I remember being seven. Lying awake at night. Dreaming. Wondering. Thinking. If only.

If only I were older.
If only I could make my own choices.
If only I could get through elementary school.
If only I could get through middle school.
Then I’ll be in high school.
Then I’ll be closer to college.
Closer to the first day of the rest of my life.

But back to being seven: I remember lying awake at night. I remember squeezing my eyes shut so tight that I would force tiny specks to appear, bright little lights that would shimmer and make me think I had dreamt up a magical place and this power, this ability to create shimmery specks, meant I could do almost anything that I ever would want to do in all of life.

Years went by, as they do, and my dreams changed, but the idea of a dream remained. I didn’t see my shimmer as often, and I grew increasingly uncomfortable in the waiting for my dream to come true, as if it were in queue but its number never called.

I don’t think my seven-year-old self would ever invent, understand, or imagine that a dream could be lost or unfulfilled. And yet that is exactly what happened as the courage and wonder of thoughts I had at seven faded only to thoughts of: if only. As I grew closer to if only, I grew further from that little shimmer that encouraged my desire to dream and seek the impossible.

I seldom let myself be completely honest with myself. That’s a terrible space to be in, to hang around in. A space of complete honesty. It’s a space I do visit occasionally, but if I were to spend real time there, I might start into an alarming path of unraveling, which is unthinkable, as I’ve spent the entirety of my life completely satisfied within a personal labyrinth.

Despite my desire to keep my honest self secure and hidden, I occasionally meet another who sees through my fortress with ease. I find that annoying. I tend to avoid these people.

One of those people once told me I needed to spend time alone. Well, alone, but out in the world. Does that make sense? To be alone in the world, not running errands, but being. Maybe in a restaurant, or to a concert. To those places where, traditionally, it should be group event or shared experience. Not sitting at a table with a book or journal, but just alone. Eating. Staring. BEING.

Sounds awful, yes?

It was. But this person in my life, well I saw her then and still do, as: confident, smart, and independent. And amazing, generally. Qualities I wanted and desperately ached to call my own.

I completed the task and it was grueling. I have complete unease, distrust, and skepticism about time spent in solitude or any time spent not on (a) task. It doesn’t matter what the task might be. It could be scrubbing grout, or cataloging spices and their expiration dates. It could be pulling weeds. Painting a room. It could be reading or re-reading a favorite novel. It could be writing. It could be cooking. It could be making lists for future tasks. I have complete comfort in the doing of all these things and even doing them alone. But it would be something. It wouldn’t be idle. It wouldn’t be just being.

And yet, I have finally opened the door just wide enough to my honest space self to know, really know, and accept and welcome, that this is one of my burdens to bear, and hopefully, eventually, overcome and love and squeeze-hug ever so tightly, this concept, this ability to (just) be.


The weight of decisions overwhelms me. Sometimes to the point of inaction, but usually to the point of overexertion and overthinking. I fervently want my life, my path, my career, my family, myself to be on the right trajectory, I’m concerned only with outcomes.

And the space between those outcomes? That is my personal misery. That is where I fall apart. Over question. Over process. Over think. Over do. That is where my sea of if onlys begins to swell in infinity and I lose any ability to BE.

And yet, that is where I need to be. I need to be in between outcomes. I need to be in that ocean. I need to be in that state of not yet there and no longer where I was before. I need to be okay in the in-betweens,
in the hallways.

It’s the hallways that matter.
It was in one of these hallways that I became a mother.
A thinker. A musician.
A friend.

I’ve avoided the hallways, quickly hoping to duck into the next door, hoping it would be THE door. Any answer, THE answer. Desperate for the relief that this door might hold my path, my yellow brick road, my calling.

All these years of rushing through the halls and I’ve finally realized: this is where life is lived. Where joy is found. Where love is had.

It’s the hallways that matter.
The more time I spend in preparation, the more courageously I can open and enter and choose not to knock on just the next door or any door that I find. Hallways are where I meet others, learn of their experiences, learn about the lives they’ve had behind the doors they’ve ventured, packing their experiences and lessons into my bags as my own, as I continue on, forge ahead.

