Sunshine’s Hard Work Paid Off…

Four years ago, our daughter made a decision.  She decided to learn the French language.  She also informed us she would be going to France.  We told her to save her money and we’d make it happen…

Then, little over a year ago, we made another decision that continues to bless and change our lives.  We hosted a French foreign exchange student during the month of July.  Long term readers may remember.  By the end of the month, Miss Bee had become precious to us.  Saying goodbye hurt everyone’s heart.  With promises to somehow reconnect, she boarded a plane for home.

Fast forward to Spring of this year.  Our church is opening a new place of worship in France.  This is very exciting to us because it’s the first LDS temple in the country of France.  And for the first few weeks, our church opened it to public tours.  We really, really wanted to see it.


We could go, visit the European versions of Mom and Pop AND see Miss Bee!  Sunshine knew the language well enough, had saved up the funds and was very ready. Debbie & Paul

Let me introduce you to my cute parents. This is them on another trip to Southern France a couple of years ago. This is still one of my favorite pictures of them.

After a flurry of back-and-forth emails, two things were confirmed:  our trip AND that the Bee Family were really long lost friends in disguise.  In the ultimate gesture of graciousness, Mrs. Bee invited us to stay in their home IN PARIS!

But before we get to Paris, let’s talk about Normandy.

Ever since watching ‘The Longest Day’ with my WWII history buff father, It’s been a dream of mine to pay my respects on the sacred shores of the ‘Gateway to Europe’.

The movie scene that burned into my little girl brain was when the paratroopers landed along the countryside.  A man named John Steele became tangled in the church steeple of Saint Mere Eglise where he hung for hours, watching his friends butchered by the Nazi army as they landed.  Miraculously, he survived, although deaf for some time because of the church bells ringing in his ears.  To visit that place, to feel the reverence still very present and to see the love the community has for those who gave so much, it was a surreal experience.  I’ll never forget it.  I really, REALLY heart Normandy.

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My three favorite pictures from the first couple of days:  The flags of the nations…including the German flag.  (I found such a gesture to be breathtakingly beautiful.)  And, THIS mighty girl.  It never occurred to me what the people of this area went through under Nazi Occupation.  I had NO CLUE.

 After a quick trip to Bayeux where we got a glimpse of the most violent tapestry ever, we headed off to PARIS!  This is where we got to clobber our Sweet Miss Bee with hugs.  Oh, how we’ve missed her!  And we finally got to meet, in person, our friends, The Bees.

Versaillles #21

Words can’t express how much we love this beautiful family. From the moment we met them, it was like we’d been friends forever. Although this past year has been a really rough one for them too, they did everything possible to make our experience absolutely magical. Their dignity, generosity and kindness to each other made me want to be much better than I am. Seeing this picture makes me miss them all over again. They are that awesome.

The Bees are much of the reason Paris was what it was for us.  Rather than bore you with the hundreds of photos we took there, I thought I would sum up our experience with a list of Ten Things I Learned in Paris and include my most favorite pics…

  1.  Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were what happens when a nation gets fed up.  I kinda feel bad for them.  They were the last of a long line of royalty who seemed oblivious to the plight of the common man.  After seeing Versailles, it’s no wonder they were so ticked!

2.  French food is DELICIOUS…and as long as you don’t get a glimpse of a cute little dead face, escargot is scrumptious.  We had a good laugh with the Bees at the irony of the American ordering snails and the Parisian ordering Caesar Salad.

And, this is a good one…documentation of Sunshine eating a crepe on Mr. Eiffel’s crowning achievement.

3.  After all these years, Mom and Pop are still making out.  (In other news, one of the very BEST moments of the trip was seeing my father’s eyes absolutely sparkle as he gazed out upon the skyline of Paris on top of the Eiffel Tower.  He’s generally a very stoic man but in those moments, he reminded me of a little boy on Christmas morning.)

4.  While it’s probably wildly inappropriate to snicker at the statue of John the Baptist, who after hundreds of years, is STILL holding his own head, it’s inspiring to behold the devotion thousands of artists through the centuries had to God.  Many of these creators sacrificed so much, risk to life and limb even, to produce precious artifacts with the sole purpose of expressing their love for Him.  This is pretty impressive considering these works were made without the aid of modern-day machinery.  Case in point:  The Saint Chappelle.  It has 1300+ stained glass windows depicting stories from the Bible crafted by hand hundreds of years ago.

One of my favorite things about the Catholic church is their reverence for their saints.  It’s a beautiful thing.  In related news, Joan of Arc is still my favorite.  This statue brought me to tears the first time I laid eyes on her 17 years ago.  To bring my daughter back to it meant so much to me.  Sunshine, in a world full of followers, be a Joan.


5.  There really are such things as kindred spirits.  We’re so lucky when we find them.  They can be thousands of miles away and you can go forever without talking but when you get a chance to reconnect, it can feel like no time has passed.

