Chicken Soup for the Soul


I’m honored to once again be contributing to Chicken Soup for the Soul.  My short essay “Miracle at the Stoplight” will be featured in the “Believe in Miracles” volume available early February 2020, everywhere books are sold.  If you’re looking for a lift, these stories will do the trick!

I Finished My First “Whole30” and LIKED IT

For me, my sugar addiction was out of control.  I was waking up in the morning craving extremely sugary coffee.  I was drinking at least three Diet Cherry Pepsis a day.  And there was, of course, “The Smarties Incident of 2017.”  Never, NEVER, pick up a bag of Smarties “just because it’s on clearance after Easter.”  And then, never EVER proceed to eat the entire bag yourself over the course of several days, like an idiot.

I needed an intervention.

If you haven’t heard of any of your friends or family tackling a round of Whole30, you must be living in a remote location.  WHOLE30 is EVERYWHERE!

So, what is Whole30?  You commit yourself to 30 days of what some might refer to as “extreme Paleo.”  Essentially:  no added sugars, no artificial sweeteners, no soy, no dairy, no carbs.  You may eat meats, fruits, vegetables and some nuts.  Am I missing anything?  No joy in my life?

I will take a moment to note that the lingo for Whole30 cheating is “non-compliant.”  In other words, if you are eating something that isn’t allowed on Whole30, you are eating a non-compliant food.  If you find something that is allowed, you have found something “compliant.”  I will take another moment to say that I despise that word “compliant,” because when I hear it all I can imagine is being tortured by a Hydra agent and asked if I’m willing to comply (Ah-hem, Marvel nerd stuff.  Apologies.).


My cousin and her husband have had great success improving their health with the program.  They became my coaches over the course of my thirty days.  I did not undertake the program to lose weight, although I very much need to.  I had three primary goals:

  1. Break my diet soda addiction
  2. Ditch sugary (expensive!) coffee drinks
  3. Find more healthy meal options for my family and learn how to prepare them

Losing weight was secondary to those things, although I did lose over ten pounds in the end.

Here’s what I learned:

  1. Sugar addiction is real.  About a week into the plan I hit a wall so extreme that I wanted to sleep all day.  I was forgetful.  I didn’t feel well.  IMG_9780                                                                After pushing through those days, I experienced an amazing phenomenon.  For the first time in my life, I was able to enjoy those fizzy sparkling waters (“natural essence,” whatever that means, with no added sugars or artificial sweeteners).  Previously, I thought those waters tasted like fizzy tasteless acid.  Now, those “natural flavors” provided me with more than enough sweetness to enjoy them.
  2. Kicking those sugary coffee drinks was a bear, but I did it.  This idea of driving through somewhere and spending $4-$6 for a sugary “coffee drink” first thing in the morning is certainly a new one, generationally speaking.  Not only is it hard on the waistline and the pancreas, it’s hard on the wallet!  My personal kryptonite was McDonald’s vanilla iced coffee.  A medium drink has 28 grams of sugar.  Interestingly, the World Health Organization recently lowered it’s recommended daily intake of sugar for adults to 25 grams (six teaspoons) a day.  A DAY.  Not only did my morning “sugary coffee beverage” have more than six teaspoons of sugar, it put me over the recommended sugar limit for the entire day.  This was one of the primary reasons I was terrified to do a Whole30.  I loved that cold kick in the face first thing in the morning.  Nevertheless, I found a way to cold brew my own coffee at home and added a compliant unsweetened coconut cream to it just to cut the bitterness.   I used these reusable mason jars.  Important note:  Most coconut milks that you find in cartons in the milk coolers are NOT Whole30 compliant due to the additives.  You need to buy cans of actual coconut milk or cream and read your labels carefully.  My palate has adjusted and now I enjoy my coffee this way:  unsweetened and mildly creamy/nutty in flavor.


