Category Archives: Personal

2016: Lessons Learned

2016 has not been one of those years where you end it thinking, “Man, what an amazing year!” However, amongst the turmoil and challenges I learned quite a bit. That’s the way growth and learning happens – painfully, slowly and feeling uncomfortable. Well, 2016 was definitely an uncomfortable year. I want to share my lessons learned.


My father spent about three weeks in the Intensive Care Unit of Plano Medical Center this year.  During that three weeks my sister and I found ourselves answering questions and providing permission for procedures that we could not have foreseen. “Does your father want dialysis?” or “Is he okay with a blood transfusion?” or “Will you provide permission for a feeding tube?”  The experts will tell you to have these conversations about organ donation, life support and medical treatments BEFORE your relatives are sick, but nobody listens. Let me encourage you to have those conversations. Those decisions are weighty and take on a level of importance that you cannot understand when your parents are healthy. So this Christmas ask your Mom her feelings on life support. And keep asking those questions every couple of years until you no longer need to ask.


Like most mothers I sacrifice my own health at the altar of the health of my children. My kids see a dentist twice a year.  I haven’t gone in 5 years. My kids see a doctor with every cold and virus. I haven’t had a physical in 5 years. This year David made me promise that I would take care of my own health. (Literally. He made me say the words “I promise”) I went to see the dentist and I saw my gynecologist for a check up. I didn’t expect any big news since nothing really had been bothering me. That isn’t exactly what happened though. So one afternoon while I was driving my mother to visit my father in the ICU I received a call from my doctor telling me that they found a cyst that was 13cm in diameter and that I would need to get it removed as soon as possible.  When I got home I took out a ruler so I could see how big 13 cm really was – a large grapefruit. I had a mass the size of a grapefruit sitting on my right ovary and I had no idea. No symptoms. No pain. This whole thing could have turned out poorly for me but I was lucky. It was a simple cyst and outside of the fact that a big hunk of my ovary is now gone I should have little long lasting effects. It wasn’t cancer – but it could have been and I wouldn’t have known.  Moral to the story: preventive care is important, which leads me to my next lesson.


Some of you may know that David started a radical health journey this year.  He has lost quite a bit of weight and has changed the way he treats his own body and his attitudes about his health. Early in this journey somebody told David, “getting healthy is a selfish act, but you HAVE TO be selfish.”  I think I’m very bad at being selfish. We are rewarded a hundred different ways to think of other people and not ourselves.  I suppose as a mother and a teacher this comes even more naturally to give of yourself until it hurts. This year pushed me to evaluate how much of myself I was willing to give. I was forced to draw boundaries and I admit that I needed outside help to figure out where those boundaries should be (thanks to professional therapist). I’ve learned this year to be selfish. To do what I WANT to do. To rest. To read. To honor the Sabbath in all ways.


The election. We all suffered through it. This election felt personal in a way that previous elections have not. Like most women I have been a victim of sexual harassment/discrimination/assault. (It is so prolific that I have yet to meet a single woman who has NOT said, “yep, me too.” to that admission). So the rejection and general dismissiveness of the things our President-Elect has said about women felt like a personal rejection and belittlement of those very humiliating and hurtful moments in my life. I know many women didn’t feel that way, but I did. I also live in the reddest of red states. As a result, I spent most of this year biting my tongue, staying silent and feeling alone. I’ve never felt more isolated and alone in my life. At times I felt like an alien in a strange land.  A constant bombardment on my values and things that I believe. I was left questioning my faith, my friendships, and the very things I thought I had built my life upon. And then something surprising happened after the election and after my thoughts could no longer be hidden….

People still wanted to be my friend. After months of biting my tongue and feeling like I was an outcast in my own community I realized how much of that was self-imposed. I had given too little credit to the people who call me friend. I was ashamed, embarrassed and felt remorse that I had put so little faith in their friendship and love. Fear grows strong when we lose faith and this year has taught me to have more faith in the people I call friends. I’m sorry. I’m sorry to those people in whom I allowed doubt to fester.

Maybe the greatest lesson I learned this year is that we continue to grow wise. Wisdom is just a fancy way of saying experience and with every new experience we gain knowledge. So this year I have grown wiser. And I would like to think that perhaps I’ve also become a better person. It is with a new sense of who I am that I say with a large amount of relief, goodbye to 2016.