Hallways are where, if I allow it, I can understand that the door I have just left, was not wrong, but was just next. Next on a delicate path that only asks from me to be on it. To be aware of it, embracing it, and finding the joy in its space, so that I might be closer to propping open the door to my honest space. To begin to live in it, dwell in it, explore it, and BE within it.

Will there be another door? Almost certainly. Hopefully. But until then, I’ll be in the hallway. Singing, writing, creating, playing, laughing. And finally, oh-so-finally loving every minute of just BEING in it and rediscovering the shimmery specks left there by my seven-year-old self.


I was sitting shotgun in his Silverado. The second manicure I’d ever had was fresh, as was the ID in my wallet. Every twenty minutes I anxiously consulted my Map Quest print out, trying to match mile marker to its appropriate step of my plan. We only brought the most important items we owned, some still new in their boxes dotted with bits of scotch tape that held the wrappings of congratulations!, giving away the newness of our life together. One of those items was a rather large Mr. Coffee. I didn’t understand how this made the cut, I didn’t drink coffee, nor did I understand its dear importance. But he said it was important, so there it sat behind us, a silent bystander of a 1200-mile drive that started in Orlando.

The first stop we made was Savannah. When we walked into the lobby of the Hampton Inn on East Bay Street, I thought wow, a girl could get used to this. I remember a glistening chandelier, iced water, and the cleanest whitest linens I had ever experienced. We didn’t see much of the hotel, we found ourselves giddy with the delight of exploring a new city, especially one that seemed to hold such beauty and possibility.

That night we sat on the deck of the Chart House, a dark and sophisticated restaurant, but with a marlin on the wall. I had never been to such a place. We started into the business of ordering every possible sea creature and a wonderful bottle of Chardonnay something. I have no idea what our conversation was, but I remember the feeling of possibility. I remember the feeling of wondering, can I be here? Is this okay? I remember trusting the man behind those brown/hazel/golden eyes and not really realizing what saying YES had meant. I remember boats and shipping vessels and a quiet sunset on the magnificent Savannah River.

The biggest mistake I made that night was getting a TO GO box. Seafood anything should never be taken TO GO when you don’t have a house with a real refrigerator to go (back) to. We had a cooler and ice from the hotel vending area. But we were new, and I’m pretty sure he was being polite by not telling me this was the worst idea ever. He put my TO GO box in his cooler and I closed it up, promising to eat it for lunch the next day when we stopped. Well I didn’t eat it for lunch the next day. I didn’t eat it the day after that. In fact, no one opened the cooler until three days later. Three sunny days later we would open that little cooler. I know that I opened it first and almost threw up. I also know that I closed the lid real quick and pretended like I didn’t just do that while waving my hands frantically to get that smell out of the air. I also know that I tried not to look when he went to open it up. I saw him gag, but he didn’t say a thing. He just picked up the whole thing, left the room and came back without it. Five long minutes later all he said was, “Hey babe. Let’s not save any more seafood from restaurants, okay?” Weird. I definitely would have expected more of an upset from that. I remember thinking marriage was easy.

The day after we left Savannah I found myself at an Orioles game with my husband and his cousin. I kept reminding myself that this trip, was in fact, not our honeymoon, and that being at a baseball game with his cousin was OK, because this was not our honeymoon. I repeated that a lot that day. But because his cousin was there, I have a really neat picture together with my husband that shows just how happy I was to be so newly married. J also looks really happy, but I won’t ever be certain if it was because we were newly married or because we were at Camden Yards, my money is on Camden Yards. It was also a night game, which is the only reason I agreed to go in the first place. If I’m going to do something like watch baseball, I don’t want to have to pretend to watch baseball while being hot. That’s just madness. I don’t remember much else from that night. I have no idea who the O’s were playing or if the O’s won. I remember taking that one picture, eating a hot dog, and trying on a crab hat in the gift shop.

After Baltimore, the last leg of our trip was to drive to Groton. I remember the bridge over the Thames River and driving into town thinking this place was really exciting. A huge red GROTON INN sign greeted us at the exit. I would later use this sign to help me navigate around a town I felt was much larger than it actually was. I remember seeing a Taco Bell and the Chinese Kitchen and thinking, what other food could one possibly need? I remember using my new ID for the first time, handing it over like it was a newborn child to the guy at the Pass & ID office. That was the first time I heard J tell someone he was my sponsor. It sparked in me a tiny irritation, that I should need sponsoring. I remember driving around the submarine base. Every building looked to be the same only with a different number or letter. I remember thinking I would never feel comfort in this place nor could this ever feel like home, being grateful our stay was only for three short months, and yet so happy just to be anywhere with this man.

