Author Archives: Kristin


Today I started my day the way I usually do: getting the kids off to school, taking care of the dog, and reading the morning headlines over coffee and breakfast. News is my “bag” and lately, I’m a glutton for punishment by keeping up with it. I have no formal training as a journalist, but I do have some thoughts about news consumers that have come together over the last few weeks.

This morning, the breaking headlines were “Trump is ending birthright citizenship.” Most news outlets ran with it. Many people in my social feeds were instantly outraged. While I don’t watch it, I’m sure cable news was filled with “Breaking News.” About ten minutes later, the headlines softened: “Trump *said* he wanted to end birthright citizenship.” Smart journalists added to the headlines and retweets with the important caveat that he can say it all he wants, but of course, he can’t do it by executive order and would instead need to follow the process to overturn the 14th Amendment, which would require Congress and/or the Supreme Court (a way less catchy headline, BTW).

About five minutes after this, NPR tweeted the headline correctly and with the appropriate nuance. I thanked them and the word that kept popping up in my mind was “measured.”

We have almost entirely lost our ability to be measured.

(The irony of using hyperbole in a piece about being measured is recognized.😀)

Cable news (and the connected Internet echo chamber) is exciting. Graphics, live video, breaking news, anticipating what’s next, out of context interview clips that are infuriating, and opinions that get us worked up on both sides. It lights up lots of different areas of the brain: fear, arousal, reward systems, desire for safety. I’m not a neuroscientist either, so I’ll leave that discussion to the people who actually understand it.

Cable news is also on 24 hours a day. They have airtime to fill and fill it they do. Thus, cable news is also largely opinion. Remember when your daily news broadcast had to alert you that an opinion piece was forthcoming? They would read the formal statement and then the opinion author would say his/her piece. We now have nearly 24 hours of mostly opinions being thrown at us, with a sprinkling of factual news in between. If CNN, MSNBC, or Fox had to read the opinion disclaimer before someone spoke on their panels, they would be reading it all day long. News has become opinion, and in that way, Trump can actually claim that there is fake news. It resonates with many, but it’s increasingly dangerous because there is important information that we do need to know. We can’t tune it all out.

This brings me to something my Dad has always said. He and I don’t always agree politically, but we both enjoy a good political argument and are well-informed. His theory is that we were all better informed when we had 15 or 30 minutes of news each day. We would all tune in at 6:00 or 6:30 and have a little bit of local news and a little bit of national news. Journalists, who were trained in their craft, would distill the barrage of data and information coming at us into actual knowledge. They would weed it all out and give us the things we needed to understand the most. Those who wanted the deep dive would read newspapers or periodicals, where fact versus opinion was much more clear. Sure, a newspaper can have an editorial leaning, but opinion pieces are clearly identified.

(I should add, for those who think I want to return to the 1950s or 60s, I also realize that only having a few major news sources can be problematic in many other ways and the expansion of voices being heard is a good thing, but that’s a discussion for another day.)

Creating news for a single daily broadcast allowed us all to be measured. It weeded out headlines (that now get repeated and reinforced incorrectly all day long) about things like “Trump is ending birthright citizenship.” It would have weighed his one statement or his five Tweets with the news of the day and considered whether they were even newsworthy. Being measured means being thoughtful and carefully considering your words and their importance. Everything is not newsworthy, but 24 hour news means it all is.

And the opposite of being measured is something more like arrhythmia. I imagine measured news and discourse like drum beats or heart rhythm. We tune in, we get a predictable type of information or knowledge, we get our important local news, we get our important national news, and we distill that information into our own worlds. It is not meant to excite, necessarily, but to inform. I imagine arrhythmic news and discourse more like 24 hour/cable news. It is heart arrhythmia with peaks of breaking information and opinion and escalations in pulse and dead air filled with non-factual blathering. And then someone gets a tidbit of new information and the defibrillator comes out and gets the heart going again with more breaking news. This news is meant to make money. You must tune in and stay tuned in or you will miss what’s next.

A few weeks ago, my father-in-law visited and my husband was talking about Alexa and how he starts his day with his morning news briefing, which comes from NPR. He told Alexa to read his briefing and after she was done, my father-in-law said, “That was really good news.” He seemed surprised, but it was probably much more like the news he grew up with. It was factual and it wasn’t exciting. Some may even consider it boring. But it was measured. NPR may not break the headline first, but they will generally get it right. It’s also worth remembering that NPR is National Public Radio and doesn’t have the profit motive that for-profit news organizations do.

The ship has sailed on Walter Cronkite at 6:30. We won’t be going back to that model. But we can all do one thing: be measured in our own consumption and sharing of the news. Don’t retweet your instant outrage. Consider your words. Consume only the most impartial sources of journalism, or balance your Fox News or MSNBC with NPR. One wants to make money and the other has a public duty to inform. You wouldn’t take addiction advice from a drug dealer, so consider the opinions they are force-feeding you. Who does it benefit? What do other sources say? What if the opposite is true? Where does the money flow to and from? And before you share a news article, ask yourself the same questions. Beyond, is it a fact piece or an opinion piece? Could it be debunked by Snopes in less than 5 minutes? Who is the source? What is their motivation? Does this seem to align perfectly with my viewpoints? (If so, the world is generally never that tidy. Be cautious.) Does it seem too good or too crazy to be true? (It probably is.)

We are now in the position of asking the questions that journalists did for us in years past. The information comes at us rapidly all day long. We must now weed out the unimportant and politically-motivated stories ourselves. We must be able to identify when the facts stop and the opinions start. No one is telling us that anymore. And we must be careful what we, ourselves, broadcast. We are all now our own news channel broadcasting to everyone on our email contacts list, in our friendship circles, and on our social feeds.

And while you may not think your voice is important, when millions of people share false or politically-motivated “news,” we endanger the whole system. Cronkite once said “Journalism is what we need for democracy to work.” We are all amateur journalists now, and we are doing a lousy job. Our democracy is in danger, and trust me, I considered that word carefully.

Men are afraid

Because no one is standing up to do it, I have deemed myself “America’s Therapist.” I have no qualifications as such and my advice should not be substituted for a qualified medical professional’s. 😂
Today’s topic: It is a scary time for men and they have a lot to be afraid of.
Full disclosure: I have lived with anxiety my whole life. Raging anxiety that makes me fearful in situations where everyone else is comfortable and even enjoying themselves. I am terrified of flying and have only just now started to fly again after 20 years (and with the help of Ativan). I don’t particularly like heights. I worry about sinkholes and I hate it when interior floors feel “shaky.” The minute I get a sniffle, I’m pretty sure it will be the end of me and that pain in my side? It’s probably my spleen. So let’s just put all that on the table.
Fear is a powerful thing. And as we all know, fears can be rational and irrational. Or a combination thereof. Fear of flying can be rational because accidents can happen and it would be pretty freaking awful for those few moments when you realize you are in one. Fear of getting sick is also rational, because, yep, it happens. However, these fears become irrational in the face of evidence and facts. 
What would a therapist tell you if you said you were afraid of flying? (I can vouch for this advice personally.) She (or he!) would say that sometimes it’s easy to be afraid of things when we are out of control of the situation, but there are strategies to deal with that fear. These two are especially helpful:
First, you need to think about the rational facts and chances of something happening. Yes, sinkholes happen. But in general they are minor and cause a small nuisance. Yes, plane crashes happen. But they are very rare and driving is much more dangerous. Yes, people get sick. But the average lifespan is quite good in this country and researchers and scientists are finding new cures daily. 

