Tag Archives: Birthday

I’m actually good / Can’t help it if we’re tilted

Last night, I watched the season finale of Better Things. I have (for a long time) the biggest crush on Pamela Adlon, and absolutely adore Duke (Olivia Edward). I was explaining later in a post on Facebook that this is a show I love, but also don’t always understand. It’s about a single mom raising three girls (a life nothing like my own), and at times it’s painful to watch, confusing. Bad things happen and their relationships, their lives are so complicated — but also so beautiful and tender and heartbreaking. This dance scene at the end of the final episode had me sobbing. I’ve rewatched the video at least ten times, listened to the Christine and The Queens album this song is from multiple times today.

I turned 50 years old today. That has weight. Any birthday with a zero at the end does, but this one in particular means something for me — something I still haven’t quite worked out. Part of it is that 50 is for certain the moment on the roller coaster when you are at the top of the arc and the drop begins, the moment the ground falls away beneath you and your stomach lurches into your throat and the car starts to fall, equal parts exciting and terrifying.

I’ve been in a weird place for the past year. I blame “the election.” It changed everything for me. My world view shifted two inches to the left and everything looked different. It’s taken a while to figure out where I am, which way is up. For a long while, I was in the weeds. I got busy at work, busy working towards understanding and acting in my life, and I wrote less and less here. Recently, I’ve only been posting twice a week — Something Good and Gratitude Friday.

I did a celtic cross tarot spread reading for myself today. I used all my decks: Wild Unknown, Animal Spirits, Body Cards, and Q Cards. Many layers and levels. Themes arose — about honoring myself, my vision, my strength, my determination, my inner wisdom. About trusting that I have support for the hard stuff, knowing I’m not alone. About needing to maintain balance through regular practice. About having clarity of seeing and knowing. About being on the cusp of a big decision. About being creative and having an impact. About connection and freedom. About solid ground and groundlessness. About courage, confidence, and magic.

I still don’t know what it all means, any of it. Life is tender and terrible, beautiful and brutal — and so confusing. I am feeling the truth of that old saying, “the more I learn, the less I know.” I want to practice, to write more, to work through it, to come here and share it with you, to connect. In the meantime, these lyrics knock around in my head, “I’m actually good / Can’t help it if we’re tilted.”

#reverb13: Day Six

reverb13Project Reverb Prompt, “Blowing Out the Candles: You’re another year older!  How did you celebrate the passage of another year?  Did it turn out the way you had hoped?”

I celebrated with donuts instead of a cake, a day off work to do whatever I wanted, which turned out to be not much different than what I’d do on a normal day away from CSU, which was a happy surprise, to realize I am already and always living like every day is my birthday. I wrote a Something Good post that morning, an especially good one. I pulled a Ten of Pentacles, “Fulfillment, Abundance … signifies material and spiritual abundance in nearly every area of your life.” I meditated, wrote, read, watched a movie, had a nap, ate what I wanted, talked to my mom on the phone, took a walk with Sam, and had dinner with Eric. I felt loved and celebrated by so many. It was lovely.

tenofpentaclesThe other two prompts are so similar, I’m going to answer them as one. The Besottment prompt is “Five things you do not want to forget from 2013?” And the Reverb13 prompt is “There are so many ‘precious things’ that are presented to us each day; discoveries and treasures found in simple moments, memories we wish to store in our hearts and keep with us forever. What precious things have you gathered in 2013? Which memories from this year do you wish to keep with you always?”

First, the things about Dexter that I never want to forget, memories and moments I wish to store in my heart and keep with me always.

  • The way he was so excited for breakfast every morning even though he ate the same thing every day, twice a day. He would whine and wiggle, run from one end of the house to the other, nudge me as he passed by while I was filling his bowl, then run back to tell his dad, then run back to me.
  • How he would ask for a treat by either sitting and looking up at the kitchen counter where we kept them or nudging his nose against the door of the cabinet where we kept the backstock.
  • How full of joy he was, always.

