Leaping with my arms wide

What is your WHY?

For life, for doing the things you do, for spending your time the way you spend it, for every decision you make.


Mine is simple: My family.

Is that a cop-out answer? Has it almost become cliche to say we do everything we do for the sacred, no-one-can-question-this-answer answer?

Yes. But it’s OK because it’s true, and truth is what I hope we all end up finding, someday, sooner rather than later.

My answer explained:

I go to work every day to earn a paycheck. At other times in my life, work has been more to me personally. It’s been fulfilling, rewarding, challenging. At this point in my life, I go to work at a very good job in a very nice office with very nice people, for one major reason: to pay our bills.

To pay for our house and our food and our car with three rows of seats because  yes, our family is that big now. But also to live our lives with some freedom to buy a new shirt at Target if I want to, to get my hair done, to pay for my daughter’s gymnastics and my son’s football and trips and occasional dinners out and Netflix and, yes, a thrift-store couch that really none of us like but we can’t afford $1,000 to buy a brand new one.

That is why I leave my babies every morning and walk out with pieces of my heart clutched in their hands. That is why I rush each morning in the shower to get done, hurry, go, before the littlest baby wakes up.

Because it’s just easier to leave without her seeing me at all.

That, when I let myself really think about, makes me sick to my stomach.

So I have this good job that provides for my family and allows my husband to work on his work while also shouldering most of the parenting load.

And we are so thankful for that.

Yet my babies at home asleep and awake and at school and not and me not there. It’s too much to bear. Sometimes.

Yet, unless we make a change, unless we are brave enough to start taking steps, even tiny ones, to make a change, this great big life will keep spinning largely out of our control exactly as it is.

So here’s my real why for waking up each day: My family.

It does go back to that.

Here’s how I would spend my time, for my family, if I could:

1. I’d be home when my babies a.) wake up and b.) get home from school.

2. I would devote two hours every day to writing. That is the work, the soul-searching, gut-wrenching, never-easy, fulfilling work I crave. I can be a successful writer. I believe in myself and my ability in that realm.

3. I would practice yoga daily.

That’s it. I don’t need a luxury car (in fact, if I had my choice, I’d drive a used Hyundai Santa Fe with a sunroof for the rest of my life and be oh-so-happy!). I don’t want an expensive wardrobe (see number three above). I don’t even want an expensive house (though I would happily take one with a bedroom for each child and a pantry in the kitchen and a linen closet to store our sheets and towels).

So I’m taking a chance. I’m leaping with my arms wide and believing in myself. Brave boots are on, and I’ve committed to being excited about becoming my greatest possibility. Our greatest possibility. For my family. For me. For my friends and loved ones and people I haven’t even met yet, who are willing to leap with me. Because we believe in ourselves. Because we believe we can have better tomorrows with more freedom, with more time to be there for our families, to write best-sellers, to wear yoga pants and mean it.

These next several months are going to be challenging. Between the kids’ activities and school starting and the baby who will walk any day now, I have the very good full-time job that pays the bills, a part-time job with work I truly believe in and a business opportunity that I’m so excited about I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep. This fall, my husband will be an integral part of a poetry bookstore/creative space opening up in the heart of downtown where we live, he’ll continue as a City Councilman and I’ll finally realize my dream of becoming yoga teacher certified.

It is a hill we are climbing, but it is the hill of our lifetime. And it is worth it.


A million terrifying questions

I spent yesterday afternoon visiting a house for sale with my husband and then lamenting the fact the yard was too small, the neighborhood was too cookie-cutter, the HOA was likely too ridiculous and, most of all, the price was too high.

I was obsessed with this, all of this. After the showing, I engaged the husband in a long conversation about homes and what I didn’t like about ours and what I did like about the interior of the one we’d seen, why we needed a house like that, why it would make us happier. He countered with all the reasons it would not make him happier. Very reasonable reasons. The yard is awful, tiny, small, an open book to not only neighbors but also anyone and everyone driving past on the busy street it borders. No chickens, no vintage travel trailer turned office. No coffee outside in the backyard because, well, it blows.

But the house, babe. The house is amazing. The inside of the house is perfect. It has four bedrooms! And a kitchen with an island! And the kitchen opens up into a family room! And it has an upstairs! And a master bedroom with a walk-in closet and a bathroom! And the kids would have their own bathroom! Upstairs! Away from us!