Second, you need to think about that worst case scenario. Say that sinkhole did develop. Right on your property! What would you do? Well, I guess if everyone were OK, you’d probably call some sort of engineer and maybe ask your town or village what the hell you do when a sinkhole opens up? (Note to self: Figure out which professional entity deals with sinkholes.) And if you get a bad diagnosis from the doctor and you are actually really sick? Well, I guess you’d enter into that matrix of doctors and specialists and hospitals and you’d go through treatments and you’d fight like hell, right?

So, let’s take this all back to the premise that men are afraid and it’s a scary time to be a man. Obviously, we have entered into a time when women’s voices hold power that they never held before. And I don’t doubt that this is scary if you are a (white) man. You thought you knew the boundaries and now you are questioning whether the rules have changed or you were wrong in certain situations. You are very fearful of being falsely accused. What if you do everything right and someone accuses you of something you didn’t do? Or something that was entirely innocent on your part? Some may debate this, but let’s call these rational fears and use our two steps to deal with it.

First, let’s talk facts. About 2% of rape accusations are false accusations. This number is generally in line with the false reporting of any crime. Individual studies have shown the rate to be anywhere between 2% and 10%. So even if we take the high number of 10%, 9/10 rape accusations are truthful, which means you have a 1/10 chance of being falsely accused. The odds of you dying of heart disease are a much riskier 1 in 6. Had a cheeseburger lately? But Kristin, you say, not all sexual assault accusations or harassment accusations are rape. I hear you. Because of this, I think we would have to use that generally agreed upon statistic that 2% of crimes are falsely reported — with no reason to believe that sexual assault or harassment are any different.

Are you afraid of someone accusing of you of regular assault? If not, then carry on. If so, maybe talk to someone about that? (The point is that someone can accuse you of any crime in an attempt to ruin you.)

If you take the statistics further, anywhere between 1 in 100 and 1 in 1000 rape accusations ever lead to a conviction. So even with the low chances of a false accusation, there is little chance that the crime would A) be reported and B) that you would ever be convicted in a court of law. (Also, in a case of “he said, she said,” the tie usually goes to the white male. And you know that.)

So maybe you are fearful, but do the statistics really support your fear? Your therapist says no. Is there a chance this plane is going down? Yes. Is it likely? No.

Second, let’s say the worst case scenario actually happens and you are falsely accused of sexual assault, harassment, rape, or attempted rape. What would happen? It would suck. Yep, that’s a given. But you would get an attorney or an advocate depending on the seriousness of the charges. You would gather your evidence to support your side of the story. And you would fight like hell, right? There are no guarantees in life that something sucky won’t happen. The odds are incredibly in your favor that all will be just fine and you have to know that if something did happen and you are an honest and good person, the truth would come out in the end. Liars’ stories generally don’t hold up for more than 15 minutes. If you are really worried about false accusations, I would suggest you investigate and round up all of the white men in jail falsely accused of sexual assault. My bet is that you will find only black men. (Hence #blacklivesmatter, but we’ll save that for another day.)

So back off the ledge, American (white) men. It’s all OK. You feel out of control because a woman could accuse you of something and people would listen to her. In the past, her voice would be ignored and even actual assault would be ignored. The only thing that has changed in the #metoo climate is that women aren’t hiding their stories and more people are listening to these stories.

If you spend your days afraid of heart disease, something much more likely to happen than false accusation of a crime, you know that there are prescriptions for wellness. Eat a healthy diet. Exercise. See your doctor regularly. Take your cholesterol medication. Similar logic applies here. If, after reading this, you are still afraid of being falsely accused, follow this advice: Don’t touch a woman without her permission. Don’t tell off-color jokes in work situations. Don’t make sexually suggestive statements in work situations. (If you have difficulty with either of these, just count to 10 before you say something and re-evaluate. When in doubt, don’t say it.) If a woman says no in a sexual situation, listen to her. Don’t be creepy. Don’t drink too much alcohol if you do stupid things when you do (it’s not a defense for any crime). Don’t hold someone down without his/her permission. Don’t rape anyone.

But, you say, “My career, my family, my whole existence could be threatened and that’s still terrifying.” And I hear you. That’s a scary thought. This leads me to my third personal strategy with fear and anxiety: assess the current situation “on the ground.” What is happening right now? Everything is OK right now, correct? So take a deep breath and think clearly. You can be fearful or you can turn this all on its head and be grateful that this is happening. Why? Because this national discussion we are having can help us explore what is appropriate sexual behavior and you can change your behavior accordingly in the future! You can choose not to tell that sexually suggestive joke at work tomorrow. You can chose not to pat that woman on the back every time you see her. You can teach your sons things about consent and what constitutes assault. Maybe no one taught you that and that is wrong.

This national conversation is literally giving you “get out of jail free” cards. It is the answer to your fear.

But only if you listen.







Gratitude Sucks

I blame Oprah. She told me to start a gratitude journal many years ago. It would change my life. Stress would be conquered. I would reap many benefits in all areas. Feel happy! Improve your sex life! Lose weight! Being grateful was the magic cure for it all. Of course, as a now-grateful person who lost interest quickly, I didn’t keep up with the written journal thing. But every article, every television segment told me the same thing: when you are stressed, focus on the positives. Focus on the things for which you are grateful. You don’t even need to actually write about it all, just make gratitude a way of life.

So I did.

And after ten or so years with the gratitude experiment, I want to say that gratitude kind of sucks.

OK, so I’ll clarify. Being grateful for what you have and what is around you on a daily basis is necessary. It makes you a decent human being. But for a person with a penchant for overthinking and anxiety (as most moms these days), I think the constant focus on being grateful can do damage.

“I am so grateful for these dirty socks that I have to pick up because some people will never have a child or may lose one.”

“HOLY SHIT! I will now be sad for the next hour thinking about the fact that I just read that five teenagers were killed in a car accident. I will think about every possible thing that could ever go wrong. My GOD, what are those parents dealing with? I want to curl up in a ball and never come out of my bedroom. I tear up. I want to go pick up my kids from school and never yell at them again about dirty socks on the floor. BUT I MUST DO THAT TOO. Because if they don’t pick up after themselves they will become shitty adults.”

My mom would have just been annoyed that she was picking up socks while “All My Children” was on.

