No Rush

12 Jan

I’m not writing lately. Well, I’m writing right now, but it’s not the kind where you shut yourself up in a room and write for so long that your shoulders hurt. I used to do that. Before the pandemic hit, I did it so much that I actually finished a novel. It’s been almost three years since my pub date (that’s legit industry lingo in case you’re interested) before everything stopped in its tracks before it got started.

Mind you, I’m not complaining here. My little book has actually done pretty well for a first time author, and is still selling consistently. I’m merely trying to explain how the pandemic and it’s after affects have kept me in a sort of limbo where I can’t seem to move on. I’m still so distracted that I longer have the focus and determination I once had. Where I used to be able to set goals, my brain now meanders around with no organization or end game in sight.

I have oodles of ideas swimming around in my head for a new novel, as well as several developing characters who speak to me often. I try my damnedest to ignore them, but they poke me in the ribs as I play that final Words with Friends game before I fall off to sleep. They’re there in the morning as I groggily drink my coffee, urging me to head upstairs to my computer and write something about them.

“Tell our story!” they scream.

I try to appease them. “Just give me one sec—I swear I’ll write something. I’m going to have another cup of coffee and then I promise—I’ll write about you. But first I need to check my phone.”

A three-mile walk, a trip to the grocery store, lunch with a friend, followed by five hours of teaching piano lessons, and the day has eroded like the southern California coastline.

Not a single word written.

Intellectually, I know that all writers go through dry spells—most are honest about this common dilemma and are able to offer themselves some grace. Unfortunately, I carry a familial genetic marker that makes me repeat to myself the ridiculous lie that I’m a worthless loser. I feel such pressure to prove that I can write another book—that I’m not a one-trick pony.

For once I’m pleased that I have age on my side, and the wisdom to know that I can and will get through this slump. And lucky for me, those friends in my head who want to come to life will not leave me alone until I give them their rightful spot on the page.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh said it well:

“In general, I feel, or I have come to feel, that the richest writing comes not from the people who dedicate themselves to writing alone. I know this is contradicted again and again but I continue to feel it. They don’t, of course, write as much, or as fast, but I think it is riper and more satisfying when it does come. One of the difficulties of writing or doing any kind of creative work in America seems to me to be that we put such stress on production and material results. We put a time pressure and a mass pressure on creative work which are meaningless and infantile in that field.”

Breathe, Jess. There’s no damn rush.

VOTE

7 Nov

Artwork by Cecily Mireles

I woke up this morning feeling more anxious than usual. I couldn’t figure out what I was so worried about until I remembered that tomorrow is Election Day.

I’m terrified for our country right now.

The other day, I had a physical for the first time in about ten years. I know, I know—how dumb is that? Especially because I have insurance and access to exceptional healthcare in my community. I rarely get sick, so I sort of developed an “out of sight, out of mind” philosophy. But now that I’m sixty and fully entrenched in middle age, I decided it’s high time for me to be proactive about my health.

Well, guess what? It turns out I have a bit of high blood pressure. I’ve never had a problem with this before, so I feel confident blaming it on the level of stress that I’ve been carrying around over the past several years. And it’s not just from the pandemic. I believe it all began with the 2016 election.

It’s been very difficult for me to reconcile that people I’ve known and loved for years have promoted a political agenda that is so vastly different from mine. The fact that they support policies that want to take rights away from the people I love is so out of my realm of understanding. It hits close to home, as I’m married to an immigrant man of color; we have relatives and friends who are undocumented—and I have daughters who identify as LGBTQ.

What if my seventeen year-old suddenly found herself pregnant? How could I possibly support legislation that would take away her right for a safe abortion? What about women whose pregnancy is no longer viable, or if a young woman becomes pregnant through incest or rape? I personally know women who were able to obtain their own abortions back in the day, yet now, years later, they support an agenda that wants to take this right away from other women! How unfair and hypocritical is that?

