Category Archives: Teaching

Nine Things I Learned in My Nine Years of Marriage

550787_428256547223315_1308159764_nThis April, I celebrated nine years married to an incredible person. This time I’m finally getting it right. As that statement suggests, it’s not my first trip to matrimony. Like many humans, I have to do something a couple of times before I get it right. That made me wonder what I (we) did differently, what I learned to make this relationship so solid, since I know is this one is right and it’s really strong.

After thinking on it for awhile, I came up with the nine things I’ve learned in the nine years of my marriage. For those that know my listmania obsession, won’t be surprised in the format. I’m sure those who have many more years of successful partnerships might think me bold in my pipsqueak nine years. I’m sure you do. But, I figured sharing is a way to help those, who like me before this relationship, are looking for the security code to happy matrimony. Please, also, don’t think this has all been a fairy tale for us. Some of these lessons were very hard to learn. We came to one another late in life, both having children from former relationships, dealing with exes, accepting our own truths, blending a family together, trying to mesh two-careers together, moving across the country together, job loss and shifts, learning our son had Autism, and all the perils of growing older. Regardless of the problems we faced, we faced them together and learned what the foundational things to a healthy relationship were/are.


  1. Start with the right person. And that right person is actually you, first and foremost. If you don’t know who you are, don’t love yourself, don’t care for yourself, a relationship will always be a struggle. I spent too many years trying to please everyone and live my life for someone else. It encompassed so many aspects of my life. It made me vulnerable to relationships with people who were narcissistic and downright sociopathic. Once I realized that my own self doubt, and moments of loathing were making me a target for bad relationships, it was easy to begin a regiment of self-care, love, and respect. Seriously, if you don’t treat yourself with respect, how do you expect others to do so? Once you have self-love and care and respect down the right person as a partner is going to show up.
  2. Be and Let Be. One of the recurring themes in the relationship my spouse and I have noted is that we allow each other to be. I don’t try to change him. He doesn’t try to change me. We celebrate the people we are. Do we have challenges? Weaknesses? Yes. We’ve found that one’s weakness is another’s strengths often. He’ll readily admit he doesn’t like cooking – partially because the planning and timing of such is foreign to him. I like to cook and relish the puzzle of timing and planning a meal. Mathematics is like a thorn in my side. He has an applied mathematics degree. My kids got their math skill from him, clearly. I’m very list orientated. He is very spontaneous. Together we have a good balance of getting business done while having fun. I think in a collage; he thinks linearly. Depending on the problem we need to solve, we get the job done together. We both can be pretty hot-tempered, but over different things. When he’s fuming, I’m a sea of calm; when I’m a screaming banshee; he is a soothing salve.
  3. Remember Your Manners. Politeness is not just for strangers. Using your manners and being polite as possible goes a long way in the life of a relationship. It goes beyond saying please and thank you, too. Holding doors open for one another, picking up each other’s plate from the dinner table, or just simply keeping our less-than-desirable bodily functions from the other person. I know that made you giggle. But, it’s true. Not farting in one another’s general direction is a good thing in a relationship. We’re human, however, so not all bodily functions will be hidden away in the lavatory. You share a life, a bed, a home together. One of you will get a rash and feel all gross. A good partner will be polite about it and wish it clears up very fast. Manners help make it easy to love one another at our weakest and worst.383300_2817134349824_308952749_n
  4. Be Your Honest Self. If you’re doing anything that is not true to yourself just in order to be accepted by a partner (or anyone for that matter), the relationship will not last. The other person in the relationship will come to expect that is actually who you are, what you like, how you’ll be, etc. It’s false. Any relationship built on false pretenses is doomed. None of us can keep up an act our entire life. Both people deserve better. Honesty also leads to more intimacy. Intimacy builds a stronger relationship.
