The volley

Let’s catch up. I have a few things to tell you and then so many more to unpack with you, buckle in.

We started school this year at an entirely new school. My kids went from a private school to a public school and everything is going well.

Along with all of this change my daughter started a sport she’s never played with a team she’s never met and her first match was also the first day of this new school and everything is new – are you getting my drift? I spend a lot of time in bleachers waiting with her for her turn while she barrels through her nerves and anxiety and shovels every bit of it at my feet and then stomps around on it, like a tantrum. And I think to myself, this shit is ridiculous. Enough of this. Pick your damn self up off the mother loving pavement, Child, and go. get. it. But I don’t say those words, no I do not.

I spend that time rubbing her back and listening and offering a little hope, but not too much because then she accuses me of not understanding, so I wait with her. That is all she wants. Someone to bear witness to the waiting for her turn. When is it going to be her turn? Why isn’t it her turn yet? And the stage-fright. It’s tennis, but people are watching, so that takes it to a new level of MAKE IT STOP.

I didn’t play school sports for my own reasons, all of them selfish and kind of childish. I didn’t have a lot of school spirit. But this kid, she wants to do it all. Paint her face and wear the logos and do the fundraisers and buy the duffle bags and sign up for every club and get as involved as possible. She makes me tired. Because I still facilitate her social life, so when she signs up for something – in essence she is signing me up too. And you know what? I LOVE IT.

Here we are, doing all the new things and both for the first time ever. It’s pretty great. It’s great that she’s still inviting us along for the ride.

My life is now a serious matrix of overlapping schedules and carpools. I am always supposed to be in more than one place at a time. So far, it’s working just fine. Somehow.

I’ve tried to catch up over the summer or just chronicle our days and trips and memories but every time I came to this place and logged in and started writing I couldn’t bring myself to publish any of it. I’ve had kind of a bumpy summer? How do I say this without sounding alarming but also telling the truth THAT EVERYTHING SUCKS. I try not to spread the wealth too much. The wealth of emotional bankruptcy. That bitch came to win, and let me tell you, she swept me off the floor.

I’m mourning a great, very personal loss. In the wake of other very personal losses. Right after the other, all stirred up in a pot, on and on and on they go. Swinging at me like a batter bent on revenge. I see you: I’m awake.

I took a break from my other writing this summer as well, for the same reasons, everything was angry in response to my pain. But I also started this really lovely, very daring personal project before the summer came. And if the only thing you take away from this rambling is this: please pull for me. I think this is big, if for no one other than me, it’s monumental. And I need the timing to be right and the people to be in place and the conversations that have yet to happen, for those to have a way paved before them so I can have them. I need some cheerleaders. I need someone pulling for me, even if you don’t know why or what for.

As I was journaling recently I came face to face with some fear, not new. It’s the ugly side of my vulnerability. I am my own roadblock. Afraid of looking like a fool, but realizing that if everyone I’ve ever quoted or loved or admired let their fear stand in the way of their message or art or gift for the world: I wouldn’t have their words to help me or their photos to inspire me or their songs or poems or paintings to take my breath away. I wouldn’t have a full understanding of how big my own dreams are, how rare my own beauty is, how daring my own words could be.

And I learned: I’m not done yet. I have to keep showing up.

Just like my daughter needs someone there to witness her showing up, even when it’s scary and new and nothing feels normal, she needs someone who believes in her, not because we have to. Or because she’s shown great athletic prowess – but because we know she can. If she keeps showing up, if she keeps trying … eventually the ball will make it over the net. Eventually she’ll move from the bench to the court and without ever thinking of how or why, she’ll volley.

Not because she knows how – but because thats what you do when the ball is yours.

New Hoirzons

School is well underway for us and with it, a new routine to our days. The beginning of each school year is always a good clean-out season for me. I get on top of things. Lists, charts, chores, stocking the fridge and freezer. I imagine it’s a very different version than what my Grandma might have done to prepare for the winter. Canning, butchering cows and chickens … the constant work of having a home and family just amplified for time away and ease back at home.

