silhouette photography of woman
Photo by Pete Johnson on


Someday I will be a morning person.  I will jump out of bed before the sun even rises, lace up my running shoes, greet the day with the chirpy birds, and let the pink glow of the sun warm my soul as it lights the sky.  Upon arriving home, I will feed the chickens and barn cat — respectively thanking them for my eggs and for killing the rats.  Then I will feed the house cats and take a moment to appreciate the happiness they bring to my life.  Exercise, gratitude, and chores complete, I will shower, shave, and be ready to greet my waking family with well-groomed joy knowing my day has begun with no sleeping-in or running-late guilt.

Someday my body will be a temple.  I will feed it nothing but wholesome food.  All the fruits and veggies it can take.  Eggs from my beloved chickens.  Cheese from cows lovingly hand milked in pastures where they eat nothing but all organic free range vegetation.  I will cook my own meals, and when I can’t, I will only eat at restaurants that also consider my body a temple worthy of local low-carbon-emission produce.  Occasionally I will allow myself a treat of a single square of bitter dark chocolate, so I can savor both the sweet of the dessert and the bitterness off mistreating my temple.  The only beverage I will ever drink is pure clean water from glass containers.  I will exercise everyday, but vary my routine from running to yoga to Pilates to ensure my cardiovascular health, flexibility, and strength.

Someday I will be on time to everything.  After my blissful morning and my temple-worthy breakfast I will drop my child off at school exactly seven minutes early.  Time for her to play a bit, and visit with her friends.  Then when the bell rings I will walk my perfectly dressed self — in a size six, a slim nonjudgmental size — to my car and drive to work, arriving exactly at 8:30.  People will depend on me, knowing if they schedule an 8:30 meeting I will be there nonplussed and ready to face whatever challenge they need faced.  After working an 8 hour day — not including the 0.5 hours spent enjoying the wholesome lunch I packed, then walking around the park to clear my mind — I will be waiting for my daughter at 3:00, just as the bell rings, to walk her home from school.  Hand in hand, we’ll talk about her day and my day as we much on fresh vegetables from our garden.  She will have friends, I will be successful at work, she will be successful at school, and we will be so proud of each other.  Then I’ll drive her, and all her friends, in my electric vehicle — powered by solar panels installed on our home’s roof — to whatever practice she has that day:  carpooling to ensure our position in the social hierarchy while minimizing our carbon footprint.

Someday I will make good use of all the time available to me.  While my daughter practices I’ll be using that time to write my novel, do grad school homework, catch up with beloved friends and family, or knit scarves for the poor.  However, I will willingly pause to talk with other sports parents where I will be modest about my child and supportive of their children and their worries about traffic.  I won’t squander time dinking on my phone, talking to parents who make me want to stab my eyes out, or half-listen to eye-stabby parents while dinking on my phone.  I will be present and understanding.

Someday my evenings will run like clockwork.  After practice, I’ll enjoy a wholesome meal with my family.  We will all eat exactly the same thing, correctly proportioned to our body mass index.  Dishes will be cleared, washed, and the kitchen will be cleaned in harmony, then everyone will sit down to homework.  (Well, everyone but my husband who will enjoy a well deserved hour of rest watching some sporting event, but he will not be too loud or too emotionally attached to the event.)  Homework done, my daughter will bathe, and I will read aloud to her for 20 minutes.  Then she will make her lunch, brush her teeth, brush her hair, put on pajamas, and deposit her dirty clothes into her hamper.  She will go to sleep by herself in her own room in her own bed after reading to herself for exactly 10 minutes.

Someday my late nights will be all my own time.  Having accomplished everything I needed to do while in the office, I will spend 45 minutes catching up with my husband.  2.5 times per week we will have age-appropriate sex.  Sated or not, I will then spend a few hours editing my novel, writing a blog post, or drafting a new short story.  Sometimes, I will work a bit on a knitted gift for a friend, or hand-write a few thank you notes.  Occasionally I will document my day’s accomplishments in a perfect Instagram shot or Tweet.  Before bed, I will do a quick clean up of the house – filling the dishwasher, folding laundry, picking up clutter, sweeping, and wiping down counters and other surfaces – before reading for 30 minutes and then drifting off for an uninterrupted eight hours of sleep.


