If I were asked to sum up 2goodbye-2012-300x236012 in one word, what leaps to mind immediately is “hard.” I’m reluctant to put that down in writing, because in the grand scheme, I have such an easy life. First world problems. But c’est la vie – it is what it is.

With that in mind, here are my answers to the annual questions, which I encourage you to answer for yourself, and share with me if you’re so moved – I’d love to hear what you have to say.

1. What did you do in 2012 that you’d never done before?

Skinny dip in a quarry, get waaaaay too many mammograms, see Van Halen in concert (about damn time!), watch the sun set over Maine while drinking a G&T on the tallest point of the island, surrounded by lovely people, make ten dozen raviolis and recite Marc Antony’s “Friends, Romans, countrymen…” speech to a stellar group of friends, emcee an event with three world-class speakers, perform a quite lousy synchronized swimming routine on the lawn at Volunteer Park.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

My 2013 resolution is to take more risks. (Caveat: this does not mean I’ll be bungee jumping or skydiving anytime soon!)

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

YES! Beautiful Margot Louise Jacobs arrived in September.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No, but the year ended with a series of horrific gun deaths which must lead to real change.

5. What countries did you visit?

I was within the borders of the USA all year long.

6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?

A real date?

7. What dates from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

September 15th – I was privileged to attend a glorious wedding in Maine; September 28th – I got clocked by a very large gate; November 4th – a trifecta of satisfying election outcomes; November 9th – I met someone in my “karass.”

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Leading with empathy, kindness and authenticity.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Leading with arrogance, annoyance and false humility.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Boy howdy. A l-a-r-g-e iron-and-wood gate fell and knocked me over, bruising a kidney, some ribs, and assorted limbs in the process. While it wasn’t ultimately serious, it was painful for a long time and it scared the bejeezus out of me.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Airline tickets to New York, Maine and Washington.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

The voters in Washington, Maryland and Maine.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

The NRA.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Living a good life.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Willow’s and Karen’s wedding(s). Pub trivia. The election. Future professional possibilities. An email string.

16. What song will always remind you of 2012?

Some Nights – Fun.; American Tune – Paul Simon

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a) happier or sadder? Sadder, but I’m fairly certain that’s temporary

b) thinner or fatter? I think the same….

c) richer or poorer? Well, on paper it looks better….

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Spending time with the people that I love.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Worrying about work.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

Christmas Eve with friends-who-are-family, eating fabulous food and flirting with the twin two-year-olds. Christmas Day with the fam at my little sis’s home on the family compound. I danced to “Living La Vida Loca” and there’s filmography that I pray never sees the light of day. My bro-in-law’s prime rib and mac and cheese makes me do crazy things.

21. Did you fall in love in 2012?

With the idea of someone….

22. What was your favorite TV program?

This year Parks & Rec made me laugh out loud most consistently, which is what I’m looking for in TV shows most of the time. But I’ve got to give props to The Colbert Report as well. The man is a genius.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

Hate is a word that I reserve for icky foods and annoying music.

24. What was the best book you read?

I really liked Stephen King’s 11.22.63, Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, Tia Obrecht’s The Tiger’s Wife, Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette and M.L. Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans. But my favorite was The  Fault in our Stars by John Green.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?


26. What did you want and get?

A successful conference.

27. What did you want and not get?

A stress-free conference.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?

The Silver Linings Playbook and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I think. It was a great year for film. Also, I saw Brief Encounter for the first time and loved it.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 41 in 2012 and had a series of celebrations with my amazing friends, including one memorable meal at The Pink Door.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? 


31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012?

Skirts and dresses.

32. What kept you sane?

My therapist, 200mg of Zen, exercise, writing, my amazing friends.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

My love for the Obamas is evergreen.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

Healthcare, gun control, education.

35. Who did you miss?

For the first time in 15 years, I did not get to see Fred over the summer, and it bummed me out.

36. Who was the best new person you met?

While we met many years ago, there was one person whom I became better acquainted with this year, and that’s been interesting, for sure.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012.

I am my own worst critic.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

Many’s the time I’ve been mistaken, and many times confused
And I’ve often felt forsaken, and certainly misused.
But it’s all right, it’s all right, I’m just weary to my bones
Still, you don’t expect to be bright and bon vivant
So far away from home.


A Very Merry Unniversary

Today is my 22nd unniversary. Let me explain.

After I graduated from high school, I chose not to go to college. I turned 18 in July, decided I was a grown up, and moved out. As the summer wound down and as most of my friends set off for campuses far and wide, I cast about for new ways to occupy my time. I decided to throw myself wholeheartedly into the charismatic, evangelical, fundamentalist church where I’d been working as a childcare provider for the past two years.