  3.  Read those labels and have a plan.  I realized really quickly that sugar really is sneakily lurking in so many foods.  At the grocery store, I read labels and found it as a primary ingredient in almost every meat, sauce, dressing, frozen meal, and on and on.  You need to have an idea of what will work for you for meals and snacks once you start.  If you are going to travel, plan to bring a cooler of your own food.  If you are supposed to go out to dinner, be prepared to eat very lightly (undressed salad) or sip thoughtfully on an unsweetened iced tea with lemon while those around you eat pasta or pizza.  This is all fine, though, because this is THIRTY DAYS of your life.  You’ve got this.  If you keep with you at all times a banana and some almonds or an apple and a Larabar (read labels carefully for compliance), you can usually patch through any window or craving until you can get home to your own food.  Speaking of which…
  4. Every pan you own will be dirty every day.  And that’s okay.  This is a learning experience.  For me, I wanted to have a great plan for my breakfasts so I could transition from my morning tradition of “McDs iced vanilla coffee and egg white delight with no canadian bacon” seamlessly.  This prep begins the night before.  I put my coffee into my cold brew pitcher and stick it in the refrigerator.  When I get up, I shred a sweet potato, fry it in a little ghee and scramble a couple of eggs.  This, with my homemade iced coffee, gave me a little taste of sweetness in the morning, but offered me a much healthier and less expensive alternative.  I’ve eaten this breakfast almost every morning and plan to continue doing so.IMG_1679
  5. There are a few things I will recommend you purchase.  Ghee was a new thing for me, but definitely worth it.  It’s clarified butter so the milk fats have been cooked out.  It’s basically a rich animal fat that is not refrigerated.  I melted about a teaspoon in the pan before adding my shredded sweet potato.  You will need some fats for cooking.  I used olive oil, primarily, because that’s what I had on hand.  I’ve heard good things about avocado oil from my cousins, too.  Be careful with the spray oils for cooking.  Many include soy as an ingredient, which is not compliant.  I recommend having a good box grater and a very strong vegetable peeler, because you’ll be giving them both a workout.  Parchment paper also comes in handy since you’re doing so many dishes and roasting so many vegetables.  If you are going to be kicking a major soda addiction, buy some La Croix or other sparkling water.  It won’t taste good to you at first because it’s very fizzy but not sweetened.  Add some sliced lemons or limes to it for the first few days and it will help you get over that soda hump. I can drink it straight out of the can now and it helps me get my waters in for the day.  Larabars are sort of the “last resort” for Whole30.  Some flavors are compliant, but they are discouraged because they could be seen like a candy bar.  In my opinion, if you’re a busy person trying to do a Whole30, you WILL get in a bind and find yourself stuck somewhere without compliant food.  Keeping some Larabars on-hand, in your purse or in your car, is just good sense.  My favorite flavors were Key Lime Pie and Coconut Cream.  And, yes, they were compliant.  Finally, since you cannot have soy sauce, I recommend investing in some coconut aminos.  They are a soy sauce substitute, a whole food and low on the glycemic index.  My entire family enjoyed them.  We don’t have a Whole Foods or Trader Joes nearby, so I ordered mine off of Amazon.
  6. Eggs.  Yes, if you can tolerate eggs, your Whole30 experience will be much easier.  I was a vegetarian for three years and so eating a lot of animal protein is still hard for me.  There’s no way I can have meat three times a day.  My compromise was to have eggs at breakfast and a lean, white meat for dinner.  I still do not eat red meat.  Eggs are affordable, easy and fast to make.  If you become ravenously hungry, scrambling a couple of eggs can get you over the hump.  This has also worked for me when I was at a friend’s house and got hungry.  They didn’t have any vegetables or fruit but they did have eggs!
  7. You can find tons of free recipes online.  Pinterest and google will be great resources for you as you find recipes.  This was my absolute favorite recipe.  I plan to continue making it once a week with a huge side of veggies.
  8. When all else fails, prepare some lean meat or eggs and a ton of veggies.  Having some frozen vegetables on hand was life saving.  I liked the california mix in a steam bag.  It isn’t dressed with any sauces and you can just cook, dump out and add salt and pepper.  I also liked brussels sprouts and zucchini.  Both, along with sweet potatos, got a ton of mileage on my Whole30.
  9. Riced cauliflower is legit.  No rice, no pasta, no bread on Whole30.  However, riced cauliflower, especially fried with some other vegetables in olive oil and coconut aminos, is a delicious substitute.                       IMG_1820