The Wind Blows

When Lucy was about three years old she discovered the wind.  She loved having the car windows rolled down  and would squeal with delight. Her eyes closed, her face bent slightly to feel the air blow across her cheeks and through her hair. She loved it. A child in delight of the world.

Perhaps it was the feeling of being free that she loved. Or perhaps it was the idea of the wind blowing dangerously strong into her face that gave her a sense of adrenaline. Or perhaps she liked the way the noise and sensation seemed to block everything else out.

Like most children Lucy’s wonder with the wind faded as she grew older. The innocence lost in the wake of recognized fears and new responsibilities. The wind, once mysterious, was now a known entity no longer worth acknowledgement or delight.

This past week concluded rehearsals for Lucy’s third theater production.  If you don’t know about theater the last week includes full dress rehearsals every night. Long, arduous rehearsals where the pressure for perfection increases with every practice.  The week is a blur of last minute costume changes, make up, wigs, line changes, and dance numbers. Even for a youth production these weeks can be grueling. The smell of sweat, grease paint, hairspray and youth angst is like a thick smog in the changing rooms. Every night Lucy dragged herself back into the car and rattled off a non-stop monologue of all the things she did wrong that night and what needed to change.

This happened for five nights until the final rehearsal. No more practicing. No more chances to make the wrongs right. When I picked Lucy up she was tired and quiet. She crawled into the car and barely made eye contact. I asked her if she was nervous for opening night and she silently shrugged her shoulders. It was late and the coolness of the day had started to settle. Sensing that she didn’t want to talk about the last rehearsal or the impending opening night I remained silent.

She lowered the car window and hung her head out.  The wind blew her hair violently and she closed her eyes. She needed time to visit with an old friend.


Getting Older

In November of 2015 my mother was admitted to the hospital for an infection that had turned sepsis. Like many systematic infections it began to settle in her lungs and brought on pneumonia. My sister and I took turns sitting vigil by her side speaking with doctors and helping direct her care. It was a quiet morning  when both my sister and I sat bedside next to my mother  when the doctor came to speak with us. My sister and I are both goal-driven, results oriented people so when the doctor arrived my sister asked, “what is the next step?”

The doctor paused for just a heartbeat, took a deep breath and said, “there are no next steps. We’ve done all we can to fight the infection it is now between her and the medicine.” My sister and I did not know what to do when there was nothing left to do. How do you move forward? How do we plan? How can we fix it? The doctor continued, “how do you feel about your mother being ventilated if necessary? Or her stance on life support?”

Why was he asking me this question? I’m not old enough to make this decision. I’m not qualified. This is a decision for an adult – for somebody older. I’m just a child.

I’m 46.

There are so many decisions in life that feel like the moment you become an adult — getting married, buying a house, deciding to put a pet to sleep, having a child, buying a car, quitting a job, getting a promotion — but none of those moments feel more adult-like then deciding on your own parent’s health.

I don’t feel any different than I did at 36 or even 26. I still love a good book and a good meal. I am still suspicious of people who stifle a sneeze or a laugh (some things are meant to be released).  I still love a good cookie or piece of cake. I still love going to the movie theater and smelling a rain storm. I still love learning about new technology and meeting new people from strange places.  I’m the same person and yet, I’m not.

Life experience is just that – experience — and you can’t escape it.  It softens your edges, it smoothes the rough bits, it makes you realize how small you are in relation to the grandeur of the world.

And perhaps that feeling of being a child is the most beautiful part of life. It is that small part of innocence and wonder that we must protect and cherish for as long as possible, because that is the part that makes life worth living — even when life feels impossible.

A Mother’s Day Battle

We learn how to be a mother from our own mothers. Everything from the simple, how to kiss a boo-boo to serving up tough love is all first taught to us through example. Our mother teaches us about love, nurturing, and kindness.

My grandmother was the product of war and oppression – an immigrant who fled her own country out of fear. Who witnessed atrocities of injustice and inhumanity at the young age of 8.  These tragic events created a woman, who in her own turn, transferred those fears and anger onto her own child.  My mother, out of the strongest of desires to not repeat the errors of her mother, went in the opposite direction.

