Category Archives: hard things

This is How We Say Good-Bye

So, it’s all very, very good. We’ve had college in mind for 18 years. We’ve saved for it for 18 years. We didn’t really hope she’d live in the basement.

We paid for books, drove her to games and rehearsals, pushed her to work hard. We filled out the applications, did more than stress our minds out, cross our fingers and say our prayers. But geez, this is the deal? She actually LEAVES?

I’m¬†paying for this pit in my stomach?


This picture sits on my desk. This was my baby Cope starting kindergarten, just a little while ago.

I remember her so well at this age. She had a little brother and a baby sister who accompanied her to school. She wore a yellow rain jacket and Elmo backpack. On the first day of kindergarten she came home and threw a ginormous tantrum, collapsing on the couch in a deep sleep from sheer exhaustion. This would continue to happen throughout her childhood ūüôā

She lives with passion, this girl.

What a privilege it has been to be her mother. There are no perfect mothers, but I have tried to be a good one. I’ve pondered: Do I regret other “opportunities” I didn’t take so I could be home more and raise children? Do I regret any of the stories read, the bedtime routines, the wake up and go to sleep times? I regret none of it. I have no greater accomplishment.

Suddenly she’s this girl: so confident and smart and compassionate and beautiful.

We had a great August. Slow days of packing and purging and sorting. What to bring to college when you have to put it on an airplane (2 carry-ons per passenger, nothing over 50lbs.)

We also had hostage-like negotiation sessions over clothes – she is always raiding my closet!A certain sister already had her room packed up before Cope left, chomping at the bit to move downstairs instead of across the hall from mom and dad.

Cope and I and flew across the country, hovering above the great Salt Lake. It was getting real.

I was that really strange mom taking photos of my grown daughter while she slept beside me.¬†I found myself gazing at her skin and eyelashes, wondering how this thing called “TIME” works. I thought of Erma Bombeck’s poem, WHY DON’T YOU GROW UP?

Guess what? They do.

Although Utah is a desert, we went hiking and found TREES!

We stayed with my sister and family where Cope walked little Autumn to first grade. On the first day, Autumn cried and clung to Cope. Cope looked at me with big eyes and panic, mouthing, “WHAT DO I DO?”

I said: Give her a hug and kiss, I’ll see you later, and walk away.

Oh dear, I feared I would be Autumn in a few days.

We made it! She has a room key. I don’t. What the heck?

We love her dorm and roommate!

After buying out the entire local Target (when people tell you that bringing your child to college is the most expensive trip you will make – THEY ARE RIGHT. I, the tight-fisted budget mom was suddenly spending her feelings on lamps and hangers and “Honey, look at this llama lamp, do you want it for your room???! No? How about mug with your initial or how about M for Mom? Make-up? Do you want make-up? What can I buy you???”) Who was this woman???

We spent HOURS debating about room decor (Believe me, Pinterest IS NOT YOUR FRIEND). However, after agonizing over the tapestry and bedding for literally DAYS, we had just what she wanted. Bless you, Amazon, and your free Prime 2-Day shipping.


“Dad, mom knows she’s not staying, right?”

We walked around campus, reliving the college years (Gregor and I met at BYU!) Cope patiently endured us.

¬†This is a much bigger pond than our little town…

Of course we had to get pictures with the BYU cougar. “Moooooom!” And yes, we are now completely dressed from head to toe in True Blue BYU fan gear. I’m sorry if you find me annoying for the next four years ūüôā

On the bright side. The BYU bookstore has the best cinnamon gummy bears IN THE WORLD. This is not a joke. For $2.50 a bag, I’ll just eat her way through college.

On the wall in the bookstore: We went to spy on her the next day at freshman orientation (we didn’t see her). Um, is this what they mean by “helicopter parents”? Clearly, we are part of the problem.

We made up an excuse to meet up for a few minutes before our flight took off. When she came walking across campus she looked like she could be in college. Oh wait…she is?

Final hugs good-bye, in the Joseph Smith building, where Gregor really fell in love with me ūüôā

And so it begins.

We left her in the capable hands of mighty Mount Timpanogus, my most favorite mountain. Can you see her lying across the top, left to right? Keep an eye on my girl, Timp.

She will, as this girl does, read. And study. And learn. She will, as BYU’s motto states: “Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve.”

The Class of 2017. “You Are the Y.”

Excuse me while I go get a tissue. As Gregor says, “this is the happiest sad I think I’ve ever felt.”


What’s This Thing Called Work-Life Balance?

My one-word theme for the year, “Simplify” is staring at me from¬†the wall. Personal progress is suspect.

I tell you, simplifying is hard. It means saying No to SO MANY THINGS.

I experienced further angst when reading this¬†stove analogy by humorist David Sedaris on management:¬†‚ÄúOne burner represents your family, one is your friends, the third is your health, and the fourth is your work.‚ÄĚ The gist‚Ķwas that in order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful you have to cut off two.

Oh dear. This is likely the reason I’ve never qualified for Boston. It’s the reason my great American novel is…well, where exactly is it? On the other hand, I’ve fought very hard for to keep the family fire burning.¬†My friends probably feel very cold¬†#sorry.

Is there any way to keep all four burners successfully lit? By¬†trying to “do it all,” can we ever master anything? Logistically, getting those “10,000 hours” takes much longer. We become “jack of all trades, master of none.” For the select few, like elite athletes, master painters, novelists, and craftsman, cutting off select¬†burners is essential.

But for the rest of us mere mortals? It seems those burners are constantly competing.

Over time¬†I’ve become very aware of this simple fact: saying Yes to one thing means saying No to another.

It’s why my garden looked like this last summer:

My good and faithful garden still delivered tomatoes without much attention

I’ve always been a HUGE proponent of balance until one day, a few years ago, I thought,¬†No, there should not be balance any longer – I’m throwing that out the window! I should choose the most important things in my life and pursue them with a single-mindedness. Everything else should fall to the wayside.

I struggle daily to find the focus. Every night¬†I write out the next-day schedule. I have my “Top Three” priorities. I can tell you that “Write One Hour” is always on the list. Though I’ll be honest,¬†it’s a pitiful five minutes.

I’ve noticed this stove burner thing play out in several different scenarios. If I immerse myself in total family activities/running errands/grocery shopping, “my work” (writing) suffers. If I stay at the computer¬†all day long writing or getting ready to teach a¬†class, I feel horrible for neglecting my children. Most times,¬†“the work” takes the backseat. Sometimes I wonder if that’s¬†the best choice.

Tough choices abound daily. For instance, I want a really clean and organized and perfectly decorated house, but I’ve consciously made the decision to not use my best mental hours to clean. Sometimes this is embarrassing (for every repair and mailman…)

I¬†refuse to get any more chickens, rarely volunteer at school, and won’t¬†make an extra trip¬†to school when kids¬†forget stuff (full disclosure: I still cave.) But darn it, it’s also the reason I can’t seem to get the pictures hung on the wall.