The Groton Chalet sat up on a hill, and reminded me not of a hotel, but of a place where you could perhaps build your own Frankenstein or stay in a real life haunted mansion. The inside seemed tidy, not clean. I remember looking at a picture of our room three years later and wondering how did I not cry? But I didn’t cry, not at first. It had a full size bed with a brownish comforter. One long-ish dresser. One chair. There must have been a mini-fridge, but I can’t say for certain. I remember happily arranging (not necessarily unpacking) all our worldly possessions, setting up Mr. Coffee, and shoving suitcases in the space between the wall and the bed, leaving it impossible to actually roll out of bed on that side.

The next morning, at 6 am, reveille burst through a speaker right outside our window, followed by the national anthem, and I almost peed on myself. Laughing hysterically was my husband. He was fully dressed, drinking coffee and watching Fox News. I was so confused. He kissed my head and told me he’d be back for me at lunchtime. As soon as he left I tried vainly to go back to sleep, which was impossible now that the smell of coffee had permeated the room. I quickly switched the channel from Fox News to Good Morning America. I think I watched the entirety of GMA, Live! With Regis & Kathy Lee, and it wasn’t until halfway through the Price is Right that I realized it was almost time for lunch and I hadn’t even showered.

This little routine went on for a week. The next Monday, J asked me if I could make his coffee, since the reveille woke me up anyways. I had never made coffee. How does one make coffee? How does a filter work? Where does it go? How much coffee stuff do I put in there anyways? I feel like I’m doing this wrong, this is too much pressure. I am doing this wrong. He assured me, I was in fact capable of figuring it out. I told him he didn’t really need coffee. That was our first fight.

Our second fight was when he told me to stop switching the news to GMA when he was in the shower. I told him I wasn’t giving up my news show for him. He told me GMA is not, never has, never will be, the news. I told him I would change the channel as soon as he left. He said, I’m leaving now.
That’s not true, well not in the: I’M LEAVING! sort of way. He did leave, but in the, I’m going to be late for work if I don’t leave now, sort of way.

I did watch GMA as soon as he left, but when the segment that came on was, “Which Winter Coat Best Fits Your Body Shape?” I started to think he might have a point.

The next morning I asked J a big favor. I wanted to borrow his truck. To drive it. To a place that wasn’t the Groton Chalet. I hadn’t been anywhere without him since we had been married, and I wanted to GO somewhere. But I was scared. I didn’t know how to drive his truck. It definitely still felt like his truck, not ours, and I was scared of ruining it. I also didn’t know how to drive on a navy base, there seemed to be additional rules, which were of course not posted, but required. I didn’t have Map Quest directions. I was scared.

So I drove his truck. I took the road just outside base and only made one right turn. I drove until it felt like I shouldn’t be driving any more (which in reality was only about five miles). I found the post office, a Dunkin Donuts, and a temp agency. I didn’t go inside any of these places; that would have required trying to park, but it felt so good to be outside.

That afternoon I had J drive me back to the temp agency. An hour later I had a job:
Groton Parks & Recreation, Secretary.

The job was perfect. It got me out of the Groton Chalet. I could stop pretending to understand the Spanish channel that I watched with the maid service when they cleaned our room. I learned to park J’s truck. We had a little extra spending money. This was the most exciting part.

There was no kitchen in our room. There was no real kitchen in the Groton Chalet. The only thing I could cook with was one of those little pots you could plug into the wall and talk to, begging it to boil your water. We ate packets of noodle meals and Banquet frozen dinners for a month before I found my sweet gig at the Parks & Recs Dept. Every night we would walk from the Groton Chalet, to the commissary, pick out our frozen meals, walk back to the Chalet, heat them up, and talk about our plans for our lives. I was in heaven, minus the banquet meals. I can’t even walk down the frozen food aisle any more, that’s the kind of damage eating Banquet meals for a month can do.

