editing the writer’s life

So I have found some overused themes in my life.

There are ways I react to things and hang on to things that i don’t want to do anymore.

I want to do it different.

There are times, and i’d been living through a LOT of times where the difficult things, the things that would make me react didn’t come from me.

There were, shall we say, circumstances. And I had REASONS to have these reactions.

I would think about the reasons, and again and again I would have the painful reaction.

How am I supposed to get dry and warm when I am on a beach, it’s raining, and the tide is coming in?

wave after wave

And yet. I knew that if I thought about it differently, even if the waves didn’t stop, it would be better.

If only I could get dry, I could have the wherewithal to rethink the story

To quote a favorite song:

You’re never gonna quit it if you dont stop smoking it

I tried to quit it. And it really began to pour. I wasn’t hit by waves, I was IN the waves.

But I found the story. I found the big story about me, and I started to tell me.

the water receded. As I kept practicing the story of me, the waves stopped

There are still memories though.

To take it out of metaphor land, there are people that I have to learn to live with. To learn to live with the memory of what happened.

It really happened. I have a REASON to feel the way I feel.

I don’t like the reason, but it the past can’t be done over.

..or can it? What if I pan the camera to the right?

How could I retell the past to myself that lets it be okay?

I have a lot of editing to do

reading references

Right now Veronica is really into Richard Scarry’s Storybook dictionary.  Scarry knew what he was doing when he wrote a book.

The dictionary is full of story after story, all vignettes of this peopled community. I can’t possibly read the whole book, so I tell Veronica she gets to pick a letter. Some letters are longer than others. She prefers the long ones.

These animal people have a lot of interactions. Brambles Warthog takes a lot of care in his grooming, and Veronica always says “He is handsome.”

Mama Bear is always burning her cooking, and Dingo Dog is always crashing his car. I can’t help but think of Under Milkwood by Dylan Thomas as I read all of their activities.

Then, we encounter the Three Beggars. Poor guys. Wolfson the wolf, Hahaha the hyena and Babooby the baboon. These guys are all waiting for Godot.

I can’t be the first to think this.

In Which Murphy uses a lot of all-caps to indicate strong feeling

Introducing myself to a new friend at work, he asked where I was from. I said, “Technically I am from Alaska…”

“Technically? Either you are or your aren’t!” he enjoyed twisting me on the spit. Ahhh….this was why he was my new friend. Verbal sparring.

Of course, I am from Alaska. I even write books about it. And I remain conflicted about Alaska.

This weekend, I visited with someone from Alaska. She moved here from Fairbanks 5 years ago. She says “Of course I miss Alaska, but it is so nice to walk under the trees in the warm sunshine in October…”

I do not miss Alaska. If I think of the little I do miss, it is the cold. The fine crystalline bite of the cold telling everyone that the sun is only for decoration and if you want to stay alive, you better get yourself a coat.

I remember the clouds in summer casting huge shadows on the mountain (and there were always real mountains in my sight, not like Fairbanks), dappling the sides in calico: dark and light with the underlayer of the trees. The trees are green, but then comes the fall when they speckle yellow through the green and slowly take over the mountainsides in primary yelling yellow.

Sounds great. It is great. That part was great.

But. But! There are so many people there I would cross the street to avoid. Some of them…I would cross the street at a dead run.

Not everyone. There are nice people there. Nice people who would nod as I tried to tell them about the stuff that gets me excited. They would nod, and change the subject.

When I tell people I am from Alaska, and I try to explain why I didn’t like growing up in such a legendary place I say, “It’s a great place. If you like fishing. If you like living in a cabin in the woods with no heat or electricity.” As their jaw slackens with realization, I know they have a peek. And I know I took the easy way, and didnt’ tell the real reason.

HERE is why I can’t be there: Alaska is for men. There are huge big things to do there.

For Men.

I don’t begrudge the men their big jobs managing the pipeline, crab fishing and commercial fishing and drilling for new oil. Good for you.

What is for me?

In Winnie-the-Pooh, Tigger joins their set of friends out of nowhere. He knows he is the only one. It is quite obvious to everyone else that he is the only one. Tigger declares that to be wonderful!

In the book, he gets hungry. Pooh offers him honey.


Pooh loves honey, and it is a regrettable sacrifice to share his honey. When Tigger tastes the honey, he says


After many attempts, the friends in the hundred acre woods discover that Tigger likes Cod-liver oil best.

CODLIVER-OIL! Nobody likes cod-liver oil. It’s nasty.

Except Tigger. He said it, “That’s what Tiggers like.”

You know what I like? Doing Stuff. Big stuff. Hard thinky, complicated, years-in-the-making stuff.

And on no provocation at all I will talk about that stuff. I will talk about the global networks and supports systems I set up in one, two, three different companies. That stuff is the jobs I was able to do


Alaska is the biggest state in the union, and the least populated. The fewest roads and the smallest scope for MY HUNGER TO DO STUFF.

I know that those mountainsides in Alaska feed other people. Like Tigger, I’m the only one. The only Murphy.

Alaska does not have food for me. I spent a lot of hungry years there. And I remember the pangs when I go back to visit.

So I don’t go back. And no, I don’t miss it.

But I’ll write about it. Alaska has always been good for stories.



Grow the glow

This little light of mine
It Flickers and it burns
It does not go out
The darkness will never conquer
My light will show me the path to take

Follow the light
Walk in the light


My husband, ever since I met him, has been an entrepreneur. That’s a fancy word for he is his own boss.

It is a scary thing to have your own business. I work for big companies that are less risky. But Chris tells me “Without the risk you don’t get the reward.” I have had to learn to steel my nerves with him as my partner. But he’s been proven right again, so many times. I have had to learn to be able to tolerate risk.

