Emotional Smarts


For the second time in a month Claudia was crying that her sister would be coming along with us to an appointment. I thought this was unreasonable, given the fact that there are 4 of them, and Stella thought this was just mean, given that her mere presence should not induce tears. But Claudia does not just cry for no reason (I wish I could be more like her) and I had to stay in the moment with her, as much as I wanted to run… I told her that we could plan a time for the 2 of us to have some one on one time, that way she would not need to expect a trip to the eye doctor to be our special mom and Claudia time. I looked from Claudia, in the top bunk, to Stella, in the bottom, both with tears in their eyes. Claudia said ‘You get alone time with mom all the time!’, to which, I expected Stella to argue with, because 1) it’s not true and 2) Stella loves to call people out on exaggerating ‘you waited for an HOUR? reeeeeaaallllly?’

To my utter amazement Stella with the calmness of a Pre School teacher on a benzodiazepine stated “I think Claudia feels like you and I have time together without her because of the trips to see our dermatologist, and how you sit with me to rub my feet when my skin itches all night (her eczema)…” Claudia was nodding her head. “I feel like the 2 of you have a stronger bond than we do.”she said through tears. I stood next to the bed so I could hug her and wipe away her tears. We talked (and talked and talked) about how lovely it is that we enjoy appointments this much, that even itchy skin can be bonding and beautiful and how different our personalities are. Stella is a version of me, in a sense… I understand her  motivations because she is so much like me.  And yes, that bonds us, but the fact that Claudia is unlike me in every single way bonds us as well. ‘I thought maybe since I don’t look like you, the way Stella does, and I’m not artsy like you two are, that I’m not as close or something…’ ‘Claudia we don’t have to BE alike to love eachother!’ Stella yelled… (all 3 of us laughed through tears). We hugged and before walking out of their room I said thank you. I thanked them for being open with me, for showing me so much about love.

I was so proud of the emotional intelligence my daughters, these little women, displayed. To unwind that ball of emotional yarn, to figure out your own feelings and verbalize them in itself is special.  But to then set aside your own hurt feelings and help another untangle their mess; that is a magical thing to see a 10 and 11 year old accomplish. I, as a fully grown up lady have lived entire days where I was  miserable and had to practically make one if those ‘to catch a killer’ cork boards with maps and pictures and red yard connecting things to figure out why I was angry.

My boys are older, and do not always let me in on the things they are feeling. I know this fate could be right around the corner with my girls also, so every single time they open up, everytime they let me in, it’s a gift. (Presence, present… I want to make a joke here, I’m going to let it go to show my maturity, but just know that I see it and if I wanted to I could totally pun here, about how presence is a present ok?) It is important to remember to stay in the moment. They will not always say ‘I need to talk about my feelings’ (my oldest used to say ‘Mom, can we talk?’ at bedtime if he had something on his mind, and I knew he had something that needed working out). They may actually seem totally unapproachable, which is why the parent hood ain’t for chumps. You have to be brave enough to stand right in the mess and help them untangle things.



2014 stuff

I posted this on Blogger in November of 2014. I really don’t remember writing it, or feeling it… time is a funny thing.

She chose to see things a certain way…for sanity’s sake alone.  She was aware that they all thought she was weak for staying, and she could not ever have said that it didn’t hurt to know that, but it didn’t change her mind.  She had made the choice long ago to see the beauty and strength in the fact that she had accepted her worth and importance (or lack thereof) in the grand scheme of things.  There was something beautiful, liberating even, in knowing that she was NOT the only person effected by her actions, and therefore she could not bail out of her life any time she felt the urge to.  How does a person feel liberated knowing that they aren’t free?  It takes the stress of that choice, the madness, the chaos, and replaces it with something that closely resembles peace.

Selfishness had burnt her out too many times.  She felt alone in the belief that life was not about the pursuit of happiness and pleasure and enjoying every single minute, but instead about love, and the verb that it is.  She chose not to write down the days that she would be a mother on the calendar, picking and choosing according to a social life and popular opinion, but to be a mother all the time, knowing full well that the days that she had with these amazing little people being amazing LITTLE people would be short lived and precious.

