Homework, for life

Homework for Life | Matthew Dicks | TEDxBerkshires

Someone shared this recently and I decided I would try to do it every day, though first thing in the morning because that works better, and in full paragraphs rather than just a few sentences.

The idea is to choose one thing from your day that you could turn into a 5-minute story. I already journal, so it’s a natural fit, and I’m finding the practice feels more focused and generates less whine.

The speaker compares the practice to meditation and promises it will change our lives and I’m a little excited because it may already be working.

Yesterday I forced myself out for a walk during lunch break, even though it had been over a week and my fitness level is so low I don’t even want to exercise. I forgot that could happen, but it can. Sad.

Speaking of sad, I was walking along a razed cornfield and saw all the trash that blew in and got trapped, ugly like scars. The path followed between trees no longer a bustling canopy but naked and silent. The birds will come back, as will the leaves and corn, but it isn’t the same without them. I wondered why I’d want to keep coming in winter with nothing to look at or listen to.

This will sound nutty, but sometimes I feel myself pulled in a certain direction. It’s not exactly physical, but I don’t know how else to describe it. Yesterday something pulled me down a grassy path I’d never noticed before. That’s when I saw a pond I’d never noticed before. 

On the way to the pond, I passed a cluster of trees and a smaller pond and saw out of the corner of my eye a charming wooden statue that I first mistook for Smokey the Bear or a murderer. Relieved it was not the latter, I stopped to take pictures and never made it to the big pond, but thought to myself no rush. I have all winter.


Truth is, I didn’t think there were any more suprises in this park. I thought I’d seen just about every nook and cranny, and then I felt that pull again and followed the new path around and found fun new graffiti I never would have seen otherwise.


This Homework for Life might really work. Knowing that I get to pick one thing from each day to write about – a mini story – might sharpen my ability to see.  It might propel me to take new paths. I’m not sure, but by yesterday afternoon I already knew what I would write about. I already have my story for today too.

One of the things the homework for life guy promises is if you do it consistently, time will slow down. This is the part I want the most and don’t believe will happen. 

Fall flew by and the holiday season is almost over and I still feel like I’m hovering somewhere off screen. It’s not entirely unpleasant and memories tell me we lived a full Fall and will be able to say the same at Christmas. But still, if I could just slow it all down, even just by a noticeable increment, I think I would like to do that.

A coworker shared an interesting theory about why time seems to fly more by the year. She said think back to a summer when you were a little kid and how that one season was such a big chunk of your overall short life. Then jump ahead 40 years, and one summer is just a blip. The older you get, the faster it goes until one season seems a blur.

Maybe this building momentum of the passage of time is inevitable, like getting older in general. We can’t fight gravity, but a minute always lasts the same amount of time. So the blur must be perception and there’s got to be a way to feel more present inside it.

I feel like when I wake up soon, the kids will be grown and we’ll have new cats and will have forgotten the names of the ones we have now. Rip Van Winkle meets Homework for Life. This is what I’m playing with at the moment and it beats stressing out over Christmas, which I am also doing, so maybe it’s more of a break.

If you have tips for slowing down the passage of time that doesn’t involve plastic surgery or meditation (none for me, but thanks anyway!), I’m all ears.


Happy birthday?


It took 20 minutes for me to figure out my grandmother was talking about an iPad. “It’s Internet,” she said, lingering on each syllable so that it sounded like In Ter Net, “but for old people.”

Her neighbor told her about something they bought for an elderly relative where “she just pushes a button and sees pictures of her family every day.”

My grandmother had already tried a laptop, but even I had trouble figuring out how to log her into email. We got locked out and my niece got the reset code via a hotmail account she hadn’t used since 2002. Did I mention my grandmother’s wifi is dial-up speed? Or that she still calls me when she gets junk mail she doesn’t understand?

She got along 88 years without an iPad but heard its siren call of Easy Family Connectivity and I thought well maybe Facebook is more her speed. It’s easy to navigate and her family is already on there sharing pictures. I pictured her logging on every evening with a cup of tea, clicking like, unlike, like.

Next time you log onto Facebook, pretend you’re someone who has never used a computer before. What do you dare touch when you’re scared you might “break the machine”? I got her account all set up and tried to explain she could just ignore the People You Might Know section, but her silence reminded me of the time I told her she could reheat a cup of coffee in the still unused microwave that came with her house.

Technology isn’t for everyone. It’s apparently not even for me, because I entered my own date of birth when setting up her facebook account for reasons I’m trying to remember and think it was just because I didn’t want to make her suspicious by telling her the internet needed her birth year and I was too lazy to do the math.

Six months later, my husband and I were watching super old episodes of Super Password in bed, as one is wont to do on their 42nd birthday, when I started getting confused texts from my sister-in-law.