FINALLY, I will say that I was able to stop taking a medicine that I’ve been on a long time for my polycystic ovarian syndrome, because my blood sugar appeared to normalize.  I lost over ten pounds and several inches from my waist.  I’ve kicked the soda and sugar drink addictions.

Most importantly of all, I plan to continue eating this way.  My goal is to stay “compliant” 75-80% of the time and repeat a Whole30 ever three months.

This was one of my favorite quotes from the book and I found it very motivating.  Enjoy!  And share your Whole30 tips below.  IMG_2062

The Next Right Thing

Like Oprah, I’m no longer big on New Year’s resolutions.  And, c’mon… who doesn’t want to be like Oprah?

You can only dedicate yourself to the same (or similar) goal so many years before it becomes rote and trite.  Sure, I would like to lose weight and get into shape.  YES, I’d love to become more present and minimize my screen time.  OF COURSE, I’d like to be a better mom/wife/daughter/whatever…

I have found that dedicating myself to one huge goal rarely works.  Like any life change, it feels overwhelming and, even if I DO THE BIG THING, it can be very hard to maintain.

Instead, I like to re-visit the wise words spoken to me by a reproductive endocrinologist a few years ago.


As many know, after 12 years of infertility, I became miraculously, spontaneously pregnant (meaning no drugs, no medical interventions) early in 2015.  It was a brief whirlwind of profound joy that was brought to a devastating end by a miscarriage.

About three months later I was pregnant again.  I was also numb and terrified.  YES!  I’d LOVE to have a miracle baby!  But what about my chances for miscarriage again?  My list of “high risk” concerns filled an entire page.  My age.  Previous infertility.  Polycystic Ovaries.  Endometriosis.  Previous miscarriage.

When we finally saw the baby’s heartbeat for the first time at around 9 weeks, I confided in the doctor that I was terrified.  What could I do that would guarantee this little one would make it?

He looked me in the eyes and said, “There’s no secret to this.  It’s out of your control.”  As a person who gets high on control, I was gutted to hear this.

However.  The doctor then passed along to me some advice he’d been given by someone else.  “All you can do is the next right thing.”

Do the next right thing.  The ‘next right things’ in the context of my “miracle” pregnancy were taking my vitamins every day, monitoring my sugar and caffeine in-take, eating lots of fruits and vegetables and following every piece of advice my doctors gave me, to the letter.

Those simple words did more than just guide me through my pregnancy.  They became something I fall back on in all areas of my life.

Now, as I start 2017 with a goal (like many others) to get in better shape, I don’t commit myself 100% to a drastic diet or exercise plan that will be impossible to adhere to in the long term.  Instead, I look at my day and ask myself what, in the context of my goal, is “the next right thing?”

If I can resolve myself to do this each day, those choices can pile up to a miracle… sorta like the perfect little boy we gave birth to in early 2016.

I’ll leave you with one more quote to guide you through the early days of 2017.  These little choices can result in something that looks a lot like luck.  But luck isn’t luck…

Luck is the residue of design.
Branch Rickey



When Kindness Isn’t Random

‘Tis the season for busy lines at check out registers.  

I arrived at the single check out line at the same time as another shopper.  She looked tired and grumpy, her cart overflowing.  And no, I checked, I wasn’t looking into a mirror.  This was an entirely different tired, grumpy woman.

Our eyes met, we looked at our items.  Her cart was full and I was only holding three things.  With a world weary sigh, she gestured ahead of us.  “You might as well go first.”

I wanted to go first.  I was actually in a hurry.  I knew, however, that I wouldn’t feel good about going first.  Offering her a very half-hearted smile I shrugged.  “You go ahead.”

