Jeanie Rules

Things usually work out the way they are supposed to – This is something my mother said to me often, possibly at the top of the list of “Jeanie Rules” I have come to live by. Others include the requirement to always shower before getting into clean sheets and the necessity to rid your closet of an equal number of items purchased following a shopping trip – this one is easy for me because I rarely shop and love to purge (except for that shirt, I’ll probably wear that one this year). She was a minimalist in a house and in a world of excess. All she ever wanted out of life was me and my sister (her words) and she was a supremely happy person despite living in constant pain with everyone around her needing her as much as we did. The older I get, the more in awe of that ability I become. I find myself struggling to be all the things I have positioned myself to be and I don’t even have children to parent. Society has always asked too much of women and an impossible amount from mothers, add to that chronic pain followed by the most unfair of diagnoses and I don’t know how one continues to smile, continues to be grateful. But she did.

This time of year is not my favorite. I have a Protestant preference for celebrating life rather than mourning death and I am delighted by each of the Jeanie Days I’ve been able to enjoy every May. Come early September, I usually don’t have a strong emotional response. I like to light a candle for her on 9/10 as is Jewish tradition but other than that, the day typically comes and goes without much notice. Maybe this can be attributed to my Irish inclination to bury bad feelings but who can tell? Who knows where those are kept? In any event, I find myself caught off guard this year by how fragile I feel leading up to this 10th anniversary of Jeanie’s final moments with us, her final moments with me. The course of my life was forever changed because of the time I was able to spend with her in the last few years of her life on Earth – the magnitude of this impact continues to grow the older I get and, for it, I will always be grateful. On the day she passed, I was meant to go out for the afternoon but my instincts told me I needed to be home. Similar to many, Jeanie spent most of her last days sleeping. However, a day or two earlier she had a burst of energy (common in the days immediately preceding death), during which she asked me to tell Linda Miller Raff to start practicing Way Over Yonder by Carole King, which she had agreed to sing at Jeanie’s memorial. I said, “I won’t be doing that because it’s a wildly inappropriate request.” She shrugged and responded, “Well you better figure something out, because in a few days I’m out of here.” And she went back to sleep.

I think I don’t like to reflect on this time of year because it’s hard to ignore how rotten the deal Jeanie got dealt was and how unfair it was that she had so little control over the way she died. But this flashbulb memory of her directing me to prepare the troops, as it were, for her memorial service felt like a beautiful act of defiance and today that makes me smile. It’s a smile through tears but the best ones always are. The opportunity to be with someone, and I mean really be right in there with them, while they are dying is a gift. It’s something we will all likely have the chance to do if we are able to take advantage. It’s undeniably sad that my mom had to die when I was 23 but the last 10 years of my life have been ones in which I have seized the fucking day. As often as humanly possible. She’s the reason I’ve said yes to travel, yes to risk, yes to love. She’s the reason I always shower before getting into clean sheets, make sure my closet stays one in/one out and the reason I know deep down, even when it’s hard, that things usually work out the way they are supposed to.


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We can be more than one thing.

Daily walks have become something of a quarantine ritual in my home. Early in this process, when everyone was still taking it seriously, I recall expressing to J: I prefer the morning walk to the evening walk. Because that’s how small our world had become. Small and beautiful. Today, during an evening walk, I was strolling through the beautiful, flower-filled neighborhood I get to call home, when I saw a little girl, probably 3 or 4, walking with her mother in a blue dress and black handbag. I started to move to the center of the road to pass them when she took off running, bag in tow. She stopped at this big tree and proceeded to throw that bag over her shoulder and start to climb. Her mother, pushing an infant, continued to stroll casually. 

A smile broke across my face for a couple of reasons. One, the nonchalance of this parent reminded me of my own sweet Mom who, more times than I can count, had to manage me climbing parts of this world some would prefer I didn’t. Be it a tree, a doorframe, upside down from any horizontal bar, I was a bit of a monkey when I was wee, so could identify heavily with this sweet angel. The paradox this kiddo represented also struck me. As she climbed heartily with her fancy bag in her pretty dress, I silently cheered her on, hoping the world never tries to put her into one box. This small person knows she can be more than one thing. She can be both strong and feminine, traits I’ve long tried to make fit comfortably due to the fact that I saw them modeled both early and often. You can mow the lawn in lipstick and re-tile a floor while drinking a glass of blush; I’ve seen it done.