  5. Fall and Rise Together. Many vows say for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. You will share all of that in a marriage. Certainly my partner and I did. He’s watched me go from a fairly svelte figure that could kick the Army’s PFT’s bootie, to laying waste in pain with spinal injury and becoming nearly deaf. I’ve stood by his side when he broke his ribs in a motorcycle accident, and hobbled himself in a work-related karate kicking contest. We’ve been “need to go to the food bank” poor and paying our bills fairly easily (we’re still waiting together on the richer part). Regardless of the extremes that life can throw at you, you need to share in them together. One time you’ll need to be the stronger partner, the other time, it will be you that has fallen down and being picked up by your spouse. Additionally, falling and rising together is a simple way to remember to go to bed and get up together. Will there be times that life precludes this? Yes. But, wanting to be by your partner’s side as the last thing that happens at the end of the day and the first that happens at the start of the day, builds for a good foundation. It allows uninterrupted conversation and staying connected. The more you do this, the stronger your bond.
  6. Share. With modern technology sharing parts of your day is fairly simple, even though work lives often keep us apart for 10 hours or more. I’ll send my partner a picture of our dog being silly. He’ll snap a photo of an interesting thing he saw on the ground at the bus stop. It also means we share our frustrations and challenges. The whole reason many of us marry is to have someone to build and share a life together. Early in my adult life I did a lot of traveling alone. I saw some incredible things, but didn’t have someone to really share it with – sure there were travel groups I was included in, but that’s not the same. Sharing is building memories. I sometimes believe that good memories make for a good footing for a great future, too. Sharing also encompasses interests. There has to be a couple of shared interests. Sometimes that’s just keeping your sanity in a house full of teenagers. But it could be making and checking off things off a bucket list, a shared hobby, or beating the drums of support for your favorite cause. Oh, and sex, too. Sex should be a part of the sharing. As often as possible, for sure, is key. At first I wasn’t even going to address that part of “sharing” as it seemed obvious to me. But, then I thought back on relationships that weren’t so successful. The old adage of couples that play together stay together is very true.219400_10200125793489912_1605308623_o
  7. Listen. Be willing to hear about your spouse’s day, the crazy driver that cut them off in traffic, or the unexpected treasure they found at the grocery store – whatever. Know that sometimes they just need an ear and not a problem solver. If you’re listening you’ll know when it is they need help with a problem. Listen to them laugh. Listen to them cry. Know when they are becoming frustrated, or are elated. If you listen, you’ll grow to know them well. Knowing them well creates an environment of strong trust, because you can approach challenges with love more easily. When you can trust one another implicitly, that is an equation for happiness.
  8. Be Forgiving Friends. Often times you have to put the romance away and just be a buddy to your spouse. Being friends first – being there even when they are grumpy or playful. Be their soux chef, their carpentry assistant, their masseuse, their event planner, their coffee chum, whatever they might need from you that you can provide. Also, friends forgive each other pretty easily. Forgive one another your faults and encourage, as you would a friend, them to be their best, as you also strive to do. I find I can’t stay mad at my partner for long, because he’s my best friend. Be aware, however, you may find that being excellent friends also leads to some intense romantic times, too.
  9. Respect. At the core of all that I’ve learned about a healthy relationship, a strong relationship, is that respect is the greatest thing in life that as a human being we can give to ourselves, others, and our community. As well, it’s been a guiding principle in how we teach our children:  The 3 R’s: Respect yourself, respect others, and respect your community. If you do those things you’re covered. Respect and love are not mutually exclusive. I don’t think you can love someone and not respect them. It’s something other than love then, darlings. When I slip up, or my partner slips up, it’s because we’ve forgotten this golden rule. Hey, we’re human. When that happens, go back to being that forgiving friend and everyone gets another shot at being respectful again.194044_10201670071135888_568953186_o


Nine years really flew by. I’m hoping we can take these nine things and make the next nine years just as incredibly happy as these have been. Happy Anniversary, Tiger.

What things have you learned about in your relationships? What would you share with others?


Fasting to Honor the MLK Legacy


Over the years, I’ve been hearing more and more about people unable to do “service” on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day do a daylight fast to honor the discipline, willpower, and sacrifice that MLK had to endure in his mission to bring forth civil rights in America. Service to my community is part of my everyday life, and given that I was flying the solo parent flight this holiday, I was looking to observe the day more personally and spiritually. Fasting was my avenue.

