Easter Basket Boondoggle

I’ve always got these great ideas. Like…I am going to make the moments of my life more meaningful by living intentionally with great deliberation and forethought and by thinking ahead of time with intent that is, ummmm, you know, intentional.


This year Easter fell prey to this tendency to over-commit to meaning. And I guess I should have seen it coming, I mean…Easter is happening on a day of this week. And that's really all it takes to get me riled up. So, you know, it was bound to happen.

I’ve never been super comfortable with the Easter as a gift giving extravaganza. I can’t quite figure out what a bunch of dolls and games and cars and My Little Pony stuffed animals has to do with Easter. I mean…don’t my kids with their warm home and full pantry and good educations and room dedicated to toys have, you know, enough? Shouldn’t we be dedicating the Sunday where we celebrate His eternal life with service or symbolism or maybe, at least, back to back viewings of Ben Hur?

But my kids have talking about waking up to Easter baskets for the past week. And the Easter Bunny. And eggs. And I don’t want to be a total Grinch. (Or whatever the Easter equivalent of that little jerk is…what’s the natural enemy of the bunny? A fox? I don’t want to be a total Fox.)

So, I had a long talk with myself. And I decided that each Easter, the kids would still wake up to a gift. But it would be an offering that reflected an eternal principle or pursuit. Something that united us as a family and expanded their horizons. Something that helped remind them of the rights of their divine heritage and the universal nature of our God’s love. Something that helped them understand the beauty of this mortal and immortal life! A brief and incomplete reflection of one of the things that made them worth something as grand and comprehensive as the Atonement. Yes! That was it! A gift that paid homage to THE gift.

I decided this year we would focus on Creation. How to teach them about the divine gift of creation? Give them the means to create, of course! Baskets full of the makings of many little and big projects. Odds and ends and ribbons and glue and paint and paper and pieces of wood and felt shapes and…other things! And all of it would be accompanied with a card that explained the divine directive to create in words that even a three year old can understand! AND IT WOULD BE BEAUTIFUL AND THE DAY WOULD BE FULL OF DEEP DISCUSSIONS ABOUT THE REVELATIONS WE GAIN BY EMULATING GOD AND REACHING FOR THE TOPS OF OUR SOULS! AND EASTER WOULD NEVER BE THE SAME IN OUR LITTLE TREE COVERED HOUSEHOLD AGAIN!

But no pressure.

I left the house last night to get the supplies for my baskets brimming with creativity. Told the cute husband I would just run to Target and be back in an hour.

It was all going to be so simple. But then…I don’t know. I got there and didn’t know where to start. Should I focus on a project or just creativity in general? Did the baskets call for gem shaped crayons, regular crayons or speckled with different color crayons? I hemmed and hawed over the Great Crayon Decision of 2015 for about 15 minutes. And then I remembered they had like, I don’t know, FOUR HUNDRED crayons…so maybe they didn’t need anymore. Or maybe they just needed the gem ones. Or the speckled ones. Or nothing at all. I mean does anyone really need crayons? No! Unless they just need some more regular ones….

And paper! Who knew paper was so expensive! I mean just the white stuff wasn’t too bad…but the stuff I wanted to get with the patterns! and color! and square cut for kid folda-bility! was nearly ten bucks. I guess I’ll get three…

Would they rather use textile markers on a tote bag? Or a pillow? Or…ooooooh look at those vases they could decorate! And then there’s all the possibilities with the wood crafts…doesn’t every home need a birdhouse…two birdhouses?

Maybe this is a dumb idea? I mean…will they even understand what I am trying to say? Am I really giving them the gift of creativity with a $14 tote bag and some markers? And in truth… WHAT HAVE I GIVEN THEM? IN THE COURSE OF THEIR LIVES? WHAT WILL THEY HAVE IN THEIR HANDS AND HEARTS WHEN THEY LEAVE THIS TIME WITH ME? Are we doing anything well enough…true enough…expansively enough? Forget the stuff…AM I EVEN A GOOD MOTHER? IS THIS ALL A WAY TO MAKE UP FOR THE MORE IMPORTANT PLACES THAT HOLD MY FAILURE????

Maybe that sewing kit would be a better buy?

Three hours later, I finally returned home. Six bags of good intention gone bad and one receipt that came close to approaching our weekly grocery budget.  Riley just laughed. I laughed and then got a little teary-eyed and then laughed again.

Because…this is kind of a pretty damn good little synopsis of the mother my kids have right now. Big ideas and little ability to figure out how to implement them. And all the time between the moments of grand intention are filled with hugs and dance parties and definitely too much TV. And I hope it is enough and that my often ridiculous reaching for big things results in a hunger in them to do the same. Who knows…they might actually end up being effective at the task. Heaven knows, I, most often, am not.

So what am I doing with those six bags? Taking them back today. And then buying some plastic eggs to fill with candy. And two little dresses for two little girls that like to twirl. And calling it good enough.

Because, maybe, right now, it is.  

But seriously...what the heck are you putting in your kids' baskets??? Chat with me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Click one the links below. 


I've got this pinched nerve.

And I'm supposed to be taking a bath to try and loosen it up. The water is running and I'm safe from the rigors of the first fifteen minutes after we put the kids to bed. The up and down for the water, kisses and "if I have to come in here one more time, I'll .... come in here one more time."

I've got bubbles and a book and I should be relaxing, but all I can think about are the women I know and love that are hurting. And the women you know and love that are hurting. And the women reading this who are hurting and the women who'll never stumble across this that are hurting. And I wish I could draw you each a bath, to soak out the pinched hopes and cramping heartaches. I wish I had more to give. I wish I wasn't kept from helping the way I should by the limitations of my own fragmented capacities. I am feeble and my giving is fickle.

Today, while I was out walking I saw the sun shine against a tree with pink blossoms. It bounced against the bark and petals, leaving shadow behind on the places it touched. My pink tree turned black by the light of an eager and giving sun. A message, maybe. The cost of so much illumination has to be a momentary engulfment by so much darkness.

I guess what I am saying - while the kids yell in the hall and I sit in a steamed white room - is this...if you find yourself in shadow tonight, it only means a forceful light has fixed on your form. It is carving you out in greater relief and speeding your growth. The color will return, I promise. Until then, know you are loved. You are known. You are enough. And the rising sun is much gentler than the setting sun. 