At a time when every part of my life was changing: my home, my daily routine, my access to friends, my theology – M became my friend. He was a good guy: loyal, reliable and funny. While he wasn’t the type to whom I’m typically attracted, I was attracted to the attention he gave me. Soon we were dating; soon after, engaged. What else did I have to do? I was under-employed and without homework for the first time in years. Planning a wedding seemed like a viable alternative for how to spend my time.

With a diamond ring on my finger and a stack of wedding magazines full of frothy dresses and shiny cakes, I repressed any feelings of doubt and set a date: November 3rd, 1990.

Winter became Spring became Summer and still I pushed onward, despite the myriad signs that M and I were ill-suited for one another.

Then the week of Power Source camp arrived. M and I were both camp counselors at this five-night adolescent extravaganza of rock-n-roll worship songs, gross skits, silly team competitions, barely-held-in-check-hormones, tongue-talking, and lots and lots of sobbing teenage girls. There was little sleep and many “revelations” from God.

I look back now on those times with equal parts nostalgia and horror.

Whatever was really going on there, one of those “revelations” gave me the courage to do the thing I knew needed to happen months earlier: I broke up with M, telling him that I knew that it was God’s will. Regardless, it was the right thing to do. Frothy dress be damned, the two of us should not get married. We were too young, too different, too clueless.

Now, 22 years later, I don’t have any God-sent revelations anymore. But I’ll always be thankful to whomever that I didn’t get married all those year ago. I love my life just the way it is – messy theology and all.

So each November 3rd I raise a glass to M, to my life, and to grace – whatever the source.

Join me.

I rarely crack open a Bible these days; it seems that the older I get, the fuzzier my theology becomes. But there was a long period during which I read from that tome every. single. day. I memorized big chunks, which I used to feel self-righteous and eviscerate anyone who didn’t share my rather literal perspective. While there’s virtually no chapter-and-verse reciting I can do anymore, the pieces that do continue to float around in my brain concern Jesus’ compassion and his focus on serving those on the margins: the poor, the sick, the “sinners.” (You know, the 47%.)

So when I read this article from today’s New York Times, which explains that a fundamentalist evangelical organization is encouraging parents to keep their kids home from school on “Mix it Up at Lunch Day” on October 30th (designed to encourage kids to spend time with a peer they don’t normally interact with, to promote tolerance and diversity and combat bullying) because it “promotes the homosexual lifestyle”, the first images in my head were of Jesus: hanging out with the Samaritan woman at the well, talking Zaccheus out of his tree, healing the centurion’s servant with a word. Demonstrating his love for people, singling out those who society had labeled as “other” for whatever arbitrary and indefensible reason. This is one of the ways I strive to emulate him.

And while I fall short often and repeatedly, I’m grateful that I’m surrounded by top-flight folk who are better than me at this. Some of the best I know are David, Mark, Willow and Karen. I am regularly in awe of each of them as they demonstrate empathy and generosity, and continually see the best in everyone. They are some of the significant manifestations of God in my life.

My heart is heavy thinking about kids being kept at home on October 30th. All I can do is hope that God crosses their paths (and those of their parents) with people like these tremendous friends of mine. Everyone should be so blessed.

A fond farewell to 2011.

As Thanksgiving weekend wound down, I started thinking about how A.W.E.S.O.M.E 2011 had been, and how I might answer the annual quiz. I logged in to start jotting down some impressions and lo and behold, I found a partially finished quiz from 2010 – oopsy.

So, while I’ve missed the official start of the new year, here are some answers for both 2010 and 2011.

Try it out for yourself! I’d love to read what you have to say.

1. What did you do in 2010/2011 that you’d never done before? 

2010: Wreck a car, watch a friend perform on Broadway, pass out in a public restroom, Skype at 7 AM with a wise man from Jordan, eat vegan stroganoff, attend a brit bat, walk on the stunning beaches of La Push, walk in the snow in Zig Zag…

2011: Ride ATVs in the Nevada desert, walk in the rain in the Arizona desert, have my mind blown and my heart filled by a flash mob, sleep in a castle, float in a balloon, hike in Asia, visit Harlem.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

2010: I don’t usually make resolutions in January, but this year I’m resolving to try new things.

2011: Yes! I did LOTS of new things in 2011 – mainly around travel. We’ll see about 2012.

 3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

2010: Oh, yes! In order (I think): Lesley, Noreen, Beth, Jen, Tammy, Julie N, Jenny and Jill. Five boys and four girls, beautiful and healthy all.

2011: Yep! Meredith, Sofia and Julie T – all beautiful boys.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

2010/11: No, and I’m grateful.

5. What countries did you visit?

2010: I’m shaking my head in disbelief as I write this, but I stayed in the US all the live-long year.

2011: Does Las Vegas count? Oh yeah, and Switzerland, France and Turkey (and an airport in England).

