summer 2021.

Sunset. Birthday. Cinnamon rolls. Jumping. RV road tripping. Needy dog. Sunset. Pa & Mimi. Writing. July 4. Swimming. Fort Worth. Recovering. Backyard. Family art day. Candlelight devo. Back to school. Beauty. Sunset.

i took a trip.

A couple months ago I was riding home from an event after dark and noticed a small RV backlit by the lights of a gas station. I imagined I saw lightning flash in the distance. Something about this brief moment made my heart lift. I’ve lately been trying to get real intentional about anything that lifts my heart or buoys my spirit. So when a moment as such appears, I take note.

I soon mentioned this moment of heart-buoyancy to Brandon. Would he have any interest in joining me on an adventure involving a recreational vehicle? He said yes. I asked my parents if they’d watch our girls while we road-tripped; they said yes too. And the plan was in motion. 

One thing. B and I experienced the apex of a crisis in our marriage about 2-½ years ago. A wedge was driven between us so deep and with such magnitude, the pain of it still reverberates, the losses still shake me up, and the grief still lurks. Letting you think we were jaunting off across the nation with our most difficult decision being where to stop for dinner is a different story than knowing we’ve experienced relational trauma, then chosen to ride in a confined space together for two weeks without the distraction of three kids and our high-strung dog. Two different stories, right? It makes sense I might have been anxious about this plan to galavant about – both of us first-time towing an RV, trapped with each other and all our feelings for days on end – but honestly, I wasn’t. As B uttered early on in our trip: “We’ve done harder things than this.”

We delivered the girls to my parents, and picked up the R-Pod trailer in the sweltering heat of Fort Worth. From there we drove to sweltering Amarillo, calling an RV park on the way, making a reservation, and initiating our first round of hooking up water and electric, unhooking the tow, pressing various buttons, and arranging various items. After settling in and crying a few tears (all the things), we visited the iconic Cadillac Ranch, and I started marking down every time one of us hummed Extreme’s classic 1991 tune “More Than Words” (catchier than you’d think).

Blue Hole in Santa Rosa, New Mexico.

Next morning we stopped by the stunningly blue Blue Hole in sweltering Santa Rosa, NM, and later hooked up at Monte Bello RV park in Taos on the southern end of the Sangre de Christo Mountains. The sparkling, inky night sky was spectacular. As I lay there wondering about my life circumstances and experiencing another bout of grief, I glimpsed a star streak across my tiny rectangle of a window. It felt like reassurance from the Divine.

Sun peaking over peaks to the east on morning stroll in Taos, NM.
Rio Grande Gorge with San de Christo Mtns in distance.

Crossing over the Rio Grande Gorge and into Colorado the next day, we drove through a bustling Pagosa Springs and Durango to our next overnight stop in Mancos.

With its tiny modern library in the woods, welcoming bakery boasting delicious food and adorable cross stitchings (and the owner offered me a job for $25/hour?!), hippie grocery store with all my preferred brands, the coolest print shop, our cozy RV park bordered by tall lanky trees, and a babbling river meandering around it all, Mancos ended up being my fave stop. The trash receptacles specially-designed to deter bears didn’t even rattle me.

Cliff dwelling built approx 900 years ago.
At the tip-top of Mesa Verde National Park.

From there we took a day trip to Mesa Verde National Park, famous for its centuries-old cliff dwellings built by the Ancestral Puebloan people. This is where the keys to our vehicle slipped from my grasp from atop one of the cliffs, over the chain-link railing into near oblivion. The keys hung on though, and B hopped the railing to rescue them from the perch several feet below (thank you o’ ledge of wide berth).

We had planned to drive up through Moab, UT for a visit to Arches National Park but the forecast temps in the 100s put us off. So we meandered back east and north through the mountains towards Boulder, discovering Treasure Falls along the way (time to hike!) and passing the ski resort of Wolf Creek. In Buena Vista I searched Hwy 285 for the past residence of my Uncle Goober and Aunt Polly, who once lived in a mountainside home backing up to the Arkansas River. Our 17yo son called to say hello ❤️

Colorful Colorado at its finest!

As we drove northward – navigating gas stations, curbs and mountain roads while towing a trailer – we came to ascertain that Boulder has a ban on urban camping. After multiple calls to nearby state/national parks (all full), we finally found an available alley on HipCamp (like AirBnB but for campers) plugging into the back of some guy’s house in Denver. We rolled into sweltering Mile-High City, exhausted from driving and calling ALL THE PARKS, backing the RV into a tight spot off a city alley. Then realizing we needed a converter to plug our 30 amp trailer into the host home’s standard 20 amp plug. (amperage conversion – *things you need to know when pulling an RV* – boring as heck until you realize that a converter means electricity which means AIR CONDITIONING) So we took a festive little hour-long side trip to Walmart, Lowe’s and Home Depot hunting for a converter. >enter several rounds of diaphragmatic breathing< It was back on the alley as I sat sobbing in the car (all the things!!!) while B fiddled with the items purchased from Lowe’s that I heard a tap on the window: “There was a converter in the trailer all along.” So. We got electric hooked up, then had ice cream for dinner and went on a long walk. Back at the camper, I said something about being surprised at the proximity of the Winter Fork ski resort to our home in Texas (about a ten-hour drive). Winter Fork? B questioned. You mean Wolf Creek? Oh. Yeah. Wolf Creek. Maybe it was travel delirium but we both laughed wildly at however my brain came up with ‘Winter Fork’. 

Treasure Falls in southern CO. Love how this couple set up chairs to contemplate the view.
Sipping a cortado in downtown Denver.
The fittingly-named Boulder Falls.

Next morn we sat at a coffee shop in downtown Denver, still looking for a place to camp anywhere near Boulder, and my city-girl self relaxed on the shady sidewalk watching the passersby, having no worries about bears lumbering down the street. HipCamp came through again and we found a host in Nederland, about 15 miles west of Boulder, up into the Indian Peaks Wilderness. The drive from Boulder to Nederland was jaw-dropping beautiful. We stopped at Boulder Falls where the river crashing down was so loud the only sound that pierced it was a young girl laughing.

We pulled the RV onto our host’s land for a couple of nights and had our first experience “boondocking” (no hookups to electric, water or wifi – you know, like ACTUAL CAMPING). B asked our host if we might see any bears, to which our host replied: “There’s a chance you could see them…but really you should be more worried about moose…and all variety of mountain cats…cougar, lynx, bobcat and so on. Also fire.” Maybe it was the altitude, maybe it was being so far from our kids, maybe it was our host’s rapid-fire listing of all the regional dangers – but there may or may not have been another flood of tears. “It’s 3pm, Brandon – time for my daily meltdown.” But we were in the Colorado mountains for goodness sake! We regrouped, played Kanoodle and Bananagrams, and discussed how we probably should have told someone our location in case we were carried off and murdered by some woodland creature. 