I had only liquids – water, mostly. But I did have some tea and coffee, too.  You can’t be the mother of three teens still in the house and not have caffeine. I didn’t want my exercise in honor of MLK to potentially negatively affect my children. I wanted to be an example to them. I wanted the exercise to mean something. I love food. Therefore, a day without eating, felt like a difficult task for me, to mirror, in a small way, what MLK did every day. Not just one day a year.


I think I did pretty well. The children were all eating leftover pizza at the point in the day when I felt the hunger pangs the most ridiculously – my stomach rumbled like an earthquake was going to erupt down my abdomen. The smell of the crispy, greasy a pepperoni and melted cheese – oh! It was so easy to almost chow down. But, the kids also supported my fast and hurriedly ate and cleaned up their mess.

Then there was the moments of daily life stress that because I was hungry made me feel less capable to deal with the barrage of problems I typically slay quickly in my life:  hitting my head on the garage door, a string of bad drivers as I taxied my children around, the chickens deciding my calf looked like lunch, or when the line at the local café where I was meeting a client seemed to take forever and I was forced to stand in front of the pastry case for seven long minutes (it felt like seven years).


But I kept thinking about King. What he did when the government treated him as an enemy of the state, how he behaved even though what he was doing was the right thing, not the easy thing, how the legacy of his work still needs more work. I would breathe deep (pulling in those yoga sessions into everyday life), concentrate on my feet on the ground and move forward.


I did look at the weather app on my phone several times to make sure than when sunset was coming wasn’t changing on me. But then, Dr. King’s words would echo in my head, “Keep moving forward.”

King's home following the bombing. Photo by Arthur Shores (5 Sep 63)

King’s home following the bombing. Photo by Arthur Shores (5 Sep 63)

I also spent time reading about King and learning just how awful the government, the white patriarchy, and even some within his own community disavowed him, berated him, persecuted, and even asked him to kill himself! The entire exercise was for me to feel the primal urges that perhaps King felt when he was maltreated and victimized by the opponents of what he stood for:  justice through peace. How hard did King have to work to move past the animalistic emotion for vengeance and into the spiritual nature that he was so remembered for?  “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear,” he said.


Looking back at his life, my own accomplishments and battles seem paltry. But we all can’t be MLK. It does mean we may live our lives so that his life and work lives on (wow that’s a lot of lives and lives). It means I can’t give up on the battles I have to fight:  #LifewithAutism, surviving three teenagers in the house, and the ever elusive publishing contract, as well as the continued work in civil rights.

My son, proud of my fasting exercise for the day, made me dinner.

My son, proud of my fasting exercise for the day, made me dinner.

At sundown, I could eat; but, I took an extra ten minutes to relish the peace of knowing that humanity is capable of producing great leaders like King, ones whom in the face of unending antagonism, he never faltered. Considering all the good that has been wrought since his assassination, even given that there is more work to do (#blacklivesmatter), we shall all be thankful, and I was. I ended the day in an attitude of gratitude. It produced a dinner made mostly by my son’s insistence and assistance. It wasn’t the healthiest way to break the fast, but I was feeling my blessings and counting them, too.

Thank you, Dr. King.



Update: A Safe Place for Bean


A big hug and thank-you from Bean for all your support thus far!

Today’s Fun Brought To You By You!

Good news! We’ve purchased the trailer. It’s adorable! It’s really clean and well-maintained for its age. Best of all, it’s just the right size to implement our mission of partial participation towards adult living for Bean. It’s a vintage 1969 Timberland Midlander DeLuxe. Blue and White. Bean kept saying, “DeLuxe” repeatedly when we told him. He’s making up a rap song about it as I type.

With the money we received already, we were able to make the initial investment in the trailer, rent a truck to haul it (given as our own truck broke down a week ago :/), and gas for the excursions of purchasing and hauling.

