The Space Between Thoughts

Violence UnSilenced

For many years, I have been an advocate for women and children in crisis. I have volunteered my time and donated my resources to protecting those who are most vulnerable in their greatest time of need. Like many people, I kept my ‘lens’ focused on the seemingly obvious, the presumption that the vast majority of abuse is perpetrated by men against women. The truth is a whole lot murkier, a whole lot more complicated than that. It took a virtual hurricane to level my assumptions, to broaden my understanding, to remove my self-imposed blinders, to open my viewfinder.

Sometimes, even the most well-intentioned of us get it wrong. Really wrong.

* * *

For months, they were confined in a single room in a women’s shelter. Eight kids, ages nearly-two to nearly-thirteen. Even with court-ordered visitation, there were weeks when their mother simply wouldn’t allow them to leave to see their dad.

Their muscles atrophied, they were constantly sick. When we were able to take them out to play, they would complain of aching joints, aching muscles, feet hurting… even walking hurt. They had gotten used to captivity. It took its toll.

Five months confined.

Their mother has a five bedroom home, now- rent paid for in full by the state. They are still confined. With a playground in sight of their bedroom windows, a month went by and they hadn’t been out to play. They venture out, now, alone. Minding each other as best little children know how. Left home alone frequently, they make the best pasta meals they can and feed each other. They aren’t being schooled. At all. The oldest girl (eleven years old) is trying to teach herself, as best she can. The rest of the younger kids can’t even read. Or write.

They miss trees. They miss their five acres in Pleasant Valley. They miss their log home. They miss the wood stove warmth and their dad. They miss their dad.

Their dad gave the log home to their mother, along with a fifteen passenger van. She refused the home and sold the van. The log home has been repossessed by the bank. Their garden didn’t get planted this year. They harvested wild strawberries from their playground fields for the last time in June, mowed the lawn and wondered what would become of their home.

“We carry our ‘home’ with us,” I whispered, through their questions and tears, “no one can take THAT from us, in the end.”

But their sense of stability and home is forever rearranged. Displaced. Disjointed. Their oldest brother has been bounced from a mental hospital to a boys’ home- and now, most recently, to foster care (by their mother). He no more than gets settled in one place and she uproots him, displaces him, forces him back into chaos and deeper into the system. His counselors are confused. They can’t imagine why a mother would give away her own child, especially a gentle, well-adapted, considerate and traumatized boy who has not once evidenced any type of violent behavior of which he has been accused.

The kids are grieving the loss of their father and their oldest brother. The littlest boy cries inconsolably for his brother, when he is tired. Saying his name over and over again like a mantra, he weeps his baby grief into my arms. I cry with him. There’s nothing else that can be done.

The system is irreparably broken. There were no charges filed, no trial, no evidence, no jury of his peers on the day the court granted a 20 day ex parte order against the children’s father, an order that ended up lasting for more than two months. In fact, he wasn’t even present in court. He was at work. At his job. Supporting his family as he had always done. He had no knowledge that any action had even transpired, much less any opportunity to question the horrific charges against him. Because it is considered a “civil matter” and is handled by family court, he never had the opportunity to defend himself against the accusations before his children were awarded to the person who kidnapped them.

There is no “men’s shelter”. There is not one single advocate for a man who has been systematically destroyed by a woman for thirteen years. There is no free legal help for a male survivor of domestic violence. In fact, there is silence. The silence of a community. The vast emptiness that exists in the wake of false allegations, nine restraining orders filed under false pretenses- that emptiness echoes with the questions and the fears of eight lost children.

Who will advocate for them? Who will stand up for their right to an education? Who will ask the hard questions and demand accountability of the woman who is collecting every possible form of welfare and community assistance, and is incapable of using seat belts and car seats to safely secure her children in a vehicle?

Who will question why a person can obtain the homeschool funding to school children and buy a new laptop with that funding, but has yet to even begin instructing those children? Who will question why a woman with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, who has traveled and lived abroad for years, who refused to work outside the home in gainful employment as a teacher, who decided to bring eight children into the world- who will question why she refuses to do the work of educating them (or, at minimum, allow them to board a school bus and join their peers in established classrooms)?

