Bittersweet Friends

We always say it’s not going to happen. We’ll be there for each other, even after they move. Or we move. Or we both are flung to opposite sides of the world.

And we swear, “This time. This time will be different. This time we’ll really stay in touch.”

We do to some extent. Lots of calls and texts and seeing how the new digs are shaping up. “Do you like your new place?” “Have you met any friends yet?” and “How are the kids holding up?” are all updated frequently. Then ever so slowly life happens. New friends slip in to our lives. Boots on the ground/in your every day life friends. While they open our hearts again, it becomes more challenging to keep up with kids and day to day stuff and maintain all those long distance friendships. The noise of our new life in a new place is often too loud to hear faint whispers… and we, too become lost in the memories of their past places.

The calls become texts. Texts start out frequent, but slowly fade to weekly occurrences. Check ins. Details get lost, and so it goes. Social media offers glimpses into their present. Those pictures of their new life without you in it are so bittersweet, as it is for them to see yours. They sting a little. And once again you remind yourself that it’s all part of the process. This breaking of hearts and wondering if this whole transient life is worth it.

I think it is.

It hurts.

But it’s worth it.




Excited for their respective field trips, both kids had no trouble getting out of bed.

“Where’s my class shirt?!” One hollered from the closet.

“Hanging right there,” I hollered back. “Right where you hung it up last night so you wouldn’t forget it….” I continued, mumbling the last part to myself as I grabbed the freshly brewed pot and poured myself the delicious, and necessary, first cup of coffee.

Her trip was to the local art museum to engage in some performance, dance and music fun. With ease, two talented performers from the museum wrangled a play out of three 2nd grade classes! It was a feat of epic proportions!



What these pictures don’t show you is that while the kids are engaged in activity, their teachers are watching, monitoring and helping. For one child, the noise is too overwhelming. Instead of shushing him or telling him to sit down for the 100th time, she creates a space for him to calm himself. For another, the urge to fidget is too great. Not only do I see these educators focus on reading and writing and math everyday, but they are seeing the whole child. They are soothers. They comfort. They wrap their arms around the child that for the first time is requesting to be hugged. It’s a joy and a privilege to witness.

I’d been asked to chaperone his class field trip to the aquarium and happily accepted. This is, after all, why I chose to not work outside the home; so I could do all the mom things and help out when needed. Having field trips on the same day, in the same part of town allowed me to hop from one to the other with out missing much of either. I looked forward to having a bit of one on one time with each of them. After this year of single parenting, there’s been but a time or two that they’ve been apart, much less had me to themselves. I think they look forward to their dad’s return not only because they miss him, but equally because they need some space from each other and some undivided attention.

The day was lovely and perfect for an outing. The aquarium is one of Jake’s favorite destinations, loving all things ocean-related.


YES! A real live octopus!

The exhibits went smoothly, the aquarium staff delightful and engaging. Sitting in front of the dolphins, questions and answers flew fast and furious.

“What grade are these kids in?” asked a man in a wheelchair behind me, having heard a few of their questions.

“Third,” I whispered quietly, smiling holding up 3 fingers.

“Wow,” he replied. “I taught fifth grade. They are really smart.”

Nodding in agreement, I turned back to the playful dolphins twirling behind the plexiglass. The really are incredibly smart I mused, simply enjoying the moment, and the opportunity to be a part of it.At the last exhibit during a group exercise, Jake was frustrated having not heard the instructions, then realizing he wouldn’t have any input in his group’s presentation as they worked. The tears started. (The other kids were not being overtly mean, but sometimes it’s easier to ignore people than to actively include them.)

It’s these moments that are hard. Autism or not, kids (as well as adults) have to learn how to deal with emotions, deal with disappointment and handle frustration with others and themselves. Group participation isn’t always easy, but it’s part of life. Physically, I was too far away and couldn’t get to him, and it was hard to hear over the chatter of the kids, engaged in their task to create an imaginary creature.