Of all the hundreds of pictures taken during our trip, these two just might be my favorites:

Versaillles #9Versaillles #12

6.  People talk about it all the time but somehow I didn’t realize it until now…My sweet little girl is no longer a little girl.  This is when her life is just beginning…


For a week I was completely and utterly helpless.  (This, after 2 years of French in high school and several courses in college.)  Not her though, she knows enough French to make her way through Paris.  She would have been just fine without me there.  That makes me hyperventilate a little.

7.  It doesn’t matter where in this world it is, I love to see the temple.  Of all the happy moments in my life, the moments spent there are among my happiest.

For more pictures of the inside, go here.

8.  In the land of sunbursts and marbled halls, sometimes leaping for joy is appropriate.

9.  When you spend all day at the Louvre and your tired, aching feet carry you to the gift shop, you will notice postcards of paintings from Van Gogh and Monet.  Don’t panic.  Don’t beat yourself up, wondering how you could have possibly missed them.  They aren’t actually housed at the Louvre.  Which means, you haven’t broken an unforgivable art history commandment.

Also, one of my favorite pictures was one painted of a girl who looks almost exactly like a five year old Ruby.  The Mona Lisa was okay but I much prefer da Vinci’s Ginevra de’ Benci (it’s permanently housed in D.C.) and there is something magical about The Winged Victory.  It’s one of the most beautiful pieces of art I have ever seen.


Ruby, a few hundred years ago

10.  The land of Jules Verne and his extraordinary journeys might just be the perfect place for a ride along a river and hot air balloon ride overlooking a city.


Of course, there’s more to the story.  Much, much more.  The people of France are beautiful.  They are kind and very generous.  They love their families and have a remarkable ability to sit down to dinner and make it a work of art; they savor each other’s company along with the food they are eating.

I also didn’t realize it until visiting, this election cycle has been a tough one for them too.

And, there is magic in the Eiffel Tower at night.  It sparkles.

Eiffel at night #3

While we saw so much and wouldn’t change a single moment, there is still so much to see and experience.  Looks like we need to refill our piggie bank and fire up Duolingo again.


In the ultimate expression of friendship, the Bees did the most amazing thing.  Notice that adorable orange pea coat Sunshine wore in most of her pictures?  She forgot it.  When she realized this, she cried.  Of all the mementos of this trip that will bring the memories back in years to come, that coat will be the best of them.  Working with Mom and Pop, they corresponded with absolute strangers, met people under the Eiffel Tower and made an exchange in order to get her coat to Germany where it will take another voyage across the ocean back to her (sounds like it’s getting a high adventure itself!).  Yep, we’re keeping these folks.  They’re pretty special.

To everyone who made this an beautiful, unforgettable experience for Sunshine and also for me, Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.

Here’s to the next four years and four hundred thousand pennies.

Posted in Happy Little Accidents

A Dream Come True–Meeting One of My Favorite Heroes: My Sit-Down with Gail Halvorsen…

From my earliest recollections, I’ve listened to my WWII history buff father’s stories of the Candy Bomber, Gail Halvorsen.

Jarom and Gail Halvorson 10.10.16 #1

This whole blog post started from a chance meeting between my adorable nephew and this beautiful man…

It was an amazing tale.  An American pilot, fulfilling his mission to provide relief to Germans living within the Communist Bloc, noticed children admiring the planes on the other side of the fence.  An overwhelming feeling came over him that he needed to say ‘hello’.  He was nervous.  These were the same children who witnessed men in his uniform killing their mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters only a few months before. 

He was struck by how warm they were to him.  They were actually happy to see him.  And rather than beg for candy or food, these starving children were just grateful.  Grateful for the meager amounts of food he and others like him were able to deliver through Airdrops.

It left him with an urgent need to do more.

He gave two sticks of gum to two of the children.  Again he was struck by how, instead of fighting over this little treasure, they broke the gum into tiny pieces and passed them around to as many children as possible.  As he turned to leave, they asked for the shiny gum wrappers.  The children who didn’t get any gum were given pieces of the wrapper.  Gail watched as they put them to their noses, drinking in the scent.

He promised to return and the kids asked how they would know it was him.  

Good question.

Recalling his days on a farm, watching his daddy cropdusting, he always knew he was approaching by the way he would would ‘wiggle’ the wings up and down.  It gave him the brilliant idea to use that as his indicator.

They finished their conversation and he left.  He was supposed to go to sleep in preparation for his next flight but he couldn’t.  He knew he needed to do more.  This is where his brilliant idea to drop candy to them was born.

“As kids we climbed up to the highest part of the barn, tied handkerchiefs to rocks and watched them sail to the ground.  That was our television.”  he said.

Realizing bonking Littles on their heads with chocolate ‘would give the wrong impression’, he knew the handkerchiefs were the solution.

And so, risking his career and so much more, he fulfilled his promise.  Sure enough, the same children were just beyond the fence during his Airdrop the next day.  With his and his copilots’ candy rations morphed into tiny parachutes, they changed the course of history.  They delighted children and softened hearts.  Bridges were built between nations and despair was changed to hope.