The R-Pod nestled into a forest outside the mountain town of Nederland, CO. No bears, moose, cats or wildfires in sight.

In Nederland at CrossCut Pizza we met bright-eyed, effervescent Jesse who I liked because he knew what I meant when I ordered a “gingy” and was clearly enthused to show off the beard he’d been growing underneath his mask during the pandemic. At Salto Coffee Works we met Amy who had grown up in Austin and studied marine science at the University of Hawaii but had followed a man into the mountains. I bought a mood ring – a variety of gorgeous blues – which supposedly means I’m “calm” and “relaxed” but it hasn’t changed color at all in the past week so I’m thinking it might not be the most accurate measure of moods (or maybe I’m more calm and relaxed than I think). 

Looking west toward the Indian Peaks Wilderness from atop the Museum of Boulder.

We drove back down into the rainbow-flag-flapping Boulder, walked the outdoor Pearl Street Mall, visited the city museum, beheld all the uber-chillax canines traveling with their people, and – after looking at median home prices – realized our chances of ever buying a house in Boulder are slim to nil. #realitycheck #loveislove #realisreal Brandon went on a solo hike, and I spent a few hours in the library. When we got back to the RV that night, we admitted we were both missing our kids and decided to head back to Texas early. 

Pro pose. Or dork pose. You decide.

Packing up and driving through the mountains towards Colorado Springs, we noted all the small towns, wondering if we could make a home in any of those green, scenic, temperate places. The skies were overcast and misting, the mountain air cool. I felt light in step as we strolled around Garden of the Gods, maybe because of the weather. Maybe because we were heading home. At our campground, I wiggled through the bowels of the trailer contorting myself like a ninja yogi to unlock a jammed deadbolt on the door and momentarily felt like an action hero. Next day we drove to yet another HipCamp site, back in Amarillo, me conversing with our interesting, inspiring host for an hour-and-a-half as dusk fell. We hit up Palo Duro Canyon the following morn, then drove onto Possum Kingdom Lake, where it felt appropriate to watch the sunset over the water on the last night of our trip. 

Back in mountain-less central Texas. But I do love an unobscured view of the sunset…
A couple of humans wandering Garden of the Gods.

Takeaways. Driving only 5-6 hours a day allows time for hikes to unforeseen waterfalls (40-something fannies can only handle so much prolonged sitting anyway). Yelp and HipCamp are our friends. I slept better than expected. When it comes to towing an RV, hooking it up, backing it up, finding a campground, finding a restaurant, dumping the poo tank, and loosely harmonizing on “More Than Words” (we crooned it approx 58 times), B and I partner well. Having a partner makes finding a remote campground and dumping the poo tank easier. Apparently I’m a Bananagrams champ. I love meeting new people in new places. Make sure all the amperage converters are stocked. The sound of water cutting through a canyon down a mountainside regulates my emotions. The grief will come (don’t resist), the joy will come (don’t resist); feel and acknowledge them both. If you try to make reservations at the Winter Fork ski resort, you’ll never find it. I can shimmy through the underbelly of an RV if necessary. We’ve done harder things than this.

burning & beloved.

My trek to the edge of the mountains this summer came with hopes to clear my head a bit. It’s been a brutal past year-and-a-half. My primary relationship detonated, people got hurt – so many people – and the months since have felt like ongoing, prolonged triage. Who is tended to first? Who must wait for tending-to? Who cares for whom, when everyone’s bleeding? Only now does it seem the smoky billow rolled out by the explosion is beginning to dissipate – only just beginning – and I’m curious what the landscape will look like when it fully clears. When the haze lifts and all is exposed in the light of day, I wonder what will remain, what will have to be rebuilt, and what will have vanished. 

On my first morning in Denver, I take breakfast to Forsberg Park, gazing out at a stunning view of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. One of the park signs points out that Red Rocks Amphitheatre is directly across the highway and, never having visited, I drive over. At the top of the arena, the view back east into the city is equally stunning, and I decide my new dream job is to serve drinks to concert goers at Red Rocks. This way I can be paid to spend my working hours 1) outdoors and 2) listening to music. The atmosphere is hazy but – being from west Texas – I assume it’s dust blowing in from, you know, a large nearby dusty area. There’s a desert somewhere in the general vicinity, right? The next morning, my AirBnB host mentions the culprit of the haze: there are wildfires raging two hours west of the city. She asks if I can smell the smoke. 

A friend forwards me an essay by Henri Nouwen. Amid his thoughts on solitude, ministry and community, Nouwen – that sage, that prophet – writes: “Who am I? I am the beloved. That’s the voice Jesus heard when he came out of the Jordan River: ‘You are my beloved; on you my favor rests.’ Jesus says to you and to me that we are loved as he is loved. That same voice is there for you.” I let these words settle over me as I explore the city, chat with my quirky host, hike the residential hills on my morning walks, and wrestle with the heartaches of my life. 

I’ve come with hopes to clear my head, but some of my motivation for this trip is about learning to trust myself more readily. I have spent most of my life leaning hard on others – carrying them with me like a security blanket, relying on them to help me steer through life, implicitly trusting their guidance. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve made my own decisions. I consider myself an out-of-the-box thinker. But I’ve often allowed myself to follow others’ meaningful advice about the next step on my path without really investigating if it’s what God wants for me. Initially, this seems easier – being surrounded by good-hearted, thoughtful humans who are gifted at listening, discerning, and imparting wisdom, it can be easier to accept their directions and avoid trusting one’s own intuition. If I accept their advice and follow their leading, I escape being at fault if something “goes wrong”. Figuring out what’s best for me – trusting myself – requires time, prayer, solitude, and faith in a Being I cannot see. It means following through on whatever decision I come to even when it makes others – or even my own self – uncomfortable. This is work. Acquiescing to someone else’s well-meant intentions creates much less discomfort (again, initially) than pushing back, questioning their advice, and nurturing one’s own relationship with God. I can easily slip into voluntarily, unconsciously, handing over my power. Now more than ever – due to both personal and global circumstances – it seems imperative that I learn how to hear and respond more deliberately to my own inner knowing, aka the voice of the Spirit aka God aka Love. This is intentional work, learning to trust myself. Learning how to shift from relying on parents, a partner, or a group of friends to chariot me through life to relying on God alone. Learning how to step onto the path God and I have discussed, sweaty, trembling, and exceedingly self-conscious. Learning how to accept – painfully – that sometimes others won’t understand or appreciate my path. This – this part of me who feels unsure about things like traveling alone, managing household bills, speaking up on behalf of marginalized communities, dyeing all my hair pink (and I mean every single strand) – is a part of me that will have to be rebuilt. The me who has trusted others to carry me all the way home needs to burn.