After I started working we felt more comfortable going out into the world. I remember being invited (well J being invited) to a nearby casino. I didn’t want to go, but by this time I would go anywhere that wasn’t the Chalet. So I did what any newly wed would do, I went to be polite. I have negative interest in gambling. But the casino was a haven for people watching. Once I got tired with that, I would find a comfy chair to read while J watched his friends gamble. Only once did I bring my LSAT study/prep books. Only once. Although J might argue it was more. I also only once brought them to a bar while he watched football, well maybe twice.

After three months of Groton I was tired. I was tired of the reveille speaker directly outside our window. I was tired of reading books at the casino. I was tired of walking to the commissary for banquet meals. I was tired of burning noodles in my plug-in pot. I was tired of trying to sleep in a full bed. I was tired of being the only wife that decided to go to Groton with her husband. I was tired of the tiny room that made me wonder about this military life and where it would lead us. I was tired of wondering where we would end up next, hoping with all my might it was better than this. I was tired of keeping all this to myself, my tiny pity party that celebrated disappointment.

The day J finished his training we had to be out of the room by 10 am. J of course had things to do all over base and couldn’t help me. Not a problem, other than the blizzard that had just started outside. An actual blizzard, the type with swirling snow that hurt your eyeballs. I managed to pack our truck, then sat myself in the lobby of the Chalet watched the weather channel and cried. All I wanted to do was leave.

At noon my husband found me and promised me we would leave. And we did. We drove off base, forging our way while the blizzard blew all around, never having driven in snow much less a blizzard, and we went half a mile outside base to a gas station. We sat there for two hours until the storm passed. It didn’t matter. We were one step closer to leaving Groton. We didn’t have anything to get the snow off the windows, so we used a credit card until someone told us to go inside and buy a scraper. J came back with a scraper and gummy worms. As I opened the gummy worms, the storm seemed to break. The sun greeted us, welcoming us away from Groton, down I-95, and onwards to the first day of the rest of our lives.


Moonlight and snow sheathed Groton from our harsh judgments as we drove into town again five years later. Morning, however, was quick and happy to reveal the city in its truth. The large red GROTON INN sign remained unchanged in its perpetual state of weatheredness, as was the Taco Bell and Chinese Kitchen. The distance I had hesitated to travel here as a newlywed seemed short and un-confusing. The sub base remained a rhinoceros: large, grey, obtrusive, ornery. I still didn’t like driving on it, but I did. The air carried a collective sadness, and pushed it out to the river, allowing in its place just newer sorrows. The city seemed to change only through its transient inhabitants, the rest remaining in a purgatory of service to those unending patrons.

This time, we spent no time at the Groton Chalet. We drove slowly past and remembered the good and the bad, making jokes about it being marriage boot camp. We visited the commissary with a budget that enabled us to thankfully skip the Banquet frozen meal section. Our stay here would be a little longer, six months. But we had navy housing just outside base, complete with a full sized refrigerator. We also had a little boy, not yet a year old. We had that renewed excitement, anticipation, hope even, for what was in store, not for our time in this place, but again for our time beyond.

We finally decided to explore our forced home.  We found cider and home made ice cream. We found a restaurant snuggled away behind unassuming industrial buildings that sold the best lobster bisque we had ever tasted. We found a pasta shop to which all future Italian meals would be measured. Six months passed thankfully quickly and we found ourselves once again packing up Mr. Coffee, our dreams, and heading out. There were tears this time, but of the bittersweet variety, mostly due to leaving the home where our son took his first steps and saying goodbye to those military friends that make this life bearable, exciting even.


I now have a small sentiment for all things Groton-esque, for the local spots we uncovered that allow me fond memories of a place that forces our return. But the city itself makes me nervous because of its stillness. It seems to approve of its unkempt state, its edges in an eternal upturn like a library book borrowed, carried around, but not read. So much had happened in our time away from here, so much in the in-betweens. But each and every time I am here, I hope to be, not here. Deciding instead to navigate in a space of what’s to come and opportunities unknown. And yet Groton pulls me back, intent on teaching me a lesson I’ve ignored, the city continually mocking me through its stagnation.

I feel captive by this place, its function keeps my mind in a constant holding pattern of hoping for more, for better, for anything that isn’t this. I struggle to see the grace of the continued transitions, the churn they cause throughout, disrupting my need to know, understand, and approve of what might be next.

