Thursday, August 3, 2017

She Was Me

We were both in our 40's.

She had a boy and a girl.

We both loved to run...the half marathon, in particular.

She was passionate and brimming.

And, God damn it, she was beautiful; far more stunning than me.

While I was on the couch over vacation checking Facebook, I gulped.

She died.

Stage 4 Lung cancer and after a brief time in Hospice, was gone.


We met several years ago in a work capacity...colleagues, volunteers, co-creaters.

After she moved away from Omaha, we kept track of each other via social media.  I had hoped to travel and run with her; but never quite made it there.

Every time I had a race, she was one of the first to post... "Today is yours," she once wrote.  "Remember to breathe and look around.  There's a lot to see along the way."

And in her short life, she did a lot...traveled internationally, made it on to a national famous cooking show, started her own business and blog, loved her children ferociously and never let her friends forget how special they were to her.  Oh, and she hooked me onto a gorgeous Poppy lip stain of which I am forever in her debt.

So, when I found out she passed, I was furious.

Who would take a mother with children who need her?  What world would diagnose a healthy young woman with a terminal illness in the prime of her life?  Why is circumstance so cruel?

Not even my faith brought my solace. I was just writhing in anger and fear.  If this could happen to her, it could happen to me, it could happen to anyone.

And I suppose we know that...that we are all mortal...and that we don't get to control the number of days we have on this earth.  That we are fragile.  That we are powerless.  That we are reliant upon each every way.

My last several fill in the blank (days, weeks, months, years) have been precarious.  I keep wondering who I will grow up to be.  I keep standing in amazement as my children grow, despite my pining for them to stay young.  I wonder in futility what will become of them and if I will have helped or hindered their development.  I beg of the universe to keep me healthy and to help me to be brave and not to live in fear.

But this is what middle age is...the immunity of your 20's evaporates, the exhaustion of your career 30's steadies, your friends begin to get diagnoses or divorces, your children grow and you realize that nothing is permanent.

And so, the joy comes in the screaming, the laughing, the crying, the yawning, the school supply buying, the towel folding, the sun screen applying, and the kissing goodbye and hello.

Goodbye for now, my friend.  Thank you for inspiring me to live in all of the moments...the good, the bad, the uncertain.  I promise to run my next race with you right beside me.  We'll take plenty of time to look around and take in the beauty.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Ode to Kate on Your 10th Birthday

My Dearest Kate,

How can it be?

We woke up this morning and all of a sudden, you were double digits.  The most beautiful, generous, brilliant 10-year old in the world.

A decade ago yesterday, I quit my full-time job to stay home and be a full-time mother to you and your brother.  I didn't know how to parent a newborn and a toddler, but I was hell bent to try.

From the beginning and still to this day, you make it easy. 

You, the middle child, the peacemaker...the kind one.  The not-so-little girl with Pippi Longstocking braids who finds the little girl that no one is playing with at the park, the roller skating rink, the book store, the pool and you say, "Hello, my name is Katherine.  Everyone calls me Kate, even though I want them to call me Katherine.  That's a pretty shirt.  What can I call you?"  And instantly, you have a new friend.  Within minutes, you know how old they are, what school they go to, and what they want to be when they grow up. 

Smack dab in the present, wholly available to the moment, you are alive with creativity, curiosity and full-fledged love.  When someone talks to you, you listen.  When someone offers you something that you're not interested in, you profusely say,  "no thank you--but thank you so much for asking," give them a full-bodied smile and ask them how their day's going.

A stunning ballerina, a dedicated piano player, wrapped up in a voracious reader, carved into a re-purposer of every imaginable embody the arts and imagination at its finest.  Your room is teeming with sculptures, sewing projects, canvases, Lego creations, chalk renderings, and bottles of homemade lip balm and slime.  And, if it were available, you would fill a studio with color, design, and love.

I've really never met anyone like you and while many say that we are quite alike, I am certain that you are the one that I seek to emulate.  Always stopping to say a "Hail Mary" when an ambulance passes, filling your belly with veggies before meat, meticulously brushing your teeth and folding your jammies just so, praying for those in need and offering a compliment when no one else seems to are rare.