My mother didn’t know about unconditional love, safety, fearlessness or warmth but she did her best to give my siblings and I that very kind of childhood.  A childhood from the pages of a magazine. We had homemade costumes, and cookies. She hosted themed parties that would rival anything you saw on Pinterest. She packed lunches and drove us to activities, and helped with homework and hired tutors and attended concerts and ALWAYS picked up the phone. My friends would often collect at my home and tell me that they wished my mother was their mother.

For 37 years my mother held her emotional breath – not allowing any of the negative thinking or abuse seep out of her mouth or her behavior. She held it in. All of it. The pain, her mother’s voice, the negative cloud of her own upbringing was kept sharply at bay until all of her three children left the house.

My mother has grown weary of fighting the demons. She has faltered and now they nip at her heels — they crowd her.

As a mother myself now – sometimes struggling with the right things to say or do for my kids. Hearing words come from my mouth that I wish I could take back – seeing and doing things that I wish I hadn’t done I can’t help but admire my mother even more.

How did she do it? How did she fight her most basic nature for so long? How did she not allow those demons to pass?

My mother spent several days in the hospital this week – she’s older, more frail, her weaknesses all raw and exposed. Her nerves frayed and easily agitated.  But I think I admire her more now than I ever have. It is in her weakest moments, when the demons raise their heads,  that I recognize the strength that she carried for so long.  The battle that she waged within herself.

And I want her to know, on this Mother’s Day, that she won.  I know she hurts and has regrets and I know all that pain is with her everyday now.  But she raised three children who know about unconditional love, and kindness and charity and nurturing and friendship. And we in turn are raising seven children who are growing in love and kindness and charity.  So perhaps her life was sacrificial, but those same demons will no longer follow our family line. They have been stopped. She might have lost her own personal fight, but she won the war.

I Need Feminism Because…

There is an Internet meme that is making the rounds right now of women holding signs explaining why they don’t need feminism. This makes me so sad that women would freely walk away from a movement that has given them so much. I think a great deal of this is because people confuse feminists with femi-nazis which really are two different things.  I’m a feminist. PERIOD. ALL CAPITAL LETTERS – I AM A FEMINIST. And I’m pretty gosh darn proud to call myself one.  I would love to write some sort of beautifully phrased post supporting my decision but frankly the best I can do right now is provide you with a partial list of the reasons why I need feminism.

1.) Because in 1920 women FINALLY got the right to vote and that was LESS THAN A 100 YEARS AGO.

2.) Because there are still over 20 countries in the world that forbid women from getting an education

3.) Because 28 countries in Africa still practice female genital mutilation.

4.) Because in 1971 women were finally allowed to practice law IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

5.) Because I want my daughter to have CHOICES. The choice to work, to stay home, to be president, to fly to the moon. And unlike my younger counterparts I REMEMBER a time when women were still heavily marginalized in the work place. I REMEMBER a time when a woman was still expected to dress like a man if they were going to work in a professional place. (watch any movie that was made before 1960 and you’ll see what I mean)

6.) Because I want my daughter to know that if she is raped or sexually assaulted she can report such a crime without fearing that she will be accused of “asking for it”.

7.) Because I hope and dream that one day men will be held accountable for their sexual purity and actions as strongly as women.

8.) Because I hope and dream that one day we will stop relegating men to mindless sexual animals that are on one hand incapable of any intellectual thought but sex, and yet simultaneously better suited to run the world because they don’t have periods.  Men are incapable of controlling their minds when presented with scantily clad women but somehow can still be in charge of nuclear warheads. If this was actually true then all we would need to do to win a war is send a bunch of naked women into battle and all weapons would be dropped. Alas, that doesn’t really work.

9.) Because I believe that both men and women should be granted longer than 6 weeks to be at home with their newborn/adopted child

10.) Because when you are a minority you must always be vigilant about guarding your rights and freedoms.

These women who are so quick to give up feminism are actually using the very rights the feminist movement gave them – the right to have an opinion that they can voice openly in a public forum. If you doubt this then I suggest you turn to the beloved Jane Austen — do you know why all of  Jane’s heroines were strong willed and unhappy? Because they refused to be forced into a marriage based on dowry and financial prospectus — a very common habit. Women were chattel, property, things that were married and sold (dowry) for the betterment of the family. Jane craved education and freedom for women — Jane Austen was a feminist. So before you toss out feminism as being unneeded and outdated because you have already won the right to vote and can go to school, I suggest you spend a bit more time thinking about what feminism REALLY is and what it has already given you.