6. What would you like to have in 2011/12 that you lacked in 2010/11?

2010: More inspiration for this blog.  [Editor’s note: clearly I sucked at this].

2011: Maybe it’s not inspiration, but discipline that I’m lacking.

7. What dates from 2010/11 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

2010: Huh.

2011: July 23rd – my 40th birthday party. The majority of my favorite people (85+) in the same place at the same time. It was the most enjoyable and humbling night of my life. And the food was incredible. Also September 2nd – 18th: the France and Turkey trip. A life highlight.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Perpetually: Keeping my mouth shut.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Perpetually: Not keeping my mouth shut.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

2010: Well, there was that embarassing incident in the bathroom…. One broken finger and one black eye. The finger is still wonky.

2011: And then came the parasite….

11. What was the best thing you bought? 

2010: Lots of great books, lots of great meals, lots of great sex (kidding!).

2011: Tickets to Lady Gaga, tickets to France and Turkey, tickets to go on a balloon ride….

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

2011: My lovely friends and family. Special shout-outs to the flash mob conspirators: Jen and BJ, Jenny and Aaron, Jenny and Brian. Also Mark, who was the reason and the driver for the extravaganza du Francais. On a global note: the brave men and women of the Arab Spring.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

2010: The U.S. Senate.

2011: The ENTIRE U.S. Congress this year (with a few exceptions, my own reps among them).

14. Where did most of your money go?

2010: Having fun with friends, traveling, reading.

2011: Traveling and a stellar party.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

2010: It was rather a mellow year, but in a very good way!

2011: The Las Vegas trip with Lou and Ty (and Gaga), the 40th bash, the France and Turkey trip, the NYC jaunt.

16. What song will always remind you of 2010/11?

2010: “My Life Would Suck Without You” as performed by the Glee cast. Along with a lot of other great covers they did.

2011: “Firework” by Katy Perry – the anthem for the most spectacular flashmob.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder?

2010/11: Happier – it just seems to get better and better.

b) thinner or fatter?

2010: Alas, fatter.

2011: Thinner. A great side effect of the parasite.

c) richer or poorer?

2010: Richer, but only on paper!

2011: Poorer, but temporarily so.

[Editor’s note: the rest of these answers are for 2011. I was laaaaaazy last year!]

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Telling people how much I love them.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Being scornful and/or derisive.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

Christmas Eve with fun new friends, watching them eat fondue (no cheese or chocolate on the parasite diet!). Christmas Day with the fam at my little sis’s new home on the family compound. Fabulous food and a lot of laughing.

21. Did you fall in love in 2011?

I think I fall in love with the kiddos in my life a little more all the time.

22. What was your favorite TV program?

It’s a tough call, but I gotta go with Modern Family. I heart Phil.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

Not a hater.

24. What was the best book you read?

Fiction: Cutting for Stone. Nonfiction: Unbroken. Read them!

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Lady Gaga! (I know, I’m late to the party.)

26. What did you want and get?

An epic birthday party.

27. What did you want and not get?

That’s a secret.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?


29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

It was the year of the big 4-0, and I threw myself a ginormous birthday bash! Beautiful people from all over the country joined me for awesome BBQ, plentiful beer and wine, toasts, roasts, dancing and a FLASH MOB. And I’ve got the footage to prove it!

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? 

Congress doing their jobs rather than grandstanding, kowtowing, and generally being a bunch of asses.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?

Whatever Jen says, I do.

32. What kept you sane?

Fabulous friends (and  my therapist).

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Still crushing on Barack & Michelle.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

The whole thing was a cluster. I must say, the Republican primaries are like the best bad theater I’ve ever seen. Pure entertainment.

35. Who did you miss?

I got to see all of my near and far friends this year, except for Paul and Juliana.

36. Who was the best new person you met?

There’s a gaggle of them: my castle mates in France! All delightful. Special shout-outs to the Jeffs, Melanie and Carlos.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011.

Keep calm and carry on. It might just get you to Paris.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

“Boom, boom, boom, even brighter than the moon, moon, moon….”

Las Vegas, Day One


1. Taking a first glimpse at the lions at the MGM Grand (which is larger than some towns in Nevada, I’m pretty sure).

2. Getting nostalgic for my peeps in NYC whilst traipsing through NY NY. Seeing huge grins on the faces of Lou and Ty as they came off the roller coaster for the second time in twenty minutes.

3. Marveling over the fact that there are FOUR FLOORS of M&Ms crap to be consumed, including a NASCAR race car and a cheesy 3D movie complete with abominably bad live acting.

4. Winning 500 tickets at Gameworks at the Wheel of Fortune game. Elementary schools spelling bee prowess pays off. Sucking at the driving games, which the 15 year old rocked. Playing pool on the crappiest tables ever, having to substitute a spare cue ball for a missing stripe.