You play the hand you are dealt

My dad is a poker player.  He has been a poker player for as long as I can remember.  When I was a child he played in various neighborhood games.  Then gambling was legalized west of Denver and he added Texas Hold’em to his repertoire.  While I am not a poker player, lacking the poker-face and calculating-odds-on-the-fly genes, I have always enjoyed watching my dad play the game.  When I was in my teens I would go up to the mountains with him and watch him play against the other players at the table.  I’d watch reckless players flamboyantly going against the odds, and methodical players never deviating from what math would tell them to do.  The good players, like my dad, would know the odds, but play the game to maximize the hand they had and the players at the table.

One thing you learn from poker, especially Hold’Em, is that you have to play the cards in your hands.  In draw poker you can trade in the cards you have for other cards that might make your hand better, but once you get those cards, you don’t get other ones.  In the end, you always have to make the best hand you can out of the cards you have.

I think life is like Texas Hold’Em.  You and your family sit around a table and each are dealt cards and you have to play those cards.   Maybe the rules are different because you get more opportunities to trade in your cards, and the stakes are higher, but one thing is the same: once you are dealt a card you have to play it.   You can’t untake a card.

Let’s look at my life.  When I was 23 I traded in my “single gal card” for a “live with a guy card”.  I still had my “loves bad boys who ride motorcycles” card, just in case living together didn’t work out.  Seven years later, the bad boys got traded in for a marriage card and my mate hand was set.

What I didn’t know, and my husband didn’t even know, was that he had a depression card in his hand.  His first episode hit right after we were married.  It took months to diagnose what was going on.  His symptoms manifest themselves physically and he went through a barrage of medical test to determine what was wrong.  In the end there was only one possibility left: that his sickness was in his mind. Therapy, time and medication eased his symptoms and eventually cured him a year later.  We were told that there was a good chance this would be a one time episode, but if he had another it was probably going to plague him throughout his life.

So he had the depression card.  He couldn’t trade it in.  Maybe he was lucky and just had the “one episode” kind, but maybe not.  I had joined my life to a guy who may or may not have another breakdown.  Sure, it wasn’t my card, so I could have left him.  I could have decided that staying with someone who had a chance of another breakdown wasn’t worth it, but I didn’t, because I loved him and I wanted a life with him.

We had a baby together, and when she was four, it happened again.  Now I had a new card, a mom card.  That’s one powerful card, and I spent almost a year keeping her alive as my first priority, and keeping my husband alive as my second.  Again, he has the depression card, not me, but with us drawing the parent card together I was permanently tied to him.  I could help him get well again, or abandon him and risk being alone, divorced from my husband, fighting some future custody battle.  I wouldn’t be married to him, but I would know that he could get sick again and if we weren’t together I couldn’t help him or my daughter.  Worst case I’d have a child whose father killed himself.  I loved our family too much to not try, so I spent another year fighting and we all came through together, but this time I know that it will happen again.

I was frank with my colleagues, family, and friends with the second episode because I needed all the help I could get.  Some asked “How do you do it?” “Why do you do it?”  The reality of the situation was that I didn’t want to do it.  I didn’t want to be married to a man with depression.  I didn’t want to worry day and night about my daughter and him.  But I had to play the hand I was dealt.  The words that meant the most to me while I was struggling was, “This just sucks.”  It didn’t do any good to think about “What ifs”  “What if he hadn’t gotten depressed?”  “What if we hadn’t had a kid?”  He was and we did and we had to do the best we could.  The words that meant the second most were, “How can I help?”  “Can we have you over for dinner?”  “Can I take him out to give you a break?”  What didn’t help were suggestions from people unwilling to jump in and get dirty with us. “You should” and “Why don’t you” drove me crazy.  Those are words of judgement made from the outside and weren’t worth my notice.  No one who didn’t have my hand could really understand what our family was going through, and if you don’t understand you have no right to shout advice from the sidelines.  Trust me, in the World Series of Poker the audience doesn’t get to shout “You should fold” to the players.  The players make the most they can out of the cards they have and the people at the table.