Morning isn't far off.

Let's Stop Sharing Photos of our Kid's Crying, Snot-Nosed Meltdowns

I'm still feeling good about sharing photos of their silliness and smiles. And freeze faces.

I'm still feeling good about sharing photos of their silliness and smiles. And freeze faces.

Listen, we’ve all been there.

The house is somehow a disaster even though the kids have only been up for an hour. You can’t seem to find your grip on life, let alone the dishes and your two year old just threw himself to the floor in tears because the peanut butter on his sandwich touched his hand. Or you’ve saved up for a year to take your kids to Disneyland. You’re finally in the happiest place on earth and you’re trying your damnedest to make everything magical and your five year is throwing a fit because you forgot to pack her green sneakers instead of her blue ones and OH MY GOSH, MOM. DON’T YOU KNOW THAT DISNEYLAND ISN’T THE SAME IN THESE STUPID GREEN SHOES? Or it’s just another day. And your three year old is seriously about to lose her mind because the lego fort you build isn’t big enough to hold her teddy bear and basically the world is ending and her screams are the harbinger of the apocalypse and oh my gosh, is it nap time yet?

As parents, we all deal with these meltdowns differently. There are harsh words and soft words, capitulating and grandstanding. Sometimes we are proud of our responses, sometimes not so much. I imagine parents have been reacting to the kid conniption in the same varied ways since Adam and Eve finally decided to put down the parenting books and start, you know, parenting.

Nothing much changed. Until it did.

Now when their kids lose their cool, parents don’t just reach for words of comfort or frustration. They also reach for their cameras on their phones.

We’re all pretty well acquainted with the result - the photo of the sobbing child accompanied by a funny comment and witty hashtag. Heavens, we haven’t just seen those photos, if you’re anything like me, you’ve also posted them. And it isn’t just for the laughs we’d get for sharing the oversized agony about a silly little kid problem.

No, we share them, because parenthood is hard. It is as shockingly difficult as it is shockingly beautiful. We’ve all heard it takes a village to raise a kid. Well, I think it might take a village to keep a parent from going absolutely bleeping crazy. In so many ways, sharing the hard parts of our days – including that kid crying over something small or ridiculous for the hundredth time – is how many of us search for our village.

It’s all well-meant. They are just little kids having big fits over little silly things. They’d laugh, too, if they knew what we knew. There’s no harm intended.

But I think we are hurting our children and ourselves by posting photographs of them in their moments of extremis, even when we know everything is going to be alright.

A few thoughts.

1.  Ridiculous is relative. Yeah, that one time my three year old cried until she threw up because she was so upset her shoe laces were uneven WAS pretty crazy. I mean…what the hell, kid? But somewhere between searching for scissors to even the laces and cleaning up the puke, I took the time to really look at her. Sure, the problem seemed imaginary to me, but her distress was real. She was torn up inside. She doesn’t like crying hysterically. I guarantee she would have bypassed the whole experience if she could have managed to do so. But she couldn’t. Because something about that uneven shoelace upset her perspective or introduced just a little more disorder than her already disordered toddler world could handle. So, she cried. And she screamed. And she gasped in air until she expelled the contents of her stomach. And it was gross.

You know who else freaks out over things that other people could take in stride? Me. When it’s one of those days when I am positive I’m never going to think of another thing to write…ever. Like, not even enough words for a grocery list. Or when my husband is driving and I AM REALLY, REALLY SURE THAT CAR ALMOST HIT US. Or, you know, any of the three days before I start my period. I don’t need people to pander to me when I am being irrational. Heavens, please give me a talking to when I start hiccup crying over the grown up equivalent of uneven shoelaces. We all need help with our perspectives now and then. But I cannot imagine how violated and invalidated I would feel if my husband started taking photos of me mid-breakdown and posted them to Instagram with witty hashtags.

2.   We do not want to teach our children that the internet is the dumping ground for all emotions. I know that when I take that picture of my kid mid-tantrum in Target, I am really trying to express my emotions about HER emotions. But what does she see? She sees me taking a photo of her in a vulnerable moment and posting it online. Kids may be consistently irrational, but they aren’t dumb. They’re watching us. And they are going to take the behavior we model and apply it to themselves. Do we want our daughters exposing their vulnerabilities on Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat? Do we want them to think a screen is the correct receptacle for their heartbreaks or triumphs? Do we want our children to spend more time tagging their experiences than actually, you know, experiencing them?

3.  Parents do need a village, but photos of crying kids isn’t the surest way to build one. Listen, parenting is a hard, messy, lonely, beautiful, peanut butter covered business. We need to be able to share our experiences – not just as an act of edification, but also as a sign of solidarity. Oh, your kid screams in the middle of parking lots sometimes, too? Thank goodness. I thought I was the only one. But the most effective means of communicating both our need and support does not have to come at the cost of our children.

As parents we get to witness the highs and lows of our children’s lives – that’s a privilege that we don’t need to share with everyone that follows us. Let’s acknowledge that and find other ways to communicate the hard, ridiculous, funny ways our kids freak the heck out. Call a friend or walk outside and talk to neighbor. Engage with your community online, by all means. I have found so much solace and support through women on social media. Maybe post about your hard day from your perspective with a picture that doesn’t include your kid’s tears. There is something incredibly intimate about portraiture, even the kind snapped with a cracked iPhone. Those break apart moments belong to them. Even though it’s hard to recognize at times, it’s a privilege that they feel comfortable enough to share them with us. I want my kids to know their irrational, out of control, crying on the floor selves are just as safe with me as their well-behaved selves. Safety doesn’t mean I always tolerate, give into, or encourage freak-outs, but it does mean I respect the kid behind them.

We never completely outgrow an occasional inability to see beyond the moment that holds us. We need to teach our kids how to navigate that reality, not publicly mock their failed attempts to do so. Can we chuckle about puking over shoelaces? Of course, we can. Hell, not just CAN, we SHOULD. Laughter is healing and sometimes, as a parent, a sense of humor is the only thing that gets me through the day. (There are a few instagram accounts that basically feature kids standing proudly next to the incredible messes they've made. These crack me up. Kids: 1 Parents: 0) But let’s be more discerning about what we publish permanently to the internet about our kids. And let’s see what happens when we reach for our kids before we reach for our phones. Who knows?