She didn’t argue.  She pulled ahead of me and took her place in line.

After a few minutes, she turned back to me and said, “Hey, do you have the coupons?”

When I told her I did not, she handed me her coupons.  “I don’t need them this time.  You should go ahead and use them.”

This was a nice moment.  We both smiled and exchanged pleasantries.  It dawned on me that I was experiencing immediate positive karma for insisting the woman with more items go first even though I was in a hurry.  It feels like cheating to do even the smallest polite thing and be immediately rewarded for it.

My all-time favorite TV show taught me this lesson a long time ago:


Our society celebrates and encourages random acts of kindness.  This includes me, because what is more fun than surprising someone with a good deed?

But what if kindness isn’t really random?

What if kindness, like anything else, has to be practiced and nurtured and learned via rote exercises, like training our bodies to ice skate or run?

On a recent Monday morning, I was in the drive thru lane at McDonald’s.  Mama does not do Monday morning without an iced coffee.  There were two ordering lanes and then the lanes merged at the pay window.

I’ve been doing this successfully for many years.  On this morning, I noticed the woman behind me sticking her head out of her window, gesturing wildly and yelling something.  Alarmed (and naive), I rolled my window down, stuck my head out and said, “I’m sorry, what?”

She was taken aback and stunned into momentary silence.  Then, she started speaking again.  Apparently, she was gesturing and yelling because, in her mind, I pulled ahead of her and she should have been the next person to pull ahead.  And this was reason enough to have a full-on, grown person, tantrum in the McDonald’s drive thru.  I might have cut her off.  I don’t think I did, but, either way… her response seemed excessive.  In the heat of the moment, my only response was to stare back at her in stunned silence and then slowly pull my head back in and roll up my window.

A part of me wanted to “snap back” at this woman for bum rushing her way into my morning.  But, remember in Ghostbusters II how negativity and anger feed the slime and make it multiply?  What’s that?  Well, I can’t help if if you don’t take your life lesson from the Ghostbusters movies!  One of the MANY things I learned from those nerds was this: Hate breeds hate.  Anger breeds anger.

This encounter made me feel really crappy.  What a bummer of a way to kick off a Monday.  I messaged with a few friends so they would feel sorry for me and I was overcome with a huge sense of sympathy for this woman.  It must be so hard to go through life waiting for the next thing to be offended by.   My good friend Spicy and her husband Dr. ‘Dre have a saying they use for difficult/ungrateful/argumentative people they encounter:  “I hope you are happy sometimes.”

That is how I felt about Raging McDonald’s Lady.  She didn’t just put a damper on my Monday, though.  She put a damper on my iced coffee habit.

The next time I was at that McDonald’s, I looked around for her vehicle as I pulled through the drive.  I let out a sigh of relief when I reached the window.  The employee working the register leaned out and, with a smile, informed me the person ahead of me paid for my breakfast.

I was the recipient of a random act of kindness!  It felt amazing!  And, like an idiot, I just said “Thanks!” and pulled forward.  It dawned on me about five minutes later that I should have paid for the person behind me.

The next time I was there, I had a plan to commit a random act of kindness (I would argue it isn’t so “random” when you make a strategic plan to commit it).  When I pulled up to the window, I was prepared to pay for my order and the person behind me.

The cashier leaned out and smiled.  “The person several cars ahead asked to pay for the next five cars so you’re covered.”

Something special was going on at this McDonald’s.

I started to pull forward and stopped myself.  “Hey, is the person behind me covered as well?”

When I was informed that they were not, I paid for the couple behind me.  A big, burly flannel man and his beautiful wife stuck their arms out of their truck windows to wave their thanks.

It felt great.

Now, at least once a month, I try to pay for the order behind me at the drive thru.  It is not uncommon for me to have my own order covered by someone else either.

I don’t associate McDonald’s or my iced coffee with the Monday Morning Rage Machine.  I associate it with the kindness of strangers.

Maybe it’s important to do both.