A Personal Manifesto to Keep the Burners Burning Bright:

1. Protect the things that are most important. That means we need TO KNOW what those things are. Make an actual list.

2. Pursue the MOST IMPORTANT things FIRST.

3. Practice the art of saying No. This is particularly hard for women. We like to save the day. But why? Are we trying to be helpful or are we trying to make ourselves feel good?¬†“I’m sorry, I just can’t make that happen right now,” is a muscle that needs to be exercised!¬†When we say NO to something, we are saying YES to something else – like¬†time or family or a hobby – or A NAP!

Need help? How to Say NO Here. (ha!)

4. Remember: we choose our own level of busy. I remind myself of this when I see my name next to “feed dinner to 50 cast members.” I CHOSE to put my name there. (why, Amy, why???)

5. Make a decision and than own your choice. There needs be no battle between stay-at-home and working parents. We are all working parents. We are all doing our best to support and raise our families. Individual families require individual decisions. When it comes to one another, I think our only job on this earth is to love one another no matter what. Be confident in your choice. Haters be darned.

6. ¬†Stop being a people pleaser. Ugh, I’m such an obliger. Stop it. The End.

7. Learn to delegate. Did you know? In families, 40% of women are the main breadwinners, yet¬†70% of women still take on the majority of the household tasks. It seems to me that we women want and need help and we resent the fact that our families don’t help more, but if¬†they try to help, they don’t do it the way we would do it.¬†We feel badly when there’s resistance.¬†“Oh no no no, let me get that for you. You sit there while I load the dishwasher, sweep the floor, and kill myself from exhaustion…” puh-lease.¬†

We handicap our children when we don’t let them help. They become literally help-less. My first college roommate left college after a week because independence was so scary. She was scared to walk to class. “Laundry is too overwhelming.” As I sadly said good-bye¬†I remembered scrubbing our kitchen floor as a child and I was finally grateful that I was taught to clean, cook, and wash my own clothes. I wasn’t good at it for a long, long time, but it came. Let the children fail, work and struggle. It’s a gift.

8. Seek guidance through prayer. I believe there is a God who loves us, gives us gifts, and wants us to succeed. Seek Him first and we will know what burners to light.

One last story: the other day I was at a track meet for my daughter. I took a video of another child winning a race and sent it to her mother. Her mother was thankful but I sensed she felt guilty that she wasn’t there, that she had to apologize and explain. Was I making her feel guilty by sending a video? Was I making her feel that I was the better mother because I was the one there? I wanted her to know that¬†I’m not always the one “THERE” either. Next week, I can’t be at the track meet. Another mother or father will take a video of my child running and will send it to me. I may feel guilt but I will fight it. That No means a Yes to someone or something else. And sometimes that’s just the way it has to be.

Time is precious. May we use it wisely.

Thoughts on a Tuesday…


Happy Monday {when it seems the world is falling apart}

When I told my friend about “signs” and feeling like God gave me little gifts to keep me going, he shook his head. He thought the signs were always there – we were just too busy to see them.

Hmm, maybe he’s right. Do we make our own reality because of how we want to see the world or are there gifts being sent all the time? I think it’s a little of both. But I think Friend has a point: there is great beauty all around us, if we will only SEE.

I read this quote this weekend (and didn’t think it a coincidence:):

‚ÄúThe more often we see things around us ‚Äď even the beautiful and wonderful things ‚Äď the more they become invisible to us. That is why we often take for granted the beauty of this world: the flowers, the trees, the birds, the clouds ‚Äď even those we love. Because we see things so often, we see them less and less.‚ÄĚ ‚Äď Joseph B. Wirthlin

There is an awful lot of doom and gloom these days. We are upset about politics, taxes, healthcare.¬†There are really¬†sad and horrible things happening that we have no control over. For instance, I’m driving myself mad this evening thinking about how¬†much of teen culture Will the kids really be okay?

But I must take deep breaths and think about that another day.

This post is about seeing the sunshine and butterflies.

Anyway, has there ever been a period of time when people on earth felt perfectly content or unafraid?

So. I read this this week, too:

‚ÄúI am asking that we stop seeing out the storms and enjoy more full the sunlight. I am suggesting that as we go through life we ‚Äėaccentuate the positive.‚Äô I am asking that we look a little deeper for the good, that we still voices of insult and sarcasm, that we more generously compliment virtue and effort.

I am not asking that all criticism be silenced. Growth comes of correction. Strength comes of repentance. Wise is the man who can acknowledge mistakes pointed out by others and change his course.

What I am suggesting is that each of us turn from the negativism that so permeates our society and look for the remarkable good among those with whom we associate, that we speak of one another‚Äôs virtues more than we speak of one another‚Äôs faults, that optimism replace pessimism, that our faith exceed our fears.‚ÄĚ ‚ÄďGordon B. Hinckley #lovethisman

I saw this faith and optimism play out over the weekend¬†as we laid my cousin, Andrew, to rest. Andrew was born with many heart defects and Down Syndrome. But the love his family had for him was a great love story. Andrew was a joy, but also…difficult. I don’t know how his parents and sister could turn every broken toilet into a hilarious story, (he had a fascination with flushing things) but they did!

Even his obituary made me laugh. A small piece: “Ever the prankster, Andrew enjoyed breaking household items, hiding things, and telling jokes about setting people‚Äôs hair on fire.”

Before he passed away he hid all of his mother’s pants. They are still looking for them. On several occasions I thought, ‚Äúbless them, I could never do it.‚ÄĚ

But they did. So very well.

His father, Ray, said at his funeral: “Happiness is a choice.”

In a prayer, Andrew’s mother said, “Thank you for the great honor of allowing us to raise Andrew.” She didn’t talk about how hard it was, only the great honor.

I’m thinking about this today, on a cold, grey January day when there are many many worries on my mind. I’m looking out the window {’cause it’s not on my phone} and really trying to see it.

Some seasons of life are better than others. And I just thought I’d share this belief¬†of mine, that our lives have meaning. That there are good things all around us if we want to see them. That happiness is a choice.

And like Olivia Pope says, “ALL PROBLEMS HAVE SOLUTIONS!” ūüôā


Hold on. If you can’t see the light right now, believe. It’s there.


Happy Monday, friends.


Two Girls Running

This was the weekend of two girls running,¬†me and my Brynnie. When all the training from the last several days, weeks, months, and years culminated into something golden. That’s what running is: a very personal affair.

IMG_2302¬†When the 5 a.m. morning runs are worth it. Because often,¬†at 4:30 a.m., they definitely don’t¬†feel worth it. The is a “wishful thinking” sunrise. These days, we start in the dark and end in the dark, running only by the light of the headlamp. When I asked Brynne to join me she said, “NO WAY.”