We just might learn something worth sharing.  

(Hey, guys. We’ve got this. And you’re doing a good job. Past kid crying photos, puke and all. )

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Mother and Child

Mother and Child by Mary Cassatt

Mother and Child by Mary Cassatt

As a newborn, the back of Margaret’s neck was rosy with what her pediatrician called a stork bite. Nothing to worry about, he assured me. It was just a blush of blood vessels close to the skin and would most likely fade as she left toddlerhood. The little birth mark never worried me. When she was tiny, I would kiss it and breathe in her baby smell. As she got older, her hair grew down the nape of her neck and that new baby smell went the way of the wind.

I forgot about the stork bite and the promise of its disappearance.

The day before her first foray into preschool I took her for a haircut. When the curls fell away from Margaret’s neck and shoulders, I gasped a little. There peeking out from her little bob was that first blush of babyhood. The temporary birthmark hadn’t gone away. And for just a moment, I could smell that baby smell and feel how she felt in the crook of my arm. It was an odd thing – the ache to hold a different version of a person still within reach.

Last week, I sat in church surrounded by women I know and hope to know. The sister sitting in front of me was what the politically correct call “well advanced in age”.  Her arms were covered in fine lines. Her hair was bright white, a few red strands where the color had forgotten to forget itself. And there, on the nape of her slightly bent neck was a blush of blood vessels close to the skin. A mark that hadn’t managed to fade in her toddlerhood.

And for just a moment, I could see her as a baby and I could breathe in her baby smell. I could feel her mother’s love, a love that remains despite the years and loss.

I could feel that as she is, my daughter’s one day will be. And I rejoiced in their white hair I won’t live to see and the fine lines they’ll gather in the places I won’t get to go. And I marveled at the sameness of our sisterhood.

And the differences.

And I thanked God for the things that stay with us and wept for the things that leave us.

And then I breathed deeply, not for the last time.  

A Girl Like Me

Sometimes I revisit old posts to remember new lessons. This is one of those times. (Happy Friday, loves.)

I think sometimes we keep our eyes shut and our hearts occupied when we are moving towards a destination. I know I have been guilty of this in both the literal and metaphorical journeys of my life. Sometimes I find myself where I hoped to be and feel a bit empty. How did I get here? What were the moments that led to this?

I am working on it.

It took four planes to get me from America to the Dominican Republic last week. Four airports full of people leaving and arriving and hoping and sleeping. I kept my eyes open. I had one layover in the Vegas airport that stretched from its expected "barely tolerable" three hours to a "my goodness this beyond the pale, I don't care how first world that sounds" five hours. I had plenty of time to write little thoughts, eat big sandwiches and watch the people around me.

I settled into my gate with a book and even more food, when a woman with two dogs approached the counter.

She was what polite characters in fiction would call "big boned". Her clothes were wrinkled from travel and her spaghetti straps pressed into her shoulders. She wore white scuffed sneakers and a bit of lace sock peaked above their tops. She held her lips in a tight purse and her eyes were as creased and tired as her clothes. The dogs looked more well rested than their owner. One was large and white. His ears sharps and eyes curious. He rested his nose against her stomach. She held the other under one arm. A little bit of a thing with more fur than flesh. The man at the counter looked at her with confusion and expectation.

She stood defensively before she spoke, each white shoe planted firmly on the stained carpet.

"Hello, sir. These are emotional support dogs. I'm taking them out to Virginia and need to check them to come on the flight with me. I've got all the documentation and before you say anything, know that everyone has been giving me problems all day and in the end, they have all decided I can keep traveling."

He smiled and murmured something before typing into his computer. After a few moments he looked up,

"This airline must have different rules than the other ones you have been traveling with so far. I'm only allowed to let you take one dog with you. Let me call my boss. Until then please take a seat."

Her shoulders slumped and she led the dogs away, sitting them and herself on the floor next to the counter.

Over the next hour and a half, I watched documentation be disputed, phone calls made and superiors called over. The woman was on guard and terse. She was universally frustrated and dismissive with all the agents, even the ones that showed concern. The initial agent that helped her was always kind. The others were not. One employee would walk over every few minutes to ask her supercilious questions and then smirk at the people around him when she answered. Her flight came and went. She called her sister to cry.

"I'm trying to do the right thing. I'm trying to get these out to you, but everyone is being so mean."

I started crying, too.

The dogs were a bit restless. Wandering around her and whimpering when she wouldn't let them walk away. The agent with the smug grin walked over when the white one yelped,

"You are going to have to control those dogs. This isn't a kennel. Ma'am."

"You think I don't know that? I'm doing my best. They are just tired. I am tired, too. You ever been tired?"

A woman sitting behind me had been witness to the dog dilemma as long as I had. She was well dressed and her lipstick was fresh. The gold hoops in her ears swayed as she shook her head and leaned over to her husband,

"Enough with the dog sob story, already. Who is this woman. She is crazy."

He chuckled and circled his hand around hers.

The words to tell her off were tumbling  out of my mouth when I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye.

A woman and her two teenage daughters sat down next to the woman and her dogs. The fifteen year old started petting the big white dog, while the older one let the little dog crawl onto her lap. Their mom put her hand on the woman's shoulder.

"Tell me the names of your dogs."

The four of them talked about the dogs while the agents at the desk continued to call and type and look official. The polished woman with the chuckling husband chuckled about something else. And I sat in the middle of everything and let the lesson I'd just learned seep into my bones.

The passions and plights of our fellow sisters may not always make sense to us. Heaven knows, a lone woman demanding to get on a plane with a dog the size of a miniature horse and one the size of a mouse has the air of the ridiculous about it. But, she was trying to do something that was important to her. And my approval of her situation doesn't really matter one little bit. All that matters is my understanding of her heart. We've all got pursuits, hopes, problems that make no sense to outsiders. All of us will be the "tired woman with the dogs" to the women around us at one point or another. We've got no choice in the matter.