A new acquaintance texts, checking on me, asking if I’ve had any clarity, any direction, and I don’t know how to reply. I have particular questions I’ve been asking of God for months but no definitive answers yet. Then one evening, as I sit on the rooftop terrace looking up at the hazy sky, it rises out of the ash, like a stone chimney built long ago, the only thing that is truly clear, the only thing that will always remain, the only answer that really matters: I am God’s beloved; on me God’s favor rests. The question is, do I really, truly, deep-down believe it? Do you? If all is stripped away, do you believe it? If you lose the marriage (or the hope for one), if your children leave and never look back (or if you never bear the children you desire), if you’re one day standing in the unemployment line or living on the street, if your physical health deteriorates, if your friends pull away because they wonder if your misfortune is contagious and they can barely handle their own sorrows, if your typically stubborn pluck and determined resolve start to falter under the weight of all the grief – if all is stripped away, do you believe you still have value? Do I? Yet these words are what keep moving through my mind, like a flame in a brittle forest: I am God’s beloved; on me God’s favor rests.

As dusk approaches one evening, I stroll to a nearby neighborhood lake. Bikes are being pedaled, dogs are being walked, jazz is being played on a radio. Standing at the water’s edge, I watch the neon pink sun descend behind a blue-gray amorphous cloud. I’m still not sure what I’ll find as the smoke clears from my life. But I’m doing my best to trust – trust Love, trust myself, trust the idea that beauty truly can spring from ash. I’m doing my best to believe I am God’s beloved.

With time, new things will germinate. Forests will grow back and hillsides will replenish. While I appreciate the tranquility of my moment at the edge of the water, I know the exquisite sky before me comes at a price. That massive cloud isn’t water vapor condensing in the atmosphere, but a far-reaching plume of smoke. There are fires burning in the mountains.

the usual with tea, 12.

Throughout 2014-15, I wrote several blog entries into a series titled The Usual with Tea. It was a simple recounting of any given day and my reflections on it, and a way to practice the craft of writing. Jumping back in here to make it an even dozen. I’m still drinking tea after all.

Except…everything’s not so usual. 

One notable moment back at the beginning of 2019, my “usual” journey goes awry and things haven’t been the same since. Everyday life is settling down some now. Maybe even stabilizing. Sort of. And the chaos happening out in the world-at-large makes for certain distraction from the fallout of that heartbreaking moment. But the journey I’m on these days – the inner one – doesn’t feel usual at all. Those who’ve walked a similar road tell me it likely won’t, for a very long while. This is both unsettling and reassuring at the same time. I’m not certain when – or if – my existence will ever feel “usual” again.

And that chaos happening out in the world-at-large? There’s a pandemic wrapping around the planet. COVID-19 is taking down people, jobs, economies, aisles of toilet paper, and the freaking Olympics. My family has been officially “sheltering in place” for a month now, and my only public outings are an approximate once-a-week excursion to the grocery store. A friend mentioned how her life presently feels like a manifestation of the movie Groundhog Day, the same 24 hours happening over and over and over again. Yes, something like that.

Everything’s not so usual when the Texas governor ultimately orders a state-wide shutdown, which means all restaurants are disallowed from accepting dine-in customers. With take-out as the only option for patrons, my part-time hours at the bakery are scaled down. I subsequently feel called to give over my few remaining hours to other co-workers, so I’m back at the ranch full-time once again. With the kids home from school indefinitely (the 16yo has been temporarily pulled from his job at the grocer as well, a hotbed of cooties on a good day), and hubs teaching/officing from the living room, it’s helpful for me to be here too. It’s just that the five of us are all here, all the time. It’s a lot of togetherness. Probably exactly what we need after CRISIS-19 plowed through our household last year. But it is A LOT of togetherness. Good thing I have homebody tendencies. 

I wake, pray ineloquently, brew my tea, listen to NPR’s news about COVID, practice yoga. The offspring mosey out of their rooms. I try to figure out the most convenient time and place to buy groceries (it’s not so simple anymore), I run the laundry, I peruse the many messages from the school district and our church. I implore the kids to wash their hands – for the love of hygiene, wash your hands! And stop touching your face! We do lessons, we do lunch, we walk/run/bike around campus. I go through piles of paper and throw stuff away, by which I mean burning it in the fireplace (less landfill plus there’s just something about watching the flames turn no-longer-needed things to ash). I occasionally glance at the depressing headlines on CNN, and I wonder what our local authorities mean by a “limited” shelter-in-place. I ask everyone to please turn down their voice-volumes by about five thousand notches. I perch in the front yard for hours, my nose and chest reddening, because I seem to forget every spring about the sun’s capacity to toast an Anglo-Saxon’s complexion. Plumbers, concrete experts and framers are in the backyard installing pipes, cement and walls for a garage reno we started a month before COVID blew up in the US. A new HVAC unit is scheduled to be installed but not for a few more weeks, and I’m grateful the inferno that is Texas summer hasn’t yet descended. We walk and bike around campus again in the evening because my sanity requires it. We do dinner, we clean up, we watch Brooklyn Nine-Nine or LegoMasters or a Pixar flick.

Also. Everything’s not so usual when a pandemic is sweeping the states and yours truly is not panicking. Five, ten, fifteen years ago, I would have been a verified bundle of nerves. But after the storm I’ve withstood these past 15 months, I’m not as anxious as I used to be. Silver lining maybe? I’ll take it. I am thankful for a place to shelter in…not everyone has one. I am thankful we have income…not everyone does. I am thankful for technology; I text/Voxer/Marco Polo with friends, Zoom with my nieces/nephews, and talk on the phone with my mom. I listen to music and play Uno with the kids. I laugh so hard at my family’s antics I almost tee-tee my pants. I amuse myself fooling some friends on April 1st. In the evenings I write and listen to NPR’s Performance Today and can almost pretend like things are…usual. On a hike along the creek that winds through the middle of town, we run into some of our favorite people, then spend a chunk of afternoon with them soaking up the sunshine, walking and talking, and feeling like life is…usual. I watch Fleabag and feel things. I read Untamed and feel things. I think about how this massive societal slow-down will provide humanity with opportunities to go inward, to cull excess from our lives, to grow in compassion, and I wonder who of us will embrace those opportunities. I daydream about driving out to southwest Texas when this pandemic relents, and lying under the stars in the pitch of night somewhere near the Davis Mountains, alone. In the moments between watching and reading and thinking and dreaming, I feel things.

I am still drinking tea these days. But everything’s not so usual.

thanks in all circumstances.