Their dad’s hands are tied. He can’t advocate for them, their mother made certain of THAT. Their oldest brother can’t advocate for them any longer- she made sure of that, as well. Seven months have passed. The youngest child has now been separated from his father for more than a third of his short life. The oldest child is living in foster care, surrendered by his mother due to no fault or action of his own, in spite of the fact that he has five family homes open to him in this same community- the homes of his uncles, aunts and cousins. The oldest child has only seen his father for two hours total in the past two months, in spite of a court order mandating that he be allowed visitation with his dad twice a week for a total of 13 hours/week.

The Office of Children’s Services is over-burdened by the mere thought of involvement in a case that includes eight children, and so has conveniently sheltered themselves behind the wall of silence. Inaction.

Who will question how it could possibly happen that the oldest child is committed to foster care and is housed by a foster parent who is married to the person responsible for his “treatment plan” and counseling. Yeah… about that. Conflict of interest, anyone?

And so it goes.

The funny thing about truth is that it’s often inconvenient. Ugly. Unpalatable. It’s so much easier to just believe that “surely, there has to be SOMETHING that man did to deserve this, after all… there’s two sides to every story.”

We always want to believe that somehow, the person who is suffering grievous injustice and unspeakable wrong is culpable. It absolves us of accountability. That’s a function of epistemic myopia, my friends.

Ask the hard questions. Do your research. Investigate. Do the WORK. Don’t ‘shelter in place’ from human suffering. Be the difference. Question your own closely-held beliefs. Accept accountability and take action. Refuse to be silenced.

* * *


“No matter how far you’ve gone down the wrong road, turn back.” –Turkish Proverb

Even when.

“Forget your perfect offering 

There is a crack, a crack in everything 

That’s how the light gets in.”

-Leonard Cohen, Anthem

My stomach was churning, burning with acid fueled by one too many cups of bitter coffee. Self-care, that underrated bastion of our baseline survival as humans, had gone one too many rounds with the difficulty and painful reality of the last couple weeks.

* * *

We had a sudden death in the family on the morning of October 10, 2016. The impact to my daughter, Dez, is enormous. Her young step-mother, Jennifer, was facilitating a birthday party for her ten-year old on a Sunday and was gone from this lifetime by the next morning. My daughter is inextricably, integrally woven into this family: her father and his family ARE her family. Her care and love for her dad, the three children, and her “other mom” are a fundamental part of who she is.

The shock, the horror, the magnitude of the sudden loss has been profound. At sixteen, Dez just helped organize a funeral. She wrote her words for the service between tests and quizzes at school. She silently shouldered the loss of her friend, sister, “other mom”… and the loss of her siblings (as they were immediately shipped out of state to live with their biological father). She stood beside her dad through the darkest days he has ever known. She has experienced more emotional trauma in the past month than most adults experience in a decade.

Her dad is deeply fractured, grieving. Suffering the loss of his own father (Dez’s grandfather) only two weeks prior, faced with the sudden and horrific loss of his life partner AND their three small children, and caught in a miserable cycle of dealing with severely troubled extended family members… there aren’t any words for the scope and magnitude of the situation.

* * *


Photo courtesy of Michael Ames


I stood at the top of Ester Dome, tears streaking my face. The sunset that exploded the sky in a symphony of light and colors… cracked me wide open. The brittle, battle-scarred edges of my own consciousness softened, melted, wept. To live with no regrets, to live and love out loud, to hold sacred our own broken places, our own messy and unlovable bits, to choose love over fear… Even when.

This. This moment, this imperfect, edgy, restless unease… this is what we’re here for. We are here to love and to be loved, even when it breaks our hearts. To crack wide open and let the light in. We are here to dance. We are here to BE danced:

…not the pretty dance.

…the holding the precious moment in the palms of our hands and feet dance.

…the wring the sadness from our skin dance.

…the blow the chip off our shoulder dance.

…the slap the apology from our posture dance.

…not the hold our breath and wallow in the shallow end of the pool dance.

We have come to be danced.

To burn back into the light,

To unravel, to play, to fly,

To root in skin sanctuary

We have come to be danced.

We have come.

(complete poem by Jewel Mathieson, here)

Here and Now



The first time he proposed, I almost missed it.

