discombobulated thoughts on serenity from a total non-expert


“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.”

Most of us recognize the serenity prayer even if we’ve never been to an AA meeting. It’s a beautiful sentiment, one on which to truly meditate and chew. The thoughts are quite similar to what I’ve learned about the practice of mindfulness, and it’s exactly what I’ve been thinking about lately.

In all our lives, there are things we desperately wish we could change, but which we cannot. When do we stop pushing against them, stop resisting, and begin the (sometimes excruciating) process of acceptance? Psychologists say there are five steps to grief: first is denial, then anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. In other words, a person sometimes has to go through this whole emotional process before finally reaching that end goal of acceptance.

Acceptance is hard. Sometimes it feels less like acceptance and more like failure, like giving up. If we keep fighting, we reason, if we keep resisting, we won’t have to accept that the thing we wish would change will never change. We’re not sure we’ll survive if we aren’t resisting. But if we do keep fighting-keep getting angry, keep denying, keep bargaining-we won’t ever be able to move into a place of acceptance.

My question then becomes, what does acceptance look like? In my case, it feels like emotional disconnection is what is holding me together, and keeping me from melting into a puddle all over the floor. But that can’t be the answer. Surely the path to serenity doesn’t include apathy. Apathy disconnects us from one another, and that’s not good for our souls. So how does one maintain acceptance without emotionally disengaging? Are the two mutually exclusive?

The practice of mindfulness tells us that our “ego” lies to us, making us believe that letting go of that resistance would cause us to slip into apathy or chaos. I’ve been talking to a dear friend who has practiced mindfulness for many years, and she has become my unofficial guru. As I struggled through all this a few days ago, she reminded me that “in a true, deeper state of being we are actually open to our suffering.” It makes sense, because vulnerability is what connects us to each other, and also to ourselves. Some of the world’s greatest art has been borne out of suffering, which tells us that only through vulnerability can we know ourselves and others. So our ego lies to us by making us afraid… afraid of letting go, afraid of truly feeling, afraid of opening ourselves up and being vulnerable.

In a world where emotions are feared, we’re taught to control and suppress. A good actor knows not to TRY to cry during a moving emotional performance, because real people don’t try to cry. Real people try NOT to cry. We use “over-emotional” and “over-dramatic” as insults. We say we respect a man who isn’t afraid to cry, but if he cries too much we slip into making a joke of it, or complaining about it to our girlfriends. Society teaches us to toughen up. It’s inappropriate to cry or show negative emotions in the workplace, so when we’re feeling overwhelmed we lock ourselves in the bathroom to cry in secret. We apologize for “losing it” when we do show any kind of negative emotion, even amongst our friends. Eight years ago, Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election in part because she lost “her cool” and dared to shed a stressed tear on live television, in a clip that was played over and over again and analyzed ad nauseum. Crying is vulnerable, and vulnerability is weakness. Our ego convinces us that suppressing that vulnerability is the only way to hold ourselves together.

Ego convinces us we must resist at all costs. Resist the pain and feel better fast. Resist acceptance. Deny what is. Of course, that denial doesn’t allow us to control anything, but does give us the illusion of control, which we feel is the most important thing. And ego tells us that if we let go of that control, we’ll either become robotic and soulless or be completely insane. But what if neither are true? Could we potentially let go of control, allow what is to be, get to that place of emotional acceptance, and instead of going crazy, actually achieve a more still, more peaceful, kinder and more loving state of being?

I’m worried about it all, because I’ve built walls up to protect myself. The walls have made my heart feel pretty apathetic, but I’m realizing how painful that is, how disconnecting from myself and others. There’s scar tissue underneath the hardness, like I’ve never actually healed. I’m worried to begin the painful process of tearing down those walls, truly allowing myself to be cleansed. I don’t know what it looks like to accept but not do so without emotion. I don’t know what it looks like to be calm in my heart and still open myself up to vulnerability.

