Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Dash

Over Christmas break,

in between hosting family gatherings, catering to the uninvited stomach flu, making pots of chicken noodle soup, pans of banana bread and steaming cups of coffee, I couldn't get a movie line out of my head.

"There are two dates on your tombstone that friends and family will notice, but it's the dash between that counts."


For some, New Year's Eve is a time to get wildly inebriated.  They celebrate the year that was and raise a glass or several to what will be in the upcoming year, filled with so much hope and possibility.

For others, it's a time to be nestled at home, standing in gratitude for what was and wonderment at what the new year will bring.

For many, the resolution is to to lose least 10 pounds.  They buy work out wear, new running shoes, a smart watch, and tell their friends that they will meet them at the gym, come hell or high water.

Some say that they'll call their mom more and vow to spend less time at the office and more quality moments with their kids.  They won't miss another game.  They'll really listen, even when there's so much to do.

It's also a time to get rid of shit in your closet or desk fill Goodwill bags with jeans that aren't ever going to make it over your hips and sweaters that you can't bring yourself to wear.

I've been all of these resolvers at one time and many times, all at once.  So, while I was listening to the kettle boil in my kitchen, I thought about how I wanted to feel at the end of 2018, instead of exclusively what I wanted to do.

And the truth is, I want my dash to be filled with peace and purpose.


2017 brought dash marks that came too early for people that I really, really loved.  It brought me sadness and frustration and fear and uncertainty.  It made me mindful that mortality is real and that life is not a dress rehearsal.  It taught me to say "I love you" and to forgive because tomorrow is not a guarantee.  And still, I wrestle with whether there are real lessons learned or if it's just part of the "suckage" of life.

And I guess, some years are like that.  Times that you are just ready to leave behind.

But while there is no number, as of yet, on the right side of my dash, I wonder, what 2018 will bring?  When it delivers joy, will I celebrate?  When it hands me heartache, will I trust that God is still present?  And when it hints at possibility, will I be open?

It is this last question that I am most intrigued by.  How will I be available to what the future holds?   Will I strong arm the unknown and say, "No, that doesn't feel comfortable or knowable or imaginable or doable?"  Or, will I let it take up residence for a bit and give it a chance?  Will I automatically reject what it has to offer or how much work it will take to get there?  And when the idea or the feeling comes, will I believe that I am worthy of embarking upon it?

Everyone has a birth date.  And a death date.

And a dash.

It's the dash that counts.  No matter how short or long between.

How do you want this part of the dash to mean?  And at this time next year, will you look in the mirror and say, I let myself go for it.  I won some.  I lost others.  But I believed that it was worth it.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Ode to Claire on Your 7th Birthday

Dear Claire,

I walked into your bedroom at 7am singing, "Happy Birthday to you...Happy Birthday to you!"

Nestled under your covers, you murmured, "Did you see Holly?  Do you think she remembered that it's my birthday?"

Sure enough, Holly was situated on the piano, holding a number seven birthday candle and instantly, all was right with the world.

This is what happens when you have a birthday butted up to Christmas, you ask about your elf on the shelf.


Feisty, precocious, tenacious, determined, exhausting, irritable, creative...lover of all things big and loud, hot and are my hard to handle child.  You know what you want, when you want it and sometimes, all I want is for you to be quiet and just to do as I say.  But that doesn't sit right with you.  You won't be shushed or silenced.  Your voice matters and you're not afraid to make your intentions known.

Singing, as your piano teacher says, perfectly on pitch--you are a force in motion...always singing, dancing, swaying, skipping, strumming, striking, drawing, painting, and dreaming.  The world is your oyster and you see it as a space to bend, to mold, to maneuver into what you see as fit.

Lover of unicorns, horses, hedgehogs, dragons and Mo Willems books, you live your life in a wonderland of imagination.  You make up stories of characters who go on adventures with elves, fairies, mermaids and wizards.  You write poetry and paint images with detail and abandon.  And, I stand in awe.

Now, entering your fourth month of first grade, you are resolute that you will be a reader.  You try your best to sound out words phonetically, but in the end, your lack of patience gets the best of you.  And you just scream out, when it doesn't come easily....or, you make up your own words, because according to you, you could of written the book better.

Twirling in ballet, banging notes on the piano, riding your bike without training wheels, painting your toenails bright yellow and purple, your life is full and alive.

And even though, many times, we wish you would slow down or give us a little less attitude, we realize that at the core, you are unstoppable and we garner passion and energy from yours.  You teach us to let loose, to be free, and to grab what life has to offer--and when it's not enough--to make your own.

Everyday, we are grateful for your spirit, your smile and the way you make our hearts sing.

Here's to the seventh year...may it bring you more opportunities to chase the sun and to know just how deeply you are loved.

Love always,


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Will You Write Me?

She came toward me.

Smallish, silver-haired, bundled in a sweater, pushing a walker.

I was standing in front of my baubles, preparing my table for a holiday boutique, and she said,

"Hello, you must be Kathy's daughter.  I could see you from a mile away.  You're pretty and sweet, just like your mother."

I blushed and couldn't help myself and gave her a hug.

She was a resident at the beautiful assisted living facility that my mom works at and the host of the holiday fair.

She picked up a few of my vintage pieces and said, "This reminds me of something I would wear when Roger and I went dancing at the halls."  And then proceeded to share a story of 52-years of marriage, 8 children (one in Heaven), multiple grand and great grandchildren, a career at Central High School and a life on a block near Duchesne Academy that included parties, neighborhood walks and more friends (most of which are gone) than she could count.

After making a discerned purchase, she said, "Tell me about you."

And so, I did.  I told her about my husband, my children, my studies, my life as a mediator and now as an educator and a small business owner, my dreams.  And then she asked, "How old are you?"

I said, 42.  To which she replied, "I'm almost 50 years older than you and I can tell you, now is your time.  Don't squander it.  And when in doubt, trust in God."

Right then, other customers made their way to my table and she quietly left. 

