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How do you know when it’s the end?

Kurt Vonnegut opined in his play Happy Birthday Wanda June that heaven is a giant shuffleboard game. I think of my father sending a disc gliding down the court and then leaning on his cue, sipping a heavenly cocktail, and gazing down at us periodically. He would be especially proud of his grandchildren, two Harvard men (my nephews), Fourteen, a budding novelist, and Seventeen, who shows every indication of moving toward finance but who has been writing front-page articles for his school newspaper since the first week of school (Grinnell’s newspaper is The Scarlet and Black).

Seventeen’s grandfather found his early writing roots in journalism. His father, Seventeen’s great grandfather, was a newspaperman. My brother is an editor for Field and Stream. My grandmother wrote children’s stories and women’s fiction before there was chicklit. Writing is in our blood. From his early journalism exposure, my father never finished a manuscript without centering at least one # at the end. I can still see his desk, which is now mine, covered with piles of thin bond, Xs crossing out the mistakes, his unmistakable handwriting annotating his drafts. Somehow, my father always knew when he was at the end. It must have been such a victory to type those pound/number/hashtag signs at the bottom of the page.

I mean to ask Seventeen if he submits his electronic stories replete with ### at the end or if there is a new convention now that submissions present in digital form. It was less conventional for my father to end his novels that way, but he never typed “the end.” For years I copied him, until one of my college professors circled the ### on the last page of my paper and swirled them away as unnecessary with a delete symbol. Curious, I do a little searching. According to the Internet, it was all the way back in 2007 when the # got repurposed by the tech world. It wasn’t on my radar in its hashtag capacity until much more recently, and while I’ve been known to “hashtag” a phrase or two, I’m enough of a traditionalist that I still think of it as the number or pound sign first.

“Punctuation,” I tell my writing mentee, “makes meaning.” I am incredibly fond of punctuation for this reason. Beyond knowing when and how to employ the squiggles and dots that pepper the keyboard, I marvel how in each unique application punctuation eases the workload for words, adding just the right finish to a polished sentence.

Period. The end. But how do you know?

To finish something, we have to anticipate the end. Early this year I met with my accountant: “I don’t think I’m going to renew the studio lease,” I told her. “After five years, this is going to be it.” And after five years of cheering me on, meeting with me at every turn, soothing and comforting me when obstacles threatened to derail my progress, my accountant simply agreed, “It’s time.”

Full of the promise of possibilities, eager to show my children that their mother could create something amazing, ready to give up the life of a road yogi teaching at as many as seven different places in a given week, it was six years ago when I started writing the chapter that would become Radiant Om Yoga. There were lots of firsts on the journey—from legal explorations like becoming the proud owner of an LLC and a trademark to learning QuickBooks and small-business banking to getting the key to my first leased commercial space. What I didn’t know when I started about running a business, in spite of being self-employed for much of my adult life, I learned to the best of my abilities, marveling at just how different each day could be.

On the fifth anniversary of the very first class I ever taught at Radiant Om Yoga, with the help of three women I am lucky to count as friends and supporters of my yoga journey, we picked up the floor, the last big task to closing the space. That night, Wednesday, I taught my first class in a new space, a yoga cooperative where my community kindly followed me, and the yoga that night reminded us that the practice allows us to adapt.

Thursday it took two car trips to load the tiles into my garage. I made a pile so high that, as Fourteen said, “The floor reaches the ceiling.” The rest of my garage looks very much like a jumble sale; somehow the contents of the studio will find new purpose in my house or move on to new homes.

With nothing left but the garbage cans and a couple of resin chairs I was leaving behind (they were there when I got there), the studio felt like a shell. For five years I was the self-appointed steward of the space. Sitting on the floor one last time, I could see vast improvement to the interior of the building in spite of how hard as it often was: how many times did I curse my leasing company (indeed, at one point when they were fully in breach of contract I was one chess move away from rolling up my mat and taking them to court); how often did I arrive to find leakage from the roof, pest infestations, freezing temps because the furnace was out, snow under the door, broken plumbing, or humidity buckling my flooring; how frequently did my heart sink because just as I struggled to keep the place afloat another yoga studio would announce their grand opening in town? But then again, how many times did I teach in that sanctuary and find ease and joy in my whole being?

