Parenting, Relationships

When Mom’s Have Had Enough

During these days of isolation, I have been purging files — cleaning out family history folders and having my daughter help me scan photos, documents, and histories and post them on FamilySearch.

It makes us both feel productive, and I love reducing the loads of paper I’ve been hauling around for so long.

The process can be a little slow and tedious because I take too much time reading, remembering, and then, wondering whether I can actually throw some things away that have such sentimental value.

Like how can I throw this away — a photo of my five-year-old self?

Today, I found a little gem that I wrote many years ago that must be shared because it probably expresses how some moms might feel today after having their kids home from school now for what feels like forever.

I love my kids. The snow is pretty. I love my kids. The snow is pretty.

I’ve been repeating this mantra now for weeks.

It is not working anymore.

I love my kids, but enough already.

They need to be in school.

I need them to be in school.

First, it was 9/11 when they were in lockdown at school and we couldn’t wait to get them home, but we couldn’t go anywhere without worrying about terrorists.

Then, it was the snippers on the loose, and we couldn’t go anywhere for fear of being shot. The kids couldn’t even play outside at recess.

And, now it’s the snow that just won’t stop, requiring school to be canceled for what seems like forever.

The news folks aren’t helping things because they report on the snow with such enthusiasm and excitement.

Enough already with the news!

I find myself being mad at D.C. and its wimpy ways when it comes to snow.

I tell my kids, “When I grew up in Utah, we never missed school because of the snow.”

“Whatever, mom” they say as they roll their eyes back into their pretty little heads.

Did I mention that these eye-rolling-whatever-mom kids should be in school?

I’m worried about them losing all their brain power because they watch TV shows that suck out all their intelligence. I’m sure I’m going to find the contents of their brains spilled out in messy puddles all over the house any day now.

I want to talk to them about things other than code orange days, evacuation plans, and hoarding duct tape. (Why we need the tape is beyond me.)

And why do we keep hearing that we need evacuation plans? Evacuating is not an option because we can barely get out of our neighborhoods, let alone to our “planned family safety zones.”

Maybe an evacuation wouldn’t be so bad right now.

Wait, what am I saying?

I didn’t really mean that.

You know I didn’t really mean it. It’s just that I’m feeling a little frayed around the edges, a little more irritable than usual.

I tried yoga to calm myself down and I felt very zen until I walked into the family room and heard Sponge Bob Square Pans’ squeaky prepubescent voice singing about living in a pineapple under the sea…again.

My only coping mechanism is to go into the bathroom where I can be alone. Except that doesn’t work either because the dog parks himself outside the door and whines until I come out.

So, I try to propel myself forward by envisioning the happy day when life is normal and these beautiful, yellow stretch limousines pull up near our house and my girls can’t wait to climb in them. These luxury vehicles carry them away to a wonderful place of learning called SCHOOL, and they are happy to be there because they have missed seeing their friends, discussing math, science, English, and history, and learning songs in French. They can’t wait to do their homework and go to soccer practice, dance class, and resume piano lessons.

I imagine they are safe and the world is a good place, and I can go to the gym, the grocery store, the mall, have lunch with my friends, keep the house clean, cook less, turn the TV off, and then happily gather with them in the late afternoon to hear all about what happened while they were at school. I will soak it up because I will have missed them so much in those short hours we were apart.

Oh, imagine the joy that will one day be mine.

But, for now, I repeat these words: “I love my kids. The snow is pretty. I love my kids. The snow is pretty.”

Advice, Memoir, Relationships

The Gratitude Letter

To many of my friends and family, my husband Doug is known as Mr. Happy.

He has a degree from University of Pennsylvania in Applied Positive Psychology.


Image 11-3-18 at 10.10 PM

He has fun finding new ways to apply the principles of positive psychology in his consulting work and even in our family.

Since it’s November, the month we celebrate gratitude, it’s the perfect time to share an experience I had with a positive psychology “intervention” called The Gratitude Letter.

thank-you-515514_1920Basically, you choose someone who has made a positive difference in your life and you write him or her a letter explaining a specific thing they did that made a difference and how it affected you. Then, you visit that person, read them the letter, and give them the letter before you leave.