His teacher noticed the situation and swiftly grabbed an additional folder so he would be able to participate. img_5798She got down on the floor and engaged him. She didn’t have to. It would have been easier not to. She helped him help himself. She didn’t scold, embarrass or patronize. He didn’t have to have mom intervene. She was subtle and quiet.

She cared.

I smiled and mouthed a grateful ‘thank you’ as she got up to assist other students. I was humbled and as my eyes started sweating, I sternly told myself to save it. Lord knows my kid didn’t need a blubbery mess of a mom sobbing about gratitude in the middle of a field trip.

But I was, and am, very grateful.

How supremely lucky we are to have teachers that care so much.





WordPress Daily Prompt: Story

Rainbows and Reasons

Roy G Biv,” I told her, selecting the crayons out of the vast array of options.

“Roy G Biv?! What?!” she asked.

“The colors of the rainbow. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet,” I rattled off the words, much to her amazement. It’s so easy impressing a 4 year old with your vast knowledge of the world.

I think of that conversation often when I see rainbows. Living in Hawaii, they were a daily occurrence. I love them as much as I love butterflies. I always seem to notice one when I really need it.


I opened the front door and this is what greeted me as long deployment days were looming in the not so distant future. He hadn’t left yet, but the daunting reality of his departure was sinking in as it always does.

It was in-your-face bright. “Look around. Notice me,” it screamed at full volume.

This was also when I was contemplating not drinking anymore.

I was recently asked why I thought I had to stop drinking. I had a hard time coming up with a definitive answer. It was either barrage the asker with a million reasons and thoughts about the subject, or simply say, “When I have one, I can very easily have twenty. I tend toward the ‘all or nothing’ personality type,” and leave it at that.

While the simple answer is accurate, there’s so much more to uncover with this whole process. This thing. This not drinking thing. This watching others not have a problem stopping at one thing. This noticing advertising and drinking culture everywhere thing.

I’ve been reading Holly Glenn Whitaker, Laura McKowen, and Annie Grace among others. I’ve been listening to podcasts, hearing others’ stories around alcohol. Digesting. Processing. Deciding what works and what doesn’t.

Here’s what I know for sure, for me.

  • Marketing is so damn effective. I’m kind of mad that I bought into it for so long, honestly. It’s not really funny anymore to me. It’s just kind of, sad. It’s a lie we all think is normal. And clever. And cute. It’s not.
  • Before you tell me I’m a killjoy and to just go off and be my sober self, I think it’s important to note a couple things.
    • 1. Alcohol consumption is linked to an increased risk of cancer. Seriously. How can I be a person who actively seeks out and promotes a healthy life, yet still consumes alcohol? It’s not smart, safe or logical.
    • 2. Heavy drinking is on the rise for women. Why do you think that is? We all are very thirsty all of a sudden? No. It’s money, baby. Marketing dollars hard at work promoting this garbage. We are so much more susceptible to marketing than we realize. (I will edit to add; there are also other reasons drinking is on the rise for women. Direct marketing is just a piece of the issue. Over the last 50 years, more and more women earn their own money and are not dependent on a husband’s income. With earned income comes choice. Cultural norms have shifted around drinking. Increased stress in work and home life (for both men and women) was cited as an additional reason.)
  • I don’t want to have a life I need to escape from. If life is so busy, so hard, so awful that I have to drink just to numb out, is that really living? Do I want my kids overhearing me say, “GOSH. These kids are driving me to drink!” Like they are so burdensome that I simply must escape. Realizing this hit me hard. I love my kids. Like I really dig them as people. They are funny and creative and loud and wonderfully brilliant humans. Why do I want to escape from that on a regular basis? (Yes, raising kids is a hard job, yes, there are days we need parental time outs – but this is not what I’m talking about here.) I want to remember little things and big things. I don’t want blurred out hazy outlines and shadows cast over my memories of them growing up.
  • A bottom doesn’t necessarily mean I have to lose my marriage, my family, my house, live in my car and sleep on a park bench with a bottle in my hand. The image of the drunk who loses everything isn’t everyone. A bottom can simply be someone saying, “Enough.” This is enough of the bargaining, negotiating  and justification. Enough of the “Will I drink today?” “Just one” “Today will be my day not to drink” mess of thoughts that ricochet around my brain. It’s enough of monitoring what other people are drinking and at what rate so as not to stand out. It’s enough looking at the clock to see if in fact it is 5 o’clock and rationalizing that I don’t have a problem if I slide that start time to 4:30. It is enough comparing my drinking to someone else’s. “At least it’s not that bad….” It. is. enough.
  • Alcohol is ethanol. Why don’t we treat it like any other drug? I’m not advocating a return to prohibition era, but when looked at for the substance that it is, alcohol is a poison. Be aware. Know what it is that you are consuming, just like any other food or drink. Let’s be honest instead of normalizing it. The human body sees alcohol as poison, and actively works to get it out.