Do I wanna dust off the Good Enough Girl? That…is the question. I’m not sure. But after perusing my blog last week, I wondered about revving it back up. Thanks to “sheltering in place” due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I have more space for reflection/writing and less comings-and-goings to distract me. It was strange to read my latest post, dated the last month of 2017. My journey had already taken a turn down a dark path, but I wouldn’t know it for another year. In January 2019, life as I knew it blew apart and sent me tumbling into a pit of grief akin to nothing else I’ve experienced. I never saw it coming. 


I’ve been thinking.

The most excruciating year of my life (thus far) was not without favor. And I feel it’s worth noting. Sometimes reading back on my written words makes me cringe. But I always love re-reading and re-remembering those people, places, and events that cheered and fortified me. I need reminders that the Light has never extinguished. That Love was always present.


I landed myself a job. A paying job. After 15 years of staying home full-time and homeschooling my offspring, I took a job mixing up baked goods and assembling sandwiches and washing dishes. So you know…all the things I’ve been doing for the last 15 years…except now I actually get paid. Last summer, amidst all hell breaking loose, I pondered seeking out a part-time job, in an effort to pull myself out of my extracurricular ruminating. But I was already exhausted and the idea of starting a search – after 15 years of being off the workforce grid – seemed overwhelming. I jotted a brief note to God: “If you want me to have a job, I need you to bring it to me.” Early December found me sitting on the front porch of a newly opened coffee shop/bakery when the owner – a friend – came out to say hello, then asked, “Are you coming to work for me? Just show up when you’re ready.” So I did. Since the last day of 2019, I’ve been in the kitchen – makin’ some green, working for prayerful/intentional owners and an unflappable manager, and having my spirit buoyed by the youthful exuberance and hopeful outlook of a large conglomerate of millennials and Generation Zers. It’s been real, real good for my heart. 

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I spent a week in Colorado. Good gracious, that place. That heavenly parcel of country. Lately I’ve been daydreaming about our outing to the Great Sand Dunes followed by our hike up to Zapata Falls. The dunes were gorgeous and stunning and made me feel small in the best way. The 8yo turned out to be a natural at sand-boarding; I could have watched her all day. I met a sweet set of four tow-headed siblings from North Carolina – they offered their boards to the girls – and later had a lengthy conversation with their mom. I love how kind and friendly people can be when they’re traveling. The water at the falls was frigid but the challenge of hiking through the ankle-deep cold, navigating the mossy rocks, then eating lunch and drying out in the sunshine on a boulder above the creek, my grief temporarily diminished by the sound of water crashing through stone and moving across the earth – it felt divine. The 12yo claims our climb to the falls was better than all the museums she’s visited in Europe. I’ve never been to Europe but I bet she’s right. We came to a standstill in traffic on our way back to the cabin but I didn’t mind. Mountains and plains and big sky all around, in every direction. Creation always soothes my soul, even when it’s a field of scorched grass in west Texas, but the dunes and the falls did more than soothe – they patched up a tiny part of my heart. 

I found my gang. There is something about trauma and grief that scares many people away. But…some come closer. A few of those magnificent humans grabbed my hand last year and haven’t let go. They have muddled through their own pain and discomfort to be near, to console, to reassure, and to empower me. During a season of my life when so many things died, the presence of these companions was life-giving. As I’ve attempted to stitch my heart back together, they’ve stood by with needle, thread, and well-timed expletives. So much gratitude. Words seem inadequate.  

These thoughts I share so I can one day re-read and recall the ways my heart began to mend amid such immense loss…and remember that Love never left me alone.

navigating anxiety.

A friend of mine who struggles with anxiety – and knows I do as well – recently asked if I had tried acupuncture as a way of curtailing the worries. Her question made me contemplate what practical behaviors have brought a more regulated sense of calm to my life this past year. The spikes and intensity of my anxiety have thankfully diminished. Not entirely, but I like the trajectory. I do still have some sort of kink in my neck/ear along with occasional sleep troubles, and I’m still prone to chronic fretting. But my anxiety acreage has downsized. Substantially.

If anxiety – that vague, lingering sense that a possible threat is just around the bend  (fear is distinguished more as a response to a known threat) – happens to be in the driver’s seat more than you’d prefer, know this: it is trying to protect you from potential harm. But for a variety of reasons, anxiety can easily morph from being a healthy prompt to listen to our gut to a hindrance that flips our gut inside out. And that’s where it gets messy (sometimes literally…but that might be TMI for the blog). Here are actions I’ve taken that I feel have contributed to lessening my anxiety:

1) Seeking professional help from doctors and a therapist. When things were super nasty, I went to therapy once a week for several months. I also kept my doctors fully apprised of my mental state (anxious, sleep-deprived, despairing, what-have-you). You must LIKE your doctors and therapists by the way, or it’ll only ratchet up the jitters.

2) Supplementing my diet with certain minerals/vitamins, specifically magnesium, B12, iron and vitamin D. There are links between all of these and anxiety/insomnia. Ask your health practitioner to have your vitamin and mineral levels tested.

3) Participating in spirit-filling activities. For me, that includes writing, reading, being outside, having a weekend retreat by my lonesome now and then, the occasional massage, listening to thoughtful podcasts, chilling/geeking out to NPR’s Hearts in Space.

4) Practicing yoga and breathing deeply. Read the research. Alllll the research. It helps.

5) Moving my body. Walking, yoga, and dancing like a white girl.

6) Making use of the public school system. While homeschooling my kids alleviated certain anxieties for me, it produced others. It’s a trade-off. But the time I’ve had to recover this past year is due, in large part, to teachers who care for my kids five days a week.

7) Spending time outdoors. Sunshine, bare feet on ground, fresh air. Being outside works for almost everyone. Loads of research on this. We were born into creation, made to live in a garden. It just makes sense that we would feel at peace in nature.

8) Making time to just be, with nothing to do. This might look like porch-sitting, sipping some tea, staring at the trees.

9) Praying/meditating/listening to God/Love. I feel like my prayers are bumbling and ineloquent but I’m trusting the Spirit can translate.

10) Recognizing what I’ve survived. Seems a bit silly writing that as a white middle class US American who grew up in a safe home environment and married a nice guy. I’ve had it good. But still, life is hard. We’ve all survived something. I try to find encouragement in my own resilience.

11) Reading The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron and realizing that some of what I’ve labeled “fear” or “anxiety” in the past may have simply been a case of overstimulation.

12) Conversing with others – online and/or face-to-face – who have similar struggles. So much relief in knowing that someone else gets it!