My head was so deeply buried in the sand that when Obama was elected, I actually had hope for all of us. How wrong I was to think that a country founded on slavery and colonialism could possible change with the election of a black man.

It was easier when I didn’t know what folks’ politics were. Before Trump was elected, I didn’t really care about others’ party affiliations. I went on about my merry way, oblivious to the fact that people close to me could actually support a man who is a toxic narcissist, con man and conspiracy theorist, not to mention a big fat liar. But somehow they did, and we’ve all been paying for it since.

But now, I must take responsibility that I was part of the problem. I can no longer wear my rose-colored glasses and think that all is fine and dandy. I must acknowledge that my privilege prevented me from truly understanding how dysfunctional we are as a society.

In the days to come we will find out in which direction we’re headed. I implore you to show up and vote for your rights.

Seriously, people—our democracy depends upon it.

VOTE.

If Only

6 Oct

I hate that I always take on the emotional struggles of others. I can’t help it—there’s this insane need inside me to chase away the burdens of those whom I love. If only (fill in the blank) or (fill in another blank) then all would be right in the universe, and then I could take a deep breath and finally relax. You’d think at sixty, I might have figured out that this is NEVER going to happen.

We are taught to believe that in order to have a fulfilled life, we must be content at all times. Like most people, I’ve been striving for happiness since I was a young girl, creating so many “if only” scenarios in my mind that I learned to ignore the little miracles that take place in front of me on a daily basis. How can I possibly look out the window to notice the changing leaves of the Liquid Ambar trees when I’m worried that my children are unfulfilled in their careers? How can I feel comfortable in my home when all I notice is that the walls need painting, or that the termites are silently eating away the insides of my house? How can I sit and drink that second cup of coffee when I should be out taking a five-mile walk? What if my daughter doesn’t get into the college of her dreams? How can I prevent her from feeling hurt and disappointed should that comes to pass?

I remember thinking years ago that “if only” I published a novel, all would be right in my world.  I would finally feel accomplished, and experience that sense of worthiness I’ve been longing for my entire life. Yeah, right.  Sure, I wrote a book, and sure, there were some really wonderful moments, but eventually my life went back to the way it was before. Now I find myself again at square one, worrying how I’m going to find the motivation to work on that second book.

Ugh. Carrying all this angst is overwhelming. And yet, how effortlessly I throw it over my shoulders every morning. How easily I tighten the straps as the day progresses. For years, I’ve shouted to the heavens and beyond that we cannot control everything that happens to us—that we just don’t have that kind of power. That it’s not about the end result—but it’s about the process? Intellectually, I understand all of this. Yet my heart will not listen.

One moment, one hour, one day at a time.

One word, one sentence, one chapter at a time.

Process equals joy.

Say it with me.

No More Explanations

25 Aug

I want to live in a world where I don’t have to explain all the time.

My oldest daughter recently became engaged to the love of her life. We spent a magical weekend up at Bass Lake, where both families gathered to watch the romantic lakeside proposal. When I relay the story to people who don’t know our family well, they ask,

“How did he propose?”

He didn’t. She did. Then I have to explain that my daughter did the proposing, and it was her girlfriend to whom she popped the question. Yes, I explain—my daughter is gay.

There’s usually a quick look of confusion, then recovery. “Oh, how wonderful!” they exclaim, “You must be very happy!”

Of course I’m happy—I’m ecstatic!

I’m elated that my daughter was finally able to show who she was after hiding for most of her life. That she found a partner who is funny, kind, and most importantly, has a wicked sense of humor that fits right into our family. I’m over the moon that my daughter’s fiancée loves and appreciates her in the manner she deserves. I’m thrilled that we live in a community where, for the most part, people accept and support that two women can fall in love and get married.

Nora and Candice after the big moment!

Yes, we’ve come a long way, but there’s so much further to go.

A few years ago, my third daughter, who is a transgender woman, moved to the Bay Area because she didn’t feel completely comfortable living in our community. While we’re more open-minded in general than other parts of the country, acceptance toward transgender folk is not where it should be. She now lives in Oakland, where no one cares which bathroom you use, what you look like under your clothes, or whom you choose to love.