We have to do the planned-out things.  Donate to the food bank.  Volunteer at a shelter.  Write a check to a cause we believe in.

We also have to make the right in-the-moment choices.  Be kind when we’d rather be grumpy.  Be patient when we’re in a hurry.

Mother Teresa boiled things down like this:

Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing […] Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.


One Crumpled Tissue

Perhaps it takes courage to raise children…

-John Steinbeck

My mom always has a tissue.  No matter what.  In her pockets or in her purse.  If she has on a coat, she likely has tissues in her pants pockets and her coat pockets.  She’s sort of a beautiful, well-prepared Goddess like that, my mom.

I grew up with brothers and now I’m the mom of boys.  I just don’t have the “well-prepared Goddess” thing down.  Like, at all.  I’m more of a stumbling, fumbling mess, cruising around town in my Trash Can Curb Check Machine, dancing a bit too much at whatever song happens to be playing on the radio.

And I feel, at times, like I will never be prepared.

I’m sort of famous for running into the store for “one quick second” with a baby in my arms and realizing he’s had a blow out at the exact moment I remember I left the diaper bag in the car.  I’ve locked my keys in the car so many times that I just have to celebrate when I manage to do it without the engine running.  I trip.  I drop things.  Every now and again I even swear.

My mother never swore.  I swear.

On a recent week, I was so tired I couldn’t remember my own phone number when I called to make an appointment to get the Trash Can Curb Check Machine serviced.  I wasn’t sleeping because I have a baby.  But I also wasn’t sleeping because my son who has to live his life with cerebral palsy was struggling.  And when a mother’s child isn’t happy, a mother cannot rest.  She cannot stop thinking, turning over metaphorical rocks and shaking metaphorical bushes looking for answers that may or may not come.

In addition to my boy’s horribly heart-wrenching, no good, very bad week, I’d been vomited on multiple times by my youngest.  On a Friday, this frumpy un-Goddess delivered her oldest children to their various schools and stopped at the grocery store to  grab something “really quickly” with baby in tow.

It was the first really cold morning of the season and as I buckled my baby into the cart, I noticed he was badly in need of a tissue.  As I realized his diaper bag was still in the car, I bit my lip to help me swallow a very large swear word that threatened to come out of my mouth.

My baby smiled at me.  A beautiful, snotty smile.  One deep breath for this mama and my hand found its way into my pocket.

There in my pocket was one single crumpled tissue.

I wiped his nose triumphantly and (this is key) shoved the crumpled tissue back into my pocket.  (Scientists are still studying this, but I think my mom’s tissues were the same ones, used over and over again.)

At the end of a very rough few days, days that left me exhausted and overwhelmed, I found solace in the thought that maybe a bit of that beautiful, well-prepared Goddess mama had rubbed off on me.  Truth be told, I’m starting to realize the big secret about moms, but I can only share it if you PROMISE to keep it under your hat.

The bottom line is this… Moms are human.  We actually aren’t Goddesses, not even my amazing mom.  We are overtired, overworked, overscheduled, and we carry so much love around in our hearts that it’s a wonder we can bear the weight of it.

That moment with my baby at the grocery store at the end of a hard week could’ve been the straw that broke the camel’s back.  It wasn’t.  Because moms keep going.  Moms push through.  And, if they get lucky, they find a crumpled up tissue at just the right moment.

Sacrifice, Secondhand Shoes and a Simpler Life


You are so lucky to be able to do this!

It was not uncommon for my mom to wake me up on Saturday mornings by yelling, “The early bird catches the worm!”  Typically, those magic words meant we were in for a morning of competitive garage sale hunting.  “Do you smell that?  Nothing like the smell of bargains in the morning!” she would exclaim as I dragged myself out of bed.

As far as I knew growing up, mom and dad always had plenty.  I always felt that way because they made sure us kids (me and two brothers) always had plenty.  I wore lots of secondhand clothes, captured with pride alongside my mom at rummage sales, and my prom and homecoming dresses were picked off of clearance racks or made by hand by my mom.  These are things I look back on with a sort of nostalgic pride.

