Monday, December 22, 2014

A Walk Down Memory Lane

We haven't been back to my husband's hometown in years.

It's a function of the fact that he grew up approximately 1500 miles from where we make our home and our three kiddos are little and well, 2.5 days of driving or 5 flight tickets are expensive anyway you slice it.

So, we've been lucky.  His parents have come to us for visits or we've found ways to meet in the middle.

But this Christmas, we were blessed to fly back to his home for a good long visit.

And, it's been fun. 

He grew up in the Reno/Tahoe part of the country and well, it's just downright beautiful.

Today, we drove our oldest back to the house he grew up in, down the streets of his neighborhood schools and to his university and old fraternity house, only to lament that the Beer Barrel is well, a Jimmy Johns.

We talked to Sam about growing up in the desert, learning to ski and snowboard when you're little, wildlife out on a acreage where his grandma lives and spent time comparing life in Omaha to life in Reno...and it's different.  Neither good nor bad, just different.

For me, I'm not used to sage brush or horse ranches or archery or shooting or going up to Mount Rose and skiing/boarding or explaining to my kids why there are slot machines in the grocery stores, the airport, the gas stations and casinos on every corner (okay, that's an exaggeration). 

But my husband is in love with it brings back the glory of his childhood, all of the outdoor fun of skiing and mountain biking and life guarding and wake boarding pre-mortgage payments and kids. It makes him proud to show the kids how much fun you can have outside in the wintertime when you're not freezing your arse off in the midwest.  And I love that our kids get to experience his world and the place he came from before he came to us.

This part of the country is stunning and if you haven't made the trek, you should.  I foresee many fun summer visits for our kiddos helping to shape pieces of who they are via their roots.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Cascabeles Christmas

This is very much par for the course.

Right around the holidays, everyone gets bit by some form of the flu bug.  This year, it happens to be a yucky fever that lasts a couple of days...Kate had it last week, Sam had it over the weekend and now Claire.

I don't mind taking her temperature, administering ibuprofen or placing cool wash cloths on her forehead...the part that makes me sad is that she's been preparing for weeks to sing in her first Christmas program tomorrow, that may or may not happen.

So, if it doesn't, I promised to get her voice heard on a larger platform than just her preschool.

Here she is singing, "Cascabeles"...the Spanish version of "Jingle Bells" and a bit of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town."

Mind you, she has hot cocoa on her face, her hair is in a bit of a rat's nest, she's still wearing her pajamas, trying not to show her underwear, but she's happy.  And she knows exactly which red dress and white polka dot tights that she wants to adorn during the celebration.

Listening to her sing reminded me just how much that I love the season of Christmas, the anticipation of Santa and the hope of both giving and receiving during this magical, sacred time.

To that end, here is a picture of Kate writing her special letter to Santa with all of her hopes for packages and reasons why she's deserving.

If only Christmas and Cascabeles lasted all year.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Ode to Claire on Her 4th Birthday

"Geronimo!" you screamed as you jumped off the bed. "I'm four today!"

Praise God!

You've been asking for days when your birthday will be...counting down the moments until we will sing to you, eat the perfect pink cake and unwrap pretty packages.

But before we launch into being four...we are mindful that this has been a big year for began preschool and ballet, started going on your own friend play dates, met your favorite princesses at Disneyland and joined your big brother and big sister for a coveted "Dads and Kids" camping trip this summer.

You're writing your name, singing songs, telling jokes, playing board games, riding a bike, asking for braids in your hair and sleeping in a really big Big Girl bed without a pull-up on at night. 

You're feisty and sassy and know exactly what you want all of the time...and it's usually to drink chocolate milk out of a "Frozen" cup or to glitter paint or both in the nude.

You're fearless and scrappy.  There's no question that you can hold your own.  And you're trying and exhausting and loving and beautiful and frustrating all in the same breath.

And as I watch you grow and enter into this new year, I feel happy and sad because you are my last child, really my not-so-little baby.  There will be no more diapers, breast feeding, naps, Kindermusic groups or board books.  Nope, you've traded all of that for playing with American girl dolls, dancing in a tutu, singing Spanish Christmas carols and learning to read Dr. Seuss.

I am grateful that I get to come along on your journey.  I pray that this new year brings you more opportunities to try on empathy, compassion, grace and the special brand of  unbridled craziness that is a blond haired, blue-eyed, fair skinned, big smiled little girl that we're blessed to call Claire Bear.

Happy Fourth Birthday, Claire!  We love you to the moon and back!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Three Generations of Love

"Mama, did you know that people were born in the 1900's?," exclaimed Kate while she was clearing the table and I was washing the dishes.

That's just crazy talk.  People like papa and Grandma Kathy and me were born in the 1900's.  We're as old as the dinosaurs, right?

"That's why you're so good at washing the pots because you used to have to wash the dishes when you were a little girl.  They didn't have dishwashers back then, right?"

Um, well.  We did...

"And iPhones and iPads and Skylanders...they didn't have those either, did they?"

It was definitely a different...

"Oh my goodness and American Girl dolls, you never had one, did you?"

No, we had Cabbage Patch...

"Waaaiiiitttt a minute, hold the phone, you didn't have mint chocolate chip ice cream, did you?"

They were hard times.  Really, really tough.  We only had one telephone and it had a long cord like the hair dryer and came out of the wall and we had to share it with everyone else in the house.  Grandma Kathy made me wash the dishes until my hands bled and then, I had to scrub the floors and use a wash cloth, there were no Clorox wet wipes back then, AND...I never had a computer in my house until college and even then, there was no email or wait for it, wait for it...Facetime.  We couldn't Skype with anyone.  It was a deeply trying time.  I'm really unsure how I survived it.  And, there was no Gogurt.  But here's the cool thing..we did have My Little Ponies, praise God, otherwise, I just don't know.

When I shared this story with my mom, she couldn't stop laughing.  There's nothing worse than when your kids make you feel old, she said.  It takes you back to a time when according to the remember-er everything was so much simpler and sweeter.  Unless you're the new generation and then, well, you can't even possibly imagine...all of it, archaic and boring.

So, it was with delight that we took this snap shot of my mother, my two daughters and me.

Because someday, I want Kate and Claire to know that they were in the presence of two women who actually lived in the 1900's....three generations of love.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Grateful Heart

One of my favorite times of year is the season of Advent.

It's the perfect mix of excitement putting up the Christmas tree, stringing the lights, guessing what's wrapped inside the packages, opening cards from friends and family, drinking copious amounts of cocoa and anticipating Santa's arrival on Christmas morning. 

In the same breath, particularly when everyone is in bed and I have a cup of tea in hand, it's a beautiful, solemn time to look at the white lights of the tree and to be grateful.

Grateful for so, so much.

My middle daughter, Kate (7) came bounding home from school the other day and proclaimed, "Just remember, mama, a grateful heart is a full heart and there's so much to be thankful for."

To which I responded, "You're so right, what are you thankful for today?"

"No question, pickles.  I am over the moon for pickles.  Perfect food."  And then, she was off.

I think that's how it goes for kids. 

Most of the time, they are in the moment experiencing the now letting it come into their purview and out as all seasons of life do.  They rarely hold grudges or live in the land of fear or fret about this or that.  They just live and in the moment, they're grateful for pickles.

And so instead of worrying about the big mountains, most of which I have little control of, I started thinking about the parts of my life that I feel infinite amounts of gratitude for.

I love my legs and my lungs.  When my courage and discipline show up, they are right there to take my body miles and miles into parks, neighborhoods, race routes and undiscovered territory.

I love my heart.  It's big and heavy and never afraid to be shared literally right on my sleeve for the world to see.  I pray that part of me never goes away. 

Thank the Lord for my mind.  It never stops.  I live in it a good chunk of the time.  It's big and vast and imaginative and on good days, it meets my fingers and taps out thoughts and ideas that I'm lucky enough to share with others who help me to know that I am not alone.

And it goes without saying that I'm blessed beyond measure to have a partner who gets me and encourages my growth and crazy exploration.  Simultaneously, I stare out at the parts of my heart living in my three children and tears well because I know that they are my greatest gift.  A legacy of gratitude in the deepest respect. 