I think maybe the first step is just allowing myself to grieve for what I wanted. Allowing myself to feel those negative feelings that come before acceptance: anger, sadness, loss. Reminding myself that these emotions are okay; I have the right to feel. Acknowledging those feelings and allowing them to exist. When fear comes, reminding myself to take it one day at a time, each instance as its own, not rushing myself to feel a certain way, but allowing my feelings to be there. Then, and here’s the most important part, letting go. Not staying in that place of resistance. In doing so, I have to believe I won’t slip into chaos, but that peace and loving kindness will envelop me. And after I’ve allowed myself to be vulnerable and open, acceptance will come. I mean a full acceptance, not one in which I am disengaged and cold, but one in which I am open, loving, at one with my true self and others, engaging and operating from a place of stillness and serenity.

A quandary and a minor revelation

On Sunday we met some dear friends at the lake to say a bittersweet farewell. They’re moving all the way across the country to Oregon and while I’m so excited for them and proud of the way they’re pursuing their dreams, I’m sad to see them go.


When she first told me of their plans several months back, I confessed my jealousy to my friend. Lance and I always play with the idea of traveling, spending a year abroad, moving to New York, etc., but it always feels like such a pipe dream. How does one just pick up one’s life and kids and businesses and pets and leave? How do people make their dreams happen? How do they just GO? “Tell me how to live like you guys,” I whined. Then she said this to me, and I swear a day hasn’t gone by when I haven’t thought of her words. “I don’t know, Megan, what would you do if you had no fear?”

What would I do if I had no fear?

Well, for starters I’d go right up to a mascot and give it a big hug.



Assuming money isn’t an object here, my (real) immediate answers are simple: I’d do everything I’ve ever wanted to do. I’d pick up my family and move to France. We’d spend a year or two traveling through Europe, then we’d move to New York. I’d pursue acting. I’d audition for everything that came along. I’d write that novel I keep thinking about. We’d buy a house by the sea and have a big garden. We’d travel through South America. I’d record some music. There are just so many things I want to do, so many things I WOULD do if I had no fear, it makes me panic. Which is kind of ironic.

I think part of my panic is a newfound understanding of my own mortality. Only upon entering my 30s did I start to realize that I am actually going to die one day. The thought that I might not accomplish everything I want to accomplish frequently seizes my lungs and threatens to suffocate me. I want so much out of life, and I want to leave something that will stay behind when I go. Something that will leave an imprint on the people I love, even something that will leave an imprint on people I’ve never met.

As we drove to the lake on Sunday, we went past maybe 20 different subdivisions out in the suburbs of Nashville. I shook my head in amazement and pointed them out to Lance, and we laughed. “What if we lived here in ‘The Hills at Lake Shore?'” I find it so odd the way people choose to live, where they choose to settle down. How can people be content to spend their whole lives in Nebraska, for instance, never traveling, never seeing any amazing places, never doing amazing things, never doing ANYthing besides working, eating, sleeping, having kids, having barbecues, and then dying? How can so many people be content to just exist?

It hit me as we drove past and I gazed out the window, lost in thought. What would I do if I had no fear? I’d do exactly that. Because it doesn’t scare me to travel, to write, to perform, to move away. Sure, there would be butterflies and adjustments and inconveniences and worry, and all of that is a bit scary, but that’s not my fear. My FEAR is living out my quiet life, being content, never doing all these things I think I have to do. Which means I’ve been wrong, this whole time. If I had NO fear, I’d let myself “just exist.”

That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t still jump at the chance to travel, or to move to the Big City if the chance came along, and it doesn’t mean I should stop dreaming and thinking about the future. It doesn’t mean I shouldn’t still wholeheartedly pursue my dreams. I’m not talking about flopping over like a dead fish until the end of my days. It just means that I’d stop panicking about it all. It means that if I never see a French countryside, never swim in the Mediterranean, never live in New York, never step foot on a stage again, I’d still recognize that I have a beautiful life. It means that I’d calm down, let myself breathe, let myself be immersed in what’s going on right now, before right now is over. If I had no fear, I’d let myself enjoy everything about my life, no matter where the path takes me.

It’s scary to start over. My dear friends are continuing to say goodbye to their loved ones this week, and I know that must be so hard and terrifying. They’re moving their three kids and two dogs and one cat all the way across the country and that’s pretty damn scary. They’re the embodiment of living a life without fear, and of that I stand in awe of them.