What we can choose is our reaction to our fellow sisters when they find themselves in that place of isolation. Will we shake our heads and laugh knowingly? Or will we get down on the floor next to them and ask them to give us the names of the things they care about?

I plan on spending much of my time on the floor. Want to join me? I'll scooch over a bit. There's plenty of room.

Want more information on the human trafficking sting I did after all these plane rides? Read here and here

A Good Day

I've got two emotional daughters. If we let every circle of tears ruin our day, we'd be in real trouble. So Riley and I have started ending all of our emotional little girl moments with the words, "We can still have a good day." One morning on our trip to California was particularly rough. Zuzu literally WEPT for half of it...for no apparent reason. (Any mom knows that weeping is a little more annoying and a lot more pathetic than your basic crying.) I was getting frustrated and walked away from her before I said something silly or mean. (Because I am often silly and, every once in awhile, mean.) Ten minutes later, she grabbed my hand and gave me this little note. I was happy for the reminder and happier that our words have started to echo in her head. Yes, we can still have a good day. 

(Hey, have a good day.)

Disney's Beauty and The Beast is the same story as Fifty Shades of Grey. (Don't take your 5 year old.)

Hey, Belle. Just take a break from the man game, eh? Maybe go to college! Or move to Paris. Or, you know, get a few roommates and start watching Mindy Project re-runs.

Hey, Belle. Just take a break from the man game, eh? Maybe go to college! Or move to Paris. Or, you know, get a few roommates and start watching Mindy Project re-runs.

Listen, I don’t really know how to use the word “ironic”. I feel like every time I employ it, someone much wiser than me explains that what I am describing is really just coincidental, curious, or merely paradoxical.

So, despite all my semi-literate inclinations, I’m not going to say I thought it was ironic when I saw the same FB friends that screamed outrage over Fifty Shades of Grey, freak out with excitement about the casting news for Beauty and The Beast. But I am going to say I thought it was…odd.

Let’s recap.

The curtain opens. A mysterious man with a dark secret. Something in his past has left him damaged and angry. A young girl imbued with innocence. The man uses abuse, coercion, and fear to maintain control. The girl goes back for more. Ultimately, the mysterious man is redeemed by his association with the young girl. He is transformed from isolated monster to mainstream "man of the house" by the end of the tale. Ah, romance.

And that’s just Beauty and the Beast. I don’t really have to take the time to write a Fifty Shades of Grey synopsis, because it would read exactly the same way. They are the same story. (Sure Christian had an abusive childhood and the Beast is a meanie that had a run in with a sorceress, but, in this case, the devil is not in the details.)

I think through all the talk of sexualization and “DID DAKOTA JOHNSON SHOW, YOU KNOW, IT?” we’ve lost the real terror in this year's blockbuster tale. Forget the Red Room. Fifty Shades of Grey is truly upsetting because one of its longest running story lines is the heroine’s unwillingness to speak up, not just about what she wants, but what she fears. She stays silent because she doesn’t want to lose a man. A man that hurts her to the point of tears. With a belt. Against her will. (The Atlantic has an excellent article on the concept of consent within the trilogy. Guess what? That thing Grey and Steele have? It's not a mutual understanding.)  

Many people continue to talk about Anastasia’s spectacular loss of virginity, I’d like to hear more talk about her spectacular loss of self.

If we rail against Fifty Shades of Grey, but then take our daughters to see Disney’s new Beauty and the Beast, we are sending them a horrific message.

We are telling them that good girls change bad men. That it is their job to change bad men. That it is, in fact, the stuff of fairy tales to change bad men. We are telling them that they are redeemers not partners. We are telling them man’s natural state is brutish and woman’s natural state is meekness. We are telling them that abuse is something a relationship can get over….if the girl is just patient enough. We are telling them that love is a dark and winding path instead of a light that illuminates. We are telling them that a sacrifice of self is a sacrament of love. By being outspoken against Fifty Shades and supportive of Disney's Beauty and the Beast, we are telling them that this is all just fine as long as what we perceive to be illicit sex is not involved.

And in doing so, we are telling our girls that what we call their "virtue" is more important than what God calls their soul.

That is a message I’ll never serve to my girls with a side of popcorn.

They deserve better. 

Let's chat. Leave kind, mean, insightful, funny comments on my Facebook! Can't wait to meet you! Use the links below.

Just Say Yes. (meg on video)

A few months ago, I got to visit with the gang on The Matt Townsend Show and talk about our right, our obligation, our privilege! to "say yes" more often in life. Check out the clip. And have a yes filled weekend. Love ya'll. (Look at that opening screen shot...sooooo flattering.)

Head to my social pages to chat, shoot the breeze and make happy, angry, silly, serious and just plain insightful comments and conversation.

Life as we know it

Our dear friend Justin Hackworth took this photo of the man and I while eating dinner together.

Our dear friend Justin Hackworth took this photo of the man and I while eating dinner together.

Hey there. Well, things have changed a bit around here. New website name, new look, same old me. My new logo is still incoming from a dear friend, so I've thrown something up in the header until she's done. Once she is finished, this whole space will feel so much...well...more alive. Until then, bear with me. Why the change? I'm simplifying everything in my life and a website composed of mostly blank space with a few words scratched across it seemed like it fit right in with what I'm doing in my offline spaces.

I'm still Meg in Progress, I'm just doing all that painful and glorious progressing under my own name now.

Things are going alright around here. Speaking more honestly and listening more intently. And cooking with the kids, especially wee chef Viola. And still forgetting to turn in Zuzu's homework on time. You know, life as we know it.  

How are things with you?

Head to my social pages to chat, shoot the breeze, leave happy, angry, prophetic, silly or just plain dang insightful comments. Can't wait to talk to you there.

The Listening Place


christina's world - wyeth

I was at my aunt's house the day she died. Everyone had gathered there to be with her on her last day here. Margaret was just a few months old and I didn't feel much older. I hated to go to that leaving-place empty handed and so spent our grocery money on buckets of fried chicken. The atmosphere in the house was solemn and loving and laughter. I took Margaret to my aunt and that sweet woman held her just hours before she left this world to be born into another.

I was in the kitchen with a few family members when her death began in earnest. I tried to stay light and bright. Laughing and lifting. Suddenly,  I felt a change run through the room. A crashing, enveloping thing. I felt disturbed by it and talked louder through its ripples. A moment later my cousin hurried into the room,

"She's gone."