Cece in her glorious rainbow color!

For the most part, it’s my generation and older that always seems to need an explanation. Why does it matter that people have preferred pronouns? Why is it so difficult to honor what people want to be called? My kids don’t care about sexuality or gender; they use “they/them” with ease. Their decision to like (or not like) someone is solely based on who that person is—not how they dress or whom they choose to love.

We need to take a lesson from them.

I’ll start with myself. I’ll let go of feeling obligated to explain everything to others. If you get it, fine. If you don’t, that’s your issue.

It’s so simple, it doesn’t need an explanation. Let people be who they are.

Love is love is love.

That pretty much covers it.

Relishing the Happiness

28 Jun

These days, it’s not easy to allow ourselves to feel happy. Often, I don’t even recognize when I feel content—I’m so used to feeling incredulity, rage, and fear (usually in that order.) When I do notice that I’m feeling good, my mind immediately tries to shut it down—after all, who am I to feel okay when our democracy is in peril, injustice is rampant, and so many are suffering?

Maybe you can relate to how I find myself in a quandary because I’ve been feeling unusually good lately. Born with a melancholic soul, my mood tends to gravitate toward the bluer hues in life, and I’m very comfortable with the weight of sadness that has perched upon my shoulders for as long as I can remember. Maybe my recent happiness can be attributed to the three miles of walking I’ve been doing each day, or that my garden is in the height of its colorful blooms, or that the weather on the central California coast has been glorious. Now contrast that with all terrible (and I mean terrible) shit that has been hitting the collective fan lately, and you can see why I would be feeling so guilty for feeling happy.

Case in point: in the midst all the traumatic events transpiring in our country, something really wonderful occurred for me personally: I finally had my book signing for my novel, Lost in Oaxaca at Chaucer’s, our local Indy bookstore in Santa Barbara. Now, I ask you, “Who in the world has a book signing a full two years after their book comes out?”  That would be me.

As far as I’m concerned, this event was one of the highlights of my life. It really helped to have a supportive bookstore who worked to keep my book alive during a two-year pandemic. It also helped that the person in charge of events (the wonderful Michael Takeuchi) really loved Lost in Oaxaca, and led the event conversation with engaging and interesting questions. Most importantly though, having a crowd of friends and family who came to show their love and support meant the world to me.

And today I’m happy to report that a brand new book has hit the shelves: Art in the Time of Unbearable Crisis—“a sometimes comforting, sometimes devastating, but universally relatable collection of prose, poetry, and art about living through difficult times like these.” My essay, “The Artistry Within Us” is included. All proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to the non-profit World Central Kitchen.

I hope that you will consider purchasing this lovely book featuring inspiring essays, poetry and artwork—all by women, and that it will move you and help you to cope during these trying times of strife and suffering. Please consider ordering it from Chaucer’s—let’s support our wonderful local gem of a bookstore!

As I lay Lost in Oaxaca to rest and move on to a new project, I’m thankful that my little book has done quite well for a first-time novelist. I’m going to make a conscious effort to allow myself to relish the happiness I feel for my success.

And I can’t thank you all enough for your support over the years—for reading and commenting on my blog, for purchasing my novel for yourself and your friends—and mostly, for putting up with my constant promotion.

As my very generous gift to you, I promise to stay quiet for a while.

In case you weren’t able to come and want to watch!

Meant to Be

17 May

Around this time fifteen years ago, my world came crashing down. You may already know my story— god knows I’ve talked and written about it extensively over the years: Mom of three almost grown kids finds herself unexpectedly pregnant at forty-two and gives birth to a fourth daughter, who at the age of two is diagnosed with leukemia. Almost three years of chemotherapy later, that daughter is considered cured, and life goes back to what it was before.

Except that it doesn’t.