Hours passed and I couldn't stop thinking about how honest and direct and well, how much ground we covered in a short conversation.  I just wanted to scoop her up and find a little coffee shop to talk more.  And then, I felt sad, remembering my own grandparents and I'd wished that I'd probed them more about their lives and lessons learned. 

And then, not long after, she reappeared.

"I was wondering," she asked shyly, "If you would write me?  I feel like you're more of a writer than a jewelry seller and well, maybe, we could be pen pals?  I have the time.  I'm sure you don't.  But I could teach you what I know."

I stood still and said, "Yes. I'll send a letter this week.  Here's my business card, so you can write, when you like."

As I was loading up my car, I began composing my letter,

Dear Esther,

Thank you for taking the time to share your life with me.  I could tell that it hasn't been easy living away from your husband and children and that you miss them.  I was grateful to hear about your legacy and the extraordinary life that you've lived in almost 90 years.  You have so much to be proud of and thankful for. 

I'd love to hear more about the dances in the halls and what it felt like to raise seven children and how you managed when you felt overwhelmed or unsure.

Mostly, I'd just like to be another person to share your life.

Love to you,


In a time when I do a lot to mitigate my aging, I am reminded that being connected to those who have come before me...particularly, strong, courageous a gift, an honor, and an opportunity, not to be squandered.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Help and Thank You

Every time an ambulance goes by, it's automatic.

I make the sign of the cross and begin,

"Hail Mary, full of grace.  The Lord is with thee..."

Before I put food into my mouth, it's habitual,

"Bless us Oh Lord and these thy gifts..."

As my children put their heads on their pillows and close their eyes, I say,

"Now, I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep..."

Prayers like these bring me comfort and the rote, ritual, habitualness of them grounds me.


When I was in college, a Philosophy major, I used to claim that religion was an opiate for the masses, a crutch, a place for people who didn't want to think...sheeps who wanted to be told what to do. I couldn't imagine giving anything over to God. 

The difference between being 22 and 42 is that significant amounts of life have transpired.  I have three children walking around the world, with parts of my heart beating inside of them, and I cannot control what happens.

And there are big chunks of my life that have no rational explanation.  There are things that cannot be bought, eaten, screamed or explained away.  They just are.  And everyone has them.  I think of them as big holes--places in our being that just don't add up--spots that feel broken or lonely or severed.  Maybe not all the time, but definitely upon reflection, some of the time.  And no matter what you do or consume or extricate, you can't make the feeling go away.

Likewise, there are miracles.  And we've all experienced them.  We can try to explain them with technology or modern medicine or fate or fortune or serendipity or happenstance or coincidence, but some things are too great to trust to circumstance.  And we wonder, how did this happen?  How can this be?


I didn't find and subsequently forge my relationship with God until I was 25...on my hands and knees on a cold apartment floor searching for answers, begging for a new beginning, searching for truth.

My initial prayers looked like, "Help me and thank you." They were the only things I knew to say.

I've later learned after becoming a ginormous Anne Lamott fan that her favorite prayers are, "Help, help, help and Thank you, thank you, thank you."  An extraordinary writer and observer of what it means to be a nonjudgemental human, she gets it. 

The God I pray to likes that I cuss.  It's okay that a good chunk of my prayers start out, "Get a fucking load out of this"...and then they turn into, what would you do if you were do I make this right...which path is best....I don't want to....I'm tired...I wish that...thank you for him....please, please help me to be better...promise me that it's going to be okay.

I pray on the way to the gym at 5am.  I pray in the shower.  I pray at night.  I pray while I'm cursing out the dip shit, ass wipe driver in front of me.  I pray when my kids are driving me up a fucking wall.  I pray when I'm really tired at night. 

I am no longer afraid to pray the right or the wrong prayer or the right or the wrong way.

I just pray....for me, for you, for us...and I do it because I have faith that my prayers mean something as I believe that my life and your life do.  And I try in that space to cry out for what I need and to be grateful for what and whom I've been given.  And I stand reminded that in a world spinning crazy, sometimes, Help and Thank you are all you need.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

I'm Here

When my nephew died, I stopped.

I refused to get up at 4:30am to run.

I couldn't bear to engage social media.

The idea of posting inspirational, life-giving mantras felt like a farce.

I ate anything I wanted, which included lots of milk chocolate and next to no vegetables.

I did only the things that I had to, my children's activities, laundry and grocery shopping.

And, I l stayed largely sad and sometimes, mad.  It's still incredibly hard for me to make sense of a life lost way too early.

But then yesterday, I went to the funeral mass of a dear friend's mother...another woman who passed away too early as well.

And while I was praying and crying, watching so many loved ones gathered to say goodbye to an incredible woman, I thought about the way that she lived her the hilt, brashly, boldly, fully and with laughter and fun.

And I thought, grief is grief and it probably won't ever go away, but it's time to live, because after all, I am a part of the living.  For many days, weeks, I thought it was a betrayal to laugh at things or post something flippant or silly, because really, doesn't the world remember and need to honor that someone really extraordinary has left us.

But I don't think that's how it works.  I think instead that you can be walking around dead, even though your heart is beating.  I think you can shut people and activities off that help you to rise to your best self.  I think you can lose sight that your one precious life is still available for whatever God has in store.

And that the real task is to live in the murk without letting the murk overtake you.  And this is no small feat.  It's hard to allow pain to move through you without letting it drown your being.  It's hard to look at pictures, video and to remember all that was so, so, so good and to know that those pictures are in the past.  And there is no rational explanation or sense to be trying is in and of itself, futile.

But what is paramount is to live.

And so today, I ran again.

I just finished writing this.

I ate vegetables.

I documented in my journal.

I shared coffee with a friend.

And I thought, Nathan would like this.  He would laugh that I even wasted a moment on thinking that I shouldn't.

He knows that my story is still being told and that so too is his through all of us...and that we have a responsibility and a gift to say, "Today, I'm here."  Here's to the unfolding, pain, laughter and all...

Monday, October 23, 2017

Remembering Nathan

Nathan was six years old when I met him.

The blondest haired, bluest eyed, biggest hearted little boy you've ever seen. He and his three-year old brother, Dylan were adorable.