I’m particularly grateful¬†as Me and the Training Table were best friends a month ago:IMG_2283¬†We spent quality time together, with our amazing friend and athletic trainer, Kelly. She got my IT band back to cooperating. I was made to roll on the foam roller, stretch, strengthen, ice, and stem. Geez, am I getting older?IMG_2284¬†Stem is when you get hooked up and shocked with electrodes. It feels like little needles poking at you. Electric currents stimulate the muscles around your injury and interrupt the pain signals, reducing inflammation and swelling. At one point last month I was in so much pain I could not run at all, and could only walk with a limp, eating ibuprofen for lunch. Oh, those were the dog days of September.

The upside of being sick or injured is the humility, and the reminder that we are lucky to have such miraculous bodies that know how to heal. It’s magic. I remember one afternoon when I ¬†I could finally¬†run¬†across the soccer field, I wanted to sing-song¬†like Buddy the Elf,¬†I love my legs and I don’t care who knows it!

This amazing book helped Kelly diagnose me…it’s fabulous and would make a great Christmas gift ūüôā


IMG_2448¬†Being injured is hard. I’m so impatient. I worry I’m losing all the training. Would I ever run again? Could I go on living if I couldn’t run? Drama queen.IMG_2101¬†Meanwhile, Brynne was doing her thing, training every day with her cross-country team. She’s only in 6th grade, but lucky to be coached by¬†fabulous coaches who live and breathe running and correct training principles. The improvement made in mere weeks leaves¬†me in awe. It once again solidifies everything I know about achieving anything: it’s ALL about the training.

Brynne suffered some setbacks too. Sometimes she had pain in her hamstrings, knees, and gluts (gotta stretch the butt!) We both focused on eating well, drinking more water, smoothies for breakfast, protein at every meal, and getting sleep.

IMG_2594With two weeks left before my 13.1¬†and Brynne’s state meet, we ran through trails, with full hearts and clear eyes (can’t lose!)

When you run a half-marathon, the long run is the most important run of the week. Ideally, you run at least a couple of 10 or 12-milers. I was lucky to get two ten-milers in with my running buddy the last two weekends before the race. The first 10-miler I was limping afterward. The second time, after a lot of glut stretching, I was feeling good.

Now, could I run a race at a faster pace with more mileage than I had trained for? Could I pull out a personal win?

5549833133_f0701357b2_b¬†Well, I sure was going to try! October 24th was our day. My race was at Cape Cod, at 7:30 a.m. Luckily, Brynne’s state meet was on the way home, in the afternoon. I could finish my run and find my way to my girl in New Hampshire. All the stars would align, right?

unnamed-3 unnamed-2

While we were driving, my Cope, OUT AT SEA,¬†called…her only phone call of the whole trip! What a treat. She’s well. She’s happy. The hurricanes and whales are cooperating. Man, I can’t wait to see her.

Cape_Cod_National_Seashore¬†I drove¬†to the Cape¬†with my friend, Robin, who likes to run half-marathons on her birthday. How awesome is that? We¬†arrived in Falmouth on Friday night and were greeted¬†by the sweetest hosts ever: Leonard & Patty! Patty¬†made us a delicious mac ‘n cheese and apple cobbler before we were tucked into our matching twin beds at 9pm that overlooked the water. The 1890 house (with lovely wallpaper!) was dreamy and made me want to stay and write a novel. But first I had to run.

IMG_2683 One of the most anticipated moments of any race is how good the shirt is. The Cape Cod Half gets an A+++. Love me this tech-shirt. Fabulous fish.

It was an early start, chilly and overcast Рperfect running weather. The course was flat and curved out by the water, with friendly crowds and many water stops. My goal was to run a 1:45 which meant steady 8 min/miles. Sub 8s would be a home run. I glanced at my watch only a couple of times, wanting to run by feel. The lasts three miles are always the toughest, but just as I began the last mile one of my favorite childhood songs came on: Xanadu. I felt the same happiness and sense of possibility I did when I was rollerskating in the dark basement when I was 10 :).

I could hear Brynne’s voice in my head, too, when just weeks earlier, we were running a 5k together and in the middle of mile 2, arguably the hardest mile, she said, “I’M SO GLAD I HAVE LEGS!”

Yes, this was that feeling – I’M SO GLAD I HAVE LEGS! I came through the finish line with a 1:44 and thanked God once again that I had legs that could run.

IMG_2713 Loved the Finishers Medal Рanother fish!

Birthday girl Robin came soon after. We hugged. And all was right in the world. Who’s in for next year with us????¬†IMG_2696¬†These thermal wraps were terrific

IMG_2706¬†I love to watch a finisher’s face. The pain and joy is always apparent.¬†Let me tell you something else, ladies. I could not have run a 1:44 time in my teen years or my 20s because I had not paid the training price.¬†I remember when a 5k felt like a killer. I remember when I had to walk during 8-milers and ten miles seemed totally impossible. Talent and health was there, but not the time and training. I really love watching a¬†woman realize her¬†potential late in life – because it’s never too late!

Afterwards, we climbed into the car and drove back over the bridge, headed toward the state track meet where our children were waiting to run.IMG_2709

We arrived to see these girls at the start line, just beginning their warm-ups.IMG_2714¬†Aren’t they glorious?IMG_2711¬†And then the gun fired! Anxiety turned to exhilaration.NH Middle School XC Championship-117-X2 warmups¬†Love these girls and their determination.DSC_0154¬†Brynne is #80. “I look so desperate,” she said. Yeah, sometimes that’s how it feels. She ran a 2-miler and it was hard but she finished strong. I couldn’t be more proud of the effort.unnamed¬†Two Girls Running. And Paigey there to cheer us on! Soon, I suspect she’ll be running girl #3.IMG_2717 IMG_2682We headed home on a cold Saturday evening, exhausted, relieved, glad the day was done. And started talking about the next one…


To Kim, the Young Mom Who Inspired Me

It’s been a great summer. We’ve traveled to foreign lands, gathered for sweet reunions, and swum and swam the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans blue.

We’ve¬†soaked up summer, swimming at the local lake every day, and eating too much ice-cream. It’s been glorious.

Among all the great and grand adventures, something very ordinary occurred in my home that had¬†a tremendous impact on me. Kim, this one’s for you.

In July my dear sister-in-law, Kim, and her husband, Glenn, (my husband’s brother, and my¬†awesome marathon buddy!) traveled all the way from Saudi Arabia with their four young children: Tate and Finn¬†ages 6 and 4, and Kenna and Taryn, 6-month-old twin girls.


Ah, I’m obsessed with the twins.


Let me eat your foot.

What it’s like to live in Saudi Arabia deserves it’s own post. It’s been hard, especially for Kim who is not allowed to drive and has to dress as according to local custom, every time she leaves the Aramco compound. Fresh fruit and vegetables, flour, mascara – what’s that?

Coming back to the U.S. required all sorts of documentation, planning, and luggage (the baby formula alone could feed a small zoo). It was quite dizzying what they accomplished.