I chose to write my letter to my brother, Kelly, who had been diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer and given only weeks to live.

kelly & cambree

I confess it was a little awkward. I explained the rules of the game and made him sit quietly and listen to me while I read the letter aloud to him.

Let’s just say sitting quietly and listening wasn’t his greatest strength in life… but he did it. He gave me a few minutes of his complete, undivided attention.

In the letter, I wrote about our mutual dislike for each other as teenagers. My mother said that during those years, “the tension was so thick, you could cut it with a knife.”

I remember that tension well. So did he.

After high school graduation, he went off for a job in Wyoming and I went off to college.

architecture-3124331_1920One day, I went to the mailbox in my college dorm and found a letter from him.

I stared at the envelope for the longest time trying to imagine what he would write in a letter to me.

I took it to my room, opened it carefully with equal doses of curiosity and wariness.

I was shocked to read a very kind, warm letter from him. He said he loved me and missed me. He asked me how I liked college. He told me about his job, his life, his friends.

Did you catch that part where he said he loved me and missed me?

I just sat on my bed and cried. I couldn’t believe that after all those years of barely speaking to each other, he took the time to write me a letter and to tell me he loved and missed me.

The next time we were both home for the weekend, he drove me to Terry’s Drive-in on Main Street of our hometown and bought me a Coke, took me for a ride, and wanted to know everything about my life.

That letter and the Coke run to Terry’s changed everything between us. It was like all the years of anger just slipped gently away and we became best friends like we were before junior high and high school transformed us into uptight angsty teenagers.

I told him I was grateful he had the courage to write me that letter and for all the healing that took place after that.

He smiled and said he had forgotten about writing me the letter. He couldn’t remember what initiated the change in our relationship.

To me, it was crystal clear. He initiated the change and I was forever grateful.

He said, “If you had a tear reading the letter, I can only imagine the tears I had writing it.”

It was a sweet moment and I was glad I did it.

I’m especially glad now since he died a few days later.


In this month of Thanksgiving, who could you thank?

Give it some thought and make it a goal to write, deliver and read a gratitude letter to someone who made a difference in your life.

It might surprise you what a difference it will make in your life now.

I’d love to know how it goes…







Family, Memoir, Relationships

Forgive me Dad

Dear Dad,

I owe you an apology.

Remember after I moved to Washington, and every time I talked to you, you said, “When are you moving back to Utah?”

I remember when you finally stopped asking me that.

It was after one of your visits to Washington, and, at last, you seemed to understand why I loved living in D.C.


We were standing at a busy intersection in Georgetown, and you said, “I can see why you love it here. This is your kind of place. You really are a city girl.”

So, now that I am back in Utah, I think of you nearly every day.

I think of how you loved the beauty and uniqueness of Utah’s mountains, rivers, and streams, and how I never appreciated them.


I keep thinking about when you took us to Boulder Mountain, found a perfect camping spot for our trailer house, and planned a weekend of hiking, fishing, Dutch oven suppers, and thrilling in the beauties of nature.

Yeah, well, I hated camping.

Camping was b-o-o-o-r-i-n-g.

There was nothing to DO.

Remember how you called me “The Go-Go-Do-Do-Girl” because I couldn’t sit still?

Well, camping was torture for a girl who liked to be on the go.

And then there was the fishing.


Just when I thought camping couldn’t get any worse, you took me out on a boat, put a worm on the end of a fishing rod, cast it into the lake, and handed me the pole.

And, there I sat for hours in the blistering sun, holding that pole with a worm dangling on the end of it, waiting for a fish to tug on my line.

You tried to make it fun, tried to help me see the excitement of reeling in a “big one.”

I’m sorry, dad. To me, it wasn’t fun. It was woefully unfun.

And, about that Boulder trip… You were so excited about that trip.

You talked it up like it would be the most fun our family could ever have.


First thing on the agenda was to hike to the lake, hauling our fishing gear all the way.

It was probably a one-mile hike, but to me, it was Mount Everest.

I whined.

You cheered me on, telling me to concentrate on the beauty around me, and to envision how fun it would be to reel in “a big one.”

I wondered why we just couldn’t drive to the darn lake.

No vehicles were allowed. That’s what you said.

When we finally got to the lake, we saw our neighboring campers packing up their truck to go back to camp.

No vehicles allowed?