The last couple years of school have been what I will refer to as “The Adjustment Period” of my life for, um, ever. I think the last 5 or 6 years have been a trajectory of change and coming off of it, I finally found my footing. I’m a girl who will always look for whats coming, inquisitive and introspective. I want to learn and I often look backwards to discover how to move forward but that’s all changing too.

Camping: Fayette and Wilderness State Park

School felt like a celebration this year. A return to something worn and loved. A found object, which maybe is just us. Turns out being a young lady in this day and age is tricky and we’re learning all about it but also learning how to navigate those waters with her. A friend recommended the book “Untangled” to us, and parents/guardians of ladies in the tween/teen age group? I want you to read this book with me. And then we will get coffee together and be honest with each-other. And I will cry. And we will not be alone.

Honestly one of the best books I’ve read about parenting a girl so far.

There’s also so much shaking free in this season. I’m changing the rules I made for myself, or my family, that were more like contracts in the OR ELSE category. “It’s a work in progress” might be a better way to say it. I grew up knowing what I did not want but it wasn’t easy to stick up for what I did want. The opposite of knowing what not to do is rarely easy or perfect or the exact right thing instead. It’s a whole world of confusion because knowing the wrong thing doesn’t automatically make the rest of it explainable, or right.

I read something recently that resonated with me about Water and Rest. This amping up on lists and charts is always good but where I used to overcommit my capacity and then overwhelm my schedule, I’m learning to take it as it comes. Today I might be prepared for tomorrow but tomorrow I might need to rest or just go to the water and listen. And that’s what I do.

I watch my husband go to work and slay all day. He comes home tired and spent and always a little bit stressed about tomorrow. Being married to an Entrepreneur is kind of like saying that living in the moment is for “other people” because you’re constantly forecasting and planning and worrying and building and creating. Slowing down to be right here, to be right now … near impossible. Although it’s not impossible. We accomplished this on our trip out West this summer – removing ourselves from the regular distractions of location, we were forced to slow down and look around, outside of ourselves, to capture life.

It was beautiful. And this is the hardest part of coming back. I’m forever impacted by the summer we spent away. I know the difference, I experienced it. I want it, I crave it, I live for it. We came home to all kinds of questions, like what are we doing this for any way? And when do we stop doing this for us or for them or for (you name the reason) and start doing the things we dream about when no one is asking us for the answer.

Which brings up all kinds of questions that we don’t have answers to, of course. The big ones. The future ones. Should we?? has been a theme in our house lately. Should we do that? Should we do this? What should we do?

And enough. Enough already. I don’t know what’s around the corner but I know today is taken care of. I know less than I used to because there’s less certainty and more opportunity than I ever could have imagined. But some days I just stop running in circles and I stand still, and rest.

And some days I go to the water and drink and get refreshed.

And those are good days.

These bubbles disappear as fast they appear. My favorite Lake Michigan trick.

Raising a woman to be seen.

Of all the things I want to talk about lately, this isn’t one of them. And yet, here I am: hitting the keys trying to figure this out. Not enough people are talking about what it’s like to raise young women. And if they are, I can’t find them.

Being a mom to my kids brings me to my knees on the daily. Taking this one day at a time has never been more relevant to me, if I think too far ahead I’m inept to do anything but crawl into the fetal position and weep. Not because there aren’t wonderful things on the horizon – but because the task at hand has never been so difficult. I could be wrong, in fact, I’m often wrong. I’m learning too. I’ve never done this before.

Jessica is 10 going on 14 and I’ve never been dumber in my entire life, the older my kids get the more they know and the less I do (duh). Peers opinions reign supreme, teachers knowledge comes before real life experience, and hell if I can’t understand how to build a math mountain. Can the children add? Do they know their times tables?