Whether you find gratitude in a moment that is all yours not beholden to your employer, your to-do list or your wandering thoughts....or in the perfect burger or bottle of wine...or the breaths your child takes when they're sleeping and you're quietly watching from the side of the doorway or your own breaths as your feet stomp the ground in a good, long, hard run...or from the perfect juicy pickle...a full heart, a joyous heart is a grateful one.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Do Hard Things

The other day I had a coveted phone conversation with a really good friend.

I just adore her.

We'd been trying to catch up for some time and so to hear her voice was glorious.

As we traded war stories about the rough, vulnerable and uncertain parts of our journeys, I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes by author/Momastery blogger Glennon Doyle Melton...

"We can do hard things." She has the phrase framed in her kitchen.

And for the first time in a while, the gravity of the words sunk in.

There are many times, probably more than I want to admit, when I'm faced with situations that don't add up or at the very least that I don't want to contend with.  An unexpected plumbing problem the day before Thanksgiving, a job loss during the month of Christmas, sick kids getting picked up from school, a family argument that makes no sense, a visit from Aunt Flo in the midst.

And while it's happening, I'm mindful that for the most part, these circumstances are temporary and that even though I may not have been here before, I can do hard things.  I can do that which is tedious and monotonous like making the kids' lunches for the umpteenth time or washing the girls' hair or flying through the aisles of the grocery store with a screaming the unpredictable ones like losing a job and worrying about where to turn the mentally and physically laborious ones that stretch me far outside of my comfort zone.

The point is...I can do hard things and I need to.  I need to be stretched when I least expect it...out on a limb, anxious, scrambling, worried, hopeful, fearful...all in the same breath.

Because when I do, the really good Kelly steps up to the plate...the 11th hour Kelly...the one who kicks ass and cleans house.  The girl who I've seen rise up before and who I trust will take care of business when the time comes.

The problem is, she doesn't get called on enough because she gets lazy and comfortable and auto-piloty.

As my sweet friend told me this morning, the only thing that is inevitable is change and the only thing that is permanent is love....and when you choose love in the midst of fear, love always wins.

Here's to doing the hard things.  The things we don't want to do.  The things we think we can't do.  The things we think we shouldn't have to do.  Here's to catapulting ourselves into the throws of the hard, the difficult, the mundane, the unknown trusting that our best selves will rise to the occasion.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Watch Me

Last week, I lost my job.

Not the one as wife or mother or friend or daughter or sister or neighbor or community member...

No, the job that paid me both money and a connection to amazing women.

When my second child, Kate was born, my husband and I made a decision that I would try staying at home.  A one-year "give-it-a-go" has turned into seven and a half of crazy blessings in the making.  Two months into our decision, I had an opportunity to join a direct sales company and sell jewelry.  It got me out of the house a few nights a month, put a little jingle in my pocket, earned me some trips and gave me time without my children to engage with other women over wine and sparkles.  I loved every minute of it.

And then, we got notice that our company was closing in 30 days.

It was a shock.

And since that time, I've been praying and researching.  Looking for the next step.

I have some constraints.  My youngest daughter, Claire still has a year and half before she starts kindergarten and I'm resolute that I'll be home with her until she goes.

Mostly, I've been praying for a gentle really, more of a swift kick in the pants as to which direction I should go.  The problem is that often I have a hard time choosing my path unless a million and one family members and friends point me toward that fork in the road.

It's the part of me that I wish I could change.  The insecure component that wants to choose the route that the majority of people are vying for.  I guess...the path of least resistance.  And sometimes in life, that's for the best.  It makes sense to take the main stream approach recognizing that it's a short-term decision made in the interim for the benefit of the situation at hand.

But in spite of that, I've been praying that God would gift me with a deep, passionate desire to move in a specific direction that wouldn't be the easiest, most convenient or popular compelling me to move forward regardless of what the world thinks.

So when I found this quote, I latched on...

For the first time in a long time, I want to find something, even if its temporary, that works for me even if the world thinks its ridiculous.

I'm dabbling with the idea of pole dancer, circus performer, avante garde Swedish meatball maker, who knows...the possibilities are endless.

Wherever I land, I know it will be good.  And in a way, I'm very glad that I'm starting a new year on the precipice of change.  It makes it all the more exciting.

Here's to jumping...even if everyone thinks I'm crazy.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Choosing Me

I've had a rough couple of weeks.

You know, the ones that blindside you.

Where you're living life with the plans in your head, the to-do's on your list wielding the control that comes from doing your deal and then, says, take this and that and because we can, have a little more.

I won't bore you with all of the details...because really, on any given day, we all have our own unexpected series of shit storms to deal with.

But what I'd like to explore is how I cope.  I feel like I've learned a lot about who I am by watching myself operate from the 30,000 foot balcony view.

And here's how it goes down.

Shitty thing happens.

I freeze.  I freeze for a while longer.  I think, no.  Didn't just happen.  It settles.  It did happen.

I stay seated on the couch with my winter coat on staring at the wall unable to be practical, I'm just paralyzed.

Depending upon said shitty thing, I cry or my eyes well up.

I take off coat and knowing that it will take too long for the kettle to get hot, I search for a cookie or a leftover piece of pie or both or the whole pie.

I eat and recount various components of said shitty thing and its aftermath.

I feel sad.  I feel angry.  I feel hopeful.  I feel pissed.  I feel raw.  I feel vulnerable.  I feel alone.  I feel, I feel.

Share shitty news with a few select confidants who remind me that I more than said shitty event and all will be well and that despite my overactive imagination, I'm not alone.

Take hot shower.  Breathe.  Trust.

But despite what I know about who I am, I don't run.  I sleep in every morning for 10 days.  I continue to eat yummy holiday foods and feel badly.

And then, this morning, I wake up and say enough.  The pity party is done.  It's time for healing to begin.  And it must begin by putting one foot in front of the other. 

In anything in my life, I've recovered through activity, not through extensive contemplation.  The answers always emerge in the doing, not in the repetitive re-hashing of it all.

And so, this is what I know about me.  When the shit hits the fan, I become paralyzed.  I don't take care of me.  I stop running, writing, smiling and I start eating, sleeping, and freezing. 

The choice is to choose me, to take care of the me that is resilient, that gets back onto the battle field and that takes the blind leap of faith back into her life.

Here's to the end of 2014, but even better, here's to all that's in store in the new foot step at a time.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Day of Heaven and Hell

I was driving my youngest to preschool when I got a text from a good friend.  It went something like this...

"If you could replay one day from your life eternally that represented Heaven on earth and likewise, Hell, which ones would they be and why?

Apparently, she was listening to a radio program that asked this question and she started pondering it.

Immediately, I retorted back with something shallow and not well thought through,  "Heaven would be a continual day at the spa and Hell would be a day of doing laundry and dishes and making lunches for all of eternity."

And then, she sent back an extraordinary message that really captured her most perfect day and the perfectly fucked up one.

And it was sobering.

We all have different versions or visions of mini-Heavens and Hells on earth.  We know what it feels like when our head hits the pillow and we're truly happy in our hearts, grateful for the gifts that we didn't deserve that all seemed to fall into place, just for us, right in the moment, all in a days time.  Similarly, we know how devastating it feels when the worst of life's circumstances and the most tragic of times fall upon us and it's all we can do to pray for a new day wishing it all never happened.

These glimpses into pure joy and pure heartache remind us that we're mortal, that our time on earth is finite and that everything except for the relationships we nurture and cultivate is disposable.

And so, I started wondering, are the Heaven days just a perfect gift?  Nothing that we worked for or that we earned, just a nugget of joy to be enjoyed?

All the same, are the mini-Hell days given to us so that we might learn something through the pain and despair or are they equally as random with no larger, more profound life lesson attached?

If you don't believe in an afterlife, are these experiences or encounters on earth windows into the dichotomy that exists all around us?  Heaven/Hell...Good/Evil...Love/Hate...Joy/Sorrow.

I don't know.  I just know that it's easy to recall when you had the perfect day and when you had the farthest thing from it.  Moments of Heaven and Hell trapped within our limited understanding as we journey through this life.

