Insufficient Funds


Have you ever gotten the unfortunate, somewhat embarassing notice that your bank account has insufficient funds? Yikes. I’ve heard about people getting it. As a matter of fact, I think my bank must have linked my account to someone else’s, who keeps on having insufficient funds. I get these e-mails and I can read the subject line. “Activity alert: your account has insufficient funds.” Sounds like a winner. Of course, I don’t want to open that email up. I’ve gotten just the amount of info I need from the subject line, thank you very much. Insufficient funds. Great. And you know, money doesn’t grow on trees, especially in the winter. I feel like I have insufficient funds all the time. Why does my bank need to send me an email about it? As a mom, as a wife, as a sister, as a daughter, as a friend, as a coworker, as a neighbor. Insufficient. So, I thought, what if I did open that email up and it did something else, it encouraged me. What would it say about my “insufficient funds?” Here’s what I would like it to say:

Dearest Valuable Banking Friend:
Hey there. Sorry to have to notify you of this, especially on a day that you took a shower and did your hair. Way to go with that eye liner, too. That’s huge. I’m bummed to let you know that you’re getting down to the nitty-gritty. Your funds are running, well, how to say this? Kind of low. You’re trying to vacuum floors, do the laundry, talk to your husband and get your thoughts down. Your coffee is getting cold while you start up “Dora” for your three year old son. There is that friend that you really need to call. Have you paid the bills? You really need to make a dentist appointment. Oh, and your dog’s teeth are struggling too. Remember? 

You know, as hard as you try, you really can’t do it all. You have a lot going on. And that’s okay. You’re doing a pretty awesome job of trying to do it all. You may feel like your funds are always running out. It’s because they are. This is a crazy time of life. Things are going to get bumped, repeatedly, to tomorrow’s non-existent to-do list. Don’t give up. You’ll eventually put that basket of laundry away or you will keep pulling clean, slightly wrinkled clothes out of it for your kids to wear. They don’t seem to mind, so don’t fret about it. That laundry basket doesn’t have feelings. And if it did, it would feel pretty awesome, being full all of the time. That is it’s purpose, right? To hold laundry. Or to occasionally carry young children flying down the steps. Either way, that laundry basket loves your house.

You may feel insufficient, but that’s because your kids are full. Your paycheck just vanished into their accounts, and all of this month’s bills are already paid. You love those little thieves. You listen to them. You get a million drinks a day for them. You find that missing toy. Or shoe. You help them build their towers. You comfort them, bargain with them, and try to teach them a lesson in the midst of a psychotic tantrum. You referee their wrestling matches. You feed them most days, three meals. And don’t forget dessert. You give them a bath. You sop up all that water that sloshed out of the tub. You help dry them off. You read them books, or even tell them stories. You argue about who loves who more. They think they love you the most, but their brains can’t begin to comprehend how much you love them. You help them somersault into sweet dreams. Then, you make room in your big bed when they wake up scared.

All of this completely fills them up. This is A LOT. Like winning the lottery a lot. You should feel proud. Like a champ. You just completed a marathon. Sometimes, there are no water or bathroom breaks, or people cheering you on, but you still keep running. You finish the race every single day. It can be grueling, exhausting, patience-testing, heart wrenching, and utterly joyful. All throughout the long course. If all of the parents in the whole world could line up and do a tunnel for you, congratulating you, slapping you on the back and butt, and high-fiving you, they would. But, they might be busy watching Netflix, or having a drink, maybe reading a book, folding some laundry, or falling asleep, so they can wake up and hit the ground running tomorrow. You should go to sleep too.

So, yes, we regret to inform you that you have “insufficient funds,” but that’s because you have purposely, unknowingly transferred all of yours to the little recipients who may not be able to thank you or recognize you now, but they will. One day. Keep up the good work.

Yours truly,
The Lollipop Giver-Outer”

And maybe it would also help to be reminded that, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Your hand


Of all the hands I held today, I can’t stop thinking about holding yours. I looked down and it was over. You did it. But you didn’t let go of my hand. And I didn’t want to let go of your hand. Ever. I wanted you to know that this is how a mama loves. Never lets go. Holds on tight, in the best way. She cherishes precious moments when her sweet “big” boy needs a mama’s strength to get him through. She doesn’t say, “Don’t act like a baby. Stop crying. You’re not a man.” She says, “It’s okay. I’m here. I’m not going anywhere. You are my baby. This is hard. Really hard. I will help carry you through this. I love you more than anything in this world.”  Hold on to me. I won’t let go. I promise.

