Dead rosebushes keep you busy

They had to go.

They were all dead and no amount of water would bring them back to life.

As I started pulling the first one apart, breaking off the dead limbs of the once beautiful rosebush, the tears came.

Stupid. Weak. Tears.

I was transported back to the very day it was planted. My boy was only a few months old and we had a wonderful gardener. He was a young veteran trying to find his way back into civilian life. His excitement about my yard was contagious and he was so hopeful and filled with joy.

I remember holding baby Cooper in my arms as I watched him dig the holes and plant the rosebushes around our tiny tree. Red. White. Red. White. Red. White. All in a circle.

A new baby. A new yard. A new start.

That was a long time ago.

The white bushes died years ago, a casualty of broken sprinklers and neglect. They have been waiting for me to do something, a nice visual symbol of regret and guilt right in the center of my front yard.

I decided this week it was time.

They had to go.

The first two bushes came up easy, but the third one decided to give me a fight. When pulling didn’t work, I resorted to kicking and shoving, sweating, crying, filling more and more with rage and sadness.

Give. Up. You. Stupid. Dead. Plant.

I finally cut the roots one at a time with hand clippers until it released its hold on the ground. Shaking, I threw it into the bucket and stood up.

It was done.


For over a month now, I’ve been burying myself deep.

I’ve taken on a multitude of new tasks/roles at my children’s school. I challenged myself to crochet an enormous number of shamrocks. I cleaned and organized every closet and cupboard in my house. I’m learning to watercolor paint and play ukulele.

Waking up each morning I make myself a list of things I need to get done. I check them off all day, but never get to the end. Every night I go to bed feeling upset that I didn’t do some task I set for myself.

I know it is crazy.

I see it.

I feel it.

I’m avoiding doing the things that I need to do like write, exercise and pray. Those things are hard and require me to face what I am avoiding.

So I keep moving and focusing on all the things I have to get done. I ignore the sadness that tugs at my sleeve by giving it jobs to do.

There is always something more to be done.

Then there are nights like tonight. My body is exhausted, yet sadness ripped me out of bed and is tormenting me. It repeatedly whispers its familiar tune.

You aren’t good enough.

Everyone thinks you’re a joke.

You’re such a big disappointment.

Today was a great day. I helped with my son’s dress rehearsal, had a delicious lunch with a friend as we brainstormed ideas for the next school year, cooked a healthy dinner for my family, watched my son’s class play and even had ice cream.

Yet tonight the sadness is big.

Glacier size actually.

I am longing for things that can’t be.

I am mourning my own weakness.

I am wallowing in my childish wish that I can make everyone happy.

No amount of tasks in the world will ever erase the way I feel. It is a hurt that is deep in my soul and all I can do is feel it when it comes and let it wash over me.

I can also write. I can turn to you and tell you that I am broken, yet I love you. I am weak, but I am still here. I don’t have much to offer, but I will give you what I have.

I will get up tomorrow and I might have to bury myself again to make it through, but it really is OK.

I am not alone and neither are you.

There are moments when the monster wins

Walking up the stairs with my arms full of laundry and my coffee cup balanced on the top, I tripped.

I didn’t fall, but my knee hit the stairs and I dropped everything. The hot coffee burned the front of me and also managed to get on most of the newly cleaned white clothes I’d been carrying.

On another day, I’d probably laugh or curse. Or maybe I’d do both.

Not today.

Today the tears I’d been holding back came rushing forward violently. Before I knew it, I had to sit as my body convulsed with sobs, the deep kind that take over every inch of your body. I felt like my insides were ripping apart and that nothing could ever be right again.

After a few minutes, I stopped.

Grabbing a white sock to dab my eyes, I started to clean up the mess. I’d have to wash all the clothes again, spray clean the carpet, wipe down the walls and put burn cream on my chest.

I moved through the motions trying to squash down the pain inside and just go forward, but I could feel it clawing at me. Its talons scratching my gut, begging me to just succumb to it.