So, as I ended my texts with her, here's to many more Heaven days and thicker skin to endure the Hell ones.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Make Amends

We'd been talking about it for weeks.

Our middle child, Kate (7) was preparing to make her First Reconciliation (sacrament whereby one confesses their sins to a priest and asks for forgiveness) last night and she was feeling anxious and unsure.

Why do we do this, mama?

One of the most important skills you can learn in life is how to make amends for the ways that you've hurt yourself or others in this world.  


Part of being human means that you're going to make mistakes.  You're going to say and do things that will hurt others and you need to be remorseful and to ask for forgiveness.  You don't need to confess your sins to a priest to be forgiven.  God is always with you.  At any time and all the time, you can talk to God about what's weighing on your heart or mind.  Maybe you haven't treated a friend very kindly at school or maybe you've been picking on your little sister or fighting with your brother.  At any time, you can pray to God and talk to Him about making better choices and being more loving.  Sitting down with a priest just helps you to practice and to be accountable for your behavior to another human being.

Are you going to do it too?

I am.

What are you going to say?

I think I'm going to share that I'm sorry for the ways that I don't appreciate the many blessings in my life and that sometimes, I look at other people's lives and think that mine would be better if only I  had their things.

That's a good one, mommy.  I think I'm going to say that I lied.


Not like a big lie, but kind of a lie.

You can share anything that you want.

Going to Reconciliation helps you when you need to say I'm sorry to someone face-to-face. It's not an easy thing to do.  You may be embarrassed or really sad or scared.  But no matter what, when you've hurt another, you need to let them know how sorry you are for what you've done.  It's called making amends.  And even if they don't accept your apology or forgive you, you still need to try.  It's one of the most important things we can do to take care of each other in the world.

Sorry that I'm mean sometimes.

Sorry that I yell sometimes.

Sorry that I don't say thank you all of the time.

Sorry that I rush you more than I should.

I love you.

I love you more.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Unfolding of a Character

You stayin warm?...

I know, right...I'm dyin on the vine out here. Everythings one ginormous, fuckin icicle.

It was gettin old and needed new tires, but I never imagined it would break down when it's two degrees outside.  When is this bus gonna get here?

That blows. Where you headed?

To my mom's.  She needs help with her groceries and other stuff around her apartment. You?

Shit. Work...where else would I be goin at 7 in the morning?  

Bus pulls up.  Julia and Dylan get on.

My friend and I were lamenting about how hard it is to convey dialogue in a short story format.  You want the reader to feel what it feels like to be a middle-aged, single mother down on her luck sandwiched in between her two dependent kiddos while also managing the needs of her ailing, elderly mother.  And, a brilliant, punk ass kid in his early 20's who can't quite get it together, resolute on rebelling against the system but trapped by it all the same.

Without a messenger, the only thing you have is words and unfortunately, so much of the meat in dialogue happens in the non-verbal...the ways that we look at each other or look away or touch the other or want to, but don't.

And so, as Anne LaMott teaches, you try to get under the skin of the character and inhabit it, so that you can clear as a pin point articulate what they would and would not do.  The tough part is when you you're not a single mother or a punk kid in his early 20's.

So, you just keep at it...banging it out, erasing, rewriting, rereading, reimagining if the whole thing is plausible and if it's not, can you suspend the reader's disbelief long enough to entice them to come on the journey?

Yesterday, after school, while getting Kate (7) ready for ballet, she asked me what I do at my computer.  I told her that I'm usually doing one of three things: writing, paying bills, or listening to music or all three.  And then she said, what do you do when we're at school?  To which I responded, that list is much longer.  And then she said, what did you do before we were here?  And I said, you mean before you were born? Nodding her head yes, I replied, I can hardly remember.

And it's true.  Just as I'm inventing characters for stories, I feel like I'm constantly reinventing me.  It's the nature of the story, the journey, the unfolding of the life.  And much as I'm completely oblivious to where the story line will go with Julia and Dylan, I'm equally as unsure about myself.

The good news for both are that the possibilities are limitless.

Monday, November 17, 2014

I Lived

It was really cold this weekend...really cold.

The kind of cold that has you curled up in fleece and flannel drinking copious amounts of peppermint tea praying that you have enough milk in the fridge because you can't bear to go out into the wind.

But finally, on Sunday morning, I grabbed my boots, headphones, a shovel and headed out to do my part.

And while my fingers were frozen and I was cursing the polar vortex above us, this song came on Pandora...

I don't know why I hadn't heard it before.  But it hit me.

A few of the lyrics in particular.

Hope that you spend your days
But they all add up
And when the sun goes down
Hope you raise your cup

I wish that I could witness
All your joy and all your pain
But until my moment comes
I'll say...

I, I did it all
I, I did it all
I owned every second
That this world could give
I saw so many places
The things that I did
Yeah, with every broken bone
I swear I lived

And in that moment, I realized, that there's so many things, so many experiences, so many parts of their lives that I won't get to witness.

If I'm lucky, I'll get to see my children fall in love, maybe find a partner to share this crazy life with, have children of their own, start their own businesses, travel to far off lands...who knows? 

But they will live (God willing) for so many more moons beyond the time that I'm here.

And so, more than anything, I want them to jump at every experience, to show up even when they're unsure, to get back up again when it didn't work out, to embrace the hard stuff, to leave it all out on the field and to know that in my brief moments here that I tried my best to do the same.

All of it really is such a gift.  So, why not live it broken bones and all?

I don't know how much time had passed while I'd gathered all of these thoughts.  I just know that the drive, the walkways, the patio and the car were all cleared when I looked up at the sun and thought, my back hurts.  But it's done. 

And then it was on to hot cocoa, whipped cream, Scrabble and living the life I've been given for that day with the people I love.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Heart of Understanding

I woke up this morning with a long to-do list feeling less than.

It's not an unusual emotion for me which is why it's both exhausting and debilitating to give in to the feelings that I'm not enough on a fairly regular basis.

Planning my day while carelessly sifting through my news feed, I came across a headline that a few days ago, an amazingly holy man, Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hahn was admitted into a hospital suffering from a brain hemorrhage.

If you're not familiar with Thich Nhat need to get yourself to a local bookstore or peruse Amazon for one of the 100+ books he's written and savor your acquaintance.

As a brief overview, he's a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk who has dedicated his 88-years to a life of non-violence, peace and understanding.  His writings are powerful, poignant, simple, and hard to embrace, especially for this Westerner.

I first found him in my philosophy courses in undergrad and then in my comparative religion classes and finally, by my bedside for life.

The first book I read was "The Heart of Understanding," and on a day like today, the following passage resonates wildly.

In the West you have been struggling for many years with the problem of evil. How is it possible that evil should be there? It seems to be difficult for the Western mind to understand. But in the light of non-duality, there is no problem: As soon as the idea of good is there, the idea of evil is there. Buddha needs Mara in order to reveal himself, and vice versa. When you perceive reality in this way, you will not discriminate against the garbage in favor of the rose. You will cherish both. You need both right and left in order to have a branch. Do not take sides. If you take sides, you are trying to eliminate half of reality, which is impossible.

I spend much energy and time judging the parts of me that are deemed bad or less than...trying to eradicate them in favor of what I think is favorable.  But the truth is, I can't.  I've tried really hard for a really long time and for me, it doesn't work.  In fact the harder I try not to judge or to feel less than, the more that I do.

Instead, I think Thich Nhat Hanh is encouraging us to live with both.  You can't know the deliriousness of joy until you've felt the gut wrenching cringe of sorrow.  You can't appreciate unconditional, nonjudgmental love until you've been slapped with selfish, all-consuming behavior.  You can never extract the bad, the hurt, the fear, the wrong, the evil...the best you can do is to recognize that it exists alongside the good.

The journey is to journey with both of them forever.

It's a daunting task.  But unfortunately, it's not negotiable, it's the beauty and the pain of life.

The faster that we stop fighting and the sooner that we embrace both sides, the quicker we are able to savor all that life has to offer.