I think about the woman I was before my daughter’s cancer diagnosis—unfulfilled, stressed, and oh, so judgmental. In my quest to be the perfect mom with perfect children, I was critical of everything and everyone around me. I wallowed in my unhappiness, preventing myself from experiencing the beauty and joy that was offered with each day. It took my baby girl almost dying to snap me out of it.

I want to go back in time and have a conservation with that young mom. I want her to know that despite the trauma she faced as the daughter of an alcoholic father, it was never her fault. I want to wrap my arms around her and tell her how incredible she is—that she is beautiful, smart and talented, and that her creativity has no bounds. That there’s nothing she can’t accomplish if she just believes in herself. I want to tell her to let go of the fear.

On June 7th, a book will come out entitled, Art in the Time of Unbearable Crisis. It is a compilation of essays, poetry and artwork exclusively by women. My essay, The Artistry Within Us will be featured. Here is the description of the book:

Art keeps good alive in the worst of times. In the face of ugliness, pain, and death, it’s art that has the power to open us all to a healing imagining of new possibility; it’s art that whispers to the collective that even in the ashes of loss, life always grows again. That’s why right now, in this tumultuous time of war and pandemic, we need poets more than we need politicians.

In response to the multitude of global crises we’re currently experiencing, Editor Stefanie Raffelock put out a much-needed call to her writing community for art to uplift and inform the world, and the authors of She Writes Press answered. Art in the Time of Unbearable Crisis—a sometimes comforting, sometimes devastating, but universally relatable collection of prose, poetry, and art about living through difficult times like these—is the result. Addressing topics including grief and loss, COVID-19 and war in Ukraine, the gravity of need and being needed, the broad range of human response to crisis in all its forms, and more, these pieces explore how we can find beauty, hope, and deeper interpretation of world events through art—even when the world seems like it’s been turned inside out and upside-down. 

Any and all royalties from Art in the Time of Unbearable Crisis will be donated to World Central Kitchen.

 

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=art+in+the+time+of+unbearable+crisis&crid=2Q1HW86SGH58U&sprefix=art+in+the+time%2Caps%2C218&ref=nb_sb_ss_retrain-deeppltr_1_15

Fifteen years ago, I never thought I’d fulfill my dream of becoming a writer, let alone publish a novel. And while I wouldn’t wish my daughter’s cancer experience one anyone—ever, it truly was the catalyst for changing me into the person I was meant to be. For this I am beyond grateful.

My youngest is seventeen now. She is everything I should’ve been at her age: proactive, poised, and confident. Fearlessly, she dives into the depths of each day, never considering how deep the water might be. She knows how to stay afloat.

And even though I spent most of my life dog-paddling in the shallow end, I was able to rise above my self-imposed limitations, and teach my daughter to swim.

Not Over Yet

19 Apr

About a month ago, I ran into a young woman who had attended Kindergarten through high school with my oldest daughter. I hadn’t seen her in years, and we chatted about how our families have been coping during the pandemic. I told her that I had published a novel that had come out right after the lockdown, and she said she’d pick up a copy at our local bookstore. I smiled and thanked her, figuring there was maybe a fifty-fifty chance she’d actually buy it.

Last night I attended a lecture at our local university (Father Gregory Boyle discussing Home Boy Industries—incredibly inspiring, by the way (https://homeboyindustries.org/) where this same young woman rushed up to me, her eyes shining with excitement above her mask.

“I was hoping I’d see you here!” she exclaimed. “I wanted you to know that the very next day after you told me about Lost in Oaxaca, I went down to Chaucer’s Bookstore and bought two copies of your book—one for me and one for my sister! I loved it so much!  I actually read it in like 24 hours, and now I really want to go to Oaxaca!”

She has no idea how much this meant to me. To be honest, I’ve been feeling a little lost myself lately. Tomorrow is the second anniversary of the launch of my Lost in Oaxaca, and I’ve been asking myself when I should stop talking about a book that’s almost two years old. Like a bride whose wedding got canceled with no hope of ever rescheduling it, I feel like the pandemic robbed me of my big celebration. I do realize it’s time to move on and dive into the next project, but this has been difficult because I’m currently suffering from pandemic distraction syndrome (I made that up, but you get it.)