My brother had just gotten off the phone with my grandmother to wish her a happy birthday. Nevermind that he doesn’t remember my birthday after attending 18 years of parties with that delicious cake our other grandmother used to make, nor that he presumably already wished our grandmother a happy birthday months ago. I tend to believe facebook too when it tells me it’s someone’s birthday because when has the internet ever lied?

I’m kind of jealous because I didn’t get a single happy birthday wish on facebook since I removed my birth date a couple of years ago. It felt hypocritical accepting hollow birthday wishes from people I haven’t talked to since 1989 when I rarely did the same.

A half an hour into the phony birthday call, my sister-in-law noticed facebook said my grandmother was turning  42 and thought hmmm. This was around the same time my grandmother told my brother it wasn’t her birthday, but mine. It took the rest of the phone call for him to explain what facebook was since she hasn’t looked at it since the People You Might Know incident.

I’d log in and change her birthdate, but I can’t remember her password. I understand there’s an internet for old people, so I’m holding out for that. I’d been trying to think of what to get my grandmother for Christmas, and finally it clicked: pictures of family, sent monthly because daily is a bit much, delivered right to her mailbox.






Hey Kids! Guess What Time It Is?

I highly recommend a word of the year in lieu of new year’s resolutions. Last year I chose Patience – in mid-January, mind you, into it from the start – and pontificated and worked on it all year long. This year, who knows.


(Some of this post has been copied and pasted, so if you think you’ve read  parts of it before you probably have.  I have new friends this year though so…..)

Once again, it’s (almost!) that time of year.

Word Of The Year time!

I thought I might jump on here  as a reminder to those of you who join me and to explain the  genesis of the practice for those of you who might like to give it a shot.

In late 2010 I read a blog by someone (and it kills me that I have no recollection of who it was…of course, I was still drinking then, so it’s not a huge surprise!) who talked about how useless resolutions were for her and how she had, for years, chosen a single word as her, what? inspiration, focus, meditation? for the year. I really don’t remember much except “resolutions are…

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Jog, Forrest, jog

I never was an athlete. In elementary school I did cheerleading. I was always the pyramid base, not because I was strong but tall and graceless. I tried out for cheerleading in freshman year, fully aware who my competition was. It wasn’t the popular peppy girls but the skinny awkward girl and chubby awkward girl. We all made the team when the coach didn’t have the heart to cut just one of us. I lasted through basketball season and long enough to overhear someone in the crowd say I looked stoned. I wasn’t, but I finally saw what everyone else did.

The next year I tried volleyball and discovered I was afraid of the ball and had an uncontrollable tendency to swear because it never went where I meant it to.  This worked to my advantage via a killer underhand serve that never landed where anyone expected it to. I once scored ten consecutive points for my team with this serve. I was so proud. (We still lost.)

Walking and bike riding were solo acts and more my speed. I zipped through intersections on my ten speed without stopping and never wore a helmet. I only wiped out that one time when a squirrel ran across my path, but that was in elementary school and happened in front of my crush and the neighborhood bully. He’s probably still imitating me with that horribly exaggerated limp.

I only started to run after I got sober. I was walking a regular route one day and thought ‘this is taking too long’ and ‘how many times am I going to make up stories about why that bunny statue moved from one neighbor’s yard to another’? It was the perfect storm of restless energy and boredom on a seed already planted by runners who were finding challenge and reward.

The thing is I’m a naturally slow runner. Really more of a jogger, except it’s not the 80s anymore. Runners PR and track splits and wear adorable water bottles that attach to your hand like a glove. They join running clubs and collect race bibs and safety pins. They use apps that don’t just remind them they haven’t PR’d in a long while.

I stopped running regularly in spring when I started earlier work hours and a longer commute. I walked during lunch, occasionally jogging back to my car because I’d underestimated how long it would take. I still ran on weekends and called it enough.

Then my oldest daughter joined high school cross country. All those lies I’d told her about running – that you should run for the fun of it, that it doesn’t matter if you’re not the fastest – well, they were exposed. She discovered her genetic predisposition to limited lung capacity or maybe it’s an aversion to competitiveness and shin splints. 

It broke my heart to see her struggle and, worse yet, know what it’s like to be slow. There is no glory in last place, even if all you cheerful types remind us we’re doing laps around those still on the couch. I should add that she toughed it out and rarely complained and set an impressive one-mile PR. And she was glad when the season ended.

Neither one of us have run much since November 8th, though that was my favorite race to date. I know, none of it makes sense.

My favorite race was along the same bridge I ran last year. I wrote about it here. This year my daughter ran it too. That’s what made the run special. At 14, she’s sweet and smart and funny and a delight to spend time with.


We both decided we mostly didn’t  give a rats ass about our time. We jogged and joked and marveled at the bay down below and the 10 year-olds that passed us by. Occasionally we sprinted, though walked a good bit and stopped for selfies at the top. It was a joy.

This is the year I slowed down and stopped running all the time. It’s hardly the end of the world.







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