Oh my goodness, the peaks and valleys of this year have been equally epic. For every sucker punch to the gut came a bountiful boon, every slap to the face matched with the warmest embrace, every yank of the rug revealing an even sturdier foundation. Tears and laughter riding always in tandem.

This year began on a high note. I believe it is ending on one, as well.

Practically everything that has happened between then and now has been unexpected. What I thought was going to happen, didn’t. And the sum total of all of it has somehow worked itself out to be of far greater value than I had anticipated. Few years have managed to force me to grow quite as much as this, and those each were years where I gave birth to – or lost – a child.

This year, neither of those events occurred, but I am no less transformed than if they had.

Those kind of life-altering occasions, for me, have always come with a certain kind of unravelling, of bursting open at the seams, which invariably leads to the process of mending. And as any skilled tailor will tell you, a garment can indeed be mended, but it will never be exactly quite the same.

Such is the case for me, today. I am not the same as I was on the first day of this year as I am on the last. I am me, of course, but I have been permanently altered.

I imagine it’s easy to interpret this as having been damaged and repaired, but I don’t think it’s quite that simple. The thing is, life is meant for growing. Just ask any gardener. Growth is the indication that a thing is alive, and a lack thereof is cause for concern. But growth, even for the plant, is an arduous process. The seed must sacrifice itself completely in order to blossom, until there is no seed at all. Except the seed is there. And it’s multiplied. Because every blossom that the seed produces also bears within it the promise of new seeds. The seed has not been damaged. It has become more than it was before.

As I reflected upon this year, I was not surprised to recall that it was, in fact, a leap year. Sounds about right, to be honest. I have done quite a bit of leaping this year. Not always gracefully, often reluctantly, sometimes enthusiastically, ever faithfully. I have leapt, and I have learned.

The only thing left to do at this point is to leap one final time, straight into a brand new year. I’m ready to make the best of whatever comes my way.


Here’s a secret: I’ve cried every day this month.

A conservative estimate would suggest I’ve cried most days this year. But perhaps not as deeply as I have been this morning.

I suppose it’s appropriate that the year that will be remembered as the one that changed the world would end with perhaps this most significant change in my world.

Last evening, on what became his final night living here in my tiny apartment palace, I was finally able to convince Emet to watch my all-time favorite movie, Harold and Maude. There is so much I love about that film, but mostly I love the music.

My son is a musician.

It’s a coming-of-age love story.

My son is coming of age. And what love story is complete without a little bit of heartache?

When he was very small all the way up until we were separated during his 8th grade year, I recited a blessing to him. Never have the simple words been more true in my heart than they are at present:

Angel of God who is guarding you-
Be thou a bright star above you,
Be thou a smooth path before you,
Be thou a strong shepherd behind you,
When the stars are shining bright,
And forever.



I did not think I’d be in a hurry to take down all the decorations with which we’d so carefully decked our halls, but it turns out I’m more excited about the fresh start this next year promises than I am about allowing Christmas to linger. Little by little, seasonal treasures are returning to their resting place while the nooks and crannies of our tiny apartment palace get a proper polishing in hopes of a clean and bright beginning to 2021.

One of the gifts I’d purchased for the family is a Stendig Calendar, which is something I’ve wanted to acquire for years and yet I never manage to remember that I want one until it’s too late and they’ve sold out for the year. Sitting at the kitchen table, dressed in my new fluffy slippers and new cozy robe, sipping coffee from my new favorite mug, staring at my new giant wall calendar for a (new) year that has yet to begin, I thought about how certain I was that 2020 would be a transformational year for me, personally.

I was not wrong.

Of course, none of it happened the way I had thought it would. Yet, much of what has indeed come to pass aligns closely with what I’d set out to accomplish this year. And it isn’t because I stuck to my plans in spite of how the world shifted, it is because I allowed my plans to shift in response to the world. Which means that what I ended up with isn’t exactly what I’d envisioned, but it’s exactly what I’m meant to have.