I pray that I can have 88-years to live out these ideas.  What a beautiful life.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Target Never Disappoints

Let me begin by sharing the items in my cart at the check-out lane:

  • (1) Zombie Strike Targeting Scope Clear Shot Nerf Gun
  • (1) Mega XD N-Strike Elite Nerf Gun
  • 5 million Zombie Strike and Mega N-Strike bullets
  • 1 Frozen Elsa doll
  • Heavy Whipping Cream
  • Coffee
  • Sugar
  • Flour
  • (1) Lemon Verbana Soy Destress Candle

It's 4:00 in the afternoon and my favorite midtown Target store is in desperate need of back-up cashiers, because this is what my daughters are doing...leaning into each other and through clenched teeth and shaking faces, they're screaming in operatic voices, "Let it GOOOO...LEEETTTT ITTTT GOOO...TURN AWAY and SLAM THE DOOR...I DOOONNN'TTT CARE WHAT THEY'RE GOING TO SAY...LET THE STORM RAGE ONNNNN...."

I'm quietly losing my mind trying to decide if I'm going to spike my Americano before or after I get into the car. 

And then, he pulls his cart up behind mine, assesses my stuff and says, "Wow, looks like it's one of those days, huh?"

Um, yeah.  I guess. (Girls still singing.  Sam begging for gum.)

To which he turns to my kids and says, "Hey kids, give your mom a break," smiling while he's scolding them.

No, it's good.  They're fine.  

"No need to know when enough is enough.  And sometimes, when it doesn't come from mom, it's received better."

Actually, ass wipe, my kids don't acknowledge strangers and if you're gonna take on that crusade, you'll have to hunt down every other aisle of kid in this joint.  It's the nature of the Target game.

I didn't really say that, but I just turned around and never spoke to him again while I told my kids that I loved their singing.

I know I've said it before, but I really hate it when random people interject their helpful ideas onto my children.  If my kid is running into oncoming traffic, yes, that's a different deal and much appreciated.  But if I'm hanging with annoying kid behavior in public for a short while, you can too.  We're at Target, not at a fine dining establishment.

And make no bones about it, I tell my kids to simmer down plenty, often with a few choice words...but that's my job, not anothers.

So as we were headed to the car, I snapped this shot of them, to remind myself that they're pretty awesome, even if from time to time, they annoy me and other crazy Target shoppers.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Fail Better

I can't remember what I was listening to...

but I do remember that I was driving and I was alone and it was glorious.

You know those moments where you're zoned on autopilot, driving to some location that you could navigate to in your sleep and all of a sudden, you hear something in the background that catches your attention.

It must have been a program on NPR and the interviewer was quoting the famous Irish playwright, Samuel Beckett, to which he said,

"Ever tried.  Ever failed.  No matter.  Try again.  Fail again.  Fail better."

And I was riveted. 

Lately, I've been passionate about the concept of imperfection.  After so many moons of needing to be in control, worried about what others think or how I'm perceived, I've decided that the messy life full of authentic, real, raw relationships is the place I want to be.

I just simply don't have the energy, the means or the interest in putting on a show.

That said, there are parts of me that want to get better and I find that when it gets down to it, I will push, but often stop when it's clear that if I push harder, I will most likely fail.

This happened to me during my most recent race.  I really wanted to PR or set a new personal record.  Once you run a race of a specific distance like a half marathon, you have a benchmark time.  Every subsequent race allows you the opportunity to run it faster or to arrive at a new PR.

Not knowing the course since the race was in its inaugural year, I decided that I would join a pace group.  The question was do I join the group that is 10 minutes faster than my current PR or 10 minutes slower?  Do I start fast and try to keep the pace or do I start slow, conserve my energy and then shoot out of the gate with a few miles left?

I started with the slower pace group because this is who I am at heart...radically fearful that I won't be able to hack the pace.  And then literally less than two miles in, I took off, because that's also the person I am, fearful that I won't actualize my full potential if I don't and not very good at staying the course.

I was jamming for the first 10 miles and then, the monotony of the course hit, my mojo started waning and all of the sudden, I saw my original pace group not far behind me.  Instantaneously, I kicked it into gear and ran as hard as I could vowing that I would leave everything I had on the course.

I PR'd but only by two minutes...not a huge win, but encouraging nonetheless.

In 2014, my mantra was "Fuck Fear."  It served me well.  I ran my first marathon, a 78-mile relay race and a half marathon.  I started writing more.  And I got closer to pushing the envelope with relationships that were important to me.

In 2015, I'm leaning towards, "Fail better."  I want to go bigger, bolder, harder knowing that I'm absolutely going to fall on my face in the process, but that there won't be any regrets hanging by the wayside.

I read today that Sam Simon, co-creator of The Simpsons is dying of colon cancer.  He's giving his $100 million fortune away to charity.  At the age of 59, he said that cancer, while painful and heart breaking teaches you very quickly about what's important.  And it's not money.  It's going after what makes your heart sing and helping others pursue their dreams along the way.

Maybe we should all seek to fail better.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Good Life Halfsy

It had been an extraordinarily busy week.

And of course, I had a jam-packed weekend and could not fall back asleep after I woke up this morning at 2:30.

Today was race day.  My last half marathon of the year and I was full of jitters.

I stumbled into the kitchen and turned on the coffee pot while I fumbled to light a candle and breathe.

Pouring mountains of cream into my coffee and dumping granola into my yogurt, I sat at the kitchen table and tried to remind myself that I'm stronger than I know and that I can endure and I will do this.

Here's me all anxious before we made the trek to Lincoln for the half.

Because the race started at 9am and the kids really love the environment, we decided to take them.  They had fun making signs and getting their water bottles and snacks ready.  I was surprised by how remarkably helpful and engaged they were.  The travel in the car seemed to be going swimmingly. 

Until, my three-year old, Claire quietly said, "I need to go to the bathroom," and then 2.2 seconds later, threw up all over the only outfit that I had for her...which seemed to cause a perpetual chain reaction for her brother and sister who began simultaneously screaming..."ROLL DOWN THE WINDOWS!!!! ....I THINK I'M GOING TO BE SICK!"

We high tailed it into a local fast food joint.  My husband cleaned the car and I cleaned Claire.

With moments to spare, I made it to the start line a little frazzled, but equipped with plenty of hugs, kisses, prayers and encouragement from my fam.  Lesson chocolate milk and iPad usage first thing in the morning on a long car ride.

Sans kids, I saddled up to the start line and thanked God for the beautiful weather, the amazing crowd and the fact that other than a yucky chaf wound from my camelbak, I was starting a race injury free.  It was glorious.

The clock started.  I clicked my Garmin.  Turned up my tunes and started breathing through the fear.

The following are pics of me along the route...

Here's two miles in...

This is six miles in...

Along the way, my favorite signs were:

"Clearly, you can endure...Call Me!" and "Toenails are for Sissies," which was lovely given that I'm a pro at losing them.

All in all, I couldn't believe it, I was running like a rock star and feeling amazing.  All of it was a gift. And then up and over a big hill and through the finish line...a medal and yummy food.

Here's my family...

They were the best part.

So, now, I have to decide what to do in 2015.  What races should I try?  Another full?  A different state?  There's lots of options.  While I may not know what the new year will bring me, I do know that pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone and staring fear in the face is an incredible gift.  And for that reason alone, I'll always find myself at a starting line with the hope of crossing the finish line.

Thank you Good Life Halfsy.  You were good to me.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

For the Love of Kate

Most everyone who meets her knows that she is my daughter and I am her mother.

This is Kate.

 And this is us.
We are literally two peas in a pod...similar voices, mannerisms and communication styles...there is no denying that we belong to each other.

Except when we're trying to get things done and my house sounds like this...

"KATE....K.A.T.E....where are YOU?  Have you brushed your teeth and laid out your uniform and grabbed your shoes?"

Oh yeah, mama...don't worry...I'm coming.  (ensue singing or humming or reciting of a prayer or a talk between two fairies.)

"For the love of all that is good and holy, Kate...where are you and why haven't you done what I've asked?  We're going to be late."

That's right, problem...I'm on it.

And this is the story of my life with her.  I live 99% of my life in the future and she lives 99.99% of her life smack dab in the present.  She is a budding artist, a constant repurposer of every material she can get her hands on, a dancer, a singer, an illustrator, a lover of color and fabric and a thinker of really big, really bold ideas.