For me, for right now, living my life without fear looks a bit different. It looks like finding joy each day in the small things: a Sunday at the lake with friends, brunch with my family, a bike ride at the park, going to see a community play. It looks like finding beauty in the lit-up Nashville skyline at night, the lilies blooming, the tiny flurries in a southern winter, the heat waves coming off the street in a southern summer. It looks like finding contentment in planting a small garden in my front yard, buying a new rug for the living room, splashing in the pool with my kids and their playmates. I’m going to try to quiet the unsteady palpitations of my nervous heart, the constant sound of “rush, do, rush, do, rush.” I’m going to try to put to rest the uncertainties about our future, the tenseness I feel because I don’t know what our next big life adventure might be. What would I do if I had no fear? I’d dig in, live the life I have right now, be happy to just BE. So that’s what I’m going to do.


Month 35

Dear Violet,

In one month, you’ll be three years old. I’m so surprised as I type that, because it doesn’t seem like that can be real. The other day I was looking at you and I had the weirdest moment where I couldn’t understand how you are my daughter, and I’m your mother. It all just seemed too impossible to have you, a person who didn’t exist three years ago, right there in front of me, throwing a tantrum because I was trying to finish dinner and wouldn’t let you climb on top of my head.


You’re a really good tantrum thrower, and you feel it’s necessary to release your venom on us at least once or twice a day. You have the scariest scream I’ve ever heard, like you’re having your fingernails ripped off one by one, and you have an angry dance. Your Daddy and I are completely bemused when you start one of these. They can go on for 20 minutes, which sadly is almost the full length of our dinnertime these days, and we have no clue what to do for you. You just need to get it out I guess, because once you do, you’re back to yourself, smiling and chatting with us over salad. It’s actually kind of creepy, how fast you turn back into yourself, like nothing was wrong to begin with. We’ve started calling you “Dr. Jekyll” and welcoming you back into reality when one of your tantrums is over. You grin and say “I gueth I wath thleepy and hungwy.”


I spell it that way because I am over the moon for your lithp. I know one day you’ll be able to say your “s” sounds, but for now just keep rockin’ the “th” loud and proud, Baby Girl. When you talk, it’s the best part of my day. You tell stories about your day and you open your eyes all wide, shake your bangs out of your eyes, and use a lot of “THO MUCH”es and “WEALLY, WEALLY”s. Hearing you tell a tale is like listening to myself at your age, I’m sure of it. The exaggeration is strong in us, Boo Boo. The best is when you tell a story and add a little half chuckle to the end, complete with bang shake. It’s like, “And then my fend (friend) LO-ITH (Lois) and my fend FANK-LIND (Franklin) did the pebble work with me (chuckle). It wath WEALLY fun.”


You pretty much love everyone. You call everyone your “fend,” even if you just met that person. “That girl ith my BETHT FEND,” you told me one day after encountering a girl who was also washing her hands in the bathroom and not saying a single word to her. You also call Daddy, Brother, and me your fend. “My fend Daddy ith putting thome gath in the car?” “Where ith my fend Noah?” You truly love your “fends,” and you are so happy to see them. You ask for your friends by name, and if I let you know we are going to play with one or more of them your whole face lights up. “Yaaaaay! I LOVE my fend Baby Jamth (James)!”


You play so well with friends, but you also play well by yourself these days, which is a huge change from before you were in preschool. You used to require me to entertain you constantly, but now I hardly ever worry about you. You’re usually in front of our bookshelf or on the couch with a pile of books, which you “read” out loud to yourself, or you’re playing in your play kitchen or with one (or several) of your babies (Big Baby, Tiny Baby, Baby Doll, and Rosie). Your brother presents nearly your only challenge as you play or read contentedly, because he doesn’t understand why you wouldn’t rather be paying full attention to him. He goes over and steals a baby or turns the page on your book or draws a line on your artwork, and you scream at him with such rage that I’m just waiting for him to melt into a puddle of hot lava.