We met when I started dating my now husband, Ray--their absolute favorite uncle.

The first grandchild of the family, Nathan was the one who made Ray an uncle.  Born in his freshman year of college, Ray loved having a little boy to hang with.  Sunday dinners. T-ball games. Super hero drawings. Rough housing.  Nathan's presence showed Ray that even though he didn't grow up with a dad, it wasn't so out of the realm of possibility that he could be one...and maybe, a really good one at that.

When he was 7 years old, his uncle Ray moved 1,447 miles east to be with me.  Shortly thereafter, we asked Nathan and his brother to be ring bearers in our wedding.  And once again, he looked adorable in a tuxedo, dancing the night away on the reception floor.

Over the years, from afar, we watched as he grew up to be academic force to be reckoned with, a star in every sport he played and a huge lover of his family and friends.  Every picture we got was of him smiling big with both his mouth and his eyes.  And most of the time, he was smiling at his mom, whom he loved to pieces.

On summer vacations to Disney, Colorado and Nevada, he was a daredevil...riding every roller coaster multiple times, cruising down the longest Alpine slide and maneuvering every water ride like it was his job...he was fearless and often, laughing the entire way.

About four years ago, we were on a run in Colorado.  As a newbie at running, I was huffing and puffing and he was indulging me as I tried to make my way down the trail alongside him.  He knew I was struggling to talk, so he slowed down and we watched the sun as I said, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"  He said, "I dunno know.  It's mostly the places I wanna go, not really what I want to be."  To which I replied, "You remind me in every way of your uncle, Ray.  So smart.  So fun and funny.  And so interested in seeing something outside of home.  I think you should see everything. "  And he said, "I hope to."

And so, it was the worst phone call to receive one week ago today, when we learned that Nathan had tragically passed away.  In a way that no one ever plans or expects.

Hours after we heard the news, we put my husband on a plane to get to his family as fast as he could.

And while my husband was flying, my three children and I sat in a circle and talked about Nathan being in Heaven.  With big tears in their eyes, they asked, "What is Heaven like, mom?"  Without words, I asked them, "What do you think?"

Claire (6) said, "I think it's a place where in a second, you get to have all of the things that make you happy like chocolate ice cream."

Sam (12) said, "I think it's a bunch of rooms that you go through.  The first one is where you get to revisit any part of your life you want, like sixth grade or fourth grade, and you get to remember everything.  Another room is a place where you get to say all the things you didn't get a chance to the people who have already gone to Heaven. And another, is where you just feel love."

Kate (10) said, "I think it's where you aren't sad or scared.  You're just free."

Every night for six nights while Ray was gone, we sat in a circle holding hands, praying for my nephew and their cousin, remembering mostly how happy he made us feel in our hearts.


Because Nathan's body was so healthy, he was able to donate all of his organs...a sheer feat of amazement.  There is a person walking around with his heart...another roaming the world breathing in through both of his lungs and a man who didn't have to go on dialysis because of his kidneys.

And while we are grieving a sadness that I never thought humanly possible, we are so grateful for the life that Nathan gave to the world--that will continue on for generations to come.

This picture is the last one we took of him, this summer while we were home in Nevada.  He was so happy to hold Claire and to hug all of us.  A hug that was tight and strong and enduring.  A hug that I cling to now and will take with me as I race 13 miles next Sunday on the day of his Celebration of Life.

From six to 21-years, I'm so, so grateful for the time I got to know you, Nathan.

You have made me a stronger person and have reminded me of what it means to live every moment.

Until we see each other in that room in Heaven...

I love you, Aunt Kelly

Friday, September 29, 2017

I Was Loved Like That

There is a force that marks the busyness of fall, the inevitable hustle of the school year.

Days start early with big cups of coffee and bigger bowls of oatmeal and end late with practices, activities and the need to soak up Vitamin D before Daylight Savings time brings darkness on your way home from work.

There are things to remember like homework, quizzes, group projects, casual days, where you put your retainer and that deoderant matters. 

And the laid back coolness of summer falls on its' face as parents try to remember picture money, birthday presents, ballet tights, who's taking who to soccer and what it is that you had to get at Target, yet again.

And meanwhile, work doesn't stop, laundry grows, something is still sticky under the refrigerator, the pesky eye exam must be scheduled and school lunches are never ending.

And in between the sighs and sometimes the yells and many times feet barely in front of the other, you remember, I got to love like that.  Not everyone gets to be leaned on and counted on in this way.  And you realize, this is a window.  This need, in this way is temporary and surely, fleeting.


When I was certain that I could not give another part of me, Claire came bounding up the stairs.  "Good night, mama.  I'm not going to have another dream like the one last night.  You know, when the toad was standing on the stairs and screamed to eat me.  And you said, Not today, Toad. Not today.  No more nightmares tonight."

To which I replied, "That's a good thing, Claire.  Only sweet dreams for you."

Sometimes, being a hero in a dream, making macaroni and cheese for dinner, letting him stay up way past his bed time, helping to study for the 58th Geography test, buying fabric that will only be turned into another pile project collecting dust in my house, telling them today will be the best day ever and really meaning you a smile, a hug, a look of gratitude (even if it's unspoken) that says, I couldn't do it without you.  And in that moment, you get to know that I was loved like that.  A way that is hard fought and lives most of its' life in the mundane routine...but is incredibly sweet and true.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Safe + Strong

There are a few undeniable things that I know to be true of myself.

Since the age of 12, I have loved coffee.  Not a little bit.  More than you can imagine.

I am obsessed with books and newspapers.  Not the ones you read on a phone or an iPad or a laptop.  The physical ones that you hold in your hands, spread on your lap, and because you cannot help yourself, mark up with copious marginal notes to go-back to, when you need a reminder.

I like stories and I don't mind if they're made up.  Being in the presence of an engaging story teller is orgasmic.  And I love both a good character and a twisty plot.

I was born to be a mother.  And to that end, I am grateful (even with and especially because of the chaos) to God for the gift of Sam, Kate and Claire.