I sleep with earplugs in to calm my oversensitive ears and prevent waking up every five minutes all night long. As I’m drifting off to sleep, I usually hold them in one hand until the last possible moment… because I don’t want to miss that last, “Good night, Sweetheart.”

That night, he was more quiet than usual. Life weighing heavy on his mind, heart. I whispered, “Good night, Love.” Curled into a little ball on my side, facing the low wall of the bedroom in the little chalet we shared, I almost missed his whispered response.

“Would you marry me?”

“Yes. I would.”

Silence. Both of us a little scared. Uncertain. Maybe it was a rhetorical question, I reasoned. A bone-deep question of where this relationship might journey.

It didn’t stop me from teasing him the next day (and the next) that I would be careful NOT to put earplugs in too early at night for fear of missing Really Important Questions.

We talk about everything. I do mean Everything-with-a-capital-E. Our lifelong conversation is one of my absolute favorite things about who we are as partners, as a couple. We overshare. And laugh. And protect each other’s vulnerabilities. We’re gently honest, relentlessly kind, enormously patient and deliberate in caring for each other’s broken places.

Months went by. Dogged by an unnecessarily protracted legal quagmire, harassed and marginalized by a former partner, there were times when he would withdraw. Question whether or not he had anything to offer in this, our life together.

I protected the space. Held his question sacred. Answered that question with every conversation, every sunrise shared, every shared decision about our household.

Shoulder season arrived and the mountains called us out. Our presence was requested on glaciers, our laughter was needed under the stars on crisp cold nights. We answered. Loaded a few things into our packs and headed into the Delta range. We slept cold that night, under the stars. Our tent seemed about twenty degree colder than the outdoors itself. We shared our resources (and by that, I mean he gave me his sleeping bag liner, his puffy vest, puffy jacket and curled up around me to keep me warm since I kind of underestimated the ambient temperature by about 50 degrees) and tossed and turned our way through an uncomfortable night.

By 3:00 AM, the half-moon had gone below the horizon and the aurora lit the sky with two brilliant bands of dancing green, lighting the mountains all around. The stars shone so brightly even the southwest desert sky couldn’t hold a candle to them.

As we were making breakfast in the morning, and as I was making an epic of out of Everything I touched, he turned to me and whispered, “I love being married to you.”

We’ve had the chance to live the unspoken promises, experience the darkest nights and the sky-music of the sunrises that follow. We’ve experienced more ‘marriage’ (companionship, connection, friendship, love, shared resources, united effort) in this year than either of us had ever known in the thirty years of our combined previous marriages.

He loves the lines on my face, carved by sunny days on many glaciers. He admires my calloused hands and the contrast between their strength and gentleness. He likes my short, wild, messy hair in all its natural gnar: it never cooperates, can’t be tamed and insists on faux-hawking itself regardless of which helmet it’s under.

He loves my imperfections. My fierce, relentless need to communicate and live and love out loud. He loves me just the way that I am.

And I? I treasure this man. This gentle, practical, capable human who can fix ANYTHING (even broken hearts), this wild, strong, tenacious, determined, fierce, beautiful soul whose intellect is almost frightening… but whose compassion tempers the analytical edges with deliberate grace. I love him.

We became engaged, officially, on October 10, 2016. This time, when he whispered to me late at night, I was holding my earplugs in my hand and just looking at his eyes in the glow of the nightlight across the room.

This time, he said “will”- not “would”.

And I said yes to his question and WE said yes to life. To Love. To fearlessly moving forward together, for all the right reasons.

The winter snows will come, seasons will change. Life will carry us forward. We will bring the light and love and laughter, we will continue to write our lifelong love letter one day at a time. When the day comes to celebrate this milestone in our life and love with our family and friends, to gather our nine children around us and let THEM have their say… we’ll be as married then as we are now. In heart and soul and body and mind and life and love, we are individually whole…

                                          …and together, we are More.



The beginning chapter of our story is here.

Where the Ocean Meets the Sky


Atlantic Ocean touches the sky in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary

Stellwagen Bank (or Middle Bank as it’s also known), is an underwater plateau just outside Boston Harbor. It’s home to migrating humpback and right whales, and it was home for me- for an afternoon.