While this was happening, this exhausting, laborious, neurotic examination of needs vs. wants, gimmes, shiny objects, etc., my two older babies were in a car accident.

They are spending the week with their dad and his fiance, who live in Denver, and they were on their way to Estes Park to celebrate Christmas with grandparents.

I got a text from my ex-husband while walking into yoga class late yesterday afternoon.

“Hey,” it said. “Just wanted you to know I got in a car accident with the kids in the back. Everyone is perfectly fine. It was just scary.”

Apparently, a lady ran a stop sign and my ex-husband swerved to miss her, skidding into a telephone pole. The airbags deployed.

The airbags deployed.

The airbags deployed.

The car is in rough shape.

They were back on the road in their second car by the time he texted to let me know.

They were back on the road.

Back on the road.

I had a million questions. Did anyone hit their head? (no) Is everyone OK? (yes) Did the airbags in the backseat deploy? (no) Did Paige cry? Did Rye? What were they doing when the accident happened? Talking? Using their iPads? Sleeping? What side of the car got banged up? Could the kids open their doors to get out? Where did they wait while they waited for the police and paperwork and all that? How did they get back home to get the other car? Did either of them have nightmares last night?

I did not ask all those questions, though they keep running through my mind. Let them be OK is the mantra of every parent, and it seems somehow even more important when someone else is in charge, when you have absolutely zero control. Please. Let them be OK.

They are in high spirits, the text said, and so, well, I’m playing the role of part-time parent this week, hoping they truly are OK, waiting six more days to ask them about it myself, to hug them, touch them, see their faces.

Today, part of me is still thinking about our home and other prospects. My intent is noble (or a less dramatic version of that word): I want us all to be comfortable in our home. I want a space that feels positive and warm and can be the brick and mortar behind the memories for the next 18 years. If I had a magic wand, that would be in a neighborhood with kids everywhere, close to the elementary school, with a huge yard, some character indoors and a price tag we could afford.

But I am also thinking about my babies, scared, cold, in a cracked-up car. Accidents happen every single day, and when it happens to you, the frailty of life sinks in even more.

It’s terrifying and perspective-buying. All I can do is be thankful no one was hurt, be grateful the husband and I weren’t packing a bag to race to a hospital in Denver last night, be oh-so-satisfied with the wonders we already own.

The internal voice that reminded me

The baby and I went for a walk last night.

I strapped her to my chest in the Snugli front carrier my in-laws bought at a children’s consignment sale back home, and we walked.

We’d gone to the gym, to the city’s rec center, because even though I’m home from work by 5:30 p.m., it’s cold and dark and I’m not a fan of either.

We were going to walk a mile, I’d decided, and I was nervous about how she’d do. 14 laps on the suspended track = 1 mile. That’s a lot of curves. A lot of clockwise curves that, yes, OK, I get that it’s been a long time since I ran track, but are still not the way my body prefers to move around a circle. The baby kept her eyes open for about four of those curves. Two laps in, she was out for the count.

So I went for it. I walked fast. I tried to see how fast I could walk before it became a run – or a weird hips flying to the side sort of thing (think of any footage of a speed walker you’ve ever seen. I didn’t want to be that). And I kept one hand on the baby’s head at all times, to minimize bouncing. Never shake a baby.

We did one mile and then another. Two miles, I thought – not bad!

The baby still asleep, I lifted some light weights (bicep curls) next and did some wide-legged squats.

Then I walked another mile, at a slower pace.

Afterward, I felt really good about moving my body for close to an hour. I managed to push about 75 percent of the self-deprecating thoughts away – the internal voice that reminded me I used to run three miles several times a week, that the three-mile days were easy days, that two years ago I ran my third half-marathon. And now I was walking?

The icing on the cake is that today I’m sore. My leg muscles are sore. From walking.


I’ve reasoned: Though I dislike much of my current post-baby body, I am trying to remember to respect it for growing a human being. Three human beings. My body grew people. Basically on its own. That’s pretty remarkable.

And, of course, I’m hoping that the more walks the baby and I take, the greater my chances of someday again running comfortably.

We’ll see. For now, I’m choosing to be grateful for the ability to walk, for the opportunity to be a mother (x three), for the capacity to nurture my babies (big and small) and for the means to even belong to the city’s rec center.