Perhaps the best example I can offer is this: at the beginning of quarantine, I decided that I’d grow a small container garden on our urban balcony. I carefully selected seeds and sprouted them on our table, nurturing their tender shoots as they emerged from beneath the soil. But despite all of my best efforts, I simply could not get any of these plants to thrive. Eventually I gave up on trying to sprout my own seeds and purchased some organic vegetable starts, and one tomato plant already potted in its own container.

This went on for months, from mid-March until late August. Some rascally animal left its teeth marks in flesh of the singular tomato that had managed to not only grow but also almost ripen, and finally I let the entire thing go to seed. I left the containers on the balcony and resolved to try again next spring.

Sometime in mid-October, I noticed a funny little sprout on one of my indoor plants and stuck it in a small glass of water because I’d once read something about propagating tropical plants. After a week or two little roots began to grow into the water but once I put it in some soil, it shriveled immediately.

I tried again. Water. Roots. Soil. Shrivel.

Now mid-November had arrived, along with a sprout on both a pothos and a spider plant. Into the water they went. I decided to leave them in the water to see how long they could last.

It had been well over a month. The roots of these sprouts had grown so long that even the roots had roots. The leaves on each of the plants were green and firm and the spider plant had steadily produced more leaves so it had almost doubled in size.

After locating two pint sized plastic planters with drainage holes (invariably left over from two of the ill-fated vegetable starts), I carefully filled each with damp soil, and placed the sprouted plants into the prepared containers. It’s been almost 24 hours and not only is there no sign of shriveling, the pothos unfurled a brand new leaf.

As he was crawling into bed last night, Roux noticed the two plants on my dresser and asked if they were my “baby plants,” as they’d come to be called when they were newly sprouting in the water. When I told him that yes, they were in fact my baby plants, his eyes lit up and he offered me a squeeze while saying with delight, “Mama, you ARE a gardener!”

He is not wrong.

The garden I grew this year may not be the one that I planted, but it is the one I tended after it had sprouted. And it is thriving.


Well, I was feeling pretty certain that I was ahead of the game and then, lo and behold, the joke’s on me because the garage keys were absolutely nowhere to be found. One emergency trip to the Home Depot plus a pair of bolt cutters later, I’m back where I was meant to be – in the kitchen prepping the gingerbread.

Except, I had to make way for Emet who suddenly needed to cook himself a meal and that’s just how it is sometimes living with a teenager who’s mostly on a schedule unto himself.

The thing is, all season long, I’ve been keenly aware of how this is the last winter I’ll have Emet living under my roof as a full-time resident. I mean, he’ll visit, I have no doubt. But the fact of the matter is that in a little over seven months’ time, he’ll be on to the next step of his journey and I’ll be the mama having watched her first baby bird fly from the nest.

I’m equally as often flooded with excitement as I am with sorrow when I think of what life will be like after he’s landed in a nest of his own. But mostly, I’m grateful to have this time right now with him, still here, kicking me out of my kitchen mid-gingerbread baking to fix some eggs because he can’t wait until dinner and no ready-made snack will address the particular hunger he’s currently experiencing.

In an effort to capture every last bit of poignancy this season had to offer us, I purchased matching family pajamas for the first time ever. Don’t misunderstand me, we have a long tradition of Christmas Eve pajamas. But never the identical garment in our individual sizes. I was compelled to experience this just once and seized my opportunity when I found a print and style that was actually kind of great. So I ordered and eagerly anticipated and then as I was opening the package, I discovered that instead of the pair that was meant for Emet, I was sent something else entirely – a striped linen button-down!

I went straight to the merchant to address the issue and to my chagrin, the pajamas were no longer in stock and I was forced to accept an alternative replacement. Instead of matching with us, he’ll be in a different yet coordinating ensemble.

Eighteen Christmas Eve’s ago, I was pregnant with Emet. Expecting. Tonight, this season, these next seven months, I am filled with a different kind expecting, pregnant not with a baby, but with a brand new adult.