She chose not to make a list of those who were allowed to be loved, compartmentalizing her heart and spirit, and decided to love madly, deeply, and often. There were people she loved fiercely who never knew her.  They said her light had gone out, that she did not glow the way she once had.  She made them uncomfortable.  At a certain point she had stopped asking for permission and reasons to love.  She stopped hoping for reciprocity and fairness.  She consciously went on loving with a vengeance and passing forgiveness around like the common cold, and day dreaming about when she could finally rest.

There were hard days, nights, weeks, moments, breaths, laughs, cries, and prayers. There were times she said exactly what was on her mind in the hopes that she’d walk away feeling lighter and instead was left with the realization that people do not always care about how a fellow human feels.  There were nights she wished the moonlight would last forever.  While she prayed, cried, spoke clearly, mumbled, poured out feelings, hid behind her since of humor, pretended not to be in love, (while falling deeper into it) she remained ‘paralyzed with hope’.

My love.

When I say I believe in love you smirk. 

You’re mentally patting me on the head, your eyes squinting and your head tilts with “aw, aren’t you cute” condescension. You misunderstand… I’m not talkin about romance, or hippie dippy air headed empty promise Valentine’s Day paper hearts and inflation priced roses. It’s not catchy pop song lyrics with pretty faces and trendy clothes. It’s bigger. My love is a prisoner that’s been wrongly convicted and has spent decades pumping iron and meditating on justice. It’s a caged lion, pacing, growling, hungry and ready to attack. My love is knock you out, slap ya mama, spit on your neck, kick to the stomach scary. It’s animal, chemical, musical, physical, intensity almost miserable turned all the way up strong. It’s not subject to the same weather patterns and changes that you mortals face. My love levels cities and rebuilds homes. My love slays the dragons and steals the throne. My love has never left me all alone. I don’t need yours I’ve got my own, it’s my love. It’s my love. It’s mine. 

It’s called a praise poem…

I wrote most of this in a workshop with Glenis Redmond, a Kennedy center artist. Each bit is about my grandparents, parents and myself… look Glenis up, her writing is moving and beautiful.


I am a group of men drowning sorrow and fears they can’t verbalize, for fear of seeming as soft as the kerchief used to wipe away their tears.

I am women numbing the pain of a body that is no longer hers, glugs alone in a washroom while children pound at the door like a storm demanding your attention.

I am that warm belly, sour stomach, red flushed cheeks, shaky hands. An accent others dismiss, a punch line to many off color jokes. Mugs passed around, gathering strangers, fracturing families.

I am the sweat on the forehead of an overworked, under paid farmer, who only knows how to love his family, his God and his land.

I am the child who grew up knowing that there was something in the at bottle… something that could make you sing, or make you scream and you’d just have to be thirsty enough to find out which.

I stand 5 foot and 8 and 3 quarter inches, always rounding up, always trying so hard to be more. On the inside I am beyond measurement. I am LOVE personified. On the inside I am taller than a stack of my father’s fears, and stronger than my mother’s faith.

I am an abusive alcoholic husband who drinks to forget a past that follows me everywhere. A voice in my head that tells me things I fear are true… and a mother I just needed to protect me.

I am that man’s co-dependent wife, just putting on a brave face, for the neighbors, for my church, for my daughter. Because I do not yet understand how much she hears and sees. I do not yet know that she insists on having paper to draw a better world, I only know that she’s a good artist.

I am a mother of 8 with an unfaithful husband. I may be judged and mocked and tired on my own… but I will not pretend to be blind just to let this go on.

I am a collection of weak people who found strength to move mountains. And strong people with monumental weaknesses. I am all of these stories. Every cell and fiber contains their mistakes, sins, prayers and good intentions. I am a magic concoction of their pain and my love, their grace and my sins… I am a journey, and my story goes on;


Spilled memories


We had a problem every day back then, when I was a kid… there was never time to talk about last night, or yesterday, or the last time, or feelings, or fears, or things that went on right under my parent’s noses. We (they) were too busy dealing with right now. There is a problem right now that must be dealt with, and screamed about, and scary noises and slamming doors and neighbors staring and kids laughing at us and me crying alone in my bedroom about. So, no… I did not talk to them about it.  I did not talk about it at all. I simply developed an inability to focus on anything the least bit unpleasant and a tendency to burst into tears at the first sign of stress…not much has changed.