It had been two years since we had lived in Groton, and my irritation with our necessary return was tempered only by knowing it would be our final visit. This time, the weeks were full of impatience and unrest, my mind full of the familiar anticipation of something else, something better just out of reach.

We waited for our J, to collect him from Groton, out of its grasp, as though he was a prisoner being released after time served. When his paperwork was final he joined us in the car. We looked to each other, and then together out the window to the submarine at its pier as our son declared, “When I grow up, I want to work on a submarine too.” His statement made me pause and question this drastic choice/change that had just been finalized. As we glanced in the rearview mirror, this time seeing not one but, two little boys in the back seat, both with bright eyes and enormous smiles, I felt a much needed peace about our choice and the two main reasons for it.

J drove us alongside the Thames, over its bridge, and we left the submarine capital of the world in the distance, and our duty to it. I felt what could only be a wrinkle in time, and we were starting just as we had left almost ten years earlier. That all of THAT, that first time in Groton and all the in betweens, those times, were just to get us to this time, and this was really our beginning. I felt that newlywed giddiness all over again. I felt that wonderment of, can I really be here? Is this really ok? We are driving away from everything we have ever known and we have no idea where we are going.


A year later I found myself willingly headed back. Our boys now both walking talking beings with preferences and words to express them. We joined our J on a work trip, to have a little northeast adventure, and to visit friends who were still tethered to this place. But this time for us, no Groton Chalet, no navy housing, just a Hampton Inn on the outskirts of town. This Hampton Inn had no chandelier or ice water waiting. The sheets were white, but not crisp. It didn’t matter. This trip was not about the hotel, but the city, a city my boys had never experienced, and I had mostly ignored. It took eleven years, but we were finally here for Groton and nothing more.

We took ourselves to Avery Point. We walked its singular path. We saw fishermen on the rocks and ladies power walking. We saw couples picnicking with nothing more than a beloved bottle of wine. We saw a college kid giving his parents the tour, pretending to know everything about everything. We disturbed a woman lost in a good book.

Looking west we saw the gorgeous architecture of what my four year old insisted was a castle. He instinctively grabbed his brother’s hand and took advantage of its expansive lawn and just ran. His father instinctively took pictures. I instinctively turned to the coast. And instead of lingering within the horizon and absorbing its beauty, I closed my eyes to enjoy the stillness.
I took in a wonderfully fresh breath of what could have easily been mine for years and years. I gave the universe my apology as I exhaled. The moment only made sweeter by the laughter of two brothers, sons, and the feeling of my husband’s arms around my shoulders.

I opened my eyes and of course saw my ocean, inviting me so quickly to fill it with my dreams and expectations. But my eyes fixed instead on a lighthouse that dotted the coast, a home not yet in the horizon and yet still out of reach. I wondered how long it had lived in that space, in the
in-betweens, and who had made it, and why did it look like a home, when it was still so far from its shore. But there it remained, unwavering and intentional, consenting to its purpose so that others could continue on to find theirs.


leaving plants.

I love the smell of Home Depot. Every time I walk in a take a big long, deep breath. Trying, of course, not to appear insane, which is really difficult to do.  I never know where the thing I need is in that store, and that’s okay. I don’t mind. Because it just smells so gooood.  I say “no thanks” to offers of help from the apron people because I like to wander their aisles, pondering the possibility of redoing my mailbox with fancy numbers or wondering if it would be wrong to use an outdoor pillow inside.  I sit on their bench swings and close my eyes for just a moment, maybe two. I wander to the aisle where they have all their products to clean stuff and I stare in amazement while thinking I have probably been cleaning my whole house ineffectively for possibly my whole life.

Once, after just having moved to Maine, I was in Home Depot looking for a new filter for my humidifier. Actually it was for the toddler’s humidifier. I thought there should be a section for it, and I found myself in the de-humidifier area. Commence conversation with Home Depot Apron Guy just trying to help:

Him: So can I help you find something?
Me: Yes, I’ve been looking for a filter for my humidifier.
Him: Oh, well you’re in the right section!
Me: That’s fantastic. So… where are they?
Him: They’re right here. (Looking at me like I’m an idiot.)
Me: That says “DE-humidifier.”
Him: Right.
Me: I want to humidify.
Him: Wait, what?
Me: I want to humidify.
Him: No one humidifies here. Are you new?
Me: Well, yes actually.
Him: Then surely you’re confused. We have the humidity here. We don’t want it.