  • The sound of his sigh, how he sometimes barked in his sleep but it sounded like a whimper.
  • The way his face lit up when he asked me to play with him and I said yes.
  • His favorite game of “oh no, I lost my toy, where is it!?” (um, dude, you just buried it in the snow, or that pile of leaves), *dig* *search* *find the toy* *celebrate* and repeat.

  • How soft his fur was, how gray his face got as he got older.
  • How he’d curl up as close as he could get to me, circling closer and closer until he settled in so close he was partly on me and then sigh.
  • The way he would put one foot on my arm when I was petting him. I’m convinced the way he curled his toes, sometimes lifted and dropped his foot that he thought he was petting me back.
  • The extra black spot of fur on that one toe.

my favorite toe is the one with the black spot

  • How he changed color from gray black to brown and back again as the seasons shifted and his undercoat got thicker or thinner.
  • How fuzzy he was after a bath.
  • How he didn’t like anyone to mess with his feet, but he let me do it anyway.
  • The sound of his bark, the way he’d almost squeal when he was trying not to bark.
  • The way he’d run after and catch a ball, as many times as I was willing to throw it, how he always reminded me of a professional baseball player, so strong and graceful.
  • How he always wanted to stop at the little dog park to search for tennis balls, how happy he was when he found one.
  • How he’d perk up when I said “Do you want to go see Grandma?” How he’d whine all the way to her house.
  • How he’d bring me a toy in the morning and invite me to play.


  • How we didn’t have to go outside to play, he was happy to play a miniature game of fetch or catch on our bed, how he’d lure me down the hallway with a toy to get me to go in, how I’d say “ready, set, go” before I threw the toy, how he’d sometimes throw it back to be, how intently he’d watch me just before I threw it back.
  • Seeing him run around the yard like when he was a puppy, even with cancer and a bum knee.
  • How he’d herd me by nudging his nose into my hand.
  • How much he loved Obi, our first dog, the first we lost to cancer.

Obi and Dexter

  • How much he hated it when anyone sneezed or coughed.
  • How good he was at the vet, how much he loved all the attention he got when he’d go to physical therapy.
  • How he’d get so excited when I took the trash out, how he’d grab a toy and convince me to play for a bit while we were outside.
  • How he’d help me pick up the yard, always showing me where the next pile of poop was — ah, the wonders of having a working breed dog. They’ll take any job you’ve got for them and love it.
  • How he’d stand on the couch to be able to see out the front window.
  • How much he loved to go on a walk, hiking or running, anywhere really.


  • How he’d ask at certain spots on the trail, “can we go this way?” knowing the difference between “okay” and “not today.”
  • How he’d let you know someone was coming on the trail, how he always could find the trail even in the snow.
  • How he remembered everything, was so smart, knew so many words.
  • How much he loved his girlfriend Brea.
  • Even how rude he could be to other dogs and strangers or people he just didn’t like.
  • How he’d stand in your lap to get attention.


  • How much he loved tomatoes.
  • How patient he was with Sam.
  • How he was so careful with stuffed toys that I could buy him ones meant for babies or collecting.
  • How much he loved his Little D.

bigdlittled04A few other precious things: moments at 27 Powers Court, a widening circle of support, being able to be with Dexter when he died, love notes from Eric.


Something Good

0. It’s Margaret Atwood‘s birthday today. She’s one of my favorite authors. Why “0” instead of “1”? I am mentioning it as a way to sneak in that it’s also MY birthday today — Hello, 46! Another birthday, and sharing it with one of my favorites is something good for me.

1. Question #11, Courtney Putnam’s beautiful answer to my questions about grief.

2. Wisdom from Hafiz, “The place where you are right now, God circled on a map for you.”

3. “A Writer Writes.” Tips for Living an Authentic Life. from Elephant Journal.

4. Good stuff from Be More With Less, One Little Simple Step and Seek out the Joy, (p.s. the “open-hearted Jill” she refers to in this post is ME!). Also from Courtney Carver, but on Medium, Plan to Be Surprised.