After flying from Fairbanks, Alaska to Boston over a weekend and working all week in the JFK Federal Building, I was more than ready to board a ship (any ship) and get out where the wild things are. I took a last minute sailing aboard a catamaran heading out to the open ocean for a whale watching adventure.


Catamaran Wave Song


Humpback whale, breaching


Where the ocean meets the sky, I’ll be sailing…

For an hour and a half, we sailed under cloudy skies and calm seas. The shoreline faded out, Cape Cod melted into the horizon, and there was nothing but the wind and salt spray in my face on the top deck of the ship.

I had left my sunglasses and jacket behind; it was 85 degrees, cloudy and muggy back on dry land. As tears streamed from my eyes, I closed them, bowed my head and just let the wind blow. I had the upper deck to myself, mostly- me and my Dramamine and mental exhaustion.

These past six months have taken their toll, and I am tired. Soul-weary. I nestled against the cold metal of the deck rail and let the salt smell of the ocean permeate. I didn’t come out here for answers, I just came to sit and let my tears mingle with the wind and sky and to let the ocean cradle my broken places- like only an ocean can.

The whales came out to play, then- surrounding the catamaran on all sides. Announcing their arrival at the surface with exquisite ‘bubble nets’, they drove scores of fish from below and devoured them as they breached. They danced then, those giant whales. Rolled and dove and resurfaced and came so close to the boat it felt like I could reach out and touch them. A slap of a fluke to the flat water, and the spray would catch the wind and for a moment, I was one of them.

The only camera I had with me was my iPhone, and it didn’t even matter.

Zero problems were solved that afternoon, no mysteries were unraveled and nothing really changed… but I left a little heartache, there- out in the marine sanctuary- and I carried a little of the ‘salt cure’ with me as I flew home.  I was reminded again of this beautiful and fierce poem by Kim Cornwall:

What Whales and Infants Know


A beluga rising
from the ocean’s muddy depths
reshapes its head to make a sound
or take a breath.

I want to come

at air and light like this,
to make my heart
a white arc above the muck of certain days,
and from silence and strange air

send a song

to breach the surface
where what we most need

*  *  *

Life is Good

I read a story today on Narratively, a story called “Losing the Language of Love”. It’s not nearly as grim or as cheesy as it sounds. Go ahead, read it. I’ll wait.

 *  *  *

Neither of us can remember who said it first, but within a couple of weeks of meeting each other, my sweetheart and I had OUR own language, our own dialect and the beginning of our very own archive of inside jokes. It all started with one of us blurting out, “You LIKE it!” and laughing out loud when some unfortunate turn of events happened to the other of us. It stuck.

Espresso spilled down the front of your pajamas first thing in the morning? (You LIKE it!)

House ransacked by nine children? (Yeah, you LIKE it!)

That little phrase just never gets old. Because, somehow, yeah… we do like it. All of it. The wild, precious, messy, chaotic, complex, simple, beautiful life we share together is a tapestry woven of the sacred and the inelegant, the ridiculous and the profound, the sunlight and the shadows that make it all worthwhile.

I flew home this weekend from the east coast; my job took me to Boston for a week and most of two weekends. Arriving at the airport late on a Saturday afternoon, I was surrounded by my Family. The tears that followed were buried under the arms of little ones holding me tight. Looking up at Michael, I could see his eyes were full of tears as well.

“I’m so happy, I’m crying…” I whispered to him, over the heads of the Little Ones.

“Yeah, but you LIKE it.”

His smile said it all.

Unbroken Circle


I sat by a campfire this weekend and watched the physical properties of the firewood change as the heat and flames did their work. Impermanence. Change. It’s in the air as this season shifts and the autumn equinox waits just around the corner.

I was there at that campfire to join a circle of friends in a celebration of change. A threshold. A new beginning. Longtime friends of mine are moving out of state, starting a new life in a new place.

Sitting beside my daughter and her boyfriend, my Sweetheart, his oldest daughter… I was deeply cognizant of Change and all its many, many gifts. To introduce his eleven year old daughter to my friends, to have her be able to share in marking the passage of time, was exquisite. As we drove away, she remarked on the quality of the friends that I have. Impressed by both their contribution to this community in their law enforcement/firefighting careers and by their gentle wisdom and humor, she commented on the fact that we can sometimes know a lot about a person by the friends they have.