Cue sneezing, coughing toddler.

Him: OH, you want to humidify him!
Me: (trying to hold back giggles) Yes, and, please.
Him: Yeah we don’t have those here, try Bed, Bath, and Beyond.
Me: Of course.

But the trip was not in vain. It was summer. And summer meant the garden section was in full bloom. As much as I love the general smell of Home Depot, I think I just may love their garden section a bit more. I love the beginnings of their spring and summer when their perennials and hanging baskets overwhelm the aisles and greet me in the parking lot. I love looking at what plants need only 25% shade or which ones do best inside. I inspect the tiny pots of spices- the parsleys, cilantros, and rosemarys- their aromas fill my nostrils and my heart with pure joy.

I want every one of these beautiful plants. I want the flowers. I want the extra soil. I want the gardening gloves and shears. I want the big floppy hat. I want to know what to do with fertilizer and when.

I have to force myself away from this space because this longing for horticulture begins to tear at the edges of my soul.

I don’t know why I insist on visiting my little sanctuary in Home Depot, knowing that I will buy not even one tiny potted plant. I will purchase neither garden hose nor garden troll. I literally go to Home Depot just to stop and smell their silly roses.
And then I cry a little.
I cry because if I buy a plant, I will plant it. I will plant it and water it and love it. I will wait for it to bloom. I will cheer it on as though it’s my full time job. I will pray for it and hope for it.  I will take pictures of it and log it as noteworthy on all social media outlets to which I am a part. I will credit myself- gardener extraordinaire!- when the thing blooms or doesn’t just look completely sick and wretched. I might even name it. That’s not weird, right? Well let’s say I don’t name it, but I consider it mine and I wish it a lifetime full of happiness.

And then, I will have to leave it.

I’ll have to leave it to someone else, or worse, nobody else. Because it can’t come with me, and I must go.

Because this is the life we/I chose. The life of moving. The life of service.  The life of leaving plants.

I just can’t bear to leave any more plants so I just don’t buy them. I don’t have it in me to spend that kind of time. Make that kind of commitment, just knowing that the next person who lives HERE isn’t going to care about my PLANT. They won’t realize that this PLANT was all that I had, that it was the one thing keeping me going while I was waiting. Waiting on a phone call, waiting on the hope of an email, waiting on a letter, waiting for a boat to leave, waiting for a boat to return, waiting for orders, waiting for promotions. In all these years I’ve been keeping dinner waiting, keeping a baby waiting, keeping a toddler waiting, keeping family waiting for news of news, of life, of excitement, of anything that might convince them that yes, I did get married to a person that does exist and that I haven’t been living in an elaborate scheme designed only to get myself a full set of dinnerware and new towels.

After waiting on my person for so long, waiting on a plant seemed predictable and easy. And I need that. I need predictability, reliability. I need to know that something I’ve nurtured is going to be okay and not be relocated or told it’s not good enough or it isn’t working long enough or it didn’t do enough to get the job done. I want my PLANT to know it is good enough just because it is my PLANT and it is there, being beautiful, creating CO2

So I can’t go to Home Depot anymore. But because the universe has a snarky side, I can’t seem to really get away from it. Trees, shrubs, and hanging plants accost me as I make my way to the local warehouse store for my weekly collection of three half gallons of soymilk, two gallons of skim milk, and one gallon of almond milk, amongst of course, other necessary and important warehouse purchases.

I must also endure my neighbor, right across the street, endlessly pruning and planting, collecting and gathering so that her space is a specimen of yard perfection. She seems like such a sweet woman and I want to ask her for advice, but I can’t even walk across the street because my contempt for her safely guarded lilies and violets makes me only want to vomit a little in my mouth.

What once was just a thought, a mere- ‘won’t it be nice when we get out and…’ has become a gut wrenching, heart pounding, nerve wrecking, hamster wheeling, mind exploding heartbeat of ‘I can’t wait to be done with this lifestyle’ melody that repeats over and over like a certain song that never ends.

The root cause of the disintegration of my little world actually has roots.

And I want them too.
And I want them now.
And I’ll take an Oompa-Loompa and a Golden Egg while you’re at it.