So, I made my way to my bed. Pulling the covers over my head, I let it come. The pain didn’t disappoint. It was faithful in its ability to crush me and tear at me. I buried my head in my pillow and screamed.

This happens sometimes.

The weight of life just crushes me and everything just becomes too much.

My mind becomes a prison in which I am stuck reliving decisions and fighting against my own reality. Over and over the same records play until I want to smash them against the wall.

Then the fantasy takes over and my mind becomes a blur of alternative realities where I’m not here in this bed screaming in pain, but I’m happy and living a completely different life constructed from dreams of what might have been.

Sadness, disappointment, grief, regrets, guilt and fear all swirl around until it almost becomes a game to see how deeply I can feel.

Then it just stops.

The tears cease, my gut unclenches and I roll onto my back and look at the ceiling. I will myself to slow my breath and to be calm.

I roll onto my side and look at the green walls of my bedroom.

Flashes of the day my husband and I painted it run through my head, along with images of cool forests and tall trees.

I stare at the walls and concentrate on being here.

I’m right here.

Scanning the room, I take in all the little mementos of the life I have.

Moon lanterns made at camp, my collection of old perfume bottles that were my grandmothers, a painting of a creek running through a forest that hung in my childhood home and two large pictures of my children as babies.

My boy. In this picture he has this little drop of drool right on his chin and he is staring straight at the camera. I love looking at those sweet wispy curls and I still get lost in those amazingly bright blue eyes.

My girl. She is wearing this adorable pink knitted bonnet and dress that her grandma made her and is lying on her tummy. Those soft and chubby cheeks fill the picture and I remember how I couldn’t stop kissing them.

Nothing is so bad that I can’t endure.


It’s what being grownup is all about.

Sarah: That’s not fair!

Jareth (Goblin king): You say that so often, I wonder what your basis for comparison is?


Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.

–The Princess Bride

I’m up and writing, but that monster is still calling me back to bed. I can feel its pull, almost hear its talons clicking together in anticipation of ripping at my gut some more. It doesn’t always give me a choice, but today I have some fight in me.

I’m going to fight.

Time to shower and leave my home.

Reinforcements, a good book and coffee, are greatly needed.

Sadly, I am acutely aware that I am not even close to alone in this battle and that so many will relate to this piece. Know that although I am often lost in my war, I am here to support yours. If you need an ally, you’ve found one.

I’m still here.


The soup needs to be cooked

Earlier this week I made some chicken broth with the intention of making soup.

This is something I do weekly. Coming back from two vacations, it seemed extra important to jump back into routine and do something normal.

It has been seven days now and still the broth sits.

Seems that normal was not to be this week.


It wasn’t until after a few hours that I started to lose hope and a little bit of my sanity. It was around this time that I decided to write a song that included an awesome drum solo (by which I mean me hitting the steering wheel with two pens I found under the seat).

The cars scream past and nobody sees you
Their music is loud and they cannot hear you
The screams in your head do nothing to calm you
The danger you feel is real only to you
You are all alone
You are all alone
Nobody sees you, sees you
Nobody cares
You are all alone
You are all alone
Nobody is going to save you, save you
Nobody cares

You might say that I lost some perspective.

No. This was not a zombie apocalypse, my friends.

Not even close.

My car broke down.

Everything started blinking, all power shut-off and I just barely made it to the side of the road.

At first I was all business. I called my husband.

“Call the tow truck,” he said.

OK. So I called the towing number on my insurance card.

“Stay with your vehicle and someone will be there shortly,” the woman said.

Then my cell phone screen went black and it refused to turn back on.

It was as dead as my car.

No biggie. Help is on the way. I will just get a loaner car and be at school in time to pick up the kids.

I rummage the car looking for something to read.

I find nothing.

Two geese fly by honking loudly.

A drug deal takes place.

Maybe nobody is coming? What if they are trying to call me? How long should I wait?