That rainbow was the beginning of the end of my drinking career. It was the beginning of the noticing. The seeing with clear eyes, both physically and figuratively. The rain had fallen, but there were hints of some vibrant color in the not-so-distant future. Sometimes the universe whispers.

Other times it sends a huge rainbow to my front door.




Cancer Risks:

Drinking on the rise:

Wall Street Journal:

Hip Sobriety:

This Naked Mind:

Internal Thought Vomit

Eric and I have a commonly repeated conversation, usually while driving. It goes something like this:

Me: “What are you thinking about?”

Him: “Nothing.”

Me: “Hmm.”

Him: “What are you thinking about?”

Me:”I’mwonderingwhyyouaresoquietandthisotherthingI’mworriedaboutandblahblahblahblahblahblahmorestuff,” comes tumbling out.

Him: “Oh…I was thinking about how the cotton is only a foot high now.”

Me: **Crickets**

WHAT?! I have brain on rapid fire and he’s just looking out the window and seeing what’s there. I don’t think he gets thought-vomit like I do.

“I really don’t know how you do it,” says any number of people, shaking their heads slowly as they discover we are a military family and my other half is deployed. “I could never do that.”

Yeah, you could. If it was your life and you didn’t have a choice. There are plenty of us doing it.  It sucks. There are good parts, like anything. The highs are high and the lows…well, they suck. My strategy is to tuck my chin, focus on the next right thing and move. Keep moving, keep doing, keep on keeping on. Everything we do gets us that much closer to it being over. Every missed holiday, every missed event, every school function he’ll watch via social media….it all gets us that much closer to homecoming day.

A random day of mid-deployment thought-vomit looks something like this:

It’s Saturday and we’re at the trampoline park because I feel sad that they are missing their dad. They need activity and busy-ness from time to time. They need to wear themselves out. Looking around, I’m struck by how no one smiles. Looking across the cavernous lobby, I catch sight of a couple walking to the exit with a small child, their jump time now concluded. The sweaty, flushed face looks up as she reaches to grasp the hand of one of the adults.

“They don’t even look happy,” I think to myself as I condescendingly judge them. The adult seems to carry the burdens of life physically on her back, slightly rounding at the base of her neck.

As they walk out, I continue to ponder the inner thoughts of other patrons. Cell phones in every hand, boredom tinged with a traces of anxiety, we are all watching each other, sizing everyone up. “Look at how good I’m doing at this whole parenting thing. I’ve really got my life together, ” we all think as we pray no one sees how we really don’t have it together, and we are all pretending.

Or maybe it’s just me who feels like a pretend adult.

My eyes return to my book, though I can scarcely recall the sentence I’ve read 4 times. Turns out this whole deployment business has well, ups and downs. And some of the downs, I don’t handle very well.

Thanksgiving. The 4th holiday he missed. Fourth out of the 8 or 9 that he wasn’t here to celebrate. Normally the holidays evoke gratitude and reflection. This year I was angry and irritable.

I’m angry at the political climate. I’m angry that my son is blind in his right eye. I’m angry that I can’t be with my person. My best friend. I’m angry at the sexual harassment perpetrators, the hypocrisy of politics. I’m angry at the church and myself for not loving people as well as we should, being chastened by a remarkable conversation with an atheist/agnostic who’s actions are more Christ-like than most of us who claim a relationship with Jesus.