I’m told that the average book has a lifespan of three years, so I guess I have approval to prattle on about Lost in Oaxaca for at least one more year. Like a proud new mother, I just can’t stop talking about my literary baby. I give you my full blessing to roll your eyes and shrug with disgust as long as you leave me a review on Amazon or Goodreads.

And if it’s not too presumptuous of me—maybe consider purchasing a copy for a friend?

Happy Anniversary, little book!

https://www.chaucersbooks.com/

Lost in Oaxaca: A Novel https://www.amazon.com/dp/1631528807/ref=cm_sw_r_em_api_i_E8XXZ79PMRATTEM09XH8

Passing it On

16 Mar

My daughter, Leah recently took it upon herself to organize the family archives (archives, you say? Oh, yes—we have archives!) After sorting through dozens of boxes of old photos and letters, some that are over 100 years old, I came across an old photo of my grandmother, Martha (my mother’s mother) with her mother, Leila, (my great-grandmother) and her grandmother Mrs. H.D. Weed, (my great-great grandmother.) The photo was probably taken in the early 1900’s in Jamestown, Ohio. Tucked inside the photo was a tiny letter, written by my grandmother to her uncle Harry when she was around ten years old.

Dear Harry,                                        Jamestown, Ohio, Jan. 1, 1913

I am writing you to tell you how much I liked your present. I think that this letter will get to you, before Hellen will get home. I got four books, three boxes of kf, a sewing box; and lots and lots of things too. This is New Years day, I will have to close.

Yours Sincerely,

Martha Smith

P.S. Aunty Kate was here today with Uncle Ed and Bernerd. Thank you              for your present.

Give Hellen my love. M.S.

 

Kisses xxxxxxxxxxxxxx                             Hugs oooooooooooooo

M.S.

 

 

On the back of the envelope, her mother, Leila writes: I don’t know what is in this as she did this all herself. We are having winter for sure her this morning. Leila

Martha Smith Green. My grandmother. Reading her tiny letter in her delicate cursive lettering, I realize that she was once a precious little girl who was deeply loved by her family. I only knew her as a frail old woman in a mink coat, doused in Chanel No. 5, wearing too much red lipstick, her stooped body draped in colorful silk scarves and gaudy jewelry. She always had a cigarette in one perfectly manicured hand and a glass of whiskey in the other. She lavished me with presents from her world travels, while completely ignoring my two brothers. At the time, I thought she just didn’t like boys. Only later in life did I discover why she didn’t interact with my brothers. I also learned that she carried so much pain and trauma in her heart, that for decades, she needed to self-medicate with alcohol. She died of cirrhosis of the liver when I was ten years old.

Over the years, my mother and I have had many conversations about my grandmother, Martha. That she had a brother who died in childhood. How she had a career as a concert pianist, but gave it up when she married. How three of her babies died (two late term miscarriages and one full term birth) before my mother was born. That she and my grandfather refused to do anything to prepare for my mother’s birth—no crib, no diapers or layette—because they believed that my mother was most likely going to die, as well.

Five years after my mother’s birth, Martha had another child—a boy—named Johnnie. He was the light of her life. When he was five, he ran out into the street between two parked cars, and was hit by a speeding car. He died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. My mother, who had just argued with Johnnie and told him to drop dead saw it happen. In her ten-year-old mind, it was her fault.

Neighbors removed Johnnie’s clothes and toys from the house the very next day and my grandparents kept my mother home from the funeral. One day he was there, the next, he was erased. No one talked about Johnnie’s death. One afternoon, my mother walked into her parents’ bedroom and witnessed her dad methodically banging his head against the wall—over and over and over. When my mother was a senior in college, her dad died of a heart attack. She thinks it took him ten years to die of his broken heart. My grandmother took longer, but still died at a very young sixty seven.

