What my Mom Opened the Door For.

“The idea that I should be fine with the status quo even if I am not wholly affected by the status quo is repulsive.” ~ Roxanne Gay

After decades. there comes a day when your mother’s goneness rubs up close, the way cats you don’t like swerve and lean into your ankles for attention.

You look behind the curtain of everything she’s missed.

Marriage to a man she never met. The divorce she didn’t get to hold your hand through.

Two degrees. She would’ve beamed with pride.

My dog mom self. I’m a pretty good one.

Teaching college. I bet she’d say, “Alice Ann, I told you you weren’t stupid.”

Becoming a writer, like she once entertained.

Sacred love. His death; my devastation.

My sister, your daughter Jayne earning her MBA. Your grandsons becoming men.

Tommy’s (her husband’s) cancer; Jayne’s grief.

Your daughters living together—in our 50s!

Our trips. Mom, we travel! Australia, North Carolina, D.C., Jamaica, Belize, Bahamas, Florida, and of course, New Mexico. Do you miss the sunsets?

We’ve come so far.

Oh, Mom! You would’ve loved Obama! And applauded Michelle.

The books that have been put out. Even you—voracious speed reader—would have trouble keeping up.

The shows we’ve seen! Wicked!, Phantom, Cirque du Soleil, Neil Diamond…

You would’ve loved going backstage at Balletmet and seeing the costume design center. I could feel your presence.

You’re like the wind, only noticeable when I stop and allow myself to feel.

And know: You’ve seen it all and been here when I needed you.

I need you now, Mom. I love you. I miss you—your wisdom and opinions I was too young to ponder before your passing.

There’s so much I wish I could ask you now.

Now, in these personally peaceful, but collectively chaotic times.

Mom, you should see the advances in women’s rights—and the reversals. You’d engage in the outrage.

You played a pivotal role for women’s progress.

Now, it’s my turn, our turn.

How did you do it, Mom? How did you have the gumption and ambition to create change when you were fired for being pregnant and lost a promotion because you were a woman?

You never stopped speaking, researching, and fighting. And you won.

A lawsuit against my hometown school system for sexual discrimination. Bravo! And then you shared your winnings with your grown children.

We were part of your journey. You did your best to fight for women’s rights, so we wouldn’t have to.

Thank you for leading as an example of a woman doing what’s right, being strong, and standing up for women.

You helped create the opportunities we’ve become accustomed to.

As a kid, I had no idea not all moms took part in the women’s movement of the 1970s. I thought all women stood up for women and women’s rights.

Nope. There will be those who sit it out as history reveals the character of our society, nation, and world. I don’t want to be one of them.

I intend to follow my mother’s footsteps and let my values determine my words and actions.

My mother, Sandra Dee Kelley, was a woman warrior. I’m proud to be her daughter.

Happy Birthday on the other side, Mom. I love you.

What are you here to teach me, Grief?

What are you here to teach me, Grief?

Life is precious and valuable. You are strong and loved.

You can handle anything, but you’re not in control.

Trust. Dive all in—to the love, the joy, and yes, the grief.

Release the fear, pain and guilt.

Let it all flow through you. Transform.

Become new. Become more you. Over and over again. Live a life of metamorphosis.

Release the old tricks and tools that no longer serve. Stop grabbing.

Be good to your body.

Suck the marrow out of life. Take time out when you need it. Be true to you.

Honor your pain, sadness, heartache, and outrage, but don’t become them.

Learn. Forgive. Love. Hope. Pray. Cry. Laugh. Write. Dance. Read. Listen.

Appreciate. Accept. Honor. Share.

Life rolls out in seasons. You hating winter doesn’t make it any less cold.

If you’re still here., it’s for a reason. Find it. Live it. Love it.

Open to new possibilities.

How to Resist without being Resistant.

Go boldly into your resistance.

In the morning, resist the temptation to turn on an electronic box to push your emotional and intellectual buttons—the things that stop you and start you.

Instead, reach for peace, prayer, poetry, and purpose—even before you pee.

Resist unedited thoughts, words, assumptions, beliefs, and reactions.

Resist knowing the answer before hearing the question. Fight the urge to always be right, be on time, and be the smartest person in the room. Even Abe Lincoln and Mark Twain had to learn to temper themselves, to be civil in their discourse.