At the end of the summer, you will embark upon fifth grade.  Soon, you will have a lot more homework, ballet will fill up several hours a week, time with friends will take priority and my teaching load will get heavier.  Inevitably, we will spend less time together.  But as I watch you flourish from afar, know that I am your fiercest advocate.  I want the world for you. 

But, when I stop to think about it, I'm mindful that really and truly, the world is in love with you.

Here's to a new decade, a new year, new memories and new adventures.

I love you to the moon and back, always,


Friday, June 9, 2017

My Children are Assholes

Let me begin by saying that my children are assholes.

Well, I should clarify, my oldest and youngest are the ones I'm referring to.  The middle one is my favorite.

I know, it's horrifying to call your child such a vile term and its even more irresponsible to like one over the other...I mean really, how could I...I'm their mother for God sake.

Level with me.  Is your child an asshole...I mean, not right now, but from time to time?  Do you sacrifice your time, your energy, your money, your patience, your wherewithal and in the midst of bending over to give your everything, your kid shits in your face and says, "Not good enough."

If not, I think it's because you drank organic milk when you were pregnant and didn't indulge in Starbucks and you probably played classical music and took prenatal yoga and delivered naturally. 

And then, when your baby came, I'm sure you never raised your voice or thought that you wished you could get in your car and drive to Mexico while someone else managed the every two hour feedings and cleaned up the crap.

Or, your ancestors are from Denmark or Switzerland or some really calm, enlightened place like that.

I got none of those things going for me.

And today, in the middle of Target, I lost it on my 12, 9 and 6 year olds.  I decided in the granola bar aisle to give them a smack down talk about entitlement.  While the older and the younger were going back and forth about who was right, I looked at the middle child and thought, I'm sorry that you're going to have to spend lots of co-pays on therapy dealing with the fall out of what it means to be the peacekeeping middle child...maybe we should have had a fourth?

Not long ago, my friend told me that my children were assholes to me and polite as pie to their teachers and friends' mothers because they feel safe in my presence and that I shouldn't take their remarks or dismissive behaviors personally.

I thought about this, really I did.  Maybe all of my open-ended feeling questions and years of being at home made them feel like their voices mattered and that their opinions should be entertained at any cost.  I'm not sure that I'm interested in their voices being heard...all the time. 

So, really, is this normal?  Assholish children?  I mean, why couldn't I have big, dumb, loyal kiddos like Golden Retrievers.  Instead, I have wicked smart, scheming Jack Russell Terriers who know how to push all of my buttons.

We're two weeks into summer and I'm open to suggestions.

In the meantime, I'll try not to take it personally.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Ode to My Better Half on His 40th

In the six plus years I've been crafting a blog, I can count on one hand the number of times I've written about my husband.

Not because he asked me to keep him out of the limelight or because he's not an insanely interesting, and charming subject to share with the world; but mostly, because he doesn't need it.

Different than me, he doesn't feel the need to document driving to the grocery store with 5,000 Instagram photos or to measure his self worth by the number of Facebook likes a post has.  He's just in general, uber comfortable in his own skin and except for his family, doesn't long for much in his life.

So without his permission, just for today, for one brief snapshot in the span of all that is, I want to publicly take a moment to honor 40 years of a man that's been rolling around the planet, because well, he's pretty extraordinary.

The first thing you should know is that he's ridiculously nice.  I mean the sort of type that makes you think, "Jesus, that guy is way too nice.  What's he hiding?  Where's the mean bone? I bet he's got bodies buried in the backyard." And you search and search, but alas, he's just an obnoxiously kind, over-the-top available, ever smiling, hard core laughing sort of guy.

Next up, if you need something, call Ray.  He'll listen to you vomit your shitty day and serve as your co-conspirator against the dicks of the world.  He's good for that.  He's also fucking strong.  So, if you need bunk beds moved or you don't want to front the Nebraska Furniture Mart delivery charge, he'll do the heavy lifting.  It's no skin off his back.  Really...I've watched him step up time and time again.

If you want to know where his heart resides, take a look at his kids.