Generational trauma. The sadness, the loss, and the secrets become part of who we are. For years, I never knew my mother even had a brother. I always thought she was an only child. Throughout my own childhood, my brothers and I were never allowed to speak negatively about anything. Everything had to be wonderful all the time, even when my dad’s own childhood trauma (he died before I ever had the understanding or maturity to ask him about it) turned him into an alcoholic and wreaked havoc in our own lives. My parents couldn’t handle any kind of conflict, grief or sadness, so they wouldn’t allow us to, either. We had to pretend everything was okay—when it wasn’t.

My own childhood trauma manifested in anxiety and depression that I’ve fought for years to overcome. But what I’m now learning in therapy is that my anxiety may have actually been a good thing—it prevented me from turning to alcohol and drugs to dull my pain. Because my anxiety is based on a fear of losing control, I never liked how alcohol made me feel, so I avoided it. My husband and I made the mutual decision not to drink, so our children never had to deal with any family alcoholism.

Of course, we gave our children trauma—all parents do in some form or another. But I at least broke one cycle that won’t haunt them for the rest of their lives. And I’ve broken the cycle of keeping secrets, as well. I’m an open book (sometimes without a filter) and will freely admit to my foibles, vulnerabilities and shame. I will talk until you tell me to shut up.

I’m also realizing that life is not meant to be happy every single minute of every single day. Society has fed us this big lie that we MUST be content all the time or we’ve failed. It’s just not true. If anything has taught us that life is not always easy, it’s these past few years. And it looks like it’s not getting any better real soon. Yes, there will always be great pain in life; but there can also be great joy. Often, it’s somewhere in the middle.

And good or bad, this too, shall pass.

The Three I’s

17 Feb

This summer I will turn sixty. It won’t be too life-changing, as I’ve settled comfortably into middle age. I love my job, my kids are nearby, and I’ve worked hard to make my lifelong dream of becoming a published author come true. I’m the first to admit that I’m one of the lucky ones.

They (and who the hell are they, anyway?) say that “sixty is the new forty,” but I’m not the only one of my women friends who would beg to differ on this. Actually, most of us have never stopped feeing like teenagers in our hearts and minds, but whether or not we care to admit it, our bodies are telling us another story as we get out of bed each morning.

Aside from the sore knees and sagging bottoms, women my age also begin to face other non-health related issues as we head into our twilight years. I like to refer to them as three I’s: invisibility, irrelevancy, and inferiority.

Let’s start with invisibility. If you’re a woman my age, you’ve undoubtedly felt invisible at one time or another. I usually experience invisibility when I’m standing in line, waiting to order my coffee/salad/donut, and the counter person, (usually a cute college guy) has been bantering flirtatiously with a young, dewy-eyed coed ahead of me in line about some party/college course/road trip for close to five minutes. He does not care one whit that I need my caffeine/ roughage/sugar fix before I collapse onto the floor. Yes, it’s true that I’m becoming more impatient as I age, (this is not unreasonable considering my time here on earth is limited) but to not even acknowledge my presence with an “I’ll be with you in a minute,” is dehumanizing and unfair. Sure, my eyelids and jowls sag, but loose skin has not affected my own extraordinary bantering ability that I’ve honed to perfection over the years. It’s not fair—I want to banter, too!

In addition to being invisible, Irrelevancy has now profoundly entered my life. No matter what I’ve accomplished over the past six decades, I’m pretty much irrelevant now. I get that no one cares that I know all the lyrics to every James Taylor/Simon and Garfunkle/Beatles song ever written, but it’s difficult to face I’m just an old boomer who has ruined the planet (seriously sorry about this) and can’t remember anything past 1989 when I had my first kid. While my adult children still adore me, they have the habit of schooling me at every turn. I can hardly utter a sentence without an exclamation of “MOM! You can’t say that!” or “Careful…” While I truly appreciate their constant and pertinent education on social issues, once in a while I’d really love to sound like I know what I’m talking about.