Sitting on the cruddy subfloor, I lit the candle and some sage and thanked the building, out loud, for the many, many gifts. Beyond everything I learned about business, beyond all of the yoga delights and revelations, beyond all of the healing, beyond the professional approbations and the personal friendships, the space was my sanctuary too, my healing place as I made the transition out of married life, as I forged ahead into and then out of an intense romance, as friendships deepened and I became ever clearer about who I am and what’s important to me. To mark the end, I rang the tingsha, three times, blew out the candle and knew … it was time to go. For the last time ever, I locked the door, patted the building, and got into my car. So much of the good continues with me, but the chapter, the chapter is truly and really over.img_7361




With a new moon, new beginnings. Looking forward to writing the next chapter, xoR


The keeper of the keys no more … later today I’ll drop this pile at the leasing office. 


Emergency Services

How do I show my gratitude?

Memorial Day. I wake up after a night of tossing, my body turned sideways across my bed. The room looks odd until I blink a few times and realize how far I’ve roamed from my normal orientation. The FitBit on my wrist will confirm that it was not a restful night, even as it sends me a gleeful message that I’ve walked a marathon in six days’ time. I’ll ponder the implications of my every step logged somewhere in the cloud later, I tell myself, right now it’s time to get up and see if I can’t get things squared away after the weekend’s graduation festivities.

The new graduate, Seventeen, is up and ready to mow before he goes to work. The ruffling of his summer is behind him—in reverse order: graduation, graduation party, honors convocation, and wisdom teeth removal—he looks ahead now to a summer of working to save money for college. He’s so excited to launch his next chapter.

I elect to start with pitting the over-purchase of cherries I have left from his party. It’s a messy process, but the Internet has taught me that fitting the cherries over the end of a funnel is a great way to pit them. I’m sitting there awash in cherry pits and splattered in the sticky juice, when Seventeen arrives back inside, the mower ominously quiet.

“There’s a large, dead, bloody creature in the front yard,” he informs me.

We go to the window to see. Sure enough, on the grass in front of the house there’s a opossum, its feet in the air.

“Are you sure it’s dead?” I ask him.

“It has a big gash on its side and there are flies buzzing in and out,” he tells me.

We stand there looking out, regard the equally dead branches in one of the trees in the front yard, and I look back at the opossum.

“It’s not dead,” I tell him.

Together we watch the wounded animal. It’s righted itself and is lifting its head and then dropping its nose into the grass. It must be in severe pain.

A flurry of wondering what to do later, I have the number for off-hours animal control and a dispatcher is telling me he’ll send someone soon. Meanwhile, the opossum is struggling to move and I’m wondering how to corral it until help arrives. In short order a policeman drives up the street in a marked SUV. To my “Good Morning” he replies:

“Are you sure it’s alive?”

“Yes. Barely. But it just moved about two feet.”

He’s in full uniform, a gun and more on his hip, a communication device strapped across his chest. He begins conferring on this, walking away from me and up and down my neighbor’s driveway. Alternately my daughter and son stand on the driveway with me watching. My mother has pulled a chair to the dining room window.

Ultimately, the man gets a pole out of his truck with a loop on the end. I suggest to Thirteen that she go inside and not watch. The opossum snarls weakly as the officer works the loop around it. I turn away, knowing the end will be swift. When it’s over the officer asks me for a garbage bag and I bring three. He asks if my trash will be picked up tomorrow and when I tell him it’ll be Friday, I am relieved when he allows that he’ll take care of the body.

Throughout, he’s shown no emotion, not even in greeting. As I thank him seven more times he says simply, “I hope your day gets better.”

“Yours too,” I reply, thinking he probably became a policeman to encourage law-abiding behavior, not deal with dying opossums. I immediately wish there was more I could do to fully express my gratitude.

And the thing is, as I stood in my drive watching, I was profoundly aware this was the second time in just a few weeks I’d had to call for help. The first time was an outright 911 call when we needed an ambulance to help care for Ninety-One after a fall. The lieutenant of the first-response team, who came in a fire truck from their station little more than half a mile away, remembered that they’d been to my house a couple of years before before, under similar circumstances. Both fire truck and ambulance personnel were professional, courteous and efficient. In a short time my mother and I were headed for the emergency room in their capable care. Fortunately, she was not irreparably harmed in her fall.

It’s Memorial Day, a day when shopping and picnics and outings launch the unofficial start of summer. It’s a day when we remember those who have served our country and lost their lives doing so. And this Memorial Day is a day when I feel gratitude for the women and men who serve today, who come at the behest of an alarmed phone call and who offer their services with honed skills, with comforting words, and without apology. It is so little, but my words are the gift I have to offer in return.

Thank you, Rxo


A happier discovery in my yard earlier this week–there were at least 9 four-leaf clovers when I looked down at my feet. Camera couldn’t get them all in one frame. How many can you find in this picture?

A Twenty-Minute Town

A Twenty-Minute Town

What are you thankful for?

