how we are who we are

168th Street

I’ve had a fine life—with moments, and choices, and paths and people. And I like to think that I remember them all, and how they helped me become myself.

My theory about raising kids and how they turn out is a theory of thirds, and has been repeated many times with our friends, usually over a second or third bottle of wine. I typically trot this out when one of us is struggling with something our adult child is doing, as we try to understand how to watch from the sidelines.

This is my theory of how our kids become who they are: One third is family, what they get from us. Either through DNA, experiences, structure, rituals, traditions, or lack of. Family includes siblings, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles. The second third is what our kids get from others, the circumstances that surround them. Schools and teachers, coaches, trainers, neighbors, friends, youth leaders. It’s opportunities, trips, and camps. It’s timing. It’s the hand they are dealt, through luck or privilege, or not. And the final third is what each child decides to put on the table, how they decide to manage their own life. It’s their heart and soul, and where they detour, where they persevere, how they choose to show up.

Until today, I never considered how this theory of thirds applied to my own life. On Tuesday night, as Steve was making dinner, I sat in the chair in the kitchen corner, drinking wine (always the wine, you know), and starting searching for childhood friends on Facebook. I had been thinking about memory and loss all day, and somehow I felt brave. I was already friends with two of them, and I quickly found four more. Without thinking, I quickly hit the “friend requested” button. Isn’t this silly, that at age 59, I required courage to ask to be friends? (As an aside, at Kate’s wedding, I mentioned to my friend Kevin that I was concerned at what people would think of me. Kevin, who has known me for 40 years, said, “Do you mean you don’t already know?”)

One by one “friend request accepted” popped up on my phone, along with sweet notes and memories. There was a group of girls in our neighborhood, and we all had little brothers. We also had Barbies and jump ropes and play houses in our back yards. We were Indian Maidens together, and then in Tri-Gra-Y (it was part of the YMCA, and we had vests instead of Chippewa Indian costumes, but we learned to cook and stuff). We had birthday parties and slumber parties and pool parties. We rode bikes, and I think one summer we played softball, but this was before Title IX and team sports weren’t part of our experiences together. But I remember my mom made bases out of newspapers and green cotton fabric, and we played ball in our street. Four-square in our driveway (Dad painted a court for us), and tetherball in the back back yard (that wasn’t a typo, we had a double back yard, which may have been one of the greatest gifts our parents gave us).

Lori, and Laurie (who was also Muffy), Renee and Mary Pat. There were others too, Gayle and Colleen, and Robin, another Lori, and a Laura. Later there was Donna, and Pam, there was a Peggy who was in and out. At the beginning there was a Big Kim, and I was Little Kim (and to my chagrin, Kimmy). There may have been a Diana who was also Naomi, but I might be making that one up.

This was my first posse (you know, tribe, but since I have already used my cultural appropriation chits on the unfortunately named Indian Maidens, we are now a posse. By the way, my Indian Maiden name was Sparkling Waters, and my mom was Still Waters.) Laurie, Renee and Mary Pat all had older sisters, and they offered an inside peek into the world of teased hair, boyfriends and music.


Lori and I lived on the long street, and our homes were the same, at least in floor plan. But as she reminded me this week, they were also very different, and she thanked my mom for welcoming her into ours. I found a picture of some of us, and was surprised that I could remember everyone by name. I had drawn an arrow over my head, as if I was worried I wouldn’t recognized myself later. The date on the photo is June 1967. I see Lori next to me, in the center, and her sister Karen, in front of me. My brother Doug, their brother Billy. Other kids who had moved away, making way for newcomers. I see the long sidewalk, the one that stretched between our house and Lori’s, past the curve that connected and separated us. I can still remember how that curve, with a dip and then a slight rise, made bike riding and wagon pulling tricky and somewhat adventurous.

I belonged, until I didn’t.

I am guessing it began to shift when we were ten. Some of it had to do with rules imposed by my parents (and in my imagination, no one else had rules…I was the only one). We were friendly, but we were dividing up. They were part of the popular group. I wasn’t unpopular, but I wasn’t part of them. I had a church youth group that held me through those tween years, and I remember feeling I had a posse at the First Presbyterian Church of Gardena.

It wasn’t painful, it was just a turn in the path.

Our elementary school went through 8th grade, and we all went to high school in 9th. Our family moved the summer I started 10th grade, and I found a new group, where sometimes I fit, and sometimes I didn’t. But I was more prepared this time, and had other friends outside of my high school, and transitioned easily to college, and the newspaper, and my marriage to Steve, and the life that has became mine.

We were ten, and now we are almost sixty. Facebook statuses note retirement, grandchildren and parents lost. We have wrinkles. Gray hair, some of us more than others (that would be my gray hair). This is just weird.