13) Adapting my expectations, especially in regards to certain relationships…and cutting my losses. Some of THE hardest work. I cling to friendships by my fingernails. Don’t want to give up on people who once brought me joy. My nature is to hash it out, clear the air, make it right. But being extricated from faltering relationships, shedding that which is dis-eased, has brought a special kind of tranquility to my every day. It is one thing to be in relationship with imperfect quirky humans who are aware of and open about their imperfections and quirks, and actively trying to navigate them in a healthy way. It is another thing entirely to be in relationship with disinterested, deceptive, arrogant or abusive people. I evaluated who in my life was inciting more heartache than joy, then slowed my interactions with them. In all likelihood, the guilty parties’ hurtful behavior was unintentional (we’ve all got our stuff). Doesn’t matter. If you’ve attempted mending and the other party isn’t interested or doesn’t have the capacity to reconcile, DISENGAGE. Relinquish anyone who makes your gut churn, and divert your energy to people who practice reciprocity and mutual respect in relationship. Depending on the depth and investment made, the ensuing fallout and healing from a relational loss will take months, possibly years. But you will feel lighter. Promise.

14) Keeping boundary lines. This is a biggie. I am fiercely protective of family time and personal time. Sometimes this means saying no to good things (traveling, church events, nights out with friends, etc). I have decided to pursue and nurture intimate friendship only with those who seem interested and invested in my family. I am highly intentional about what I do and do not expose myself to. Example: I don’t watch the news. This has been a practice of mine for almost twenty years. Television news is an info overload of depressing stories, most which I can do nothing about. Another example: I shut down my Facebook account two years ago. This has HUGELY lessened my inner agitation. Limit intake of social media. Need I say more?

15) Waiting. These things take time.

Am I an enlightened zen master floating about the earth in a gauzy muumuu, unfazed by sex trafficking, gun violence, why that friendship imploded, and the disturbing tint of Donald Trump’s complexion? Nope. Not even close. Anxiety will likely always be along for the ride, at least in my story. But I feel like I’m back in the driver’s seat. Anxiety has scooted to the passenger’s side. And she’s dialing the number for an acupuncturist.

a conversation with my blender.

It was over the sink, while I rinsed out the gooey remnant of peanut butter banana muffin batter, when we started talking. Through that mundane act of repetitive rinsing, it slapped me upside the head like a bag of chocolate chips (optional add-in). Getting the blender fully clean means filling with water, pouring out, rinsing, scrubbing. Not once or twice, but multiple times. While the majority of goo breaks free fairly easily, there are still stubborn spots which take more elbow grease. Sometimes because it’s dried out and caked on. Sometimes because the gunk is in a hard-to-reach crevice. On occasion I’ve gotta get after it with a brillo pad. And sometimes you have to let it soak. For hours. But it’s never fully washed out with one rinse.

This is my life.

It all came to me in about two seconds. I’ve been spending the last couple years…rinsing out my life. Those who know me well will testify to these changes. I’ve washed out hurtful people, dysfunctional relationships, and negative practices. The cleansing water of therapy, yoga, prayer, iron supplements, and trustworthy friends have brought relief. But there are places in my life that are still in need of healing, both physically and spiritually. I have a stubborn spot in my neck/throat that’s bothered me for years. I have a tenacity for holding on to grievances that would be better off released. I’d like to learn how to truly forgive. I’d like to learn how to be less afraid. And what the blender basically shared with me was…rinse and repeat. That’s the only way you get out all the gunk. Rinse…and repeat. And then I thought, seriously? A life lesson from a BLENDER? For real? Why can’t I wash my dishes in peace, in that numbing, quiet place of mind?? In my annoyance, I thought a not-so-pretty adjective about the appliance in hand: “______ blender!” And in that very same moment – I suppose in retribution for my cursing it – that blender bit me. No blood drawn but the tip of the blade sure did make its point. Right into my middle finger (the irony). And immediately on the heels of that exchange, I sensed that gentle inner voice that I attribute to The Spirit say, “Oh, you love it!” And it’s true. I do. I appreciate how the physical world teaches me about that of the spiritual realm. How what I can see teaches me about what I cannot. Plus I don’t mind having conversations with inanimate objects 😉

Life is so much better than two years ago. Than a year ago. Than six months ago. Rinse and repeat. And every time, a little more goo lets loose.

Blender, you know I love you. Let’s make a smoothie later.

how bedeviled we are.

Earth school, back in session. Not that one ever really takes a break from it, per se. But that homeroom roll call came at me like a ton of #2 pencils on the first day of the fall semester.

We had just shuttled off the 9yo and 12yo to their respective schools and were driving to Starbucks. Isn’t that what everyone does every first day of school ever? (Every Monday ever?) Husband Brandon mentioned how our middle-schooler is becoming more concerned with appearances. Middle school can do that to a person. Through the intercom in the drive-thru, the barista cheerily asked for my order, and I practically sang back, “It’s the first day of school!” He enthusiastically replied, “Oh yes it is!” I pulled the car forward and checked Instagram, spotting a picture of Brandon and a friend. The friend had written sweet words about Brandon and it made me smile. I scrolled to see a snapshot of same friend and ME, but was interrupted by the barista handing over our drinks. As I pulled away from the window, I hadn’t had a chance to read her thoughtful words – I knew they were kind – but it only took that momentary glimpse of the photo to send me into a downward spiral of epic proportions. I didn’t like the picture. At ALL. I said this out loud to Brandon. “You look fine. You’re beautiful!” he replied. But I didn’t really hear him because inside I was crumbling. Before I drove out of the lot I’d been knocked off my feet by a landslide of emotion and the tears rose in full force. Brandon and baby girl sat silent as I drove home, hitting the turns a little harder than usual. I can’t recall what he said as I lurched up into the driveway, but I do remember retorting, “You don’t get it! You’re one of the pretty ones!” By the time I got the house unlocked and made a beeline for the bathroom, I was wailing. I closed the door behind me and raged like I haven’t raged in a long, long time. Cries rising up from the depths of my gut. When Brandon ventured near, I spat out, “Apparently our middle-schooler isn’t the only one concerned with appearances! He comes by it NATURALLY I guess!” In that moment of genuine heartache, feeling less-than, and sob-induced snot, I knew something significant was surfacing. But the only words that roiled up – directed to the Creator – were, “What do you WANT from me??? LEAVE ME ALONE!!!”

Here were all the thoughts racing through my mind: I wish I was prettier. I wish she hadn’t shared the photo but I can’t complain after she wrote such kind words. Why in the world did she post that awful picture?! I wish someone would tell me I’m gorgeous. But no one will. Because I’m NOT! I wish I didn’t care so much. I really REALLY wish I didn’t care so much. Why am I freaking out about this?? What are you trying to bring to my attention, God?! I don’t wanna learn this lesson! NO MORE LESSONS! For the love of all things holy, I NEED A BREAK FROM THE LESSONS!!! 