I can’t stop thinking about you. I want to change your course. Take your unpredictable, off-road past and steer you towards a gentle, kind-hearted, smooth-paved future. I want to do more for you. I hate that I can’t sneak you away to a new start. To a far-away, yet, close place where you can know that you really are just a child. For this brief, blink-of-an-eye time in your life. I want to unload all of those heavy adult-sized bags off of your child-sized back. They do not belong there. Your eyes have seen too much. Your ears have not heard enough of the routine sounds of a safe, comforting home. “Dinner time. Wash your hands…. It’s time for bed. Pick a book….I love you to the moon and back….No, I love you the most.” Instead, you must have heard loud screams, things breaking, toddler-sized hearts. The fast pitter-patter of tiny scared feet running to you. Doors slamming. After all, you are the oldest.  Not nearly old enough to endure what you have. You are to be protected, not be the protector.

I wish I could take away all of your pain, all of the scary, painful, unfair things that have happened to you. I wish I could lead you out of that unforgiving, deep dark forest filled with lies, abuse, and fear. I would tell you over and over again, “You are valuable. You are a beautiful boy. You deserve to be protected, fought for, and cared for every minute of every single day. You deserve to feel safe, like you belong. I am proud of you. I love you.” And I just met you. You have so much hope to offer this world. I believe in you. You are not a lost cause. You can overcome. Prove every statistic wrong. You deserve to have sweet dreams of playful childhood games, not nightmares of the horrible reality of hurt, pain, loss and the uncertainty that your future holds. It hardly seems like enough to do. But, for now, I will pray for you, think of you and hope the best for you. For the rest of my life.  Of all the hands I have and will hold, I will never forget holding your hand.

Seriously, Jury Duty?


I just knew when I hesitatingly filled out the initial paperwork for jury duty that I would be receiving the next call. Or letter. My husband laughed, accidentally, I think, when I opened and read the neon letter and repeated several awkward combinations of cuss words. That didn’t even make sense. “What did you just say?” I don’t even know. It was like a seventh grader cussing for the first time. It really defeats the purpose, when you suck at cussing.  I was opening the dreaded mail late at night, on an empty stomach and a tired body, so that didn’t help the situation. There probably is not any time of day that I would have been jumping for joy at opening that neon orange notice, errr, invitation? No, more like a warning. Why couldn’t they slip a $20 into the envelope too?

I know, all too well, unfortunately, about bright neon card stock warnings. There’s no eighties skate-center fun coming from those bad boys. Why couldn’t they choose beige, grey or mother of pearl colored warnings? Stuck to our door. Shouting, “Hey! Look. The World’s worst bill payer.” That’s me. Yeah, yeah, why don’t I get on the auto-bill paying ship? All aboard! It’s such a commitment. Motion sickness. Oops, I thought I paid that water bill. Time sure does fly…when you’re not paying bills. Handed to me, awkwardly, as we play in our front yard. I promised the gas man I would stop pitching baseballs and head into the house, immediately and pay the bill. Embarrassed and feeling like I got sent to the principal’s office. How ridiculous. That gas bill didn’t pay itself. I always need to irrationally blame someone or something else before taking full responsibility for my lack of actions.

It was years ago that I sat frustrated and hungry in the jury box area. I stated what I did for a living, and the judge asked if there was any other reason why I should not be chosen for jury duty. I could easily think of a hundred reasons. “Well, right now, I’m currently on bowel rest for surgery in two days. Do you need any details about the heinous stuff going on with my rectum? I know I just met all of you guys. Is this too much information? Will that bit of insight buy me a ticket back out into the court room bleachers?” I didn’t dare say all that I thought. I didn’t want to be held in contempt. I’ve seen that happen on law TV shows. Serious stuff. The judge stated that I may have to postpone my surgery. I almost lost it, well I did, in my head. If, the prosecution or defense, I don’t know, couldn’t find another non-judgemental, capable juror that they liked as much as me, then I would have to serve. I was in my twenties and I worked in a kids hospital. Ahhhh. It was a man being discriminated in a hospital case. I just knew I would be chosen. The poor college girl that I had befriended over that nasty coffee, without cream, got chosen in my place. Whew. Sorry, new friend, you’ll be amazing, I think. My jacked-up intestines saved the day. Bowel rest, carry on. I didn’t even claim the mileage on my taxes.