Upon marrying He-Man, I discovered this man I’d heard so much about lived in the same area as their family while stationed in Berlin many years later.  They worked together within the church congregations they belonged to in post-Cold War Germany.

I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point in my adult life, I developed a strong desire to meet him.  His life has inspired me for years.

Apparently, I talk about it a lot because a few months ago, I got a call from my dear friend, Carol.

“I did something” she said.  “Remember how you’ve talked about how much you admire Gail Halvorsen?”

“Yes….” I replied cautiously.  “Wait, how did you know that?”

“Um…Trishelle, you’ve written like 5 posts about him on Facebook in the last year or so.”

“Oh.” I said.  “I guess it is that obvious.”

“Well…” she added, “I see him at work every Thursday and I read your post to him. And he wants to meet you.”

Me:  No words…just delightful, fangirling surprise mixed with mortification and a little concern that he thinks I’m a stalker.

After weeks of juggling, (he is the busiest 96 year-old I have ever met) Monday was the day.  I got to look into the sky blue eyes of one of the most beautiful souls I have ever met.  I got to sit in his home office and listen to him tell the story himself.  Whether or not he thought I was psycho, he never would let on, he was incredibly kind and gentle-even though he had another appointment shortly after ours.

How do you tell a person who has changed your life just how much they mean to you?  How do you tell them their life story helped you figure out what you’re suppose to do with yours?  How do you tell that person you have every intention of continuing their legacy of providing safe places and happy moments for children in a world full of despair and fear?

I clumsily fumbled through some sort of explanation but he was gracious enough to know what I was trying to say.  I think he gets that A LOT.

Every year, I make a bucket list of things I want to do with the 365 days I have.  I had lots of ambitions in 2016.  One of which was to meet Halvorsen.  Anyone who follows this blog knows how crappy 2016 ended up.  I didn’t get to try caviar or escargot.  I didn’t rock the 6-pack abs or go on a running tour of an unknown city.  But then again, I did document my first mammogram and made a kitchen table so I guess it wasn’t all bad.

And, while it was a few months later than 2016, Sunshine and I got to shake hands with one of the greatest men from the Greatest Generation.  And believe me, it was worth the wait.

Posted in Happy Little Accidents | Leave a comment

Finding Forgiveness in a Brothel from the Past…

We all knew the day would come. I blogged about it last year. So I knew the second I heard my mother’s quivering voice. Her own mother, my grandmother had died. The cancer won.

It wasn’t a breathtaking surprise. There was no funeral, no ceremony, no real recognition. She just quietly faded into a mostly obscure history.

I, like so many in our family, felt the gamut of emotions. Most of us mourned her a long time ago. I imagine numbness settled in for them too. That seems pretty normal in loving an addict.

Unfortunately, for those who spent our lives trying to support her in the healthiest ways possible, the end of her life was not a time of closing chapters and making amends. It was a reminder of the questions left unanswered. For me, the biggest of those were, ‘Why?’ Why was she the way she was? Why couldn’t I break through that hard, drug-addled exterior?

A few short weeks after the news of her passing, I received an interesting email. It was from a genealogy website I vaguely remember signing up for. (As many of you know, genealogy is kinda a big deal for us Mormons. But for me, it’s not something I’ve had much time to devote to. I’ve always planned to someday, but figured I would have many more gray hairs and wrinkles.)

The email informed me of new information inputted into their database. Interestingly, it was for one of my grandmother’s cousins, from a side of the family we have little information about. I clicked on the link to the website and was instantly greeted by a stunning picture.

I could have sworn I was looking at my own grandmother. I noticed the woman in the photo was beaming at a little baby. Everything about her face revealed joy and love for that little one and it touched my heart.

And then, I looked more closely. An awning hung on one hinge over the door frame of an old home. Several windows were cracked or completely gone and an old, beat-up studebaker was parked behind them. It seemed to confirm everything I’ve ever heard about my grandmother’s upbringing, brought up in poverty, without many prospects of rising above it.

I noticed something else too. The woman in the photograph died very young.

All of this ignited a need to know more. The page also provided a contact phone number. (Here’s where being on the administrative staff of a new charter school system came in handy. I’m so accustom to cold-calling people, I didn’t even think twice about dialing the number.)

Within a few minutes I was talking to a 90 year-old woman named Mary who was once the baby in the photo. We talked like old friends as she told me the story of the woman in the picture. She was my cousin.

This woman was raised in the Dust Bowl, married young and shortly after, her husband shipped off to war. At this point, Mary paused and added, “He came back with a wonderful gift.”

“Really?!” I asked eagerly, expecting an extraordinary story about a locket or a music box.

“Yep” she replied. “It’s called Syphilis.”

Continuing the story; he left her after being with her only long enough to compromise the quality and quantity of her life. And, according to my new friend, this type of thing was not unusual for the men in the family.

So there my cousin was. Alone, sterile, generally uneducated, and essentially dying a horrendously slow death.