5. Splitting ribs and chicken in the Rainforest Cafe back at the MGM Grand, then arriving at the lion habitat just in time for dinner! I can’t figure out how to download the video from my phone, but here’s a not-so-good photo I took when we were standing below them.

6. Making plans for a future stop at the Oxygen bar at Ex Caliber.

7. Walking waaaaay down the strip (it didn’t look that far on the map!) to Paris to ride to the top of the Eiffel Tower just in time for the first Bellagio fountain show of the evening. Watched the sun set spectacularly over the mountains.

8. Hoofing ALL THE WAY back to NY NY for the kiddos to experience the roller coaster at night, which was apparently the best way to do it.

9. Trekking for miles through the MGM Grand to the Garden Arena (no garden in sight) to arrive “just in time” for an 8 PM show at which the opening act, Scissor Sisters (two thumbs down from the niece and nephew), started at 8:45.

10. OMFGaga. Stunning. Brilliant. We danced and screamed and clapped and raised our paws and had our ever-loving minds blown. I spent twenty bucks on a “Born This Way” tote bag (yay green-team Gaga!), she was that good. BEST. CONCERT. EVER. I will see her again and again. The two 50-something couples in front of us seemed to enjoy it as well.

Can’t wait to see what day two brings!


There was nothing unusual about the day. January in Seattle: grey, drizzly, chill-you-to-the bone. The customary wind whipped my umbrella in all directions as I made the short walk from my office to the bank on First and Pine.

I was in typical midday mode, when hunger dictates that I be as efficient as possible running errands, getting in and out of the bank/post office/Bartell with a minimum of fuss. It was a bank day, which brought special annoyances, since the tellers were uber-chatty and the lingering-too-close security guard had a Davy Crockett-esque toupee.

Check deposited, I set off for my next destination: lunch. Setting as brusque a pace as my short little legs would allow, I mulled the internal debate of “falafel versus sushi” once again. As I stepped onto the wet sidewalk, I brushed by a man in a navy wool skull cap and puffy jacket. We caught one another’s eye, and he launched in.

“Excuse me, ma’am, but I’m trying to get enough money for a bus ticket to go home.” He looked directly at me as he made the inevitable ask. “Can you spare some change?”

“Hang on a second,” I said as I began to root around in my simultaneously annoying and beloved satchel. I knew I didn’t have any bills, but there were bound to be coins in here somewhere.

A woman brushed by us and as our eyes met, it took her a moment to replace the look of disapproval with the standard Seattle “I-couldn’t-care-less” expression. Perhaps she was a tourist.

I’ve had many a debate with people – including myself – about giving money to people on the street. But the author Ann Lamott silenced my internal quandary with a scene in one of her novels, the title of which I’ve long forgotten:

When the narrator, a 1970s tween, sees her mom give a dollar to the town drunk, she protests. “Mom! You know he’s going to use that money to buy alcohol!”

Her mom’s response? “Honey, when Jesus healed the blind man, he didn’t ask him what he was going to be looking at.”*

While I groped around in my bag for my coin purse, coming up with and discarding chapstick, matches, an old almond, I groped around in my mind for an attempt at small talk. “Where’s home?” I asked.

“What’s that?” said the man, and something in his voice made me look up from my baggage wasteland.

“I said, where’s home? Where are you trying to get back to?”

The man hesitated for a second, then, looking right at me again, broke out into a huge grin. “Ask me no questions, I’ll tell you no lies” he declared.

Fair enough, I thought, as I fished out the coins and poured them into his outstretched hand.

Our transaction finished, I smiled and said goodbye and he smiled and said God bless and asked me if I wanted to get coffee, and I said no thanks and I started off again, thinking about what had just happened.

Clearly, this man wasn’t trying to get home. I wondered where home was. Was there someone worried about him? Would it make it easier for them to know that in that moment, someone had responded to his need in a small way?

Ooh boy, that made me think about my dad. He reappeared for the final year of his life, and amidst the ferrying to multiple medical appointments and filling out mountains of paperwork, I didn’t have much to give him in the way of smiles. Resentment was manifest physically in the rigidity of my neck and shoulders as we sat in countless waiting rooms.

He never seemed to notice, though, and as his mind got hazier, he recited a handful of stories time and again as we waited. One came to mind as I turned mechanically into the falafel restaurant on Pine Street. The one about the girl at the Wendy’s drive thru, who would always call my dad “honey” and give him a large French fry – even though he’d ordered a small. This story annoyed me each time he told it: his implication that the twenty-something clerk in the window was attracted to him.

As I returned to the office with my falafel, hummus and pita, it occurred to me to be thankful for the Wendy’s woman. Maybe this is how it’s meant to work. She helped my dad, and I helped the guy in the Navy skullcap, who might have a resentful daughter out there, grateful for a proxy who can respond with compassion.