I’m angry that I have to fear when I send my kids to school that they may not come home.

Still sober and clinging to my 9 months. I feel good about that, but life isn’t as it should be. It’s paled, almost black and white. The color has slipped a bit…my anger turning to a melancholy I can’t shake.

I can laugh. I can take my kids camping in the rain. I can joke and be social with friends. I have girl friends that I see regularly for adult interaction and coffee. I’m reading, learning and growing. I’m working at being a better dog parent/trainer. The stuff I’m learning about is awesome and I want to pick up the phone and talk to him about it, and then oh..wait. I can’t. Dang it.

I look over and see a birthday party in progress. The noise makes my skin crawl.

I’m nervous about our move to San Diego and simultaneously can not wait to get there. Once we get the transition over with, it’ll be fine, I remind myself for the 500th time.

I want to wake up and have this year over.

I try, yet again, to read my book. The kids come running up, their faces flushed. “MOM! This is so fun!” they holler over the loud music, then darting back out to play dodgeball, practice their flips and cartwheels and see how high they can jump.

They will be okay, I marvel. Borrowing some of their enthusiasm, we’re getting through it, I think. Maybe not without some bumps and bruises and rough days, but we’re getting through it.

Put most simply, my thought vomit is well, messy.

Perhaps everyone’s thought vomit is messy like that. Or not. Mine’s pretty loud. And she likes to talk and analyze. A lot.

In our pre-marriage counseling some 20 years ago, a reference was made to a marriage book, by Chad Eastham, “Guys are Waffles, Girls are Spaghetti.” In short, men compartmentalize areas of their life, like the little squares and of a waffle. Women, on the other hand, are a tangled mess of saucy goodness where everything is tangled and intertwined, like spaghetti.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ve got some sauce falling off the plate because the noodles of my mind are being twirled a bit too fast by life.

Hmmm, now I’m hungry.

Messy spaghetti, anyone?

Newsflash: You’re an adult.

Can we get real here for a minute? You are an adult. (Really. Even if it doesn’t feel like it.) Part of being a grown up human being with a body is taking care of said body.

“I don’t like exercise.”

“Working out is boring.”

“I don’t have time to cook.”

“I don’t like the gym.”

“Meal planning? Ugh. I hate grocery shopping. I hate prepping food.”

“I don’t like water. Unless it’s coffee flavored.”

Ha. ha. ha.

Grow up. Do you find brushing your teeth exciting? Probably not. But you do it, right? It’s called hygiene. It’s taking care of your body. (My dentist says that you only have to floss the teeth you wish to keep.) Who wants to kiss you with your nasty horrid breath? So, as human beings with a body, we bathe, we brush our teeth, we wash our hair, etc. You wouldn’t drive a car without maintenance, right? No oil changes, no new tires, no washing, no tune ups – no problem, right?


Take care of a vehicle, it takes you where you need to go.

Guess what? Eating nutritious foods and moving around and lifting heavy things is part of maintaining a body. It’s REQUIRED if we want it to operate as desired and for a long time.

I get it. Crap like this gives many undo anxiety and just feels overwhelming. (Unless you are super nerdy and love food prep. Yes, there are a few):

If you hate cooking, hate food prep, etc. – these kinds of posts and pictures do nothing for you but make you feel inadequate, uninspired, and like you can’t adult. It becomes a big ‘ole shame fest. But that doesn’t give you a pass on taking care of your body. You don’t have to be a polished food prep pro. If your goal is to eat healthfully, develop a strategy. It doesn’t need to be uber complicated.

It does require being an adult and making choices that benefit you long term.


Now that you have your big girl or boy pants on, here’s a couple of my weekly adulting food tasks that take zero time. (Okay, not zero time, but definitely not as much time as the crazies with 52 containers of Tupperware that are simultaneously cooking 7 different meals.)