I mean it.  When I was little, I walked around carrying babies.  I thought about what I would name them and what I wanted for them (a real, tangible relationship with God, a strong, rooted family that they could always go home to, a rigorous liberal arts education coupled with a study abroad experience, true friends to share in the fun and the heartache, a partner who really gets them and wants to build a life of love, and a passion that if they're lucky, they can call a livelihood.)

And I knew from the moment that they came that I wanted to be the primary influence in their lives.  I wanted to read and share my love of language.  I wanted them to paint and create and grow and test and triumph all within a safe container.  I wanted to know them...deeply.

And to that end, I have always, always sought to protect them.  Not a little bit.  A lot.  I have taken the role of advocate for their physical, social, emotional and spiritual being very seriously. It matters to me who they spend their time with, how we talk to each other at home, that their opinions are validated and that their interests are cultivated.

I suppose it was fine while they were young to prescribe such a life.  But in six months, Sam will be a teenager.  And the concept of crafting a bubble of defined experience is no longer exclusively helpful.

The dichotomy of parenting is that we want two things simultaneously: safety and strength for our children.  And we all know that the only way to earn stripes of grit is to weather storms of uncertainty...the ones where no one is guiding the boat, except for you--no matter how much your mother wants to throw herself at the tidal waves and tell them to back the fuck up or she'll cut em. 

No, in order to ensure that we're raising independent, self-sufficient, capable young people is to give them room to fall.  And pray that they fall within a recoverable zone.  Or, that if they hit rock bottom, that they know we will be there as they claw their way back out.

And, if I'm being honest, that makes me want to vomit. 

I understand the theory of tough love, the reasoning behind letting your kid suffer the consequences and letting your little ones make their own mistakes...but it is definitively not an easy one for me to stomach. 

And yet, I must.  If I don't, my children will either rebel and go on a heroin binge or die in the wildnerness or live with me for the rest of my life...none of which seem appealing to me.

So, the question do we keep them safe and make them strong, so that they can go into the world prepared for joy and heartache and not die a million deaths, while they fuck up and try to figure it out?

This is the work that I'm struggling with as I try to stop doing things for my son, so that he can grow into the man that God intends him to be.

If you have an extra prayer in your back pocket, shoot me one while you're drinking coffee and reading the paper and tell me a story of how it will all work out. This mama is slowly, but surely, learning the value of letting go.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Age Into Wisdom

I am 42-years old.

Like most women, I'm adept at hiding my age. 

I color my gray.  I wax my upper lip.  I run on a regular basis.  And, I pay good money to apply masks, oils, cleansers and sun screen while ingesting probiotics, vitamins and green drinks, in the hopes of concealing what my body is designed to do...decay.

This isn't odd given that society values youth.  We want to appear as though the years have been kind, especially as we stare down the second half of the show.


The advent of progress in modern medicine, industrialization, technology, the spread of information and globalization has made us believe that we harbor incredible control over our destiny.  And yet, the one thing we do know is that we are mortal.  One day, we will die, and we have no idea which day that will be.

No one knows this better than my mother.  She has spent nearly 20 years sharing the final years of life with residents of a local nursing home. Mothers, fathers, physicians, teachers, scientists, artists, husbands, wives, cyclists, name it, these people had big, beautiful, robust lives.  And regardless of the massive advancements they've witnessed, there are some nuggets of wisdom that are timeless.

The first is that there's no need to long for your 20's or 30's or 40's or (fill in the blank), because the truth is that you never lose the past parts of yourself.  You take all of it with you.  The blessings.  The fuck-ups.  The lessons learned and the one's you still can't quite figure out. And the beauty is that you have perspective.  From this side of the fence, you can see what mattered and what was just bull shit.

Secondly, when you're dying, you just remember who you loved.  You don't remember what you were mad about or who wronged you.  If anything, you wish you'd forgiven the thing you can't really recall long ago, because you'd love to give them one more hug or see their smile.

Next up, slow down.  Nearly everyone I know is plagued by some form of anxiety.  The constant race for more, shinier, better is exhausting and down right debilitating.  What we all really long for is  time.  Time to savor...everything.

Stop fixating on your personal happiness and share your gifts with another.  Joy comes from service.  You know what you have to offer, give it to the world.

Surrender to the unknown.  Sometimes, there are no answers and that's okay.  It is what it is.

And finally, to age is to grow a sense of peace and humility about the all-encompassing gift that you have been given, which is the gift of life.  So, if you can still run, jump, hug, have sex, laugh, cry, somersault...well, then, by God, do it without judgment, without reservation.

Today is a gift at every age.  May we humbly and graciously embrace it.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Kelly's Hot Mess Celebrates 6 Years!

I remember it vividly.  I was sitting in a Starbucks six years ago, exhausted.  My son, Sam was six.  My daughter, Kate was four and my youngest daughter, Claire was 9-months old.  I ordered a piping hot Venti Americano with extra cream and began to guzzle.

I was 40 pounds overweight.

My house was beyond disarray.

My hamper was begging me to do laundry.

My brain and my heart were flowing with thoughts that wouldn't leave and weren't getting better by feeding them.

I was knee-deep into being a stay-at-home mama and in that moment, other than sleep (which was sporadic and minimal), I had not a lot to call my own, including going to the bathroom.  My life felt in every way like a hot mess.

And so, I started writing.  About everything.  My time at Target, shit my kids said that no one would believe unless I documented it, my decision to start running, every race including a marathon that I ran, my desire to be a writer and to one day get a piece published, my dreams for my children, my love of everything associated with the word fuck and a cup of coffee, the challenges of marriage, sex, masturbation in the steam room at the gym, Catholicism, home repairs, politics, drugs, music, playlists, the desire to savor every moment while simultaneously wanting to run away, death, cancer, mammograms, divorce and I guess everything in between.

And I published my work...620 posts to date on the blog.  And then, I shared them on Facebook, Instagram and from time-to-time on Twitter.

I shared them, because I needed to know that I was not alone.

And then you showed up.

In all of your messiness, too.  And we commiserated.  And we celebrated.  And we cried.  And most of us have never met or seen each other in years (for some, it's been decades).