*Sentiment: Ann Lamott. Butchered paraphrase: me.

Fa la la la la, la la la la

Yesterday, whilst hanging with the kiddos, between playing “Trick or Treat’ (during which my skirts brandished as capes and swim goggles and/or sleep masks comprise super hero regalia) and making paper plate turkeys, I dusted off the Christmas Songs playlist in iTunes and we rocked out to “The Beach Boys Christmas Song,” “Christmas in Africa” and “Donde es el Santa Claus?”. Typically, I have a hard-and-fast “no xmas tunes before Thanksgiving” rule, but this year I’m in a festive state of mind and I say go with it, as tomorrow the Grinch could reassert his customary spot in my holiday heart.

So along with buying two-not-one evergreen wreathes and contemplating in what shapes to fold my niece’s and nephew’s cash gifts this year, my thoughts have turned to holiday cards, thanks to my lovely friend Jenny at www.zestyenterprise.com.

I haven’t sent out holiday cards in a long, long time. I bought Christmas cards with the best of intentions about three years in a row in the early nineties, and finally donated them to Goodwill when I moved two years ago. Follow-through (or lack thereof) aside, I’ve thought a good deal about what a holiday card from me might look like, now that photo cards are easy, affordable, and all the rage.

If I were less lazy, those of you who I know and love IRL would be receiving a card that had a photo of me wearing this:

surrounded by these:

But since I am what I am, it’s likely that you’ll be getting no card at all. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t love to receive cards from my friends! Let me recommend www.shutterfly.com, because what I’d like more than a sparkly image of an angel or tree shedding glitter all over my immaculate floors is a cute photo of you and yours. Here are my favorites (click on the card image to go to its page in the Shutterfly site):

Clean lines, nice colors, a great font.

I love the image on this one. Plus, it’s called “Holly Chocolate Christmas.” At first I read it as “Holy Chocolate Christmas,” which I liked even more.

Apparently, I’m attracted to cards with brown backgrounds. I really love the bird in this one.

So there, my bit of holiday advice (also, don’t overdo the nog). I’ll be awaiting your card with appropriate holiday cheer.

Mostly drivel…

I’m writing not because I have something particularly compelling to say, but because it’s been exceedingly long since my last post, and the guh-ilt is tottering away up there, threatening to fall and crush me like a grape. So here are a few tidbits:

1. Twins are fascinating. Currently, I’ve got one set close at hand and another arriving imminently. I am doubly (quadruply?) blessed. The girls get more alluring every day. I love it when they sit on either side of me in the mornings, their jammies still on and their diapers threatening to runneth over, and we finish reading a story and in unison, they call out, “Again!” Or when they lean their heads against me and sigh simultaneously. Of course, the tandem thing reached new depths a few weeks ago, when, sporting colds, both girlies put their faces on my sleeve and wiped their noses, mirror images of the other. That one was more icky than fascinating.

2. I’ve never been to Vegas, but I’m on my way baby! 2011 is a banner year: my oldest niece turns 18 and graduates from high school, my nephew turns 16, and I turn 4-0 (much, much more on that to come). We’re celebrating with Lady Gaga and 16,797 of her closest friends at the MGM Grand. Then we’re going to – huh. Teenagers in Vegas. Suggestions?

3. Sometimes it’s better to keep your mouth shut. This is not a typical practice for me. Over the weekend I developed a very strong opinion about something, and went back and forth about whether to share it with pertinent people. Uncharacteristically, I chose to refrain. Today, my opinion was validated and my wish came true. I’m torn between feeling smug and grateful. I’ll likely be smote later.

That’s it. I tire, therefore I stop. G’night.

  Spring is my favorite season, but July is my favorite month.

And not just because of my birthday. Yes, that’s a BIG part of it, and I’m grateful for two women in my life (they know who they are) who get that birthdays are the most important holiday (sorry, Jesus).

But I love July for myriad reasons. Here in the Northwest, July means that the best weather is yet to come. It means fresh raspberries, and evenings that last until after ten. It means burnt orange dahlias at the market, stunning glimpses of the Olympics, sleeping with fewer than four blankets, and visiting with good, good friends.

This July was a great one, from start to finish.

It began with eating THE BEST barbecue — my brother’s-in-law is ah-may-zing — whilst chatting with a friend I hadn’t seen since high school – a boy I had a crush on oh so many years ago. Now he has kids as old as we were when I toilet-papered his house in 1989.

Then the girlies turned two – eegads! I swear it was just a few months ago when I first changed Glory’s diaper; she didn’t yet weigh six pounds, and her buns were the smallest I’d ever seen (they’re still pretty tiny). She and Elena and Manny got bikes from their grandparents, and they puttered around on the playground looking like characters from a Mario Brothers video game, with giant mushroomy helmets on their wee heads.