As I think back, though, the biggest risk of my life I took before I met him: the year before, as a matter of fact.

At 25 years of age, I’d never felt older. On my birthday I was staring down what I felt was a failure of a life. I hadn’t finished college–which was supposed to have been completed three years earlier— and I’d had a series of extremely low-level jobs.

In 1997 in Silicon Valley the most glaring losers could be millionaires. Not me; I was left with nothing but loserland. How far I had to go to catch up! I had to get to the starting line to get moving as soon as possible just to be on the map.

Nothing mattered until I got to the starting line. And the starting line was YEARS in the future, because it started at the END of the graduation line with a diploma.

I had gotten a little rag, though, to cover my shame. I got it because I hadn’t fulfilled some prerequisites to get into the University and missed the deadline…moving the starting line even further back. I basically wandered into an interview and got this internship at NASA.

Once that happened, people started to treat me different. It covered up some of the loser underneath. I could at least have a shred of pride while I finally got entrance into being a college student again.

I did all the paperwork and THIS time I passed. I got my acceptance letter into the University of California. SO, that fall I could finally get back on track to be a college graduate.

Because that is what everybody did. That is what everyone said everyone did. Get a degree! I wanted one. I wanted to go to university full time and live there and do all the college-y things.

But I was so far behind. And I was really enjoying what I was learning at my internship. Thing is, the people at NASA said “you can go look for a job now!”

In fact, they said they wouldn’t even call my last year of employment an internship. They would cover for me and just say I’d worked there almost like i had real experience.

Spring arrived. I had my acceptance to University, the thing I had dreamed of since I was 17. And so did this opportunity. I had this vague idea that maybe I could skip to the head of the line and have a career.  I’d worked at NASA! If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere! astonauts and rockets!

I was terrified, but I wanted it. I wanted to cross the START line and have a chance at that finish line. I wanted it so bad, and I wasn’t at all sure that I could get it..

May landed me in unemployment land.  I chicken-scratched a resume, and I was sure I didn’t know what I was doing. Every day I felt the teeth of this risky choice. College was what I was supposed to do. This was unknown and impossible territory.

By July I had a job. A temp job, but I’d done it. I made it. I was endowed with a name badge and a business casual wardrobe.

The biggest risk of my life, and in hindsight it wasn’t a risk at all. Hindsight is wonderful, isn’t it?

I’ve never once regretted my decision. Chris knows it; he brings it up when I express concern over some risk or other. But he doesn’t have to nearly so often anymore.




I had a plan

In high school, Mom gave me this exercise: write out your 25-year plan.  She got it from some book–the point was to write out what you want your life to be like in 25 years. Then, with those goals in mind write out what you would need to accomplish in 15 years, 10 years, 5, 3 and one year from that day.


At fifteen, what did I know about 25 years away? I wrote down things like, be married, have kids, be graduated from college, be happy, be beautiful.


Of course, I was sure that all those things would have been done and put on the shelf in ten years, tops.


It is now 25 years from when I made my first 25-year plan. I now think that my15 year old self has as much visibility into my 40 year old life as I probably have into the life of me as a 65 year old.


The point was, what my mom was trying to teach me, was that all the things we do have an impact on our tomorrows. Mom, I love you, but that lesson I already knew far better than you did. I was always thinking ahead, always scanning the horizon.


And I was SHOCKED when you went back to school and talked professors into extending your deadlines for homework. I would have fallen on my sword and taken the ‘honorable’ failing grade before asking for a special favor. Which meant of course, that I never did turn things in late. I wished I could talk my way around professors like that. Except, by the time I really had that thought, that I wished I could get away with stuff, I had lost all respect for professors and higher education. If they were so easily gotten around, what was their value?


Back to scanning the horizon. Where is the real treasure?


I know myself better than I did at a 15 year old. Starting with me, what life would I fashion for myself to live in before during and after 25 years pass?


I asked Chris about this, sheepishly. His upbringing did not include this sort of soul-searching I was sure.


He answered immediately “We will need to put a new roof on the house.”


Roll-my-eyes prosaic. Was that all he could think of? Except, he is right. And we have discussed that we want to stay in this house forever. Having a solid roof is an important aspect to our lives.


He went on “…and we will want to have that done before we put solar panels in. It would be silly to put solar up and then have to take it down to redo the whole roof.”


The practical things gave some structure to this discussion. Maybe we want to plan on a new roof in five years. And if we want that, maybe we should plan other expenses around these big ones.


“When do you think Veronica will be the right age to take her to Hawaii?” Because travel is an important aspect of the next 25 years.


We talked practical, which is what Chris is the best at, and then also more abstract goals and desires.


I know that taking the long view will help shape my choices for today. Also, taking the long view will also make today a part of a whole.


I can’t be the only one–the only one whom life overwhelms and frustrates and annoys to distraction. When I have a petty or heart-stabbing encounter with a co-worker, or aNOTher ridiculous battle with a mighty four year old over bedtime or mealtime, I can escape into my own life–my plans for my life.


If she wastes toothpaste, or he hides a password during a deployment, will it matter in 25 years? Or 15, 10, 5, 3 or one year? Maybe it doesn’t matter so much today either.


I am looking at the horizon. There is some great stuff coming up.

Strike a pose

Chris took a picture of me yesterday. I didn’t want him to.

He showed it to me later. He was excited to show me because he liked it. And he liked how I looked.

When I saw it I hated it. I wanted to point out all my flaws and ugliness.

I stopped myself. I asked him what he liked about it.

I listened. Because what he said was telling me what he liked about ME.

So I listened. I took two mental steps back to stand still and listen

I want to practice letting him love me without my tidying up first