My thoughts on our  literal spiritual connections to one another are still evolving. I don't know much, but I do know that something told me she'd just left. I talked through that sacred communication because I always seem to think it's my job to talk everyone through everything...including myself. I made a promise that day to never be louder than the things I am meant to hear.

A little less than five years later, I sat in a hospital waiting room with my brother and sisters. My mom was in the hospital room with my dad. I was talking loudly and smiling and teasing. I doubt it did much to help those around me...but I think I was trying to laugh and lift. A nurse walked in and told us my dad had a heart episode - the medical team was working on him. I stopped talking and walked out into the hall by myself...quiet and waiting for the communication I felt certain was moments away. I could nearly feel it...the pull back before an oncoming wave. The nurse came back and met me in the hall.

"He's stabilized."

I went back into the waiting room and told the people that loved him. I tried to talk loudly again, to shout down the ebb I still felt pulling through my veins. A few more minutes and my mom was there in the doorway. It hadn't worked. He was leaving.  As I ran through the hallway to that damn room and that damn goodbye, I tried to keep my footsteps light so that I could hear what I knew was coming.

A few minutes with him in that black wired room and the wave came crashing down.

On Sunday, he had been gone for a year. It was a busy day. Family and obligations and dinner to be made. We went to his grave and left flowers. The girls talked about heaven and Papa's favorite pinto beans. I spent a lot of time giving more volume to my words than they deserved.

But somewhere between loudly talking about how it was "a sacred day, not a bad day" and declarations of peace, I stood still in the center of everything that moves. I breathed deeply and listened closely for the things I'd been too loud to hear.

And they were many. And they were gracious. And they did not stay long enough.


  NPG x131784; Emmeline Pankhurst addressing a crowd in Trafalgar Square by Unknown photographer, printed by  Central Press

We are all waiting to hear what you have to say. (Emmeline Pankhurst speaking at Trafalgar Square)

I love Facebook. I know, I know. There are all those articles out there about how young people are leaving FB and it's going to be obsolete and it can give you hives...or something. It used to be cool to have facebook profile. Now, when people mention they have one they quickly follow the statement up with,

"But I only check it like maybe once a week."

Which is all well and good. But listen, I've never really been one to care whether I was on trend or not. As was absolutely evidenced by the lack of chevron in my house eight years ago. So, I'll say it again. I love Facebook. I love the articles from the NY Times and Forbes and The Economist that my thoughtful friends post. I love the sharing of various Jimmy Fallon clips. And I love, I love the way I have been able to stay in touch with people that would otherwise have been mostly lost to me.

Last night, I was on my way to bed when I decided to check out the ole' FB. Thank goodness I did.  I was greeted by the loveliest message from a woman I very much admire and very much no longer get to see as she lives in my hometown.

Made me think of you when I was reading this book-- "A Snicker of Magic" by Natalie Lloyd. I think you'd like it too. Quote: "So you keep catching them words, you hear? Pluck them out of the wind. String them together like the finest set of pearls. Line them up on paper. And if it hurts too much to say them, then you sing them, or whisper them, or write them into a story. But don't waste them. Your words matter more than you know. You hear?"

Isn't that lovely? And my goodness, exactly what I needed to read right now. "And if it hurts too much to say them, then you sing them, or whisper them, or write them in a story." Life, my dear friends, has at times seemed too painful for words. But, I suppose that isn't really giving life or words the credit that is due. This quote spoke to me, but I know it should absolutely ring out for you. Because your words, your voice matter more than you know.

We need them more than the finest set of pearls.

Let's sing together now.

That Nationwide Commercial is a Symptom of a Bigger Social Ill (for reals)


This kid will never get married.


I'm a red-blooded American, so yeah, I watched the Super Bowl last night. And ate nachos. And french dip sandwiches with juice that sopped into the crusty bread with cheese on top that was just crunchy enough to make the textural interplay between soft and hard interesting AND delicious. Also ice cream. Also chips and dip. And yeah, I also watched the game and rooted against the Patriots, BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT YOU DO ON SUPER BOWL SUNDAY.

But I was really there for the ads. I teared up when Always successfully unsettled the stereotypes against girls in their old, but still good, Like a Girl commercial. Fighting against anti-girl rhetoric while selling something? Sure, I'm in. (Who says capitalism is bad?) I was confused when Nissan seemed to imply a new car made up for missed childhood. And I was tickled enough to giggle a little when Steve Buscemi decided to kick it with the Bradys for Snickers.

And then in between jokes about screaming animals and Kardashian spots, we had that Nationwide commercial about dead kids. I lost my appetite and had to put down my french dip sandwich long enough for all the crusty bread to become soggy. And then when my appetite DID come back? About a quarter later? I HAD TO MAKE A NEW SANDWICH. The travesty, guys.

But seriously, what a bleepload of a commercial. As a mother, I was not offended merely by it's exploitative nature.  Commercialism by nature IS exploitation. The message of dead babies while families are watching together - many of whom have lost children in the way depicted - was pretty disgusting. Abhorrent once it was followed up with a call to profit in the form of Nationwide's logo. However, that was not, in my opinion, the most nefarious part of the commercial.  No, the worst part was the impossible burden it placed on reality and the families that live within it.

It was a 48 second spot of a dead child talking about the things he'll never be able to do because he died in an accident. This was then followed by images of accidents - a full bathtub, poison under the kitchen sink, A FALLEN TV WITH GLASS SHARDS ALL OVER THE FLOOR. (At this point my five year old looked at me worried, "Mom! Did that kid get crushed by a TV? CAN THE TV KILL US?" Only if you keep trying to watch SpongeBob on it, kid.) The spot closed with the Nationwide logo and a call to Make Safe Happen. As if any accident, any abnormality, any tragedy can only occur because of things you failed to do.

Well, you know what, Nationwide? Your smug certainty isn't needed in my uncertain world.