I've been at the gas station, the library, the grocery store, the coffee shop, my high school reunion and my kids' school and some of you have introduced yourself and said, "I read your blog.  Thank you."

And, I say, "God no.  Thank you.  You don't know how much I appreciate it."

And so to that end, I say, thank you for letting me share my insane, crazy, beautiful, mundane, messy life with you.  Just knowing that you are there, means more than you know.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Savoring Sam

I was feverishly working on some grading for my class, when my husband came in and placed this video in my lap.

Tears swelled in my eyes.  I remember it like it was yesterday.

Sam was 2.5 years old and Kate was a few months old.  I had just started staying at home and was knee-deep into finding my sea legs.  That was 10 years ago.

In many respects, not much has changed.  We still use the hell out of that white Kitchen Aid mixer.  Sam really likes butter.  We frequent the bookstore or the library at least once a week.  Sam still asks if he can have just a little bit more and usually, I acquiesce...and then, he pushes for a little bit more and I acquiesce and then, he takes a ginormous bite, because well, if a little is good, more must be better.

The thing that has changed is that in 6 months, he will be a teenager.  And in traditional adolescent development form, he pushes lots of boundaries.  It's his job.  He's supposed to see how much he can get away with.  And, being his mother, I'm suppose to pick my battles.  And, then when I do, we fight.

He's tenacious.  He doesn't like to back down.  He knows what he wants and when he wants it...usually, now.  He learned to yell from me.  And, I really, really like to raise my voice.  I can enjoy a good condescending rant and I know what it means not to take the high road, even when it's my job to model what it looks like.

Not long ago, I ran into a mom with a baby at the check out line at Target.  The baby was wailing and the mom was doing the 'hold her with one hand while you painstakingly try to put every last tube of tooth paste, greeting card, pair of socks, macaroni and cheese box on the conveyor belt' thing. 

I wanted to hold the baby (well, I didn't, she was full of snot and I don't miss that) or put the items on the belt for her.  But I know what that feels like and you just want to get in and get out without incident.  So, I just waited quietly behind her and didn't say anything, because she certainly didn't need my two cents.

But in my mind, I was silently saying...even though she's screaming, she wants to be held by you more than anyone...more than her friends, more than her siblings, more than her daddy.  Savor that.

Even though you're exhausted and it's been two days since you showered and you don't even know why you ventured out of the house, you're better for it and you're going to be amazed at all of the incredible, super human things you can do as a mother.  

That little girl in your arms will unhinge in you in ways that you cannot even imagine.  You will want to throttle her.  You will scream and yell and flail and ask her how she could be so ungrateful.  You will think about running far, far away from your abode.  But then, other times, you'll see her...the beautiful, amazing, extraordinary, unpredictable, make you more proud than you could ever imagine young lady and you'll think, it was worth it.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

God Don't Make Me

I've seen a lot of things in 42 years of life.

Friends and family diagnosed with cancer that I hope to see again in Heaven.

Friends diagnosed with cancer that I high-five in the park while running.

Dear friends who have lost their babies in the womb and others that were given minutes, days, precious weeks with them before they had to say goodbye.

Other friends who have watched their partners walk out the door, while they picked up the pieces.

Mothers and fathers who have lost their jobs, their quality of life, their will to live.

Hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods that have ravaged homes, neighborhoods, communities, memories and turned people into refugees fleeing the only life they've known.

I've seen children abused, neglected, humiliated and yet, hopeful, yearning not to repeat familial cycles as they beg for a shot at a dream.

Alcohol and drug use.  Rehab.  Accidents.  Tirades.  Promises that it won't happen again.

When you live long enough, you realize that the world is broken and that humanity is infinitely fragile.

And when you're in the thick of whatever you've been given, the first question or cry that comes to mind is, "Why?" and then, "When will it be over?"And finally, "Please, God, don't make me do this."


Not long ago, I was sifting through old letters and family photos, while trying to decide what I could do to catalog or memorialize them, I remembered a talk with my grandma while she was dying.  She lost her own mother when she was 16-years old and as an only child had to grow up quickly to care for her father.  Toward the end of her life after battling multiple forms of cancer, poked and prodded regularly with needles that could barely get at thin, withering veins, she said, "When times are tough, dive into the pain.  It's the only thing that will set you free and bring the joy."

The day before she died, I drove all night to get home and lay down next to her in her bed.  She couldn't talk, but I remember the Hospice nurse saying that she could hear.  I told her, "I'll live into the pain." 

It's a tricky thing.  No one wants to suffer or hurt, especially in a prolonged way.  There are times when a diagnosis is unveiled, but other times, it's smaller things on the horizon that we know we must find a way to endure (bad work situation, rough patch in a marriage, child struggling at school, an unforeseen expense) that we really don't want to.  And in many respects, feel like we're good people and we shouldn't have to.

But then, I remember what my grandmother said, "The only way out is through, even if you don't want to."  And so, it is.  The only way to experience the deepest beauty of joy is to experience the belly of sorrow.  Even so, I still cry out, "God don't make me."

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Woman with the Flowers

I've lived in my home for 13 years.

And since my time in the neighborhood, I make a near daily ritual of walking or running to three adjacent parks.  On my path, I regularly see the "Flower Lady."

She fashions long gardening gloves, a thick, wide-brimmed hat and a chocolate colored coat that resembles a cloak wrapped tightly around what appears to be an 80-90 year old body.

In oppressive temperatures with no skin exposed, she tends her gorgeous flock of flowers.  Sunflowers, dahlias, hydrangeas, hollyhocks, peonies, lilacs, daisies...are all watered, pruned, plucked, weeded and loved.

And because she has a corner home on a busy street that I cross to make my way down a boulevard, I invariably bump into her and always smile.  She never speaks, rarely gives eye contact and almost always appears as if she's in her own world.  This has been going on for years.

Until one day, I saw a sign in her yard touting a book that she'd written and it stopped me in my tracks.

She's a novelist?

I vowed that the next time she was out, I would introduce myself, compliment her on her colorful flowers and ask about her writing endeavors.