Of course, that’s just what he wants you to do, because any attention you’re giving him is good, even if that attention is you destroying him, Jedi mind trick style. The two of you can drive me up the wall with your fights (aka him annoying you, you letting him know how annoyed you are), but I know how lucky I have it at the end of the day. There’s no one you look up to and love more than Brother, and there’s no one he will defend faster than you. A while ago, we went to an indoor playground with some friends, and I was struck at the way you two were inseparable, even amongst your dearest playmates. You followed Noah around and when you wandered off he found you, and the two of you just hung out together. It was magic. Now, if we’re out and I see one of you but not the other, all I have to do is ask where your sibling is and you both always know, almost telepathically, where to find each other. I’m grateful that even with all your fighting, you and Noah have finally learned to play well together. If we don’t see you for half an hour on a Saturday morning, I’m not worried. You’re probably just playing “family,” a game you both invented where you are one of several pairs: two moms who are going out for coffee with your babies, a mom and a dad going out to a restaurant with your babies, he’s a dad and you’re his kid, he’s a dad and you’re his kid who’s sick and apparently you two are Native Americans because he has to go out foraging for wild game with his bow and arrow.


At almost three, you’re still doing scary and dangerous things just like you were at not-quite-one. You still have no regard for things being too old for you. Today I had to monitor you cutting a block of cheese with a sharp knife because you took it when I wasn’t looking and I was terrified to try and take it away from you for two reasons: a) obviously I didn’t want to accidentally cut you, and b) did I mention your tantrums?? This past weekend you climbed with two five-year-old boys (one was your brother of course) up a 20-foot treehouse, then climbed the safety rail once up there and grinned over the top of it, a SNEEZE away from falling to your doom. You nearly gave your Daddy a heart attack, you should know. When he yells at you it’s because he loves you, just sayin’.


You love Frozen, like almost all kids your age, but you also love My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Annie, the Lego Movie, Big Hero Six, and pretty much every single other movie you’ve ever seen. Nothing brings you the same level of joy as me announcing to you that we’re going to watch a movie together. You also love taking walks and sometimes insist upon them in the evening, but you nearly always give up halfway home and stand in front of Daddy’s and my legs and whine at us “I wanna hold you!” Please see paragraph two for a description of how you will react if we refuse. You hate being woken up from naps, but when we let you sleep as long as you want you’re awake till 10pm. You still want to be rocked to sleep, which is maddening. You love to eat, are pretty good at trying new foods, and are generally excited when we sit down together for a meal.


In fact, your excitement is one of my favorite things about you, Baby Girl. You’re oh so dramatic and when you’re angry you’re not afraid to let everyone around you feel your wrath. But when you’re happy, it’s so pure, so light, so contagious. Your brother is so much like your dad, hardly getting excited for anything, even a giant stack of presents under the tree on Christmas morning. But you are so much like me, and together we will stand firm against those two Eeyores in the house! A few weeks ago, we went to the Chattanooga Aquarium for the day. You ran past us to your brother, who was standing apprehensively by the tank, watching jellyfish, and I overheard this guy behind us laugh to his girlfriend “That little girl is like ‘This is the best day ever!!’ and that little boy is like ‘Is this…cool?'” Your daddy and I laughed about that for a long time because we couldn’t believe a complete stranger summed up your two personalities in one sentence. You’re excited about friends we’re going to see, excited about what we’re having for dinner, excited about what activity we’re off to. You’re excited when it’s a school day, excited when it’s not. Your enthusiasm is like a breath of fresh air, and it’s always worth a laugh to see you open your mouth wide with joy, raise your eyebrows till they disappear into your hairline, and positively quiver with joy because I tell you we’re going to meet Daddy for lunch (“At a wanch-wit!?!?”).


This afternoon, as I was rocking you to sleep, you hugged me a few times, and giggled, and I relished snuggling with you and giving you a thousand kisses. Your personality is huge, unstoppable, and I can’t wait to see where it takes you.


I love you THO much.




A public service announcement


Attention Introverts.

I have seen a lot about you on social media lately. I know someone wrote a book about you guys and there are cute cartoons to help the rest of the world understand just how unique and special you are. There are currently two of you living in my family, so believe me when I say that even though I am an extrovert, I’m quite familiar with the nuances of introversion, and having fully studied up on introversion as a personality type, I appreciate you all more than you realize.