My mom recently told me she felt guilty that we hadn’t had many extravagent vacations as kids.  I had no idea what she was talking about.  I remembered them taking us to D.C. and to Disneyworld.  She said, “Yes, but, that’s it.”

I didn’t agree.  We drove to South Dakota for one of my all-time favorite family trips.  We took weekend treks to Kansas to visit family.  I never for one second felt I was missing out on anything.  In fact, I feel they crammed my childhood full of what my dad, channeling Clark W. Griswold, called “quests for fun”!


Our trips were special because, in a pre-screen era, I was crammed between my two brothers in the backseat of our family car while my dad played classic rock and offered a quarter to whoever could name the band.  (If all else failed, Molly Hatchet or Cream were good guesses).

Eighteen months ago, when God decided our family wasn’t yet complete, I never would have imagined I’d be giving up my career to look for part-time work that would allow me to spend more time at home.  I never would’ve imagined it, because I never would’ve dreamt we could afford it.

After Babe #3 made landing, I couldn’t find my footing in life.  At work, I was stressed and felt guilty.  At home, I was exhausted and distracted by work.  We looked at our budget.  Nope.  Gotta keep working.

A month later, I was struggling even more.  We looked at our budget.  We cut a few things.  Nope.  Gotta keep working.

A few weeks after that, I hit a wall, hard.  If I’d been hoping for God to show me the correct path, he was pointing me toward home.

We looked at our budget again and we started cutting.

What I had considered necessities were no longer as necessary to me as they had been before.

I took the leap.  Our household income plummeted by more than 1/3.

So many people have said to me, “You’re so lucky to be able to work part-time!”

We are lucky.  We’re lucky I was able to find part-time work.  We’re lucky my husband has a good job with benefits.  In our case, though, luck also looks a lot like a canceled family vacation in July that turned into a homegrown “quest for fun” staycation.  It looks a lot like no “back to school” shopping spree and shoes, shirts and baby items purchased second hand.  It looks like more ramen noodles and hot dogs at home and a lot less of our favorite mexican restaurant.

I can only hope that some day my kids will look back on this time in our lives and not think about canceled trips or secondhand shoes.  They won’t know about mom and dad huddled around the computer working on the budget and paying bills after they’ve gone to bed.

I hope they will just remember that they always had things to do, clothes to wear, food to eat and two parents who loved them more than anything.

When the time came to plan my wedding, true to form, my mom and I hit up a bridal boutique and made a beeline to the clearance rack in the back.  Within an hour, we’d found the perfect gown for me to wear.  It cost $150.  I never look back on my wedding gown with regret that we didn’t spend more.  I only remember hunting it down with my mom.

I remain so grateful that she and my dad showed me the way to build a life based on love and not things.

The Unlikable Liked

Would I rather be feared or loved? Um, easy… both. I want people to be afraid of how much they love me.

– Michael Scott, The Office

I’m not sure when it started, this all-consuming need to be liked.  For my entire life, I’ve thrown around the term “people pleaser” as a type of apology for my own neurosis.

“Don’t mind me, habitual people pleaser over here,” with a sad laugh and defeated shrug.

I don’t know what it is about the approval of those around me, and even strangers, but it gets me high.  What can I say?  I’m an addict.  A compulsive user of the approval of others.

There’ve been times in my life that this deep need to be liked has held me back.  Many. Times.  The times someone I admired attacked a political or moral belief I held and, instead of standing my ground, I changed the subject.  The times I avoided a confrontation because the very thought of standing up for myself made me sick to my stomach.  In hindsight, there are many times I can look back on my life and wish that the me I am now could stumble upon the Tardis and take a quick ride to another place and time to visit the me that I was then and yell at her, “Don’t just sit there, fight!”

I’m a fan of growing older.  I’m starting to realize that I don’t have to have the approval of everyone, and this feeling is so liberating that it’s a new kind of buzz.  It feels, in a way, like I’ve sloughed off a protective outer layer of skin and what’s left is the more-true me.  A lighter, more open person.  A better mom.  A better wife.  A better me.