We still need to raise the last $640, since reaching our full goal will help cover the investment in the power, water, and propane hook-ups, since that all requires purchasing cables, connectors, and potable water hoses. We’re in need of a new black-water hose, as well. Also the 45-year-0ld shower curtain hooks need replacing. :)

Little things need to be fixed (we planned on that given we had to purchase used). Then we need to title & tab it. We’ll also need to purchase more propane as the tanks received with it will likely only get Bean through the the next few days or so. I’ll hit the thrift store for some other trailer supplies like bedding (we have only twin or queen in our house), kitchen/bath essentials, etc. Everything to make it a home for Bean.

Attached is a video that shows how overwhelmed he is (I was excited for him myself and didn’t want the video to run too long). He plans to sleep in it for the first time tonight — however cooking and bathing will have to be back in the main house until we get the rest accomplished.

We’re so grateful for the support and will try to move forward with what we have; however, the remaining fundraising efforts will alleviate any hardship and allow connections, repairs, and supplies (including the first sewer dump) to occur without delay.

Thank you for caring and sharing and supporting.

This Is What A Librarian Looks Like: Ur Doin’ It Wrong Culture Must Die

I want to stab this attitude and phrase into oblivion.

I want to stab this attitude and phrase into oblivion.

I’m being ridiculous in my headline, because I’m pretty pissed off. Still. Only in 2014 can you try to do something good and be slammed for it. Give me a few minutes to share my tale of woe and shame and how they are besmirching good people, especially librarians.

One of my favorite photographers (War Paint: Tattoo Culture and the Armed Forces holds prominence on my book shelf and in my heart) and internet personalities (if you don’t know about his sports-related injury, you’re missing out), Kyle Cassidy, had a great photo spread in Slate’s This is What A Librarian Looks Like.

Another of Kyle Cassidy's great works that get people talking. Yes, that's a Tribal Talking Stick sitting next to it on my bookshelf.

Another of Kyle Cassidy’s great works that get people talking. Yes, that’s a Tribal Talking Stick sitting next to it on my bookshelf.


Cassidy’s story about the importance of libraries and the people who work in them – primarily librarians – mirrors my own story.

He said, “Libraries and librarians have meant a lot to me throughout my life and there are specific ones that without whom I wouldn’t be who I am today.”

Here. Here.

Growing up in Detroit, the library was my refuge. It’s where I would endure tromping through three-feet of snow to go to, and when the world ticked me off, I could sit among the stacks and read and dream and be safe.

Always welcoming, the librarians would share new finds they thought I would enjoy, they’d help me pour through the card catalogs for that one article or book on whatever research I was doing – spiders, guns, drugs (even then my writing tended toward the dark) – they  were always there for me.

When I finally was able to drive my own car and go somewhere? The first place I went was the library. I know other teens went to the drive-in or the tastee-freeze, me, the budding bibliophile and writer went to where there were books full of stories, knowledge, and welcoming people.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATherefore, an article like the one where Cassidy’s photos were featured, which highlighted the importance of libraries in our culture and the people behind them – made even more important in the digital age of the nearly incalculable reach of electronic information systems and social media – was exciting for me to see. It made me smile. It made me nod. It made me know that others know the importance of libraries and the people who study the science behind running them. That we need to question what we think we know and investigate it on our own.

That there was a diverse collection of portraits included in the piece made me cheer outwardly. One of the librarians from my youth wore these really kooky brooches every single day; the other memorable librarian – the teen librarian (a very progressive thing at the time), daily donned very iconic eyeglasses. Even during the more restrictive 70s and early 80s, the strong personalities of my local library’s librarians showed through. Cassidy’s piece, from my perspective, mirrored that image I had in my head:  strong individuals, knowledgeable, and very passionate.

But, then, the unexpected happened, when people got sight/read the article. The ugly internet and its culture of Ur Doin It Rong (cue the twitch in my inner grammar Führer) blasted the electronic pathways with a vitriol many might not have expected. Well, unless you have come to be trained over the last decades that the level of acceptance in the internet culture is nonexistence, that people can’t have a discussion or a conversation in a civil manner. It’s all, my way or the highway.