You're feeding into a narrative that I've heard all too often as I've begun raising my kids. The one that gets parents investigated by the police for letting their kids walk home alone. Everyone is a predator, childhood should be handled and delivered in an air conditioned, controlled environment. The one that leads to measles outbreaks in three states. All you need to do to be healthy is wash your hands. Also, I'm protecting my children from autism. Also, those diseases weren't that bad, they were NATURE! And these vaccinations aren't NATURE. (Damn right, they're not. Thank goodness. Nature can be terrifying.) Also, I'm making safe happen for my child, who cares what happens to yours. The one that has parents handing their kids iPads instead of insisting they go out and climb trees. Sure, all that tree climbing leads to wonder and independence BUT THEY COULD BREAK A LEG! Isn't there a tree climbing app??

The very best piece I've found written on this new phenomenon is The Overprotected Kid. Read it. It's worth your time.

We can't choose between a completely safe world and a world of threats. That choice doesn't exist. We can teach our kids how to navigate a reality chock a block full of danger, but we can't make safe happen. Not really. We can use common sense (don't leave your kid alone in the bath, keep that rat poison in a well guarded place, bolt your TV to the wall, etc). We can try. We can, when we're lucky, succeed in keeping our little charges mostly unbroken. But, we can't make safe happen because we don't live in a safe world. The ad warns about preventable accidents. You know what? Most accidents are considered preventable when viewed in hindsight. That's kind of why they are called "accidents" not "inevitables". But the dangers that lurk aren't products of our failure, they are symptoms of mortality. And no matter how much we try, at the end of the day all we can do is guard against a state of being that will...despite our very best efforts...eventually hurt and take some of our babies. This isn't anyone's fault. Moms and Dads, this isn't your fault.

It's just life.

And it seems to me that an insurance company, of all organizations, should understand that harsh, but standing, truth.

It's a Good Thing


this girl.

Yesterday. Ahhhhh, yesterday. Do you ever look back on your yesterday and think,

Well, that was a &*%#storm.

No? Probably only because your inside your head language is more elevated than my inside my head language. I bet when you look back on your bad yesterday's you think,

My goodness. That could have ended up much lovelier than it did, couldn't it? Oh, bobbins.

Which is really just "nice" for &*%#storm.

Honestly, without hyperbole? Most of the day was pretty standard. There was even the brief high point where I figured out how to make a chicken curry salad that is supposed to make me skinny. (As long as I only eat it, drink water, and exercise three times a day.)

And then we went to Target.

Zuzu has been saving her money and had two dollars to spend in Target's Dollar Spot. She'd been looking forward to it all day and we headed over there as soon as she was out of school. Here's the thing about my lovely, helpful, smart, imaginative Zuzu. Choice is something she takes very seriously. The thought of somehow choosing wrong - of getting the pulled pork when maybe the chicken tenders are better, selecting just one bedtime story when there are hundreds of book covers calling, picking the $2 art kit when the $2 sticker book might have truly been the one path to transcendence - is completely paralyzing for her. So when I told her she could pick something out with her money, I knew what I was signing up for - 25 minutes of debate, fretting and finally, fearful but resolute decision making.

Only, that wasn't what I got.

We were in those three aisles for nearly an hour. Hemming and hawing and worrying.  You know, this wasn't a matter of her wanting more than her due. She was happy to stick to what she could afford. It was, rather, a moment of her feeling the fear of a wrong choice and the discontent of a lack of the perfect option.I talked kindly, I gently suggested, I calmly reminded her we needed to leave in just a moment over and over and over again. Until it really was time to leave and she still had not been able to settle on any one item.  She cried as we checked out, her sister paying for the $1 treat she had picked within the first two minutes of searching the store. She cried in the parking lot. And she cried on the car ride home. And then she cried in her bedroom. Because,

"You didn't give me enough time! I just need one more last chance! It isn't fair! It was so easy for Viola to choose! Vi is so lucky. I just want to go back! I want to choose again! I'll be faster! MOM! It was just so hard."

I stayed calm in the face of her very real upset and tried to teach through her tears.

"Zuzu, listen. When you're faced with treats you don't like, just keep saving your money for the future. If there are too many things that you like, that's a blessing! Don't feel worried about missing out on the right thing, just pick a good thing and enjoy it! It doesn't become less good because other goodness exists. You can spend your life worried about what you should have done, should have chosen, or you can spend your life engaged in what you're actually doing. And listen, sometimes, your last chance really is your last chance. We get to go back and try this again tomorrow. But that isn't always the case.  I need you to learn to have confidence in your ability to choose and your ability to act. You deserve that."

And, as is so often the case, somewhere between the "Zuzu, listen" and dinner that night, I realized that everything I said to my little girl was something I could say to myself.

Don't worry about missing out on the right thing, pick a good thing and enjoy it.

Your choice doesn't become less good because other goodness exists.

Do not worry about what you could have done. Get engaged in what you are actually doing.

There are not limitless chances for our hopes, our dreams, our obligations. Sometimes, opportunities really do run out. But, on those priceless occasions when you are given another shot - take it and run with it and only look back long enough to wave to us from the places you are going.

We each deserve to have the confidence to act.

After dinner, I pulled Zuzu onto my lap.

"You know that lesson you learned today? Mommy is learning it, too. Wanna work on it together?"

She did. So we will.

Choice. It's a concept that is often on my mind. Other thoughts on its role in female life, here.

I am an Abolitionist.


It’s a Wednesday morning. The girls are settled into a viewing of Maleficent (ahhhh, the blessing and the curse of easy rentals from Amazon Prime). I’m sitting next to them, bundled up in blankets. Their feet tap against my legs and they lean their heads into my arms and neck. I belong to them, I take care of them, I live for them. And every unconscious lean into, hold onto and snuggle against from them is a manifestation of their understanding of whoI am and what I will do for them. It’s easy to take those touches for granted. Easy to think what they’ve given me, what I’ve given them, is merely a matter of course.

Of course, it’s not.

Last night, I attended an early screening of the movie The Abolitionists. A documentary following the efforts of Operation Underground Railroad to rescue children from the iron grip of human trafficking and sex slavery. I’ve worked directly with O.U.R. In August, I went on an undercover sting with them in the Dominican Republic. While there, my skin was touched by human traffickers as we shook hands and I pretended to want they were selling.  My heart was branded with the faces of the children as they marched past me at the end of the operation, out the door and onto a different, better life. My life was changed. I know firsthand the, at times, miraculous works of O.U.R. And yet, the movie last night pushed me back into my seat and pulled my eyes wide open.