She’s right. To have friends, one must first BE a friend. Bonds are forged during difficult experiences and those who stand beside us through these painful times are those with whom we choose to celebrate the good and bright and beautiful events.

I explained to her that the way I see it, we have to begin by being a friend to ourselves. When we show compassion to the places in us that we fear, when we learn to accept things exactly as they are and respect the fact that we ARE enough (exactly as we are)… we practice love. When we don’t accept ourselves and have no compassion for our own soft and vulnerable places, we often become hardened to the suffering of others. Judgmental and critical, even.

Be the sort of friend you would want to have. Practice the kind of love you need. Choose vulnerability, openness, communication, light, compassion, trust. Then surround yourself with the kind of people who do the same. Sometimes, it means being a little bit alone for as long as it takes. Sometimes it means opting out of friendships that don’t add value. Sometimes it means saying “no” (to situations and people that aren’t right for you) so that you can say “yes” to living out loud, to becoming a friend to yourself.

The love we give, the light we share, the compassion we choose… these things carry forward. They do not end when a chapter ends. The book, the legacy of life fully lived, remains.

The smile on her face told me everything I needed to know: when we choose love instead of fear, the ripple effect of our choice is profound. Love wins. Love is an unbroken circle.


Living out Loud

Des and Me

“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it is over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”
– Mary Oliver


*  *  *

I watch the sky unfold into sunrise each morning as I drive to the gym- the seasons are changing and the air is crisp and cool. I savor this drive, soaking up the colors lacing the clouds and just exhaling all the worries that crowd the corners of my mind.

Having this time to train at the gym first thing in the morning is no simple matter: our entire household works together to make it happen. Synchronizing morning routines and adjusting his work schedule, my partner drives my daughter to her school bus stop so I can leave early.

Our household tapestry is woven in a particularly gentle and caring way- we all work together to make the house a home every single day. Sharing the cooking and baking and cleaning and laundry… family breakfasts and dinners seasoned with laughter and deep conversation- we gather strength from time spent together.

The beauty of having endured great difficulty in this lifetime is that each of us has chosen to be more present, more empathetic, more generous with our hearts and time, more compassionate and more open and vulnerable. The result? A peaceful household. Contentment that resonates. Open communication that softens the sharp edges of life’s challenges. Calm in spite of the storm raging all around.

We banter, joke, tease, laugh, disagree, resolve conflicting expectations, share ideas and hopes and dreams and ways to make them a reality. This is Family. This is life lived out loud.

We know when to simply load up the backpacks and gear and head into the outdoors. The solace offered in the simplicity of hiking, camping and trekking is unparalleled. It occurred to me this morning as I watched the sun come up that this winding path that has brought each of us to this one precious day, this journey that we share- this trail is open to any human. Any person can choose to live out loud, to build bridges, to communicate openly, to love wildly, to adventure often, to create a beautiful life with the ones they love.

Blowing Kisses





“To stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge—that is the path of true awakening. Sticking with that uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic—this is the spiritual path.”   -Pema Chödrön


I return to her writings again and again, just as I return to the barbell and the plates and the training that provides the underlying foundation of my health and wellbeing. The reminder that “this very moment is the perfect teacher” is so simple, so profound, that it grounds me solidly in the most difficult of circumstances.

I’ll be honest: standing by my partner as he navigates the horror show that is a custody battle for eight children… has been and will continue to be a traumatic and painful experience, possibly for a decade or more. As a result of their mother’s sudden break with reality and her evident paranoia (which included filing nine restraining orders under false pretenses), the children have experienced being isolated and secluded in a women’s shelter for five months, now. They’ve been sick with every imaginable cold, sinus infection and bronchial infection on a rotating basis for the duration of these months. As of last week, she abruptly sent the oldest boy (who is only twelve years old) 360 miles away and committed him to a mental health facility without even consulting his father (my partner) or notifying him.

She has committed every known form of abuse against my partner, for a duration of thirteen years. When he finally had the courage to make a change (including giving her the family home, his entire salary, complete financial and physical support of her and the children), she repaid his kindness and decency with violent rage, cold and calculating lies and the subsequent kidnapping of all eight children.