As of late, I also think I’m regressing somewhat, and find myself experiencing some intense feelings of Inferiority. Whereas in junior high it was an overload of hormones surging through my body that caused me to feel inferior, I now think that it’s the recent lack of hormones that has contributed to the questioning of my fragile self-worth. If I’m lucky, I only have a good thirty years or so left on this planet, and I want to enjoy every last minute. Watching my body change so drastically exacerbates those constant feelings of not being good enough, and this sucks the joy right out of my life. I want to be confident, sassy and interesting, but society is not letting me.

Wah!

Okay, that’s enough, Jess—you’re being a big baby. It’s time to grow up and stop giving a shit about what you perceive others think (or don’t think) about you. It’s time to celebrate your middle-aged self; appreciate your life experiences, and be grateful for that still-functioning body.

It’s time for a sixtieth birthday road trip. Middle-aged women need only apply.

Wine and snacks included.

Leading the Formation

19 Jan

I went to my dear friend, Corrine’s sixtieth birthday party this past weekend. Caveat: it was a small event held at a winery in Paso Robles with lots of open outdoor space and everyone got tested beforehand. It was a delightful affair, where the love for my best friend flowed as generously as the wine.

I first met Corrine when I was an anxious seventh-grader who was terrified of not finding someone to eat lunch with in junior high. Corrine swiftly took me under her wing and together with eight other girls we formed a tight girlfriend formation that has flown together through weddings, births, and funerals, for close to fifty years.

Teenage sleepovers at Corrine’s were epic, as her house in 1974 was like walking into a hippie commune. Vibrant color was everywhere— dozens of oil paintings in bright greens and yellows hung on the walls, Creeping Charlie trailed from macramé hangers, and the coffee table was actually made out of a large railroad cable spool of some sort. It was shocking to me at first— was nothing like the dull avocado and gold hues of my own house. Walking through Corrine’s front door was like walking into a magical land where Fleetwood Mac played in the background and the faint scent of marijuana smoke seeped out from under a back bedroom door. The healthy snacks in the cupboard were mostly unpalatable, but we didn’t care—711 was just down the street, and Corrine’s mom was away at work all day. As long as Corrine completed her daily chores, we had the freedom to make as many prank phone calls as we could fit into an afternoon. Compared to my tension-filled home, hanging out at Corrine’s was like Nirvana.

Corrine and I were inseparable in high school, where she was a theatre geek and homecoming princess, while I practiced the piano and crushed on the boys she dated. She had (and still has) this unique gift of drawing a wide variety of people into her life; she was so easygoing, accepting and non-judgmental that she made friends with everyone.

Corrine’s path was a bit different from mine. While I headed off to study music in college, she got married, moved to Colorado and had two beautiful girls right away. Her marriage broke up, but she subsequently had the good fortune to find the love of her life, Daniel, who became the real father to her daughters, Jaylene and Shelby. They worked hard for years to develop their successful business and make a stable life for their family. It paid off. Her children adore her, she travels constantly, and most enviously, she’s the only one in our group who has grandchildren.

If I didn’t love her so much, I’d hate her.

For several years now, the isolation of the pandemic, coupled with the widening dissimilarities in our political beliefs has caused the perfect V-formation of our girlfriend group to fracture somewhat. We are not flying in sync as we have for so many years. For me, this has been quite painful.

But as I watched Corrine’s friends and family surround her with such love during her party, I realized that I need take a lesson from Corrine—that maybe loving others without judgement is the key. That it’s in my wheelhouse to let things go if I choose— that we all are different, but we are all beautiful. Perhaps what I’ve found so unacceptable right now will not always feel so significant in the future. There is hope for healing.

As I celebrate Corrine on her sixtieth, I realize I’m right behind her. When we were twelve, it never crossed our minds that time would run out. Now we understand that we must make each moment count.

Thank you, my precious Corrine, for leading our formation with such grace and love.

With your example, we will soar.