Among everything else (our health, a warm home, food to eat, Christmas presents next month under the tree …), maybe that should be enough.

Because sometimes, these days

My mother-in-law texted yesterday.

“Let us know if we can bring anything from Omaha!”

She meant that Trader Joe’s lemon kitchen soap I like and the little oatmeal raisin cookies that 2 1/2 years ago I put in favor bags for our wedding.

But what I thought was, “Sure, how about my friends? Or my yellow house in Dundee? Can you bring Barley Street or the Waiting Room or festivals like Maha or nightlife at all?”

Since I’ve been home on maternity leave (Lila will be two weeks old on Friday!), all sorts of emotions have surfaced. Old feelings I thought I’d conquered are back. Old insecurities I knew I’d never really beat but had at least gotten good at pretending they were gone are here.

I am trying all the time to hold it together. Not because of the baby. She is wonderful and perfect and all-encompassing and beautiful and everything we could have ever asked for in a sweet pea. Not because of my other two babies, though the dynamics of a blended family continue at times to be more than I know how to handle. Not because of my sweet, sweet husband, who is the best dad Lila could ever hope to have.

Because sometimes, these days, I just feel lost.

Do we forget who we are?

Or does who we are change? Does that happen without us realizing it? Without us agreeing to it?

Many months ago, we were hanging out with friends, and I was talking about the mother of a friend of our daughter’s. “She’s a single mom, too,” I said.


I didn’t even realize l’d said it. But once I did, I couldn’t take it back and I think maybe right there, that slip may have illuminated why relationships are hard. Why relationships I have are hard.

Be confident, they teach us as little girls. Be independent. Learn to take care of yourself. Learn to not need anybody else.

While I’ve arguably, clearly embraced much of that, ironically I am one of the neediest people I know. I need to know I am loved by my partner. Even when I know, I crave reassurance, reminders, “I love you”s just because. I can imagine how irritating that need must be.

After my divorce, I had a social support system that allowed me to figure out who I was, who I wanted to be on my own and be that. I liked that woman I eventually turned into. The one who bought the yellow house in Dundee, the one who found live music as powerful as prayer, the one who got to share her life through blogs on that website for moms, the one who somehow managed to parent her babies on her own, at least for a little while. (The same one who wouldn’t trade the co-parent she is lucky enough to have now.)

So what I’m realizing this week, today, is that I’m not that woman anymore. Pieces of me are there, alive, but I’ve yet to figure out who this new me is.

Who this new me is with the most amazing partner, the man I love with all my heart, more than anyone else I’ve ever loved, despite the times we can’t seem to figure out how to understand each other.

Who this new me is without the things in Omaha I’d constructed to make up the details of my life. The yellow house. The live music. The nightlife. The best girlfriends I could ever hope to have. The job. Even the rock-star boyfriend.

Does it take a baby to spark this internal conversation? Does it take the quiet hours in the middle of the morning holding that baby while listening to that Bon Iver song your husband introduced you to but now can’t stand because his wife listens to it so much to prompt this introspection?

Does it take Cheryl Strayed and “Tiny Beautiful Things” to make you say, “Enough. Get it together already. Figure yourself out.”

Does it take tears in the middle of the night, loneliness, insecurity?

What about hope? Resilience?

I don’t have any answers. Not yet. But I know I – we – have love. And that makes us luckier than many.

Laughter as often as it comes

The babies are back and the new one is growing and, whew, where does all this life go so fast?

Six weeks until my due date with this little creature inside of my belly. The way she turns or pokes or prods or whatever it is exactly she’s doing sometimes startles me. Like last night, curled in bed next to the rock star, little pieces of feet or something began protruding just underneath the thin skin of what was once the inside of my bellybutton.

I could feel the body parts, someone else’s body parts, under my skin. It’s unsettling. And amazing. Sort of at the same time.

This hasn’t been the pregnancy I envisioned, and it’s been difficult for me to not compare this experience with my last go-round at growing a baby. Then, my life basically on the brink of imploding, the pregnancy was second string to the emotional mess I’d made of so much else. I ate very little, I cried all the time, I exercised a lot … consequently, I gained only 25 pounds and was back in my pre-pregnancy clothes within two weeks.