Good enough for me. 😉

Jessica is a beautiful mystery to me. She is wired a lot like her dad, there’s anxious energy inside of both of them. And I have my own version of this. But where I’m in my own world, introverted, introspective; they’re both hovering above the worlds they’re in putting the puzzle together, like puppeteers. Jessica has a need for control, sometimes a paralyzing need. Sometimes this need is so strong it blinds her. And she is ten.


Socialization at ten is cruel joke. Or, that’s been our experience so far. It’s not fun. There’s a lot of crying. There’s a lot of wringing of hands as parents wondering if we’re doing anything right. Did we choose the right school? Will another school just defer the same issues? Is the root of this turmoil some where we can reach and touch and love and help and see? Or is the root of this unknown? Is this just what we’ll have to deal with over and over and over again as we sit on a life raft in the middle of this wide open ocean of her social life?

You see, because all I have to go on is my own experience. At ten: I was in fourth grade. My parents were getting divorced, my brothers were older and often out of the house and my sister, I don’t know where she went but she never came back. Life as I knew it was literally over. Nothing was the same. Was blue even really blue? School was my haven. I went early every morning because now my mom had a full time job to support 4 kids as a single parent, and I rode the bus home. Most of my hours were in a safe place every day. There were rules and expectations. I could perform in this environment because it was predictable. I had friends, but I didn’t need them. Other relationships were of no real value to me at ten. I rode my bike to friends’ houses, but I was more interested in being alone in the woods playing by myself. I craved validation from adults. I didn’t care if my peers agreed with me. I wanted to be seen.

I honestly don’t know what it’s like to not fit into a peer group. To be riddled with anxiety over the very fear of being noticed. I wasn’t interested in negative attention, I perfected what it took to receive positive affirmations from my teachers, counselors, and older peers. And I don’t know how to help her.

Here I am, a married adult women in a secure relationship. I’ve done this one thing really well: my kids won’t have divorced parents. And I still can’t create the perfect childhood for my kids. The safe places I never had, they have in spades. Their daddy doesn’t leave them, their siblings don’t reject them. But I can’t create friendships for them.

I’ve known all along that the timeline of my own childhood was in the background of theirs. It’s as if I’m reliving mine through them. I’ve read enough books and been to enough counselors to know that this is my mechanism for coping with the trauma. And at each significant marker – I hit the fan a bit because I brace myself for all the feelings to come back as I revel in the reality that THIS IS DIFFERENT! SEE, THIS CAN BE DIFFERENT!

I have to go back and reconcile the emotions I put into the pottery cavern I’ve kept, shaking and cracking, in the pit of my stomach since I was a small child. Adults were completely unaware that I could see them, that I listened to them. That I would remember what they did, like a wide-eyed panther hunting in the dark.

And I’ve learned that I’m not hungry for the kill, I’m dying of starvation. My hunger isn’t physical. My hunger is relational.

And I don’t know how to help her.

Playing with Jessica

An ode to sack lunches

This is the last week of school, can you hear that? Each school aged household is delighted at the end of homework, reading minutes, schedules, bed times, and sack lunches. No? Just me?


Well ok then. Sack lunches are so trendy, aren’t they? With the cute cut outs of cheese, compartmentalized side dishes and proportioned food groups (like carrots and strawberries instead of fruit snacks and veggie straws). You see what I did there? I tried.

I tried all year long to send healthy choices with my kids each day. Gluten free, whole grains. Wholesome sides and vegetables. And then, well. Then it kept happening … every day.

I had to make a lunch for Jessica every single day because of her gluten allergy. NOT COMPLAINING. I very much like to be in control of what touches her mouth but there were days, weeks even, where I lovingly sent Oliver off to the hot lunch line and cursed the fact that my child takes grapes personally.

Near the end of school we got a little braver and she tried some hot lunches on days that she could piece together a good lunch. There were also the days I literally forgot about it. Feed my child on top of clothe them, administer warden reading minutes, make sure their rooms are cleaned, teeth are brushed, and they have been bathed in the last 96 hours? I mean, honestly. Why did we stop living on farms and releasing our kids to the wild every day?