I never had much of an attention span. I would decide not to be there…daydream, play. Even at 9 I had a desire to document things. I would audio record myself talking into my boombox, sing, make jokes, do voices (I had to think for a minute there, should I say ‘interviews’ for, that is what I was trying to get the listener to believe was happening…but it was me and then me with a southern or British accent).  I found that I could come up with songs and poems easily, writing was tricky…I always had to share it if it was on paper.  Making sure your daughter is not writing in her diary or school journal about what actually goes on in her home, disguised as support, nurturing creativity. Fear. I wanted other people to hear me. I wanted someone to talk back to me. I wanted to communicate with someone. I did not know this about myself then, but I just wanted someone to understand and hear me…feel me. Ya feel me?

My mom looked for an apartment in the area, one in Salinas (which was funny to me because dad had always joked that his professor said that if you found yourself in Salinas, then you should find yourself out of Salinas. I remember seeing one completely white and tiny apartment with a microwave in it. “Whoa! Wait till I tell dad!” Mom just smiled. I told him about the tiny apartment and the microwave, he warned me not to stand in front of it, of course I won’t what am I nuts?  I don’t remember if I didn’t know that they were divorcing…I can’t imagine that I didn’t know…when I look back I feel like I was acting like I didn’t know.  Finally, he yelled it at me in the middle of a fight. “You know what she’s doing don’t you?! She’s leaving! That’s why she’s looking at these places, and all these papers every night. Did you know that?!” What did I do? I don’t really remember, other than looking from him to her, and realizing that mom had seemed calmer lately. She seemed like she had headphones on in a noisy room, you know? Like, the chaos just wasn’t soaking into her anymore. “Oh.” I blinked.

He was my buddy, he was fun, and he made me laugh like no one could, or did, or ever has… but he was not the stable father that I needed… I mean, did I need to even say that? I think we all gathered that much yes? Ok, so he was like a friend, a friend that was scary a lot of the time. I just wanted him to be happy. All I ever wanted was to make him smile, make him laugh… it was not easy. I would learn later about his childhood and feel nothing but sad for him. I would later learn how his mental illness combined with addiction had left him unable to be what I needed him to be and feel pain for him so deeply that tears sting my eyes almost every time he crosses my mind.  I hold no anger or resentment for him.  The idea that my memories, or more specifically, my writing about my memories would cause him pain, is the only reason that I never did.  I am not healed. I still burst into tears every time I attempt to write anything about my childhood…but it is not anger that I’m choking on…It’s all of this. I just wish someone had seen me is all. Or, on days when I am feeling fragile, and broken, and like I am still just a lonely child talking to herself because no one else will, I wish that things had been different. On other days, I feel empowered, like my past has left me with an ability to see pain in others and move with compassion.  I am a true empath.  I can see nothing but love in some ways because of those ugly days. It has been work to get to that point though… I suppose that work is a lifelong job…

During all of my mom’s apartment hunting I would go to school and update my friends about what neighborhood we looked at. I was super into the idea of moving closer to my friends, but we were an Army base family and my friends were Carmel kids.  My mom made good money for 1990 as a Manager at McDonalds, like the head manager. My mom has worked her way up to the top of every company I have ever seen her work for, but that’s a different story…maybe. But, I went to school at a Catholic private school in Caramel. I had gone to the base school but my poor grades inspired my parents to pay lots of money for me to get a ‘better education’. Personally (sips tea) it seems looking back, like I if had lived in a more stable environment at home my grades wouldn’t have been so poor, but who knows.  Anyway, we were NOT going to be living anywhere near my friends. On the phone to my grandma June, my mom’s mom, Grandma said ‘you know you can always come home right?’ and my mom had not known that. She did not know that was an option.  I was excited, because new was exciting. I told my friends, they all signed my plaid jumper on my last day and I never spoke to any of them again. I thought I would write to them, I wanted to, I just didn’t (obviously this would all be shot as a montage with against something bluesy). My dad and I cracked jokes the whole last day. He gave me a present. A gift bag with a Wilson Phillips cassette, a camera and film, candy, etc. I cried myself to sleep in the back seat as we drove out of the base for the last time. Years later my dad would tell me that he too cried himself to sleep that night.