So, April 27, 2015, what will you be doing? I’m booked. I will report for jury duty. On the roughest day of the week, Monday. After working all weekend. All the while, my husband has never been chosen. I’m just a little bitter, like a home grown lime. Actually, those babies are extremely bitter. And, who am I kidding? I’ve written a whole post about it. I’m extremely bitter. I have tried thinking about the positives. I may make a new best friend. Or I could hold the door for somebody. Thinking. thinking. And I’m done. Fresh out of optimistic thoughts. Man, that coffee was awful. Now, I’m back to what I can stratigically wear or look like or even do to get out of being chosen. Copious amounts of blue eye shadow and red lipstick? A mini-skirt and stilletos? Should I start watching the local news and reading newspapers like it’s going out of style? It kind of is. I will just try and not think about it. For a few more weeks. I should just pretend it’s a bill that I need to pay. Good plan.

We are all something


Sometimes, when I witness, first-hand, a person or a group of people doing something really well, I think, “Ahhh. I want to be that.” Like, when they make something really difficult look so flawlessly beautiful and easy. “Oh, yeah,” I think, “I can do that.” To be as graceful as that ballerina. But then, I remember that I struggle with just walking. To sing as breathtakingly, tear-producingly beautiful as that singer. Nope. I’m off-key and definitely best in my car. By myself. To run so hard and fast, yet look so strong, focused and unphased. Uhhh, I’m sucking wind and pulling muscles. To perform a challenging medical procedure with such precision and ease. No way. I’m scared and trying to focus on blowing bubbles. Shaky hands. And so on and so forth. I want to be a lot of extraordinary different types of people. A lot of the time. It can be boring just being me.

Well, tonight, I wanted to be a nun. That’s right. A sister. My goodness, how gentle and kind-hearted she was. She quickly calmed and encouraged everyone in that room, not just the boy and mother she was there to support. She took over and did my job for me, as I stood practically mesmerized, entranced by her grace, calm disposition and peaceful smile. Her translated words. Her patience. Then, when her three sisters came, I wanted to grab a habit and join up with them. That love, that bond. Maybe if I could be a sister…with a husband and three kids? It can be pretty awesome and humbling to be a witness to some of life’s most beautiful moments. In the strangest of places, like a hospital room.

Then, I think about why I am so drawn to people, enamored, inspired and humbled. Sometimes, I respond,  appreciate, recognize, and experience their strengths. And, selfishly, I also see the areas where I struggle. My weaknesses, perhaps. I strive to be that which I may not be capable of being. Maybe instead, I should stay in the audience, loudly clapping and appreciate the beauty in others. And know, that perhaps, someone may also be appreciating the beauty in me.

Smothered, Covered and Inspired


“Wanna meet us at Waffle House?” I texted my husband at almost 3:00. Lunch-ish? Thursdays are long, we rarely see him and we miss him. Maybe he misses us a little too. I mean, if he’s willing to come to Waffle House at 3:00, on a full stomach. Yep, he misses us too. He walked in with his enthusiasm and bright blue happy eyes on a dreary day. And I loved him. For showing up. He didn’t even need to eat, he just wanted to hang with us for a brief 45 minutes. That’s dedication.

It was chaos in our booth. I saw it for myself, and saw the scared look in our waitress’s eyes. Crazy town before the food came and even more so, after our waitress dropped off the breakfast, well, lunch. Three hungry boys. Bacon grabbing. Butter spreading and waffle cutting times three. Hash brown splitting. Ahhh, the ketchup keeps sputtering. It’s out. Go ahead and add trying to have an adult conversation in there. In the midst of rearranging all of the plates to fit on the tiny table. Crap. We got a fork down.

It’s somewhat hilarious and ridiculous that we ever attempt to go out to eat, as a family. It’s a ton of work. Even if we don’t have to do the dishes after. Even if it’s at Waffle House. We obviously suffer slightly from short-term memory loss. Or hunger trumps rational thinking. Time after time. Low expectations help.