However, I have a bone to pick with some of you. Eye contact, smiling, and occasionally even saying “hello” are social norms that exist for a reason. Like I tell my five-year-old son, this is the bare minimum involved in maintaining relationships with other human beings. If you don’t want to make idle chit-chat, I remind him, you don’t have to. But you must say hello, you must say please and thank you, and you must say goodbye. It’s funny to me that I’m trying to hammer this into my child, who doesn’t even understand why relationships are important at all at his delicate age, yet I encounter grown-ups who have trouble remembering these simple social rules.*

As an extrovert, I am excited to see you. I will enthusiastically greet you, quite probably with a hug. I am not trying to enter your bubble, but simply to let you know how truly glad I am to be in your presence. Please accept my warm smile and genuine “hi, how are you?” as a compliment; I have trouble hiding my feelings and I honestly wouldn’t smile or hug you if I wasn’t pleased to see you. (I would, however, still make eye contact and say hello, would say please and thank you if the phrases were appropriate to the situation, and would say goodbye, because that’s how one lives in basic harmony with other humans.)

As an introvert, you may think I come on too strong. I gesticulate when I speak. A lot. I like to tell stories, and I like to make you laugh. My promise to you is, I have toned it down like whoa for your benefit. Do you know, when I was a kid, sometimes I’d see a teacher out grocery shopping and I would walk to the next aisle without saying anything just to jump up and down. It didn’t matter if I liked or loathed the teacher in question. The fact of their existence crossing paths with my own existence was that exciting to me. I haven’t changed. A dear friend flew in to visit a couple of years ago, and I had to concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other to keep from running and jumping on top of his head when I saw him walking towards me. This dear friend wouldn’t have minded or been surprised if I had not controlled that particular impulse, having known me for quite some time, but I have trained myself to calm the fuck down when greeting friends, and when talking to people in general. (Of course, when I’ve had a few drinks, and my inhibitions are down, you may see a chink of the crazy that goes on inside my head. Many times people have mistaken me for being plastered when I wasn’t drunk at all… I was just uninhibited enough to be more myself. And that me was scary to them. I’ve had a lot of offers to be driven home after a single glass of wine, is what I’m trying to say. But I’m not shit-faced, y’all. I’M JUST HAPPY TO BE AROUND YOU.)

So do me this one favor, introverts. Pay me the same courtesy. If I can tone it down, you can dial it up JUST A LITTLE BIT. I would be taking your face in my hands all through dinner because of how elated I am to look into your eyes and have a conversation with you if I weren’t conscious of your feelings. I don’t do that, because you’d be freaked out and leave, obviously. I get you. It’s how I feel when you stare at your shoes instead of my face, when you shrug off my hug, when you don’t ask how my day was or answer about your own. When I smile and wave from across the room, please do not look away. Please smile back, and wave. I promise not to take that as invitation to fling myself on you and jabber in your ear all night with boring small talk.

What I’m trying to say is… We can do this, Introverts. Together, with all the respective dialing up and toning down, we can live in harmony. I’m grateful to you for your time. Please go recharge your batteries by being by yourself and reading a book or taking a walk alone, soaking up a lot of you time, and I’ll see you sooner than you hope, but not as soon as I’d like.

*Disclaimer: I am in no way blurring the lines between lack of social normative behavior and introversion. I employ the use of exaggeration for effect. Most of my introverted friends are lovely, outgoing people. I write this because… well… I love you. Now please love me.

breakfast, lunch, dinner

Yesterday was a cold, drizzly day so we stayed inside in pajamas for most of the day, reading, playing, sleeping, watching movies, and (most importantly) cooking and eating.

Breakfast: Uncured bacon, scrambled eggs, scratch biscuits


Lunch: Spinach salad with cranberries, walnuts, bleu cheese, and a balsamic vinaigrette


Dinner: Slow-cooker whole chicken with lemon and herbs, oven roasted vegetables, and a baguette. (Dessert was a sweet potato pound cake with a brown butter spiced glaze. Not pictured because we were too busy moaning and slapping our knees.)