Make a big salad for the week

It’s not that hard. Grab some lettuces you like. Romaine is nice and crunchy, green and red leaf are great, too. Don’t like kale? Don’t eat it. It’s fine. Just because some one wrote an article claiming the wonders of a food doesn’t mean you have to like it. Find what you do like. Super lazy and have some extra cash? They have prewashed and trimmed spring mix, spinach, and every other lettuce you can think of. Get over boring iceberg and change it up! Add some shredded carrot and some cabbage, throw it in a big bowl with a lid and you’ve got a greens base to be used through the week. Taco salad, sandwich/wrap ingredient, Buddha bowl – grab your greens and go!

Tip: If you buy the plastic containers of pre-washed greens, take them out of the container to extend shelf life. They get pretty slimy in the original container. Conversely, if you buy actual heads of lettuces and bunches of greens and chop and rinse yourself, you not only save money, but the produce lasts longer.

Portion out food as you go, rough meal planning

I don’t portion/prep and spend hours on a Sunday mapping out every breakfast lunch and dinner. I just don’t. (If that is your thing – cool. Do you.) Instead, I have a rough idea of what meals we’re going to eat that week, and shop for those ingredients. If we don’t feel like tacos on Tuesday, that’s cool. Just switch it around and have them on Friday because all ingredients needed are there.

For things like mushrooms, bell peppers, or onions etc. that will be used each week for more than one dish, prep those. Being able to quickly grab that diced onion for a recipe makes cooking time go much easier. Younger kids can pack their own lunches with ease when all they have to do is open a container and grab some slices of bell peppers or carrot sticks. Older kids? Cool – make them your food prep labor force! Why we do not teach our kids to cook and properly feed themselves is crazy to me. Life skills, people. Teach them how to take care of their bodies by modeling it yourself.


Make fruit ‘grab and go’ ready

When buying apples, pears, peaches, grapes, etc., I throw them all in the sink with some water and a 1/2 cup or so of vinegar. Let them soak while prepping a big bowl o’ greens. It makes packing lunches that much easier in the morning, and only takes a few minutes.

Grocery plastic produce bags

Grocery shopping done, check. Produce purchased, check. Turning over a new leaf, check. Proud of yourself for avoiding the junk food aisle, check. Flash forward a week and you’ve got a veggie drawer filled with slimy, rotting veggies in individual plastic produce bags. Sound familiar? Ditch those thin plastic sacks pronto. Like as soon as you get home from the store. (Better yet, try these reusable drawstring bags for produce! No, I don’t get paid for that link, but I DO love and use them every tine I shop!) Those plastic sacks from the store will make your produce wilt faster. Unwrap and unband any fruits and veg and place them in drawers or in prepped in reusable containers.

You don’t have to be a neurotic food freak to be healthy. Feeding yourself and your loved ones doesn’t need to be meltdown-inducing. You do have to make a choice. Drink water. Move your body. Eat fruits and vegetables. Ditch the junk. Lift heavy things. Make the decisions that get you to your goals…or don’t.

It’s entirely up to you.

You’re an adult.

Scary Things and Happy Tears

Do things that scare you.

Such a great idea – in theory. But things that really scare you? Um….but….it’s scary!

A scary thing to me is anything car engine related. Eric has done a TON of work on this beater, whom we lovingly named Bertha. I grew up in the midst of many cars in various states of completion. I remember playing in the body of a Pontiac pretending to drive. The thing had no wheels or engine, but it drove me all over my imagination! Playing in cars and actually trying to get them running, however, are two very different things.


We’ve been driving a little Honda Civic for a while now, but it’s tiny. My minions have long legs, we have 3 dogs. I eat my knees while I drive. It’s a bit ridiculous.

We limped her down to have a friend take a look and narrow down what may be the issue. When I turned around to see why Hannah was just standing by the open door, I noticed she was crying.

“What’s wrong??” I thought maybe she’d slammed her finger in the door or something.

“They’re h-h-h-a-p-p-y tears,” she said, sobbing. “I’ve missed Big Bertha so much!!” She climbed in and started petting her seat. (Can’t imagine where she might get her flair for the dramatic and emotional.)