Kim, super mother to four delightful children, arrived at our front door very very sick with strep throat.

A few days later, (after rudely sleeping in whilst my guests had been up with babies throughout the night and had fixed their own breakfast,) I stumbled downstairs to say good morning. I found my kitchen entirely too clean, with warm, fluffy pancakes awaiting me (their marital teamwork is impressive!). Glenn was even sweeping the floor.

Kim was at the kitchen table with 6-year-old, Tate. He had a pencil and a workbook. He was writing his letters, carefully focusing on each swirl and twirl of the alphabet, while his mother balanced twins on her lap, patiently pointing at the paper, redirecting when Tate became distracted by a fly, and encouraging when necessary (often.)

I was so struck by this scene.

I could see myself, years earlier, at the kitchen table with my oldest child, Cope: when summer was long and hot, when we had endless hours stretched out before us, when we had a schedule that required no driving to activities. Back then I was stricter about things like bedtime and television (only Saturday mornings)!

Every morning in the summer we read, we wrote, we learned all the notes on the piano. And every day, desperate for entertainment, we took a very slow walk and had a very long bath.

After¬†writing,¬†Kim followed Tate, and I followed Kim, to the piano. I witnessed this mother, a younger (and idealized) version of myself, patiently teaching her child how to play. When he complained, she paused and said she would wait until he was ready. She didn’t yell or take away all his stuffed animals (ala Tiger Mother!) She just waited until he was ready.

I could practically see Tate’s brain and all his synapses connecting as he concentrated. He was so earnest. His little hands splayed out, connecting each finger to a note on the piano. He played his scales and then moved on to Old McDonald Had a Farm. When he nailed the song, his pleasure filled the whole house.

“Watch this, Auntie,” he said to me, grinning.

I felt a pang of…guilt…mixed with inspiration and resolve. I thought of my Paige, the¬†youngest child. Was she was getting the same kind of mothering her older siblings received? Or have I gotten too busy?

It wasn‚Äôt that the early days of mothering were simpler or easier. In many ways it was harder, with younger children to look after, a house that always needed cleaning, 12 dorm boys to “mother,” and constant fatigue from not enough sleep. But the difference is we were less busy outside the home. And I admit it, I was more diligent about some things – like printing up all the American Red Cross swim guidelines so I could teach Cope and Nelson how to swim all the strokes and float with their clothes on for two minutes. Now? Ah geez, who can I hire???

Like most families, the youngest child has a very different life then her older siblings. This week, for instance, Paige happily came to preseason soccer practice everyday while I coached. She swung on swings, wandered the playground.

The life¬†of younger siblings life most often means being dragged to this and that. It’s life in the car and waiting. I’m not saying it’s all bad. Life is good for her, but it’s just¬†different. Maybe this is how youngest children get spoiled; parents feel guilty about not teaching them how to clean a bathroom so they reward them with iPads. Am I totally off base here?

As far as summer goes, I’m very anti-commitment. I resent camps, clubs, lessons, and anything that requires driving. We don’t participate in much. Summer is for us, because just wait. School will start and we will go,¬†go, go.

And sometimes I worry that the little one is not getting the best of me.

Oh, we still have charts, a ‚Äúzone‚ÄĚ chore wheel, one on one time, but mustering up the discipline to¬†sit down¬†and¬†be still and¬†teach letters has¬†waned. My older children ¬†have moved on, and in many ways I’ve gone with them. It’s so exciting, to be¬†busy¬†with freshman orientation, ocean classroom, and gasp – dating! In addition, a mother has dreams of her own…writing, running, pursuing…it’s hard to know what to forego and for how long.

I’ve already done the Arthur puzzles a thousand times. I can’t get excited about High-Ho Cheerio.¬†There‚Äôs also the¬† ‚Äúbeen there, done that.” I‚Äôve outgrown play dates and learning circles.

And yet, the littles need it. Does it really matter that I’m bored?

How easy it is not do that hard, mundane ‚Äústuff‚ÄĚ of teaching the younger ones, as if they‚Äôll just magically pick up “how to fold the laundry” on their own. ¬†I¬†now¬†understand how ‚Äúthe baby‚ÄĚ of the family often has a vastly different¬†parent than the older ones had. Why the baby doesn’t have his or her own scrapbook. Was mom and dad just too tired to take the pictures?

Like, l totally get why my younger brothers got¬†everything they wanted (they’ll recall it differently, ha! :))

I remember someone telling me that we had to be careful as our children became older, that we didn‚Äôt neglect the younger ones. At the time I thought it a ridiculous statement. If anything, it was the babies that took my attention. The older ones became independent while I was nursing and changing diapers. But now I understand. It’s too easy to get lazy, to feel tired, to stop parenting.

Young, new mothers might not understand that their example is every bit important as more “veteran” mothers. ¬†As new moms, we often think we have no idea what we’re doing. But we do know! It’s instinct. It’s maternal. It comes. We know what we need to do.¬†How great it is, this two-way street of learning¬†between mothers at all stages.

I called my other sister-in-law, Jill, to tell her about this revelation, of watching Kim work with Tate and how I needed to buckle down with Paige, to read and write and do more math. Jill, the mother of four girls said, “I KNOW! I THOUGHT THE SAME THING!”

Kim, we all want to be like you ūüôā

So, as I look towards fall, I know that¬†life isn’t going to stop. We still have to drive, deliver and pick up children from here and there. We’re not giving up soccer practice or going to school or parent-teacher conferences or the grocery store. But I’ve also concluded that there also has to be more “No” for the better “Yes.” There has to be those Nine Minutes. After that we can go back to benevolent neglect (kidding!).

And gee, wasn’t my ‚Äúbaby‚ÄĚ Paige thrilled when I told her we were going to read and write everyday just like we talked about at the beginning of the summer and then didn’t do so well because we went to Europe (see, life is HARD :). We were going¬†to make music together and she wasn’t going to love it every second, but like my mother always said, “like that has anything to do with it.”¬†(Thanks, mom!) Also, we were going to do MATH!

Paige only THINKS she¬†detests math. She whined and complained, but this newly inspired mother wasn’t giving in. And just this morning, after weeks of working hard together, Paige showed me her math score: 100%. She was beaming. That my friends, is called self-esteem: doing the hard things and the right things because they have to get done. It makes you feel mighty good about yourself.

This whole scenario reminded me of the expression, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. That might be true. But you certainly can remind the old dog of the tricks she already knows. And I’m happy to report, it comes back pretty easily.

To all you tired, new mothers who don‚Äôt sleep much, who are a little wide-eyed from this great adventure called motherhood, who don’t think you know what you’re doing: you do know. keep inspiring us older dogs. We need you more than you know.

And dear Kimmy, thank you <3

I'm sorry, Tate, for burning your hot dog. I'm trying to pay better attention :)

I’m sorry, Tate, for burning your hot dog. I’m trying to pay better attention ūüôā


everything starts messy

Spring was so slow to get here that when it finally came, we clapped and did cartwheels.