That part – the appearance part – was lovely. So was the labor and delivery, which was fairly quick and easy and uncomplicated. And, of course, the sweet, sweet baby girl, who along with her brother, continues to make my world go round.

That was all good, despite the mess of the rest of my life (those dark days, of course, would eventually lead to where my life was supposed to be all along, and for that, I am thankful). But at the time, I wasn’t sure where we would all land.

So this time around, happily married to a supportive, gentle, trusting man, I gave up exercising months ago and I’ve pretty much been eating whatever I want. I’ve already gained 33 pounds.

(Which, yes, does freak me out, and if anyone follows me on Pinterest explains the numerous workout pins of late).

But the baby is growing as she should, and I’m rolling myself out of bed each morning as I should and ignoring the swollen stumps my legs and feet have turned into as best I can and getting on with it all, enduring, moving forward, with anticipation and hope and laughter as often as it comes.

Isn’t that, at the end of the day, the best we can do anyway?

Looking forward with laughter and love and hope that tastes like sun just might be the answer to it all.

To not fall apart

Saying good-bye each morning is a drawn-out affair.

After hugs and kisses to both babies (who, yes, are nowhere close to babies anymore), I gather my things and from the kitchen offer a last, “Bye! Love you! Have great days!”

My son, 9, sometimes says, “Bye,” if he’s already at the table for breakfast; other times, he’s fallen back to sleep in his bed.

My daughter, though, that 5-year-old sweet pea, begins her ritual marathon.

“Bye, Mom! Love you! See you in eight hours!”

We blow kisses, each of us catching the other’s and sticking it on our faces or in our pockets. I inch closer toward the back door, and Paige continues her chorus: “Bye, Mom! I love you! See you in eight hours!”

It’s not unusual for her to repeat that line six or seven or eight times. “Bye, Mom! I love you! See you in eight hours!”

Last night, I drove the kids to Vail where we meet their dad for his visits. Usually, he takes them to his place in Denver, one weekend a month.

But I’m in the midst now, at the very beginning really, of the time of year I dread most: the month the kids spend away from me.

Our divorce agreement says my ex-husband will have the kids for a month each summer.

One day down. 29 to go.


A co-worker yesterday said, “A whole month? What are you going to do with all that free time?!”

And, yes, that is the way I need to look at it. I need to embrace the time to be me, to be a wife, to be a friend, to really engage in all those things I don’t get to fully devote myself to when I’m being a mom.

But still.

In reality? That blows.

Yesterday, as I stood in the parking lot of Qdoba in West Vail, squeezing my daughter for the last time in what feels like a long time, she said, “Bye, Mom. I love you. See you in a month.”

Not eight hours. A month.

And I did what I could to keep it together, to not fall apart, to be a grown-up. On the drive, I could tell the kids were worried, or anxious, or just doing what they could to cope with the impending transition. I imagine these sorts of questions may have been on their minds: “Is Mom going to lose it when we say goodbye? Will she cry so hard she can’t talk like last year? Do we just leave her like that?”

I remember what it’s like leaving one parent to go with the other. I always felt so much pressure to help the situation go smoothly, to make sure both parents were OK and to somehow manage my own emotions in the midst of it all. I remember the pull kids of divorced parents will likely inevitably always feel between Mom and Dad, the way your heart wishes the world was different and you could somehow see them both equal amounts, that they each somehow were OK without you, that if they say they are, that it might be true.

On the drive back to our house, just me in the big, new car with third-row seating and a DVD player that unfolds from the ceiling, I texted a friend back home.

“Tell me again how you get through your babies being gone each summer,” I asked.

“Focus on how much fun they are having,” she said, “and how important it is for them to have relationships on that side, too.”

Yes. I knew that. And she is so right. The more people who love my babies, the luckier they are.

Still, that doesn’t mean the little pieces of my heart out walking around without me for the next month aren’t noticeably missing.

This morning, I peeked into my daughter’s empty room. On her bed, unmade, she had placed a dozen or so dolls. They were in a line, flat on their backs, how she’d presumably put them down for a nap.

I smiled. And I’m considering leaving them there, just how she left them, a dozen or so reminders of her.