But then, her sister beat her to the grave, succumbing to complications of child birth. For whatever reason, the father of Baby Mary was unable or unwilling to care for her and her three siblings. Their grandmother took the older children and my cousin got the baby.

From before Mary could remember, she was her mother figure. For the rest of her life, this woman had another mouth to feed, another reason to find shelter, another body to clothe.  AND, with little to no education as the Great Depression dragged on nor any skills to speak of.

She resorted to what so many other women like her did: Prostitution. Apparently, she was quite proficient because eventually, she employed other women in the brothel she founded.

In spite of this, she found love in her life. He was an undercover detective hot on the trail of a moderately well known gangster (whose name I can’t remember). Mary recalled vague memories of the officer and his kindness. She remembers being up late one night with him as she and her aunt escaped some sort of danger. Shortly after, he was murdered in an ambush during a raid to capture the mobster fugitive.

And so, this woman, my distant cousin, carried on alone and spent the rest of her life providing for her niece in the best way she knew how. That life didn’t end up being very much longer. She died from her illness in her early forties. She was just a little older than I am now. Once again, Mary was left motherless at the age of 8.

It sounds like a Hollywood production; a tragic film noir with dashing men and stunningly beautiful women who were madly in love with each other; who after the camera finished shooting and lights flickered back on, got to leave the sound stage and retreat to their dressing rooms.

But it wasn’t.

There was no reprieve for my cousin in this life. Just loss. She wasn’t Gloria Grahame vamped up and glamorous, acting out make believe tragedies on screen. She was Fantine; robbed of her youth and innocence and left holding the bag. She, like Victor Hugo’s faithful motherly character, faced the consequences of the selfish actions of others. She sacrificed so much of herself because she loved another more.

According to Mary, there were many women in the family who faced similar fates. Yet, they did the best they could with little to no support.

My conversation ended with Mary as we promised to meet somehow. In that afternoon, the brightness of understanding opened my eyes and I finally saw my grandmother more clearly than I ever have before.

Suddenly, instead of being nagged by the ‘Whys?’ of grandma’s life, ‘wasted’ to her addictions, I began to see the miracle of her rising above so many of the things she was weighed down by. She was raised in a time and environment where so many women were taught they were only good for one thing.

She had big dreams and ambitions to do good things but had no resources. Education was rarely available to young women of her social status. She was a daughter, raised in the shadow of a ‘perfect’ brother and taught, either by her parents, society or a little bit of both, that this was the rightful pattern.

No wonder there was hurt. No wonder there was an endless yearning to escape-it provided such brief but sweet relief.

I’ve heard before that it takes three generations to purge a family of the patterns of abuse and neglect. I’ve always assumed my mother and her sweet sisters were the first generation to escape that pattern. I also realize a moment of clarity doesn’t excuse a person of a lifetime of poor choices but I am beginning to see that perhaps I’ve given my grandmother and the women on her side of the family too little credit.

They, like Fantine, were doing the best they could do. Many of them probably realized they, themselves, would never rise from the misery of their situations. But they, also like Fantine, had faith and hope that their Cosettes somehow could.

That left me with a realization rather than a question:

I am as Cosette.  Raised in a protective environment, I was taught to only dream big, that love can win, that I can rise above my own personal hurts and struggles and that I am more than the pleasure I give to a man. And it matters what I choose to do with that understanding because my actions can bring honor to women who probably deserve more of it than they ever received in life.

I’ve discovered one of my designated antagonists has a back story. It’s now my responsibility to allow her a greater measure of compassion and forgiveness for her limitations.

And so it goes.

Who could have known in looking for a way to let go of the hurt and disappointments, I finally found forgiveness in such an unlikely place?


Posted in Happy Little Accidents

Chronicles of a (Maybe) Epileptic: 8 Ways to Lift the Homebound Soul


The hour of my deliverance has come.


After months of being legally grounded from operating a vehicle, I’ve reached the required amount of time without a seizure when I can resume my rock-n-roll lifestyle. Being homebound has been more of a challenge than I expected.

I realize now I’ve taken independence for granted my whole adult life. To have a strong, able body with the resources to move freely/easily are precious things. And while I’ve come to appreciate quiet afternoons a whole, awful lot, I’ve also come to realize how demoralizing being ‘stuck’ is.

I’ve gotten a glimpse of how difficult life can be for people who are unable to leave their homes due to chronic illness or physical disability. And for the first time in my life, I feel a greater awareness and compassion for what those with limited mobility go through.

There have been days in the last several months when I’ve barely changed out of my pajamas. I’ve been tired and weary-but not so much on a physical level. It’s been more on an emotional, psychological level. It surprised me to discover how debilitating this sort of fatigue is. You may have the physical energy to act yet be completely immobilized by that emotional and psychological anguish.

And yet, looking back upon the view of this particularly trying season of my life; living in a temporary situation without my creature comforts, not being able to drive, depending on everyone else for help, dealing with an uncertain medical diagnosis, etc., I’ve been able to see it hasn’t been all that terrible. Trust me, there have been some pretty dark days. This has all been manageable though.