“I am so grateful that I have food in my refrigerator and meals to cook. Many people struggle to put food on the table every day. It shouldn’t be a chore.”

“I SHOULD BE ENJOYING THIS MORE! Why am I not enjoying preparing a wholesome meal? I am so fortunate, yet I still don’t feel like defrosting this ground beef. My kids will probably hate what I’m cooking and JESUS, they have been eating like shit lately and I really need to get control of that. I will cook every night this week and there will be no french fries if we go out for lunch this weekend. And shit, why even go out to lunch then? They will just be pissed at me the whole time and accuse me of being a food nazi.”

My mom would have just made Hamburger Helper and moved on with her life.

“I am grateful that I have to spend half of my day driving kids places in my car because soon they will drive themselves and then graduate from high school and I will miss this so much.”

“HOW AM I GOING TO MANAGE WITHOUT THEM HERE? My house will be so quiet and I don’t know how I can breathe without them in my life every day. I haven’t practiced that … ever. I will probably suck at it and become a neurotic, helicopter parent who texts them every five minutes. Who am I kidding? I’m pretty much that way now. Man, I need to let them be more independent. They will have to go to college and function in the real world. They should be doing their own laundry. Next week, they must do their own laundry! This afternoon, I’m writing down their new chore lists. I read that chores are the key to kids becoming successful adults. My kids suck at chores. How did I get this so wrong?”

My mom would have told me to ride the bus.


I read recently that meditation (another thing we are ALL supposed to be doing) can actually be detrimental to those with anxiety. OK, so it was a Facebook comment by someone I didn’t even know, but I tend to agree. Many people are able to quiet their brains and it is helpful. For those with anxiety-prone brains though, I think it is nearly impossible to turn off the constant thoughts that swirl through our heads. And attempting to turn them off can lead to scarier and more negative thoughts. This is how I meditate:

“OK. Meditation time. Quiet your brain. Really do it. Why is the dog barking? Come on. Quiet. Why aren’t you doing it? I wonder if the Zappos package arrived yet. We need those shoes for his lesson tomorrow. I’ll track it after I’m done. I guess I could run to the mall tomorrow if I have to. OK, Quiet. You are not very good at this. There’s probably something wrong with you. Brain tumor, obviously. COME ON. Why can’t you quiet your brain? Think of an ocean or some other calming stuff. God, I wish I were sitting on a beach. I could quiet my brain if I were actually on a real beach! I’d have a beer or a Sangria or some other shit that would help me quiet my brain. WHY CAN’T I DO THIS?”

So, I don’t even bother with meditation. My best meditation is a creative project or keeping busy or watching a TV show with a glass of wine.

And don’t even suggest yoga, it’s been the same story there. I worry more about why I can’t do what everyone else is doing or if I look ridiculous. It’s not helpful. I can accept that. Also deep breathing? It just makes me hyperventilate because I start focusing on breathing too much. You are not supposed to think about breathing, OK?


So, at the age of 44, I think I’m done trying to be grateful and stay in the moment and breathe deeply. I think I just need to live the days of my life. And stop obsessing about how I should be remembering it all and loving it all and scrapbooking it all. It’s just not going to happen. At the end of every day, I love my kids, my husband, my family, my friends, my dog, and all of it more than I can express. It’s OK just to know that. It’s OK to still hate picking up socks.

But there’s one more thing: I’m afraid this gratitude, this constant need to love every moment, is hurting my children too. The mothers of Facebook are one sad bunch. All we do is post look-backs. We have become emotional wrecks. We don’t want our kids to leave the nest. I’m pretty sure my parents never felt that way. Do you think yours did?

Maybe if we would have been thinking about how much we HATE picking up dirty socks and how much it is a drag to have to cook dinner every night for ungrateful mouths, we wouldn’t be so damn sappy about not having to do those things anymore. It’s almost as if it has become a maternal faux-pas to say that certain components of the job just really suck. Lots of components, actually.

My kids actually say things like this to me, “Mommy, can you believe how fast this is all going? I’m getting so much older. The summer went so fast and I’m going to be in 9th grade and I’m going to be going to college so soon.” Do you ever, ever recall feeling like your childhood was going too fast? Summers were eternal. I had no concept of the time in which it was passing. I don’t think kids should be able to put a timeline on their childhood because they are living it. It’s just morphing into what comes next and I, for one, never felt like it was ever “over.” And that’s a good thing.

Has my constant gratitude and appreciation for every single thing — and the emotional state that has come with it — impacted my children’s sense of childhood? Has the constant need to be happy led us all to a constant feeling of sappy? Has Facebook made it worse? Is “looking back” every day at how old we are getting and how quickly it’s all going a good thing?

Is it maybe OK to say that I’d rather take a nap than have a memorable outing with my family this weekend? I read recently on Pinterest that strong is the new sexy. So add that to the list now, moms. You must be a good mom (which means fall festivals, dammit!), a good wife, smart, talented, beautiful, sexy, and STRONG. It’s not good enough just to be in reasonable shape within a few sizes of high school jeans, but now you must also be ripped.

I reject the perfection and the fact that I should be grateful while trying to attain it. (Or more accurately, while feeling badly that I am not attaining it.)

How about human? Can a mom just be human? Because some days, I think we should all just be grateful to be a living, breathing human being with faults and needs and no joy when we pick up socks. Put that in your hand-blown pipe and smoke it, Pinterest.








Babies and Books

Parents … today is April 5, 2016 and I have a cautionary tale. Right around the time Max was born, I realized I needed to redo Madeline’s baby book. I had been very good (first born!) with writing in it and saving every little thing. It was overstuffed and the binding was breaking. I had a new baby book for Max that was an expandable scrapbook style and I decided to do the same for her. I went to Target and bought all of the supplies so I could take each old page and insert it into the new book. I had matching ribbons, trim, and cute decorations. I wrote an inscription in the front of the new book explaining to her what had happened to the old book and how I was making her a new one. I signed it lovingly from “Mommy” and dated it June of 2007.

I stored it in a bin in our guest room and meant to get to it that summer. Then life happened. My second baby became active. And he liked to put rocks and nickels in his mouth and destroy DVD players by putting the same kinds of things in them. The first baby graduated out of Kindergarten and I started having to take her places. To practices and events and concerts and birthday parties. There was homework and staying busy over summer vacations. There were swimming lessons. There were jobs for me and writing projects and holidays to prepare for. And I went to the grocery store. A lot.

And that new scrapbook was kept in that Rubbermaid bin. And it passed the purging cuts of cleaning, organizing, and three moves. Two of them interstate.

I would get to it. I would get to it someday.

I kept mental track of where it was. In the bin labeled “Baby Books and Memories.” It was on the mental to-do list of the hundreds of things I’d like to get to someday. But in real life, I have a hard time remembering to make haircut appointments far enough in advance — and then finding the time between drop offs and pick ups and errands to actually get to them. And I still go to the grocery store a lot.

And all of a sudden, the baby from that first baby book is 14 and going into high school next year.