Resist swallowing news like vitamins. Occasionally, we’ve got to reevaluate the choices, benefits, and costs of what we’re taking in.

Resist the urge to share what you’re unwilling to research. Resist through research.

Resist through writing and speaking. Resist by reading. Read like it’s a habit stronger than alcohol and you’ll never want to quit.

Resist the urge to settle for mediocrity, give up on love, or bury hope.

Resist as if Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, and Maya Angelou are wooing you—doing a little woodoo on your heart.

Resist being a coward. Resist anger, violence, and ignorance. Resist giving up and joining the walking zombies of our time.

Resist shirking your responsibilities as a citizen of these United States of America in these times of rampant division.

Resist blaming, finger-pointing, shaming, intellectualizing, and especially straight out, or even covert, lying. Resist false narrative.

Resist nagging—yourself or your loved ones.

Resist not being present. Resist pretending you’re happy when you’re sad, lonely, grief stricken, or even “God forbid,” angry as a woman or vulnerable as a man.

Resist playing as if God, the Universe, angels—or whatever you believe in—aren’t as magnificent as they are. Resist cynicism.

Resist excuses. Resist bullshit. Resist self-righteousness or rigidness. Resist giving up.

Resist stagnation, but be willing to sit with your sh*t.

Resist denial or defensiveness. Resist the trivial and trivializing the real.

Resist indecision and inaction, but also the rat race, especially the rats.

Resist laziness, disorder, and disease. Resist yesterday’s rules which no longer apply.

Resist exaggerating or retreating. Resist anything that insults your soul (not the same as your ego).

Resist being slave to old thoughts, closing your eyes to the current chaos, or stirring it up more.

Do not resist arrest.

Resist voices quieted through coercion, manipulation, intimidation, or fear. Resist hate. Resist fake. Resist flattery or mockery. Resist dictatorship.

Resist, at your own peril, the gravity of what’s happening around you. Resist missing your moment in history.

Resist relinquishing your dreams. Resist the darkness of human hearts—with light.

Resist the desire to dismiss. Resist distraction from the demonstrations taking place on our streets, in our democracy. Resist checking out.

Resist settling for entertainment over fulfillment.

Resist veils over the human heart—yours.

Resist religion that doesn’t sit in you. Resist converting to anyone’s program. Resist conformity or reactionary practices.

Resist forgetting why you came.

Resist relaxing too long or not enough. Resist foods that make you sick, fat, or dead.

Resist driving 120 mph just because it’s on the speedometer.

Resist wrong roads, not the ones judged by your mind, but your soul—because if you’re soul’s not singing, you’re not winning.

Resist staying in too long or always going out. Resist imbalance, but especially drudgery.

Resist quick fixes and fast falsehoods. Resist gossip, but not the good stuff.

Resist procrastination of projects, people, and passions. Resist holding back, playing small, or putting off.

Resist puffing your chest for a crowd or a woman or a man.

Resist children being taken from their parents for punishment rather than protection.

Resist the riot tearing our social and civil fabric. Resist false prophets and profits as the bottom line for everything.

Resist lying to yourself until you no longer do.

Resist restriction and recrimination. Resist judgement and demonizing fellow human beings. Resist meanness and crassness, but laugh loud.

Resist trading your sense of humor for the cries of your heart. (They can coexist.)

Resist retreating.

Resist relying on others to inform you. Resist telling the stories you’ve outgrown.

Resist rules—yours and the ones you make up for others.

Resist relying on your ego. Resist insisting to people who aren’t listening.

Resist relationships which require you to shrink or reacting like a child in an adult body.

Resist letting your soul sleep while your life slips away.

How to Walk the Bridge to Better

May we all continue to seek the light.

Alice in Authorland

“Our job isn’t to fight fate, but to help each other through, not as soldiers, but as shepherds. That’s how we make it okay, even when it’s not.” ~ Lucy Kalanithi

Bridge Builder, Light Bearer. Those were the words I wanted on my tombstone.

Now, I think escort might be good. No, not that kind of escort!

It’s been my honor to chaperon people across their own life bridges. I didn’t have to build the bridge, but I often shined the light.

Sometimes, like when your sister’s husband dies, all we can do is sit in the dark with our loved ones and hold the light until it catches them.

The bridge seems to form under one’s feet as they walk the path of life.

However, traversing through the darkness—whether it comes from death, divorce, disaster, or simply losing our way—is lonely.