These children, with no mother to lean against, are bought, sold, raped, beaten, drugged and then bought and sold again. They are babies and adolescents and nearly women that never had a nearly childhood. The problem is growing. Millions of big spirits in little bodies are enslaved. The purveyors of the purchased and stolen children are often family members and fellow countrymen. Those that buy nights with the children? Mainly Western men. Americans, Europeans and Canadians. $300 will get you seven hours with a little girl or boy. Hours filled with abuse, violation and hurt. It’s a worldwide problem, spreading with the intensity of a wildfire and most law enforcement agencies are not equipped to deal with a slow burn, let alone the ravages they are encountering everyday.

Last night an audience of a thousand people watched the inner workings of an organization that thinks outwardly and upwardly. OUR goes into other countries and works hand in hand with the local governments to stem the tide of slavery. Yes in the movie, bad guys were caught and evil was disrupted. But the beauty of OUR is that they understand that while catching the criminals is necessary and invaluable, their focus remains on the children. We saw babies rescued from the filth and despair of an orphanage run as a front for child trafficking. We heard the stories of girls that had been rescued from a daily life of darkness infused with violation. Girls that hurt and never expected to stop being hurt. Girls that “never knew there were people out there that worried about girls like me.” Girls that even amidst the lingering pain and trauma are finally learning to dream again. To see the value in life and, oh my blessed heaven, to see the value in themselves. And we saw men and women willing to sacrifice hard-earned resources, time with their families, and physical safety to save even one life.

We did not leave the theater asking, How are the members of OUR able to do that hard and inglorious work? We left the theater asking the unsettling and ultimately uplifting question, How can we not be involved? There is no way out of this obligation to save. And I thank the Ever Living Lord for that.

Because, here’s the thing. These children? They belong to all of us and we belong to them. We must take care of each other. We must live for each other. It’s the only way. We must give them someone to lean against, finally, until they are able - for the first time truly - to stand up on their own. We must manifest through our actions and our heart hurt care, that we can see who they are and that we know, WE KNOW, that they are worth even more than our best efforts and grandest sacrifices. We must strive to give them the opportunity for the expansive kind of love that I take for granted on an average Wednesday morning.

And we must do it now.

 The Abolitionists will debut in Utah in the coming weeks. Across the nation, as circumstance and distribution allows. Until then, you can help by raising awareness and raising money. We can raise awareness by talking about this on social media, at lunch amongst friends and in our homes. Write down the reason you are an Abolitionist and then ask your friends to do the same by sharing it on IG, Twitter and Instagram.  On average, it costs a mere $1,500 to rescue a child from a life of slavery. It doesn’t take many of us to raise that kind of money. Become an Abolitionist by committing to donate $5 a month. For the cost of a couple of diet cokes, you will be literally saving a child. Start a campaign of your own. This isn’t just a call to action, this is a call to save, to heal, to make whole.  And I know, I KNOW, you will answer it.

 Because you are worthy of this task just as surely as those children are worthy of rescue.


Watch the trailer for the The Abolitionists

Three Crazy Things You Should Do Every Day

crazy lady

She's crazy.

Three Crazy Things You Should Do Every Day

1. Voice your most critical thoughts.

Listen, we’ve all been there. It’s 10:05 in the morning. You still haven’t showered. Your kids are on their fourth episode of Curious George. The house is a mess. And the monologue in your head starts,

“Well. Today’s a bust. I guess I’ll just try again tomorrow. I bet every mom in the world is making organic crafts with their kids - their kids that are all potty trained and know how to read and write to the president about social issues and never fight with each other and always wear clothes from swedish catalogues without ever spilling on them ever. I should have been a mom like that, not a mom like this. Maybe if I shower, it will help. Of course, I don’t know what I’ll wear after the shower. Nothing fits. I used to be so cute, Maybe I’ll just have potato chips and ice cream for breakfast. Yeah, let’s start with that and see if it helps.”

And then you do, and you’re surprised when it doesn’t.

Here’s an idea. When you are thinking all that utter nonsense...close your eyes and say it outloud. If you overheard someone saying all that bleep about themselves or someone else what would you do? You’d be sympathetic or indignant, but you wouldn’t think it had merit. Me?? I’d probably laugh, tell them to get over themselves, take a shower and get going. Listen, most of our inner criticism is too ridiculous to survive reality. So make it real. Take a look at it’s malformed inaccuracies and then toss it over your shoulder in the garbage heap where it belongs. You deserve to move about unencumbered by your own untruths. Own that and then get up and get going.

2. Work towards a far-fetched dream.

Adulthood doesn’t do away with our most fantastic and hopeful selves. It just buries that person below the mortgage and the stretch marks and the cynicism we all pack on like so much armor. Well, you know, it might be time to get over adulthood. Pick a big or little dream that seems beyond your circumstance and take one tiny step toward it a day. In this season in my life, there are days when my most far fetched dream is a clean house - and I get as close to that as clean counters above a toy strewn floor. Other days I can feel beyond my walls and I write a page of that book I hope to see on a shelf some day. As I grow older, I am realizing that the type of dream doesn’t matter as much as our willingness to devote time to it. When I dedicate my resources, minutes, and a sense of validity to even the simplest of my heart strung hopes, I am acknowledging my personal worth and ability to contribute. And I am discovering that mere acknowledgement is the catalyst of more forward movement than any actual dream I’ve ever actually dreamt.

3. Act with Love

Acting with love in a world motivated by so many unloving things is really, really crazy. But it is also my most moving act of insanity for my most immoveable days. I can’t control the world outside my door. Hell, I can barely control the world INSIDE my door. I have no hand in whether I’m invited to THAT playgroup, or THAT book club, or THAT party. I can’t make people read my writing. I can’t force the world into the shape I think it should assume. What can I do? I can decide get rid of reaction as a means of survival or supremacy. I can replace it with deliberation, with empathy, with a decision to think the best, and a commitment to not be hurt by others inadvertent actions. I can reach out. I can bring in. I can circle round.  I can act out of love. Especially when it comes to forgiving and believing in my most imperfect, ever reaching self.