When he's not at work, you'll find him serving lunch at school, guiding Kindergartners through computer lessons, reading bedtime stories, helping Sam earn merit badges in Boy Scouts, watching his daughters perfect pirouettes in the ballet studio, cheering from the sidelines at flag football and micro soccer games, complimenting them on their piano pieces, helping select Golden Sower texts from the library, introducing them to every genre of music, teaching them to go faster on their bikes, and how to catch the perfect fish, reminding them to not cut corners when mowing the lawn, and spending an inordinate time braiding Kate and Claire's hair just in time for school.

For a man who lost his dad when he was 8, he could give classes on what it means to be a father.

And when it comes to me, well, goodness.  He didn't really know what a high maintenance, OCD, worry fanatic he was inheriting when he said, "I do." And 13 years later, he still walks me down from the ledge and reminds me that tomorrow is a new day and that I am loved, always.

We are blessed beyond measure to share our lives with such a man, and so as we embark upon this special birthday, Sam, Kate, Claire and I say....thank you.

Thank you for taking such good care of us.  We pray that the next 40 years will bring you adventure, creativity, loads of movies, continued laughter with great friends, really good podcasts, lots of Sherlock watching at the gym, quiet moments with God and a continual reminder that you are so very loved.

Happy 40th, Ray...we are grateful to share in your special day...xo

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Ode to 42

Here's to the turn...

the intentional change

the shift

the looking up, every now and again, to stand both in gratitude, but also

in expectant hope for newness

a different set of spectacles



for the painfulness and beauty of the presence

the deep space of

ordinary time

where it hurts to sink in

and there is nothing more or

better to do than to hold

the one who desperately wants to

read Dr. Seuss

and refrain from strangling the not-so-little

boy who cannot remember where he put his retainers or

why it matters if you wear deodorant

and to encourage the girl who

re-purposes milk cartons and old socks

and to laugh with the man

who gets me like no other

Yes, to all of it

and to all of them...


to the girl with brown hair

and blue eyes

and a soft gaze

and a heart that invites and wants to know more

about everything, really.

Ode to the squishy legs

and the lines around the brow

to the moments of weakness

and the ferocity of strength

may the 42nd year be filled

with the promise that you are indeed enough,

now and


Friday, April 28, 2017

Anticipating 42

Where are you?

What's it like there?

Are you happy in your heart?

It's raining here...forecast to do so all weekend...which is a good thing, I suppose. 

It greens everything up and readies me for my birthday month.

In a week, I'll turn 42.  Not 24, not 30, not 35, not 40...forty-two...yikes, I think.

Except, maybe, just maybe, I'm sort of secretly excited about it, for a reason that came to me after a long run at the gym.

My son called from school.  He was emotional, sad and disappointed.  He was in the principal's office with a consequence for poor behavior...unusual for him at school, but not so out-of-the-blue when you think about his crazy shenanigans with his sisters at home.

Instead of reading him the riot act, I paused and said, "I love you.  I'm sorry that this happened.  You're going to be okay.  I'll see you this afternoon."  And then we hung up the phone.

And, I meant it.

I think the beauty of turning a new leaf via a new birthday year is the recognition that you can spend so much of your time worrying about all of the shit that just. does. not. matter.  And if you need lessons in how to do it well, come to my home.  I'm a fucking pro.  I worry about ev-ery-th-ing. I worry about shit you can't even imagine that people could dream up to worry about.  And nearly every single time, it works out.  Usually, in weirdly serendipitous, lovely ways.

So, what does it mean to turn 42 and why am I partially giddy? 

Well, it means that it's okay to lean into the suck.  When life is shitty, it's shitty.  Hopefully, it doesn't last too terribly long.  God knows it isn't fun to live in extended discomfort.  But most of the time, literally nothing is permanent.

It means to redefine beauty.  My best friend sent me a picture from her high school graduation VHS tape along with some prom pictures and said, "You look just the same."  I was flattered and grateful, but then also reminded that I color my hair and have three children's worth of stretch marks and lots of laugh lines (that's what I call them).  So, beauty to me now is a really great joke, a fantastic piece of sushi, an extraordinary conversation with a student where we help each other see something that was vacant before, a fucking good night's sleep, a strong (like really strong) cup of coffee with a friend, an afternoon after school when by the grace of God my kids don't fight, a purple sunset that I watch from my dining room table while sipping something red in a glass that seems to wash away my craziness from the day, a note from a friend reminding me that I am enough and the courage to say no to an offer to volunteer, when the truth is that I just don't want to. 