I hate that our family has these cards.  I hate that the cards we have make us fearful of other cards: my daughter becoming depressed; me dying and my husband falling apart; another episode of depression.  We do what we can to arm ourselves against those possibilities.  My husband visits a psychiatrist every 6 months so he has an active relationship with her in case he gets depressed again.  We’ve learned to teach our daughter to stay away from hard drugs as she gets older, because that’s a huge risk to damaging her brain chemistry and causing her problems in the future.  We have a will set up to protect her in case something happens to me and my husband can’t make decisions anymore.  All of that sucks, but it’s part of making the most of the hand we’ve been dealt.

The one thing that makes me grateful for what we’ve been through is the empathy I have for others.  Friends of ours just had their child diagnosed with a terminal illness.  She probably won’t see her third birthday.  I could hide from their sadness.  I could ignore their plight, or I could tell them what they should do.  I don’t do any of that.  I do whatever I can do let them know that this just sucks.  Sucks in a way I can’t imagine, because I don’t have that card, and I can’t imagine having that card.  I can’t understand a situation I’m not living, but I can interpret from the pain of my past the pain of others.  I can acknowledge their anguish, and do what I can to help.  I can’t make it better.  I can’t take their card away.  I can’t make the card never happen.  But I can use what I have in my hand to make their hand the best it can be.  You live the live you are dealt, and sometimes that sucks so bad it’s unfathomable.  You sit at the table with all your friends and family and you do what you can to give everyone the best hand they can get, because unlike poker, there isn’t one winner and everyone else loses.  The players make the most they can out of the cards they have and the people at the table, but in life the winner doesn’t take all.  We are all in this game together.

Favorite Lines (The Anniversary Edition) – The Sparrow

In honor of my wedding anniversary I share with you my favorite passage about marriage from one of my favorite books, The Sparrow by Maria Doria Russell.  In my mind it is the most honest and true writing I have ever encountered about commitment and the realities of two people staying together.  I have been known to send it to friends when their marriages are in crisis.  (Because nothing gives comfort like a really long book passage.)  Anne Edwards is the narrator in this passage.  She’s married to George Edwards and is talking with their younger friend Jimmy Quinn.  Bear with me, because I think it’s worth the really long read.

“…we all make vows, Jimmy. And there is something very beautiful and touching and noble about wanting good impulses to be permanent and true forever,” she said. “Most of us stand up and vow to love, honor and cherish someone. And we truly mean it, at the time. But two or twelve or twenty years down the road, the lawyers are negotiating the property settlement.”

“You and George didn’t go back on your promises.”

She laughed. “Lemme tell ya something, sweetface. I have been married at least four times, to four different men.” She watched him chew that over for a moment before continuing, “They’ve all been named George Edwards but, believe me, the man who is waiting for me down the hall is a whole lot different animal from the boy I married, back before there was dirt. Oh, there are continuities. He has always been fun and he has never been able to budget his time properly and – well, the rest is none of your business.”

“But people change,” he said quietly.

“Precisely. People change. Cultures change. Empires rise and fall. Shit. Geology changes! Every ten years or so, George and I have faced the fact that we have changed and we’ve had to decide if it makes sense to create a new marriage between these two new people.” She flopped back against her chair. “Which is why vows are such a tricky business. Because nothing stays the same forever.” ― Mary Doria Russell, The Sparrow

In my world, and I only have depth of vision into my own life, this is how marriage really works.  You make a vow and you spend the rest of your life together doing the best you can by that commitment given the people you become.  With me and Mr. Afthead there have been really hard times when we clung to each other, and other times when we pushed away.  There have been unexpected joyful times and well planned celebrations that fell flat.  There are times when our marriage works without a hitch.  There are other times when it is a deadly slog that we just have to get through.  Throughout it all we decide if the marriage makes sense with who we are in a given moment and in the foreseeable future.  So far, we’ve come out of that evaluation together every time.  It isn’t Romeo and Juliet, but it’s worked for us.

I hope I haven’t embarrassed you all with the deep romance that runs through the Afthead household.  Now off to go cook dinner for my snookems.  Also, there’s a card here somewhere I need to sign.

Love from the Aftheads!

A Sample of Historical Aftheads

The idea of afthead was one that wouldn’t let go of me.  It started goofing off at work, when someone wondered, “What’s that called, that back part of your head where men never go bald?”  An afthead of course!  We started looking and couldn’t find a reference to an afthead, other than an occasional discussion of putting toilets in the back of boats.  We searched domains and found that was available for a pittance.  The domain searcher said to me, “You’ve come up with an actual original idea!”