On Sunday night, a look of panic washed over Madeline’s face (as she stared weirdly at Snapchat). It had been spring break and I had repeatedly asked her all week if there were any projects she needed to work on or things to do for school. Nothing, of course. It was all done! When I asked what was going on, she nonchalantly told me (at 5:00 on Sunday) that she needed a scrapbook and scrapbook paper and inserts for Monday morning. A group project. Of course, the other person was supposed to get it. And through a maze of Snapchats, it was decided that it didn’t happen and Madeline was now in charge of getting it. The truth lies somewhere in Snapchat. Mothers of teenagers know these kinds of situations make us drink wine. And sometimes vodka.

The riot act was read. “You need to be more prepared. You need to think about these things when I ask you. We were out and about a million times this week and easily could have grabbed the stuff. And now everything is closed. Goddamit! Hobby Lobby isn’t even open on Sundays! Are you sure you are being honest about who was supposed to get it in the first place? You are just going to need to figure something else out.”<

And my mind went to the basement storage area. In the bins. The scrapbook that I intended for her. Bought almost ten years ago for my baby girl.

I went downstairs and found the bin in the unorganized mess of the third move. I took out the scrapbook and tore out the inscription written in pretty handwriting that I have lost somewhere in motherhood. I found all of the pink ribbons and trim and stickers and spare pages. I brought it upstairs and handed it to her and said “You are welcome. I just bailed you out.”

When we were driving to school the next morning, we were talking about why I needed to get the scrapbook in the first place. I explained that her baby book had been falling apart and I wanted to rebuild it for her. I explained that life got in the way and I had just never done it. She asked me if I were ever going to do it.

“Maybe once you are in college (me thinking about how reasonable that sounded, only four years away now). After I buy a new scrapbook and write a second inscription, I guess.”

The abandoned baby books. The breaking baby books. The blank baby books. That is real life. The scrapbook that I intended to make? That was pretend life. Pretty life.

I like to think that maybe we will have better memories of the broken baby book with things falling out of it and the story of the night I bailed her ass out for a group project in the 8th grade. I bought that scrapbook for her. Yes, I did.

Pressure, Meet Grace

I open up Microsoft Word. Do I still have Microsoft Word? I do. On the way, I look at all of the standard browser tabs, nothing refreshed since I went to bed last night. We didn’t know there would be a storm when we went to bed. Some combination of busyness and exhaustion from attempting to get our house ready to move next week. Showings, and open houses, and packing boxes to end up in Chicago. In a house I’ve never visited and a town I’ve never known. An interstate move that will go from start to finish in under a month.

The boy was sleeping between us (one less bed to make in the morning if there is a showing) when I thought I was having a dream about being in my new town. There was a thunderstorm and my kids were at an address I couldn’t find. I slowly came to and realized it was not a dream, but a severe thunderstorm in my current backyard.  I had just thought a few days ago, “We haven’t really had many severe storms since we’ve moved here. I’ve never seen bad lightning and wind from my bedroom skylights and windows.”

Well, here it came.  I hate to exaggerate, but I don’t recall a worse storm.  Wickedly bright lightning, howling wind, driving rain, and hail. Golf ball? Tennis ball? Who knows. I was trying to ignore it. Three of the five family members were awake for it. The boy and the dog slept soundly through it all.  After it started to calm down, I did my standard mental gymnastics to try to turn off my racing brain that had moved forward to all of the things that could go wrong and all of things I had to be afraid of with this move. My normal approach is something like this: Start at 1024 (or some other random number) and subtract by 7.  It’s easy enough that you can keep doing it, but hard enough that you have to stay focused on where you are — and not on your pesky thoughts.  Once I was down in the 600’s, I was drowsy enough to fall back to sleep.

I awoke around 6:50, or so I was told because the power was out. Cole was going to drive down the road because he was getting tons of alerts from work about outages and we had no wireless and no cell service. I foolishly tell him to get some coffee and breakfast while he is out, thinking this was just a standard storm.  When he comes back, he reports that it is like a war zone, with impassable roads, trees down everywhere, houses crushed, and everyone just wandering around trying to find their way to the places they normally go. We make a second attempt out a little while later and eventually made our way to a Dunkin’ Donuts which had iced drinks, cash only.

The power is going to be out for a long time.

Everything I need to do today is scrapped. Register the kids for school online. Nope. Call the movers. Nope. Take the girl to her orthodontist appointment (can we get these braces off before we move?). Nope.  I say, “We can pack the Legos!” Nope. The detached garage with all of the boxes and bubble wrap is behind two powered garage doors with no other way in. “I can paint!” Nope.  Paint is in the garage too.  The reality sets in that we are in a disaster area and there will be no more showings for a while. You don’t generally look for a house when there is a tree on your roof. Or maybe you do. I feel badly even thinking that. The brain is churning.

I start to cry on our second trip out. Everything is awful. People are hurting. My stress is getting to me. I see acts of kindness and I cry some more. But I need my damn cell service. I have to talk to the movers.

I drive the kids over to the beach hoping to get some cell service and I’m in luck. As I’m dealing with my first trip for cell and all of the requisite conversations, the kids are on the playground. They wander down into the water for low tide, hiking out to a sand bar. Wading through waist-deep water. We have no towels. There has been no sunscreen applied. No one is fighting for his or her device. They laugh and giggle and hold hands walking back toward me.

We come home. I struggle to try to get cell service to see the outcome of my previous messages. No luck. I hold my phone high in the one corner of the lot that it might work. No luck. I tell them we need to go out again. We go out of our way to avoid all of the impassable roads. We find our way to the hardware store. I, at first, thought we’d buy moving supplies and boxes to get back to work. I quickly realize that I should buy batteries and lanterns because I am going to need them more. We wander through a dark, old hardware store. We are in luck. We move on to the deli – the only restaurant open – and there is a line out the door. That’s a good sign for lunch. My refrigerator is empty from vacation and not wanting to stock a house that will be empty soon.  I get my cell service.

We talk with people in line (or “on line” if you are a New Yorker). People who are friendlier than we’ve ever noticed here on Long Island. We tell our storm stories. We help each other. While I’m trying to get more cell service, my kids get a huge pile of onion rings and a sandwich as big as your head. And lemonade and iced tea. We talk in the car as we make our way home. We realize how lucky we were to have no damage. But also, there are no devices.

For the third time out for cell service, I leave the kids at home and go over to their school. My normal directions with numbers to call and emergency procedures when they are home alone go out the door. “If there is any emergency … umm, go find a neighbor.” That will have to do.

I come home frazzled. They are playing Battleship and making paper lists and laughing – and still eating onion rings.

At almost 3:00, I have finally seen enough “No Service” displays on my phone and decide nothing is getting done today and there will be little to no progress. I pour myself a glass of lukewarm wine from the fridge. I decide to take the dog out on the front porch to the rocking chairs. He’s on a leash – no electric fence technology for him either.