Dear Des Moines,

In a few weeks’ time, the calendar will mark eleven years since my family and I arrived here—we were five people, two cats, two dogs (one of them dying) on a icy sixteen-degree day complete with a wind chill that was way below zero. Halfway up the stairs of our new suburban box, a house the square footage of which quite possibly exceeds the cumulative footage of every other house I’d lived in before, I sank to the mini-landing and thought, “We’ve made a terrible mistake, moving here.”


The Iowa Capitol, beautiful outside and worth a visit to see the twenty-nine types of marble inside!

Last week, I drove Sixteen to orientation for his winter/spring position as a Senate Page. As he struggled to tie an acceptable full Windsor knot in a new tie, a gift from his grandmother Ninety-One, on the drive downtown, I suggested he remember this moment. In twenty or thirty years, I told him he’d be effortlessly tying his tie in the back of his limo on his way to work. Or maybe he’d be so rich he wouldn’t have to wear a tie. “Or so poor, I can’t afford one,” he smiled, something neither of us believes will happen, but it completed my thought in the cheerful way that we riff off of each other. Oh Des Moines, even as I was marking the moment with him, cruising along I-235 toward the capitol building, I was remembering a much earlier foray on the same highway from the first year we lived here.

We knew hardly anyone, arriving halfway through the school year, and Sixteen, then Five, was put into the afternoon Kindergarten class. Our schedule revolved around his bus to and from the abbreviated school day, interwoven with his sister’s nap. Every Friday morning we drove downtown to the indoor Farmers’ Market. There we purchased milk from Picket Fences dairy, tasty bites for lunch, eggs from a farmer called Brent, and occasional crafts and other delights from the merchants we came to consider our first friends in the area. When he realized his sixth birthday would fall on a Market Friday, Very Nearly Six hatched a plan: we baked mini-muffins together and bearing this basket of treats went to the market as usual. Six made his way through the market, sharing the muffins with his merchant friends. They were truly charmed.

The following fall our schedule shifted and by-then Three was enrolled in morning preschool, her brother at his elementary all day. Still our hearts broke when the indoor market closed, even as the building was repurposed into the wildly successful Gateway Market and some of the merchants went on either to open retail establishments of their own—Café di Scalia, Zumi—or to become a gold standard in local produce: Picket Fences milk, cream and ice cream are now for sale all over the area.

Last week, after I dropped Sixteen, at midmorning on a Friday, I pulled easily into a meter right in front of the county office building. In fifteen minutes I had turned in license plates, netting a refund check, and completed the paperwork, photo and all, to renew my passport. I topped off my meter and walked through the skywalk system to the indoor holiday Farmers’ Market. Hosted in a skywalk nexus for two days in November and two more in December, this is the place to purchase the last tastes of the Iowa summer—jams, jellies, honey, late produce. I scored heritage carrots, watermelon radishes, a tiny tray of baklava for Ninety-One, Dutch Letters for Sixteen and Thirteen, and a hostess gift for a fall party.

I still hadn’t used up as much time in Des Moines as Sixteen, Thirteen and I spent purchasing train tickets in Madrid. Or, I remembered with a smile, my three-hour trip to the Maryland DMV when Thirteen was Three Months and the tip-top of her downy head appeared in my driver’s license photo. So I found a seat in a coffee shop and thought, as I often do, what a pleasant and easy place this is to live.

In fifty years, I’ve lived in six states and two foreign countries. I have dreams of living abroad again and living near the sea again, so someday, Des Moines, it may well be time to leave you again. In fact, I don’t think that I truly believed when we moved here that this would be the place from which my peeps would graduate, but I did know that I wanted them to have a sense of stability, a launching pad into their own lives. You have helped me create this foundation for them, Des Moines, and for this, too, I am grateful.


Looking west from the Capitol—home is less than twenty minutes thataway!

In the years we’ve made a home here, Des Moines, you have proven yourself to be a town of opportunity, a town of reliable medical care, a town where my bankers know me by name, and a town where I can live on the west side and drive downtown in under twenty minutes without speeding. You’ve come to be a town where without exception no matter where I might be, I will run into at least one person I know. You’re the town where my children are thriving, with opportunities like Sixteen’s Senate page position and Thirteen’s upcoming performance as a Flower in Ballet Des Moines’ professional production of The Nutcracker. You’re a town, Des Moines, that has given me all of these gifts alongside the gift of an amazing community of people with whom I work and play.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, Des Moines, I am thankful that my pilgrimage landed me here. I am grateful you are the pleasant mid-western city that you are.

Wishing you and yours a happy full beaver moon, a glorious Thanksgiving, and a brilliant thank you for riding along on my journey. Namaste, Rxo

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