I work daily to reconcile the elements of my personality that are intrinsic to who I am with those demanded by society. I wish I was someone who could shirk the latter, but I remain a product of my socialization, and strive for balance. Some days I am pleased with the space I find, others I feel like a failure. But today I am grateful. For the flowers, the sun and blue skies. Most of all, for any day that reminds me of my mom with a smile. Smiles have been a little harder to come by in the past few months. I haven’t done a ton of commenting on the state of our world, other than to say loud and proud that Black Lives Matter. The semi-sensical ramblings of an able-bodied white cis-woman with access to ample resources pale in comparison with all the content we are being gifted with in this incredible time.

With that said, if these last few months have taught me anything about being a better white ally, it’s to work only to amplify the voices of BIPOC communities, not insert my own. Our Black neighbors and colleagues do not need anyone to speak for them. They need everyone to listen. If this post has any message, I implore you to be quiet, listen to the voices around you and do what you can do amplify them. In short, pass the mic. And, because we can hope for more than one thing, I wish you, and all of us, a few more days where we are able to find balance in a world that asks too much of us.

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What a Difference a Week Makes

7 days ago, I was as work when a patient asked me two questions. One, if he could work from home, should he? Easy answer – yes. Two, should he skip a pot luck his work is throwing for about 20 people? I waffled. Told him it was probably safest to skip it but ultimately he would have to assess that risk for himself. Less than 100 hours later the answer to that questions was, what the hell are you thinking? A POT LUCK? Where people bring FOOD they made in their HOMES? Absolutely not. But in these increasingly uncertain times, a few days can irrevocably alter the context in which we consider possibilities.

Last Thursday my partner was still working from the office, planning a weekend trip to Las Vegas and we were on our way to a bar trivia night. By Friday, Vegas had been canceled, trivia regrettably attended and this moved into my home. Where I live.


In our relationship, we are fond of labeling things “objectively right.” As in, returning the shopping cart is the objectively right thing to do. Going to yoga is the objectively right thing to do. Rewatching The Big Lebowski is the objectively right thing to do.

In any event, him working from home was and is the objectively right thing to do – that’s clear now. But it’s easy to reason your way into another decision. For example, we struggled with the “should we dine, should we not dine” conundrum over the weekend. It seemed like a safer choice to stay home but, as people who spent years working in the service industry, we know that if people don’t dine, servers and bartenders don’t eat. Two days later, this was no longer a possibility up for consideration. Because this thing is moving fast. I think the measures in place are objectively right and I believe they will save lives. I’ve seen a lot of tweets, memes and GIFs related to the current situation but my favorite is:

Image result for your grandparents were called

Like many, during this time of forced paused and reflection, I have found the comfort of connection in social media and group texts. But honestly, as an introvert, all the way deep down inside, I was made for this life — gardening, reading, cooking, cat cuddles — it’s what I crave. And also I am very ready to return to work — such is the duality of life. We can be more than one thing at once. I am both happy to be home and eager to get back to normalcy. This pandemic is both objectively terrifying and perversely appealing to my survivalist instincts. I am both loving having Jared around and desperately missing my alone time. And that’s okay.

One thing is absolutely certain – we are extremely fortunate to have secure housing and employment. It is a privilege that does not go unacknowledged. I’m grateful to be heading back to work tomorrow, with a mask on, just in case. And looking forward to supporting our favorite restaurants, bars and theaters in whatever form their business takes. Stay safe. Look in on each other. Cuddle a cat if you can.


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Be Humble: Part Two

I’m humbled to my core by the support I have from the people in my life who love me regardless of the fact they may disagree with my positions. Of the privileges I’ve enjoyed in life (which is basically all of them) being born into a family of people willing to be the wind at my back and not the spit in my face no matter what I think, feel, believe or do for a living is an incalculable advantage.

I already walk around the world with the confidence and access of an educated and able bodied white person and to get to do so without the baggage of letting my family down is a gift I do not take for granted. To have grown up being told I can do and be whatever and whomever I choose is in and of itself not nothing, but what’s more is that I grew up and got to keep hearing it. My mother was the person who taught me that strong women don’t put other women down but rather build them up, because women are at the core of communities everywhere and we aren’t getting anywhere without each other.

It is because of her example that I will always be on the side of the women in my life and those in my clinic. Full stop. I support them; my opinion on their choices is irrelevant. This latter value I credit to my father, who as a self-proclaimed libertarian, likely has a range of opinions on my work as a clinician with Planned Parenthood. I couldn’t tell you how he feels about my involvement with abortion care, because although we have regular and lengthy conversations that I value highly, his expressed opinions on my work has been limited to his pride for my commitment to provide care to my patients.

