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Picking My Battles Posts

On My Terms

If Jim-Bob is the quintessential man about the house, Jane is the consummate warrior princess. She adventures and explores, living life on her terms, She watches over her subjects, and like a good warrior-princess, she imparts important life lessons to them.

The other day, for example, we went for a walk around the yard to take advantage of some sun before the snow. She darted up to my ankles for a scratch on the head and then trotted ahead of me to scout our path. I had my camera with me, and she obliged when I patted the trunk of a tree to coax her up to it for a better photo. I head-scratched and snapped until I got the perfect pic, but then I overstepped.

Forgetting that a warrior princess can take care of herself, I coaxed her down hoping to carry her into the house. The weather was getting ready to turn bad, and I want it all the animals inside and safe. Jane hopped down and trotted over to my hand, rubbing her head this way and that, and then I scooped her up.

She never scratches when you pick her up, but she squirms in a way that tells you she’s just not comfortable being that close to anyone. She squirmed until she was sitting on my shoulder and, from her perch, jumped down and began running towards the house door. I followed and then motioned toward the house. She came willingly, leading her subjects, Jim-Bob the orange tabby and Katy-the-Wonder-Dog.

It was a reminder that, instead of trying to impose my will, all I needed to do was ask in the first place and she would be willing to listen. It’s a lesson I constantly try to reiterate to my kids and students – respect others’ boundaries, but it was nice of Jane to provide a little object lesson and review it with me.

Little grey warrior princesses can be pretty smart.

A Little Night Mania

It’s 2 am and Jim-Bob is trying to decide if his lumpy human will be still long enough for him to pad a nice tummy wallow to sleep on . I’ve tossed, turned, shut off my screen and turned it back on half a dozen times since I first crawled into bed for some desperately needed sleep two hours ago. I know he thinks I’m about to fly right out of the room.

In my head, I’ve been flying for hours.

For hours I’ve been playing with the possibilities in my head. How hard would it be to do two master’s at the same time? I’ll finish the drawings for both books this weekend. I can finish this assignment , design that database and then check another online illustration course. Ooh, that story would be great as an animated cartoon.

For most of the last few weeks, I’ve been still, seeking sleep whenever possible. Depression wraps me up like a wet carpet, and I’ve been a good human to sleep on.

But living with bipolar is like living with a volcano. It rumbles in the darkness until it’s time to explode and let the steam and fire out. Sometime heat is power. It drives me out of bed into my office to write and read and paint. It also, however, can become a wild fire easily out of control, coaxing me to take on more commitments than I handle in a lifetime, spending on things no one ever needs, and torching anything in its vicinity.

So even though the screen is off, Jim-Bob knows my tapping hand is a sure sign the mania is still burning, ready to send this lumpy lady back into space, and he decide to stay put until the fire cools.

Living in Lessons

Tree of the Knowledge of Good

I don’t tend to be a mourner. I shed a few tears, maybe a sob here and there, and then the person I love lives on in my memories and, if I’m lucky, in the lessons I’ve absorbed from them.

I’m blessed to have been born with a small army of Great Aunts. I don’t mean that  they were a generation removed from mine. I mean that they were and truly are great – awesome. They adventure. They dive into learning. They are helpers and nurturers. They have always been what I want to be when I (eventually) grow up. Kind. Brave. Extraordinary.

One of my League of Extraordinary Women passed away on Sunday night. She was a prominent fixture in our lives when Thing1 was born, helping us navigate the German healthcare system (where he was born). A counselor and mother, she helped me learn to trust myself and my love of Thing1 when I was getting my parenting sea legs.

I am thinking of her even more intensely this evening as I take a break from writing IEPs to absorb Thing1’s news from his latest visit to Dartmouth Hitchcock where he spent a good part of his senior year and what should have been his freshman year of college. We are learning, yet again, that having a chronic illness means that he has, what his doctor once warned was, a permanent diagnosis, inspite of having had a colectomy.  Now, instead of thinking about summer jobs, he is faced with another, riskier surgery or the very real possibility of cancer by the time he’s in his thirties.

He always seems to take the news in stride, but I know he’s frustrated and a little frightened. Hidden in my office where he can’t see me, I give into a few sobs before acting on the lessons my very awesome aunt taught me everyday.

I know if she were here, she would offer a hug and tell me to trust my love for Thing1 as we help him over this next hurdle. She would remind us that we have the strength to get through this together and that it’s okay to cry. And, as she showed us everyday of her life, even when her own child faced a debilitating illness, she would remind us to care for others around us. She would show us how not let fear steal the happiness we do have with each other.

I will sob for a few more minutes before I get back to writing IEPs, and then I’m going to remember her by living her lessons.


Repost: Let It Shine


If you are lucky, there will be some people who enter your life–or whose life you enter–who have such a profound effect on you that just thinking of them can lift your heart, spur you to do the right thing, or just keep on going when you think you can’t.  You may not see them every day. You may not see them for years, but their very presence in the world is one more defiant beam of live in a world that can sometimes seem bleak.

When an artist or writer dies, their work keeps them alive. When a truly loving person passes away, her love still shines through in everyone she touched.

I know it is possible for the world to be less good because someone like this is gone, but, for me, it will not be. It will not be because, like so many others who have passed through her life, I’m not going to let it go. I’m going to make it shine.

About the flower and the post: Statice is for remembrance. This is a repost from 2016 just before a beloved aunt passed away. Sunday night her sister, every bit as dear passed away, reminding our family how fleeting and precious the time you have with the people who move through your life.


Gratuitous Artist Pics

 There are several things that are certain in life at our house.




And if I sit down at my desk and open a keyboard or a tin of watercolor paint (it has to be watercolor paint), Jim-Bob will crawl into my arms within five minutes to offer his assistance and advice. He is now demanding full credit on all paintings, arguing that he has become an indispensable part of the creative process.

Poem – Familiar

My familiar keeps

The world and work at bay.

Heavy as a blanket,

Draping his heat over my fear,

Hiding my anxiety under

Fat and fur and purring

Till we, happily entombed

Under imaginary desert sands,

Sense that day and lull

Are done.

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