She is not a multi-tasker, a strategist, an activist or a do-er.  No, she is in love with every detail of every moment exactly right now and the concept of time or projects to be completed alludes her.

How can this be?  We're cut from the same cloth.  She's my mini-me.  We're two peas in a pod, right?

And so it was last night as we were trying to finish up a First Reconciliation workbook that I lost it.

"You're not paying attention.  Focus on what we're doing.  You don't need to spend so much time drawing the pictures.  It's the words that matter."

And then I stopped.

I looked into her eyes and she was deflated.  Crushed.  Exhausted.

And I was so upset with myself and my response.  How cruel of me.

Kate's entire world is pictures, color, moments, details.  My world is words.

I turned to her, grabbed her arms, held her and said, "I'm sorry.  I promise to stop rushing you.  Show me what you're creating."  And her face lit up.

Laying in bed last night, I realized that God brings us the people we need on purpose.  While Kate might look like me in many ways, she is Kate and I am Kelly.  She teaches me to appreciate the beauty and the miracle of the here and now.  And maybe I help her to organize the beautiful mess along the way.

I love her to pieces and have to remember that God gave her to me for a short time not to mold in my image, but to help foster her own. 

Because of who we are individually but also interdependently, I see many "show down" moments in the future.  I just have to remember at the end of the day that a hug, an I'm sorry and the belief that it's most important to be who you are trump the necessity to be controlling over another, especially someone you love so much.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Mama to Mama Encouragement

There aren't very many people grocery shopping at 9am when you drop your kiddo off at preschool.

There's no line at the in-store Starbucks.

No one's rushed at the deli counter, so they actually smile at you when you take your time to assess which meats and cheeses are on sale.

It's quiet, so you can mindfully check items off your list and methodically make your way aisle by aisle to gather the specific things you want, instead of scooping up shit and throwing it into the cart just to get the hell out of there.

Instead of feeling exhausted, you feel accomplished.

You carefully place your items onto the conveyor belt grouped by how you want them packaged, not stressed by which child is going to whine the loudest for Starburst or worse yet, those God awful, suckers that look like pacifiers...they disgust me.

No, shopping sans kids is a beautiful thing.

So, when I passed a mom in the produce section with a young toddler and a brand new baby who was crying that horrible, gut wrenching, won't stop sob that indicates that they don't want to be in the car seat or are terribly hungry or both...I gotta admit, the first thought that popped into my head was...

Sucks to be you.

I'm so done with and over the baby days.  And even though my purse still resembles a glorified diaper bag, it does not have a single tube of ointment or bottle or wet wipe to speak of.  Praise Jesus.

Gathering my apples and bananas, I high tailed it into the meat section joyfully tuning out the cries of the infant.  Sipping my Americano, I continued to gather my items and think about what I wanted my day to look like feigning some semblance of control.

And then, I got to the check out line.

She had beat me there.  And God help her, she had her hands full in every way.  Her toddler was screaming for candy.  Her baby was still crying, except that now, she was trying to hold him with one hand while putting the food items on the conveyor belt trying not to drop anything.

I have been there so many times.  I know exactly how it feels.  It is a gut wrenching, sucky, sucky spot to be in and there's nothing you can do except endure it until you can get out to the car to nurse the baby and give the kid his bag of M&M's.

So, I just decided to speak up.

Sucks, doesn't it.

She flipped around with a look of horror.  "I'm sorry."

Oh God...don't be.  You're in the thick of it.  The trenches.  I have three of my own.

"Really? I've only taken them both to the store alone once.  I knew I shouldn't have tried it this morning."

You're doing an amazing job.  I nearly strangled my oldest when he threw a tantrum while I was trying to rock the baby and get the food out of the store.  And really, the only way it gets better is to keep taking them.  Keep practicing.  But really, you look amazing.

"Thank you.  I needed that."

I felt so happy unloading my groceries.  This, I thought.  This is what we need to do.  We've got to build each other up as mamas.  The whole deal sucks at any given time.  It's enough to drive you to fill in any addiction you want.  So, more than ever, we must encourage instead of judge.  It's only been a few years for me since I was in that spot.  It's no fun.  But it's doable and so worth it.

All that said, I was still so, so happy to get in the car and turn on NPR instead of Vacation Bible School songs.  Oh sweet no children bliss.

Friday, October 31, 2014


Everywhere I turn lately,

I'm hearing messages about the importance of "showing up," even if, or especially if, I'm not prepared, perfect, or in bullet-proof form ready to embrace the opportunity in front of me.

So, as I was preparing my kiddos for their Halloween festivities this weekend...

Side Note: Claire is Snow White. Kate is "Toothless," from the book series "How to Train Your Dragon."  And Sam is a Master Ninja. 

I was mindful of the ways that we project who we are to the world.  The masks that we wear particularly, when we're feeling unsure or afraid.  The disguises that help us to navigate uncharted territory.

What do we want them to think?  Are we tough?  Bookish?  Funny?  Beautiful?  Whimsical?  Successful?  In high-demand?  How much work do we put into the shell instead of letting the raw hang out there for everyone to react the way that they will?

I've recently stumbled upon a blog and New York Times best selling author that I love.  Glennon Doyle Melton.  Her blog is Momastery and her book is  Carry On Warrior.  It's really off-the-charts fabulous.  A compilation of her blog excerpts, she cultivates an appreciation for what it means to "show up" even when none of it makes sense, feels good, or was a part of the plan...whatever the plan was.  She's down to earth, real, raw and for me, completely relatable.

Immediately, it struck a chord.  How many times do I tell myself that I'll begin (insert project or activity) when I'm (insert conditional behavior).  For example, I'll swim at the pool with my kids when I lose 10 pounds.  Until then, I'll take them, but I won't take off my cover-up or get into the water.  I'll start looking for another job or work on my resume after the first of the year.  I'll call to talk to a friend about how they're doing post the divorce once I give them some more time to process it.  And then, you realize that it's been a month or six months.  And you run into that friend in the grocery store and you're embarrassed that you haven't reached out.  Or you realize that your kids don't want to swim with you anymore, they're more interested in their friends.

One of the comments that I hear about my blog is that it's crazy how I'm willing to be so personal or so vulnerable with the world.  And am I not worried that a potential future employer will be doing their due diligence and stumble upon my dirty laundry.  I did worry about that for a bit.  I wondered why it was so easy to share the parts of me that many would reserve only for a close-knit group of folks.

And then I realized that our entire human existence is based on being vulnerable.  If the only reason that we are here is to love, well, there is no greater place of vulnerability and truth than in the land of love.

And after plenty of time in corporate and not-for-profit environments and now at home, I've decided that my life is too short to spend it in a mask walking up and down halls in and out of meetings trying to be something that I'm not.

I am who I am.  Messy, imperfect, contradictory, hopeful, beautiful, frustrating, and loving.  I am here for a reason.  Unfortunately, I don't know for how long.  So, my purpose is to spend my time being as vulnerable, as true to "me" as I can be for the benefit of my Master Ninja, "Toothless" dragon and Snow White princess.

And when I think about that, it's really not that hard at all.  It's kind of freeing.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Growth Through Stillness

I had to take a break.

A bit of a time out.

It started last Friday night when my husband and son went on a boyscout camping trip while my middle daughter went to a birthday party and my youngest went to sleep.

I decided that I didn't have anything more to give.  So, I checked out.  I can't remember the last time that I didn't do a long run on a weekend or gather a load of laundry to be washed or find my way to our church for mass or really make my way to the shower.

I just stopped and decided to try-on being quiet for a while.

I treated myself to what 81-year old actress Ellen Burstyn (Alice Doesn't Live Here) calls "shouldless days." Moments that are owned by no one except for you.

It was delicious and scary and exciting and foreign to be alone.

In that time, I found a quote by Pema Chodron that hit home and helped me to remember that more often than I think, I must slow down, ground myself, and be reminded of what is most important.

So even if the hot loneliness is there, and for 1.6 seconds, we sit with that restlessness when yesterday, we couldn't sit for even one, that's the journey of the warrior.