The committee I said “no” to joining?  It was like losing 10 pounds.  The people I’ve chosen to love from a distance and not close proximity?  Even better.

The price of the “post-people pleaser high” is this… resentment.  The people you cared so much about that you sacrificed to please them, you end up not even liking that much because you resent the compromises you made to gain their approval.

The greatest lesson for this wise old graying would-be breakdancer is this…  The best way I can love others is to avoid reinventing myself into my perception of how they would like me to be. Because I’ll only end up resenting them for it later.

A friend said something to me recently that is complex in its simplicity.  “In 100 years we’ll all be dead.”

My first thought was, “Actually a lot less than 100 years.”

Very few of us will be remembered in 100 years by anyone other than the people we gave our most honest, best selves to.  Our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren will remember us if our love for them makes us worth remembering.  For those that don’t have children, nieces and nephews, friends, close colleagues… they will pass a good memory of you on to the next generation.

We won’t have a statue created in our likeness.  Most won’t have a building named in their honor.  It will be hard to make “the history books” because books will be replaced by the interwebs and you know 95% of rooms have a spotty signal.

“Who are you?  Outside of being a mom, who do you want to be?” a dear friend asked me recently.

My answer formed so quickly I didn’t even pause.  “I’m a writer.”

The idea that I can really be that version of me, and not hang on to a million coulda, woulda, shouldas is one of the most liberating moments I’ve experienced in my adult life.

If something is not a ‘hell YEAH!’ then it’s a ‘no!’

– James Altucher


Did You Have a Bad Day?


You know, Hobbes, some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don’t help. – Bill Watterson

The older I get, the less I believe in bad days.

If I WAS to believe in them, today might count.  It’s so hot and humid outside that when you step out into the Missouri summer you immediately crave oxygen and start sweating.

My newest little one is a certifiable monster baby, already wearing size 18 month clothes and not yet 6 months old.  What is wondrous and cuddly perfection when cozied up together in the rocking chair is a bit cumbersome when I’m carrying him in his car seat and also herding my other children across the black asphalt of the camp parking lot.

Taking my littlest wingman along for the ride at four work meetings today was already something I was dreading, and not because I don’t relish every millisecond with him.  He found his voice recently and he likes to hear it, but he likes to hear it at the highest decibel he can achieve.  And he did it, today, for sixty minutes while two of my colleagues politely pretended they’d lost the capacity to hear.

After dragging a fussy babe in and out of several meetings in a heat so intense I couldn’t see for the fog on my glasses, he started into his red-faced grunt-capades.  This is diaper filling at championship levels.  And he did not disappoint.

By the time I got him home, the blowout was so intense that his diaper, his pants and his carseat had all fallen victim.

I finally got him inside out of the heat and we both cooled off while I waited for my back to stop spasm-ing.

It was a hectic morning, but not a bad one.

I think we’re only allowed so many “bad” days.  The death of a loved one is a bad day.  The loss of a job is a bad day.

When I was younger, I let bad days turn into bad times.  Getting dumped in college turned into a very bad year.  In hindsight, however, it wasn’t so bad after all.  I made some of the best friends of my life and made some of the best memories in that year.

My late father-in-law, an amazing guy, fought Type – 1 Diabetes his entire life and survived a kidney and a heart transplant before succumbing to cancer nine years ago.  He had some bad days.  But amidst the bad days, he had some great years.

This is what I think I’m learning, as I grow older.  I’d like to think I’m never going to really “grow up” and, sheesh, I really hope I never lose the healthy level of immaturity God blessed me with.

What I’m trying to embrace every day is the good.  The long, hot, trying day that ends with snuggles with my children.  With a roof over our head.  And food on the table.  And ‘The Bachelorette’ on television – wait, I think I’ve gotten off-track.

When I look back on these years, I have a feeling I’m going to remember the cuddles, the car rides, the dance parties and the rocks and flowers pressed into my hands by my children.  And if I do remember how high my blood pressure rose listening to my infant son’s screams during a business meeting, I think I’ll only remember it to laugh.