The tweets, facebook posts, blogs, etc. that vilified the article on basis that X wasn’t represented, or Y wasn’t brought forward in the article, was untenable to me. Oh and the “Why is HE featured?” comment really boiled my blood. I was upset, because these folks who volunteered to have their portraits done were brave and stepped forward and saw an opportunity to show the Slate readership that what you maybe think about libraries and librarians is wrong. (For a good detail on what vileness some of the featured librarians endured, see here.)

Like much of Cassidy’s work, as any artist’s work is often, This Is What A Librarian Looks Like was meant as a conversation starter. His photos and the Slate blogger, Jordan G. Teicher, were bringing forth the good of libraries and its librarians. How they work for every possible type of person, how inclusive they are.

The most distressing part of the response, for me, came from other librarians. This part I could not understand, since I’ve yet to meet a librarian that wasn’t one of the most patient, think-good-about-humanity, and positive individuals in the room.

Then Cassidy’s words in the story came to me. He said, “I realized I had a stereotype in my mind of what a librarian looked like, which is one of the reasons I wanted to do this project. Whenever I think something is true, I’m often wrong.”

I guess I was wrong, too.

Libraries tie a community together. They allow for the sharing of knowledge. They are the one public place where no matter your background, your gender, your economic status, your creed, or religion, you are welcome. The article, bless its beaten-on-the-internet heart, brought that forward, too. Many of the librarians featured via their portraits said that, too, “We are the great equalizer.” Here in Western Washington and many other places across the United States, it was the librarians that resisted the Patriot Act – almost like a last line of defense. To me they are knowledge warriors.library

But, libraries are just buildings, the people who run the joint – the librarians are what make it the tie that binds, the inclusive place to an oft-times exclusive world.

I’m not going to let some internet trolls, even those who claimed to have been librarians steer me away from the belief that libraries are good and necessary. But, they sure gave some ammo for those who would board up the windows and lock the doors of our libraries.

In the meantime, more power to Cassidy to continue his mission in capturing a community that is important to many other communities. Oh, and I’m going back to the “Do Not Read The Comments” rule I have. Because if you’re saying, Ur Doin It Rong, I’m likely going to know you are entirely ignorant.


Harvest Creations: Gardening To-Dos for February

Prepping now to get this^ later. Come on spring! (Photo by C. Brewster)

Prepping now to get the above later. Come on spring! (Photo by C. Brewster)


Take note, this may not be your list, as you live in a different area/zone. My area, depending on who you talk to, is between zone 7 and 8, so I have to watch the weather a bit.


Well the peas got put in the grown right on time for the January to-do list and then we got hit by the Polar Vortex. Surely, the Polar Vortex those of us in Twin Peaks experienced, was not as bad as say, my poor friends in Montana (looking at you Melissa, Bob & Coni, and Kelsey), but I will likely have to replant those seeds. We’ll see.


Other than that, I was able to get most everything done. With the freeze and one freak snow storm – again, like back in December, it snowed heavily and then quickly rained and melted anything, some of the weeding is on hold. Like any farmer, weed control is my least favorite chore, albeit gives me time to think about stories. We’ve had in total about 8 hours of snow this winter here. Not good for our snow-pack, hydro level this spring, which means I might have to invest in the rain barrel sooner than we were planning. Upgrades to the micro-farm come in stages around here, remember, my main job is struggling author. Therefore, rain barrel might come before we re-plant the orchard area.


What I need to do this month:


Not before the daffodils pop

(I see shoots, but no blooms yet, likely weeks off, so may merge into March):


  1. Take the transplants from inside starts outside.
  2. Plant successive planting of radishes, carrots outdoors
  3. Plant spinach, turnips, and reseed peas, if necessary. outdoors
  4. Cover any new sprouts from January plantings (radish, carrots, peas) on cold nights
  5. Plant indoor starts of dill, parsley, basil
  6. Put more compost down on naked beds
  7. Prune rose bushes
  8. Trim out-of-control shrubs (I have one that has been untouched since we moved here four years ago, that desperately needs topping.)
  9. Plant successive indoor starts of lettuce, cabbage, and start broccoli, bok choy, swiss chard, kale, brussel sprouts.
  10.  Do an inventory of tools, and get anything sharpened that needs sharpened.


What zone are you in? What are your farming chores this month?