Later, I messaged my friend. We have a close enough relationship that I felt safe mentioning my dislike of the pic along with my appreciation of her generous sentiment. She offered to take down the image because she herself had had a similar experience. No, I said. My visceral reaction is a sign that I have something to tend to in my spirit. And that’s a good thing, right? To realize my vanity is running the show a little too often? It’s a painful process to come to that realization and then feel the need to address it. But when something as small as an unflattering photo yanks anguish to the surface and exploding out into the open, SOMETHING NEEDS TENDING TO. Time to pull on my big girl undies.

Throughout the morning I prayed: Please talk to me. Tell me what I need to hear. Speak the language my spirit understands and translate these tears to that which my mind can comprehend. I re-applied the mascara that flooded off during my fit, and the 5yo and I walked to the nearby college campus for opening day chapel. As the crowd gathered and started to fill the coliseum’s 5000+ seats, I observed.

There are lot of beautiful people on campus. It’s a college campus after all, permeated with youthful faces and energetic bodies. But it’s not only the students to whom I compare myself. It’s my peers. The women with jobs and outfits and attitudes. It’s a certain circle of people who are the center of everyone’s attentions, openly and repeatedly admired on social media and/or in conversation for their beauty, fashionable style, impressive title. I think of how I will never be One of Them. I will never be sought after because of my beauty, style or title. But I want affirmation too. I want to be told I’m beautiful. I want to be sought after for lunch dates and life advice and companionship. It seems the beautiful/stylish/titled ones have these things – these affirmations of their worthiness, if you will – ardently poured into their laps by their many admirers. And I’ve been guilty from time to time, for being so fascinated with Them that I forget there are hundreds of others around me looking for a genuine friend. I have laid my sacrifice of attention and affirmation at the feet of the lifeless idol of physical attractiveness (a pretty face, exceptional social influence, the outfit I want but can’t afford). We humans like to stare at that which glitters; this includes glittery humans.

A couple weeks later, Brandon and I attended a gala with friends. One of those fancy shindigs where we got all dolled up for an event benefiting a local museum. There were gowns and tuxedos, lots of laughing and dancing, and an open bar (which makes for a lively venue, whether or not you’re imbibing). The party rolled late into the night, and the day after, a few acquaintances posted pictures with their significant others to Instagram. The good women who shared photos – and are beautiful in a myriad of ways besides their physical appearances – got lots of compliments on their looks: “Gorgeous! Stunning! Supermodel!” This is what we do in the day and age of social media; it’s the easiest attribute to comment on because it’s what you can see. But I couldn’t bring myself to share a picture of my guy and me. I didn’t think I could deal with the lack of response on my photo. I rarely receive comments about my appearance, and compared to dozens of flattering comments on others’ pictures, sharing a picture felt like setting myself up for more heartache. I have felt that emptiness many times before and I don’t want to feel it again. I didn’t want to be reminded of my less-than beauty. But when I made my choice not to share a pic, I felt like the menacing voice inside my head – that one named Fear – had a little win.

How bedeviled we are with the passing circumstances of things like physical symmetry, clothing from certain stores, and social status. I can’t even verbalize how much it frustrates me. There’s nothing wrong with appreciating that which pleases the eye. Of course not. But it’s our obsession with it that confounds me. And OUR CULTURE IS OBSESSED WITH IT. We place so much value on people and things that appeal to our physical seeing sense that we let it dominate our spiritual intuitive sense, thus forgetting our responsibilities here on planet earth to love ALL, both the ones who cast off a sparkly shine and those who appear to have more of a…matte finish. This idol of physical beauty is PROLIFIC and impossible to deny. It’s also a challenge to remain unaffected by it.

In the western-world, north-American culture from which I write, physical beauty of face, body, house and home is exalted. People CARE. Even people who know better. Even followers of Jesus, who extol his words that outward appearances mean zilch. But you’d never know based on the way some of us behave, so taken with physical beauty and social status – our own and that of others – so fixated on it that we don’t even realize we’re bowing to it. It’s biological fact we are drawn to people with symmetrical faces and bodies. It’s a mating thing. Look it up. But as humans we should be able to transcend this animal instinct. I know some people have. Plenty have not. I’m not there yet either. I like to think I am. I do my best to be. But I can feel myself watching the winsome ones dancing through the crowds at social gatherings and being admired in my news feed, and I am just as fascinated as everyone else. And I know I’m not there when I see an unflattering snapshot of myself and fall to pieces.

Back to the first day of school. As I sat there watching seats fill, those words from Paul settled into my mind: I do not do the things I want to do, and I do the things I hate. I want to not care. But I do. Jesus didn’t give a flip about any of it. He extended compassion to people, all of them. It was kinda his THING. But exterior features or invites to the glammest parties or excessive amounts of star stickers (ever read You Are Special? Those silly Wemmicks!)? Not his jam. He didn’t care who was smart, witty, popular, pretty, or if someone was the best at anything. I do though, and it seems nearly everyone around me does too. And these two ideas are at odds with each other. I want to not care…but I care. I want to appreciate my physical self for the simple fact that it houses my self. My spirit. I want to not be so easily swayed by someone else’s shiny or dull exterior.

After chapel, the 5yo and I walked home, me still silently asking for some enlightenment. Brandon picked us up for lunch, and as I helped the 5yo wash her hands in the restaurant’s restroom, I discerned the song clearly on the overhead speaker, a tune by Ben Harper I can’t recall having ever heard: “Diamonds on the inside, she had diamonds on the inside…” Over and over. I can’t understand one other word he sings but those ring like a bell. Diamonds on the inside. And then I am trying not to cry again because maybe that’s my answer. The reminder of what has always been true: the realest of beauty comes from within. It cannot be measured with a modeling contract or number of likes on Facebook or by the amount of people who invite you to lunch. Why is it so hard to convince myself of this truth?

As the hardest naturally occurring mineral, diamonds have a stellar rep. They sparkle, yes, but to find them you have to dig deep. The word “diamond” actually derives from the Greek word “adamas”, which means “indestructible”. Indestructible. Now THAT is a character attribute I can get behind. And I love the comment of someone out on the internets: “…anyone willing to dig, will be rewarded.” Think about how rewarded we might be in our relationships if we could get past that top shiny/dull layer, down into the bedrock of someone’s soul.

Later that day, these words by artist Brian Andreas rolled up on my phone: “Nothing is teaching you a lesson. There’s only this: who do you want to be? And are you being that?” I want to be someone who values the inside diamonds more than the outside gloss. In others, and maybe most of all, within myself.

Time to dig.

runaway Doug – the usual with tea, 11.