Mom and I were not too proud to ask them for an immediate ride back to camp.

You were probably thrilled to have me gone so that you could actually enjoy fishing without my unpleasantness spoiling the fun.

Fast forward to my life now.

Dad, I came home.

I am living in your beloved state.

And, I am hiking, and discovering what you loved.

And, guess what?

I’m not whining, asking for rides down the mountains or using the word “boring” to describe my adventures.

I am awed by the beauty around me, and I am sorry for being such a wimpy, whiny child.

I hope you will forgive me.

But, before you start thinking I’ve made a complete turnaround, I must tell you this: I still hate fishing.

I know it’s blasphemy to say that when I belong to a family of avid fisherman, but Dad, really, fishing is so blasted boring.

But, maybe you could give me a little credit for finally appreciating the beauty and uniqueness of the state you so loved.

Family, Relationships

Love Illuminated

Daniel Jones, the editor of the New York Times’ Modern Love column has read about 50,000 essays on love, and written a book  called Love Illuminated — Exploring Life’s Most Mystifying Subject about what he’s learned.

love illuminated

When Jones talked to Katie Couric about the book, she said she thinks if you want to find someone, you need to put out an APB to everyone you know.

The hazard in doing that, according to Jones, is that you have to know what you want before you send out that APB or it won’t make a difference — and, most people don’t know what they want.

They think they do, but they really don’t.

I believe there’s some truth in that.

Before I married Doug, I thought I knew, but looking back, I didn’t have a clue.

Does anyone, really?

We might be able to list certain characteristics and values, but is it possible or even practical to suppose that we can really know who we will love (or who we can love) by just analyzing ourselves, our needs, and wants?

How do we know who or even what type of person we can build a life with before we actually meet and get to know that person?

I’ve always envied people who found love quickly and easily without ever having to even wonder about things like this.

One of life’s most mystifying subjects to me is why some people find love easily and early in life; some find it much later; some never find it at all; and some find it; and then, heartbreakingly, lose it.

Daniel Jones told Katie three things he’s learned about love:

  1. You can’t hurry up fate. You can’t find someone fast AND have it be destiny. The two are incompatible.
  2. You can’t get married and stay single. You  have to give something up for marriage to succeed.
  3. You can’t have love without the possibility of loss. You have to love fully, knowing it will end.

These are interesting conclusions.


On the first point, I agree that you can’t hurry fate. Sometimes two parallel universes need to be aligned and sometimes, that takes time, a lot of time.

But is love always the result of fate? Can love be a choice?

Not to take all the fun and romance out of it, but what if love could also be an investment, like a savings account you decide to open and build with regular, constant deposits to make it grow and thrive?

At first, I dismissed the second point because it seems so obvious — you can’t get married and stay single. But, one thing Doug and I have learned as “empty nesters,” (I hate that term…) is that without our kids to bring us together for games, concerts or family meals, we can easily go to our separate corners of the house, pursuing our own “single” activities, and quickly lose our points of connection.

He travels frequently and when he’s home, I might have evening meetings, dinners with friends, or be involved in projects of my own. We watch different television programs; read different books; and prefer different bedtimes. If we let that go on for very long, we start to feel more like roommates than husband and wife.

We’re consciously making more efforts to connect– like me joining him on an occasional business trip or me watching his mind-numbing TV shows.  (In fairness, he says the same thing about mine. Take last night, for example, I wanted to watch Parenthood. He hates Parenthood because he thinks the characters always talk over each other. He wanted to watch endless CNN political talk shows, where they never talk over each other…)

But, back to writing about love…

In love, like most important things in life, there is no neutral. You are either moving forward or drifting backward.

Without effort, all relationships go adrift, and become purposeless. Unanchored, unmoored relationships cannot last; or at least, can’t be very fulfilling or satisfying. You need a destination, and you need to paddle.

To the third point, this one makes me sad, and would deter me from ever loving.

Except for two things:

1) You have to believe the relationship will be worth it. I remember when my dad died and the grieving was brutal. My mom said my grief was a testament to my love for him. “Would you have loved him less if you knew it would hurt this much to lose him?” Of course not. The love, the relationship was worth it.

2) Not all relationships have to end. 