I sit. I start to rock. I sip a glass of wine.  He lies next to me, not even trying to go anywhere. The breeze rustles through the trees and none of nature seems uptight about what happened last night. The humans down the street who are attempting to clear giant trees off their roof aren’t feeling the same way, I’m sure.

“I haven’t spent enough time in these rocking chairs,” I think. There’s always something to do, a message to check, a message to send, a task to accomplish.  “I haven’t rocked enough while I’ve been here.” It’s not exactly quiet right now with the noise of generators and chain saws and wood chippers and sirens. But I hear the creaking of the rocking chair and I feel the breeze and I think about the studies that show the dangers of sitting too much. I turn that on its head and think there should be studies about the dangers of sitting too little.  Studies about forced busyness and connectivity and to-do lists that will all work out in the end.

Studies about the benefits of just sitting and being.

I think about all of this in my rocking chair. And I decide to write it down. On my laptop, fully charged thankfully — but with no connectivity. What did we even do on these things before the Internet? I’m happy that Microsoft Word no longer has Clippy to help me out. When did that change? I’m glad I can save my document without a connection to the outside world. I think about the fact that I can’t post it right away. I must wait. I must be patient. I must have faith in tomorrow and let go of the stress of trying to control each minute.

Yesterday, I buried a statue of St. Joseph near my For Sale sign. The pressure to sell this house is great. We’ve only been here two years and need to make it happen so we can buy what we want in Chicago and stay in the same school zones to avoid a third school switch for the kids. So, even if I’m not a religious person, I heard this advice and decided to do it. I’ll take any help I can get. While I was burying the statue, I made my daughter say the prayer with me. She was annoyed. I didn’t care.

This morning when we were surveying the damage, my daughter said to me, “You’re prayer really worked.” I assumed she was being sarcastic and snarky (she’s 13) and said, “Yeah, I guess this is what we get when I try to pray.”

She later told me in a quiet moment that what she was trying to say was that my prayer really DID work. St. Joseph protected our house and our family inside it. We were spared and truly fortunate this morning.

She is right.

And not only was our house protected, we remembered the feeling of a rustling breeze, a creaking rocking chair on a front porch, cold lemonade and iced tea in a house without air conditioning, wading at low tide, playing board games, looking through old photo albums, and a sleepy dog lying at your feet while sipping a glass of wine.  We remembered the sound of relative silence. The sound of nothing to do. Of nowhere to go. Of no one to call and no one to text.

I am closing up my laptop now to go play a card game with the kids. We were given a gift today.


One Saturday morning many years ago, I decided to have a piece of an old quilt framed. It had hung over a chair in our living room for quite some time, but it was very old and fragile. Years before that, I had pulled it from a trash pile when my parents were cleaning out the attic. The story behind it was that the same woman who made my grandmother Grace’s (maternal side) wedding dress had also made it and it was separated into pieces. The center portion was made in the mid to late 1800s. Understandably, my mom wasn’t really sure what to do with it. I thought it was beautiful and figured I could do something with it. Someday. And one day, I drove it to the frame shop and when the owner told me what it would cost, I gasped. It was more than I could afford at the time, but I did it anyway. The results were as stunning as I had envisioned in my parents’ garage that day. I brought it home to our townhouse and tried to figure out what to do with it. It was too big for any spot we had.

A few months later, when my husband and I were searching for our first house, I happened to take one more look at all of the listings on a Saturday morning. We had seemed to exhaust all of the potential houses on the market and nothing was working out. One new one popped up that day. It was on Grace Court. I called immediately. It was in the part of town we wanted to be in. It looked beautiful. It had a finished castle playroom for the baby I was yearning for after a miscarriage. A huge snowstorm kept the realtors from having a walk though — it surely would have sold in a day otherwise. We walked through it. It was perfect. I gasped again (not good at poker faces) and I think my husband knew it was a done deal. It was more than we could afford at the time, but we did it anyway. And two weeks after we closed on the house on Grace Court, I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, who would be named Madeline Grace.

We lived on Grace Court for 13 years. And the quilt had a perfect spot above the fireplace the whole time. And there was always a connection to my maternal grandmother.


When we were moving to Long Island, our first house deal fell through. We couldn’t find anything and packed up in the car and went back to look at houses again. Our realtor shared a listing for a house that looked perfect. And it instantly reminded me of my grandparent’s farmhouse (paternal side) that I ran around in and explored for most of my childhood. When I saw what it cost, I gasped. It was way more than we could afford. And then we saw it and were told that it was a corporate buy out and the owners would take a lot less. It was still more than we could comfortably afford, but we got the house and did it anyway.

The antique pottery that my parents had given me years before which was imprinted with my great grandfather’s business name matched my new kitchen perfectly. The colors might as well have been color matched. The way the power and phone lines hooked into the second floor of my house (and not below ground) looked just like my grandparent’s farmhouse. The little places to explore made me feel like I was there again.


One weekend recently, we decided to take a little drive for lunch. I saw on social media there was a new place in Patchogue called That Meatball Place. I didn’t have a particular desire for meatballs that day, but it was one of many towns we hadn’t explored and the beer list looked good (an important part of a weekend lunch). The kids didn’t want to go, but we did it anyway. When we walked in, it was a very cool atmosphere with lots of old barn wood in a completely new restaurant build out. From the moment we sat down, the service was great and they handled Madeline’s allergies perfectly. We had a very nice lunch. When my husband went to the bathroom before we left, he came back with an astonished look on his face. He explained that there was a sign outside the bathroom that said all of the reclaimed barn wood in the restaurant came from a barn in Bloomsburg, PA. Our little hometown where we both grew up. This was absurd. We moved to Long Island to randomly find a restaurant with wood from Bloomsburg? What were the odds?

I inquired a little more. What barn? He said “Twin Hills Barn.” That was weird. I grew up in a development called Twin Hills, but the barn picture didn’t look familiar — it had Twin Hills painted on the side. I inquired more and then it occurred to me that the barn at my grandfather’s farmhouse had been torn down after he died. I called my parents on the way home. Were there other barns in that part of town I didn’t know about? My dad drove around and confirmed the only other barn there was still standing. He remembered that one of the first things my grandfather did when he bought that barn was to reside the whole thing. And if you knew my grandfather, you would expect nothing less. He never met a project he didn’t like. So, it might have had the “Twin Hills” underneath it the whole time.

I called the restaurant and they gave me the name of the company that they got the wood from. I called the company and the nice woman on the other end of the phone was excited by the story and knew the barn well. “That’s the one from Surrey Lane in Bloomsburg.”

My address. We both gasped and then sat on the phone in silence for a few minutes.

We had moved to Long Island and randomly found my grandfather’s barn repurposed into a restaurant. Had we not moved, no one in my family would probably have any clue where it went. His hardworking spirit and energy were in those walls. The barn door that he swung many times was hanging there.

Our Long Island adventure had meaning. And it connected me to my paternal grandparents.