So much more than we can ever know

Photo copyright Amanda Wilson/photosbyaw.com

My sister graduates high school this spring. She is 18 and grown-up and not – all at the same time. It is the life stage where you’re supposed to know – what to do, how to do it, what you want, where to go, etc., etc., etc.

I want to tell her it’s OK.

To not know. To not have a fucking clue what comes next or how to get there.

None of us know.

Yet, we go through moments where we think we might. Like the year I decided to be a journalist. I was in eighth grade and in academic love with words, with writing, with books and minds and the power of a sentence that was written like no one else could ever write it. I had a fantastic English teacher who pushed us farther than many wanted, but I craved the direction, the challenge, the insight he had into books and the way that world worked.

That was the year I watched every Chicago Bulls game on TV (thank you, WGN) and many times took notes so I could write a story about the game afterward. A newspaper story, like for the Chicago Sun-Times. I did this just for fun.

That was also the year I read “Hang Time,” a book by a Sun-Times columnist named Bob Greene, who somehow worked it out so his career would include following around Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player ever, and then writing a book about it (two, actually).

I decided I wanted to do that.

And back then? Back then in the days where we were told by everyone who could that our dreams were within reach, that we could be whoever or whatever we wanted if we just worked hard enough for it? Yeah, back then. Back then, I decided that’s what I would do. Be a sportswriter. In Chicago. For the Bulls.

The dream morphed over the next several years. By my senior year of high school, I’d decided to replace Jane Pauley as anchor on NBC’s newsmagazine show, “Dateline.” Again, I thought this was reality.

So I majored in journalism, broadcasting first and then a double major with news-editorial (print journalism, in plain speak). But by the middle of my sophomore year, I dropped broadcasting. Want to know why? Because I’d decided learning about different types of microphones was boring and I wasn’t interested in studying for a test on them.

It’s unbelievable really, that someone with my work ethic and grade point average would have given up so quick.

But, I figured, I’m a better writer than broadcaster anyway, and wasn’t writing my true love way back when?


But I no longer had a dream. I no longer had a pie-in-the-sky goal. I had a boyfriend who pretty much called all the shots – about everything – few friends, straight As, some talent in writing, sure … and … huh.

Maybe this is all life is.

I got through college by doing what was expected, going to class, writing the papers, getting the internship. But none of it was inspiring. None of it felt like what my heart really wanted.

But it felt like what I was supposed to do. And I hadn’t yet figured out how to live outside the system we are all raised within – the 9-month school calendar, the 3-month summer vacation, the coaches and teachers and built-in praise, the straight As, the hustle awards … all those things that don’t matter. At all. Once you’re outside.

Even after graduation, I got married – I actually remember saying, “That’s what comes next, right?” (OH MY GOD, was I for real?!), and I got a job. At a newspaper. Because that’s what I’d majored in.

It was all uninspired. It was all supposed to. It was all headed … where?

Of course, memory is subjective and years give us wisdom we couldn’t have had back then, in the midst of it. But I think back to that time now with regret.

Life is short. Our days are not guaranteed. We get no do-overs.

So your twenties are hard, little sis. By the end, I felt like I knew enough to know what I wanted – and what I didn’t. That doesn’t mean I got there the way I should have.

Now, it’s different. And isn’t. But it is, really, truly. Everything we endure is a lesson, everything we experience helps teach us more about who we really are, what we really want, how we might be able to get there, with what partner we want to share the journey, the importance of treating what – and who – you value most in life the way a child would handle the Christmas gift he never expected to actually receive.

Life in its potential is infinite. We CAN – within reason – make our lives what we want them to be, if we go about it the right way, with grace and kindness and care and resolve.

Something I wish I knew, way back then: Life is so much more than we can ever know. When we’re 18. When we’re 22. When we’re 45. When we’re 75.

So, little sis, I want to tell you to make choices. Be bold. Be brave. Take chances. Do not ever-ever-ever let a boy make all the choices for you. He cannot know what is deepest in your heart. Only you get to figure that out. You get to steer your own ship, and that is a gift life, in its complexity, gives us. We are lucky if we find people by our sides to support us and make the road trip together.

Just as important: Treat others well, especially those you don’t want to lose. They deserve it. So do you.

Finally, let yourself off the hook. We all mess up. It’s life. Pick yourself up, and do it before you waste too much time, and get back on the horse.

Grab the reins. They’re yours. Go.