It means to live in the what is available and present now, not when the job promotion hits, the 10 pounds are shed, the bank account is heftier, the kitchen gets remodeled, the project at work gets done or the fight with your sister-in-law is less fresh.  It means to grab ahold of the people you love and the moments you have, in the body that is presently yours, not giving a shit about what others think or why.

And this is why I feel good about where I am.  Not confident or perfect or accomplished or arrived...but good.  I'm leaning into the joy, the suck, the ambivalence, the heartache, the unknown.  I'm hanging out in the principal's office with my kid saying...this doesn't feel good now, but it doesn't define'll be better for'll learn and grow and make more mistakes and it will be okay.

And as the rain comes down and down and down and down, I drink the coffee, watch the grass and think...May is on its way...and 42 looks promising.

Friday, March 10, 2017

New Again

It was 4:50am...dark, quiet and cold in my bathroom.

Splashing water on my face, trying to get psyched for an early morning run, I looked up and she was standing in the hallway.

"Mama, do your fingernails get old too?" asked a half asleep, blondie Claire Bear, 6.

"Come here and give me a hug, what are you doing up?" I grab a hold of her while she puts her arms around my belly and looks up at my hair. 

"Well, I just thought that since Miss Beth puts brown back in your hair, to make the old hair not look so old anymore, that maybe that's why you paint your fingernails red or pink or those other colors, to make them look new again?" she quizzically asks.

I tuck her back into bed, tie up my sneakers and ponder all of the things I do to make the worn out, tired me... feel new again.

My husband turns 40 in a few months, a few weeks after I turn 42.  We joke that he's the last of our friends to make his way over the hill, while we both lament what it means to be officially middle aged.

On my run, I consider how good it feels to be able to run and to have meaningful perspective on what matters...which in many respects isn't what I thought did when I was 25 or even 35.

My mother frequently says that she would trade places with me any day.  "Your early 40's...hell, that's a beautiful thing, you're just gettin started--with the benefit of real wisdom and the loss of the cheese dick attitude that never did anyone a bit of good."

I have to agree.

Forever in a day, I used to feel less than about the size of my abode, my street address, my non-membership to the Escalade or Cabo frequenting club.  I wondered whether back burnering my career to stay home and raise children who whined and fought and rarely recognized my efforts was worthwhile.  I questioned whether writing checks for Catholic school tuition and piano lessons and ballet classes was the way to go.  I surrendered to the pain of not knowing my next move and sitting in uncertainty about the fate of my professional dreams or my family's next life stage.

And then, one morning I woke up and started teaching and building curriculum and pivoting in different directions and using my brain and body in different ways that felt clumsy and wonky and free and alive.

And now, as the days are long, and the years pass by in a blink, I know that the process of aging is inevitable.  We're all dying and living in the same breath.  We're all making choices to embrace the change or not.  Our hair is indeed turning gray.  Our finger nails are growing and being clipped off at the pass.  We're getting up and running or we're not.  The sun is setting and rising and the seasons are dying and being reborn.

All the while, no one knows what tomorrow will bring or if there will be a tomorrow.  But what we do know as we're being made new again is that we have a choice to take the things we've learned about ourselves from yesterday and apply it to today and re-apply it again tomorrow.

We are indeed old and new, over and over and over and over again. 

The morning that I ran, I saw an older couple on an overpass bridge.  Holding hands with big coats and hats on, they smiled and said, "Good Morning!" Panting with my music blaring, I screamed, "Good Morning!" while we shared a slice of pleasantry.

I hope that I get at least another 42 years to roll around on this planet.  In that time, I do plan to keep coloring my gray, painting my nails, running around the park, teaching my students and standing in awe trying to figure out where I'm supposed to be engaged.

While I stand in change, I'm not so afraid of the process.  Aging is definitive.  The decision to take the pieces that age and rebirth them is entirely voluntary.  My hope is to keep trying.