GEG-featured-imageThis morning I am greeted by Doug, the two-year-old dachsund/terrier mix we adopted from a pet shelter the evening before. I have never described myself as a “dog person”, but I am now officially – for the first time ever – a dog owner. Pets were neither a part of my childhood – unless you count guppies…or that one year we had a weenie pup named Quincy who liked to eat cottonballs – nor my grown-up life, with the egg-ception of our hens (may they rest in peace). Besides here-and-there dogsitting for friends, we’ve never had a canine, feline, equine, bovine or any-other-ine living in our home. So it was with reservation and trembling that I adopted a dog. The tech at the boarding center said it would take Doug a few days to warm up to us but Doug turned into a “Jana person” within two hours of bringing him home. On me like GLUE. I admit it’s endearing to have a living thing love you so quickly but, um, I have a moderate amount of dog anxiety that extends waaaaay back to my toddler years. In other words, having a creature who wants to play-bite my hands, perch on the sofa directly behind my head, bounce around my legs like a circus poodle on a pogo stick, and whimper at the bathroom door while I’m showering is going to take some getting used to.

After eggs, toast and a supplement cocktail, I slice up apple for the 4yo, she climbs in our higgledy-piggledy stroller that’s wheels are literally about to come off, and we go on our two-mile hike around the nearby college campus. When we arrive home, the yard guys are leaving and our grass is once again trim. Doug finds one of the kids’ stuffed animals and turns it into a chew toy, sitting with his front paws on it, owning it. He licks the 4yo’s face and makes her giggle. They both sit nearby as I don mascara for a 10:45 appointment. The 4yo asks, “After you get your eyelashes on, will we go?”

We put Doug in the backyard with a bowl of water and make our way to the home of a friend. She has agreed to watch Larkin while I drive to the largest house of worship in Abilene and meet with a woman recommended by my doctor. He’s described her as a “savant” in all things spiritual and wants me to discuss with her both the spiritual and physical implications of fear. So, for an hour – the only hour we’re going to have apparently, as her ministerial roles are soon changing – she tells me about her own battle with fear and how she broke free from its grip. She lays hands on my head and my back and prays out loud for me, snapping her fingers to symbolize the breaking of alignment with the spirit of fear and self-condemnation. I wish she could pray for me like that every morning.

After I pick up the 4yo, she says “Mommy, look” and I glance in the rearview mirror to see her trying to snap her fingers and it makes me think of the anti-fear prayer. I buy a few groceries, a pre-made salad for lunch and ingredients for dinner. Hurrying back to our neighborhood to pick up the 8yo at 1pm – early release day for public schools – we head home. The girls make a beeline to the backyard, looking for Doug. But there’s no Doug to be found. He’s gone. I walk around the house, yelling his name and clapping my hands. Other dogs down the alley bark back at me, but no Doug. The berating of self begins immediately. I inspect the fence. Maybe he wriggled around the chickenwire rolled across the bottom of it. But if he did, I can’t figure out where. The gate is closed but not latched; maybe one of the yard guys forgot to push it tight and Doug nosed his way out. The girls and I walk across the street to ask our neighbor to be on the lookout. She doesn’t seem worried – says she’ll gladly drive around and search for him – but I feel I might burst into tears.

Back at our house, phrases like “failure as mom” and “you can’t even keep a domestic animal in your yard for 24 hours” start nagging at me. The self-condemnation and frustration swell so big I start angrily silent-mouthing curse words, and then I am full-on wailing. I cry so hard I think I scare the girls. They slip off to their room, and I text Brandon the dog-gone news. I feel like I alone am entirely responsible for this loss: I didn’t doublecheck the chickenwire, I didn’t make sure the gate was latched, I was away from the house too long. It’s all on me. My fault. Yet another way I’ve failed at life. There’s a teeny-tiny, naive mutt on his way to being roadkill and it happened under my watch. Brandon calls. I am weeping so hard I can barely hear him when he implores me to “please try and calm down”. Amidst all THAT, my ob/gyn’s nurse leaves a voicemail in a too-perky, gum-cracking tone explaining that because I have “extremely dense breasts”, they want a followup to my recent mammogram, a precautionary MRI done with women whose fibrocystic boobies (TMI?) make mammograms hard to read. Because if I’m already in a tizz about the dog running off, why not just ratchet up the anxiety a whole other level while we’re at it? I’m not thrilled about having to go lay in the MRI tube at 7:30 in the morning and having to wait on the results. A friend texts: “Does that mean you have firm breasts? I get why you have to get them checked but most moms of three would be super jealous of that!” She also reassures me that I am not a loser at pet care.

The compounded sleep deprivation from nights previous along with the massive crying fit exhaust me. While I sit on the front porch and force myself to eat lunch, the girls play with a neighbor friend and I text a pic of the puppy to friends who live in the neighborhood. The 11yo arrives home, canvases a few streets looking for Doug, and eventually joins me on the porch. I’m feeling the need to be outside for as long as possible. Delicate emotional states require sunshine and warm breezes. Helps take the edge off.

dense breasts and dougI sit on the porch for at least an hour. As the day heats up, I exchange my jeans for shorts. But still I roast. Sweat rolls down my legs and between my…extremely dense breasts. We all end up back inside and the rest of the afternoon consists of much moping and commenting about how Doug is gone, possibly forever, and how we need to buy another dog immediately. Everyone is disappointed. At some point, Brandon texts: “This afternoon officially blows.” He also reminds me to breathe. A quote on Pinterest reminds me to breathe. Breathe.

Chicken curry soup on this 90-degree day makes complete sense and that’s what I stir up for dinner. The 4yo loves it but the other two don’t and thus are provided with the opportunity to assemble their own meals. The 11yo heads to church with a friend. The hubs and I drive to the volleyball court at Sonic to hang with the high school students we mentor. I’m so weary with sorrow I don’t even consider playing ball; I sit sidecourt and talk to others who’ve been benched due to various injuries. The girls and I order ocean waters and a cherry slush. By the time we leave, the sun has set and the air has cooled. Spending another hour outside has again worked its magic and calmed me.

Back home, there are baths – lots of sand to rinse off – and the 11yo is feeling emotional about runaway dogs. The hubs says, “It’s nobody’s fault that Doug ran away. Doug made a decision. We don’t know what kind of life he’s had these last two years or what’s driving his choice to run off.” I feel like laughing when he says “Doug made a decision.” It sounds ridiculous. But it also makes me feel less guilty. We say a prayer and hug each other and the kids shuttle off to bed.