BUT it’s been manageable for a reason.

I’ve been able to get through all of it because of the support I’ve received from others, people who know and love me, friends who’ve constantly supported me. I’ve been on the receiving end of large as well as small, quiet acts of service I, myself, have done for others before, never thinking they help all that much.

I’ve come to realize: They do.

So, dear reader, based upon the personal experiences of my time as a (Maybe) Epileptic, I propose 8 ways you can support your homebound loved ones that can make a huge difference:

1. Take time for a visit. Some of my dearest friends have surprised me by impromptu visits, just to chat. Sometimes, they’d call up to give me just enough time to put on a bra and brush my teeth, giving little option to turn them away out of embarrassment. As it turns out, this was the best thing for me. Had I the opportunity, I might have been too mortified by my disheveled state to allow anyone to come over.

Inevitably, I always felt a little better after these chats.img_7822

2. Encouraging texts are precious gifts. Knowing someone was thinking about me, encouraging me through the hardest parts of this experience, gave me a boost when I needed it the most.

I believe there is a reason when someone ‘pops into our heads’.

As we connect with others, we create ties that bind our hearts. I don’t believe we’ll ever be able to explain it with logic, but those connections are supported by unseen forces that alert us to one another’s needs. Don’t disregard those promptings when they come. If that little voice tells you to reach out, do it.

3. In this fast paced, virtual world, never, ever underestimate the power of the United States Postal Service. My three-day EEG was unquestionably the hardest part of these last few months. I can’t remember a time when I felt more helpless or hopeless. Amazingly, also around that time, I received a letter from my dear friend in Neverland. The next day, another arrived from the same zipcode. The day after that, two were in my mailbox. Even more came in the following days. I noticed a commonality. These letters all had sparkles. That’s when I realized I was witnessing a coordinated attack on the vicious depression that was setting into my soul. To my Florida Family: Just so you know, I’m keeping these forever.

4. Speak their language. As an adult, I’ve based much of my interpersonal relationships upon the book, ‘The Five Love Languages’ by Gary Chapman. I’ve come to understand that I speak love with the languages of words of affirmation, gift giving, and of course, chocolate. (Mr. Chapman forgot that last one). There is something beautiful about the amazing moment when you connect with someone as they feel your love for them in the ways they interpret it best.  It goes both ways.

Some of my dearest friends told me ‘I love you’ with some of my favorite things: sparkles, herbal tea, jewelry and chocolate. Words fail sometimes…which is why we have other languages. I’m not sure what I’m going to do, but someday, I’ll be able to express that love back in ways most meaningful to them.

5. Keep them busy. Sometimes, having something to do will distract a person just long enough for them to forget the gloom that’s trying to darken every corner of their soul. Given enough opportunities to forget, glimmers of light just might make it through.  Once it penetrates, that light tends to have momentum behind it.

He-Man has undoubtedly been my champion through all of this. For years, I’ve been wanting a farm table for our family. (more on this story later) We talked about making one but never had the time. Moving into a brother’s home with a wood shop meant we suddenly had the resources. We set to work on the project shortly before my seizures began. When my health took it’s turn, I lost the motivation and nothing really mattered anymore. That was a sign that something was wrong.

Gratefully, He-Man quickly picked up on this and began tasking me with sanding, staining, oiling.  Anything that helped me keep my focus. These were often small steps on the way to the finished project. Nothing too overwhelming but enough to keep the project going. He’s a smart man.

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6. GET THEM OUT OF THAT HOUSE! Sometimes a person needs to remember they are human. It’s easy to forget when you’re immersed in the struggle of just getting through the day. Two of my dearest friends who’ve been among the constants through all of this have seemed to know what I’ve needed before I did. When they invited me out for Indian food a couple of weeks ago, I had no idea how incredible it would feel to just get away from the confining walls of my home for a couple of hours.

7. Provide meaningful help. He-Man’s commute to his clinic is 45 minutes to an hour away.  Moving to our temporary home meant no longer being within walking distant to our children’s three schools. Since I could no longer drive and He-Man wasn’t available, it also meant getting our children to and from school was suddenly a challenge. Asking for help with this particular problem was incredibly difficult. I hate asking. I’d much rather be giving help rather than accepting it.

Following through and just asking was the most hardest part. Once I asked, my friends Marla and Janelle jumped in immediately. For weeks they’ve dropped our children off after school and have become some of our favorite people. The gourmet Valentine cookies didn’t hurt either.16601868_1791902897801079_7617303663413223467_o

What struck me about these two beautiful people is they made it easy to rely on them.  My hesitance was unnecessary and only hurt myself. Being fearful meant I was giving my friends and family far too little credit. They were ready to mobilize.  They just needed to know how to help.

8. If you’re the praying sort and you tell someone they’re in your prayers, mean it and be prepared to BE the answer. One of the greatest blessings in my life has been being part of a prayerful circle of people. They’ve included many from several religious and social backgrounds and spans countries from all over the world. I’m always struck by how much truth comes from these statements when I observe these people praying, meditating or pleading to a Higher Power on behalf of others.