Oh, we were happy for days with sunshine and warmer temperatures.

And then my nemesis – the black fly – came out in full force. Tried to wreck spring.

Swatting flies, I caught sight of the yard. Spirits plunged. There was just So Much Work.

I suddenly felt depressed. I couldn’t do it all.¬†I just wanted to hibernate another winter.DSC_0637Every garden bed was covered with winter yuck, dead leaves and sticks. Weeds were threatening to take over the home land.

DSC_0715And though I knew the blueberry bushes wouldn’t always look like sticks, all I could see were weeds and…sticks.

garden¬†And the garden. Why are we supposed to grow food when it’s so hard?

seedsWeeks earlier I was ecstatic about the seed packets received in the mail!

DSC_0720And now weeds dare to grow.

Instantly, I felt guilty. Me, who just weeks earlier was wishing for spring.

plantsInside, plants are bursting, so excited to go outside and put down roots in soil.

DSC_0134I have to take deep breaths often. Everything starts messy.

DSC_0140Actually, it’s messy for awhile.

DSC_0709Everything starts small. Even though, inside, things are happening. Changing.

Babies, families, habits, novels, dreams, exercise goals, eating regimes, household management…everything starts messy. And is really hard.

DSC_0703It just so happens, I started reading a¬†book called, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. Pressfield talks Resistance. Resistance is your adversary. It’s all the doubts, fears,¬†you can’t do it, it’s too hard¬†moments.

Resistance is not your friend. It keeps you from doing what God put you on the earth to do.

I may or may not have been put on earth to be a farmer, but it was the next right thing. Because I want vegetables this summer.

So I made myself go outside with a bucket full of seeds. And I planted something.

And¬†it’s still messy.

chickensAnd if you’ve ever had chickens, you¬†know how full of poop life can be.

But did you also know, that chicken poo is such a fantastic fertilizer that they sell it in 25 lb. bags? Mmm hmmm.

Perhaps a little mess is how the best things grow.

DSC_0699When the seeds were finally in, I fainted from exhaustion. Or maybe it was all the black flies sucking my blood. Either way, I was down for the count. Down on¬†the grass. And I¬†saw these small, white¬†flowers. Hundreds and hundreds of beautiful white petals. They¬†only bloom for about a week. And then they are gone.¬†Easy to miss unless you’re knocked over on a field of weeds.

DSC_0647And years ago, I couldn’t get¬†asparagus to¬†grow. Mad,¬†I gave up. But something must have been done right because Gregor told me to go look on the other side of the hill. There, on a neglected patch of grass was hundreds and hundreds of asparagus.

Take that, Resistance! (Want to come over for lunch?)

DSC_0773The darlings¬†don’t know this thing called resistance yet…they think the dandelion weeds are gorgeous flowers. Gifts for their mother.


I’m going to call them my beautiful bouquet of resistance.

And isn’t it the truth that these children I get the great privilege of raising are also my biggest messers…which makes me ponder why we think that everything in life has to be so perfect, orderly, and tied up with a bow?

I’m going to stop making my bed!

DSC_0398These eggs from the most messy creature on the planet lays a¬†perfect food¬†every single day!¬†Believe me, they don’t come out looking so pristine. I won’t tell you what analogy my son likened that too this morning, but you know…ow. wow.

Everything starts messy.

Especially the things worth anything.

The time is now.¬†Get your hands dirty. Get messy. Make mistakes. Start again. Grow ūüôā





Running West and East

In 10 days I will be running with Marathon Glenn.¬†Finally. It’s been the longest, coldest, and darkest four months of winter running. Ever.

We are wicked excited. We say “wicked” a lot in New Hampshuh’.

Wicked takes Excited to a whole new level, don’t you think?

This is where we can look back and remember the cold winter mornings.road

Oh how fondly I remember this day. When the running program said “Run 15 miles.” But the roads apparently ignored the memo and were covered with ice and snow. Um, hello?? I showed up and this is what you’re giving me to work with??


The most oft-asked question: “Why did we decide to train during the coldest part of the year?”¬†When we had to wear two layers – long johns and running tights – and were¬†still¬†cold the entire run.

This was always the answer: It will be worth it in April!

I wasn’t always so sure, like that time I came home and cried, when my hands hurt so much I thought they would have to be amputated.

Or that time last weekend when my poor little baby toe swelled up to the size of an orange and I was performing emergency surgery at 2:45 in the morning, cursing those things called BLISTERS.

There were chapped lips, black toenails, lost toenails, less sleep, less writing time, unidentifiable aches and pains, weird dietary changes.

When our conversations consisted of chafing, fuel, VO2 max, pit stops, shoes, wicking socks, and whether the altitude change will kill me or not.

There were other conversations too, ones that only happen out there on the road; conversations of family, children, grief, God, turning another year older, and whether or not we should go gray naturally. A firm no has been decided ūüôā

These are the moments that bond women together for life.

There were days when the only time we could fit in a run was before the sun was up.buddies

We had to wear fluorescent running vests so we wouldn’t be mistaken for deer, so cars driving in the dark could see us. We had to wear hats, mittens, face masks. We often had to wear head lamps to even see the road, and then it became so cold and slippery, that the run had to wait for the sun.

Why do we look so happy in this picture? Oh yeah…it was…fun.

I’ve said it before: I couldn’t have done it without the buddies.


Yes, there were times we questioned our sanity.


And because it was winter, sometimes the run had to be done on the dreaded treadmill, a psychological weapon which I have already spoken about and won’t go into until next December. Oh spring, I love you!

Now, two roads diverge in a barren wood…we will part ways and each run our own race.slc

Headed west. In 10 days I will run at the base of the mighty Rockies.

Running buddy will go east and run in the famed Boston which, after last year’s tragedy, is going to be the greatest marathon the city has ever seen, with the fastest qualifying times ever recorded. Where American runner and Boston runner, Shalane Flanagan, will seek redemption. She wants to win it bad. For all of us.

We’re all looking to prove something to ourselves, that all the training over four long winter months was worth it. It’s a funny thing, this hard thing. You can run your guts out, throw up at the finish line, and say, “that was awesome.”

Now, as the weather is finally starting to warm, as the mountains of snow are mere hills, when we are in the best shape of our lives,¬†and all the training that can be done, is done…I can look back fondly at how hard it was to get from there to here.

Anyone can run. But it won’t always come easy. And that’s what makes it so great.


a Scary Mommy finds redemption (in false eyelashes)


Today I am a Scary Mommy at¬†Scary Mommy. Is that scary? Thank you for having me, Jill!¬†post script: to all the concerned readers on Facebook…this story was written from a humorous angle. I didn’t include the many, many conversations that followed when the story ended – pediatrician, nurse, pharmacist, school principal, every mother I’ve ever known…I’m sorry if it came across as me not taking this situation seriously. It was scary, but mostly funny.