As it stands now, she’s abandoned the family home (which he is still paying for- and which will likely go into foreclosure as a result of her suing him for back child support and sticking him with a $10,000 bill in addition to his monthly support obligations), abandoned the family van (which he was paying for and which was capable of providing transportation for all the children), retained the biggest law firm in town to harass, demean, disparage and threaten him on a weekly basis. In order to support his children, he was unable to maintain an attorney and is now representing himself as best he can.

Staying with a broken heart, a rumbling stomach… yep. That’s me. That’s my partner. In spite of the horrific allegations, the continued manipulation and abuse heaped on him- in spite of the loss of his children and the seemingly unending cesspool of madness directed at him- he is holding steady. His love for his children is so profound, so complete, that his only goal is to do what is truly best for them regardless of the cost.


This is a messy chapter in a beautiful, fascinating and amazing life book. I’ve had few messy, ugly chapters before. Probably a few too many. The thing is, it’s all temporary. The beautiful and the ugly, the sorrow and grief and loss, the simple joy and contentment… we are what we choose to do in each situation. We are more than the sum of our fears. We are more than the degradation, shame, lies, manipulation- and we are more than the false promises of security and safety that are offered if only we would surrender (admit fault that is not ours to admit, accept blame that is not our burden to carry).

It was truly sad to watch her pump her fist in the air, walking out of the courtroom after perjuring herself on the stand, lying about the father of her children. It has been horrifying to watch a human mind descend into madness, beginning to believe her own distorted view of reality. It was also a dark gift. The sheer magnitude and scope of her wild allegations contradicted themselves, time and again. It was crystal clear that there was no merit to a single statement; there was not a single untarnished ‘truth’ in her words.

The truth is this: children need a relationship with both parents; they have the right to love both parents. To use children as a weapon to inflict pain on a father, to threaten to take them away and then to do so repeatedly (denying visitation, threatening to cancel visitation, continually interfering with the small window of time allotted to him to be with his children)- these things are detrimental and deeply harmful to children. They deserve to know safety and security, to have consistency and sanity evident in their adult care providers.

A year from now, all of this will be different. Some things will be good, some will be difficult. These things come to pass, they don’t come to stay (unless we set up basecamp with resentment, bitterness, hatred and a desire for revenge).

We are family. We have built a strong foundation based on gentle honesty, trust, respect, confidence, compassion, connection and shared values. We will be a family long after the dust has settled and the last motion has been filed in this ridiculous court case.

Together, we have chosen life. We have chosen to move forward. We have chosen to love in the face of great loss, we have chosen compassion over revenge.

In the end, we are not defined by the things that happen to us. We are defined by how we respond. I choose compassion. I choose to be present each day and bring 100% of my time, energy, attention, love and care to be a part of the solution.

Long before this current chapter in life, my partner was a preacher. A teacher. A gardener. A farmer. A compassionate, caring, involved and loving human with a determination to care for others, to connect with them, to help in any way that he could. Today, his life is his “sermon”. The mountains are his “church”. He quietly and simply lives what he truly believes. In the face of great loss, enormous pain, financial ruin, soul-crushing false allegations and unending harassment, he has not wavered. If only each of us could say the same.

It’s easy to champion a cause (at no personal cost). It’s easy to wave a flag and offer “support” (until you’re standing alone against the rising tide). You know what’s not easy? Taking an unpopular stand for truth. Investigating a matter to a supportable conclusion and choosing to stand by innocent persons who are suffering (through no fault of their own). It takes courage and confidence and logic and reasoning and investigation and time and heart.

For me, this not a cause. This is my family. This is my life. Through this difficulty, I’ve gained a beautiful extended family- my partner’s parents and brothers and sisters and in-laws and nieces and nephews have rallied in an unprecedented way to stand by him and by me. Together, we are More.


Together, we choose “Forward”.


“Things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.” -Pema Chödrön


Begin, again.



“Didn’t you used to be involved in martial arts or teaching self defense?” My coworker’s words caught me off guard and tired, hauling workout gear bags up two flights of stairs.

“Yeah.” (I’m not a great conversationalist before second breakfast.)

“Didn’t you have a black belt or something?” He just wouldn’t quit.


“They pretty much just hand those out to little kids, even, these days. Saw a commercial on that the other day- some place with little kids jumping around and they all had black belts. Everybody’s a winner, now, I guess.”