What is even more incredible is when, through supplication, this family circle finds the means to mobilize in thoughtful, meaningful ways to provide relief. It’s inspiring and has taught me that such statements aren’t hollow. Prayer done right isn’t passive. It’s active.  You have the power to be the answer to those prayers if you’re eyes are open.

So there you have it, folks.

I’m grateful my experience being homebound has been brief. But I’m also grateful it’s been enough to stick with me. It motivates me to be more aware of those who need support. Maybe that’s the point.

Okay, maybe it’s not THE point. But, maybe it can give the inevitable challenges life throws at us a purpose to go along with the pain.

Then again, maybe I’m overthinking it.

But for now, I’m back behind the wheel and currently looking for bedridden friends who just had triplets and have a hankering for Tater Tot Casserole.

Just kidding. But only sort of.

FYI:  I make killer Indian food.



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CGME: To My Sixteen Year Old- The Big Ol’ High School Truth Bomb…

Tomorrow is a big day for you. Your first date. Fun! Weird. But fun.

I promise I will try very hard not to imagine the 1,984 things that could go wrong after he picks you up. In his car. That he drives all by his big boy self. When did you get old enough for that? chrissy-the-beautiful

I will now try to stop hyperventilating.

I hope it’s a reprieve from the stress, insecurity and worry you’ve been feeling over these last very long, difficult months. It’s all been a lot to take.  It recently dawned on me that since moving back to Homebase four years ago, the house we will be moving into will be your fourth.

Being the oldest, you’ve carried so much of that weight upon your shoulders, so much sacrifice to support your parents in their careers. Hopefully, this relocation will be our last for a while- at least until you graduate.

In the meantime, high school is awkward enough as it.  The heaviness you carry makes it even harder. It’s difficult to imagine how anyone could possibly relate, but I promise they do.  Here’s the big, earth shattering spoiler: Everyone is insecure right now.  An they’re so busy being worried about their secret heaviness, they barely have time to really consider that anyone else feels it too.

And wanna know something even more surprising? It’s normal and might actually help you be a better grownup.

Besides, loving high school too much may mean you’ve reached your peak…and that’s not usually a good thing when you’re a teenager and have a lot of years ahead of you.

I wish someone would have explained this to me in high school. On second thought, I’m pretty sure they did. But I didn’t listen. And I won’t blame you if you don’t either.

You know what they say about hindsight.

Alas, I join the millions upon millions of mothers who’ve gone before, hoping their words of wisdom somehow ease the burden of that ache of awkwardness you feel so acutely.

If only my adult voice could’ve whispered such wisdom into the ear of that boisterous, sometimes obnoxious teen I used to be.  The one who did everything to hide the curls on her head and acne on her face.


If only I could instill within in myself the knowledge I wish you had now.  What would I tell me?  I suspect it would be very similar to what I wish I could help you know now.

I’d tell you:

YOU ARE NOT FAT. You do not need to lose weight. Eat right and exercise. Learn how to do it now and it will stay with you and make you beautiful later.

But more than that, I’d tell you to look outside yourself. Recognize you are not the only one…

You know that friend? The one who all the girls in your class are secretly (and sometimes not so secretly) envious of because she was so very beautiful? Be extra kind to her. Hug her. Call her more often, just to talk. She’s dealing with the hurt of neglect by a mom who is always high. You don’t know it now, but that girl will somehow become one of the bravest, kindest mothers you will ever know.

And that one who you are a little intimidated by? The friend who’s pretty much a genius? Stop letting your insecurities keep you from hanging out with her. She’s amazing and she loves you. She will be one of your dearest friends when you get older; the kind you can meet up with after a decade of not seeing each other and talk all night long. Not only that, but she’s about to experience a lifetime of the worst loss you can imagine. Her sister, her mother, she’s going to lose them too soon. She’s going to need your friendship.

And that boy you’ve harbored a bit of a crush on? The one who’s always kind to you. The classmate everybody knows will do great things with his life. Listen to him. He’s pretty darn smart. And while his logic is impeccable and it’s hard to believe there’s room for softness, he is also one of the most compassionate people you will ever know. He also just realized he’s gay. And in a small, very conservative community, that can be a pretty scary realization to have.

How about that one girl you are fully aware gets annoyed by your persistent perkiness? She’s extremely loyal and has a heart full of gentleness even if she doesn’t show it. But she’s also lonely, watching someone she cares desperately for drink themselves to death. Be kind to her. You don’t necessarily need to curb your enthusiasm, just recognize another person’s private hurts sometimes keep them from letting you in. Be patient. You’ll be friends someday.

And you’ll be surprised to know that you’re going stay close friends with that guy (and his wife) who’s pretty much adopted your family. What you don’t know is that his step-father hurts him. His bruises aren’t all that obvious though. When he comes over, do a little more to make him feel welcome. He’s good soul but doesn’t know it yet so he needs to hear it from others.