Today, in the midst of the eating part, my husband got up from the table and went over to talk with the employee that had cooked our food. I didn’t really know what was going on around me. The place was pretty empty. Mama tunnel vision. Must focus on the three boys who were now, what? Of course. Done eating. They are not expected to taste or enjoy the food. Shovel it in and be done with it. Oh, gross. “Get out from under the table, Colby. Right now!” I had not even touched my burnt waffle yet. Or my covered hashbrowns. I told the waitress, “it’s okay, I’m used to eating burnt food,” when she asked if they should make another waffle. Afterall, it really wasn’t that burnt, it was still a shade of brown. Dark brown. And slightly black underneath. Poor waffle.

Next thing I know, I glance over my shoulder. My husband is now going over to talk to a couple at the counter. I hear him say that he would like to buy their meals. Sometimes, he can really drive me crazy. I thought our table provided enough entertainment, but apparently not. And here is the kicker. This annoying yet also, at the same time, most endearing personality trait my husband possesses, he notices people. Really notices, oftentimes, complete strangers. In a really genuine good kind of way. Not the stare, look the other way, then, keep carrying on with your day way. He reacts, changes direction, and truly cares for people.

I have a love-hate relationship with this characteristic. I hate it because I am selfish, sometimes, and I want that attention. Look at me. Look at me. I love it, however, because he generously gives attention to people who need it. More than me. That’s humbling and inspiring. And in the end, it wins my heart every time. I love him immensely. I don’t know that he will ever know the impact of talking with and buying a late lunch for his newly met friends, Tasha and Joseph, a couple struggling to find work, a place to live and just survive. I know that the impact it had on me, his wife, is profound. If we all could be so good to notice people, to ask multiple times, “how are you doing?” He does that too. And he means it. He wants you to answer honestly, no matter how quick or lengthy your response may be. He’s one of the best in this world. If you get some of his attention, over waffles, coffee, or beer, I hope you will cherish it too. He can rub off on people in a noticeable way.

Good night, Iron Man.


For years I have lived in a safe haven surrounded by super hero-loving boys. They throw on capes and masks, build fortresses, keep and also forget secret passwords. They fight the bad guys. They beg me to wear my Super Girl or “Wonda Woman” costume. I wash and fold what seems like infinite amounts of Batman, Spiderman, Ninja turtle, and Avengers clothing. I think, “How many more super hero t-shirts can we have?” Then, I go shopping at Target and yep, I buy a few more. Because they are different, softer, more vintagey than the others at home. Maybe. Or maybe I am a sucker for the unplanned, unnecessary, sporadic Target purchases. I feel like I did hit an all-time low the other day when I purchased a super hero pseudo-lingerie set. What was I thinking on that one? My three year old loved it. Big surprise. You can guarantee that I won’t be walking up to guest services to return that outfit. Awkward much? Maybe they are for super hero loving teenage girls? I haven’t been a teenager in years. Even more embarassing.

Tonight, as my littlest begged to hold his little Iron Man action figure as he fell asleep, it hit me. These are fleeting moments of sweet innocent all boyness. As his arm relaxed and he fell into a deep sleep, his fingers still clinched tightly around that little Iron Man. And I know for a fact, that when that precious boy wanders into his mom and dad’s room for an upgrade in bed size, he will still be holding that Iron Man in his little hand. His older brothers used to do this too. Used to. They have outgrown this desire to keep playing, even as they fall into sleep. You must hold tightly onto the toy you will play with. So that right as you wake up in the morning, you can continue where you left off. When you are a child, a toddler, that is, your life revolves around play. Wake up. Play. Eat. Play. Kind of eat. Play. Sleep, boring old bedtime, has to invade into playtime. Every night, around the same time. Sort of. Some are better than others at a solid set bedtime. I’m one of the others. “But, we didn’t have gazzert (dessert) yet, Mom.” You’re right, let’s get back downstairs and make it happen.

I happen to love bedtime most nights. The day closes in. Everybody has survived. That’s pretty spectacular. There’s the reading of books, telling stories, or watching a show. The boys all crowd around me like I am some sort of famous movie star. It can be physically demanding, making more room, situating three boys perfectly so they all feel equally important. And loved. Then, it can also be emotionally overwhelming. How awesome to be so special that three little people are aching, elbowing and squirming to be the closest one to you. The extremely lucky mom of three boys.

Good night, Iron man. Tony Stark. Yes, I also know your alter ego. Rest well. You will have a busy day tomorrow. Hopefully, you will not lose any limbs in a freak superhero accident. All boys. Know that if you do, there will be other superheroes with lost limbs readily available to empathize with you.