No one else can feel our unique brand…

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Lives Well Lived: a Tribute to my Parents.

“My dad’s in nuclear nonproliferation. What does your dad do?”

“I go now to seek a great perhaps.” ~ Francois Rabelais

[A talk I gave at my a party celebrating my dad, Arvid Lundy’s 80th birthday and he and my stepmom, Mary Jo Lundy’s 40th anniversary.]

What’s the purpose of a life? While the answer to this question is unique to each, for most it includes a desire to bring meaning and value to others, make a positive difference in the world, and have fun while doing it.

The fact that you’re all here today is a testament to the way Arvid and Mary Jo Lundy have lived with purpose.

While I can’t speak for everyone, I’d like to share a sampling of the positive influence they’ve had on my life.

But first, today is my dad’s birthday. He’s 80 years old. Can we give him a round of applause?

Go, Arvid! When I’m 80, I want to be able to ride a bike like he does, or remember random facts, or tell a story with such enthusiasm that I laugh and cry all at once.

When I’m 80, I think I might like to have as many friends as he does. Look around.

These faces paint the landscape of Arvid and MJ’s journey, as beautiful as any Georgia O’Keefe.

I’ve been hearing stories about you all for years. Maybe you’ve heard one or two about me. Maybe you’ve even included me and my sister in your morning prayers. Thank you.

When I’m 80, I’d like to have traveled to as many countries as my dad and Mary Jo have. How many is it? Have you guys counted?

By the time I get to their age, I’d like to have read as many books as my dad says he’s read.

No way, I mean if he read that many books, wouldn’t he be smart?

Seriously, my dad’s so smart even his job title had to get a security clearance: Nuclear nonproliferation. Sounds fancy, doesn’t it?

Yeah, sometimes I pull that out at parties, the way teenagers used to pull out Marlboros, to impress. “My dad’s in nuclear nonproliferation. What does your dad do?”

It works better outside my hometown of Los Alamos with the overpopulation of PhDs.

Anyhow, back to my dad. We can all agree he’s super smart, right?

I grew up surrounded by smart: my stepbrother John…He’s got like 42 post-doctorate degrees, my sister Jayne, knows the answer to everything. She’s like Siri for how to handle life. Then, Emily—don’t even get me started. If you look up well-adjusted in the dictionary, you’ll find a picture of Emily, with her husband and kids, and soon a dog. Right, Drew? (Emily’s son)

All these people and stories tie together like a string of pearls. It started with two people, who met in the Black Forest in Colorado. Even though each had been burned before, they chose to follow that voice that said, “This time, you’ll get it right.” They got it right.

Arvid and Mary Jo created their Exclusive Club for Two, but set out a welcome mat for many.

MJ, Arvid, my brother Bill (deceased), sister Jayne, stepsister Emily, and stepbrother John: these are my people.

From my dad, I’ve learned the most about myself, my ability to forgive, and how people grow. When I say grow, I mean grow up and, by people, I mean my dad.

Actually, I mean both of us. We’ve grown into our relationship.

Like most kids, I grew up feeling that my dad didn’t get me, didn’t hear me, and always thought he was right and I was wrong. I was a teenager, right?

But, then my mom got sick and my dad drove two hours each way to give blood to a woman he was no longer married to in the hopes that she would live.

When my mom died, my dad offered to pay for me to go to Tony Robbins Life Mastery—a sort of alternative school for kids who turned into adults before finishing college.

In Maui, at Life Mastery, I climbed up a 50-foot telephone pole, stood on top and then jumped off, flying to catch a trapeze bar, and swung into the next chapter of life without my mom.

Thank you, Dad and Mary Jo. You invested in me, encouraged me, and served as role models. Mostly, you’ve helped me live my life on full.

Mary Jo’s got a habit of that kind of thing. Early on, as if I was a floppy puppy rather than a mouthy teenager, MJ invited me closer to her, and to my better self.

Mary Jo is Chicken Soup for my Soul.

She encouraged me to run when all I wanted to do is run away (and she might’ve preferred that).

She showed me a 14-year-old cynic didn’t have to be.

Mary Jo cheered at my races, worried for my future, and connected with the goodness at my core.

It may be hard for you to believe, but I was a bit of a troublemaker… Yet, Mary Jo openly loved me and invited me to be a better version of myself.