After being told it was likely the alternator (draining the battery and giving us issues dying), I looked in and thought, “Hmmm, I wonder if I could do it myself.” It would have been convenient to have a mechanic just do it, pay for labor, the parts etc., but where’s the fun in that? Plus, paying for an alternator is cheaper than buying a new car! I called around and got a remanufactured alternator, got my military discount, and brought it home.


I mean, really, what could possibly go wrong?


Cover and air intake manifold off. DUDE. I know what an air intake manifold is. Also, ratchet, sockets, torque, drive belt, tensioning rod are all terms I am now VERY familiar with!

Huge thanks to the FaceTime interview with my dad, emails with Eric, the YouTube how-to video, and for the Facebook conversations narrowing things down and tips given! Helped me keep my sense of humor for sure!


Who knew this dang connector would give me such fits!? It was a beast to get out, but I finally did it. Fighting with this thing is what took the most time. That and walking back and forth to hubby’s toolbox a bazillion times to get the right sized sockets and wrenches. Side note: all bolts in cars should be a standard size. Seriously. Why must they be 498 different sized items?


Not ashamed to say it – I totally sang The Lion King “ahhhh savanya!!” when I got that alternator out!


Hannah came out to “help” but played on my phone while I put the new shiny alternator in and put all the puzzle pieces back together.

Only one misshap: I lost a nut during reassembly. (Hate it when I lose my nuts!) It’s in the depths where I can see, but cannot reach. I even tried a magnet, but it was too far down in there. This is the point at which I thank my dear husband for being a pack rat with tools and parts. I was able to easily locate a replacement nut and get it done.


The tensioner was the part the freaked me out the most. Turns out, it wasn’t that bad. You just have to pull on it to loosen that belt and voila! Came right off.


Put back together good as new! (Well still dusty, but back together!)

Finally I grabbed the keys and because I didn’t want to jinx myself, I refrained from putting away all the tools. I would have hated to have had to drag them all back out again should it not start. I called my parents and said, ” Okay, moment of truth,” and turned the key.

It started.

Annnnd, I cried. (Seriously, I have NO idea where my daughter gets it.)

It runs much better than it did. Going to grab some fuel injector cleaner next, (because I now know what that is) and get my core charge back (I know what that is now, too!)

Welcome back to life Bertha! We’ve missed you!

Wonder and Joy

I need to say thank you.

Thank you to the internet for inspiration. Thank you to all the people who do the holiday season up big. Thank you to the Heather Lands of the world who make me belly laugh about our silly traditions. Thank you for the conversations of dear friends as we eat delicious food, do laundry, and find humor in our family and our work. Thank you for far away friends as we compare notes and ideas to make the holidays wonderful, and commiserate with us when they go awry. Thank you, Mom, for the conversation about the wonder of Christmas, and letting kids be kids.

And a special thank you to Hannah’s teacher.

You see, her teacher shared that she had said her home elf was quite boring. Dobby only moved around but never did anything funny or amazing like the elf in the classroom. She wasn’t shaming me or ridiculing me by sharing what Hannah had said, but was simply sharing the magic of the season…she loved how her students’ faces lit up each day as the elf did some new and crazy thing – even simple things – all by themselves.

It woke me up. Big time.

In a season where perfection abounds, it’s hard when things aren’t they way we’d like them. My person is deployed. (No, they don’t get Christmas off. Or New Year’s. Or the kids’ birthdays. Or their birthday. Or any of the other holidays this year.) The kids are missing their dad. It sucks. Yes, it’s part of it, but it still sucks.

And yet….it’s Christmas.

Hannah’s teacher sharing reminded me that even though it’s not an ideal holiday, that while our hearts are hurting, they can also be filled with joy.

And wonder.

And the magic of a silly elf on the shelf.

Not only did he do all these silly antics over the past month…

…he reminded us all that wonder and joy can still be found.

Kind of what Christmas is all about anyway, right?

❤️ Wishing you joy and wonder this Christmas season ❤️❤️❤️