Several lizards sunning themselves next to my car are startled when I stage an impromptu rock concert.

Another drug deal takes place.

Hope lost, I climb into the back of the car and cry like a 5-year-old. Who am I kidding? It was way more like that end-of-the-world cry that darling 2-year-olds make.

A homeless man opens the car door and asks if I need help.

I start considering walking for it, but the woman said to stay with my car. What if they come the second I start walking?

I count 30 trucks carrying dead trees before that makes me sad and I stop.

Finally a CHP officer drives by and I flag him down.

It was noon.

I’d been sitting in my car for almost 4 hours.

He calls me a new tow truck and tells me it will be $210.

“Sorry,” he says. “You can’t stay on the road.”

He lets me call my husband and I find out he is on route to pick up our boy. Apparently he got something in his eye while gardening and they had been trying to call me all morning to pick him up.

“Pick up the girl too,” I say.

The CHP officer leaves and I fear that the new tow truck will never show either.

Luckily, this one comes in 15 minutes. $210 is a strong motivator.

Family reunites at the car dealership.

The day ends with double karate lessons, a fixed car and a massive bill.


It was to be a perfect day. The sun was warm, there was a light breeze and I felt optimistic and happy.

May Day Festival.

I had a new white dress that my mom bought me. The children looked angelic in their white clothes. We cut clippings from our yard and made beautiful crowns to wear.

My phone is still broke, so I took the big camera to document the day.

I took tons of pictures of this most photogenic of days – the colorful ribbons, the blur of dancers, sibling hugs, grandma and the kids with big smiles, our annual sitting in the May Queen’s chair photo and a darling shot of my son with his beautiful teacher.

The pictures were gorgeous.

I could not wait to download them and see them in all their splendid detail.

These are pictures that will be used for our annual calendar and the kids’ birthday books. These are always some of my favorite pictures of the year.

But something happened.

I messed up the download.

The program crashed.

All the pictures are gone.


I tried to brush it off.

They are just pictures.

It’s not the end of the world.

Then I collapsed on the bed and sobbed. The kind of cry that leaves your pillow wet, your eyes red and puffy and snot smeared across your face.

I was mad, angry and regretful.

It brought up all the disappointment I feel about everything in my life right now: my home, my parenting, my writing and my weight.


This week it hit me that summer is almost here. Only a month left.

That terrifies me.

I love the freedom, flexibility and opportunity that summer offers. Swimming, play dates, camping, late dinners with friends, cherries, sleeping in, cuddles, movies, peaches and day trips.

There is so much to look forward to.

Yet, last summer that freedom provided me too much time to get lost in the chaos of my thoughts.

I don’t want that again.

I’m also very sad that I’m not better. I thought I’d enter this summer healthy, both in mind and body. Not heavier and with less ability to cope with daily stress.

I’m scared of the madness of my depression swallowing me again.


The chicken broth is still in that bowl in the fridge.

The family is waiting for me to stop letting little things like a broke car, changed plans or deleted photos end in my inability to move forward.

Tonight I will boil the broth on the stove and fill the pot with squash, onion, sweet potato, carrots, celery and quinoa.

I will let that task anchor me and bring me back from this sense of oblivion and “nothing matters.”

Soup does matter.

My family matters.

Health matters.

Time to stop thinking so much and just move forward.

Some days suck. That will always be true.

But the soup needs to get cooked.

Not today, please not today

There are mornings that we just barely make it out the door.

Generally it starts with me hitting snooze a couple of times too many or checking e-mail and losing track of time as I click from one thing to another. It might be because someone refuses to stop reading or playing. Maybe, as we are walking out the door, a missing stuffed animal suddenly needs to be found or the world might come to a screeching halt.

Whatever the case, sometimes our mornings suck.

You know. Yelling. Missing socks. Shoving food at the kids and hoping that I have time to make coffee. General suckiness.

Today was not one of those days.