And your sweet Jamie. Never, ever forget the way she brightens your life. Yes, the things that make her self-conscious are more obvious than the rest of you. But what you don’t know now is that she wakes up everyday knowing her life will be much shorter than yours. You haven’t really considered this yet, but she won’t be able to be a mother in this life even though there are few things she wants more. And she doesn’t think she’ll ever fall in love and get married. But she will. And you will get to see it happen. Just keep being positive and encourage her. You’re luckier than you realize to know her.

Don’t forget that one boy you made out with on the ski bus. Sometimes, he turns his emotions off. Don’t let that make you think he’s a jerk. It’s because he feels so very much and is afraid of being vulnerable. Be a little gentler with him during your very public breakup. In fact, don’t make it public. Just be cool. That boy will go through hell for you. He’ll jump through just about every hoop and even hold your hair back when you throw up.

Lastly, what about that one friend? Everyone wonders why you like each other so much. You’re completely different people. It seems to everyone else you have nothing in common. But you do. You both love people completely. She’s is a loyal and true friend. What you don’t know is that there is a reason her friends don’t offer you smokes or alcohol. It’s because she’s pretty much threatened them within an inch of their lives if they do. You also don’t know the years of heartache she will endure after outliving two of her three siblings. It’s the kind of ache a person needs lifelong friends to endure. Don’t ever be afraid of your offering to her. She will always appreciate it.

You see, Sunshine?  I wish I could have known all of these things back then. I would have spent A LOT less time worrying about the things that made me insecure.

While the faces and stories might be different from yours, there’s a timeless truth to the struggle of youth. You can not possibly look into the eyes of your friends and see the glorious but intense future that lies ahead for each of them. But what you can do is look into their eyes and recognize the insecurity and awkwardness they feel too. If you close your mouth and open your ears, you will be able to see it. Even more, you’ll know better how to lift them in the ways they need it most.

Never, ever forget, your insecurity isn’t the truth about you. But your ability to look outside of yourself to be a real friend might be.

Posted in Happy Little Accidents

CGME: My Very Real Valentines

My Very Real Valentine’s Day began at 6:00 a.m. It started with the sound of an alarm that wakes me up and makes me want to throw up at the same time.

My very real Valentine is the warm spot on the other side of the bed left by the man I still feel a bit angsty toward because of a stupid fight but who’s nonetheless getting dressed for another 12 hour day-his ninth in a row.

It’s the three year old who persistently manages to somehow end up between the two of us by the time that blasted alarm rings.

My very real Valentines are four barely breathing lumps, buried under blankets scattered on the living room floor, one strategically placed over the heater vent, as we read Philippians 1.

My very real Valentine is a Glad plastic container filled with last night’s spaghetti squash, roasted sweet potatoes, and quinoa and onion meatloaf. It’s also five lunchboxes filled with ham and veggie wraps, slices of red pepper, fig bars and a peanut butter cup.

My very real Valentine is the 12 year old determined to dodge my ‘good luck hug’ every morning before school.

It’s the cookie sheets converted into a race track for Calvin and Hobbes and huge pile of unfolded laundry—no wonder LuLu couldn’t find any underwear. And it’s dozens of stickers haphazardly stuck onto a little brother.img_7968

My very real Valentine is the pile of home goods stacked up against our bedroom wall, awaiting the fast approaching move-in day.  It’s walking into this after I forget to close my door.img_7969

It’s the littlest Valentine who just smashed banana onto a clean tablecloth.

It’s also red cheeks snuggled under fluffy feather blankets in the afternoon.


My very real Valentines are four girls who can hardly wait to tell me every single detail from their school day…usually all at once.

It’s a party of eight’s stuffed shells and homemade French bread with berries and tapioca pudding.

It’s the belated Valentines I’m sending to three loved ones who’ll be getting them late because I didn’t get my act together soon enough.

My very realest Valentine and I won’t be giving each other gifts this year because it’s not the time for that. Someday, it will be. But for now, our gift to each other is not spending money on something that’s going make us gain weight we’re both trying to lose anyway.

My very real Valentine is the love of my life who does almost everything I ask him to do even if he’d rather pull each and every one of his eyelashes out, one at a time. He’s the one who pulls over for injured animals, the one who says ‘I’m sorry’ first, the one who’ll plant rosemary for me in the spring, put 96 tampons back in the box and let’s me sleep in while he makes ‘Pancake Saturday’.


This is French toast…but you get the idea.

My very real Valentine makes me the dreamy farm table I committed to making only to realize the needed skill level was far greater than my own. And sometimes, he snores. But it’s because he’s exhausted. He’s a small business owner and he’s determined to make it successful…which makes the rage of being awakened mid-REM a smidgen less.snore


So there you have it. For us this year, Valentine’s Day isn’t about candlelight and roses. It’s about realizing I’m lucky to be dancing the dance I dance and recognizing the everyday Valentines.