It’s bitter and sweet, exhausting and exhilarating, and I want to capture it all now just as I did then. To fiercely hold him close, and gracefully let him go. One chapter ends as the next is beginning. Only this time, he’s the narrator and I a supporting character in the story he’ll write from his very own perspective. And while he’s certainly no longer a child, he’ll forever be my child.

I was not a mother before Emet came to me, and I was still very much a child when he arrived. As he has gradually grown from infancy to adulthood, so too have I gradually matured into motherhood.

The funny thing about motherhood, I’ve learned, is that the only way to learn to be a mother is through being a mother. Reading about motherhood, thinking about motherhood, dreaming about motherhood, all of this is lovely. But not one bit of it comes anywhere near close to actual motherhood.

Of course, this means the mother I am to Roux is only made possible because of what I’ve learned through mothering his older siblings. My younger children arrived on Earth into the arms of a mother, but Emet was born to a maiden.

Legend has it there was once another baby boy, maiden-born, who’s birth forever changed the world. While I don’t know about all that, I do know that my world has never been the same since the birth of my first baby boy.


We have rounded the corned and arrived at Christmas week. At last the fourth candle on our Advent wreath has finally been lit, much to the delight of an eager six year old who has taken to tending the flames each time we gather for the ritual that has grown over the years into the hallmark in our home which underscores the entire season.

I spent hours yesterday sorting through all the stuff that had taken up residence on every surface and in every corner of the room that has served as workshop, office, bedroom, and most recently, gift closet. It is incredible how quickly the debris of day-to-day life manages to settle into my space, which inevitably ends up a bit more neglected than the rest of the rooms in our tiny apartment palace. But now that the avalanche of the first semester has come to an end, I’m able to devote my attention fully to the tending of my home and really, there is nothing I like better than a proper nest fluffing.

I’ll be honest, I’m never truly inspired to begin the process of tidying up, but once I hit my stride, it’s hard for me not to feel flooded with inspiration as if all of the sudden, every last project I’ve ever wanted to complete is possible if I just do the work.

The irony, of course, is that every last project I’ve ever wanted to complete is possible if I just do the work. And sometimes it takes doing the work to remember that doing the work is all it takes?

Or something?

Anyhow, I’m not sure if it’s the fact that my room is finally tidy, that we’ve arrived at the most anticipated week of the entire year, or if it’s because I’ve got a special family circle planned to commemorate tonight’s solstice and planetary conjunction, but I’m feeling lighter and more at ease than I have in a while. I can’t possibly think of a greater miracle than closing out this unprecedented year with love in our hearts and peace in our home, and I’m thanking my lucky Christmas stars that it’s come to pass in such a way.

Blessings to you on this longest winter’s night. Here’s to the rising of the light.


Before the pandemic, I was dancing nearly every day of the week. I had worked myself back into the kind of shape that allowed me to keep up in class with kids half my age, and I was having more fun than I’d had in a really, really long time.

It’s coming up on nine months since last I took a dance class with any sort of consistency, and it’s breaking my heart. Not just because of the atrophied muscles, but that is definitely part of it. Mostly it’s that I lost my happy place.

Dance class has always been my sanctuary, since as far back as I can remember. Every now and again I lose sight of this, and more than a little time passes before I inevitably find myself back in the studio. And it’s always the best kind of homecoming.

My daughter has kept up with virtual dance classes since the switch was made back in the Spring and watching her perform this weekend so inspiring. So inspiring, in fact, that I’ve decided to enroll in a few classes of my own next semester. And even just thinking about that makes me smile inside.

Like Allegra Kent says, once a dancer….


When it comes to gifts for children, especially during the holidays, it is easy to get lost in the materialism of mainstream consumerism. Buy more, save more, etc.