When they sat me down to tell me that they were divorcing I did not cry. I immediately said, “at least you guys won’t be fighting anymore” … I was 9. I guess we could go on about how mature that was, but it’s just sad. Sad that I knew that so deeply in my gut that even my 9-year-old brain with my temper tantrums and smart ass mouth couldn’t muster up even one tear for them. ‘End. This. Now’ was my feeling. Partly because I was not able to see or even imagine the future, that I would miss my dad, that life would be so different, that I would miss California so deeply that even some commercials are hard to watch…Good, is all I could think… Good. I liked change. My cousins in Ohio would ask me later if I wanted my parents to get back together. ‘No way’ I’d say, and they couldn’t understand that. I didn’t want my mom to be with any guy. My dad’s dad was an abusive alcoholic, my mom’s dad ran around on her and then left her with 8 children, and my dad was, well you know… I thought that our moving away was once and for all stating that men were bad. I wanted to put a sign on the door that said, ‘NO BOYS’ and live out our days just me and her. Like a Thelma and Louise vibe. So yes, I was a total bitch when my mom finally got a boyfriend. I was like a jealous boyfriend. ‘Like who is this guy? Sitting on MY couch, with MY mom?!’ Because no matter how you do it, when your mom starts dating someone it’s weird.


I don’t drink enough water. I am ‘in recovery’ I think anyway…I am sober, clean, you know? (I have gone back and forth on whether I should say things like ‘in recovery’ or not. Maybe I will just say that I am someone who has chosen to not ever drink or use substance… I will say that, yes. With my chin tilted up, I’ll say that. But seriously, anyone who has known me for longer than you’ve been reading this probably knows that ‘in recovery’ is exactly what I should call it.) I am scatterbrained. I am anxious, not in a cute way, like ‘oooooh (pouting) I’m so nervous.’ (Bites nails, blinks a lot. Adorable.) I chew the inside of my cheeks to the point of scaring, I don’t sleep well, I cry way too easily…  I raise my voice too easily, I can feel the clutter and the mess sometimes, like actually feel it. But… it’s all worlds better than it used to be. Because these are real feelings. I am not numb. I am not heightened or dumbed down. Personally, I think I cry easily because I started self-medicating so young that I did not learn to feel and deal the way a grown woman should, so I am stunted, maybe? I am in the process of learning these things though (namaste, ohm, breathe, amen) and the old Emily would not recognize me. Thank God.

I’m 15 years old and hunched over my desk trying my hardest to cover my entire paper so no one can see what I’m writing. That’s not easy. I can’t NOT write it down though, I’ll forget it if I don’t write it down right now. I tell myself I’ll remember it, but I dont. I mean, I suppose I could remember it without writing it right this minute, if my teachers would not insist on me using my brain for other things… they almost always do though… so I have to write it down now. Sometimes a person will say something and it just sounds like a song to me. It zips around my brain on a melody that nobody gave it, like I heard it sung to me, while everyone else heard it spoken… or something. And it have to grab it. And someone just spelled out the word tragedy. T-R-A-G-E-D-Y…

I was named Emily Elizabeth, after Emily Dickenson and Elizabeth Barett Browning, (both poets as is my dad) at my one month check up my parents both nearly fell out of their waiting room chairs when they picked up a book to read to me (yes, at a few weeks old, they read to me, let’s all roll our eyes now) when they saw my name next to the little blonde owner of Cliford the big red dog. My dad writes…is a writer. Poetic and beautiful phrases and words can come from him so easily. So can other words.

“Oh! Poetry!” My teacher is standing over me beaming, “you’re writing poetry?” The whole class turns to look at me.

“No.” I say, shaking my head, shutting the notebook. Crawling inside my purse.

“Oh” she says, sounding disappointed, walking away.

I have always treated poetry like a secret. It was no different then the embarrassing depressive spin outs documented in my diaries. Secrets. So, when I started reading Mary Karr’s work, after hearing her on The Beautiful Writers podcast, it struck me funny that…I do that. That thing she does. That stuff she’s talking about. Yeah. I just don’t talk about it. To me, unless money was involved (‘Sure I’ll enter that poetry contest, I mean I may as well right, 100$ for rhyming?!’) it was always embarassing, caring that much. You can not be aloof and write poetry. It seemed so completely uncool. I treated poetry like a shameful ex that you’re embarrassed to still see every so often… like don’t talk to me when my friends are around ok? No, no, you’re beautiful… but they don’t really know about you.