If I follow my own theory of thirds, they are part of who I am, where we began. Where we played all day long, into the evening. Exploring each others’ homes and yards and parents and siblings. It’s where I noticed how my family was the same, and different. Where my parents made a place for us, where we had the big back yard, with the cool fort, and a row of trees where we were allowed to dig and climb and hide and hang out by ourselves. It was the neighborhood where we would gather in someone’s family room, spread out with our dolls and their cars, Barbie and Ken and Midge and Skipper, figuring out what our dreams for our next life might be.

It’s where I belonged until I didn’t.

We all had our own experiences and memories. Of course, I’m not sure if mine are true, or if they have been created in my head in the fifty years between 168th Street in Torrance and Brentwood Place in Davis. And in the end, it doesn’t matter. Earlier this week, Steve and I were talking about how we got here (it’s been a very emotional week). He said, “We’ve both been given so much, but we worked hard, and we didn’t drop the ball.” I like to think he’s right. I hope he is.

In the end, we are all doing the best we can, with what we’ve been given. The rest we’ve discovered along the way. The part that really matters is where we go from here.


excuse me, but your moral compass seems to be broken

I’ve been thinking about the concept of a moral compass lately. Every time I click onto a news site (which is often) the term “broken moral compass” keeps coming to me. I am with her, for sure, but gosh, this isn’t easy. Like many Americans, I have a few issues…but like many more (I hope), I can understand that I don’t understand everything, and she’s a good…and at moments, great…choice. But…what was she thinking?

The subject isn’t important. They’re piling up, and it is frustrating to watch this happen. I know I will vote for Hillary, but there are a few other people who need to be convinced, and these stories aren’t helping our cause.

And then there’s him. You know who I mean. I don’t think he even has a moral compass…while hers may be broken, his appears to be non-existent. Truthfully, I would have preferred an opponent who was conservative, yet principled. At least you know where he/she stands, and that there is a moral compass (even if it points in a different direction than my own) for reference.

This is what I don’t get…if you aspire to be President, as Hillary has for much of her professional life, and as Donald has for many years, don’t you already know what’s right and what’s wrong? Even if something isn’t clearly right or wrong (as is the case with many things), don’t you assess the appearance of right and wrong? Don’t you consider the implications of something going haywire and mitigate?  It seems that one of the easiest measurements of right and wrong  is “if I have to keep this secret, it’s probably not considered wise.” And if you can’t figure it out, don’t you have someone in your life to say “you know, that’s not a good idea, and while you’re running for President, you should stay away?”

I know right-ish and wrong-ish have lots room for interpretation. Gosh, Steve and I don’t always agree on what’s right or wrong, and neither do my brothers and I. Sometimes I don’t even agree with myself about what’s right or wrong. But I have a good idea of  what integrity, honesty and loyalty mean. I do mess up, but generally it only impacts a few people. I am not operating with gazillions of dollars, influencing the world, or making life and death decisions. I will never be President of the United States, not even in my dreams.

And you know, maybe this isn’t about our candidates. Maybe it’s about us, as a country and a culture. Maybe we all have messed up moral compasses. Yikes. I’m just looking for answers here…

When Kate was a teenager she told me her decision-making metric was “what’s the best that can happen, and what’s the worst that can happen” and I’ve used that for years. I had a friend who had 6 teenagers at once, due to a blended marriage. He used to tell his kids, “If you’re around trouble, you’re in trouble” and I have repeated that ever since.

Is it too much to expect our Presidential candidates to be as smart as a teenager?

Seventy-five days until election day. That’s plenty of time to find and fix a moral compass.


around here

This weekend I was invited to stay a beautiful home in Butte Creek Canyon. I can't stop thinking about the writing desk I want, in the grass here. That would be when I forget that it's not actually my house...but still, a girl can dream.

This weekend I was invited to stay here…in a beautiful home in Butte Creek Canyon. I can’t stop thinking about the outdoor writing desk I want, facing this sky. Is it a problem that it’s not actually my house? Still, a girl can dream, can’t she?


You know, I am not intending to not blog. I am just not blogging. Or actually writing (because they are two different things, with a flexible, wiggly Venn diagramish overlap when we’re lucky).  I’m not training for a marathon or anything like that (well, maybe something like that, except that it’s just the marathon of life). But I am paying attention to what’s going on around here…

Around here, we’re having a wedding…in 60 days. A wedding that doesn’t have one single piece that resembles any other wedding on the planet, past or present. I waiver from moments believing that the universe and/or Kate and Brendan’s marriage, and every guest’s happiness  depends on my ability to make lists, hammocks hanging devices, garlands out of paint chips and moss/rock/mason jar night lights to the clarifying moments when I realize my stuff is just stuff, and K+B are the real deal.

Around here, my youngest daughter, Alex, is graduating from college…that would be two weeks before the wedding. She may be moving to another state, that would be the week after the wedding. She might be doing something cool, but I don’t want to jinx it. I am proud and delighted for  her. She’s a girl who knows the value of finishing strong, and I believe she can and will. And those crazy logistics that might be required for her next step…I am doing my best (though tripping over myself sometimes) to stay out of her way so she can solve it herself.