Disease Bully


 I hate you. You cause me to be the person I dislike the most. An angry, pessimistic, complaining, hopeless and defeated person. You draw attention of the worst kind. Unwelcoming, invading, and uninvited attention. The kind that I don’t want. You’re always there. You never go away. You drag me away from bachelorette parties, weddings and funerals. I hate thinking about you. I hate being stuck naked in the bathroom with you. Countless hours in hundreds of different bathrooms I have waited. On you.

The world does not stop when I’m stuck in the bathroom. But it should. I don’t want to miss out on moments, stories, memories and fun because of you. Sometimes, I would do just about anything to just be normal. Whatever that even is. Oh, how I took “being normal” for granted for eighteen years. It’s the most trite but sometimes most true saying, “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” So, now that I know, can I have it back? I promise to remember how much I despise you. I promise to remember how many times your existence altered my plans. I promise to remember every painful detail of every moment when things went wrong. All because of you.

My husband read the above paragraphs and said “I feel sorry for your disease. You’re being a bully to it.” Maybe I am. It bullies me from time to time too. Maybe it’s hard to turn the cheek some times. Sometimes, I want to hurt it’s feelings. Cause it pain, discomfort, uneasiness. I can’t be happy and optimistic all the time, you know? That’s absurd. Someone, no some disease, knocked my half-full glass over. And guess what? I’m the one cleaning up the mess. That’s right, with a piss-poor attitude because sometimes I let myself be angry, grouchy, mad, sad, and then angry again. Once I talk about it, cry about it and then even laugh about it, then I can get over it and move past it. Nobody likes to be around a potentially volatile ready-to-erupt volcano. That can be hot and dangerous. Messy and a little scary. It’s much better to be a shaken-up pop can, way less of a disaster. And this disease can shake me up something fierce. Like an eight year old boy with a vengeance kind of shaken-up soda can. After I open up, spew a little, then I can finally get out of the bathroom. Ughh. I hate it in there anyways.

In my post-bullying disease episode, I feel so bad, like I need to apologize… to my disease. I mean it. You know, thank it for all of the valuable life lessons it’s taught me, unintentionally. I’m like the student who shows up to the wrong class, but stays anyways. I don’t know, perhaps, because I like the teacher. Or maybe because I’m embarrassed, I was already late and I don’t want to leave mid-lecture. Ackkk. So, now, I’m stuck in the wrong class, but I’m learning so much. I shouldn’t be here. But, I am. So, I should start taking notes. What am I even talking about? I get going sometimes with those analogies and lose myself.

In my guilt-ridden state, I suppose I should recognize the many kind, beautiful, generous and helpful people who brought tears to my eyes today because they cared. They wanted to help, not for money, but because they could. They had the resources, the skills, the compassion. And they truly cared. Most of them don’t even know me. So, okay, I take it all back. You, annoying disease that you are, have taught me to recognize the helpers, the lovers, the encouragers, the listeners. And so for all of the hours I’ve spent in the bathroom, the love that overflows when someone helps me feels like a volcano erupting. A volcano of confetti, sprinkles, pop rocks, flowers, and just pure love. That trumps the shit. Any day of the week. So, thank you. Just try not to be so annoying, okay?

Clothes in Heaven


Tonight, at dinner, it was the boys and I for some leftover orange chicken and rice with banana-pineapple smoothie.  “Leftover” as in from lunch earlier in the day. A classic too-tired from weekend-working kind of Monday meal. So, this conversation illustrates that the most meaningful and also heart-squeezing discussions can be around the table with reheated leftovers. It doesn’t have to be fancy, took all day food.

The boys and I talk frequently, rather light-heartedly about how everyone is born and everyone dies. Sometimes it can be as simple as a quick statement like, “Colby, you are gonna die. Everyone dies.” Ouch. But that’s the end of the conversation. No hard feelings. Plain uncandy coated truth. Well, tonight, it was different. And I begin to tear up just trying to write down the pure innocent and insightful, yet difficult thoughts and questions that I got bombarded with for a rather long and painful 15 minutes. Or more. It’s a tough age, having two nearly six year olds almost feels like you’re trying to get one arm loose just in time for the other one to be grabbed out of nowhere. Restrained. Bombarded. Helpless at times. At a loss for words, specifically answers.