It’s about being in one of those challenging seasons life brings to all of us but taking a moment to marvel. For me, it’s realizing how unbelievably blessed I am to be alive, to be the wife of the man who loves me the most and to be the mother to these incredible people. It reminds that it shouldn’t take a holiday to remember this.


Happy Valentine’s Day to you, dear reader. I hope it’s a good day. Not just because it’s Valentine’s, but because I just generally want you to have a good day.

BUT since this day is for lovers, I double dog dare you to kiss someone on the lips.



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CGME: When A Trip to the Lingerie Shop Doesn’t Go Quite As Planned…

Today my neurologist’s office informed me of their intention to put me on anti-seizure meds for the rest of my life.

This was not the news I was hoping for.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet.

For the time being, I’ve decided to reminisce about a memory that has made me laugh today. Hopefully, it will give you a chuckle too. Either that, or make you squirm uncomfortably in your seat because this story is a bit sexy.

(Sunshine, stop reading this. I’ll tell you when you’re older.)

He-Man had been gone for months. I missed him terribly and while I was surrounded by people, I was the loneliest I’d ever been. For weeks I’d been puked on, pooped on, sleep deprived and dewomanized by several cases of strep throat (at one point there were 5 different prescriptions of antibiotics in the fridge). And lice ravaging a family with 5 heads of long girl hair was a distinct possibility…which we narrowly dodged.

There were days I didn’t leave the house (hmmm…sounds familiar). I was too tired to shower and all I wanted to do was eat chocolate.

Other days, I was ON it. I’d have the kids up and out of the house by 8:00 am. I’d actually put on bra. I’d be dressed in my workout gear, ready to run off the obscene amounts of coping chocolate I’d consumed in the days before.

Gratefully, after a long while, I had enough of those sort of days that I was starting to see results of my post-baby workouts…just in time for He-Man to be finishing his work assignments and begin making plans to come home.

Naturally, I did what any self-respecting, newly vamped momma, ready to strut her stuff in her underwear would do…I headed to a lingerie store.

This wasn’t your average Victoria’s Secret. This was a locally owned shop filled with all sorts of goodies for the lovey-dovey, embarrass-the-kids kind of couple who really, really like each other. We’re not talking about lotions that smell good. We’re talking about lotions that taste good.

(Seriously, Sunshine. STOP READING.)

I arrived there with my local coupon in hand because if there’s anything sexier to He-Man than his girl in lingerie, it’s his girl in lingerie purchased with a 40% off coupon.

I walked through the door and suddenly became a blushy, giggly seventh grade girl looking to buy her first pair of underwear that wasn’t white.

It was a little embarrassing.

But, I rallied, reminded myself I was no rookie (having birthed 5 of He-Man’s babies and all) and approached a sales associate. I peppered her with questions. She was professional, dignified and answered each question as tastefully as possible. She endorsed a few products and even shared which were her favorites as a newlywed bride.

You’d think it would be a pretty easy-going, mostly anonymous interaction. But that’s not how these things work out sometimes.

After spending several minutes planning intimate details of a soon-to-be romantic interlude with my husband, I began to notice something about her. She looked awfully familiar…

Pausing for a moment, a flash of recognition expanded in my mind. It was Kylie! I had been asking sex questions to one of my students from my job 15 years earlier. And not just any student. She was hands-down one of my favorites. Kylie was one of the first I would pick up from school. She usually sat in the front seat of the van I was driving and she was my trusty sidekick, gathering the rest of the kids before heading to our after-school program. She was spunky, fun and made me laugh.

My favorite memory was the afternoon her mom was running late so we arranged to meet up at the preschool I was employed by. As we drove toward the meeting point she and I rocked out to Goo Goo Dolls’ ‘Slide’. We laughed and sang along. It was a fun memory…

And there I was, discussing my sex life with her.

In that moment, I kinda wanted to die.

Mustering up my last shreds of dignity, I acknowledged remembering her. She, in reply, mentioned wondering if I would.

Some people reconnect with old friends at lunch, eating avocado turkey sandwiches on rye with fruity drinks and artisan desserts. Me? I like reestablishing friendships in the aisle where they sell lubricants and dice with dodgy words on each side. It’s how I roll, I guess.

That was not meant to be punny.

Gratefully, Kylie has a much better poker face than I do. She’s also exponentially more dignified. Somehow together we managed to pretend that it wasn’t the most awkward place to reconnect EVER and even exchanged pleasantries…almost like we were sharing a turkey sandwich.

Needless to say, I didn’t leave the shop with much merchandise that evening. BUT I did get to renew an old friendship. Turns out, that sort of conversation tends to be the ultimate ice breaker. After that, pretty much anything is easy to talk about. I discovered that little girl I once knew is an incredible grown-up. She’s a fantastic wife and mother. She’s smart and funny and just as spunky as ever…everything an educator hopes for their students to be someday.

Ever since then, we’ve stayed connected. And tonight while asking her for permission to share this particular story, we decided to get together to catch up again.

This time, we’re meeting at Kneaders.


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