Not that I fancy myself a warrior in the slightest, but I do believe that life is a journey that sometimes, must be endured.

What I do know that I am a master at is giving every reason under the sun as to why I shouldn't be quiet.

Quiet is a luxury...a place for people who do not have children or who's kids are grown and out of the nest.

There's really too much to do.

It's irresponsible to spend time by myself not doing something that will aid my family.

It's boring.

If I'm quiet, I'll fall asleep.

But sometimes, the body, the mind, and the heart just give out. And you have no choice.

You're forced to sit in the silence.

And, it's a good thing.

And after you fight it with everything you have, you realize that you're not solving the problems of the world, but your nervous system is calming down.  The world around you feels less chaotic.  You are safe.  You are enough.  You are loved.  And all will be well.  Really, all is well.

You emerge knowing in your soul that true growth emanates from stillness.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Demystifying the Bad Stuff

This week has been a bit of a blur.

Coming and going.  Managing homework, field trips, housework, volunteer

So, it was particularly enjoyable last night around the dinner table with my family.

Our oldest had just come home from a really fun field trip and was sharing everything he'd learned.  Our middle had gone on two field trips the prior day and was chiming in and our baby, well, she was singing, disrobing and adding in her two cents whenever she felt like it.

But it was my son's comment that struck me.

"Mom, when is it okay to say a bad word?"

Tell me what you mean.

"I don't know.  It's okay."

No, really.  Is there a bad word you heard that you want to say?

"I guess so.  Someone said (and he spelled out the following...)" H*O*L*Y  S*H*I*T and I guess sometimes, it's on the tip of my tongue to say...I*D*I*O*, I was just wondering when it's when I'm a grown up?"

These are good questions.  I guess Dad and I have a policy that if you're ever curious about trying something out or wondering what it feels like to do something, we'd prefer if you tell us and then, as best as we can (not in all situations), we'll let you try it on here first.  So, do you want to say I*D*I*O*T?  It's okay, if you do.  Say it 10 times or 20...but only here.

"Nope.  I'm good.  I was just wondering."

As the kids filed away from the table and I started loading the dishwasher, my husband started laughing and said, "How about smoking crack?  Maybe a three-some?  Okay, Okay...just a little heroin?"

For fuck sake, I'm just trying to keep the lines of communication open, the house a safe place to try on the things you're not supposed to and well, cut me some slack.

He couldn't stop laughing and neither could I.

I have a feeling that bigger kids are just going to mean bigger stresses.

Maybe we should pray that they just stay little for a little longer.

Here's to saying douche canoe and ass hat as many times as you want to at home, maybe just not the crystal meth.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Case of the Withering Sock Monkey

I'm getting ready to run my last race of the year.

It's a half marathon in it's inaugural year and as such, the course looks really fantastic.

Filled with fun landmarks, rolling hills, good people and hopefully, a little more fall-like, beautiful weather, I think it will be a great way to end 2014.

In an effort to let anxiety and expectations go, I've been drinking out of a coffee mug to help bring me back to the basics.

It boasts a well known quote, but a good one.

it does not mean to be in a place
where there is no noise, trouble
or hard work. it means to be in
the midst of those things and still
be calm in your heart.

Post this last Half, I have to decide what to do next.

I turn 40 in 2015 and have an opportunity to run another marathon, take my hand at a triathlon or focus on 10K races to try to increase my speed.

A friend recently mentioned that I should keep running because I love it so much and try to publish an essay or submit a piece to "Modern Love," my favorite column in The New York Times.

Her words were...writers write...just like runners run.

And why not?  There's nothing to lose.  You'll never look back and wish that you hadn't tried.

And then she saw, my older son Sam's well loved, in need of being mended, sock monkey...


and said, "See, that will be you, if you don't do something that is just your own outside of your family, over time, little bits will fall out."

Oh, for the Love of God, I retorted.  I do plenty that's just mine.

"No really, you need to have something that you dedicate time, effort, passion, and elbow grease to that at the end of the day can only be claimed for yourself...or pretty soon, you're going to be the real life living case of that pathetic sock monkey."

Oh Christ...(laughing)'re so fucking melodramatic.

"I'm just saying...we only live once.  How are you going to make that big heart of yours proud?"

And then, she left.

Damn it.  She's kind of right.

What will I do that will be all mine?  Particularly if it doesn't involve full-time work for some years to come.

Alright, here's to Walt Whitman...

"That you are here—that life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.”

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

An Afternoon at the Forest

I am the co-leader for my second grader's Brownie Troop.

It's really a very fun gig.  We get to sing, dance, create, serve and earn lots of badges.

Today, we spent the afternoon in Fontenelle Forest on a guided nature walk earning our Outdoorsmanship badge.

It was, well, nothing short of spectacular.

This time of year makes the Forest even more stunning than it normally is.

Miss Kathy taught us how to locate poison ivy, different forms of scat, which kinds of birds make what kinds of nests (the hawk's nest was the favorite), the in's and out's of Daddy Long Leg spiders, what to do if you get lost in the wilderness and how to respect the home of the creatures who live in nature.

We were keen observers.

But the one thing that I kept coming back to as we traversed the paths and crunched the leaves and watched yellow, red, and golden orange bits fall from the sky is that we're such a small part of all of this incredible world.  We have an important responsibility to respect each other, to use the earth's resources wisely and to observe rather than to collect.  Our job is to notice and to admire, not to amass.  Be mindful of what is there, but leave it in it's rightful place.  Don't take what is not yours.

And so, as Kate and I were driving home, I shared this quote with her...

Because truly, we are the most aligned, healthiest, peaceful parts of ourselves when we let go and embrace the natural world around us.

Here's to an afternoon in the Forest.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Star of the Week

This little munchkin is Star of the Week at her preschool. 

If you don't know what that is...well, every child in the class gets one week during the school year to share who they are and what they are most known for...they bring a poster from home that highlights their favorite food, song, book, color....who their siblings and pets are...and, what they want to be when they grow up.

To which, my little 3-year old Claire Bear announced, "I want to be a mommy when I grow up."

Wow, I retorted.  That's fantastic!  Maybe, you'll be a mommy and a research scientist or an author?

"Nope...just a mommy.  I want to make macaroni and cheese and brownies and cookies and pumpkin muffins and chocolate shakes and go to the park and sing Old McDonald Had a Farm and paint nails and play My Little Ponies and go to the library."

How many kiddos do you want to have in your family?

"Um, like 22, I think.  And a dog.  I really, really want to have a pet."

And will you yell at your children?

"Yes, and give them a hug when they cry and tell them to make a positive choice."

I think you can be a mommy after you go to grade school and then high school and then undergraduate and graduate school and study abroad in at least two countries, deal?

"That's a long time away."

Yes, yes, it is.  But I think you'll find that it will be worth the wait.

"Well, maybe I don't want to do that.  I think I want to work at Starbucks."

Now, you're talking.  That's acceptable, as long as you give me limitless supplies of free coffee.


Monday, October 20, 2014

To Sorrow is To Live

I don't know where you live, but here in the midwest, the weather is stunning.

The leaves are turning extraordinary shades of abundant red, orange and yellow.  The temperature is mild and the sun, at least for the past several days has been shining.

So, on my way to the gas station and the grocery store this morning, I was smiling in gratitude. 

I needed to.  I'd been moping a bit.  Care taking for my two daughters who have been down for the count with the flu and now feeling badly that my husband has caught the bug. 

Just as I rounded the bend, out of the blue, a friend sent a text to tell me that she was grateful for the spirit of joy I bring to her life.  I was astounded and probably looked like a dip shit with big tears in my eyes at the gas pump.  We exchanged a few messages; one in which, I lamented about how sometimes life isn't fair and that certain things don't add up.

That's when she sent me this:

"Joyfully participate in the sorrow of living," Buddha.

And then, a moment later, this popped up in my in-box.

As I was throwing ingredients into the grocery cart to make chicken noodle soup, apple crisp and pumpkin muffins, I started throwing it around in my head.  It makes sense.  There are so many attachments, desires, cravings, fears that we walk around harboring.  Some of them will be actualized and some of them will not.