My maternal grandmother Grace died in January one month before her 101st birthday. (I talked about her a lot here and here and here.) And Grace Court is now in my past. My connection to her was deep and her focus on music and art and writing helped shape me as a person. My paternal grandparents’ hard working spirit has become evident to me as well — I have done things in the last 18 months that I never knew I could. My strong will has never been stronger. I was afraid of many things, but I did it anyway.

And I am seeing that fate takes us to interesting places, deeply connected to our past and touching on parts of our spirit that help lead us to the future — if we allow ourselves to see it. The quilt still hangs on my wall. The pottery still sits on my shelves. The lightning rod from the barn will soon be in my hands — a leftover from the restaurant project. I suddenly feel as though the meaning of my last 15 or so years has been to honor the legacy of my parents and grandparents. But that has turned into a mandate to create my own future. Somehow it feels time to create my own legacy. I have created the children. Perhaps it is time to make the relics that my own grandchildren will tell stories about.

What will be crazy or costly or hard that I will do anyway? What will my story be?


When we contemplated moving to Long Island, one of my biggest fears was not having family and friends around if “something bad happened.” As a high anxiety person, I can think of bad things happening while sitting at a pool (a tree branch falling), on a beach (a tsunami or sand cave-in), or in my backyard (sinkhole). So, I obviously gave this quite a bit of thought. Giving up your support structure in the middle of life with kids who get sick and husbands who travel and pipes that burst — well, I didn’t take that lightly. We knew no one. Who would be the emergency contact on our school form?

But we pulled the trigger and moved.

And, of course, the tests began immediately. A daughter with a concussion. Kids with viruses that they lovingly shared. Broken pumps and furnaces. Trips to urgent care. Snow too deep to shovel when your husband is away.

But in between came birthdays and Halloween and living out of boxes and getting those boxes unpacked just in time for Thanksgiving dinner.

And then we hit summer. Someone close diagnosed with cancer. A puppy who was gravely ill with meningitis for a month and nearly died.

And on the very last day of summer, a 5:00 AM wake up call from our 7 year old son crying with complaints of a sore tummy. A tummy that had troubled him all summer. The first step of child illness is to put the patient in your bed and attempt to go back to sleep hoping for a perky smile later in the morning. But morning came and went. He kept complaining. He didn’t want to talk or move or play Minecraft. He seemed clammy and lethargic. By lunchtime, the pain had migrated to his right side.

Emergency room by 1:00.

By 3:00 he had x-rays, bloodwork, and an ultrasound. By 3:30, my husband called and said that my daughter and I needed to come immediately. As we feared, suspected appendicitis.

My 12 year old looked me straight in the eyes as I panicked and cried and got dressed. She told me everything was going to be OK. The child really does become the parent, don’t they?

I really should have taken a shower earlier in the day.

We got to his ER room and as I walked in the surgeons were there and said they were concerned it was something else. Something not appendicitis — which as much as I hated, I at least knew what I was dealing with. I came in to the doctors saying he needed a CT Scan. It could be something else, they said, but they didn’t want to go into those details until we were sure. The options were wait and see, exploratory surgery, or the scan. We opted for the scan and I almost fainted and had to take over half of his bed. Crackers and juice.

Two hours of a hysterically crying little boy. He was so little on that bed. Trying to drink the CT scan juice. Trying to play “I Spy” with me to calm down.

“But Mommy, I can’t calm down. I can’t relax. I’m so scared.”

(Me too.)

We waited. He drank. He held every ounce of that disgusting liquid in his sore tummy until the last few seconds of the scan, when he threw it up all over everything. They wheeled him back to his room.

And a doctor, a beautiful doctor, was at our room waiting for us. The results were already back to the ER. She immediately confirmed appendicitis.

I could breathe. But my son could not. The word “surgery” sent his panic even deeper. What do you tell your little man when he says, “Aren’t you scared for me, Mommy? I just want to go home. Please take me home.”

We just hugged and kissed and assured him everything would be OK and tried to be silly and thank goodness they sent us to a private room to wait. Surgery would be around 11 PM that night. The first day of school was supposed to be tomorrow. His sister was supposed to nervous waiting for her first day of junior high — and now she was trying to sing and be silly for her brother and deal with her own fear.

More waiting. As my husband was racing back to the hospital after taking the dog out at home, the nurse told us they were coming for the boy.  More panic and tears from my sweet little boy. “Daddy has to get back here. I can’t go without him.” And Daddy ran every red light to do just that.

We wheeled him down. (The staff of a hospital has to be the closest thing we have to angels on Earth. Transport people talking to my son about Star Wars. Anesthesiologists who tell him to imagine he’s going to travel into space tonight. Surgeons who put you at ease the minute they walk in the room with their calm demeanor. Recovery room nurses who stroke your son gently to wake him after surgery so he isn’t scared.)

We get to the OR and confirm what is happening while they mark my son with a Sharpie. They start to give him the happy drugs in his IV. His exhausted body folds as soon as the needle hits the IV. I am thankful that he can close his eyes and turn off his brain. He is surrounded by the two stuffed animals I thought to stick in the bag when I left the house. Cowie and Mr. Quackers would keep him company during surgery. The pillow I brought along would have to stay with me.

And then they wheeled my little boy away.

And I held his pillow tightly as we walked to the waiting room, as we walked to Starbucks to get a drink, as we watched the surgery board with his initials on it, as we waited to hear the noise of the doors slam as our surgeon walked into the empty waiting room at midnight. And he finally walked in. Everything had gone just fine. A very red, inflamed appendix, but no rupture. Straightforward surgery. All of the words I needed to hear.

His little, exhausted body slept for almost two hours before they attempted to really wake him. We had the pleasure of being in the recovery room with a very elderly gentleman who just had brain surgery. His singing and yelling of “Shit! Shit! Shit! Cocksucker! Mother Fucker! Get me out of here!” was enough to make us all laugh in a punch drunk kind of way. An hour or two later, the fact that he was still yelling and was completely alone made us sad. And anxious.

The girl went to our room to sleep, hoping that she might make it to school in the morning (She didn’t). They roused the boy. He woke just enough to go to his room. I stroked his head and told him to sleep as we went over every bump and doorway on the way back to room 40 — marked with his name.

My husband and I sat, shell-shocked, in room 40, listening to beeping monitors and trying to read vital signs that we shouldn’t have been looking at. 5 AM had turned into 1 PM and then 7 PM and then 11 PM and then 2 AM. I also had the sense to stick a bottle of wine in the bag for the hospital. My husband and I drank it. We took deep breaths. We made each other laugh. We reclined in our hospital recliners by 4 AM — he in the adjoining room and me in with the boy. The surgical team came in at 4. Rounds started at 6. I slept for 45 minutes.

The morning brought the realization of the people living on the pediatric floor with sick children who were battling things much worse than an appendix — and all the while, they were still trying to eat and get work done and do laundry in the Ronald McDonald House. We exchanged glances in the hall, sharing the pain that only parents can know.