That was a few days ago.

I tried, but no go.  She was knee-deep in the thick of her gardening practice, not interested in engaging a passerby.

And so, I started making up stories about her.  Maybe she lost her husband?  Maybe she isolates herself and tends her flowers to take away the pain?  Maybe she's a world renowned horticulturist?
Maybe she's dealt with people her whole life and just wants to be left alone?  Maybe this will happen to me after my children are grown and gone...I too will tend my plants outside and bang books away inside?

It's funny the stories that we invent about the people we see all the time but have never spoken to...the ones that we think we know...the people who make our coffee, hand us our dry cleaning, give our change at the toll, sit next to us on the subway.  Are they like us?  Could we be friends?

I imagine that if I pressed, she would talk to me.  And maybe she will the next time that I come running by, but until then, I'll admire her flowers and the spirit of writing into old age and the prerogative to share and not to share as life marches on.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Become Clear

My daughter, Kate and I were having a dialogue.

She needed to make a decision and felt torn.

One friend was doing one thing and the other, chose an entirely different path.

She could see the benefits and usefulness of both choices and was struggling.

That's when I said, it doesn't matter what they would do, what would Kate do?

To which she replied, "That's the problem.  I have no idea."

"Well, that's not entirely true.  You know a few things about yourself, right.  Rarely do you do things on a whim.  You're incredibly intentional.  You are loyal.  Quality matters.  And given the other things you've taken on in your life, we know that once you pick something, you see it through.  So, be guided by your values...creativity, intention and durability," I offered, "Be clear about what matters to you and then you'll know."

"Okay, I guess I have some thinking to do," she muttered and headed to her room.

Our chat had me thinking that this is the crux of the life deal.  The world is filled with so many voices screaming, "Do this.  Be that.  If you're really committed, you'll buy this.  Watch what I did and you too can be rich, thin, happy, healthy, fit, educated, engaged, hopeful."  Sometimes, the voices and the messengers delivering them are so loud and so invasive, that we cannot hear our own hearts, the cries of our own yearnings.  It can be overwhelming and confusing.

And this is when I need to force myself to get clear on what matters to me...not to my dearest friends whom I love to pieces...or to my mother or father who only want the best for me...or even to my husband who is infinitely supportive but has his own world view...I must make space, deep space, intimate space to figure out what feels right for the only person who can inhabit me, me.

And this is not easy.  It feels good to do what others are doing.  There is a sense of peace with falling in line with the majority.  It is comforting to live in the known and isolating to be on the periphery, facing the unknown based on an individualistic choice to choose uncharted territory.

It's also humbling and terrifying to discover that your gut choice may not have added up to the right choice.

But it is an honest way to live.  And in a world brimming with noise, choices and distraction, the one real thing to be is clear.  Clear about who you are, what you want, where your lines in the sand are and what you're willing to do to live in that space.

Becoming clear feels like freedom.

In the end, Kate made a new path.  I stood and continue to stand in admiration.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Mediating Me

In my current graduate class, I'm teaching students how to mediate.

The mediation table is hands-down one of my favorite places.

I don't know why, but I've always felt really comfortable sitting with other people while they're swimming in fact the more adversity, the sweeter the opportunity to find common ground.

There's nothing more satisfying than bearing witness to two people finally hearing each other-- honoring their contribution to past hurt while rallying together for future hope.   

But when it comes to navigating difference in my personal relationships, I'm a mess.  Fairly conflict avoidant, it's gut-wrenchingly painful when I feel like I've wounded another.  Instead of going toe-to-toe, I'd rather tell you that I'm sorry and buy you a coffee.  Doesn't an Americano solve all the world's problems?

We know this isn't how the real world works.  When feelings are hurt, it takes time and a willingness to sit in the unknown, which I fucking hate. 

I yearn to be my husband who just says, "It is what it is.  No sense being mired in speculation.  It will unfold as it should.  Go about your life."  Ugh.  No, the situation requires analysis.  What did I do?  What did he do?  What could we have done differently?  How can I approach a resolution?

All of which brings me back to my mediation training.  In the role of the mediator, we are called to be third party neutrals--impartial, unbiased facilitators--who guide a process and engage the issues, interests and feelings of the other to potentially move toward a third side and find common ground. 

Whether you're an educator, a business owner, a parent, a plumber or a fill in the blank...the reality is that none of us are inherently neutral.  We are all vulnerable, flawed, frail human beings just trying not to scream terrible obscenities (while chauffeuring our children) when some stupid-ass can't properly merge onto the interstate.

So, as I sit and stare at Friday and the end of the second week of school, I'm mindful that much like brushing your teeth or taking a shower, we should all have an internal mediator.  You know, like a little guy/girl on your shoulder that says, "Calm down, crazy lady.  Breathe.  It's not as bad as it seems.  You don't have to have all of the answers.  Yelling really doesn't solve much.  How can you let go of the unknown, the judgement, the mean commentary in your head and just be in the here and now?  What might that look like?"

I rather like a mediator angel on my shoulder, helping me to mitigate the fucked up voices of doubt, uncertainty, fear and vulnerability in my head.

I'm going to figure out how to pay myself to mediate me...unless you have another unbiased party ready and willing?

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Risk Joy

I'm raising three very different children.

My son, Sam is not necessarily a happy-go-lucky tween.  He's relatively serious and when he wants something done, it happens.  His humor is dry and witty and forward thinking. He is polite and very aware of how his actions are affecting others.  A typical type A, achieving, first-born through and through.

My oldest daughter, Kate, the 10-year old is smack dab in the moment.  When she's sewing or playing piano or dancing in ballet or cracking an egg, she's feeling the experience.  Rarely worried about what others think, she's fully connected to the present.

My youngest daughter, Claire, the 6-year old has been dancing in the nude since she could stand.  She laughs openly and loudly with and at anyone.  Her motto is that it's a good thing to like her.  I'm not sure that she could be more comfortable in her own skin.

As a result of their world views, they each experience and embrace joy differently.  Sam is cautious. He believes like me, that what goes up, must come down...and that the world is filled with a lot of suffering, so we should temper our joy to reflect our responsibility to the people who are wounded or marginalized.