To redeem self from terrible smoothie concoction fed to children, I’ll tell you about the false eyelashes. I think I’ve found my Superwoman cape.

I have never worn fake eyelashes (fake? false? clueless mommy). I’ve always associated them as accoutrements only blond bombshells can or want to pull off. But when my very-brunette friend Meredith told me she and her sisters wore them for her 40th birthday a couple of years ago, I was intrigued.

How do you wear them?

Do you actually glue eyelashes to your eye lid?

Won’t they fall off?

Don’t you look like a floozy?

What if you forget they are there and they fall off in the cereal?

For years, every time I passed them at Wal-mart or Target or saw eyelash extension deals on Groupon, the curiosity grew. But still, I just wasn’t the type. Was I?

But then I too, began to climb closer to age 40. Something had to give.

Being born with puny lashes, this is just a curse I’ve had to be content with. Or…is that really not true? Having finally mastered the blowdryer after 38 years of life, I now know that “natural” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. My hair is proof.

Perhaps with a little more effort, I too, could have eyes that “pop.” Perhaps husband would fall over in swooning delight when I stepped into the sunlight and into his arms…perhaps traffic would stop. Perhaps the show donkeys would bray, the mother hens would lay down an extra egg in my vixen honor.

Perhaps we all need to feel a little Marilyn-glory.

Armed with this new dream, I stood in front of the eyelash display in Wal-Mart. Oh, the choices for the cheap and clueless. Knowing there must be differences in eyelash quality, I was willing to lay down exactly $1, throwing them in the cart with glee, as giddy as that one time I drank Red Bull with Meredith before a soccer game (she is a suspect mommy influence.)

My new eyelashes sat in my closet for a couple of months as I gathered the courage to actually wear them. Finally, after persistent badgering from darling daughters, I decided they would be showcased at my parents-in-laws’ 43rd anniversary dinner at the Red Apple Chinese-American Buffet, encountering hundreds of diverse folk in need of fried wontons and sushi rolls.

Paige and Brynne were thrilled, watching me get ready that night. Paige had lost her tooth that day and was wearing it around her neck in a very special tooth container. She carefully showed it to me as I carefully peeled off eyelashes from plastic.

The directions were easy: Put glue on the lash rim and place on eyelash. Easy enough. But actually applying them to the upper eyelash was comical. For one thing they were too long and extended almost to my temple. The extra was hacked off and reapplied.

First impression? Definitely not Marilyn. More clown-like. Fortunately, I persevered and sought out mascara. And then? Wowza! It was kind of…fun. so different. so not-me. Eyes were actually popping!

As my love language is words, I sought out the validation:

6 year old: You look so booootiful!

9 year old: Um. Yes, Mom, keep it. I love it!

I left the bathroom. And walked down the stairs.

12 year old boy: He gave me a very strange look.

14 year old: No mom. No.

Me: I’m doing it!

Husband: He does fall over. I can’t decide if this is good or bad. He does say, “Wow.”

The whole way to the restaurant he keeps looking at me, wondering who is sitting next to him. I flutter the black bird feathers that sit on my eyes. Oh, he’s definitely swooning.

The closer we get to the restaurant, the more insecure I become, constantly checking my reflection in the mirror. ¬†Panicking, I say, “Should I just take them off?” This is a bad habit of mine. I’ll put on lipstick and then bite my lips until all color is gone and I arrive at an event in chapstick.

“No, Mama,” husband says. “Leave it.”

So I do. And the night goes splendidly. Dear in-laws like the look and look legitimately shocked when I reveal the secret. No one at the sushi bar falls over at my great beauty, but no one points their fingers and laughs either. Born this way!

We went home for bedtime, stuffed with crab rangoons, up the stairs, into the bathroom for some teeth brushing and flossing and potty time and all the rest. To have a record of the momentous night, I pulled out the camera.

While trying figure out the perfect eyelash picture, Paige carefully took out her tooth from the hanging tooth vial around her neck…and accidentally dropped it down the drain.

The lovely life she once knew? Ended.fakeeyelashes

The only picture of the night.

Pure hysteria. Eyelashes were forgotten. Sobbing wails echoed as Brynne frantically looked down the drain. There was no way we were going to find that tooth. But hark – what was that little white thing down there? A tooth? You see, we have a drain problem in this bathroom. Too much hair, toothpaste, Polly Pocket shoes, toilet paper, and who knows what else. It has had more Draino poured down it than any other sink in the state.

But could that clog save our tooth?

And so, I found the lone wire hanger I keep for such occasions and began excavation. I knew it was a lost cause, but we just had to try, right? While Paige sobbed at my side, Brynne exclaimed, “Oh sick, disgusting. What is THAT?”

All I could say was, “Oh sick, disgusting. What is THAT?”

Apparently, in a house of four girls, we lose a lot of hair. Long, lost hair that somehow gets washed down the drain and slowly accumulates for months. And then we get to a crisis point when the water doesn’t drain as it should and I wonder why I don’t try all those natural DIY baking soda drain cleaning methods. All this long hair was twisted and lodged into something black and slimy that made me turn my head and wretch.

I worked for a good fifteen minutes, using my non-existent surgical skills until finally the very tip of the hanger began pulling up a 12-inch long black snake. It was beyond horrible. Dissection began. Which goes to show how much I really do love my children.

Many times we thought we had actually found the tooth somewhere in that slime clog, but it always turned out to be something else disgusting and unidentifiable. As shrieks and “ewwww!” echoed through the house, I pondered my fallen state of fake eyelash sophistication at a Chinese-American buffet only hours earlier.

“It’s gone, Mom. You’ll never find it,” Brynne said in defeat. Paige collapsed on the floor.

Brynne began to furiously write a note to the tooth fairy, explaining the debacle. Please, please, she begged, please come for Paige anyway!

Remembering it’s not the critic who counts, but she who is in the dissection arena, I gave it one last try, and there – in the midst of the clogged slime – was the tooth. I smiled and held it up. TRIUMPHANT!

I’d like to think my lack of drain cleanliness was destiny.

Nasty slimy snake clog was tossed in the trash. Tooth was washed and presented to a awe-struck six-year-old. My girl looked up at me with shining stars in her eyes.

“Thank you, Mama!” she burst out. “You’re the best Mama in the whole world.”

I looked in the mirror, at my long luscious eyelashes, at the small child hugging the life out of me. I was struck by how our Marilyn moments come in so many different ways.

p.s. the tooth fairy forgot to come that night, but she’s just not as reliable as a mother.


A Year of Living Without

I’ve been mulling this idea for over a month now, debating whether or not I really wanted to do it.

It’s called A Year of Living Without, or: ¬†How I Made Room for Life. ¬†I got the idea from Leo of Zen Habits who is also having a year of living without. ¬†

This is where I give up one thing I enjoy each month and replace it with something else.