The morning also brought my boy back to me, who woke up smiling and not in pain. And it brought the realization that we have support. An early visit from my husband’s work colleagues at the hospital. A 7 AM visit from his wonderful pediatrician who came as soon as he got the call from the surgeon. Phone calls and texts from friends. Get well gifts sent to the house. Offers to take the dog out. Another visit from the surgeon who told us we could go home as soon as the boy ate solid food — hopefully that day.

And the morning brought my parents who traveled from Pennsylvania and met us at the hospital to take the girl out for lunch and get her out of the hospital. All was OK. It really was OK.

The afternoon brought us home, and despite missing the first week of school, my boy is back. So today, I am baking his 8th birthday cake thinking about the fact that both 8 years ago and 1 week ago today, I was in the hospital with him. As I say every night at bed time, you are “my world and my everything.” And it’s a hard fact of life that things can change so dramatically in one day.

But I’m relieved to also have the reminder that we have people around us who care. We have friends and support in case “something bad happens.” They are here. They are everywhere. We — and specifically I — can get through what I need to get through. And I am not perfect, but I am strong. I showed up and I held my boy’s hand and told him everything would be OK, even when I wasn’t sure it was.

Happy 8th Birthday, buddy. And a humble thank you to everyone who has helped hold us up during the last year, month, and especially, week.

 And here’s our favorite chocolate birthday cake that I’m making. We suggest serving it in pieces cut “as big as your head.” 




Cats, Dogs, and Chocolate Ice Cream

Someone recently told me that I was “like a cat,” in that I wanted to be alone during times of trouble. The person was not too far from the truth — when things are hard, sometimes getting back into bed seems like the only logical solution. And I guess if I were single and without kids or pets, it would be easy to do just that. Hungry mouths that want to be fed are sometimes the only thing that make us climb out of bed, get dressed, and start another day. Eyes that still stare at the world with wonder are what make us go to the grocery store again, schedule things on the calendar, and make plans for Christmas when it’s only August. Voices that ask you to look at their Minecraft house or Lego creation for the 50th time are what make us keep hope for the world — when it’s full of tragedy, violence, illness, and destruction.

Parents don’t have the option of losing all hope.

As much as we want to stay in bed and say, “Fuck it all.”


In March, we got an 8 week old puppy. He’s a Portuguese Water Dog and we were totally out of our element. Every morning around 10:00 when it was time for him to go back in his crate for a nap, I retreated to my bed for an hour to get some work done on my laptop. There was normalcy in the warmth and softness of down comforters that held my family in our old house. The new house, the new town, the new puppy. It was suddenly a foreign life. Had I completely fucked it all up when we decided on the dog? There was no possibility of going anywhere anytime soon. The puppy. I had to get up way earlier and my husband had to stay up way later. The puppy. All of our nice things were hidden. The puppy. The random hangover from a late night with too much wine was suddenly very painful again. A 12 and 7 year old can manage for a morning. (But not) The puppy.

But hungry puppy eyes and little puppy yelps also have a way of getting you out of bed in the morning.


The last year has been a hard one. Every comfort of having a place that felt like “home” was abandoned and it makes dealing with life’s crises that much harder. But we purposefully did this. Change. It’s like a prize that we hold out in front of ourselves. We need a change. It will fix this. And maybe it does. Maybe it makes us grow in a way that our subconscious mind predicts, but our conscious mind fights against when we are in the middle of it. Our subconscious mind is bold. Our conscious mind just wants to go back to her childhood bed and have her mom bring her a coddled egg on toast.

The subconscious mind knows that things will never be the same. The subconscious mind knows that there is pain ahead of us. No matter what.

The conscious mind looks for new duvet covers.


The puppy started sleeping a lot more than normal last Tuesday. He was sluggish, but I attributed it to a big weekend with lots of company. Even though I knew a day without telling him “Down!” or “Off!” or “Sit” or getting frustrated and putting him in his crate was abnormal. His 6 month old crazy was gone. At one point, we joked that this is what it would be like when he grew up.

By Thursday, I wasn’t sure he would. Extreme pain, yelping and crying every time he moved, falling asleep standing up and falling over, fever, not eating. Eventually hiding in the corner and not wanting to even see me. There were at least four vet trips to figure it out. Then an emergency vet. For which he seemed to use every ounce of adrenaline to perk up and impress the cute doctor. They gave him fluids and sent us home.


I’ve never kept watch over someone or something fighting a grave illness. This one? Steroid Responsive Meningitis. Rare, but more common in puppies who are medium or large breeds. I don’t ever again want to watch over someone fighting a grave illness.

But the odds are that I probably will.

It’s a horribly helpless feeling. Even when it’s your dog. Who you have only known for four months.

I knew I loved him. Months of taking care of him did that quickly. I knew the kids loved him as they hugged him as he slept and asked me in the morning if he were all better. I knew that my husband, who fought getting a dog, loved him as he forced pills down his throat and came back to bed in tears after trying to help him in the middle of the night.

My mind played this record over and over. “I can’t think about telling the kids that their puppy is gone. He was the one thing that they wanted if we decided to move. It can’t happen.”


We bought Sulley a new bed after we left the vet the other day. On Sunday, the kids and my husband went to a picnic we were scheduled to go to for months. I agreed to stay with Sulley. I pulled up his new bed (one that he would have destroyed in a day a week earlier) up next to the couch and he slept the whole time they were gone. I played Candy Crush and tried to read mindless stuff on the Internet, but of course kept drifting over to PetMD (Yes, they have that too. Shit.).

He woke up a few minutes before the picnic was over. And he batted at a toy. He didn’t cry out in pain upon getting up. The Prednisone that the vet gave us and the ER vet advised against because it would mess up the testing was working. The Prednisone that my husband, a take charge kind of person in a time of crisis, took out of the pill bottle and gave to him that morning against the second vet’s wishes. If this puppy was dying, we weren’t going to let him suffer in this kind of pain in the hopes for clearer test results on Monday.

But it worked. And hopefully it will continue to, although we have no real guarantees.


Today I’m going to bathe him and put on his monthly flea and tick medicine. After his pain meds, I am going to let him nap and try to take the kids to the beach for an hour or two. Homebound is not easy for anyone.

I’d like to be back in bed. I really would. But I hear the kids playing and the sun is out and I need to get some groceries. Life? It goes on, as they say. And sometimes, you need to buy a bunch of sunflowers, make some chocolate ice cream, and figure out the back to school schedule in a world of more uncertainty and pain than we can manage.

The subconscious mind tells us that all of this joy, all of this pain, all of this stress, all of this suffering is why we are here. The life story will someday be complete. And we will find good in every story. Yet there are arcs to our stories and it is natural to prefer the rise and the peaks over the falls and the valleys.

But in times of trouble, I’d settle for some boredom. No peaks, no valleys, just some status quo.