Some will end because one person may care more than another, or for a million other reasons, but I think we have to look for, invest in, and believe in lasting love.

Life ends, but relationships don’t.

Yes, there will be separations. One person will most likely die before another.

“I am satisfied that happiness in marriage is not so much a matter of romance as it is an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion. Any man who will make his wife’s comfort his first concern will stay in love with her throughout their lives and through the eternity yet to come”
“I am satisfied that happiness in marriage is not so much a matter of romance as it is an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion. Any man who will make his wife’s comfort his first concern will stay in love with her throughout their lives and through the eternity yet to come” Gordon B. Hinckley

But, one of my core beliefs is that relationships don’t end when life ends.

Clearly, some relationships have to end for the well-being of one or both partners, but going into a marriage with the idea that it is temporary, automatically limits its success, depth, and potential for happiness.

Turns out I have a lot of thoughts on this topic and will likely follow up with my own ideas about love.

But, I’d like your ideas too.

Do you agree with Jones’ findings?

Are you paddling or drifting in your relationships?

Please share with me and help me illuminate this subject even more.

Family, Relationships

The Things Doug Says

I know it’s the month of love and I should write a gooey blog about romance.

But, gooey is not my forte.

So I will write what is on my mushy mind.

When I say mushy, I mean mushy as in soft and pulpy in the head — not sentimental, as in conversation hearts that say things like “wink wink” or “cutie pie.”

If you’re a loyal blog reader, you know I love my husband.

He is and always has been the real deal in the best husband department.

I couldn’t ask for a better one.

So, knowing how I adore him, I’m going to tell you a few things he says that I really hate.

When I’m brooding over a decision, and I want his advice, he says, “You’ll know.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means you’ll know.

You’ll know is not an answer!”

He just smiles, shrugs his shoulders and says it again, “Well, it’s true. You’ll know.”

“Why do you always say that when you know it makes me so mad?”

“Because it’s true. You’ll know.”


I’m a sharer.

I share everything, including my food at a restaurant.

“This is good. Do you want to try it?” I say, offering him my plate or forkfuls of deliciousness.



“I have my food. Why do you always ask me if I want to try your food when I have my own?”

“Because, people do that, they share. Women do it. If we like something, we share it.”

“I don’t like to share food. Why do we go over this every time we go to dinner?”

“I guess I think someday you’ll change, and it just seems like the polite thing to do.”

“I won’t change. I don’t share food.”

He says he is a sharer generally. He just doesn’t share food.

Evidence proves otherwise.

Sometimes he labels what is his so that it doesn’t get mixed up with what is mine.

photo 3 photo 1

Sometimes I foolishly say, “The portions are huge here. Do you want to get something and share it?”

Clearly, I’m a very dense woman after 25 years of marriage.

“No. If you want it, get it.”

“But, it’s huge.”

“Just eat what you can, and don’t worry about it.”

“But, why not share a dish, and then not waste?”

“How many times do we have to go over this?

“I. Don’t.  Share.  Food.”


“I’m wondering if I should take back these shoes. They probably cost too much.”

“Sunk cost,” he says, like the conversation is over.

“It’s not sunk if I can still return them.”

“You’ve already spent the money, so forget about it. Sunk cost.”

“I can’t believe how much I had to pay for that airline ticket.”

“Sunk cost.”

“Do you think we paid too much for the wedding?”

“Sunk cost.”



Before Nikki died, he randomly said, “Nikki’s been a good dog.”

“He’s not dead,” we always reminded him.

“I know,” he said, all sentimental and sad, “but he’s been a good dog.”

We were sad about Nikki dying years before he actually died.


Sometimes (actually, rarely) he asks me to go shopping with him.

To him, this means, go into one store, buy one item that he doesn’t even try on, and then go home.

To me, it means, actual shopping, as in browsing and touching soft and pretty things.

“What are you doing?” he says, when I start the real shopping.

“Shopping! I thought we came to shop.”

“We did that already. I got my shirt, and now it’s time to go.”

“That is not shopping. That is hunting. Now, we are shopping.”

“Okay, I’ll just sit right here until you’re finished.”


When I come home from an outing with girlfriends, he says, “Did you talk about your husbands?”

“No. We don’t talk about our husbands.”

“What do you talk about then?”