5. Good stuff from Seth Godin, Not a gift and Sure, but he’s our bully and Bullying is theft.

6. Wisdom from from David Whyte,

Why is it so difficult to take that first, necessary, close-in, courageous step to reclaiming our happiness in life? Perhaps, because taking that step leads to a kind of radical internal simplification, where, suddenly, large parts of us, parts of us we have kept gainfully employed for years, often rehearsing the old story, are suddenly out of a job. There occurs in effect, a form of internal corporate downsizing, where the parts of us that do not wish to participate or have nothing now to offer are let go, with all of the accompanying death-like trauma, and where the last fight occurs, a rear guard disbelief that this new, less complicated self, is all that is needed for the new possibilities ahead. It is always hard to believe that the courageous step is so close to us, that it is closer than we ever could imagine, that in fact, we already know what it is, and that the step is simpler, more radical than we had thought: which is why we so often prefer the story to be more complicated, our identities clouded by fear and the answer safely in the realm of impossibility.

7. How animal adoption & rescue has transformed my life from Kris Carr. I have been loving following Buddy’s story, and Kris’s post here is further proof that when you rescue a dog, they rescue you right back.

8. Everyone’s Talking About What This Shy Photographer Did. When You See This, You’ll Understand Why on Viral Nova.

9. When fat things happen to good people. On being thin, fat, and your false assumptions. from Drop it and Eat.

10. Your Most Precious Thing. Shaking up your attachments. from Danielle LaPorte.

11. My adventures into healthy cooking from Kelly Rae Roberts. I like the idea of cooking a week’s worth of essentials so that when you are hungry, you can just eat, however I am one of those people who worries about eating something that’s been in the fridge for longer than 2-3 days. I need to ask Kelly Rae how she handles that.

12. morning thoughts on Doorways Traveler.

13. Bodies are NOT a Problem (Despite Some Yoga Pants’ Attempts to Make Us Think Otherwise) from Curvy Yoga. Anna also shared this great quote on Facebook from Sharon Salzberg,

As I go through all kinds of feelings and experiences in my journey through life — delight, surprise, chagrin, dismay — I hold this question as a guiding light: “What do I really need right now to be happy?” What I come to over and over again is that only qualities as vast and deep as love, connection and kindness will really make me happy in any sort of enduring way.

14. 420 Square Feet Apartment Miracle! I don’t plan on going this small, (our house is 1088), but there are some really good ideas in this space.

15. Wisdom from Phillip Moffitt,

It’s possible to transform what has been a hindrance in your life into a teacher of the heart. “Transform” does not mean to fix or make go away whatever trauma and scars you may be carrying from childhood; instead, you slowly develop a new relationship with your difficulty, such that it is no longer a controlling factor in your life. What may seem like an intractable wound may even become a point of inspiration and deep understanding for you.

16. From Your Inner Pilot Light,

Somewhere inside of you lies a healer. Regardless of what’s printed on your business card, you were put on this earth to help others, to love others, to make this world a better place. If you’re not yet sure how you might use your healing superpowers in service to the world, that’s probably a sign. You and I aren’t close enough yet. Will you be my BFF?

17. How To Help Typhoon Haiyan Survivors on Huffington Post and Avoiding despair when disaster hits: aid, advocacy, action. from Marianne Elliott. I always am looking to ease suffering, and in some cases choosing exactly how can feel overwhelming. I was thankful to have this help and thought you might be too.

18. Wisdom from Pema Chödrön, “In any encounter, we have a choice: we can strengthen our resentment or our understanding and empathy. We can widen the gap between ourselves and others or lessen it.”

19. Announcing the New Improved Jonathan Fields (Just Add Water)
and Plan B from Jonathan Fields.

20. 11 Little Signs You’re Doing Just Fine from Marc and Angel Hack Life.

21. Self-Discipline in 5 Sentences on Zen Habits.

22. Welcome to Dinovember, on Medium. This is 14 kinds of awesome.

23. Wisdom from Kute Blackson,

It’s when you accept life as it is and as it isn’t that you bring yourself into the flow. When you no longer resist life then you can meet the moment powerfully.