The boredom of normalcy. The beauty of life that includes getting frustrated with off the wall puppies, dealing with fighting siblings, and complaining about work or the cost of school supplies.

Sometimes the change we seek is not at all the change we end up getting.


Last night, I fell asleep on the couch with the puppy who was finally able to climb back onto it after a week of near paralysis. The rest of the family was with me while my bed sat empty upstairs.


Here’s an awesome recipe for chocolate ice cream. It will fix all of your problems for a few minutes. Make it. 

I am a homemaker.

The contents of my hoody pocket currently include three bright orange pebbles and a dog treat. My pants are of the yoga variety. I am wearing no make up and, as usual, I will shower before I go pick up the kids. Because everyone knows you must look presentable at kid pick up. Drop off doesn’t matter as much and yoga pants are accepted and encouraged — presumably because you are going to a yoga class or heading out for a run. I wonder how many just end up at the grocery store like me.

The table I am typing on currently holds a piece of foam core board, paints, pipe cleaners, and a styrofoam ball. This week we are working on the sixth grade atom project, which is different from the cell project, but luckily required the same materials. Atoms and cells. Not too different really. There is also a pile of (mostly empty) Easter eggs — although I am still trolling for the ones that contain Jelly Bellies. I figure I am doing a service to my children’s sugar levels by balancing the load. (Score. I just found some. Must not mix them up with the pebbles nearby.)

The orange pebbles looked identical to jelly beans when I was walking on the beach this morning. I stopped in my tracks thinking they were leftover from a weekend egg hunt and was going to pass them by when I realized they were rocks. They ended up in my pocket next to the dog treat. For some reason, as the walk continued, the pebbles began to symbolize the three babies I have carried. One who has become a smart and beautiful 12 year old girl, one who has become an amazing 7 year old boy, and one who was miscarried and didn’t have the chance to become. On the days that I ruminate over whether I should have had a third child, I try to remind myself that I did. Almost fourteen years and there are only sporadic days where I still feel that hurt. That’s a good thing, I guess.

It has been nine years since I quit my job to take care of that 12 year old who was suffering greatly at daycare with severe food allergies. Almost daily calls about milk being spilled and hive breakouts and her inability to breathe didn’t do great things for the cortisol levels. And it certainly didn’t make it easy to focus on a job. I guess I knew it was time to quit when I was walking into daycare trying to hide the portable heart monitor under my shirt — which was attempting to figure out a messed up heart rhythm. Diagnosis? Healthy heart. And stress.

Over those nine years, I have done many different things to attempt to feel professional. I’ve worked part time in my field. I’ve written here and elsewhere. I’ve taken photos. All have earned me some money at times (mostly wages that were acceptable in the 1920s) and all have made me feel like I still had some professional self worth and value — something that is very hard to give up. I realize being able to stay home with my children is a luxury. But it is also tremendously difficult to give up your professional identity and have no financial security of your own. The “what ifs” rule my brain some days.

The three little pebbles, however, rule my heart. And those three little pebbles are who I work for. As caregivers, we’ve gone through many years where the term “homemaker” has been downright derogatory. I say that’s bullshit. I’m taking it back.

My job is to make a home for my family. I make Easter Eggs happen. I make Christmas happen. I make dinners happen. Some nights are magical, some nights are horrible — but we all show up the next night to give ourselves another chance. I clean the toilets and make the beds and call the plumbers and make sure the appliances work. I make sure there are clothes in their closets and shoes (that fit) on their feet. I work on cell projects and atom projects and homework every night. I scramble eggs in the morning and make sure there is a serving of fruit or vegetables on their plates. I pick up dirty socks and launder for the family. I walk the dog and feed the dog and play with the dog and do all of the things the children promised to do. (Secret: I knew it would be that way.) I buy groceries and apple juice and wine and bourbon. I plan meals for company and change the sheets when they come. I send birthday cards and flowers to the ones we love. I photograph the holidays and write the silly kiddo quotes down and keep track of where their baby books are. I know where to find the onesie they wore home from the hospital. I step on Legos and I don’t even feel it anymore. I buy pillows to make the couch look pretty and I sort the mail. I water the plants and buy the flowers for the porch. I get puked on and I snuggle with the puker. I clean the things they didn’t even know required it and it happens (most of the time) without them even knowing it.

I don’t do it perfectly, but I make a home for my family. And I think I’ve found the stage in life where I don’t need anything else.

I am a homemaker.






Traits and Legacies

From the earliest moments of pregnancy, we think about the traits our child will be given. Boy or girl. Hair color. Eye color. Body type. Eventual height. Who they will favor. Personality. We think about it a lot until they are actually here and we start to see them develop into the person they have been all along. We joke with our spouses that “he gets that from your side of the family” or “she gets her brains from me.”

If we are lucky, we see them skip through elementary school without too many cares. Of course, there’s always a little drama, but for the most part, elementary kids are their best selves. The truest, kindest, most innocent version of people. We see signs, of course. This one’s a worrier. This one’s a free spirit. This one has no fear. This one has trouble reading. This one has attention issues. This one’s going to be an engineer.

We think highly of kids, don’t we? We see all of their potential without a thought to their obstacles. A friend once told me the story of her son who loved to do puzzles. When a family member suggested that he was going to be an engineer because of his analytical love of puzzling, his pragmatic father simply said, “Or he might just like to do puzzles.”

We, of course, wonder what they are going to be when they grow up — leaning much more toward the amazing, rather than the plain. We think about engineers and architects and athletes and CEOs and performing artists way more than we envision them sitting behind a desk feeling unfulfilled.

We see their grown up faces developing. He has my nose. She has your sense of humor. This one has leadership skills and your analytical mind and he is going to be so successful because of it. He can rule the world with the best of our traits.

And we parents think these things a lot.

And then on one random day at 4:15, it strikes us that they might inherit the “dark side” too. For some reason, we never really consider this early on as the hope and promise and innocence of a young child stares back at us. We too often think that the child will only be a good version of me, and rarely consider the whole picture of who “me” really is.

That’s not to say we are suppressing some sort of serial killer, “I’m making a skin suit out of you” persona.

It’s to say that our children will struggle with the same things we do. Our lack of confidence. Our penchant for anxiety. Our hypochondria. Our jealousy. All of the traits that we don’t advertise on Facebook in our perfect little pictures of home.

They will worry about the size of their hips compared to others (the only time they will like those voluptuous hips will be when they are in labor and delivery and only have to push 4 times to get the baby out). They will not feel adequate unless they excel at the same sports their parents did. They will feel academic and social pressure that makes them sick. Many will have panic attacks and bodies that only know they are stressed when phantom physical illness falls upon them.

They might be sad. And not because of all the stupid stuff we as parents think. It won’t be because we didn’t play enough Legos on the floor with them or cook them enough homemade meals.

It will be because they are genetic copies of us and the lineage that has come before us. Many of our struggles will probably be their struggles too.

And that part sucks.