You can see why I wouldn’t want to do this, right? ¬†Who really wants to give up Nashville?

But I’ve always been intrigued with the concept of self-mastery. ¬†Can we truly master ourselves and our “natural” and human impulses? ¬†Of course we can.

I also long to simplify life, to banish the clutter in my head, and truly live with what is most important. ¬†I am convinced that living without something I want for a whole month will give me greater self-discipline in areas I want to “master”: parenting, spirituality, running, and writing.

Leo has different things he’s giving up, but I tweaked the list for my benefit.

12 Things I Will Live Without:

1.  July:  Nail Biting.  July was last month, I know, but I was still deciding whether or not to accept the challenge.  I did it. I went a whole month without biting my nails.  To do this, I had to know what the triggers are.  The trigger is the small jagged edge of a nail.  When I start feeling it, I bring my finger to my mouth.  STOP.  Replacement Habit:  Instead of biting I cut my nails, used a file my mother always keeps in her car, or just refrained from biting.  Is this a habit I want to break permanently?  YES.

2. ¬†August: ¬†Television. ¬†I don’t watch any t.v. during the day. ¬†The vice is at night when all the kids are finally in bed, and I sit down and watch a show with my husband. ¬†It’s a lovely time, a mindless activity we both enjoy doing. ¬†Gregor thinks this is stupid to give up ūüôā but I want to see how easy or hard it is. Note I’m not giving up movies. ¬†Replacement Habit: ¬†Read a book.

3. ¬†September: Raising My Voice. ¬†I purposely chose this one for September for two reasons: ¬†School is starting. ¬†Coaching begins. ¬†I don’t yell a lot, but I raise my voice a lot…Calling for a kid upstairs, outside, downstairs, hurry up, we’re late, dribble, shoot. ¬†Can I really not raise my voice while parenting and coaching soccer? ¬†A soccer field is a huge space. ¬†Can I be so effective with my body language and whistle that I won’t need to raise my voice? ¬†Replacement Habit: Lower my voice, be commanding in action. ¬†This one will be hard.

4. ¬†October: ¬†Email before Noon. ¬†I admit, the first thing I like to do when I get up, before anyone else is awake, is check my email. ¬†And since I have it on my phone, it’s even easier. ¬†Instead of praying or meditating or writing or reading, or thinking about the day, I check my in-box. ¬†I feel slightly addicted to email and want to be free of the pull for awhile, see if it helps me accomplish more. ¬†I think I’ll be twitchy for days. ¬†Replacement Habit: ¬†Write a novel.

5. ¬†November: ¬†Late Nights.¬† My goal is to be in bed before 10 p.m. ¬†I can function pretty well on 7 hours, but 8 is even better. ¬†I have a feeling that being in bed before 10 p.m. will do wonders for my happiness and energy factor, but this one will also be hard, especially as it’s close to the holidays. ¬†Replacement Habit: Sleep and reading in bed (dreamy!)

6. ¬†December: ¬†Gossip.¬† I don’t feel I’m a huge gossip, but I admit I like a juicy tidbit here and there. Especially where my husband and I work at a school, there is always so much good gossip! ¬†I’d like my name and my house though, to be a place where other people feel their name is safe. ¬†If you want to gossip with me this month, be advised I may listen and smile politely, but you will have to wait for January for me to contribute. Kidding. ¬†Maybe I can break the habit all together. Replacement Habit: ¬†Change the subject, read a book, comment on the weather ūüôā

7. ¬†January: ¬†Candy. ¬†Oh dear, this was hard for me to put on the list. ¬†When I’m writing in the afternoon, I love to snack on Junior Mints. ¬†I love a good chocolate bar. ¬†Sometimes those Starbursts just really hit the spot. ¬†I’m giving it up this month, right after the Christmas holiday. ¬†There could be serious withdrawal, be advised. ¬†Replacement Habit: ¬†Fruit?

8. ¬†February: ¬†Fast Food.¬† I live far from civilization; there are no fast food places in my town except a pizza place. ¬†I’m defining fast food as take-out. ¬†Fast food is a vice when I am coming home from the orthodontist with a child, or am tired and hungry after hitting Target. ¬†Too bad for Mama. ¬†No greasy french fries this month. ¬†Replacement Habit: ¬†Keep driving! ¬†Grocery store.

9. ¬†March: ¬†Soda. ¬†I rarely drink soda, but again, it’s the afternoon witching hour when I’m tired and a Diet Coke over ice just reaaaalllly hits the spot. ¬†The caffeine and the taste are such a pick-me-up. ¬†I indulge only 1-2 times per week, but it’s a treat I enjoy. ¬†Replacement Habit: ¬†water over ice, juice

10.  April:  Sitting for Longer than 30 minutes.  I do tons of sitting while writing and reading.  I hunch over.  My posture is worsening.  Every 30 minutes I will get up and move.  This should energize and help me not be so stiff. Replacement Habit:  Stand while writing, stretch, push-ups, walking

11. ¬†May: ¬†Red Meat. ¬†I purposely put “red meat” and not just meat because I still want to eat chicken and even though I know that dairy, eggs, beans and dark, leafy greens will give me sufficient protein, I like a little chicken, fish, or pork at dinner time. ¬†A little meat is also a healthy habit, not something I need to make many changes with. ¬†Perhaps someday I’ll be able to try being a vegetarian, but this is not yet that time. ¬†Replacement Habit: ¬†More beans at dinnertime

12. June: ¬†Buying New Things. ¬†Is there really anything I need¬†to buy? ¬†I’ll buy food and shop for the family, but I won’t buy anything new like clothes, shoes, or hair products ūüôā for the entire month. ¬†We shall live by the law of frugality. Replacement Habit: ¬†Purge more, have a yard sale, enjoy what I already have

13. ¬†July: ¬†The Internet. ¬†My husband says there’s no way this is possible, but it will be easier to give up the internet in July rather than during the school year because it’s summer time. ¬†I will write posts (I think?) but no blog reading, (yikes!), or CNN articles. ¬†I think this will be a hard one, especially if I’m doing any sort of research for an article I’m assigned. ¬†Replacement Habit: Write a book, read more, talk to my kids and family

I purposely chose Actions rather than Feelings. ¬†For instance, making the goal to quit feeling badly after a writing rejection really isn’t something I can control. ¬†I chose things that I can control and are within my power. ¬†I cannot control someone else’s action, only my reaction.

Things I’m Already Living Without:
Debt.  Except for our home.
Brussel Sprouts

I’ve never had any of these things, so this isn’t hard to live without.