She Will Not Fail

Four generations.  My grandma, my mother, my son and me.

Today, my 82 year-old grandmother stood up in front of a congregation full of friends and family and told the story of the day she almost died.

My entire life, I’ve known my grandma was in a horrible accident when she was only 16 years old and that the accident stole the life of her beloved older brother.  Her only brother, she counted him as her confidant and one of her best friends.  She idolized him.  We knew from a young age that grandma broke her back in the accident and we shouldn’t bring it up.  It could upset her.  And so we did not speak of it, although we knew the grief of it was always with her.

My mother told me recently that grandma wanted to give a spiritual testimony at my childhood church, reading from an essay she’d written about the accident.  I cried when I read what my grandma wrote, unable to imagine her getting through it without becoming overwrought by the memories.

Today, she did it.  The scripture for the day, Psalm 46-4-5, was perfect.  “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.  God is within her, she will not fail; God will help her at break of day.”  My petite, 82 year-old grandmother, whose back was once broken, showed that her spirit is anything but.

It was 1950 and my grandma was on the passenger side of her 21 year-old brother’s car when they were broadsided by a gravel truck.  The car flipped, turned, ejected the two siblings a half a second after they’d been singing along to the radio and telling jokes with, as she put it, “not a care in the world.”  My grandma, her body crumpled and twisted up like a rag doll on the side of the road, dwelled somewhere between heaven and earth. She describes it as a place with no pain.  She felt perfectly calm and at peace and wrote “If I’m dead and this is heaven, I’m okay with it.”

On the side of that road, as she was fluttering between life and death, my entire history, the history of my family, hung in the balance.  I’ve never once considered how close she came to death.  It’s a miracle that she lived.  It’s a miracle that just a little over a year later she was healthy enough to give birth to my mother.  If she’d slipped peacefully away on the side of a dusty road in Kansas in 1950, my mother, aunt and uncle would never have been born.  My brothers and I, all of my cousins.  None of us would exist.  All of our children… mine, my nieces and nephews.


After she survived, my wonderful grandmother was tortured by guilt.  Her late brother was her parents’ only son.  She wrote that she felt for years like God made a mistake in taking her brother and sparing her.

When we humans are hurting, one of the hardest things to hear is that “everything happens for a reason.”  It would be like standing in a torrential downpour with no umbrella and passersby reassuringly tell you, “Don’t worry, one day it will stop raining.”  Knowing that the storm will pass doesn’t change the fact that you’re getting drenched, or that you’re being consumed by the rainstorm.  That you can hardly breath, so intense is the deluge.

My grandmother stood in front of the congregation today and said she’s learned to let go of the “survivor’s guilt.”  She’s come to understand that God couldn’t have made a mistake by sparing her life, because her 17 great-grandchildren are no mistakes.

We imagine things … that we wouldn’t be able to survive, but in fact, we do survive.  We have no choice, so we do it.

– Joan Didion

We Shan’t Speak of This

IMG_3570My son doesn’t enjoy eyedrops.  Apparently, he is violently opposed to them.  I found this out today when I took him to have his eyes examined by our friendly eye doctor who, before this morning, had probably never heard screams the likes of which echoed through the hallways while we – two of us – administered the drops into a thrashing, 60 pound ‘little’ dude’s eyes.  These eyes were squeezed so tightly shut that I found myself fantasizing about ways he could use his eye muscle strength for personal gain.  After a good half minute of wrestling, my boy immediately played it cool.  As soon as he climbed off of my lap, he took a deep breath and followed the nurse out to a toy chest to pick a “prize.”  I felt a breeze.  It took too long to realize, but there it was.  The top three buttons (3!) of my blouse had popped open in The Eye Drop Conflict of 2016.  You never know, as a boymom, what might happen during unexpected wrestling matches.  It was very hot today, but I figured a blouse open down to my belly button would be frowned upon at the medical complex.