I had this day planned out in my head and it was going to be something different.

Something wonderful.

First, I was headed to Friday gathering at the kids’ school. This is one of my favorite things and I rarely get to go. Classes take turns performing songs and poetry. This is followed by acknowledgements from the students that are generally along the lines of “I’d like to thank my brother for playing with me” or “I’d like to thank my teacher for her patience.” Cuteness. The entire thing ends with everyone singing the school song. It’s sweet and always brings a tear to my eye.

Good stuff.

Happy stuff.

Then I was going to watch one of the classes put on a play. I was told it involved the Gold Rush and someone got to use a gun. Awesome.

Then, the BIG deal, I was going to the movies.

All by myself.

On a school day.

Did I mention it was by myself?

This might seem like a super-lame thing to be jazzed about, but I don’t care. I was excited. Almost night-before-Christmas excited.

I cooked a killer breakfast for the kids including a full tea service. Went through my morning with grace, patience and love. Extra hugs and kisses. No yelling or dragging myself through the rut. Nope.

Today was different.

I took extra time to consider presentation and content today as I packed their lunches, even including little love notes from me.

I was rocking motherhood.

We got in the car and all was well.

Until…the moaning started.

“What’s up?” I ask my boy.

“My head hurts bad,” he says.

This continues for the next 20 minutes of our drive. The moaning increases and my loving patience erodes. Quickly.

I pass back some mint breath spray.

“Give that a spritz,” I say. “You will feel all better.”

I knew it was lie, but come on. Not today.

Please. Please. Please.

Then I hear a scream followed by horrific sobs.

“What now?” I say. All thoughts of love and peace shattered.

“I squirted it in my eyes,” my girl screams through her sobs. “Both of them.”

This is when I may have lost it. I cannot be held responsible for what I said in the next few minutes. It was not a fine moment for sure.

The boy’s moans are now wails and we pull over because he might throw-up. He does not and I make the decision to take sister to school and take him home.

Her tears wash the pain away and she is fine by the time we arrive. I walk her in and then spend the next 20 minutes waiting outside the bathroom for my boy. He comes out looking pale.

Luckily I think to get a bag from the teachers, because he doesn’t make it home. We drive the rest of the way with the windows down and me trying hard not to yell obscenities.

In moments like this I feel like a little kid. I want to throw myself on the ground and scream, “it’s not fair!”

But, of course, I don’t.

We get home and I pull off his clothes, wash his face and tuck him into bed.

He looks so small when he is sick. I see how fragile and dependent he is on me.

I take him in: that messy mop of brown hair wet and sticking up where I washed his face; his eyes so small and squinty without those big glasses on; the way he cradles his panda and nuzzles into his dirty, soft fur.

“Momma,” he says so quietly. “I love you.”

“Love you too munchkin,” I say. “Rest up. You will feel better soon.”

He makes that sweet sound he always makes when he is sick and smiles up at me.

I want to say that his smile made me feel happy and I let all my disappointment fade away.

That would be a lie.

I really wanted this afternoon.

Needed it, really.

Motherhood ruins all my plans.

The same lesson keeps slamming into my face and hitting me hard. I dust myself off and walk around feeling the bruises for a day or so. Then I start feeling better and all memories of the incident quickly fade. Bruise? What are you talking about?

I lose myself in plans and expectations again. I dream big and draw-up elaborate days for myself. I build things up to be something they could never be. Then, like an amnesia patient, I am surprised and shocked when things go wrong. That familiar beating comes and I am left feeling deflated and confused.

Again and again this happens.

I want to break this terrible cycle, yet I spent an hour this morning planning my spring break vacation. Rehearsing how I want things to go. Preparing myself for perceived challenges and building up the excitement.

I tell myself that I want adventure and surprise, but my history suggests otherwise.

Every decision is analyzed to ridiculous degree. Vacations are planned and elaborately choreographed in my head over and over. This results in either extreme disappointment or a sense of deja vu.