The Road Not Taken

My very first job was working for Dr. Harry Davis D.D.S.  Dr. Davis seemed old to me in 1986 and just grew more ancient until his passing last year. He was tall and lanky with a shiny bald head that he would rub with his eyes closed while talking to patients. He still smoked in his office in 1986 and when AIDS came onto the scene he was a bit circumspect about wearing plastic shields over his face. He was an old school, small town dentist who believed in giving back to his community and helping young, stupid teenage girls gain a little work experience. I loved Dr. Davis. He was kind and gentle and incredibly patient with me as I fumbled around his office.

I’ve worked everyday since my time with Dr. Davis.  I have slowly and methodically built a career.  A career that has challenged me and afforded me the benefit of travel and a variety of new experiences. When I switched from advertising to teaching – in order for me to spend more time with my kids – it seemed natural and a simple redirection of my energy and ambition.  I pursued my career as a project manager and strategist with enthusiasm and passion. Teaching has been no different.  I’m not the kind of teacher who uses the same textbook or syllabus or even in class exercises for more than a couple of semesters. I’m always striving to make my classes better – always trying to serve my students better.

Since 2006 I have applied for a full-time teaching position almost every school year. I have been rejected every year — not even granted an interview.  In 2013, after applying and being rejected AGAIN I made some fundamental decisions about my career.  First, I was not going to get my PhD in order to improve my chances at a full time appointment. Secondly,  I obviously did not have a long term career path in college education.  I began to look at the job, for the first time in my life, as a job. I was beaten down. I felt defeated.

I started homeschooling the kids this past fall and it seemed that perhaps this was God’s grand plan. I was meant to teach my kids and be home. I was destined to let go of my career ambitions and focus on my children.  I felt a new passion for teaching and was loving the ability to teach other subjects to my most favorite people. Frankly, since I didn’t really have an option of doing anything differently it seemed like a good thing.

In June I received an email – I was being asked to come in and interview for a full time teaching position.

Really? After 8 years? After I already decided I didn’t want the job? Seriously? God, do you REALLY think that is funny? Cuz it totally is not funny. Not laughing. Not even a little.

I interviewed for the job and it went as well as I could expect and sure enough I received a job offer.


And so there I sat having to choose – do I continue homeschooling my kids and sacrificing my career or do I send them back to public school and pursue my ambitions full steam? Because contrary to what Sheryl Sandberg or Kim Kardashian tell us most women really CAN’T have it all.

I didn’t respond to the job offer. I went on vacation instead. I spent a lot of that time reflecting on my own happiness, my desires and goals for my children, my role as wife and mother, and asking myself about the example I want to set for my girls. As my friend Christine said to me, “this is a decision regarding authenticity. Where is your heart?” Who am I? Where am I going? What do I want?

I wish I could say that this decision was clear cut and easy for me to make, but it wasn’t.  I cried. I prayed. I asked advice. I consulted all the important people in my life and it all came back to the same thing – “what is in your heart”.  There is only one thing in my heart — well three things really, and they think their Mom is pretty cool without a full time job.

Robert Frost has always been misquoted. It is not that the path he took in the wood was unexplored – as a matter of fact he says they were both about the same (stanza 2). It is the fact that he chose one road, knowing he would not be able to go back and take the other (stanza 3), and that choice put him on a different life journey.  And so I’ve chosen my path and it will make all the difference.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