In 2012, at age 38, I spent the summer writing and living with my parents in Santa Fe.

One day, I was off to meet with a man-friend. Mary Jo came at me like Aibileen Clark in the movie The Help. She delivered a personalized version of, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”

I laughed as I drove away, anchored in confidence and on fire with love.

More than telling me, Mary Jo acts on her love by investing time in important pursuits, like playing Canasta with my brother Bill and me and our stepbrother John, while telling stories about her sister Anne, the Queen of Canasta, who won every single time when they were kids.

I love those stories. Mary Jo’s stories bubble over with inspiring messages, like she’s a walking sermon.

A couple of my favorite MJ pearls: 1) Your feelings aren’t right or wrong; they’re signposts. 2) It’s not always/either or; sometimes it’s both.

I carry these gems like badges for belonging, worthiness, and decision making.

I think if Mary Jo had only one sermon, it would be: “Love the Underdog. In Jesus name, we pray. Amen.”

I’m reading something Mary Jo’s writing. It’s not meant to be a sermon, but it might be her best one yet.

I hope you get to read the stories and history of Mary Jo Lundy’s life. It’s the life of a pioneer, an educator, an activist, and a spiritual seeker. A woman who stood up for Civil Rights, worked in the Peace Corps, and endured divorce—all of which call for courage. Mary Jo is courageous.

And adventurous. I think she took my dad to climb as many 14ers—that’s mountains above 14,000 feet—as he took her to ski resorts when they dated.

These days, with my parents’ age, people ask me, “Are your parents still active?” Uh, is coffee still how I start my day?

I imagine Arvid and Mary Jo’s conversations going something like this:

Hey, honey, what do you want to do this summer? Um, how about we ride our bikes across the country?

Again? I don’t know. I was kind of thinking of going to India to do a water project or Ethiopia to acquire a taste for coffee.

Ok, well, if we can go to prayer group and I’ve got my women’s group…no, not that one, the one here. And, of course, Patrick and Daphne are visiting.

Ok, yeah, we can fit that in, but first, let’s take Ginger, our coyote, for a bike ride, where we’ll lose her, freak out, then find her like we do every time.

Ok, but I want to go visit Emily and my grandkids and John…

And on it goes for two people fulfilling their purpose as authentic, courageous, active, civic-minded citizens.

After careers, homes, and travels fade, if you have even one or two friends who know and love you through your vulnerabilities and cheer your milestones, you hold the key to happiness.

As I look around this room, I see a treasure trove of friendships.

For this event, Arvid and Mary Jo said no gifts, but I never followed their rules anyway. So, I’d like to ask you to give them a gift that will ripple after tonight.

Take a moment to look around, into the eyes of others. Each one of us is a pearl, formed from the grit of life. Just one pearl on its own is pretty, but a strand of them is a statement.

Together, we’re like a string of pearls. We’re a luminous collection.

Can’t you just feel the good ju-ju?

Help celebrate a lifetime of love by sharing your stories of the gifts they’ve given throughout the years.

Arvid and Mary Jo, thank you. I love you. Congratulations!

How to Get a Rush of Joy.

Can you flush with joy over the beauty of green trees against blue skies?

Or are you busy chasing green slips of paper and charging plastic cards
That keep you in the game of Better, Tomorrow, and Over There?

I stop and watch how my dog crosses her paws like a lady,
Swell with pride, and sing, “She’s my baby!”?

I let love rise with simplicity when
My sister says, “Thank you for all you do,”
Knowing what she does is beyond measure.

I taste gratitude like coffee. Habitually.

When you say you’ll pray for someone—and mean it—make the time.
Trust you are among the beneficiaries.

Can you, once again, trust your intuition and lean into life’s juxtapositions?

Or do you go for what media moguls and corporate conspirators sell?
Easy solutions.
Black and white.
Right and wrong.
Them and us.
As if all people, parties, politicians, musicians, moms, and more
Can be reduced to good or bad.

You know better in your dichotomous heart.

How about we invite nature to be our teacher?
Cycles and seasons, anger and beauty, strength and vulnerability.

Dragonflies, hummingbirds, and dolphins defy
Everything
While making complete sense.

Eagles from afar can sweep our hearts with majesty. Majesty.
Awe. Divinity. (It’s still here. All of it.)

Then, a baby looks in our eyes
With wisdom profound and simple,
Like green trees against blue skies.