Kate thinks it's extraordinary that baking powder helps to make pancakes rise and that you can make your own dragon costumes at home instead of buying them at the store.  She embraces a "tickled pink" world view--similar to a "wow, who would have thought that this could happen?" mindset.

Claire never fails to share that her classmate farts at recess and pretends like it wasn't him.  "I mean, come on, he has a smell, everyone knows it's him.  And it has a sound too. It sounds like this...." And then she makes the sound and Kate bursts out laughing.  And Sam says, "Claire what about the people in Texas and Hurricane Harvey?"

And part of me feels similarly, how can we carry on at the dinner table, talking about our day, sharing fart stories, while many, many people have lost their homes, their loved ones, their memories and are refugees trying to pick up the pieces?

The world is filled with so much heartache and unexplainable hurt.

And then, it struck me that in the midst of sorrow and the unknown, our responsibility is to live.  This is why people laugh at funerals and laugh while they're crying in the doctor's office and laugh after a scream fest with their spouses or their kids or laugh when they've behaved ridiculously.

Because stress, fear, trauma, uncertainty and angst can only be sustained and endured for so long.  The real task is to live and to live fully....fully in the pain and fully in the joy.

So, at the dinner table, I turned to my son and said, "You're right.  It's terrible what has happened to the families in Texas.  We must pray and donate money.  But we must also risk joy.  It's okay to laugh at silly things even though heaviness is happening in the world.  It's okay to tell jokes and funny stories, even when there are no answers for the greater burdens.  Our job is to live.  So, Claire, let another one rip..."

As the beautifully, brilliant poet, Jack Gilbert once said,

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Plight of the Good Enough Mother

We survived the first week of school.

Everyone made it out the door at o'dark thirty including my 7th grader, who has to leave the house at 6:50am for advanced math.

No one forgot a lunch or a parental form or a show and share item.  And somehow, I managed my sanity.

In an effort to make it all work out, I get up at 4:30am to go for a run, to be back by 6am to make scrambled eggs for my son who is scrambling out of his bed at 6:20am asking himself, why am I alive at this hour?

After he and my husband are out the door and I've consumed 2.5 cups of really fucking big coffee before 7am, I am in the shower reminding myself that I forgot to shave my legs yesterday, and well, there's really no time today. Furry it is...

Towel on my head, I'm getting my girls out of their beds, uniforms on, hair braided and Rice Chex in their bowls so that I can quickly put concealer on my dark circles and grab a dress to wear to my teaching assistant job at their school.

Back packs, water bottles, lunches, cardigans and keys in hand, we head out the door driving to start our day.

And all the while, I'm mindful of laundry, meal planning (why do I make the same 5 things for dinner?), my parents upcoming visit, scheduling the oil change, grading essays for my graduate students, setting up a fall display for my jewelry business, swinging by Target for a birthday present and tampons and shit, I forgot that canvas I promised I'd buy Kate for her dragon art project.

And that's just the minute to minute shit, then there's the larger questions...where will my kids go to high school?  To college?  Are my daughters going to be in therapy because they share a room?  Do I read enough to my youngest?  Do I pay attention when they're telling me stories or can they tell that often I'm catching bits and pieces while I'm doing three other things?  Will I regret not being more in the present?  Have I done them a disservice by indulging too much Kraft macaroni and cheese and not enough hummus?

God, I just don't know.  But I think that there are lots of women like me in their 30's and 40's asking all of these questions, all of the time.  And, we're tired.  And, we're cranky.  And we're spread.  And we're happy.  And we're grateful.  And sometimes, we're not.

But I shit you not.  In the 80's, I don't ever remember my mom vocalizing worries like whether our car was the safest model or which school would provide us the strongest college prep.  I mean don't get me wrong, she loved us, but I don't feel like she was consumed by us.

The plight of the good mother is to feel as though you are constantly pivoting, wanting the best all the time, afraid of making a false move, or worse yet, a move that you can't take back.

My hunch is though that most of the time, my kids don't know my inner crazy lady workings.  They know they are loved.  They're not going to try new foods.  I am going to yell over absurd things and they are going to push back because that's what kids do.  I am going to tell them that they are grounded for life because that's what moms do.  And, we probably both can agree that we will all survive and be more than just okay.

But sometimes, many times, I wish I could just start my 4:30am day with the thought, "You're more than good enough.  Your kids are lucky to have you.  Here's to grace and fucking things up.  This is the admission for a blessed, beautiful, messy life."

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Artist Within

The other day, I was talking to second graders. 

We were chatting about authors, illustrators and the difference between fiction and non-fiction works.

I shared with them that I really love words.  I am inspired by what they conjure up in my head and more importantly, in my heart.  I love how they string together and tell stories that people can see themselves inside of or find places that they want to explore or become.

And then, I asked them, "What do you love?" and then, "Raise your hand if you are an artist."

Most of the room raised their hand, but a fraction did not. 

So, I elaborated with, "Raise your hand if you like to write, to dance, to paint, to draw, to sculpt, to build, to invent, to experiment with wood, metal, Legos, color, food, canvas, construction paper, paint, fabric or if you like to sing or write songs or watch certain movies over and over and maybe even make movies on your mom or dad's phone or if you play an instrument or make your own music out of things lying around the house."

By that point, everyone had raised their hands and so, I offered, "Well, then, you are all artists.  Every one of you.  Each of you are a child of God and you were fashioned to create in the world as the creator has made you.  You were built to share all of you with the world.  And there is so much beauty and creativity inside of much goodness to share."

And then one little boy said, "Well, I guess I like to build, but I'm not very good.  My stuff breaks a lot and sometimes, it's too hard to make it over."

To which I replied, "Me too.  I'm not very good.  At least, not all of the time.  In fact, not most of the time.  Sometimes, I write and write and write in my journal and the only good that comes of it is that I reminded myself that today was a 'Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day."  And that's okay.  But just when I think that I'll never write again, I can't help myself.  And, I just write a line or two, and then a flood of language comes pouring through.  Does that ever happen to you?"