–––Robert Frost–––

I Stopped In The Woods

IMG_5643This past week we traveled two hours east to Winnsboro, Texas. It is a speck of a town that has traveled so far past its prime that it can no longer remember if it ever had a heyday. The center of town consists of a Brookshire’s grocery store where the clerk, Brittany, appears to be straight out of a John Mellencamp song.  Across the street sits the Dairy Queen, which also happens to be the only Wi-Fi hot spot in the town.  We spent our week tucked securely into David’s family’s lake house, which sits on Winnsboro Lake – a lake so small that you can see all sides of it almost from the same vantage point.  However, this also means we are frequently the only people on the lake and the lake house, well, it doesn’t have Internet, telephone or cable. As a matter of fact there isn’t even a TV in the lake house. photo-27These past seven days have been filled with late mornings lying in bed listening to the window unit cool the bedroom.  We have spent afternoons watching spring showers glide over the lake ruffling the water like sprinkles on a cake.  The kids have played countless games of Apples to Apples, Sorry, and checkers.  We’ve water skied, and jet skied and been pulled on water tubes. We made bonfires, ate s’mores and stayed up way past our bedtimes.  We got sunburned and have bug bites and have watched caterpillars cross the sidewalk.  We celebrated Grandma’s 94th birthday and went to the farmer’s market where we bought zucchini the size of smallphoto-28 footballs for a $1 a piece.  Max honed his fishing skills while riding on Uncle Bo’s small blue fishing boat. Uncle Bo being the kind of man who talks slow and can spin a tale as long as the fish he catches. We have spent the week cocooned in a world that would rival Thoreau’s Walden Woods. David and I are facing a cross roads in our path. A point in life where you recognize that either decision will lead you to a different destination and you are forced to stop and ask yourself, “where am I going”?  We have stopped in the woods. After a week of reflection I think we know which direction we are going to take and as it is with most large decisions in life it takes no small amount of blind faith. Faith that God will catch you – faith that your life will unfold as it should. “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” – Thoreau

A Christmas Love Story

I lived in room 424 and she lived in room 324.  I drove a bright yellow Geo Storm and she drove a bright orange VW Bug with plaid interiors.  Kym and I met in August of my Junior year in college.  We were Resident Advisors together and after one weekend of being on duty we were best friends.  Kym is the keeper of my twenties.  She knows the stories she can share (the night we dressed as ninjas) and the ones that are best forgotten.  She knows when I’m lying to myself and tells me. We ate breakfast together, dinner together, walked to class together and dated sets of roommates.  There isn’t a kiss, crush, or heartbreak that happened between ages 19-28 that Kym doesn’t know about  or witnessed.

303238_10150322857643616_156781271_nAs college faded into the past and our lives became involved with husbands and careers and children our hourly communication drifted gradually into once every couple of months.  The two lives that were so completely intertwined in college eventually became two parallel lives in different cities and often in different states.

Time passed.

This past September Kym’s husband was deployed to the middle east.  Deployments are never easy, but Kym has waited through them before and was prepared for the four months ahead of her.  We talked before her husband’s deployment and exchanged some sporadic emails in the month that followed.   She was doing fine and keeping her family on track.  In November I called to check on her and she shared her excitement about her mother flying down in the next couple of days.  Her mom was going to stay with her for a month and she and the kids were so excited.  Three days later Kym called to tell me that her mother would not be flying down because she had been admitted into the hospital with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.  A reoccurrence of a disease her mother had battled only 18 months prior.

Her voice was different.  I knew, as only a friend of 20 years can know, that she had crossed her tipping point.  She said she was okay and she said she would manage and that she didn’t need help but it was all a lie.  Her voice.  The sadness and despair that lurked right under the surface was evident.  David insisted she come and stay with us until her husband’s return.  She resisted. I insisted that she stay with us for Thanksgiving, but she said no.  I started calling weekly, texting regularly, and trying to gauge her needs from afar. In December, she finally relented to come for Christmas – Kym, her four kids and two dogs.  When they finally spilled out of their car and I caught her in my arms I didn’t want to let go.

The holiday was magical.  There was joy and laughter and kindness and children and puppies billowing out of every corner of my house.  We ate cookies, played games, shopped and talked until midnight EVERY DAY.  We retold old stories, made new ones, and fell into the easy friendship that has sustained for so many years – the only thing missing was the cafeteria food.  We cried at every doctor’s update and smiled at every phone call from overseas.  We rolled our eyes at our children, shook our fists in frustration and laughed at the mothers we have become. And after ten days and with the promise that we will not allow so much time to pass between visits she packed up and drove home.


Friendship is hard.  It is hard to find friends, make friends and keep friends.  Most of us can look in our rear view mirror and see friendships that were dropped along the roadside, either due to time, or circumstance.  Female friendships are even harder, frequently the victim of hurt feelings.  But if you are lucky enough to have a friend — just one — that can look into your eyes and know your heart, who willingly shares your tears, and who can make you laugh at every corner of life – you are the richest person of all.  And this Christmas, as I was surrounded by my parents, my sister, my brother-in-law, my nephews and my best friend I realized there wasn’t a single thing I wanted for Christmas.