I suppose, our job is not to wallow in the parts of us that don't work out the way that we yearn, but rather to learn to live with the outcome, the season, the challenge, the trial with joy.

Essentially, to relish as best we can in the sorrow, the failure, the shortcoming, the hurt and to trust that it is temporary.

And maybe to be reminded that

Here's to friends and falling leaves and quiet moments of solitude that let us know we're not alone in our journey.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Why We Do It

Yep, that's a picture of my foot and my blackened toe.

I'm gonna lose another one.

This will be my fourth casualty in the love of running.

When I inadvertently showed my friend the other day, she said, "Why in the Hell do you do that shit? Haven't you suffered from like every running injury known to man?  Maybe, we're just too old."

And, well, she's kinda right.  I've had shin splints, IT band issues, hamstring, knee and heel pain, lost toe nails and now, some unknown throbbing pain on the top of my right foot. 

So, I started thinking about it.  Why do I do it? Maybe running is just too hard on the body, particularly the older you get and if you were never really an athlete in the first place.

Then, because being a mama is my primary role in life, I started likening motherhood to running. 

Being a mother is not easy, by any stretch.  There are days when I come out of the trenches looking far worse for the wear with very little reward to show for it minus the fact that my children are alive and I am too...but just barely.  I've suffered infinite scrapes and bruises to my heart and my ego, continuous amounts of sleep deprivation, hair pulling, back talking, eye rolling, screaming, crying, gnashing of the teeth...and that's just getting started.

But after nine years of doing this gig with three kiddos, I've also experienced a love that is unparalleled by anything else.  And I would walk through fire for any one of them every day and twice on Tuesday.

And well, it's worth it.

Just like running.  When it starts to hurt or gets to be a bit overwhelming, you back off, try a new route, ice down the worn parts, ibuprofen the inflammation, and then, well you get back on the horse.

Because the high that comes from the endorphins, the adrenaline, the release of toxins and unnecessary stress is really, well for me, unparalleled by anything really, other than, wait for it, wait for  You knew that I had to say it.

For now, I'm stuck with the ugly parts of me like blackened toe nails, chaffing and sore quads.

As well as the sassy comments from the littles when they're overstimulated, undernourished, irritated at the world, or just in a funk...but sooner, rather than later, I'm reminded of why we do what we's so worth it.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Sacred Time

I picked up my middle child sick from school yesterday.

She came down with the dreaded flu that her younger sister most likely gave to her or any of the other kiddos in her class at school.

High fever, chills, no appetite, exhaustion.

After a night of alternating ibuprofen and acetaminophen, we both woke up tired.

I turned on the coffee and she grabbed a blanket and the couch.

Wringing out the wash cloth with really cold water, grabbing the Gatorade and making the toast, I thought, I can't run, not for 10 miles.

My phone said that the temp was 41 degrees.  Perfect. The sun was masked but only slightly by the clouds and I had new songs on my playlist.  And I only had a short window, my son had a flag football game, so I had to be back in an hour and a half.

Scarfing down a banana and grabbing my gear, I left.  And I ran and I ran and I ran.  Never stopping until I made it home.  It was glorious.  There really is nothing better than running in the fall.

But then, I came home and Kate's fever had spiked again and she was miserable.  We laid down together and took a long nap, but right before we fell asleep, she said, "Thanks for taking care of me, mama."

Always, I love you.

"I love you too.  And when you get sick, I'll take care of you."

To which, I instantly transported myself to end of life thoughts and thought about my daughter putting cold wash cloths on my head until I could no longer bear it.

This time is sacred.  There's no question that pop up illnesses are inconvenient and detour us from the plans we've made, but they are brief, gentle reminders to slow down and to serve those we love. It really is one of the holiest things we can do for each other.

Here's to her fever breaking and hot coffee in the morning.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Kicking Ass Taking Names

"Are you home?  I'd love to swing by and bring you a coffee..."

"Shit...I'm already in the Starbucks drive through (shocker) and on the way to the library with my Claire Bear. Want to meet us?"

"On my way."

I feel extraordinarily blessed to have really great friends in my life.  Friends who are loyal.  Friends who are funny, witty, beautiful, and filled with a shit ton of wisdom. 

And this friend is particularly incredible.  I've taken to calling her the Phoenix.  Give her any set of circumstances and she will rise above the ashes and gracefully shine in the process.

And so while watching Claire gather her stuffed animal friends and gazads of books, we talked about the potential suitors in her life, taking care of our bodies, and possible career opportunities.

I told her that now that my kiddos are getting bigger, I'm trying to incorporate all of the parts of me that remind me most of "me" while still being a wholly committed wife and mother.  So, hopefully, the kick ass and take names academic and career-driven woman that I remember from my 20's still has a place in my life...if only modified and hopefully, a bit wiser and less insecure.

She agreed.  And said that she's pursuing a really fabulous job recognizing that now is the time in her life to go a bit more full throddle in the career department.  "What do have to lose?  I can do my best and if I hate it, I'm not wed to it. I can do something else. That's the best part about being older and wiser.  You realize that you do have what it takes, you just have to decide if it's really what you want."

Bingo.  I've been lamenting this whole getting older pushing my fortieth birthday thing and really for what?  It's got to be true that with age comes experience and with experience comes perspective and with perspective comes preference and ultimately, when you've landed where you feel most engaged, utilized and happy in your heart, you know that you're where you're supposed to be...which is the really what it's all about.

So, in the final moments of 2014, I reassert my New Year's resolution, "Fuck fear." Go out and do your thing.  Kick ass and take names in whatever way you need to show up in your life.  What do you have to lose?  Nothing other than a big bag of regrets.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Next Right Thing

Do you ever feel like you're perpetually "off the wagon?"

I'm not sure what the triggers, temptations, or burdens are for you...

but for me, they look a lot like procrastination, not taking the high road instead, throwing a temper tantrum when I should just bite my tongue, eating too much chocolate or potato chips, indulging in too much Starbucks, coveting my neighbor's stuff or the girl who is off the charts fit at the gym, and not following through with my commitment to run regularly and to take care of myself.

For some friends, it's having too much wine in the evening too often, taking a trip that they really can't afford, fantasizing a little too regularly about a different life, or spending too much time with a screen in front of their face instead of the ones they love.

Whatever it is...we all know what plagues us and that we wish we had more will power and stamina to change.

So, the other night when I was throwing a pity party for myself about my weight, my inability to keep my running on track and my frustration with being on this ridiculous rat wheel for too long, my husband just turned to me and said, "It's easy. Just do the next right thing."

So, put the M&M's down.  Pick up the glass of water.  Lay out your running clothes.  Set your alarm.  Forgive yourself for the past.  Choose differently.  At any point, you always get the opportunity to behave differently. Just decide and then do the next right thing.

I thought it was brilliant.  Obnoxiously obvious, but really right on the money and applicable to every situation in life.

At any given time, we know what we could be doing instead of what we are doing.  So the task is first to stop.  That's it.  Just stop.  Enough already.

And then, do what you're supposed to do.

Because the truth is, we feel better when we find ourselves taking the high road again and again. 

Easier said than done, I know.  But sometimes, we just have to be reminded that we can, if we choose to, do the right thing.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

We've Forgotten

After picking up the kids from school one day last week, we headed to get smoothies.

Laughing and exchanging stories, our car pulled up to a red light.

A girl who looked to be in high school was standing on the corner with a sign that said, "Hungry."

My 9-year old son was visibly shaken.

We sat next to her completely silent until the light turned green.

I had no cash...not even a granola bar or a fruit snack to offer.

Feeling his pain, I asked him how seeing her made him feel..."really, really sad...where's she gonna go tonight?"  I just looked at him.

This morning at the grocery store, I watched a woman throw receipts and gum wrappers from her purse onto the ground.  I picked them up and put them in the trash.

At the check out lane, the man in front of me was frenetic.  In a hurry, he was irritated that the cashier wasn't keying in the produce numbers fast enough and that the baby to our left was crying.  He hemmed and hawed and told her to just throw it all in a bag.  "I've gotta get to work."