This unfettered support for his children is something many parents are unable to offer and I couldn’t be more grateful to have it in this unconditional manner. The strength it provides runs deeper that an independent person like me is prepared to admit. All I can do is embrace it as an important piece of the privilege I get to enjoy walking around this earth and be grateful.

Furthermore, my big sister and true north is one badass boss who advocates tirelessly and without restraint for herself and all the people working with her, specifically women and people of color. She negotiated a promotion for herself while on maternity leave and has consistently walked into offices of superiors and demanded more for those working with her. She does so fearlessly and potentially at her peril. But she, like the rest of my family, doesn’t give a fuck.

She likely faces more adversity in advocating for her colleagues in Texas than I do in providing reproductive health care in Washington. What’s special is we both get to do so under the glowing light of our mother, the epitome of an advocate for women and the beacon of pride that shines from our father, the epitome of an advocate for the two of us. These advantages are not lost on me. It is from them I derive the strength to smile at the end of a long day and know I did something that mattered. It is from them that I derive the strength. Full stop. Hashtag blessed.

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The Joy in Between

I wonder how much value lies in the joy I find staring into my garden or purring with Sughar. I contribute nothing to society in these moments but they seem important all the same. Like many people, I spend most of my time attending to the needs of others, which I’m grateful to be equipped to do. With that said, I think there’s value in actively devoting myself to myself in a way that is not tied to my productivity. Sitting quietly and indulging in reflective thought is one of the elements that allow me the space to be all that my family, friends and patients need. I like to live life with a lot on my plate but it takes a toll and, while I believe in putting my own mask on first, I have to work hard at doing it without apology.

It’s not in my nature or my socialization to put my needs first — those come into focus once I’m convinced everyone else is okay. The truth is everyone is okay and no one is okay and very little I do can change either one of those things. I go into work with 32 patients on my schedule, many of whom need so much more than I can give in a 15 minute visit. Some days are smooth and uncomplicated and I’m satisfied with the care I am able to provide. Other days I feel the brokenness of our world so acutely that I lose the light.

I find it again in the little moments I am able to carve out for myself. I find it in turning the corner on Madison and seeing Mt. Rainier on a sunny day. I find it in the spontaneous smile I get sitting in traffic on the I-5 bridge at sunset, where I continue to be in awe of the beauty of the city I get to call home. I find it with a book and a cup of tea on my little porch that’s mine. The value of this time isn’t measured in dollars or deliverables, but in my continued ability to give of myself in a way that feels meaningful to me, even when it’s hard. In the words of T-dog Hanks: The hard is what makes it great. Poundsign blessed.


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The Wisdom of Trees

I have been captivated by trees for as long as I can remember. Whether it’s a lone tree standing tall in a barren Texas landscape or a massive relic hidden in the labyrinths of Washington’s old growth forests, it is their resiliency that I find most admirable. Trees are survivors; they grow and change and carry the full weight of their pasts with them. As their branches grow broader, their roots get stronger. Some of those branches stop short while others stretch on to birth new limbs, reaching in unpredictable directions. Rather than leaving these smaller branches behind, the ones that didn’t amount to much, the trees carry them proudly from one generation into the next. They are part of what makes the tree beautiful, even if they cease to be central to its purpose. I suppose the connections between human lives and those of trees are easy to enumerate when one allows their thoughts to drift toward the sappy. See what I did there?

I spend a decent amount of time reflecting and am grateful for the luxury to do so. Recently, I have been noticing that I sometimes struggle to carry all my branches with me in a comfortable and meaningful way. This may be due to the incongruence with which comfort and meaning are simultaneously available to me. Striking a balance between a life driven by goals and one defined by bliss is an objective I am fortunate to be in pursuit of. It is, most certainly, a first world problem. For the past five years I have been on the journey to where I am now and I find people constantly asking, what’s next? Which for me begs the anxiety producing response, is this not enough? Is it never going to be enough? Our capitalist society drives us always in the direction of more — more education, more opportunities, more money, more, more, more. I think I’m learning that I’m not motivated by more.

After years of uncertainty and relative struggle, I am finding untold joy in everyday tasks and simple pleasures. The very act of cleaning my apartment has become a zen-like experience during which I hear these words: Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. This mantra reveals itself to me as I am making beautiful the little corner of this world I have carved out for myself and it brings me peace. I may be far from enlightenment but I am learning to allow myself the grace to enjoy my life as I have created it rather than be compulsively hunting the next struggle. Challenges will come and future Lea will know how to handle them; present Lea does not need to go looking for them. No, she just needs to trust her branches enough to hold them high while allowing her roots to grow strong. Her leaves will find the sun.