We were talking about how your heart beats and pumps blood throughout your body. And also how your heart is kind of like a battery and as it gets old, it doesn’t pump as strongly as when you’re a kid. This inevitably introduced the idea of death and Heaven. So, boom, just like that, we were talking about what Heaven would be like. It’s hard to put biblical descriptions and concepts of Heaven into a concrete, developmentally friendly manner for young children. Thanks, but no thanks, Revelations. Julian became preoccupied with what clothes we would wear in Heaven. Still light dinner conversation at this point. I stated,”I don’t know. We may not wear any clothes.”

I rather thoughtlessly responded. In my defense, I haven’t been to Heaven.

Oh, if I could rewind and reach across the table and grab those words before they made it to Julian’s sweet ears. I proceeded to go deeper with how a lot of things may be different than what we are used to. I look over and Julian’s face is red and enveloped in his two hands. And he’s crying. Oh, no, my mind tries to remember all that I’ve said in the past minute or so. I’ve scared them. It’s too much. I should have changed the subject to super heroes or Halloween.

“Julian, come here, what’s the matter?” I ask gently, scoot my chair out and open my arms.

He gets up and comes over to my lap. In moments like these, I realize how big their bodies are getting, but how small and fragile their hearts still remain. I hold him as he curls his long skinny legs up into my lap and places his head on my shoulder, sobbing. Just like a baby. He’s crying hard now, having a hard time coordinating his breathing, through his tears. And I still have no idea what exact thoughts or words have triggered this response.

I ask him, “Julian, why are you crying?”

He responds, as he looks up through his sopping wet gigantic eye lashes,

“Do you NOT wear clothes in Heaven?”

In a flash, I’m relieved and yet, also reminded of how awful this concept could be for my “overly private” child. When he goes to the bathroom, he locks the door and he has near break-downs when his brothers try to coincidentally go to the bathroom at the same time. “I need privacy,” he says. So much so that his 3 year old brother now says, also when going to the bathroom, “I need pi-racy.”

I backtrack and tell Julian maybe, instead, you get to wear your most favorite clothes in heaven. This is helping. So I elaborate. Your Batman shirt. Your favorite pajamas. Then, his twin brother chimes in with what he wants to wear in Heaven. Then, it’s back to what Heaven will be like. The coolest playground. Full of love. Nothing to make you cry. In which, Asher adds “you could cry from happiness.” Seriously, why could their dad not be here for this dinner? I talk about how I would like to jump from cloud to cloud, and maybe even fly. They want to jump clouds with me too! I think we have fully recovered and can clear the table when Julian erupts again, a volcano of tears. Oh, no. My heart hurts.

“Julian, what’s upsetting you?” I ask him, while still holding him.

He answers, “How will I find you and Dad in Heaven?”

I almost can’t take it. And I see why adults shy away from such difficult conversations. But it’s not fair to leave it up to them, to navigate such rough waters without a captain of the ship. I help him brush his hair. I help him find his shoes. I have to help him learn about God’s love and if for some awful, painful unexplained reason I die too soon, I want my kids to trust that we will be together again. In the greatest, most love-filled and happy place.

I answer him. “Mom and Dad will be at the front door of Heaven waiting for you with God and Jesus. You won’t have to look for us. We will be there to give you the biggest hug.”

I think they are sensing how hard it has become for me to talk about this.

Asher starts crying too and says, “how will they know to come find us when you and Dad die?”

Ahhhhhh. No. Too much.

“Who are all of the people who love and care about you so much?” I respond.

Asher starts listing grandparents, aunts, friend’s moms.

I say, “I hope that I die when you are a lot older and I am really really old. If I die when you’re little, the first thing that anybody is going to do, Oma, Gigi, Pop Pop, Granda, are going to make sure that you are safe. They are going to love you and you are always going to have pictures of Mom. And be able to remember things we do together. I will make a special envelope full of pictures and stories for you to have if I died.”

“Where will we find the envelope?” they asked.

“I will put it in a special place so it will not get lost.”

I’m emotionally exhausted but unable to outwardly portray how gut-wrenching this conversation has been. Enough difficult questions for one dinner. As if right on cue, Asher states, “I don’t want to talk about this anymore.” Me neither. “Let’s go take a bath.” Deal. I will take all of the dishes to the sink for everyone. And just like that, clothes ironically start hitting the kitchen floor, from one boy, at least. Bath time it is. Deep breaths. And up the stairs I go.