Around here, we finally have our Little Free Library. It deserves a post all its own, but it’s all kinds of fabulous. Every day we see folks using it, and they leave notes and books and a thank you. I check it every morning and every evening, and it makes me ridiculously happy.

Around here, Steve is tending to his vegetable garden and riding his bike like crazy (just finished his eleventh Wildflower Century this weekend, and from my count that’s probably his 25th century ride, not counting his three double centuries). He’s kind of impressive. I do have to remind him though, that if it weren’t for me, there would be no toilet paper in the house. We all have our gifts.

Around here,  I am watching baseball, I am going to the gym, I am remembering that outside is better than inside. I am not quite as traumatized about the election as I was a few months ago, and I hope that doesn’t mean I am giving in or giving up. I am trying to be a better friend. I am wondering what is next for me.




life lessons from the tour de france


I’m not a cyclist, but my husband and daughter are. I have some cycling knowledge, based on hundreds of hours of watching the Tour de France over the last 30 years. It’s one of our family summer activities, spending our evenings (and mornings when the girls would get up at 5:00 am to watch live) with Phil, Paul and Bob.

This summer Steve and I are settling in for our six hour TDF marathons, and I always snooze off, waking up for the finish. Steve is all about the strategy, I am about the scenery. We both enjoy the commentary.

Last week during the Team Time Trial, I heard something that stuck. I believe it was Christian Vande Velde (a retired racer, new to the commentary desk) talking about Tejay van Garderen. Tejay was leading Team BMC, and his team was protecting him, trying to gain every precious second on Team Sky (which included Chris Froome, who was/is wearing the yellow jersey). This is what I heard  (paraphrasing):

“It’s not so much how he leads, but how he manages himself when he drops back. He knows how to use the others to help calm and collect himself, and plan for the future. That’s his real talent, how he uses his time when he’s on the back wheel, and that’s what makes him so strong.”

His strength was seen in his calm and consistent rhythm. This was also true for, and noticed, on the mountain stages. He could be counted on to manage himself.

In the Tour there are 22 teams of 9 riders each. In the one day Team Time Trial, each team rides about 20 miles, and time is based on the 5th rider. What’s tricky is that by the time the team time trial starts, not every team has 9 riders left. The big climbs are still to come. It takes smarts as well as strength.

Steve rides several times a week with the same group of great friends. We talked about how you can use the time when you’ve dropped back to organize your brain and your body. How that time can be used to hydrate, to regulate your breathing, to appreciate the nature around you, and sustain you for what is ahead.

I wonder how that applies to my own life. I am a fan of downtime for sure. Look at my comfy chair in the corner of my living room for evidence. But am I using my “drop back” time in a way that strengthens me for my work ahead? What do I need to collect myself (nature, reading, writing, breathing, exercise, conversation, silence, friends, creating, wine)? How can I use my strength to help propel others? And am I giving others a chance to both lead and rest?

I don’t think this means DO MORE. I think it means paying attention to the moments between the doing…that place between slow and go. Paying attention to what we need to organize and collect our brains and our bodies. I think it means valuing our drop back time as much as the push time, rather than referring to our days as lazy or slow. I suspect it means not to waste it on bad TV, crummy wine, cheap cheese, or unhealthy relationships. It probably means I should have my coffee on the patio more often, and step away from the computer. Also, cleaning out my desk drawer might be helpful.

I have no idea if Christian Vande Velde intended me to take a little life lesson from his statement. It’s what I heard and remembered, and what I will try to use this week.

I googled “riding in a peloton” and found this piece. Am I crazy to think these ten secrets apply to real life?

1. Relax
2. Stay up front
3. Hide your suffering
4. Work smart
5. Watch for erratic riders
6. Look ahead
7. Make allies
8. Get fueled early
9. Sprint smart
10. Don’t be a wheelsuck

By the way, Team BMC did go on to win the Time Trial over Team Sky, by one second.

Photo by Kim Tackett. Fourth of July Bike Races, Davis CA 2010.

the peace of wild things :: poems by wendell berry

yolo basin

Sometimes we need to slow ourselves down. Poetry does that for me…I think because it demands that I take time to sort it out. I can’t rush through the sentences, sure of what comes next. It requires pondering, just like nature. Wendell Berry is a poet, novelist, farmer, and an environmental activist. Here are some of his words, just for you.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Like the Water

Like the water
of a deep stream,
love is always too much.
We did not make it.
Though we drink till we burst,
we cannot have it all,
or want it all.
In its abundance
it survives our thirst.

In the evening we come down to the shore
to drink our fill,
and sleep,
while it flows
through the regions of the dark.
It does not hold us,
except we keep returning to its rich waters

We enter,
willing to die,
into the commonwealth of its joy.

What We Need is Here

Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.


More about Wendell Berry here: Wendell Berry Books, Bill Moyers segment on Berry’s hope for humanity, Good Reads, The New York Times.

Photo by Kim Tackett, Yolo Basin, Davis CA.