*  *  *

I shrugged, continued up the stairs. Rope climbs, tire flips, 400 meter runs, linear progression on the bench press… the missing skin on my fingers tells a different kind of story about winning, this morning. It tells the story of starting over, repeatedly. Of falling down and getting back up. Of finding myself so over-extended that I couldn’t find my comfort zone with a GPS and a headlamp.

I didn’t learn self defense in a dojang, but I did rehearse patience. I apprenticed to practice, I earned my results. I carried that forward into training in Krav Maga and then instructing.

I had the privilege of training with Bill “Superfoot” Wallace several times, when I was a 1st degree black belt candidate. I would arrive an hour early, just to sit in silence on the mats of the dojang and observe as he went through his own warm-up routine. The same consistency in training and absolute tenacity that allowed him to retire as an undefeated kickboxing champion was clearly evident in the simplicity and consistency of his everyday routine. There aren’t any shortcuts to greatness. There aren’t any easy roads to winning. There is pain, there are life-altering injuries, there is the everyday grind and there is greatness found in apprenticing to the process.


“Superfoot” Wallace   – August 2013

These days, I’m working my process from the ground, up. Coaching myself. Not loving it very much. There is a tremendous amount of work that goes in to planning and executing solid training. I know, I coached and trained clients for years (while letting my own training fall to the sidelines). There’s great advantages and disadvantages to building your own training plan: you know all your own weaknesses. Nobody can hurt me like I can hurt me, no one can heal me like I can heal me. Somewhere, in the mix of those two things, there is progress. There is a winged creature emerging from a cocoon, slowly and painfully.

In all of this, why do we endeavor? Why is it necessary to exert ourselves? I’d contend that it’s for the same reason that a butterfly has to exert itself in order to crawl from the bug-soup environment of the cocoon into the sunlight. The wings and legs of the soggy creature can’t and won’t function on their own if the cocoon is split open prematurely or if “help” is given. The butterfly is compelled to endeavor, to struggle, to work its own way out. Only then will the legs and wings be strong enough to stand, to fly.


Ready to spar. 2013


The mental discipline that is forged through hours and days and weeks and months and years of practice and training becomes a solid platform, bulletproofing the mind. Consistency yields results that live deep under the skin. Practice becomes routine, then creates an environment for the extraordinary.

* * *

I climbed the last flight of stairs, tuning out the stream of commentary from my coworker. Remembering the thousands of turning kicks, side kicks… the sound of multiple boards breaking when I’d make contact with fists or feet. The way it felt to connect a solid back fist with a target. But none of that was winning.

I remember how it felt at the end of my black belt test, standing there soaked in sweat, glycogen depleted, broken bones in my feet grating against each other. There’s no forgetting pain like that. It didn’t feel like winning, it felt like a beginning.


Like this morning. And yesterday. And tomorrow. And all the tomorrows.


Start where you are. Do what you can. Use what you have. Be who you are.

Begin, again. And again.

* * *

An Everyday Kind of Love



splashes of sunlight whispered through chokecherry trees

chairs for two on the slim grass divide

between parking lot and road

triple-shot Americanos and conversations continued

from the night before


the way he catches the bedroom door

shutting it softly so I can sleep for five more minutes

waking up to espresso and “good morning, beautiful!”

cradling my mug (like my heart)

once-fragmented and now, repaired


it’s in the way we slow dance,

tiptoeing in the tiny kitchen of our tiny house

the way he sings to me

with a voice that could melt a glacier

and light a campfire in the rain, all at once.


he asks the difficult questions and listens

beyond the answers, long after we’ve lost our words

we sit in companionable silence

strangely comfortable with uncertainty

like ancient trees, or old souls- calm in a storm.


it’s in the way my dog barks her happiest voice

at the sound of his diesel truck rumbling home

dulling her toenails on the front door, impatient

for his return, for his silliest voice

at the end of a long day


he brings sunlight with him wherever he goes,

a life set to music and laughter and mischievous grins-

strength derived from vulnerability, authenticity

perspective gained from choosing to live, to love

in spite of all the odds.


ours is an Everyday kind of love

an epoxy of compassion, honesty and gentleness

repairing our broken bits

together, we are more…

in this velveteen rabbit of relationships.





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