Things I Wanted to Put on the List But Didn’t Want to Give Up:
Processed Food. ¬†I don’t eat a ton of it, but almost every morning I make a smoothie and have a peanut butter sandwich on high quality, multi-grain bread. ¬†I like it, it makes me feel good, and I don’t want to have to make bread so often. ¬†I wimped out. ¬†
White Sugar
White Rice
Goldfish crackers and boxed brownie mixes?  Not so willing to give up!
Social Media. ¬†This would be the easiest on the list to give up since I’m not all that active, but it would be hard to completely disconnect
iPhone.  Especially now that I have a teenager with a phone who texts me all the time with schedules and rides, it would be hard to live without

Things I Wanted to Put on the List and Want to Give Up:
I seriously considered cooking and cleaning, but worried my home would be condemned within hours. ¬†Still, “refusing to clean up after others” may be an eye-opening experience for everyone.

Why Am I Doing This?
To Master myself. I think it’s false that we can’t live without. ¬†I also believe that too much of this good, but extra “stuff” keeps us from some of the best stuff, like our families.

So, here’s to a year without. ¬†If you care to join me, I would sure love your company! ¬†I would also love to hear your comments on what would be hard for you to give up, or what you would give up instead of what I have listed. ¬†Good luck!

“That which we persist in doing becomes easier – not that the nature of the task has changed, but our ability to do has increased.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson¬†


Don’t Let the Monsters Win

Nelson fights the baddies. ¬†I think he got ’em that day.
Monsters are real, ghosts are real too.  They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.

-Stephen King

Hurt is a universal feeling.  We are all people grieving.  To fight for the weak is also a universal feeling; for those who have not dulled their feelings.  There is a battle cry between good and evil.  Can you hear it?

I find few things more infuriating and arrogant than a person who hurts another person just because they can.  Especially someone physically or emotionally weaker.

The Colorado shooting news came within days of another terrible revelation.¬† A childhood friend of mine was arrested on 4 counts of rape, kidnapping, and other charges. ¬†I close my eyes and shake my head.¬† I think of his mother.¬† I don’t understand.

These tragedies coincide as I am deep into my manuscript editing, writing about Gaysie Cutter.  She is my transitional character. 

“A transitional character is… one who, in a single generation, changes the entire course of a lineage. The individuals who grow up in an abusive, emotionally destructive environment and who somehow find a way to metabolize the poison and refuse to pass it on to their children. They break the mold. They refute the observation that…’the sins of the fathers are visited upon the heads of the children…’ Their contribution to humanity is to filter the destructiveness out of their lineage so that generations downstream will have a supportive foundation upon which to build productive lives.” –(Broderick, 1988, Marriage and Family, p.14)

Carlfred Broderick, a 20th-century psychologist and family therapist, is given credit for being the first to define “transitional character.” He died in 1999, the same year my Cope was born.
I think about Carlfred a lot. Not just because he had a funny name, but because growing up, Carlfred was a like another member of the family.¬† My mother was getting her Ph.D. in Family Studies/Parenting and she was super duper excited about all the information and theories she was learning about.¬† Her thesis was, “Why Teenagers Don’t Have Sex.”¬† My mother learns by talking, so I heard a lot of discourses on why I didn’t want to have sex as a teenager.¬† She probably thought we were never listening, always interrupting, “Hey mom, can you pass the milk?¬† Did you say something about sex? bye.”

Carlfred was someone my mother quoted like, all the time.  She will be so pleased to know I heard and remembered something about dear Carlfred. 

My mother wasn’t abused as a child, but she had light bulb moments when she understood she could change things in her life she didn’t want to pass down to her children. ¬†To use an oft-quoted light bulb moment: “Ah-ha! ¬†Bacon is not a food group.” ¬†She and my father could create their very own family culture (though we still eat bacon.) They could have their own rules, traditions, patterns, and habits. Her parents were great people, but she didn’t have to be exactly like them or do¬†everything they did. ¬†Ah-ha! We are not robots.

And thus, dear readers, you are witnessing her final product in all the bloggy details ‚Äď ta dah – ME!¬† Is this not exciting?
Carlfred, as usual, floated through my mind with the terrible news week. Thank goodness the Olympics are here. ¬†We need stories of heroism, bravery, and discipline. ¬†Please save the doping stories for another week. ¬†The only thing I know about the Colorado shooter is from a headline; that he was studying neuroscience.¬† I found this interesting as I too, love the brain.¬† He must have been very smart.¬† Maybe he even had flashes of brilliance.¬† I can’t pretend to know what was going through his mind, but I wonder, what would Carlfred say?

My childhood friend has been arraigned and arrested.¬† He has not been found guilty, but the case is strong.¬† And unfortunately, I am very sad but I am not absolutely shocked.¬† His father was not a good man. ¬†Evil exists.¬† It is very real.¬† This man, my friend’s father, hurt his children and nows lives in prison for the rest of his life. ¬†I didn’t know until college, when his children, including my friend, came forward and told. ¬†Thank you, thank you, for telling! ¬†That revelation¬†was shocking.¬† It changed me just a little bit.¬† It hurt.¬† And it scared me.¬† That I had believed in a fake.

This is the kind of news that makes us a little less trusting.  We begin to see the world less like innocent, hopeful children do.  It can jade us.  It is the kind of shock that scares, creates pessimism.  What a terrible thing to do to a child.

Despite the terrible acts against him, I was happy to see that my friend had seemingly overcome. ¬†He’d become successful.¬† That terribly smart, awkward, annoying, kid had gone on a service mission, went to college, received an MBA, married.

But the monster came.  The sins of the father visited.  The childhood friend I used to know is now a grown man facing life sentences for hurting someone the way he was hurt.  Why do we repeatedly do what has been done to us?

Everything he purportedly stood for; family, religion, country.  It all gets washed down the drain.  He will only be remembered for his crimes.

I don’t hate him. ¬†I try hard not to judge¬†him. ¬†Some day I’ll be judged too.¬† No one really gets let off the hook.¬† Even when they aren’t caught.¬† Everyone will pay the piper. ¬†I do feel compassion because I knew the boy. ¬†But I want to shake the man, rub away all the muck, yuck, horrible skin he acquired, peer into his eyes and say, Oh, there you are. ¬†I remember you.

When you spend enough time with someone, you think you know them, don’t you?¬† But then sometimes, your friends or family do something so shocking, that wild card of unpredictability is dealt and you think, where did that come from?¬† Were there signs? Even if there are signs, don’t we all hope the odds can be beat?

I’m sad for the boy who couldn‚Äôt be the transitional character Carlfred wrote about.¬† I am sad for the women who are more fearful for predators like him. ¬†He could have been the one who changed the course of a lineage. ¬†Don’t we all have a great destiny to fulfill? ¬†That, perhaps is what is saddest of all.¬† He could have been so much more.

It would be far more heart-wrenching for me, to lose my son committing a horrific crime, then the son who died heroically.  The former would break me into very small pieces.

We all have the potential to be wildly and unpredictably evil.¬† We also have the potential to be the one who rises out of the ashes and shows the world, beauty. There is light, there is darkness. ¬†We all choose. ¬†Inspire us please‚Ķdon’t let the monsters win.