Vacation was next – hooray! I do love DC. Yes, it was humid. Yes, the temp broke 100 at least once. Yes, there were rain-pouring-down-like-it-only-ever-does-in-Seattle-in-the-movies-or-on-that-stupid-hospital-show thunderstorms. But y’all, I was warm for eight days non-stop! You can’t say that around here all that often. And the city is fabulous – lots of great food, and there’s always something to see.

But while I heart our nation’s capital, it’s the people that keep drawing me back. Megan and Alex, Jill and Brian, Juliana and Paul. These are top-flight people. Beyond.

And they hosted me ever so well. Juliana hardly let me lift a finger, and ferried me around, and helped me pick out the cutest pair of elephant pajama pants. And she thanked me about 55 times for seeing “Eclipse” with her (for the record, I only rolled my eyes once during the movie). Jill and Brian ate the raw pancakes I made without grimacing, and served me yummy and large gins and tonic, and fast-forwarded through the talking-heads parts of SYTYCD, but not the judge’s comments, per my request. Megan was just plain F-U-N. She can pack more into one day than anyone else I know. I saw parts of the city that I hadn’t yet, and found a new favorite cafe with her in the lead. And Paul wrote me a lovely note when I left.

Then back to Seattle just in time for summer to begin in earnest. A lovely evening picnic with yummy Michigan pasties, bing cherries, and fabulous friends. The next day I went to a garden wedding, where there were thirty guests, Dick’s burgers and Molly Moon’s ice cream. The groom was the only person I knew when I arrived, but two straight women got my phone number by the end of the evening. I tell ya, I am something!

And then I hauled my ukulele clear to Very South King County to be surprised by yummy nose-running-spicy Thai food in a strip mall in Bonney Lake, and to be delighted by some time with far-off Fred. Freddy taught me everything I know (which, my friends, is considerable!) about volunteer management and Christian music festivals. He’s also taught me an awful lot about sharing grace and loving people. It was a real treasure to see him and the others in Enumclaw.

Checked in with my therapist (still not crazy), checked in with my financial advisor (still not rich), checked in with my phlebotamist (and stayed conscious the whole evening).

And then it arrived – my 39th. On Friday the 23rd we drank champagne at work and I got a S-T-E-L-L-A-R birthday gift from my smart, sly, generous colleagues and friends. It really merits its very own post. I’ll just say two words: Soda Stream.

The next morning I nearly killed Manny and myself by mishandling the aforementioned gift. He was standing on the step stool next to me at the counter, and after a liter’s worth of flying fizzy water drenched us both, I turned to him with drips coming off my chin, and with big eyes he said, “that was crazy!” The next time I made fizzy water, he went in my bedroom and shut the door, only reemerging when I was well and truly done.

I was still a little damp when Sam, Ang, the kids and I went to eat scrumptious pastries at Macrina Bakery, followed by more bike-riding, and eensy Glory insisting that she could hang from the monkey rings her”SELF!” She did, in fact, for a whole three seconds, then dropped, laughing when her dad caught her halfway to the ground.

Breakfast was followed by lunch at one of my very favorite Seattle restaurants: St. Cloud’s in Madrona. Its backyard is one of the neighborhood’s best kept secrets (Don’t go there! You’ll hate it!). I had a gin and tonic with something delish, got two beautiful birthday cards accompanied by even more beautiful necklaces from Jen and Jenny (who know me so, so well), and answered the modified birthday questions, courtesy of Brian (“tell us about the night you were conceived….”).

A lovely text from another lovely Jenny.

Then Dinner. Yes, I know I capitalized the D. It was the perfect evening. Marilyn picked me up and we arrived right on time at Serafina, where the smartly dressed maitre d’ directed us to the bar for a pre-meal drink (who can guess what I had?), and a shot of the first tequila I’ve had since Mexico, compliments of the bartender.

We sat in the courtyard. If you live in the area and haven’t done that, stop reading and make a reservation now – I’ll wait.

Done? Good.

Three courses, all superb. Two pieces of advice: order dessert right away so they don’t run out of what you really want, and get. the. pork.

Oh, wait, more advice: consult with the cute sommolier and make sure you have a charming and flirtatious friend who can coax a great price on the wine with just a smile and a bit of smolder. I said “big with no bite” (about the wine) and that’s what I got. Delicious. I’d show you the photo of the label on my phone, but I’m 39 now, and technology is beginning to stump me. It pains me a little, right there.

I got into bed just before midnight, full of spirits and tenderloin and gratitude and light. And there was still a week to go!