Over the years, I’ve come to witness firsthand how more gifts never actually equates to more satisfaction. I’m not exactly sure when, but at some point several years ago, I adopted a simple rule of thumb that has aided me enormously when it comes to presents for my kids. I cannot make claim to having invented this rule, nor can I properly credit whomever the genius it was who devised such a clever rubric. But it has come in handy over the years, and I figure that perhaps it might be worth sharing.

It goes like this:

Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read.

Want. Need. Wear. Read.

So basic. So brilliant.

Helpful in the instance of the six-year-old who is requesting only things you’re completely opposed to purchasing (NO. MORE. LEGOS!), and also in the instance of teenagers who “just want money” and, while we all love having extra cash, it’s neither fun to give nor receive.

In local news, it’s Balboa Park’s December Nights! My sweet daughter’s dance studio is performing as part of the event, and by performing I mean dancing separately together via Zoom. Although it is nowhere near the same experience as dancing on a decorated outdoor stage in the beautiful Casa del Prada Courtyard, I am so proud of (and impressed by!) all the hard work and dedication the dancers, teachers, choreographers, and staff at SDCDA have put in to pull off a digital dance recital.


The first Friday night in December has arrived, leaving just three weeks until Christmas Day. The anticipation is real and I am ready!

In a most surprising turn of events, I have managed to finish the bulk of my holiday shopping. Making a concerted effort to patronize small shops and makers meant I could not leave any purchases to the last minute. Of course, Amazon managed to be the only place I was able to find a few of the particular items for which I was searching and while I’m loathe to inflate the pockets of Mr. Bezos anymore than they already are, I’m grateful to the platform for many reasons.

Not having to stress about scrambling for gifts to give is one of the best presents I am giving to myself this year, the gift of Christmas Presence.


It’s been quite some time since I’ve had a good mind boggling, and let me tell you. I wasn’t even halfway through the first chapter of this book I’d borrowed from the library before I purchased a copy for myself and had it shipped expeditiously.

I want to finish (no pun intended) before sharing a more thorough review, but I can say that it is a compelling and captivating perspective offered in an excellent, easy read.

I’m so close to achieving the goal I set for myself on goodreads back in May, when we were still pretty deep in the haze of quarantine and I needed something to work toward. It was an excellent decision because, inspired by the challenge, I’ve read more for pleasure (again, no pun intended) in the last few months of this year than in the entire previous year.

Also, reading > scrolling. Exponentially so.


There are no fewer than seven different advent calendars on display in our Tiny Apartment Palace, and a fragrant fir that is ever so slightly lopsided when you look at her from one angle. My Leaning Tower of Treeza.

I love this time of year for just about every reason you can imagine, but most of all for the open invitation to bathe in nostalgia. Our holiday decorations are a collection of things made, saved, or gifted and decking the halls is a more a trip down memory lane than an attempt at cohesive interior design. And I absolutely would not have it any other way.

This year, in a conscious effort to imbue as much holiday magic as possible into every single day, I have added a few special trinkets and traditions that I hope to build upon and treasure for years to come.

The kids are most excited about the basket of 24 presents wrapped and numbered and meant to be opened one day at a time leading up to Christmas. Each of these presents is a different seasonal story. There are advent tales from Italy, Appalachian stories, a classic children’s story to welcoming the first night of Hanukkah, a story for St. Nicholas Day, a story for Santa Lucia, a Mexican folktale about the Poinsettia, as well as old familiar classics such as How the Grinch Stole Christmas (which happened to be this evening’s story). This is something I’ve wanted to do for several years and just never managed to get it together – seriously, wrapping 24 books individually is kind of a pain in the neck – but it has been totally worth it to see the way even my biggest kids are enthusiastic about having a little something to look forward to each day.

The simple set of Swedish angel chimes that I’ve (finally!) added to our collection are even better than I’d hoped. And if I manage to get the supplies together for the project I have in my head, and then manage to execute said project, we will have a new festive garland to bring out each year to come.

As much as I am looking forward to the fresh start that a new year brings, I am in no hurry at all for this month to end. I’ve had a long and well documented love affair with December and that is just the way it is.