“Other stuff, not husbands.”

“You probably talk about personal, embarrassing husband things.”

“We don’t talk about our husbands.”

“I bet you do. Do you share things you shouldn’t share?”

Because he won’t drop the subject, I say, “We don’t talk about husbands —that much.”

“I knew it!! You do talk about your husbands. What do you say?”doug

And this goes on until I start making up salacious lies that make him nervous.

“Do you really say those things?” he asks, getting a little palm sweat going on.

Before the conversation is over, he doesn’t know whether any truths are sprinkled into my lies, but I think he deserves that because he never believes the first true answer.

Next time he asks me whether we talked about our husbands, I’m just going to say, “You’ll know.” Next time one of my friends looks at you funny. “You’ll know, husband dearest. You’ll know!”

Or maybe I’ll just say, “After all these years, don’t you know I don’t believe in sharing? hahaha

“Now, let’s go to the mall and hunt you down a shirt.”

Memoir, Personal, Relationships

How to Survive Breast Cancer

If you’re a loyal reader of my blog, you know I can’t let October slip by without mentioning breast cancer.


It has to be done.


It’s Breast Cancer Awareness month and everything is pink.


October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month (Photo credit: Deepatheawesome)





Yesterday I went to my favorite bookstore in Buxton, N.C. and talked to my favorite bookstore owner, Gee Gee.


She calls me her “sister” because we share a history of breast cancer.


It’s good to talk to other breast cancer survivors. It helps me feel normal.


Let me clarify.


It makes me feel normal in my abnormalities.


If I’ve learned anything from Gee Gee and others, it’s that breast cancer is never really over. Yes, the treatments and surgeries can recede into the past but the scars stay forever.


“Sometimes I feel like I don’t know myself anymore,” I told her yesterday. She nodded her head, fully understanding what I meant.


“Have you read Alice Hoffman’s book about how to survive breast cancer?”




I didn’t even know Alice Hoffman had breast cancer. Apparently she kept it a secret, at least to her reading “public.”


Gee Gee sold me the book at her cost. “My gift to you. You have to have it,” she said.


Gee Gee is a wisp of a woman, about 60 years old, addicted to reading, the sun, and bikinis. She swears she’ll wear a bikini until the day she dies, which won’t be for a long time, because she’s fiercely determined to live.


I brought the book home and read it immediately out on the deck while Doug and his handyman friend, Burt, tried to figure out how to get the fireplace ready for the winter.




Hoffman’s survival tips are a little different from mine, so, I decided to share my own:


  1. Pray. Pray like your life depends on it because it does. Accept the prayers of others and believe they are being heard. Just believing that God hears your prayers and the heartfelt prayers of all your friends and family on your behalf breathes hope into your distraught soul.
  2. Read, study, and cleave to inspiring words. I read the Doctrine and Covenants, one of my church’s books of scripture. It gave me prescriptions for survival and helped me learn how to endure well, and how to feel God near me. I held tight to words like these:”For I will go before [you]. I will be on your right hand and on your left and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.”
  3. Let people help you in their own unique, wonderful, generous ways. And, see deep into their caring compassionate hearts and be grateful. The outpouring of love and support is life-sustaining.
  4. Ask for help. Realize that there is no quick or easy way out and you will only get through it by asking for help when you need it. I remember when my friend Cindy took Sara and I shopping for Sara’s Homecoming dress. I spent most of the time running into the bathroom because I was so sick while Cindy helped Sara. I never could have made that shopping trip without her.
  5. Have a vision to propel you forward. For me, I envisioned myself at the beach with my family. In the worst moments, I held on to that vision. I imagined the smell of the ocean, the sunshine on my skin, some soft hair starting to grow back on my head, and being out of the chemo fog, fully enjoying my beautiful daughters and sweet husband. My friends supported my vision by giving me beach gifts after every treatment. I came home to find flip-flops one week, a beach bag the next, books, and more to help me keep my vision clear in my mind.
  6. Listen to music that soothes your weary soul.
  7. Cry — loud and hard; and pound your fists on the bed to get out your anger and fear. Then, pray and ask God to carry your burden for a while.
  8. Get outside and move your body. Even if you can only walk to the mailbox, do it. Feel the sun bathe your tender, sore skin, and put one foot in front of the other.  Remind yourself you will not always feel like you are curled up in a tight ball.
  9. Decide what’s important. After a cancer diagnosis, your world suddenly narrows and you can only do what is essential. For me, if I could only do one thing a day, I wanted to go to Annie’s soccer game or voice recital or Sara’s cheerleading competition.  And I wanted to make dinner and eat with my family every night. That’s it. No time or strength for anything else. I watched a lot of Rachel Ray and made many 30-minute meals.
  10. Every time someone asks how you’re doing, say “Great!” Even if they look at you like they don’t recognize you because your face is so puffy and your skins looks jaundice or they see painful sores all over your arms and hands, just smile and act like you are fine. It’s the “fake it til you make it” philosophy, and it works.