Over dinner, we asked each other who we would invite as a dinner guest if we could choose anyone at all, imaginary, real, dead, or alive. Noah chose his friend Owen, and Violet chose James, our friends’ baby, or “Bebe Jeemth” as she calls him. Lance chose Winston Churchill. I chose Margot, head chef and owner of two of my favorite restaurants in Nashville, as I’ve been unable to get over this meal I had there last week wherein my eyes welled up with tears with each delicious course. (If you’re wondering, as I was, Noah would serve bread and cake at his dinner party, and Violet would serve “mac-and-cheethe.”)

Brrr… Stay warm and eat well this week, y’all! Creamy soups and pot pies, anyone?

it happens sometimes.

That morning started out like all other mornings; I woke up, for better or worse, on my own side of the bed, five-year-old feet wedged uncompromisingly in the small of my back and two-year-old full body scrambling to climb onto my head, her diaper reeking of stale pee. A swift mental kick in my own ass for pressing snooze too many times on my phone and therefore being awoken with the immediate and urgent pressure to take care of people before so much as taking a morning piss was nothing new or unusual.

At breakfast I labored to fully open my eyes, gulping hot coffee like it could be my salvation, and before I had finished the cup my husband made his usual somewhat panicked dash out the door. I’m luckier than most and I never take this for granted (or at least mostly never); Lance helps with breakfast nearly every morning, helps get the kids ready for the day, feeds the pets, takes out last night’s garbage. Yet he always leaves too soon, and I’m never ready to face the day alone. That morning I found myself wrapped around my cup of coffee, ignoring screams and crashes from the other room, just breathing the steam, hoping for more caffeine to enter my bloodstream through the vapor.

I couldn’t get the kids motivated to get out of the house. “Park? Mall? Library?” I tried. “No!” they yelled simultaneously to each suggestion, as they ran by me, naked for some reason, in pursuit of the bedraggled cat. Their giggles felt like knives in my ears; the unchained chaos threatened to suffocate me. “Let’s make Christmas cookies!” I hollered at them as they thumped around upstairs, laughing hysterically. “I’m getting the cookie cutters out! Come down!”

Thus began attempt after attempt to tame their madness, thwarted by every scream, every demand, every mess. I didn’t know where my bad mood was coming from; things that normally didn’t bother me were grating on my nerves like a broken recording of fingernails on a chalkboard. I felt like a drowning person, too exhausted even to yell at them, but too frustrated to give up and sit down with a book or something. They weren’t doing anything wrong, either, they were just being kids. But I couldn’t take their kid-ness that day. I made them get dressed, very much against their wills, but it was too late to go anywhere before lunch and they were whining so mercilessly. I drove by the library to drop off some books, but we didn’t go in, and on a whim I took them out for pizza.

It was cold and gray, and the bell tinkled as we came in, echoing in the empty restaurant. After a brief but fierce fight with both my kids about their need to use the restroom and wash their hands, we sat down and the waiter came over, obviously having picked the short straw for attending to this nutso table. It was 11:30am. I ordered wine.

I looked across the booth at my children. Still slightly giggly but no longer roughhousing, excited about pizza, playing with cold dough from the kitchen, they were every single thing to me. All it took to regroup was a second to just be still and look at them. And all they know is what they have. They don’t know that someone else might have it better or worse than they do. They don’t know there are children whose parents abuse and neglect, children who are hungry, children who have never stepped foot inside a warm pizza cafe on a cold afternoon.They don’t know that there are mothers at the table next to us, or down the block, or across the world who aren’t having a day of struggle, a day when their children’s every breath feels like a burden to be dealt with. They didn’t know that their own mother was having that day. Those four deep brown eyes weren’t the least bit judgmental, and I was filled with regret at the way I’d treated them all morning. “I’m sorry I’m so grumpy today,” I sighed. “I love you guys.” I got silence from the toddler, and a snarky nonsensical comment from the five-year-old, but it didn’t matter. For the moment I was standing on dry ground, my head clear, my chest light.