And this,

When you acknowledge your deep intuition, and live in accord with your deepest truth, you become the truly powerful being that you are.

And this brainteaser,

Sometimes what you want is actually not what you REALLY want but what you think you want based on who you think you currently are.

And finally this,

The most powerful prayer is simply to SURRENDER. To give up what you think your goal and vision should look like, to give up your attachments to the form, and to open yourself to the highest good unfolding for all concerned.

24. Daily Rocks: your daily rock : be generous and your daily rock : just be.

25. Wisdom from Marianne Williamson,

The only way to gain power in a world that is moving too fast is to learn to slow down. And the only way to spread one’s influence wide is to learn how to go deep. The world we want for ourselves and our children will not emerge from electronic speed but rather from a spiritual stillness that takes root in our souls. Then, and only then, will we create a world that reflects the heart instead of shattering it.

26. Be Your Own Beloved Mentoring, what looks to be a fabulous offering from Vivienne McMaster.

27. Meet Ippo, The Adorable Zonkey Who is Half Zebra, Half Donkey on Bored Panda. Oh, the cuteness.

28. The Season of Kindness…to Yourself from Brittany Herself. I’m in. Are you?

29. This hilarious parody of Gravity set in IKEA is spot on.

30. Wisdom from Anne Lamott on Facebook.

31. Where the Divine Show Up (It’s not where you’d expect) from Ronna Detrick. I’m not gonna lie, this one is blowing my mind a little bit.

32. Trying to describe your delightful new project — and drawing a blank? Start here. from Alexandra Franzen.

33. Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Quinoa and Cranberries, a yummy looking recipe from Thug Kitchen.

34. Two good posts from 3x3x365, 11/13/13 and 11/15/13. Amy McCracken (in the third spot) is both one of my favorite people and one of my favorite writers, and Burg one of my favorite dogs.

35. A beautiful quote from Meade, “To love a person is to learn the song that is in their heart, and to sing it to them when they have forgotten.”

36. Catch My Fall: The Healing from just Lara, who is anything but “just.”

37. I was so sad to learn DJ Cheb I Sabbah died. He made beautiful music. I bought his first album in 1999 and have loved him ever since, donated money to help pay for his cancer treatment last year, as he was a musician with no health insurance. NPR ran this piece on him after he passed, Remembering Cheb I Sabbah, DJ Who Built A New Musical World.

38. A heartbreaking post from Humans of New York.

39. Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook, posting about something I know a lot about — canine therapy and amazement.

40. Just showing up from Christina Rosalie.

41. Dani Shapiro: Self-doubt is a writer’s best friend on Salon.

42. Winter Joy Retreat with Cigdem Kobu. This is the second year Cigdem has put together a program like this, (last year it was Reset. Revive. Restart.), and it’s looking like it’s going to be a yearly holiday tradition for me.

43. Wisdom Notes for a Well-Fed Holiday with Rachel Cole is becoming one of my other yearly traditions.

43. Dog tired! Adorable toddler and his ‘puppy brother’ Theo who nap together every day is stupid cute, (i.e. someone or something that is so attractive it disrupts your ability to intelligently process information while looking at it, something so unbelievably cute it makes you stupid). I am a sucker for black and tan dogs, also for naps with cute boys. Here’s her post about adopting Theo, Wishes Granted: Theo and Beau, and here’s where you can follow her on Instagram for all the cuteness.

44. Good stuff from Chookooloonks: #naphopomo 2013, day 16: redone office (and a giveaway)! (I love getting to see people’s workspaces, and this one is particularly cosy), and #naphopomo 2013, day 18: cutting back, shooting forward.

45. Wisdom from Nadia Bolz-Weber, “But being good has never set me free the way truth has.”

46. This is why I am doing too much: people I adore come up with fun stuff like this, Kickin’ It Old Skool Blog-a-thon.

47. Help Me Attend Earth Activist Training, another one of my cousins trying to do good things.

48. Dog Songs: Mary Oliver on What Dogs Teach Us About the Meaning of Our Human Lives on Brain Pickings. My favorite line from this book is “A dog can never tell you what she knows from the smells of the world, but you know, watching her, that you know almost nothing.”