At the post office, a couple was in line behind me and the wife was furious.  "You said you were gonna do this last week.  Now, it's gonna be late.  You call and tell them."  He never stopped looking at his shoes and she kept at it for what felt like forever.  As I was leaving, I smiled at him, as if to say, hey, the sun's shining.  It's gonna be okay.

In the mix of the chaos, the busyness, the pace of our lives, we've forgotten...what we mean to each other...which is everything.

There are a myriad of reasons for not giving someone on the street corner your loose change.  I know, I've heard them all.  But I'm certain that somewhere, at sometime, someone gave something to you that they didn't have to, that maybe you were entirely undeserving of...just because.  And that act of generosity, of kindness, of good faith made a difference.

Likewise, you're just an asshole if you treat the cashier at any retail joint poorly.  You have no idea what it took to get them out their own door to most likely a shitty paying job that has to serve ass hats like you with a smile on their face.  And really, at some point in your life, you have to serve another, so why not be nice while you're being served.

As we all walk around trying to figure out why we're here, my hope is that sooner, rather than later, we realize that it's not to make money.  It's not to have a specific title on a business card.  It's not to amass things.  It's not to thwart power.

The only reason that we're truly here is to love one another.  That's it.  Not perfectly, not flawlessly, not always unconditionally...but with a spirit that says, you are just as valuable as I am.

And so, even though it was hard, I'm glad that my son was visibly shaken by the young homeless girl.  Even if she has a phenomenal scam business, it's clear that she's not in a good spot, physically and emotionally.  I hope my son never becomes immune to seeing poverty and what it looks like to be void of connection, love and hope.

At the end of the day, we've got to remember that we belong to each other.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Stomach Flu and Ariana Grande

She woke up from a nap yesterday ready to hurl.

I felt so badly.  It's no fun to be three and have the stomach flu.

But we held her hair back and she did what she needed to do.

And then proceeded to spend the rest of the night on the couch watching episodes of "Wild Krats" while drinking Gatorade and being very hot.

It was a long night and so, I opted to not run this morning...which even when it seems like the right thing to do, always finds a way to bite me in the ass.

And so, after playing countless games of Sorry, Sequence For Kids, Zingo, Mommies and Babies and reading "Where the Wild Things Are" and doing all of the voices, I took a break.

A friend brought a venti Americano to my abode and I sucked it my kitchen...while putting the dishes away...with my headphones on...belting out this song.

And that's when you came in..."Why do you have one less problem without me?"

I started to laugh until I realized that you really felt sad.  I took out my headphones and played the song for you and told you it was just a fun song to run to...and then, we danced to this one...until I realized that was probably the wrong thing to do when your tummy isn't feeling the best.

In the end, we're choosing to shake off the blues of the stomach flu and I am willing this shit out of my home.  It's too early in the season...sickness be gone.  I've got one less problem without ya.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Harvesting a Story

Pumpkin muffins are cooling on the counter.

A candle is burning...a hot cup of coffee in my hand.

Rain is sputtering out my window and lots of colorful leaves are falling to the ground.

I know what this means. 

Fall is saying goodbye.

And I'm melancholy working on my short story.

Trying to do what Anne Lamott teaches in "Bird by Bird," which is to develop your characters first and then let them dictate what the plot will be.  But it's hard.

I've lived with these characters for a little while.  I take them on my runs with me.  I think about what they eat, who their friends are, what makes them belly laugh, what secrets linger in their souls that they don't share with their closest confidants, who they want to be when no one's judging them, what lies in their pockets, which street they live on and who loves them.

I've got a pretty good sense of who they are as people, but it's who they are to each other that seems to be the challenge.

That, and trusting that their connection will converge a tale worth spinning and sharing with at least one other person in the world.

And this is when I want to stuff a million M&M's into my face and scream, "Writing is stupid.  It takes too much time.  No one cares.  It doesn't pay the bills.  At it's best, only a handful of folks appreciate it.  And, woe is me."

Ridiculous, I know.  It's not finding a cure for cancer.  It's not mentoring a child.  It's not shoveling a walk for an elderly neighbor.

It's writing...a short story for God sakes.

So as the leaves continue to fall, I quietly beg them, please hold on...just for a few more weeks.  Stick with me and inspire me.  Help me to see these people come to life and to know what and who they are to the world...much the same as I'm trying to figure out my own place in the grand scheme.

And let me be patient with the unknown and the unseeable and trust in Nietzche:

“One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.”

Here's to harvesting a story.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Market 2 Market Magic

I lucked out.

In every way imaginable.

This was my second year participating in a 79-mile Market 2 Market (M2M) relay race from Omaha to Lincoln, Nebraska.

If you've never done one of these deals before, it's an absolute blast.  Over 500 teams gather in vehicles, many of which are decorated (both the cars and the people) in hysterical themes like the Victoria's Secret Panty Wagon, the CDC Rapid Response Team and the Smurfs.  One by one, runners jump out of their cars carrying a baton to run 2-5 miles per stage with a total of 21 different exchange points across eastern Nebraska until your team completes 79 total miles of running.

You traverse stunning trails, beautiful rural scenery, loads of small towns and end up in fabulous downtown Lincoln for beer, music and celebration.

This year was truly amazing.

The weather was spectacular.  The high was 60 degrees with loads of sunshine and the perfect amount breeze.

But hands down, what made it the best, were my team mates.  Here we are:

Meet Sarah...she's "St. Patrick's Day"...the one in green and yellow on the left and the youngest one of the bunch..she indulged me while I gave her a speech about why she wasn't allowed to get married until she turned 30 and how she needed to travel, buy frivolous shit and have lots of sex before she tied the knot.

Then there's me...I'm cupid or "Valentine's Day"...I'm holding a bow and arrow and flung lots of phrases like vaginal secretion and sweet Mary Mother of God's at the team...they were all good sports about it.

Now, onto Deb, she's "Fourth of July" and probably the nicest person on the face of the earth.  A nurse and mother of three, she gave everyone lots of positive reinforcement and a swift kick in the ass when we needed to get our run on.

And then adorable, Ann...she's the yellow "Easter" Bunny.  She laughed at all my jokes and drank copious amounts of beer in the car once her hamstring bit it after her last run.  And she was my pee partner.  We pissed behind trees at an exchange point and looked out for each other.

Oh God...then meet the team captain, Jessica "Jess"...she is "Christmas" and this bitch will light you up.  She is hysterical.  She was the primary driver and took shit from no one.  She would mow your ass down when it came time to get us from point A to point B and then drank everyone under the table post the shin dig.  We love you, Jess!

Laura...AKA scary as shit "Halloween"...this Catholic High School teacher had more tricks up and down her sleeves...a bone in her hair, a snake in her sock, a spider on her leg and cob webs up and down her chest...she was lightning speedy and got the job done...the Smurfs didn't stand a chance.

And then there's Chad or "Memorial Day" friend from high school that I recruited to join our crazy band of bitches. While you're lucky to get three words out of him the whole car ride, when it comes to charging your phone, making sure that you don't get lost on the course, and that sub 7-miles were accumulated...he's your man.  Here's a fun picture of us.  We spent time lamenting that we're turning 40 this year.

Missing from the photo because she was on the race course is Melissa or "Cinco de Mayo"  She cracks my shit up.  She literally brought bacon and Vodka as fuel for the trek.  She was fast and determined.  No smurf was gonna smoke her ass.

The day was a super fun mix of twizzlers, peanut M&M's, almonds, bananas, Gatorade, fig newtons, Greek yogurt, dance music, sweaty stench (primarily courtesy of me), lots of cursing (again, hats off to me) and gazads of cheering.

But I would be remiss, if we didn't pay homage to the Testicle Festival Sign that we all modeled for. Glorious site, indeed.
By the time it was all said and done, we were worn out, but super "happy in our hearts."  The sun was going down.  We had Michelob Ultras in our hands, fun music playing in the background and an extraordinary sense of accomplishment. 

It was a great day to be a team of 7 girls and 1 guy staying healthy, getting a little crazy and remembering that life is for the living...but that ultimately, it takes a village to get there.  Love you, crazy cats.  Let's do it again next year!