2:05 am and my head is too full for sleep. I always feel better after writing. Always. I am considering writing more… not like, frequently more, but MORE, like substance. More stuff, going deeper, further back… things a person has to bet brave to commit to word form. I guess that’s the issue. I have never been all that brave. But if it’s going to keep me up at night then, I suppose I don’t have much choice you know?




Sometimes even the nice guys…

AL Franken’s pic just proves that sometimes even nice guys have done this shit. We have created an environment where it’s ok, so ok that he probably forgot all about this incident because of the ‘nobody got hurt’ mentality. This is why women look out for eachother and travel in groups. Because sometimes even the nice guys do this sick shit. I do not think he (Franken) is a predator, I think he was under the impression (as many men are) that the woman in his company was there for him to treat as he wished. She is lesser and her body is for this kind of behavior. I mean, look at her laying there…eyes closed while having breasts and everything! And kissing her the way he did probably seemed funny to him, got one!

This is a man I consider to be on my side. I do not think he is dangerous. I think he was stupid. I do not lump him into the same group of men as the ones who target children, or rapists. I can however, completely understand if another woman does put him in that group though. I can absolutely empathize with the woman who came forward about him because I have been her. Most women have. I think we are seeing something, with new stories coming out every single day about sexual abuse. It happens all the time. And when our society makes it ok to take a woman’s autonomy from her, to treat women like they are props and only sexual beings, maybe this is what we end up with.

I remember when drinking meant you were willing. That’s why they wanted you to drink. (Or why bottles would be passed around with only the girls actually taking drinks, the boys just pretending to.) I remember being passed out and waking with lips on my face and a toungue in my mouth. Hands all over me. We had not ever flirted. But I was there, I had consumed alcohol, and I had fallen asleep, so…

This did not happen once. This was any time a group of drunk rebellious teenagers got together without supervision (and God forbid you HAD ever consented to be touched, because that meant you were ALWAYS open to being touched). This is why there is often a ‘sober sister’ (or as i have heard men refer to her ‘cock blocker’) at these parties, because sometimes even the nice guys… These males are grown up family men now. Not predators, not abusive people who went on to abuse again. They just thought this behavior was ok.

I would say ‘imagine of she were your sister/wife/daughter’ before you do something like this…but who other people see her as should not be what stops you. Just don’t.

Great news!

I have been holding onto this big news for a bit now… I guess I hoped to say it in person, to someone. I guess I was afraid it would be taken away, or that I would jinx it if I spoke too soon. But, now I’m twisting my hands thinking I may be acting ungrateful by not speaking up. Can’t win… (only, I totally can win😉) I met with the owner and director of a local yoga studio about a part time shop attendant position, we talked a lot. I have never talked through so much of my personal history as I did there, I left feeling vulnerable but energized…it felt good to be so open. But I also thought, I may have blown it.  A day after my appointment they contacted me and said they’d like to help me (drum rolllll) get my yoga teacher certification! (Right here, that’s where we’ll put the confetti and the fire works.) So if you’ve noticed that I’m super chipper and annoyingly happy lately, too bad! Haha, I’m super excited happy stoked!

The plan is to begin a program to help people in the area who suffer with addiction. There are programs like this out there, and adding yoga to the 12 step programs for addiction has actually been successful in many cases. Yoga is not a replacement for treatment centers, or any of the programs, but a really great addition. Our community needs this and I’m honored, and touched and completely blown away that these women see me as a worthy recipient of this opportunity. I have wanted this for so long, and I just gave up that longing feeling and resolved to peace because I know that it would happen as it was meant to. I just decided to keep learning about yoga, and art, to behave like a student and to stay open. Meditation and prayer have helped me focus in on what I really want my life to be, and the mother my kids need me to be.

Within 1 month of that decision, to be open and trust the process, but still focused on my goals, I got this news and got into an arts integration teacher training program! It’s as if focusing on good brought more good.

I am so energized by this, the synchronicity in all of it, the way God can use past pain to make a bright future. The way being open can feel like the wrong thing to do, because it’s hard, but it ends up connecting you to others that are open and that is when the magic happens!

If anyone reading this has any input on addiction treatment and or yoga I’d love to hear your input!