If these don’t work, visit Gee Gee at the bookstore. She’ll lead you to a great book, call you her sister, and make you feel like she understands exactly what you’re going through. Or pick up Alice Hoffman’s book “Survival Lessons.”












Family, Memoir, Relationships

Small Treasures

In today’s Washington Post magazine, I read a sweet story answering the Post’s question, “What has meaning for you?”

The writer, Amanda Long, wrote about treasuring her father’s appointment book.

It reminded me of when my dad died many years ago, and one of my assigned tasks was to clean out his safe deposit box at the bank.

vaults (Photo credit: the Other michael)

Deeply sad and in a state of shock, I walked into the town bank where I knew most of the people who worked there.

One by one, they expressed their sympathy and told me about how they always loved seeing my dad on his regular visits. Dad owned the small town dairy and made regular trips to the bank to make deposits.

I looked at two empty chairs across from a banker’s desk where my dad and I sat many years before when he took me to open my first bank account, and then again, when I took out my first car loan.

As we walked out, he said, “Always pay your bills on time. Never miss a payment, and you’ll always be able to walk into the bank with your head held high.”


I always followed that advice because I wanted to be like my dad, and hold my head high in a bank.

An assistant walked me back to retrieve Dad’s safe deposit box ,and led me into a private area to open it.

I opened the lid of that metal box and saw legal-sized envelopes stuffed with penny stock certificates.


He loved investing in local oil and gas stocks and playing the penny markets.

He had a knack for picking good stocks and selling them at the right time. His brother once asked him to recommend which stocks to buy. Reluctantly, and after a lot of coaxing, he gave him some recommendations. As he feared, the stocks didn’t do well, and he refused to advise anybody ever again.

Below the stock certificates, I found some bank loans he’d taken out for his business. They were marked, “Paid.” Then, I found a stack of check registers. I thumbed through them and stared absently at his hand writing, so personal and alive. I never imagined I’d appreciate his handwriting so much.


There were stories behind those entries. Some were routine — the grocery store, the doctor, Field and Stream magazine, an elk hunting license. Then there were some that had stories like the regular checks written to a friend who had lost his job. I knew Dad had given him some land to garden to keep him busy and to help him grow vegetables for his family. I didn’t know he also gave him regular checks to help him during all those years of unemployment.

I saw checks to the bank with notes indicating he paid someone else’s truck payment for several months in a row. “When a man’s down on his luck, you can’t stand by and not help him,” I remembered him saying.

I remembered a man who came to Dad’s funeral, who teared up when he said, “I know your dad didn’t have much but he always managed to help other people when they needed it.”

The man had gone to high school with my dad, and then moved away. Many years later, the man’s house caught on fire and burned to the ground. “I hadn’t seen your dad for years, but when he found out about my house fire, he sent me money to help me rebuild.”

Later, my mom was listening to a lesson in church on service and someone shared a story about when her husband lost his job at the nearby steel plant. She said my dad kept delivering dairy products to them even though they couldn’t pay him. She said he never charged them until he found other employment. In fact, she said, he became more generous and added items like bricks of cheese, cartons of cottage cheese, and ice cream treats.

In the end, the thick wads of stock certificates didn’t amount to much, but the check registers, which held no monetary value, became priceless.

I still have them today, and there is no pleasure like that of admiring his handwriting and realizing that, to him, those records only reflected the perfunctory task of good record keeping. But to me, they show the character and soul of a man whose legacy of giving means more than even the most lucrative packet of high-yielding stock certificates.