I’m 45?!

Today is my birthday. I’m 45–I’m not sure how that happened. I mean, 45 is only five years from 50! And yet, there are ways that I know I’m older, more mature. Sadly, some of those ways are how my body has changed, like how I don’t just look tired when I’m tired, I look that way all of the time, am tired most of the time. I have 5-10 extra pounds that won’t go away no matter what I do. My body doesn’t heal as quickly as it used to and every injury comes with the worry that it will become a permanent issue, that it won’t heal completely, and I can get injured doing the smallest, simplest of things, like getting up from the couch, or turning to walk in another direction and suddenly something hurts.

Eric and I made a list a few years ago as a joke, “How you know you are a grown up.” It had things like having “backstock” (so instead of just the salad dressing that’s in the refrigerator, you have two more in the cupboard–you don’t run out of things because there’s always a backup), insurance, preferring staying home to going out, and getting up before the sun (which means going to bed ridiculously early).

me–many, many birthdays ago

There are other ways in which my age is a gift, how I know I’m a grown up. For example, I know who I am, and finally, finally I’ve stopped denying that, stopped pretending or trying to be someone else in order to fit in or be liked, (most of the time, anyway). I have let go entirely of the idea that I will ever in my lifetime be anywhere close to cool. There’s a fortune from a cookie taped to my computer screen that says “Do you want to be a power in the world? Then be yourself,” and I now know this to be true. I understand that how I am, flaws and all, is a strength, something I can feel good about.

One of the ways I manifested this belief is a brave move, completed only moments ago. I donated to a Kickstarter campaign for our local independent movie theater (which would have been forced out of business without the help, and they are amazing, we are so lucky to have them), and as part of my reward, I get to have a slide that will play for two weeks on the big screen while people are waiting for their movie to start. I wanted to use it for good, and was really torn about what to do–advertise my favorite charity? send a message from the universe? I finally realized that if I believe this blog is doing good, if that is my purpose and intention, to remind people that they are fundamentally wise and compassionate and awake and powerful, that I could take the leap and use the slide to share my blog. Here’s the design I sent to the theater this morning. *gulp*

There was a time when I wouldn’t have done this because it would have felt selfish, when I would have heard that old mean voice in my head saying “who do you think you are? you think you are so special, so smart…well you aren’t better than anyone else, you know, and you should be careful you don’t get too big for your britches.” But now, I realize that I have something to offer, and that it might help someone, that what’s selfish is keeping that to myself, refusing to share it.

The other way I know I’m a grown up is that I get more pleasure out of giving than getting. I’d rather help someone else get what they need than receive a present, more stuff for myself. In fact, I feel guilty having it so good when others are still suffering. I have causes that are dear to me, such as dog rescue and access to education for all girls and women, but there are others that it seems like should matter to everyone, like making sure that every person on the planet at the very least has enough to eat and access to clean water.

This year, I pledged to “donate” my birthday to Charity:Water. On my campaign page, I explain that I believe everyone has the right to clean, safe drinking water. I first heard about this organization at the World Domination Summit this summer. Founder Scott Harrison told his story, explained what compelled him to do this work. His story broke my heart, inspired me, so when he asked at the end of his time with us if we would donate our birthdays, all 1000 people in attendance stood up and agreed. I highly recommend listening to his story. It will change you.

Since 2006, Charity:Water has funded water projects around the world to help millions of people get access to water, hygiene education and improved sanitation. Private donors cover the charity’s operating costs so that 100% of the money donated goes to clean water projects. My wish on my 45th birthday is to raise $1000, an homage to my blog (A Thousand Shades of Gray), in honor of my hope that somehow through writing it, connecting with my kind and gentle readers, I can inspire others to help ease suffering in the world, that I can be part of that, that I will be inspired to do more, to change what I can change. What can $1000 do? Help 10 families in Ethiopia get access to clean water. What else will it do? Give me the best birthday present possible.