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Re-watching TV

Fact about Jared: he does not prefer to “re-view” media. TV, movies, books — he enjoys them once and then moves on. This does not apply to music. As evidence, I’ll point to the extended period of time in 2009 when I was forced to listen to Paper Planes by M.I.A. once a night, immediately upon returning to our musty studio on South Huntington. That he wanted to re-experience. But rewatch Parks and Recreation? He’ll pass.

You may be shaking your head because this is something you struggle to relate to. I hear you! I heartily defend my many re-watchings of the fine programing that make up this golden age of television. During those viewings I have learned new things, laughed new laughs and cried the same tears, again. Some of this may be due to the oft-inebriated state I was in during my initial viewing, but hey, that’s college. Or as I like to call it “My 20s.”

Now that we are both 30, there has been enough distance between us and, say, That 70’s Show, to have little to no recollection of the series’ events. Also, it’s summertime so there’s not a lot on the TV. Point is, I have finally been able to convince Jared of the value in rewatching a pilot of a long loved show to really study the way it captures the entire series. You see what I did there? I gave a relaxing pastime a value element that made it a kind of work so he could engage with it in a way that agreed with his soul. Marriage is tricky but I’m winning at it.

Although we enjoyed revisiting the first episode of That 70s Show, we declined to view any additional installments. After that we started Frasier for the first time, which I think best illustrates the depths of our desperation for some light evening entertainment. I knew this was the vulnerable time to strike. And Netflix knew it too. As we scroll, scroll, scrolled, Ms. Netflix recommended The Office as a program we might enjoy based on our previous viewing. I flashed Jared my big toothy smile and he, captivated with love for my crazy eyes, relented. We watched the first episode and cackled. I mean REALLY lost our shit. My bowels shook from the giggles and Jared nearly threw up. That day was my favorite day.

This is the first time we’ve watched The Office together and we’re on episode 5. In addition to the intrinsic value that exists in rewatching this treasure, we’ve also learned that working for Michael Scott would not be funny in real life, BJ Novak never ages and everyone wants someone to love them the way Jim loves Pam. Everyone.




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Torres del Paine. Day 1.

“There you are!” Jared appeared around the corner and walked down the grocery aisle toward me. “I’ve got a bag of lentils, five packs of minute rice, peanut butter, a loaf of bread and a dozen eggs. What did you get?” I said nothing but held up a box of red wine. He furrowed his brow. “Lea, it’s five days. And we have to carry everything.” I put the box back.

“Good point. Five days is a long time.” I picked up the larger, 2L box and put it in my basket next to a bag of dried kiwis. “I’m ready.” Jared frowned and tipped his head to one side. “I’ll carry it!” I proclaimed and promised, “You’ll be so glad we have it.”

Neither of those statements proved true. Less than half an hour into our five day hike of The W in Torres del Paine I was sure of only one thing — I could not do this.


We had completed a three month circle of South America and this was to be our story’s climax. I did not pack appropriately. I carried actual dishes with us, packed an extra pair of shoes, insisted on scrambling fresh eggs every morning and let’s not forget the aforementioned wine, which I drank from a travel wine glass. Because that’s a necessity. I will say this for 26-year-old Lea, she had class.

She lacked foresight, however, and among her many luxuries, failed to pack her poncho. In Patagonia, there are two cardinal rules — you say “buenas” to other travelers on the trail and you never forget your rain gear.

So there I am, drunk and wet. Just kidding, I was sober and the sun was beating down on my tender Irish skin when I shouted “break” for the 11th time in under an hour, the first hour, of what was to be a 5 day, 50ish mile hike through the mountains. Jared stopped 20 yards ahead of me and sat down. I inched my way to him, cursing every cigarette I ever smoked. When I finally arrived, he insisted on taking the wine out of my pack and carrying it, in his hands, for the next 8 miles.


We eventually made it to El Chileno, our first camp, just before sunset. Jared rushed to set up the tent while I prepared our dinner of lentils and rice, pesto flavor tonight. We are a divide and conquer couple, functioning at our best when we have separate tasks to complete. I poured a glass of wine and offered it to Jared, who shook his head. “I think I’m getting sick.” I worked to contain my eye roll because OF COURSE HE WAS SICK. Jared has always, since toddlerhood, been an extremely clean child and has grown into an adult with the immune system of a homeschooled preteen. I used to put pennies in my mouth.