Civilization has me by the neck some times.

I’ve always kept a list of likes and dislikes of each child, something about word association. I don’t know, I’m literary so attaching words to foods helps me. Like how Jessica was obsessed with pickles for a few years and Oliver thought it was a cruel joke to look at one?

Yeah, looks good eh?

Or how Jessica’s affiliation with mayonnaise completely halted when she went to school and the other kids expressed their dislike of the condiment? Because liking mayo was somehow akin to social suicide at the kindergarten lunch table.

But grapes? I can’t even tell you how often we try grapes and my kids take it personal each and every time.

Shrimp? Both kids devour.
Fish? Oliver loves tilapia, Jessica prefers salmon.
Any and all kinds of tacos? Hold the sour cream for Oliver, please add an entire can of refried beans for Jessica.

Offer them grapes and you’re playing chicken with a time bomb. Today? They will tolerate your ineptitude to please them with a fruit choice. (But they’ll make you feel bad about it first) Ok, FINE, they’ll eat some. But only because the strawberries are gone and the apples you have on hand are reserved for a fruit salad. Frozen grapes? Why are you trying to torture me, they think.

Green grapes, red grapes. Small grapes, large grapes: ALL GRAPES BOTHER THEM. But they bother them on a level I wasn’t prepared for. I understand the change in palette. I’m 100% surprised whenever Oliver orders food from a restaurant. But why grapes?

Even their relationship with a banana is more favorable than this. The bruising fruit with rapid brown spots? I WILL CHOOSE YOUR MUSHY OVER RIPE DELICACY TO AVOID CONTACT WITH ANY GRAPE.

I envy the parents who can send their child to school each day with the same lunch. Sandwich, bag of carrots, grapes, pretzel sticks. This just seems legit to me. But I dance the samba every morning while piecing together the least offensive meal for my kids …

And some days, all that’s left are grapes.

Bring on summer.

Dear Thanksgiving Break,

I love you. With wide arms, awkwardly long hugs, and talking excitedly too close to your face. I love you so much.

In less than an hour I get to pick up my kids and throw their back-pack’s across the living room. I don’t even care that there’s probably a huge manilla envelope I need to tend to. I won’t read a thing. Not until Sunday night at 11pm. I won’t set the timer for reading minutes for a glorious 96 hours and I apologize in advance for my lack of follow through on any homework from now until the end of Christmas Break.

I’ve volunteered, helped, donated, delivered, signed, read and invested with 110% so far this year. It’s been the best, I love the community of our school and the friends our kids are making – it’s all just wonderful.

But for the next 5 weeks, maybe 6 (let’s be honest) I’m on mom-vacation. I can’t be bothered to sign any more forms or pay any more for after school clubs. I will attend the bare minimum of required “fun mom” opportunities and I will fork over ready made foodstuffs and gift cards for parties and gifts.

You understand, I know. We wink and smile at each other. Fist bumping the success thus far this year: WE MADE IT TO THANKSGIVING!!! When I close my eyes I’m actually sitting on a lounge chair with the clearest blue water breaking at my feet, magical dolphins are flipping in the air and we’re toasting our mimosa’s. Girlfriend, we’re happy drunk on sunshine. I use my children’s late assignments to fan my face in the hot hot sun. It feels so good.

We’re going to overdose on holiday themed movies. We’re going to spend too many hours in the kitchen figuring out new traditions with food allergies. Cookies! Hot Chocolate! Snow men! I plan to lounge in my pajama’s and not care at all that I can’t be bothered to wear a bra for 24 hours straight. I will not go shopping on Friday, you people scare me. I can’t wait to read and write and take long showers and eat leftovers and finish a bottle of wine. I will keep score while we play yahtzee and we’ll sleep in and go to a movie in the middle of the day and go for walks.

Or maybe? We’ll do nothing at all and it won’t bother me. At all.

Either way, thanks for understanding. I’ve got memories to make, traditions to create. Who wants a hot toddy???

*raises hand*

drops mic