For a few months, heck probably years, that statement and the afthead idea drifted around in my head.  I looked up the domain.  Eventually I bought it, and did nothing with it.  It was interesting though.  I started noticing that I had a long standing penchant for aftheads.  There is something natural, unposed, and real about snapping a shot behind someone’s back.   It draws your attention to the scenery, to where the photograph-ee is looking, and it lets their personality shine through.

First there were a series of pictures from Italy featuring my husband’s aunt Bonnie.  She passed away almost five years ago, and she was my favorite traveling companion.  I love these pictures because they are are so her.  She loved to walk, and we walked everywhere together.  In the first image she’s climbing down to a city in Cinque Terra.  I love her wide-legged stance.  She was so strong and so curious about things.  She’s reading something, and she has her horribly embarrassing fanny pack on: so practical yet so ridiculous to her then 27 year old traveling partner.  If I’d captured her from the forehead side I would have seen a different Bonnie.  A posed Bonnie who didn’t really love having her picture taken; I love this image because it is really her.


This second picture is amazing too.  We were touring around Rome looking for the Forum and the Colosseum.  We were walking and walking with our maps and guidebooks.  Every ruin, every old looking building we’d say “Oh!  Here’s the Forum” but it wasn’t.  It was drizzling, and all the panhandlers who had tried to steal the fanny pack the day before were now selling umbrellas, and Bonnie bought one.  We marveled at the multi-talented homeless people of Rome and wondered if they sold umbrellas they had stolen the day before.  Finally we turned a corner and both said, “Oh!  This is the Forum”.  It was obvious.  Bonnie then became the methodical tourist.  She visited every ruin, would read about it, and study it.  I stood back and just took the whole thing in.  I didn’t need the same attention to detail; she’d tell me any of the really interesting parts.  This left me free to take sneaky pictures of her.  In this one she’s reading something, again.  I love the umbrella discarded for the reading material, and I love the emptiness of the Forum.  It was a mystery to us how anyone could be in Rome and not go out just because of a little rain.


Similarly, I found two sets of afthead images that featured my husband.  One set is from our wedding in Scotland, and the other is from our ten year anniversary trip last year.

This one is the day we were supposed to drive to Loch Ness, but we both woke up tired and not excited about spending another day driving.  Our bed and breakfast hosts suggested we visit the white sand beaches outside of Mallaig instead.  A genius idea.  Who knew Scotland had white sand beaches?  It was the perfect honeymoon location.  Rather than fight tourists and look for Nessie we took off our shoes and relaxed.  I also love this picture because we did a lot of hiking that trip, and I spent a lot of that time behind my new husband, unable to keep up with him and angry because he wouldn’t wait for me and angry at myself for wanting him to wait.  Ah the joys of new love.


This one brings back different memories.  I was crazy into triathlon when my husband and I got married, and I remember taking this so someday I could go back to this lake and start Ironman Scotland.  I marveled at the beautiful clear water and the perfect roads for cycling.  Now I look at this and marvel at how much hair my new husband had on his afthead.


Fast forward ten years and we are in Acadia, Maine for our anniversary.  Similar look and feel to our beloved Scotland isn’t it?  But with a six year old at home starting a new school we didn’t want to go so far away.  This first picture is from one of the hikes we did that we couldn’t have done with our daughter.  It was so fun to be grownups for eight whole days.  I’m happy to report that we didn’t have one fight this trip about who was walking in front, who was carrying the backpack or which one of us should wait for the other.   Ten years of progress.


This one is another “give up the plans for a more leisurely adventure.”  The plan was to go rent bikes and ride the carriage roads all over Acadia.  Instead we showered, went for a walk on the carriage path, drove up to watch the sunset from a mountain top, splurged on a dinner in Bar Harbor, and watched the stars from a trail-head.  That part of our relationship hasn’t changed.  We pack our vacations full of plans and dreams, knowing we’ll kick some ideas to the curb and actually have more impromptu fun than our plans would have yielded.


The rest is history.  Eventually I tied a blog to my domain and started writing in public.  Since then I’ve compiled tons of other afthead pictures, but that’s enough for tonight.  Oh, except that first one of Valentina, our resident cat in Lucca, Italy.  Oh how I love that brown, warm fuzzy afthead.