This brings me back to a place I am quite comfortable in now: I have no idea what to do.

Surrender. Let go. Be in the moment.

These are concepts I want to embrace, but I have no tools for doing it. The reality is that I want to control my situation so I can be prepared to handle things. Otherwise, I fear something terrible will happen.

It is scary.

Motherhood is not controllable. It is unpredictable and often messy. It requires us to release comfort and surrender to that feeling of “I have no freaking idea what to do right now.”


You would think after almost 10 years of being a mom that I would handle this feeling better.


Still struggling.

I just checked on my boy and he is playing under the blankets with his stuffed dinosaur that he rescued from another time. He is feeling better and I’m trying not to be pissed about it.

Today is what it is.

I’m happy that I am his safe place. His feel better. His momma.

I just wish I could break this cycle of expectation and disappointment. Choreograph a graceful exit from this stupid loop and be someone who can just be.

But that’s the point, right? I can’t plan my way out of this. So what can I do?

I can recognize that I am feeling anger and resentment.


I can recognize that when they are sick I feel somewhat panicky inside and think dreadful things that fill me with an abundance of anxiety and worry.


I can move past those feelings and just do my mothering thing.


Snuggles and warm blankets. Cool rags and back rubs. Reading books and fluffing pillows.

Motherhood really does ruin all my plans.

It’s supposed to.

Even at Christmas, you can’t always get what you want

Putting away the laundry I noticed a note on my husband’s nightstand. It was addressed to him and included our full address and a drawn picture of a little dog next to a tree. I opened it up and this is what I saw:


My heart dropped and I sat down and cried. Just a few quick tears. Then I wiped my eyes and finished the laundry.

Sometimes you have to break your kids heart and it hurts.

For years he has been asking for a dog. Lilly was our neighbors dog. She is an adorable white mutt who is in love with my boy. She used to dig under the fence and come into our yard anytime he was outside. She would cry at our door for him to come play with her. Then the neighbors had to move. They could not take Lilly with them and noticed the bond between boy and dog. They gave him Lilly.

Dad said no. He does not want a dog. Trust me, he will not budge on the subject.

So Lilly went to live with grandma. My boy loves staying at her house and seeing his dog. Almost every time he comes home from a night with his dog, he cries and tells me how much it hurts that he can’t have Lilly. The dog also seems to cry and grandma says she mopes for days after he leaves.

I have had more conversations/arguments about this dog situation with my husband than I care to admit. He is very set in his decision. It is hard and heartbreaking. He is a loving and kind man, but his inability to see how much pain this causes his boy drives me to no end.

My boy never tells daddy how he feels. He rages and cries at me about the dog situation, but never his dad.

This letter was the first time he really tried to tell daddy how he feels. I was sad and proud at the same time.

He wrote to Santa too and said all he wants for Christmas is for his dog to come home to him.

It is not happening and Christmas morning he will be sad.

But he won’t be alone.

Although this seems like a huge deal in my heart, I know there are kids out there asking for things far more precious than a dog. There are kids that ask Santa for a mom or a dad, work for their parents, food to eat or a home. Other kids ask for peace in their lives or for a family to be whole again after divorce.

All of these things break my heart. I wish I had the power to take pain away from all children.

But I can’t. I cannot even give my boy what he wants most.


But I do have the power to be positive and to not make him resent his father for his choice. I can make his Christmas special by focusing on love, togetherness and family. We are blessed in ways that my boy can’t even comprehend.

My dearest friend is facing her first Christmas since losing her mother. My grandfather is suffering from terminal cancer and is facing the reality of this being his last Christmas. A close family member is fighting to keep her family together and struggling with mental health issues. So much sadness.

Not getting a dog seems pretty small compared to all that.

So I will choose happiness and joy for Christmas. I will focus on all that is good. I will surround myself with friends and family and love up everyone I can.

It might just turn out to be a Merry Christmas after all.