By evening I was grumpy again. I had to take the kids with me to the grocery store after naps, and they were full of pent-up energy from days and days of cold drizzle and playing indoors. The aisles at the supermarket were wide open spaces, inviting my children to run free, be feral. Other people, grocery carts, stand-alone racks were mere obstacles in their eyes, and I followed them around apologizing and cleaning up the damage they left in their wake. I was crying by the time we left. It wasn’t that my kids were behaving any differently than they ever did, or doing anything particularly dangerous or upsetting. They were being annoying, sure, but they’re five and two. That’s like, their job, and they do it well. Annoyances don’t typically bring me to tears, anymore than daily frustrations typically make me feel like I’m standing in sinking sand, anymore than I typically order a glass of wine when it’s just the kids and me for lunch.

Someone called my name from across the parking lot, and I turned to see a dear friend’s cheerful smile. It was enough to undo me entirely, and I hugged her tightly like she was a life raft, hearing myself confess to her that I was having a rough day, that I was being mean to my kids, that I must have been about to start my period, that I didn’t even know what was wrong. She gave me another hug and we parted with reassurances that it happens to all of us.

It felt good. I needed to see a real person, another mother, someone who could remind me that I wasn’t some sort of lonely parental island. I sat in my car with the heater on, gulping the warm oxygen, my two confused loves waiting patiently in their car seats for their crazy mother to move them to the next adventure or chore. “I’m okay,” I whispered to myself. “I’m going to be okay.”

For the most part things calmed down that evening. My two-year-old read books to herself and her brother built something tall with wings out of his Legos. And my bad mood had lifted. Maybe their chaos was in my head all day, and I just needed peace to be at peace. Maybe I needed to exercise my extroversion, see a few friends, have a few adult conversations. Maybe all I needed was to take a large bite out of the chocolate bar that resides for just such occasions in the corner of my pantry. Maybe.

Dinnertime and bath time and bedtime passed uneventfully, just as the rest of the day had really, and if they fought us about brushing their teeth or getting into their pajamas or about what book to read, as they do every night, I don’t remember. The days are filled with good moments and bad alike, boring moments and thrilling ones, memorable moments and forgettable ones.

I tucked my children in bed while their dad read to them, taking the time to kiss their soft cheeks and stroke their fine hair and feel their tiny, chubby hands around my neck and tell them how much I love them. They’re everything to me, every single thing, I thought for the second time as I closed my eyes and breathed in their baby shampoo. And I fuck it up sometimes. I miss the beauty in the midst of the ugly and the hard. I don’t mean to; it just happens. Maybe these days are reminders of what it should not be, and tomorrow it will be better, and their chaos will be funny and normal again. It has to be. I have to make it. Because tomorrow morning will always dawn brighter and earlier than I expect, and there will be feet wedged firmly in the small of my back, and there will be a soggy diapered toddler crawling on top of my head, and there will be coffee and a husband dashing out the door, and I will look at my precious children, my beautiful wonders, my gifts to the world, and they will always be everything to me.

Every single damn thing.

Month 60

Dear Noah,

This month you turned five years old, and I couldn’t be happier that you’re no longer four. In a way I wonder where the time has gone, of course, but mostly I am thrilled beyond belief that you’re older. Four was by and large the most difficult age we’ve encountered in your short life, so having it behind us can only mean good things (please prove me right there, Lovey). Onward and upward! “Do five year olds pick on their sisters?” I asked you yesterday. I think I can keep reminding you about the expectations of five for at least another month, and I intend to. You’re super happy to be five, also, of course. Last week we were getting ready to go to a friend’s birthday party, and you asked how old she was. When I told you she was turning five, you wiped furiously at your eyes, trying to keep the tears from flowing. “Well,” you said, “that’s not really fair but I guess I’ll give it a try.” I’m not sure what you were giving a try… but you were super pissed she got to be five before you. This is why I think I can play the “you’re five SHAPE UP” card for awhile!


This month we started homeschooling a little bit, because your behavior had deteriorated so drastically at preschool and I had to pull you out. It’s been mostly good, and a little bad, and a little scary for me. I worry I won’t be able to do it, and you’ll be behind. I worry I’m throwing away my own freedom, my passions. I worry I will lose my patience with you when you refuse to do your workbook page (which you only have to do two days a week, so come right on now) or play ONE SINGLE MEASURE OF THIS SONG ON THE PIANO. You could do what I’m asking you to do in about 20 seconds, but you opt for painfully stretching it out, flailing about, whining whining whining. But when you are focused, and you don’t complain, I see how great it can be and how you’ll thrive. You pick things up very quickly, you learn so much just from reading, and you enjoy the one-on-one time with me, and I enjoy it with you, too.