My birthday spilled into the next day with lunch in the sun on the water in Tacoma, watching the Rhododendron come and go with Noreen and little G, who is her father in miniature. Noreen is someone with whom I don’t get to visit nearly enough, so the time was precious.

I saw Inception – worth the IMAX price, and I’m a cheapskate. I was bowled over by astounding beets (dill is the key!) in Lesley’s glorious backyard, while talking with my kick-ass book group about The Brothers K, my most favorite novel ever. I finished it (for the fifth time) a few weeks before we met, lying on my couch with tears streaming into my ears, well satisfied and thanking God for the brilliance of David James Duncan.

Then I met sweet, blue-eyed Iliana, the fifth baby born to my lovely peeps this year. She arrived just a few days before all ten pounds of Isaac, who I also got to meet, while sharing burgers and onion rings with his three big sisters and mom and dad – that kid will never want for cuddles.

And on the last day of the month, we celebrated Marilyn’s birthday. M and I were housemates for three years, and people often asked why we didn’t have joint parties. But really, why just have one day of festivity when you can have two? Marilyn blazed into her 40s with a killer dress, fabulous moves, and aplomb. I aspire to do it as well.

That’s it! My month in a gigantic nutshell. And through it all, I read my way through Harry’s journey once again.

Fin. Bon, bon fin.

Be involved….

Stephen Lewis is one of my heroes. He’s intelligent, articulate, provocative, and passionate, plus he’s a Canadian, and I’m a bit of a Canuckaphile. Also, he’s a feminist. When I heard him speak in 2008, he said that when his kids were growing up, he and his wife told them that the only thing they must be in life was feminists. One of them ended up marrying Naomi Klein.

Today he gave the commencement speech at Dartmouth College. I loved it, and I wanted to share it with you. If you want to check out Stephen’s work, go to www.aidsfreeworld.org.

As you heard, I served as the UN envoy on AIDS in Africa from 2001 to 2006. The nadir of that tenure was 2003. It’s impossible to convey the depths of despair and anguish that consumed the high-prevalence countries of Africa.

The spectre of death and the reality of death were omnipresent, from the graveyards to the village huts to the hospital wards. There were times when entire countries felt like a charnel house, a virtual cemetery. I remember one particularly awful episode: I was visiting the paediatric ward of the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka, Zambia, with the superintendant, moving from cot to cot, each cot filled with five or six tiny infants, bodies strangled by a combination of malnutrition and what was undoubtedly the AIDS virus.

I had been in the ward for five minutes when an agonizing cry filled the room and reverberated wall to wall like some ghastly other-worldly shriek. I remember convulsively swiveling round to see what in God’s name was happening, and there in the corner of the room was a young mother, on her knees by one of the cots, weeping inconsolably as the nurse came in with a white sheet and took the babe away.

What lives with me to this day was that it happened every ten minutes I was in the ward: a wail, a nurse, a sheet, a little morsel of a death.

I remember thinking to myself: has the world gone mad? How is this possible in the first decade of the 21st century? But of course, not only was it possible, but it was happening to huge percentages … 5, 10, 20, 30, 35 per cent of the population between fifteen and forty-nine years of age, of whole countries, and in the decisive majority, to the women of those countries.

What was so appalling was the fact that by 2003, we had anti-retroviral drugs available; to be specific, three drugs in one pill to be taken twice a day. It was called triple-combination therapy. It kept people alive. So powerful and effective were the drugs that they were said to cause the Lazarus effect … people at death’s door suddenly underwent a startling metamorphosis: they got better, they looked after their family, they survived!

But for some reason, the world was paralyzed in its response. It might have been racism, it might have been geography, it might have been indifference; whatever it was the treatment did not roll out, even though, by then, there were generic drug equivalents emerging that made treatment financially possible.

Millions of lives were lost, unnecessarily; millions were put at risk, unnecessarily.

And then something astonishing happened. It came in mortal form: it was called Jim Kim.

Alright, this is where it gets embarrassing, but I refuse to be cowed by circumstance. On December 1st, 2003, the World Health Organization — WHO — launched a campaign against AIDS called “3 by 5”. The objective was to put three million people into treatment by the end of 2005. The idea, months in gestation — startling, inspired, brilliant, came full-blown from the brow of Jim Kim … which, when I think of it, may explain his permanently furrowed forehead.

There’s no beating around the bush here. Jim Kim became the Director of HIV/AIDS at WHO. He had a tremendously supportive Director-General and the two of them together drove things forward. I was flush in the middle of being the Envoy; I watched it close-up, and I can say, unequivocally, that it was the absolute turning-point in the struggle to subdue the pandemic.