Here’s to more crazy days.

From the Outside Looking In


Tuesday Morning Still Life

I’m not where I want to be.

Mornings aren’t organized. The girls watch too much TV. I consider it a triumph when we carve even an hour or two out of the day to be productive and creative and together. I’ve had a hard time writing. I’ve had a hard time cleaning. I’ve had a hard time keeping in touch. I’ve had a hard time…

I’ve had a hard time.

So I’ve been reading. Medieval history, southern cookbooks, organizational gurus, Tolstoy, Austen (again and again), Early Christian writers, CS Lewis, Harold Bloom, Plath and Dickinson and Auden. And so many biographies. Pages that peer into the lives of the famous, infamous and merely human. Words that connect me to a mortal experience removed from mine by era and value and gender. And I’ve come to love these people - even the ones I’ve hated. In understanding them, I’ve forgiven them or sat back with greater awe in the face of their achievements, even the ones that were never known beyond the walls of their hearts. (Well, not known until some really snoopy biographer was like, “I will find her journals and expose their contents to the world! For money! I mean...for the greater good!” Then whispers, “and money.”) I’d just finished Manchester’s opus on Churchill when I realized I was giving these never-met people more room for imperfect living than I was giving myself.

I know what has happened to me. I know where I’ve tried and where I’ve let things fall. I know the battles I’ve won and the battles I continue to fight. I know the things that brim to the tops of the walls of my heart. What if I started to look at the last year the way a biographer would view it fifty years from now? (Granted the biographer would have to specialize in obscure women that weren’t known beyond their social circle. I am sure there is someone out there in the future just dying to profile “an everyday woman who accepted her mediocrity and turned the shower on twenty minutes before getting in it every morning as a means to avoid her children FOR JUST A FEW MORE MINUTES!” Ahem.)

But really, improbable future biographer of tedium aside, what would an objective, outside paragraph or two about the past twelve months look like?

Her father’s cancer returned the month before her twenty-ninth birthday. The records we have from that time express both her faith and horror at the time of his short illness and quick death. Her relationship with her father was one of the central points of her life. There is little record left by Megan of the year that followed. As she was protective to the point of defensiveness of her family, the silence can be viewed as a decision to safeguard those she loved as well as herself. And while depression was never acknowledged, it seems apparent that it played a significant role in this scene of her life.

It was a time of upheaval. She helped her mother pack up thirty years of life and marriage and move to a new home. Her husband’s career changed. Her children reacted against circumstance and she spent much time healing them and trying to heal herself. She let long sought opportunities fall into the dishwater and worried about little slights. The regret of these unconscious decisions was, at times, crippling. In her few private writings, there is evidence of a minor faith crises and a continued search for understanding. We also encounter a real yearning for place and calling in her journals. (And by “journals”, the biographer would mean the 15 notebooks that each contained about three pages of writing spaced between five years before I moved onto another notebook to “really journal right this time.”)

The quality of the little writing she did during this period varied wildly. Spread from the enlightened to the pedantic, she seemed to be scrambling to find her voice and the words it carried. By the end of the year, she and Riley moved across town to a house with fruit trees and an office for her thoughts. Her later works reflect both the growth and hurt she experienced during this time. The woman we came to know would not have existed without this era of which we know so little.

Hmmm. It’s not the beginnings of greatness (and honestly, it would never get published, sorry pretend biographer), but it might be the beginning of understanding and forgiving myself.

And right now, I really, really need that.

(You might need it, too. What would your paragraphs look like?)

First Kiss

Start this weekend with a kiss.

I was driving around yesterday in an attempt to clear this old head of mine.

My head does feel old lately, weighted down by questions and answers and hopes and places my heart tries to reach but never quite does. Driving and listening to music while looking at the houses where other people live seems to make everything feel lighter and younger. So, I suppose was driving in pursuit of my youth when a cheesy country song came onto the cheesy country radio station.

hey, I want a kiss a girl

want to feel nervous before I kiss a girl

but then we do kiss

and it’s the first time

but I’m not nervous anymore

annnnnd I really like it

Because I like kissing new girls for the first time

Okay, I might be paraphrasing a little bit. But that is pretty damn close to accurate.

The timing seemed fortuitous. An old minded girl seeking youthful lightness is reminded by her radio that she will never have a first kiss again. And also, somewhat tangentially, that she should probably get her ipod fixed so that she no longer has to listen to local radio stations.

Eight years into a happy marriage with lovely children and trees bearing fruit it occurred to met that I’ll never have a first kiss again. It’s an odd thing, to think that you’ll never feel a feeling again. I’ll never have that moment of will he or won’t he? Will I or won’t I? What does the shape of his mouth feel like against mine? Will he kiss me into butterflies and desire or kiss me into, “Hey, this was great. Ummmm. Don’t call me because I will be in Africa for the next….ummmm….foreseeable future.” The first kiss is a beginning.

And beginnings are exciting.

Right now, my brain sometimes tries to tell my soul we are in a middle. Riley and I are tired. The kids are a delightful handful. Work is draining. The mortgage is due. There is heartbreak and hearthope. The ipod is broken…forcing me to listen to horrible country music stations that in turn force me to analyze my place in life. It’s exhausting.

A few more miles, one more bad song and I’d worked out that my brain is full of, well, bleep. Listen, yes. Once married you’ll (hopefully) stop kissing new people. But that doesn’t remove the beauty, brightness or surprise of a first kiss. Heavens, I am not the person Riley married eight years ago. And he isn’t the boy I married. We’ve changed. We’ve grown together and apart and back again. We’re developing into the people we’re meant to be. Thank goodness. Could you imagine a static existence? Every day with Riley is a day with a new man. Every kiss is the first time I’ve kissed THAT version of him. It’s fulfilling and exciting and I’ve never tired of it. I don’t need to seek the new when it is standing right in front of me.

Last night, it was late and I suppose we should have been asleep. But I hadn’t kissed the man I married yet that day. So I leaned against him and our lips hovered apart from each other for just a moment. There was just a moment of will he or won’t he? Will I or won’t I? What will the shape of his mouth feel like against mine tonight? Then the moment broke and he pulled me in.

And it felt like a beginning.