More wine for me, then. So much more wine that I fell asleep without brushing my teeth and woke up in the middle of the night with a bladder too full to ignore. Reluctantly, I ventured into the darkness, fumbling with my flashlight as I wandered toward the outhouses. While I grew up camping in a world where you can just pee in the woods, etiquette on the trail demands the patronizing of facilities where available. So to the spider den I went. Upon hearing a rustle among the silence, I instinctively turned my light toward the noise and saw two steely blue eyes staring at me.

My heart started beating in my chest and the sensation from my bladder dissipated. I knew there was wildlife in these woods, just as I know snakes live in Texas. I still wasn’t expecting to see a wolf on my way to the toilet. In my still-tipsy stupor, instead of doing whatever you are supposed to do in the case of dangerous wildlife encounters, I ran back to the tent and decided my bladder could wait until morning.

That was Day 1.

Day 2 began 45 minutes later as we rose to hike, in the dark — almost vertically, to see the sunrise over the Towers.

patagonia 1

Worth it, right? Just kidding, this is from Google images. We hiked for 2 hours in the pitch black to see this view as the world got lighter but the sun never rose.


My sweet partner, in all his joyous glory, would be deterred neither by the cold nor the fog, nor my profligate disregard for luggage space. We were energized and ready for the rest of the hike, which would prove to be a beautiful if painful stripping down of the material self and absolute reliance on one another. Day 2 was the best and the worst day. It was the day I finished the wine.

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Life after Whole 30

Whole 30 is dead, but we’re alive and we still have to eat. And because planning is a big part of my bliss, I wrote out a 30 day menu for this adventure and damnit, I was excited about making some of those dishes. So, while for lunch we may be enjoying bagels on the veranda with a glass of blush…


Dinners have still been largely whole 30 compliant. Except for the BBQ pork mac and cheese I ate last weekend. At a restaurant. With my big girl clothes on. That day ruled. This day was okay too — I made a chicken thigh dish with sun-dried tom-toms, green beans and olives, recipe available here. 


It was aight. Heavily seasoned with rosemary, which I discovered was growing abundantly in our garden. What an adventure it shall be to watch what else blooms! As has been usual, Jared who looooooves chicken, has been happy with all the meals. I have felt they were all fine and could be made better with the addition of cheese. This process has taught me that I will happily eat half the meat if I can eat twice the cheese, but I’m not sure that’s how it works…



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My man LOVES chicken.

While Jared was living alone he developed a passion for chicken and kale. Specifically he would buy a rotisserie chicken from the Whole Foods every Monday and eat it with kale for dinner most nights that week. Side note: did you know that Whole Foods offers a rotisserie chicken punch card? Amazing.

Anyway, first he sautés the kale with garlic and sometimes red wine. He then adds red peppies, jalapeños and chicken into the pan. Once it’s all melded together, he tops it off with olives (and in our pre-Whole30 days, hummus).

It’s tangy, crunchy, tasty and healthy so it made for a perfect quick dinner earlier this week. The next night I made a disaster of a spaghetti squash dish that I won’t even go into because it was such a travesty. It does serve as an adequate segue into dinner last night, which involved the other half of the spaghetti squash.

This variety of squash is one I discovered only recently while residing in Nashville. I have a particularly fond memory of being unable to cut my very first spaghetti squash in half. I was on the verge of panic when my slight but powerful roommate Sam came valiantly to my rescue. “Let me try,” she says as she proceeded to beast one of our knives through it’s thick skin like it wasn’t shit as she casually mused, “I’d cook it cut side down,” she says, “that way it steams itself.” And she dropped the fucking mic.

She would have been ashamed of the monstrosity I created out of the first of the spaghetti squash (and rightfully so) but she would have applauded our commitment to not wasting food when Jared created this:

After yoga last night we were debating whether to eat out or eat in and ultimately reached the conclusion that, with a fridge full of food, there was only one objectively right thing to do. Said Jared, “Who do we think we are? Our fridge is full of fresh food.” Said me, “Yeah, we’re not babies, we can eat what we have.” To that end, I had snacks on snacks in this order:

  1. Veggie chips and guac
  2. Gazpacho
  3. Carrots and hummus
  4. Plantain chips and almond butter
  5. Trail mix

Because I’M NOT A BABY. I’m a big girl who really wants pizza and beer tonight. 🙋🏽🍕🍺

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