd concept, but it’s what I’ve got. I’m gonna give it a shot.


This will be brief because I really need to get ready for work. I had a ton of stuff going on last night, so I didn’t get to write anything. I tried, but the well was dry.

I have a broad set of shoulders. They have carried a lot over the years, both literally and figuratively. Yesterday, the metaphorical load was too heavy for me and I broke down. There was just too much for me to carry and for a moment I let it all tumble down. The strength that I consistently try to show the world faltered and my burden fell from my shoulders.

However, it did not crash to the ground. It was caught and taken up by a bigger, broader, and stronger set of shoulders. My husband’s.

John held my sob wracked body and dried my tears. He cried with me a little. He spoke quiet words of comfort and love, and then he listened. He took care of me because he cares for me, and he carried my burden for me until I could take it up again myself.

Love is patient, love is kind. Those words were read at our wedding. I heard them. John did too. After 22 plus years, we are still trying to live them everyday.

Thank you, John, for your loving kindness, patience, and — most of all — your big, broad shoulders. I love you too.