Bumper Sticker Beliefs


I would like to feel like I am fulfilling some greater purpose, while waiting behind you at this red light. Other than just sitting in traffic. Thank you for your attention to your bumper. This is a multi-step process that you have completed. Kudos to your ability to stay on task and finish a project. I already admire you. You researched what bumper sticker you would like to purchase. You bought it. You cleaned off your bumper. You proudly smoothed that sweet sticker all the way across your car’s rear end. No air bubbles and it’s totally straight. You nailed it. Well done. I have a difficult enough time putting my license tag renewal sticker on every year. Like I said, there are a lot of steps. A lot of distracting things can happen when walking from the kitchen counter out to the bumper of my van. I may notice that dirty dish. Put that in the sink. Ouch. I just stepped on a Nerf gun. Oh, I should start that load of laundry. Whoops. There is a kid crying somewhere. Wait a second, what was I even doing?

I hate to psychoanalyze the mindset of bumper sticker loving people. However, I do want to jump inside your head for a bit. I get it. You like a certain sports team. Rock Chalk. Go Mizzou. Or hey, your child made the honor roll. Congrats! Isn’t there free ice cream for that too? When you’re trying to go all deep with your beliefs, on the back of your car, what’s that about? If I try to make eye contact with you, will you roll down your window, meet me for coffee or something to talk about your bumper sticker beliefs? Or will you just think I’m a creepy staring mom and pretend you don’t see me? I really want to know. So, you believe in evolution. Or people with the worst posture ever. Their backs must kill. Cool. You like stick kids. Zombies. Obama. Hey, wait, don’t drive off so fast. I was just getting to know you. I want to be friends.

Maybe it’s just me, but if I want to read something on someone’s bumper, while waiting f-o-r-e-v-e-r for the left turn signal, I would like it to be in the fortune cookie genre. “You should say you’re sorry. And mean it.” Or “Take the highway not the side streets.” Or “Don’t keep ignoring your check engine light.” Maybe even, “Be careful. You will get a flat tire soon.” Can’t leave out, “You will inherit millions. Go buy a lottery ticket.” Maybe we don’t order Chinese food enough.

I can be all sorts of indecisive. Is it too much to ask that your bumper sticker help me make some simple or really difficult choices? A magic eight ball approach to bumper stickers. Just simply, “Yes.” Or “No.” I haven’t done my research and perhaps I haven’t driven in enough cities to truly know the diversity that may exist in the bumper sticker world. Or the psychological research done on the powerful impact of a bumper sticker. What do I know? I’ve only unintentionally driven around with an eighties rockstar on my car. My husband put a picture of Rick Springfield on my right bumper last summer. I drove around for weeks not knowing he was even there. Big surprise. Perhaps people behind me at red lights thought that my husband wished that he had Jesse’s girl. I think they probably just associated Rick Springfield with a distracted mom that didn’t GO right as the light turned green. Honk! Honk! Sorry, I was trying to grab a fallen Batman action figure. It was really important. And hard to reach without unbuckling. See you at the next red light. I will make sure and smile and wave at you like we’re old friends. Why are you ignoring me, like we didn’t just have a meaningful moment at that last red light? Or if I get stuck behind you, I will just read your bumper stickers. Hey, there it is, “Coexist.” How ironic.



Inoperable. A devastating word. A life-altering word. A word that just should not exist. When some people find out where I work, they respond by saying,

“I could never work in a children’s hospital.”

They mean well, maybe, but I can’t help but feel like I’m some sort of insensitive cruel person. Because most days, I truly love my job. I am honored and constantly grateful to work with some of the best people that this world has to offer. Completely self-sacrificing, beautiful, poised, compassionate, grateful human beings. The kind that make you tear up because they are so amazingly skilled and inspiring. And fully engaged and present in some of the most difficult times a child and family will ever encounter.

In the hospital setting, you witness kids battling, overcoming, devoted parents persevering, supporting and loving their kids wholeheartedly, you meet siblings feeling so deeply that….it’s just like no other experience sometimes. A child’s resilience, determination, and brave little spirit will knock the breath out of you. Sometimes because the little Hulks have kicked you. Spunky little fighters. They will say stuff, hard, honest, deep, trying-to-figure things out stuff that will cause your eyes to well up with this intense crazy hard-to-explain emotion. They are the best gifts that this life has to offer. Their honesty, their passion, their compassion, and their tenacity to get better inspires even the most lifeless of adults. And that’s why the good days and moments impact you in the meaningful way that they do. And that’s why the painful, horrific, sad and challenging days impact you in the unforgettable way that they do.