But it wasn’t easy. And it wasn’t easy for the most ridiculous and distressing of reasons: one of the singular truths about the United Nations, rarely known by the outside world, is the degree of jealousy and competitiveness among the agencies. And the sorry truth about “3 by 5” is that some in the UN world of AIDS were incensed by Jim Kim’s initiative, were incensed that he’d taken the lead, were incensed that it gave WHO all kinds of kudos and profile, were incensed that they were left in the murky backwater of the also-rans. They couldn’t sabotage things directly — after all there is a limit to vile human behaviour — but they sure as the devil weren’t going to help it succeed.

And at every opportunity, behind the scenes, sotto voce, they forecast failure. But nothing daunted Dr. Kim and his colleagues. They persevered regardless the rage and rivalry.

Well, in mathematical terms, “3 by 5” did fail. We didn’t make the three million. But in human terms, it was a magnificent success: what “3 by 5” did was to unleash a rollout of treatment that became irreversible. Thus it is that today there are nearly five million people in treatment, primarily in the developing world, overwhelmingly in Africa. Your University President contributed significantly to keeping those people alive

Can I tell you something privately, never to be revealed to the outside world? I love Jim Kim. I’m not for a moment self-conscious in saying it.

Now I readily concede that not everyone is going to be a Jim Kim. But I would insist that it’s possible for everyone to make a contribution to improving the human condition.

You are graduating from one of the most esteemed universities on the planet. Whatever the discipline, whatever the profession you embrace, it is possible, over the years, to better this often fetid world. You don’t have to devote your life to it — no one is asking for some saintly transformation — I am only asking for a sense of being a global citizen, of caring about the injustice in this world, and doing something, however modest, to end it.

In Washington this past week, just completed, there was a conference called “Women Deliver”, attracting the participation of over three thousand concerned advocates and activists from every corner of the globe. The conference addressed, head-on, all those issues that so compromise the lives millions of women lead, whether international sexual trafficking, or female genital mutilation, or honour killings, or child brides, or the absence of inheritance rights and property rights, or the lack of economic autonomy, or dismal political representation, or maternal mortality, or intimate partner violence, or marital rape, or the spreading contagion of savage rape and sexual violence in situations of armed conflict, like the Congo, and the crazed lust for political power, like Zimbabwe.

It’s impossible, in the face of all of this, not to realize that the most important struggle in the world is the struggle for gender equality. You can’t continue to marginalize half the world’s population and expect to approximate social justice.

This isn’t to suggest that everyone has to pick up the cudgels of engagement and join some organization devoted exclusively to human rights for women, although that would be a worthy pursuit. But it does mean that in your personal and professional lives, above all the lives of young men, whether played out in the family, the community or the workplace, respect for women and a recognition of equality become the benchmarks of civilized behaviour.

It carries a message. It ripples inexorably outwards. It’s also a part of global citizenship.

Next month in my country, Canada, we’re hosting both the G8 and the G20. Undoubtedly, they will devote a major chunk of debate to the international financial crisis. The agenda also calls for significant attention to maternal and child health, attention to the ghastly reality of between three hundred and four hundred thousand women dying every year in pregnancy and child birth, and the heartbreaking statistic of nearly eight million children dying every year under the age of five from wholly preventable diseases.

Added to this, if we’re lucky, will be an intense exchange over the catastrophic decline in funding for HIV/AIDS, dismembering the legacy of “3 by 5”, and threatening the survival of nine million additional people living with AIDS who need treatment now. Today. This very moment.

Again, I’m not asking that you hurl yourselves into the fray … that you up and join a non-governmental organization and take yourself off to Africa, although it’s a worthy consideration. I ask only that you talk about these issues, care about these issues, perhaps contribute financially to the solution of these issues. Global citizenship is not some rigid construct or dialectic: it takes many forms.

The same argument applies, I believe, to the summit of world leaders to be held at the United Nations in New York in September. They will be discussing progress on the Millennium Development Goals; eight goals to be reached by 2015, the most central of which is to confront the poverty of the developing world … the staggering fact that 1.4 billion people live on less than a dollar and a quarter a day.

And the same argument further applies, I believe, to the meeting in November this year in Mexico City, when the nations of the world will gather to address, yet again, the apocalyptic implications of climate change.

But in a vein similar to what I’ve said before, I don’t ask that you become climatologists. I don’t ask that you become resident environmentalists, although that would be quite wonderful. I don’t ask that you do post-graduate studies in wind turbines, solar energy, biomass or any other renewable energy alternatives. I ask only that you take this incredible education that you’ve amassed, and analyze and engage and reflect and dispute and embrace, but above all be involved in shaping a more secure, just and decent world.

Global issues; global citizenship. There’s nothing more noble than the quest for social justice and equality. As of today, you can choose to launch yourself onto that path.

I salute you. I congratulate you. Thank you for this honour.

Global citizenship is something I aspire to. Feel free to hold me accountable. That’s what we’re here for.