I’m a list-making kind of person. Nothing warms my little heart more than a bullet list of things to do, reasons to move, what I love about Poldark… the list of lists is endless.

List-making is a facet of a larger endeavor – Goal-setting. But setting goals isn’t something I’ve given much thought to. I typically decide to do something, then do it. I don’t worry too much about the process or try to define the steps to get there.

Until recently.

As a Renaissance soul, I’m capable of following almost any whim that comes along and mastering it to boredom. Mostly, it’s a great thing to be. Except when it’s not. When it eats up time better spent elsewhere or tempts you to spend the grocery money on supplies for your new shiny pursuit, it can become a weakness.

So, the question isn’t Can I Meet That Goal. I already know I can. The question now becomes Which Goals Are Worthy of Attainment?

Turns out, all you need are SMART goals – something the business world has been throwing around for a while now. SMART is an acronym (that’s a fancy kind of list!), and it stands for:






(I was tempted to bullet that list for you, but I settled for block quotes.I’m learning restraint, see?)

SPECIFIC – Large, undefined goals are overwhelming. Specific, explainable goals are within reach. Sure you can have big goals, but be sure to break them down into smaller, specific tasks, or mini-goals. Write this down.

MEASURABLE – This is a huge, overlooked step that has gotten me every time. You need to know how far you’ve come so you’ll know when you’ve arrived. Be able to express the steps of your goal in terms of a budget, time invested, days required, or other quantifiable method. Take a moment to visualize what it will look like when you have reached your goal. Take a mental picture of it. Draw it or write the scene down and post it somewhere visible so you will recognize it when it comes to life.

ATTAINABLE – Be realistic so you set yourself up for success. You can’t be an astronaut if you drop out of school and never visit NASA. Now, you might be able to finish your education and go to Space Camp. That would at least get you closer to the Great Beyond. Know your strengths and the intermediate steps you can take to get you in the running for your goal.

REALISTIC – You have to be BOTH willing and able to reach your goal. I wanted to be a ballerina, but I never had dance lessons and got scoliosis. Being a ballerina isn’t going to happen for me. Dance is something I enjoy (I have the will), but a goal in that area isn’t realistic for me (I lack the ability). Don’t worry. There’s plenty more goals to shoot for.

TIMELY – They say an open-ended goal is one that is never completed – or at least takes much longer than it should have. Have a time-frame set for the various steps of your goal and a deadline for completion. If you haven’t reached your goal by the deadline, analyze what held you up, make adjustments, and keep going. It helps to have some options built in, too. If you plan to sell your house and move by the end of the year, what will you do if it doesn’t sell? Wait idly until it does? Or move anyway and rent out your old house? Or take a better job elsewhere and support a 2nd home for a time?

As my dad likes to say, “Plan your Work and Work your Plan.” Make SMART goals and know when you get there. Take time to celebrate, then make a new goal! I’m pretty sure I have a list of goals around here somewhere….

Jekyl & Hyde

My favorite things about my husband were his kind heart and his openness about being a flawed individual. He often told people he had no filter, but he meant well. I may have hated that he took his shoes off in public and sat like a cross-legged Yogi in formal settings, but more than anyone in the world, he taught me not to hide behind society’s conventions.

I lived with a Jekyl and Hyde personality. If you have lived with a person with mental illness – such as bi-polar, schizophrenia, personality disorder, ADHD, PTSD, and others – and in particular with any substance abuse accompanying it, you know how these 2 entities can coexist. How you can love the person and not their disease and the appalling choices they make.

Many find that incomprehensible. They advocate throwing the baby out with the bath water. Living for yourself and letting the other person go. (And this may become necessary, but that’s a topic for later.) They might want you to pretend that there is no disease. They may claim you are tarnishing a memory by voicing the Mr. Hyde side. They may want him to be only Dr. Jekyl in retrospect. What they don’t understand is that it isn’t bad all the time.

As I write this, I am thinking of the person I loved most in the world. The one who cried as hard as our infant daughter when he accidentally scratched her cheek with his fingernail. The one who was so pleased with himself to buy me a huge bouquet of flowers, only to be deflated when I remarked that they were silk. (He couldn’t tell the difference.) The one who listened patiently to my desire for a chicken coop, screened-in sunroom, weaving loom…and then went out and built them for me, when he had never done any of those things. There are a thousand times I wish I could turn and share that secret look over our children’s heads in some private joke that only co-parents understand.

I imagine him looking over my shoulder here, aware that I may be telling things that others find uncomfortable, unseemly. He would have felt sorry that they couldn’t move beyond whatever private issues they had to see the heart of another. He would have told them he couldn’t change the past, but that was no reason someone else shouldn’t learn from it.

I can see him pointing out things I should mention. He’d want me to tell about the time he locked himself in the chicken coop when it didn’t have a lock (yeah, I never figured that one out either), or mowed an already-cut lawn at 11pm with the headlights on, or donned hip waders to sit in the water garden after dark like it was a giant hot tub – all when he was too trashed to behave rationally. The two of us would have rolled our eyes at those scenes and agreed he was a moron. We’d shoot for a better tomorrow and talk about no experience being wasted.

I miss our frank conversations. Our ability to be blunt with each other. To know that our love for each other went without saying. It hurts when people question that. He used to tell me that people didn’t like my direct way of talking because I spoke to them as a person instead of a woman. I’m not subservient enough. He believed his wife to be mentally equal to any man. (And now I’m not fit for anything else.) It’s why he thought I was the only one who could talk him down out of his tree, and I did that a lot. We traveled a long road together, I just could not walk the last mile with him.

I’m proud of our 20 years of tenacious dedication to each other. I hate that we will never have a 30- or 40- or 50-year anniversary. It’s not likely I have time to have those with anyone.

My daughter just shared something I didn’t know. Not long before he left, he told her how good it was that she had her art. He said, “You have to find a way to help yourself. Because someday there will be no one around to help you.” He was an advocate for sharing your story if it would help someone else. The author is the first person who gets helped. The rest is a gift. He spent most of his good days practicing this.

These memories rest side by side, the good and the bad, the precious and the ridiculous. But life is light and shade. For you, maybe not to the extreme that my experience has been, but to be dishonest or lie by omission would be to discredit our time together and the things we learned.

We did not end our time together in a happily ever after. But neither, my friends, will you. I know the truth hurts, but it is a truth you already know. There will be an illness. An accident. A betrayal. Old age. It is coming for us all. That is why it makes you angry, or ashamed, or eager to blame, or just look away.

But rather than live in fear or bury our heads in the sand, we have an opportunity to wake up. Pay attention to the life we are living. Celebrate the good in people. Learn from the bad. Let go of guilt and pride and regret. And know that somewhere the Jekyl and Hyde personalities we have loved are coming together to form the whole person we knew was there all along.

A Bowl of Stars


A bowl of stars turned

Over my head, dripping its

Milk into the moon.


I’ve liked Haiku for a long time. Maybe not as enthusiastically as my friend, Jan Morrill, but I dabble. I like the way it captures not just an emotion or moment in time, as poems generally do, but the nanosecond of a breath. Those fragments on the edge of your consciousness that occasionally come into sharp focus and give you an awareness of something greater in the universe that you literally cannot handle for more than the fraction you’ve been given.

Writing haiku lets you capture that half-breath and analyze it, turn it over in your hands and examine its beauty, its deeper meaning.

It’s highly personal, unique to the writer, and is as close to a lover’s whisper as we can get.