There are the nights that I can’t get to my car fast enough. Twelve plus hours can be a really looooong shift. These kind of nights, I know why people say that.

“I could never work in a children’s hospital.”

Bad stuff, mind boggling awful stuff happens in this world. We all know it, in the back of our minds, but to kids? Yes. Even to kids. Sweet, innocent, dependent children. I have not found a way to callous my heart, or to restrain my thoughts from going to the deep, dark places that I have seen at work. I have safe places to cry and release the pent up tears from the day’s utter, unexplainable, inoperable sadness. In my car. At my kitchen table. On the treadmill. In the shower. In my husband’s arms.

Sometimes, all day long at work, I’m trying to balance an emotional response that shows that I truly, deeply care without completely letting myself feel the intense pain of a horrible diagnosis, a tragic accident, a child hurting. Or a mother leaving with empty arms. I don’t get the luxury of unraveling because it’s not my child. I just met him. Or her. Or them. The siblings. I tell myself, “Just do your job well. Try and relate.” No, don’t relate. Not too much. Wait, he has the same birthday as my boys. Will he even live to celebrate another birthday? Stop thinking so much. Keep it together.

In one moment, I witness a parent’s life-filled smiling eyes replaced with fear, uncertainty and knowledge. Not the kind of knowledge that any parent wants. And I just wish I was somewhere, anywhere else, making someone a latte, or alphabetizing insurance forms.

But not tonight. I missed my exit. Again. Tears rolling down too quickly to wipe them all away. Thoughts firing at a rapidly difficult pace to keep up with. The “what ifs,” the “whys.” The pain. The hope. All of the day’s events. The sad music playing in the background. I plead with God. Through choked up breaths. I cry out. Why? Just why?

So I get it.

“I could never work in a children’s hospital.”

But, I have for 10 years. I’m not super insensitive or super human. Far from either, I think. Any strength I have is not my own. When you clock in, you have no idea what the day will bring. You open yourself up to be there for kids and families in some of their most painful, vulnerable moments. And that’s exactly what you do. You open yourself up. Fully exposed. To crying children that don’t understand what’s going on. To scared, confused parents. To a mother wailing for her dead son or daughter. You’re exposed to the fragility of life. The uncertainty. The unfathomable and incomprehensible. There is something so strangely beautiful in the midst of it all. The love woven delicately throughout the hurt. The strength amidst the unspeakable pain. The nurses, care assistants, doctors, social workers, radiology techs, interpreters, pharmacists, who I witness sacrificing their hearts to be fully present with families. To provide the best, most loving, compassionate and gentle care to people who they’ve just met. They are God’s hands. And shoulders. There, truly right there in that room, for families in some of the most painful, exhausting and utterly horrific times of life.

You pause. You walk down the hall. Then, boom, you remember your own family. And you panic. You call home. Please answer. You hear their voices. Temporary relief. Back to it. Then, you finally clock out. Anxiously drive to get home, walk through your garage door. Get upstairs. See and feel for yourself the sleeping breathing boys. You’re reminded of the beauty of loving someone so intensely that your chest hurts thinking that you may not get home to hold them one more time.

The thing is when you open yourself up…you hurt…you feel, and you experience life through another’s eyes. And you remember those moments forever. You love more deeply. You laugh more readily. You forgive more easily. You live. You grow. And more than anything else, you walk around with this added sense. Perspective. Different from seeing or hearing or even touching. It’s an acquired sense. From your many, many experiences. There are no guarantees in life. One moment you may be helping your 93 year old Grandma go to the bathroom. And the next, you may be sitting with an 8 year old child who may not live to blow out 9 candles.

You’re not perfect. You’re going to get upset sometimes at the small things. Spilled drinks. Sometimes, the bigger things will get you too. But you hug your loved ones longer, tighter, more often and you make sure they always know how deeply you love them. And you try your absolute best to protect them. You have to. Because you owe it to those who you’ve met. Those who left this world too soon. Or those who didn’t get to experience relentless love. And those who didn’t know that the last time they waved goodbye or hugged their child would be that. The very last time.