You’ve given me ulcers over the last year because you are still learning to keep your hands to yourself and not react with physical violence whenever something doesn’t go your way. You’re just a rough guy, Bubbs. The problem your dad and I have discovered is that you love playing rough with your friends, regardless of how they feel about said rough play. If they hit or shove you, you get excited (and sometimes angry) and play or wrestle even harder with them, and then they scream and cry and run to their parents, so you get in trouble and have to apologize and the play date ends because you’re not allowed to hurt friends. Then later, we notice scratches and bruises on you and when we get the full story we realize your friends were dishing it out but totally unable to take it, whereas you DO take it as much as (if not more than) you give it. It makes me feel so sad and angry because I know you think I don’t care if you’re hurt as long as you’re not doing the hurting, but that’s not the case at all. I wish I could instill this in you my love: violence is never the answer. And that’s a two-way street! You may not hurt anyone, but NO ONE better hurt my baby, either! In fact, as angry as it makes me when you hurt playmates, it’s only a fraction of the rage I feel when I see that you’ve been hurt BY a playmate.


Anyway (as I knock on wood), we’ve started seeing a light at the end of the Fight Club tunnel. You have stopped being as rough this month, finally. I had coffee with a friend the other day while you and Violet and her kids all played, and I noticed at some point that there had been no screams, no crying, no blood, and we’d been there for over an hour. I realized I felt relaxed, and that I was actually able to pay attention to my friend without keeping one ear constantly tuned into the sounds of desolation that typically accompany you. I attribute this, honestly, to taking you out of preschool.


Of course I didn’t think of it until long after, but it makes sense that if you spend your days with two-year-olds you’ll act like a two-year-old. You’ve been spending much more time with kids your own age and older lately, since you’re doing the rock climbing class at Climb Nashville, and you started science class with the homeschool group, and I’ve noticed you definitely pick up on others’ behaviors. You’ve started becoming more the kid I remember: the man trapped inside a boy’s body. You love all things rescue, still, and you’re way into ropes and carabiners and hooks and climbing gear… anything that can supposedly aid in your passion for climbing things, or at least that can aid in your mountain rescue guy costume.


Over the last several months you’ve gone from saying “I hate you” to “you don’t love me” to “you don’t love me so I don’t love you,” to asking “DO you love me!?” but luckily it seems you’re almost out of that phase. If you make me furious about something and I yell, you sometimes revert back to it, but for the most part you’ve stopped torturing me in that particular way. You’re more affectionate than ever, telling me you love me all the time and giving me lots of hugs and kisses throughout the day, especially when you’re happy about something, like the prospect of dessert. (Just like yours truly in that way, Bubbs.)


You’re as affectionate as ever with your sister in particular, which as always is a double-edged sword. It’s sweet, but you choose poor timing to show her how you feel. She gets SO annoyed with you for kissing/hugging/squeezing/tackling her, and really who can blame her for that? But when she’s not screaming at you, the two of you have finally started playing so well together. I have to be your sole source of entertainment less and less these days, which is HEAVENLY. You two can get lost in long sessions of play at home, running up and down the stairs, chasing the cat, chasing each other, playing “family,” squealing with laughter all the time. And your sister is crazy about you just like you are about her. Even though you two can be maddening when you fight, nothing is more special and wonderful than when you run over to check on her when she cries, or when she rubs your back when you’ve gotten hurt and gently tells you that it’s going to be ok. Knowing you two will always have each other gives me such peace and comfort.


As challenging as you are lately, Love Bug, you also bring such joy into our lives. You can easily be as goofy and silly as you are serious, as fun as you are a heap of complaints, as enthusiastic as you are bored, as confident as you are insecure, as reasonable as you are obstinate, as empathic and sweet as you are insensitive.


I love you, Bubba, with all your mood swings and craziness. Here’s to the best year of your life so far.