They nodded.

The biggest lie we can tell is that our "making" in the world isn't worthy.  It is the very act of creating something, anything that wasn't there before that brings us relief from the practical and reminds us that we are more than punching a time card, getting our homework done on time, paying our bills, crossing milk off of the grocery list and mowing the lawn.

Putting pieces of our heart and mind and soul into the world is an act of love...a public service to the other.  A way of saying, "I'm here.  Meet me in this song, meal, book, painting, dance, conversation and help me feel alive."

I told my second graders that my home is filled with clay, chalk, paint, fabric, thread, a piano, movies, and more books, journals, sketch pads, Sharpie markers and paint than you can imagine.  I get tired of picking up all of the mini projects, but am inspired by watching my children put their heart into canvases on our walls and bits of stories and skirts and documentaries. 

We are all artists and the world needs us to color outside of the sing our song and to dance bravely, imperfectly together.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Rising

This week has brought a shift.

Two days ago, my children went back to school..and for the first time in over 3 months, I have had time to breathe, to reflect and to write.

And over the course of breathing through longer training runs, I can't seem to get this song out of my heart.  I'm sure you know it.  "The Rising" by Bruce Springsteen performed by Sting at the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony.

I first heard Springsteen sing it in January 2009 at Obama's inauguration.  On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, on a cold winter day, he played his guitar, while an extraordinary choir bounded "Dream a Life" behind him.

The second time was when I traveled to Chicago to run a half marathon.  It was the night before the race and through the windows of the condo, I could hear him performing at Wrigley Field.  The entire crowd was on fire.  He was a force.  And they were lit up in every way.

A ball of nerves, worried about managing the L and a bus at o' dark thirty, ensuring that I stayed hydrated and fueled and of course, freaking about the random creaks in the bedroom of someone else's abode, I was a crazy lady.  So for me, on that night, it was the perfect song.

That was five years ago...and now, my children are growing. 

I have two years left before my oldest goes to high school and the "real" time for family movies, games of Clue, hanging by the pool, making pizza, telling stupid jokes and hours at home (other than sleeping or eating) are dwindling.

So, the other night at dinner when I spent a significant amount of time talking about Anne Frank and the definition of White Supremacy and how the name Neo-Nazi emerged and the president's response to the destruction and death in Charlottesville and watched my children's faces become glazed and glossed over, I thought, enough.

I am so tired of being angry at what a buffoon, cowardly, incompetent, divisive, self-focused, arrogant joke of a president we have; and equally as exhausted by the debilitating notion that we have to live with a lack of real leadership for another 3.5 years.  As such, I'm reclaiming my ability to rise and to represent my values, my hopes, my beliefs, my aspirations for my children and my community.

For me, the "rising" happens every day in every small home, walking down the street, in classrooms and coffee shops and over dinner with our families and with our the ways that we treat each other and the actions we take when it would be easier to not.

This year, my son has two new players on his football team which is intimidating when you're joining a group of boys that have been playing for over 8 seasons together.  I told Sam to be the first.  "Talk to them.  Welcome them.  Find out where they go to school and what they did this summer.  Invite them over.  Thank them for joining your team."

Likewise, Kate had a really good friend move far away and two new kids join her fifth grade class.  I told her the same.  "Sit by them in the lunch room.  Ask them what they like to do.  Find them at recess.  Tell them about the book you're writing or the song you're learning to play on the piano.  See if they like stories as much as you do.  Tell them that you're glad they're here."

My "rising" hasn't involved public protests, but it has involved a deep and intentional choice to rise in my own space and speak up for what is right...inclusion, hope, connection, vulnerability and truth and to speak against injustice...side slights, insensitive barbs/jabs and to try my damndest to nurture a new generation of children who feel loved, valued, believed in and not afraid.

I keep running to the song.  I keep believing that good can come. 

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. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Ode to Sam on Your 12th Birthday

Dear Sam,

How did it happen?

You woke up and are now officially year away from being a teenager!

There really are no words to express what an incredible young man you are...noble, kind, generous, beyond bright and so much more comfortable in your skin than I was at your age.

I stand 5 feet, 8 inches tall and when you hug me, you come up to my ear.  You're only two shoe sizes away from your father and can eat more bowls of cereal and fruit than I ever imagined possible.

This past year has found you finding your way.

Sixth grade has proven to be quite busy, but someway, somehow, you're doing it all.

You play flag football in the fall and spring.  You've recently taken up participating on the Speech team and are preparing for your inaugural reading of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven."  And every chance you get, your fingers are playing the ivories to the tune of Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter and everything in between.  You're working your way up the ranks as a boy scout learning how to camp in the frigid temps and are competing as a member of the Saint Margaret Mary Saint Thomas Aquinas club contributing your answers to math and history questions at local competitions.  You still read late into the night and enjoy watching all of the movies that dad is a champion of--many of which I think you're too young for, but dad seems to know better.  And when the homework is done, you join your buddies at the local comic and coffee shop to play coveted games of Magic.

I truly stand in awe of the person that you are becoming.

You are a noble young man.  A person who is less interested in what the crowd cares about than what you know to be true in your heart.  You've always had an extraordinary north star coupled with a dynamic moral compass and an unfailing gift of faith.  You encourage us all to pray for those in need and to give thanks for what we've been given...which in your book is more than enough.

As you continue to grow into a young man, please always remember that this one, very precious life that you have been given by God is to be used for good.  It is to be used in service of others.  It is to share what you have with the person who is in need.

When you feel scared or unsure, which is bound to happen as you embark upon the teenage years, know that you are not alone.  God is always with you and so is your family.  We are here to sit with you in uncertainty, and to celebrate with you in the joy, and to cheer you on as you make choices about what comes next.

And there are so many, many amazing things to look forward to...

Thank you for gifting us with your extraordinary spirit, willingness to go the extra mile and unconditional love, especially for those who are sometimes forgotten.  We could not be more proud of you or grateful for you.

Happy, Happy Birthday, Sweet Son...

All of my love, always,