One of our high school friends – let’s call him Ferris Bueller – texts and asks where we met tonight; he would have come if he’d known. He is on our side of town – his second day with his drivers’ license – so, since he missed our Sonic gathering, I ask if he wants to drop by and say hi. While we’re waiting on him to show, I shower off the sand and the sad. I wonder why I had such a visceral reaction to the dog escaping our yard, why I completely berated myself as both parent and pet-owner. And I am overwhelmed by a thought: maybe my instantaneous and exceptionally emotional reaction to Doug’s disappearance happened because…it’s been an all too common occurrence in my life these past few years. Several people I deemed dear friends – people I thought would be friends for life – ran away. Maybe Doug’s escape triggered something in me, pushed itself into that healing-but-still-tender wound of being abandoned by those I trusted. Even with plenty of food and water, a safe place to sleep, and an affectionate family, Doug ran off. With my friends, I did what I could to provide a safe place for them as well, one of authenticity and affirmation. But still…they ran off. Who knows what kind of life Doug had years previous? Who knows what sort of life those used-to-be-friends are hiding in their hearts from decades previous? Just like Doug, they made a decision. And they chose to run. Not because I’m a lame dogowner or friend. They just wanted something different. They wanted more of something I couldn’t provide. More adventure or attention or thrill. More room to run. And that lust for more drives some away from places of love and safety. Probably the case for all of us, on some level. But boiling it down: it wasn’t me. I didn’t fail at the friendship. That puppy – just like those friends – simply wanted something else. Something besides warmth,  safety and a bowl of water. These thoughts spark within me a brief flash of anger. We exchange love and affection…and then you RUN AWAY? But after such a long day, it is too much for my dog-tired mind to ponder for long.

Bueller hears about our markedly emotional afternoon but we don’t discuss it in detail. The teen talks about matters of importance to 16-year-olds, showing us a video of how he almost did a faceplant at the gym. After half-an-hour, we shoo him home; it’s a school night. We turn on the Tonight Show and watch Fallon and comic David Alan Grier mimic Trump and Ben Carson, and their silliness draws a chuckle from my dismayed spirit.

I am tapping out the beginning of this post in the bedroom when Brandon walks in, pulls the laptop away, closes it and sets it aside. “You’re falling asleep,” he says. I am.


what fills in the gaps between those photos on instagram…

IMG_7339Our family of five took a road trip to the Texas hill country a few weeks ago. I posted four pics to Instagram from the venture, highlighting our favorite stops: Bouldin Creek Cafe in south Austin, the LBJ Wildflower Center, Storm’s Drive-In in Lampasas, and the Colorado River. Shortly after arriving home from our excursion, I came across a few articles lamenting the “life-editing” that takes place on social media, and I pondered the photos I’d shared from our trip. They certainly made our weekend outing look like a breeze. And while we DID have a great time, there were hiccups too.

My “life-edits” on social media are not intentional. I don’t sit down and consciously decide I’ll share only photos of my family’s happiest moments, cheeriest holidays, smilingest faces. But it happens anyway. Who of us wants to display the mundane moments of our everyday, the mountains of laundry or the spraying off of chicken poo from the back patio? Who snaps pictures of those frightfully embarrassing moments that happen in a household? Like when you yell at your kids. Or hide out in your bedroom stress-eating a bag of Cheetos (So what if they’re made of corn, the most socially irresponsible vegetable EVER. I ATE THEM. And they were delicious.). Does anyone want to see a shot of processed cheese particles on my fingertips? Nope. Does anyone have an overwhelming desire to see my laundry piles or backyard patio? Doubtful.

We leave out the monotony, struggle and despair because we figure who wants to hear? And really…who wants to hear?? A couple years ago I posted a letter to my 20yo self on Facebook regarding the pain of feeling excluded. A friend messaged me, teasing: “Remind me to never piss you off.” When I dug a bit at his comment, he admitted he read my paragraph as passive-aggressive and said I should have confronted in-person whomever had excluded me. Our conversation was pleasant and I was happy to hear his perspective but I also stood by my words, directed to no one in particular and the result of years of feeling on the periphery of various communities. But it was clear my friend didn’t feel social media was the place for my outpour of sentiment.

While some certainly attempt to paint a particular picture of their personas, I think most of us just prefer to focus on the positive. Clinging to upbeat moments help us navigate other lengthy and/or painful life challenges. Naturally we want to share our joy with others (or even just keep a record of those moments to share with our future selves). Some of us enjoy the hilarity our kids provide and like dishing about their funny antics. Some of us love being outdoors and sharing the wonder we find there. Some of us appreciate all things home and like to display its comforts. Food, art, sports, crafts…social media is a way to reveal what is dear to us.

Thus we share our favorite moments, however brief their appearance. The unfortunate by-product is that we see only each others’ smiles, friends, parties, vacations, honors, award-winning children, extended families who all live in apparent peace and harmony, and seemingly solid faiths. And we miss out on the other equally valid and very real aspect of life – each others’ tears, loneliness, bruised feelings about not being included, tight budgets that don’t allow vacations, shame, angry kids, extended families who aren’t so harmonious, and crushing doubts.

So while the photos I shared were a true part of our fun weekend outing, I thought I’d elaborate on some other moments that comprised that same trip that I didn’t share because, well, see above.

  • We watched a cyclist bounce across the pavement of a busy road after being hit by a car, frantically called 911, then attempted to pacify and reassure our terrified daughters.
  • The friends who had planned to travel with us were unable to join due to a sick child.
  • The resident cats were semi-obnoxious. Pretty sure one of them sipped my drink.


    Feline hair, everywhere.

  • Watched a cab t-bone another car in downtown Austin and re-lived the biker-hit-by-car nightmare with the girls.
  • Lost count of how many times we had to remind the kids: “Stop yelling.” Everything in public is spoken at yell volume for some reason.


    Yell. Yell. Yell.

  • Did I mention a not-so-welcome guest joined me – JUST me – all weekend? SEE??? These are the things NOBODY WANTS TO KNOW.
  • A napping toddler urinated in her carseat.


    Probably peeing.

  • The 7yo ended up with a mysterious brown funk on her elbow. Sniff check required. You know, in case the “brown” was ____ . It wasn’t, thank our lucky Lone Star.



  • Neither Brandon nor I slept much, due to incessant coughing and overactive mind, respectively.
  • The kids ripped a giant hole in the rental home’s trampoline.


    Or maybe it was me.

  • And on Sunday morning, a near vehicular travesty of our own. A blur whipped into the open passenger window and brushed across my left arm. When I glanced over, all I saw was a black, blue and yellow SOMETHING dart between the console and Brandon’s right hip. And all I could think was ARACHNID. Since neither of us knew what we were dealing with naturally I started shrieking and Brandon’s driving turned erratic as he gripped the door frame in an effort to keep from sitting on a creature that potentially had pincers or stingers at-the-ready directly under his bum. Upon screeching to a halt, we observed an obviously terrified swallowtail butterfly holding on for dear life to Brandon’s shorts. I’m not sure what traumatized her more: my insane screaming or her near-miss of being smashed by a human behind.


    Our pal Ryan’s reply to this pic: “That butt looks fly.”

All that to say, our trip was so much more than the four carefree-looking photos I posted on Instagram. The moments that filled in the substantial gaps between those snapshots were real life, the sort of life that is always flowing, just like the Colorado River that cuts through the the middle of Texas. Thought you should know.